Wednesday, February 08, 2017

I don't know

I realized this morning I do something, it's probably not good for me in the long run, though it does have some "adaptive value," at least emotionally speaking.

I tend to always expect the worst possible outcome. And I expect to have bad news sprung on me, and from a source that probably wouldn't be the source.

The example that brought this to my mind was a headline on the local news, something like, "A university in our area deals with further budget cuts" and my inner Dorothy Parker stepped up and declared, "What fresh Hell can this be?" and I was wondering what dropped between Monday and today (Monday at faculty meeting nothing was said) and what kind of belt-tightening we would have to brace for.

Yeah....turns out it was the OTHER "university in our area" (our sister school). And it wasn't so much "further budget cuts," it was the ongoing issue of shrinking state appropriations in a time of rising costs - so more or less a non story, though they had the obligatory student unhappy because "they cut two whole sports" ( someone in the educational/academic side, it's hard for me to be as upset about that as some things).

But I always do that. I get nervous during the second week of the  month before Board Meeting because I worry about what we've got to deal with, or, the biggest thing: what if we have no one left to fill the pulpit (Hopefully, though, this month we will have some good news, at least on an interim basis...)

I remember the few visits I paid to a counselor when I was in college (I was having serious insomnia problems and I was hoping he could give me some insights that would allow me to break through it) and his remark to me one day was, "You're exceptionally good at dreading things, I've noticed." Yeah, true.

But life has taught me, I'm afraid, that "dreading" may be a wise course of action. I've joked about "blessed are the pessimists, for they shall always be pleasantly surprised" but I can point to three or four occasions in my life when I thought everything was going fine, and then I got called in for A Meeting and it turned out that everything was NOT fine, and no one had cared enough to warn me in advance when I could have still done something to make the things stop being not-fine, or else everyone figured I knew that stuff was NOT FINE and just wasn't trying to improve because I couldn't, or didn't care.

(example: being asked to leave the first graduate program. I had no idea and that was why it was so devastating at the time. My advisor, if he had given a quarter of a crap about me, would have warned me, I think. I know the person I wound up with at my new school as an advisor warned a couple people in my lab about unpreparedness or not-working to expectations).

(Other example, and yes I am still bitter about this: the surprise meeting when there was "a mess" left after one of the youth programs, and the meeting was for me to be criticized and "yelled at" for not attracting a better caliber of kids to the program and....well, there were no solutions at all offered, it felt very much like a "let's vent at the youth leader and make her feel terrible" session and I remember at one point someone telling me what I was doing was "impossible" and I was like "THEN WHY ARE YOU CRITICIZING ME FOR TRYING WHEN YOU WON'T" but I wasn't brave enough to say that and I suspect they also knew I was too dedicated to say "You know what? I'm so terrible? Fine, someone else can do it then" and walk out of there and, I don't know, go become a Presbyterian or something)

And and large, other than for regularly scheduled meetings (and even then, sometimes), being asked to attend a meeting is bad bad news where something bad is going to happen. I have just learned in life to expect bad surprises.

That actually may be an explanation of my mania for blind bag toys and the like, and why I keep looking around for another subscription box service like Doki Doki that I could add to my life - I need a few little surprises I can expect will be good or at least neutral (it's not TERRIBLE getting, for example, a My Little Pony figure you already have. Disappointing, maybe, but it's not terrible in the way learning a colleague you care about is being let go, or sitting through a half-hour of criticism with no possible advice on how to improve)

And yeah, I wish I could break through the "Brace yourself; bad news is coming" mindset, but I'm not quite sure I can....and also, as I said, being braced for bad, bad news means that I can cope better when it's only SORTA bad news.

But it does seem of late in my life there's never a meeting to say "Hey, we just wanted to get together to tell you you're doing a good job" or "Hey, we have a budget surplus and want to brainstorm on how best to use it."

(Which also probably explains my loathing of the post-tenure review process: I fully expect there is something I have totally overlooked that I "should" have been doing, and I will receive criticism for that and then have to add yet another thing to my overloaded plate of duties)

Maybe I'm just unusually unlucky in that, I don't know. Or maybe that's what adulthood really is: you regularly get handed a plate of overcooked broccoli when you're expecting corn-on-the-cob instead.

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