It’s almost the second month of 2016 and I already see considerable change around me! Congratulations are in order for Emily, a fellow writer who’s been chronicling her thoughts during the #SAsearch and recently earned a position at Northern Michigan University! In her last post, Emily spoke about her time as an RA, how she loved the position and gave it all she could…yet at the same time she didn’t realize how burned out she was becoming. Sound familiar?
I’ve faced that same realization recently. Many of my past posts have chronicled my ups and downs, my attempts to understand proper self-care, etc. I finally decided to practice what I preach and save myself a little in the process.
You see, about two weeks ago I resigned from a position I loved, and it took me six months to finally do it.
For you to understand how difficult and long-coming this decision was, let’s rewind to 2014. I came across an opportunity to work with my University’s student-run weekly newspaper. They were looking for a copy editor, something I was qualified to do thanks to my experience as an undergraduate writing tutor. I was hired and was responsible for reading about 15-or so submissions a week, working with writers on their pieces, and helping review the final paper layout before submission to our off-campus printing press.
I can’t emphasize enough how I loved what I was doing. We always hoped that the final copy of the paper would be submitted to the printing press by 12:00 a.m. Monday morning…but we were rarely able to submit it before 2:00 a.m., meaning I had only a few hours of sleep before work at 9:00 a.m.
Months later, as the 2014-2015 academic year came to a close, my time as copy editor was over. I was looking forward to having my Sunday nights to myself again and knew I’d look back on my time with the paper as stressful, but fun.
Unexpectedly, the recently-hired opinion section editor quit before the fall semester could even begin. Honestly, I took this as a sign that my time with the paper wasn’t finished yet and I told the editor I was interested. Meanwhile, the University was in the midst of reducing the number of hours graduate student workers could work. If I wanted the “job”, I’d have to forgo the pay as I was already maxed out on my allotted hours.
Instead of doing what I should’ve — regretfully passing on the opportunity and letting someone else gain the experience — I self-sabotaged and accepted the position.
The pay was always horrible in the first place, so I told myself I wasn’t missing much. How silly of me.
Between August and December, 2015, I became more and more stressed. I was forcing myself in too many directions between the Writing Center, my first semester as a pre-doctoral student, working with the University Sustainability Committee, and…the paper.
I told myself to quit after the fall semester concluded so I could be replaced between semesters. Again, somehow I convinced myself that leaving would be selfish, and would put the paper in a bind because another editor was leaving at the same time. So I kept going.
I thought if I could spend my short holiday break from work writing pieces for the paper, that I’d have less paper-related stress from week-to-week.
Stress became anxiety, which fueled a growing animosity towards the paper.
One morning mid-January, I woke up and decided enough was enough. I realized I had been fooling myself into thinking it was wrong to be selfish and put myself ahead of something I once enjoyed but more recently began to despise.
I typed up an official notice of my resignation and finally, that was it.
After two paper-less weeks I do feel a bit relieved, yet I still feel conflicted too. Whenever I think about the paper I try and tell myself, “You gave the paper so much of your time and the staff was thankful for it. Now you’re giving someone younger, who probably NEEDS that experience, a chance to have it.”
Had I not resigned, the quality of my work would diminish over time, and that wasn’t fair to the staff, let alone the readers. After all, it was my choice to volunteer my time for nearly two years. I had no one to be angry with besides myself.
I complained ad nauseum about the University paying graduate assistants so poorly, yet I was willfully misappropriating the free time that should have been used to take care of myself. I held onto a hobby , but I sacrificed my own mental health in the process.
I have no regrets after working on the paper for so long. I learned a valuable lesson about commitment, mainly to myself. For the students I work with on a daily basis to get my best effort, I need to take care of myself.
This post is part of the Emerging SA Pro series following 4 awesome people: Alexandria, Doug, Emily, and Alexander, as they blog monthly about 1 year of their journey as either a new SA Pro or SA grad student. We are proud to help them share their stories as they break into our field.
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Podcast With Brittany Duron on Geeks & Nerds on Campus