The Eeyores

I always underestimate the mental energy it takes to get through October. Every year when this month rolls around, I’m surprised by the demands on my time and the depletion of my energy. I find myself wanting to vent to my friends and family just for the sake of complaining. Why did I sign up for so many things? Why are there so many meetings? How am I going to get through the rest of the semester? My friends and family can’t really do anything about all of my responsibilities. And the truth is, I’ll get through it. I always have in the past. But something about venting just feels so good.

Or does it?

I’ve been noticing recently that sometimes when I vent, I can’t seem to get myself to stop. It’s like trying to scratch an itch that won’t go away, no matter how long my fingernails or how much Benadryl I use. And I’ve noticed, too, that I’m certainly not the only one going through this. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had countless friends and coworkers stop by my office to complain about various things. This conference presentation or that job cover letter. And I’m happy to be a listening ear for them just as they are for me. We wouldn’t have gotten this far in this crazy grad school endeavor without being a support system for each other. But sometimes after they leave, I find myself feeling drained and weary, even if I started out in a good mood.

That’s why I found this article about “complainers in the office” so apt. In it, the author discusses how listening to complainers (especially the one who just want to vent and don’t want a solution to the problem) can actually be detrimental to our own wellbeing. And the author offers some suggestions for how to deal with people who just want to complain. I think there’s some great advice in there—like getting some physical distance from the situations you know are unhealthy for you. And I also think it’s useful to look at this through the lens of my own experiences as a complainer. Yes, sometimes we all need to vent. But from now on, I’m going to try to be a little more cognizant of how my mood could be affecting the people I come into contact with.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go pull on my invisibility cloak to protect me from the Eeyores.

The “Right” Job?

Being on the job market is a funny thing. As I look at different job ads, I have to live hundreds of possible lives. Could I do Job X? Do I want to do Job X? If I took Job X, where would I live?

This article in the Chronicle finally made its way out of my Instapaper, and it really resonated with me. In it, the author works through the tension between seeking out and taking the best job and taking the right job. To some job seekers, this might be the same job. We’re urged to think that we should go after the most prestigious, the highest ranked. We’re often told that we should apply for all the jobs, even if they’re not really jobs we want (and even if they are jobs that we think we could do).

I’m not sure if there’s any way to know what the “right” job is so early in my job search; so much of it comes down to a fit with the people, the program, and the university. But I think it’s important to talk about this process and hear about other people’s experiences. Because graduate students are not a homogeneous group. Some of us will take awesome jobs at research intensive schools and hardly ever teach, some of us will end up teaching and doing barely any research at all, and some of us (all of us?) will be rockstars.