Thursday, February 5, 2015

Small Things, Good and Otherwise

Some weeks, I feel good about what I'm doing with my life:  good about what I can do as an administrator, good about my teaching, good about my writing.  During really good weeks, I also feel like I'm a good wife, a good friend, a good daughter/sister/aunt.

This week has not been one of those weeks.  This week has been a week where I think back to grad school days:  I had such promise then, and I didn't even realize it!

Of course, I can talk myself back from the precipice of despair, but honestly, going to an HR training does not lend itself to feeling like I'm fulfilling my life's purpose.

It was billed as a mandatory workshop about corrective action and creating better employees.  But I suspect that the real purpose was to let us all know the new procedure for writing up misbehaving employees and to give us templates.

Yes, it could have been done by e-mail.  But no, we gathered together for 3 hours and watched the HR person read the 60+ page Powerpoint.  We also looked at various scenarios to determine what course of action should be taken.  In many ways, those sessions were spirited and interesting.  My inner psychologist took notes.

I shall now encapsulate the wisdom of yesterday's training:  very few situations are black and white.  Most are gray.

It's very interesting to see what issues some of us see as very black, and to see those same issues elicit a shrug from others.  For example, I thought that an instructor taking a student out for a drink should result in instant dismissal.  And yes, there were gray areas:  they had been friends since high school.  I saw that issue as another reason to discipline the teacher.  I would not allow an old high school friend to take my English class.  Boundaries, people!

As the training session went on, I felt this sinking despair.  Surely my professional life has not come to this.  I tried to write a poem.  I wrote about being stranded in a leaky boat, trying to plug the leaks with shredded assessment documents and repetitive spreadsheets.  I wrote about seeing my poetry talents on a distant island, an island shrouded by mist, an island receding as my tiny boat begins to sink.

Happily, during the rest of the day, I was able to feel a bit more useful.  I helped a student who needed syllabi from 2008-2009 when she attended, plus credential information for the faculty.  Yes, I have those files on the computer!  I helped a student who needed transfer credit for classes she took in Germany.  I helped a student find where his class had moved.

It may not have been a day with all the promise I demonstrated in grad school, but many a writer and theologian has taught us that these small, good actions are important too.  My favorite Raymond Carver short story, "A Small, Good Thing," is worth rereading on days like yesterday.  I want to write like Raymond Carver--well, I want to write like Kristin Berkey-Abbott, but to reach the profound the way Carver does.  But if that's not possible, at least I want to be able to minister to the heartbroken the way the baker in the story does.

2 comments:

rbarenblat said...

>>I want to write like Kristin Berkey-Abbott, but to reach the profound the way Carver does. But if that's not possible, at least I want to be able to minister to the heartbroken the way the baker in the story does. >>

Me to. Me too. Me too.

Kristin said...

Rachel, you minister in so many ways--and you write amazing poems and blog posts and liturgies--I'm biased, but I'd say that you reach the profound in a deeper way than Carver does!