Sunday, 2 December 2012

Alt-ac Update

The other day when I was reading around some of the other post-academic blogs I was reminded of my less-frequent posting. Unsurprisingly, this has happened more since I've started my alt-ac job in September. Aside from having pretty busy hours there three days a week, I'm finding that my two days off have been filled with multiple, boring domestic tasks, car issues that need addressing, and a variety of doctor, hospital, dentist or orthodontist appointments. Some of them are my own regular visits and others are related to my children, so no, I don't have adult braces, but my daughter has them.

When I started this part-time job I imagined I'd have all this freedom to get more exercise, then lounge, catch up on sleep with mid-day naps (after all the exercise), read lots of fun novels, have lunch with long-lost friends, and spend loads of time writing for the blog. Well, I've been managing a bit of some of those things here and there, but lately in the main, the hours have disappeared with necessary duties like the list above (recently I've more fun trying to organise persistent plumbing problems/leaks, boiler breakdown). Some of the time I am spending while waiting for the plumber, I hate to admit, has been spent catching up with work emails that I felt were too important to wait til I was next in. This kind of thing was something I promised myself I would not do. I told myself if I took on work stuff at home then I would take it off my time at the office the next day or so, however, I'm finding the usual pressing list of stuff to do now or yesterday never ends. If I'm not careful, this can spiral and I'll just begin resenting the work and hating myself for doing this. I am the only one to blame here. Although there are some tight time frames in which I'm attempting to do things, I know some things can wait and will just take longer as I'm part-time.

So, I'm now trying not to spend too much time in front of the computer screen as it seems to lead me into too much temptation to check emails and follow up a thing or two. Like JC recently posted, it's probably a good idea to go offline sometimes. 

Aside from my own problematic tendency towards a negative self-surveillance that can lead me to over-working, the new-ish job is all okay, overall. Some of what I'm trying to manage at the moment, is taking up lots of time with fiddly bits of admin-type work that I hadn't quite banked on, but which I can see is necessary for me and not someone else to do, as I don't have my own personal secretary. As I work for a non-profit organisation, there is always a tight budget and less resources available to help support some of the ambitions of the organisation. This is a frustrating aspect of the job and it means that many people there are probably trying to do too much in the space of the working week. Many of them appear to do the sensible thing and take time in lieu when they are working over time in the week. There is a knock-on effect though, I noticed, when you need to have that person to do something important for you and they're off for a day or two because they are finally catching up. It's not a perfect situation, considering I'd like to achieve some of the things I've set out to do when I was hired. The reality is that these targets will need to be planned as long-term ones, maybe with a few small successes along the course of this academic year.

I thought it would be worth noting that I've come across a few other alt-ac professionals in the university with whom I'm trying to liaise about a few things. I'm finding it reassuring that these women are also confessing to feeling that when they left the traditional teaching/research path, they felt they were selling out or would be perceived as failures. But they've also found that their alt-ac jobs in the university have given them opportunities to use their PhD/academic skills in other really useful ways. And they seem pretty happy to me, at least at the level of the chats I've been having. I'm getting there. I still feel a bit awkward when I share my PhD background/identity to some of my contacts. But as time is going by, is getting easier and feels less awkward. In fact, I seem to be hearing little pockets of stories of this PhD who left academia and is now doing this or that. Ahhh, there is hope!

The holiday season is all impending now and the organisation is planning festive drinks and parties. The university closure time, we've been told, will be a whole two weeks. This means paid holiday time for all. I'm looking forward to this a lot, even though we haven't got big travel plans.We may drive to London for a night or two to visit my in-laws. This stay is always a bit short because my husband's parents are elderly and not set up for lots of visitors in the small flat they have. Hotels aren't cheap there, but we may think of an over night in a nearby one to make things a bit easier. The fact is that I actually really enjoy hanging around in the nice city where we live. It's a popular university city which becomes much calmer when all the undergrads go home for the holidays. It's got great theatre, cinema, restaurants, shops, all which we can walk to. The centre is about a 35 minute walk - a great way to burn off all of the holiday excess that we'll be subjecting ourselves to. There's no city like London, but we lived there many years and had loads of great times there before having children. I don't really miss it or get any great buzz on visits back. What I'm looking forward to this holiday season is a nice rest, knowing that my time off includes pay, and looking forward to returning to a secure job (at least for now).

Cutting to the chase now....Sunday night, UK telly means the US series Homeland is about to start. Offline fun begins now! Will try to return again before another lengthy gap. 

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