Six months ago I started a new job here in Arizona, I had interviewed aggressively and asked all the questions that should have revealed what was important to me in a workplace. I made a few concessions, but overall felt confident that a) this would be a really great move for me and b) I would be able to expand on the work I’ve done for the last 6 years and bring some real change to low-income and otherwise under-served students in Arizona when it comes to getting prepared academically and financially for college. College access is my jam, yo. And I felt that working for a state agency at the Director level would truly give me some leverage to implement best practices I’ve learned in a high functioning state.
Nope, nope, nope.
Not at all true. Turns out, my boss was Miranda Priestly, but without the Prada. Basically, the devil with a great haircut. She told me everything I wanted to hear in the interviews, but didn’t actually mean a word of it. Autonomy? Flexibility? Data driven change? Improvements of systems and processes? Nope. None of that. Six months in and she was still demanding to proof read my emails prior to my sending them. Ya’ll, I am not making this up. I’ve been a career person for 15 years, and this was without question the most toxic and soul-sucking environment I have ever encountered. Month after month I was slowly losing my will to do anything; I was becoming a government automaton without any of the passion and drive that has propelled me forward in my work in higher education. (No one goes into education, or state government employment, with the intent of getting rich or famous. It’s all passion.) Week after week I’d have anxiety attacks on Sunday night at the thought of going back to the office on Monday. I had dozens of conversations with my co-workers, all of whom function in some kind of career Stockholm syndrome, knowing things are completely outrageous, but choosing to put their head in the sand instead of fight the boss or find a new job.
A few months in I decided to try to start anew, pump up my attitude and find some previous scenario from my organization that I could use as backup for some real future change. If I could find some basis for what I wanted, I thought I might be able to convince my boss that taking a chance on a new idea would actually bring about some of the results she wanted. In my digging around for files to come up with some sort of record of what has been done I unearthed a lot of stuff that looked preeeeetty sketchy; state agencies are not supposed to run that way. Supervisors are not supposed to “function” that way. Programs will never grow if you don’t invest in them and measure their success. The more I looked, the weirder it got. (I probably shouldn’t say more than that, but hoooo boy, ya’ll, that organization is a mess. A MESS!)
I started job hunting, again. Two strategic emails, a half-dozen interviews with one organization, and I have again landed a dream job; they gave me everything I wanted and then some. I will be back to the access work I love; helping high school counselors and principals establish college-going cultures within their schools, providing them with the tools and support they need to help their students succeed in ACT testing/prep, college applications, and FAFSA/Financial Aid completion. I can work from home when I want to and will have a bit of travel (something I really enjoy). I have a loose job description and a couple of markers I need to hit, but I can figure out the how without anyone micromanaging me.
I resigned from the State a couple weeks ago and wrapped up my responsibilities there last Friday. It is telling that the security guard made a bigger deal of me leaving that my boss did; he held the door open for me, wished me luck, and gave me a fist bump. My boss didn’t even say goodbye.
I don’t start my new gig for two weeks, I felt some time to detox and unwind was necessary to my well-being and overall health. I have grand plans to relax the hell out of this sabbaticalette, it’s the longest I’ve been without work responsibilities for probably a decade. No summer break, no Christmas break, no lengthy vacations. I am thrilled to death to just be for a while, I’ve turned off all my morning alarms and brushed off the list of projects that has been stagnating for the last year. I’m sure I’ll plan the hell out of this break, because that’s how I roll, but even that will probably do me a world of good.
I’m two days in I already feel like a completely different person. I’m happy in ways that I haven’t been for months. I should have quit ages ago, but, then again, I wouldn’t have had the connection for this new position without my time at the Agency. So. Silver linings. Or something.