Saturday, May 7, 2011

That plus a buck-fifty will get you coffee at Starbuck’s

Both the Real Doctor and I will be leaving our current employment in June. I leave from an employment situation that other lecturers have described as akin to an abusive relationship. I have the anxiety and uncertainty of whether I’ll be employed every three months, the financial compensation that would be humorous were it not real, the lack of collegiality, and the outright hostility of the university administration. I don’t know yet what I am moving into, but I can say with certainty that it won’t be much worse. The Real Doctor, on the other hand, has a different departure. There was some testiness between her and her supervisor. This irritation--the sort of thing that leads to a movie’s producer and director citing “differences in artistic vision,” but actually meaning something far less appealing—has been sort of resolved, and sort of buried, so she is leaving on better terms.

I really doubt there’s going to be any official acknowledgement of my departure. I have rendered very useful (and hopefully competent) service to my department, but it’s not in the character of this department or any UC department to get overly worked up about teaching or the departures of staff. The situation is somewhat different for the Real Doctor. In general, the real doctors will at the very least go for a nice lunch or a dinner or cake or something. However, despite her imminent departure, no such plans have been made, which the Real Doctor finds a bit discomfiting.

It’s nice to receive recognition for one’s work. I have some evidence that I do an OK job teaching. The Real Doctor is a more-than-minimally-competent physician. Her patients seem to like her, and she takes the time to talk with them. Additionally, she does a lot of service work—organizing journal club, teaching family practice residents, and so forth. To our surprise, we both feel as if we should get some sort of official recognition for transcending mere competence.

We were talking about this during a bike ride the other day. Both of us, as soon as we had this feeling, wondered why we should have it, what exactly we wanted, and whether or not it this desire was morally objectionable. We both do our jobs, and we are both paid—exactly per contract. We are owed neither recognition nor cake. But money isn’t esteem. While money makes the world go ‘round, the esteem of peers lubricates the pivots. It’s not fungible, but it would mean a lot to me and the Real Doctor to get some sort of “good job!” from officialdom. It doesn’t make any sense at all, and it verges on greediness. I know the job I’ve done, and I need no certificate beyond my students being prepared for whatever is next in their lives.

Neither the Real Doctor nor I had a good solution to this puzzle about ourselves. So there it lies, destined in all likelihood to become a snarl of unresolved feelings when we leave in a few weeks.

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