My Greatest Fears Realized

I have this irrational fear that I will blurt out something that is appallingly inappropriate for the context. Or just plain unspeakably unsuitable for any context. Like if I were in a meeting at work and found the words “I like little boys” falling out of my mouth. Or turn to my in-laws and ask if they want a bong hit. Just completely, utterly inappropriate.

I thought this was just one of the millions of my irrational worries and anxieties. That is, until My Better Half™ told me this anecdote. His friends had a party last night, and the wife went to bed early. But when she retired to her bedroom, she left her phone in the living room, in plain sight. Her husband turned around just in time to see a mischievous friend setting her phone down on the table.

“Um, what’d you just do with my wife’s phone?” he asked the friend, knowing full well that the practical joker was up to no good. The friend explained that he had scrolled through her contacts looking for the ‘girliest name’ he could find and texted that person “Why haven’t we made out in public?”

The woman he had texted? Her boss.

See? I have reason to fear the scenario of having something completely socially inappropriate spilling out of my mouth, or my phone-as-mouthpiece, and being incapable of stopping it. See also: reason to lock my phone. Which I am doing. Right. Now.

blech. sick.

My life since last Thursday can be summed up as: alternating between tylenol and sudafed every 4-6 hours. I feel awful. I think it’s safe to say that I have been more sick since Baby was born than any other time in my life. Even though I managed to get a few catnaps this weekend and barely did anything besides lay around moaning, I stil felt straight up awful this morning. But I decided to go to work anyway because I have no sick time anyway and thought I could at least tough it through the morning with more sudafed and tylenol, like I did last week.

So I was sitting around literally counting the moments until I could bail, feeling just shitty, when my boss asked if I could go to the training workshop today in her stead. Why? “I feel so sleepy! My cats kept me up ALL night!”

I’m sorry. What?

Your kitty cats? You mean the ones that require constant vigilant supervision, feeding, bathing, entertaining, diapering, and soothing? Oh, wait, no. That would be my nine month old. That I took care of all weekend with, I’m quite certain, the flu. So pardon me if I’m out of give-a-shits.

Spreading the Good News

Starting my new job has been an exercise in juxtapositions. I feel really good about having been chosen for a good job, nevermind having been chosen when I was 7 months pregnant. And I came in with the usual first-day jitters, but I wasn’t as nervous as I was for my last (very recent) new job because I felt so much more secure knowing that my boss (and her boss, and HR, etc.) all knew from the outset that I was very pregnant and that my maternity leave was all arranged before I even set foot in the door.

But I also found that my coworkers were not informed of my condition. And when I think about it, why should they have been? So, we have a new person starting today and the top thing you should know about her is that she’s almost a mom. Nope, can’t see that email getting sent. But I guess that’s along the lines of what I expected because my new coworker’s question designed to confirm that I was, in fact, as pregnant as I appeared, threw me off balance. As did the glances my new coworkers stole at my belly when we were introduced (as well as the outright stares). Hey, my eyes are up here. So in some ways, I was totally at ease about starting a new job and meeting new people – those who already knew about the Baby. And in other ways, starting my new job was way more awkward than I expected.

I mean, they don’t feel comfortable asking me about it when we get introduced (and I don’t blame them! I wouldn’t know how to broach that subject) but I’m also feeling super uncomfortable and self-conscious that people are so obviously caught off guard for their new coworker to be so very, very pregnant. I don’t know how to transition from “tell me about what you do here” to “…so I’m due July 4!”

Once again, I find myself forced to revisit the notion of how to tell people.  In this instance, it’s telling people with whom I have no relationship (yet). I mean, was I supposed to arrive with a sandwich board that said “Hey! Thanks for the job! Taking bets – boy or girl?!” In some ways I think that would have been easier.

But it also makes me to reflect on “telling” people I don’t give 2 sh*ts about.  An example?  My boss from the museum that laid me off  last fall (who did nothing to save me from the axe) found out I was pregnant.  Evidently, she overheard someone talking about my baby shower and chimed in with, “Oh! Whew! Cuz I saw her when I was driving around a couple weeks ago and thought, um, she looks a little…uh….ok, so it all makes sense now. I’m so happy for her!!” I really do appreciate the good wishes – it is sweet how a Baby who hasn’t even been born yet brings out the well wishes, and they are genuine and heartfelt. But I have no personal relationship with my former boss. But a better example of how I grapple with this would be summed up in one word. Okay, two.

F*CKING FACEBOOK.

Doing a pregnancy announcement via a status update seems so self-absorbed, and more importantly, inauthentic to how I want to tell people, which is in person. The “hey everyone, look over here! I’m a have me a BABY!” announcement is just such an impersonal call for attention. Try as I might, I can’t come up with a way to phrase this announcement in a way that is genuine to me wanting to share my good fortune to those who might care without sounding like a shameless self-promotion. And that’s just not my style. Because if there’s anything I have loads of, it’s shame, people! The only ways I can think of to phrase it that don’t strike me as shameless self-promotion might be too subtle. I hate vaguebooking status updates so I don’t want to post something that people have to guess at. And if I’m anything, it’s not cutesy, so changing my profile pic to a pacifier, booties, or a stork just seem gimmicky. As a result, I’ve come down on the side of: not saying anything on Facebook for now. Especially since I’m not terribly active on Facebook. I often go weeks (months?) between status updates so it seems particularly egocentric to pop on only to give such a major announcement in order to gather my laurels and dash off into the ether again. I have friends on there who are really only ‘friends’…or, more accurately, acquaintances made long ago, and I could care less if they are up-to-date on my life. For real friends? If they’re local, I do get the great pleasure of telling them in person & seeing the look on their faces & getting hugs & all manner of well wishes.

For folks who I adore but who aren’t local? I guess email and/or skype will have to do. And for those I adore but who don’t keep up well via email (on their part – I am a GREAT emailer, people), it seems terrible to send a “Hey! Haven’t talked to you in months / years, but guess what?!” note. So I go back to: I guess I will have to post something on Facebook. I just don’t know what the hell that will be.

F*CKING FACEBOOK.

Update:  A month after this post, I posted a picture of my pregnant self on Facebook for all to see. Folks started rushing in with all kinds of love. Except for the folks who hadn’t gotten a personal announcement (either in person or via email/skype/phone). They expressed shock before expressing good will: I had NO IDEA! WHA?!?! etc. So I go back to my good old-fashioned uncertain unsteady, self-conscious self. Um. How was I supposed to handle this? I didn’t realize there was a protocol for those of us who aren’t super heavy FB addicts who post all personal declarations and self-absorbed crap. Can someone direct me to it?

<crickets>

Okay, then. I rest my case. I drew the line as best I could: those who needed to know knew before it went up on Facebook.

It’s Official

Sign that my dissertation is about a year overdue. My idiot boss used the term “cultural landscape” today. My dissertation topic used to be on the forefront, cutting edge. Now it’s so common, so much a part of our conversations, so intuitively understood that my topic is increasingly boring,  passé.  I guess I’m officially old school. Maybe this is just what happens when it takes you forever to write a dissertation. The topic passes you by.

Underdevelopment

All I do at work anymore is fundraise. The annual fundraiser is in three weeks, and my coworker (singular) and I have been working our asses off to make it go smoothly. I cannot believe how poorly planned the event is. With the Boss on her maternity leave, it’s up to me and the administrative assistant to make it happen. The board committee shows up for weekly meetings during which they play on their Blackberrys under the table while half-heartedly listening to whether we should have the same dessert as last year or a new one. The meeting breaks, an hour and a half later, with no decision made. The only decision is that we should all email our choice by 2 pm tomorrow.

Instead of all the work I came here to do — collections management, archival digitization, exhibit development — I spend all of my time putting together packages for the upcoming Silent Auction, take reservations for the event, book bands and photographers, and work as a bartender at all of the other smaller special events. This upcoming fundraiser is mission critical. It raises all of our operating expense fund for the entire upcoming year. All of our operating expenses.

My boss has all but said that the next year depends entirely upon the money raised at this event. But never having done this before, there’s no training, no help, nobody who did this last year to walk me through this. Until the museum can create a stable financial base, all of my efforts are going to be oriented to the season’s fundraiser. In the spring, it’s the major annual fundraiser. In the fall, it’s gearing up for a booksigning and lecture. In the winter, it’s a holiday themed dinner. And in the new year, it’s another booksigning and lecture. The museum has zero endowment, and barely scrapes together enough to pay its staff.  I have no idea why the museum decided to spend their hard-earned money on me, who has very little experience in special events and fundraising, when they could have spent their funds more wisely on a development director to raise money.

An Unlikely Ally

The other shoe dropped. Today my boss presented to myself and the president of the board her plan for her maternity leave. She’s taking her leave starting now, even though the baby’s not due for another two weeks. And then after her six weeks off, she’s returning to work.

Via telecommute. From home. Part time.

So I’m going to continue to be expected to handle all on-site concerns and duties. For six months after her maternity “leave” ends. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

But something interesting happened at this little get-together too. I have never really had any interaction with the board president, partly because it’s not my place and partly because she and my boss seem so buddy-buddy. So it was weird when the board president had my back during part of the meeting.

The Boss announced that the next exhibit would open in October. The board president lost it. She said that it is totally unrealistic and unfair to expect an exhibit to fall into place in 7 months, especially given all of my other responsibilities and immediate priorities. The Boss insisted it was “fine” and that it “has to happen. Period.” (Of course it’s fine for her! She’s not doing any of the work!)

The board president persisted. She is an exhibit developer for another museum and she said that at her institution, they take up to 2 years to put together new exhibits, because it takes that long to research and develop content, fundraise, write the text, gather the visuals, select the artifacts, prepare the gallery, and install the exhibit. The Boss, having zero experience in exhibit development, drew a line in the sand. “We have never taken more than a year to put together an exhibit and I’ve already committed to an October opening and that’s when it will open. I’ve told potential sponsors that it opens in October.”

My boss went straight from her MA into being a museum director. She’s never worked in exhibits, education, collections, or anything else. She has no clue what it takes to put together an exhibit. She couldn’t articulate the steps that have to happen if her life depended on it. And since she rules with an iron fist, when I tell her that I can’t accomplish a given task in the time allotted to me, she sees that as my own shortcoming, that I’m disorganized and not managing my time wisely. But maybe she’ll listen when the board president speaks.

Where’s My Maternity Leave?

Okay, last straw. I have been doing all of the work that falls under my job title PLUS that of the Education Director, along with all of the work that would be done by the phantom archivist, collections manager, registrar, exhibit developer, IT department, and on and on. But today the hammer came down.

My boss is about to embark on her maternity leave. There’s going to be no hiring or temp help during her leave. So during her leave I’m expected to take over her duties as well. In theory, should be easy since she doesn’t really do anything. But in reality, it means managing the upcoming annual fundraiser, even though I’ve never been here to even see it before. I’m supposed to coordinate all of the event’s components and make it happen. This is a huge event — it raises all of our operating funds for the entire upcoming fiscal year. And I’m supposed to just pile that on. On top of managing the move of all collections. On top of running all tours and educational programs. On top of staffing the front desk myself. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! There’s only two of us now — myself and my coworker (who works as an administrative assistant), and we’re both working ridiculously long hours, sleepwalking through our jobs, and exploited by our employer with nowhere to turn. I hate that I’ve already decided to bail and look elsewhere for work, because it would further screw over my remaining coworker, but realistically, it’s going to take me awhile to find other work anyway, and I’m sticking to my decision to leave.

A Tale of Two Departments

To say that my boss is a micromanager would be wrong. She is a micromanager who does not communicate. I am expected to know what she wants and how she wants it done, but I only find out when I’m doing the wrong thing and doing it wrong. When it comes to my department, she tells me what my priorities should be, in which order I should be doing things, and how to go about doing them.

I feel like she just does not get that people have different work styles, and that that’s okay. The Boss doesn’t seem to understand how much time I need for thinking, contemplation, and the actual steps it takes to put a project together from beginning to end. I’m not asking for weeks to mull things over. It’s just that I would like a little more lead time on things. If today is the first time you mention a grant application that’s due tomorrow at noon, don’t expect my finest work.

She is applying for a grant to create a paid internship position at the museum in my department, and she wanted to get “examples” of the kinds of projects that I would have my intern working on. This is easy. The collections are largely undocumented and almost wholly uncatalogued. Only about 0.012 percent of the collections are catalogued in the database. So I would definitely have my intern cataloguing. That is a real-world job skill. You have to find the documentation, learn the collections management database, digitize any photos or documents associated with the object, do data entry, and research, measure, photograph, and describe each object, then label it and return it to storage. You learn object handling, photography, research, database administration, and have a sense of real, measurable accomplishment.

Her response? “That is not a valuable project. The intern has to LEARN something. They have to be doing something that contributes to our needs but also improves their own skills and abilities, that gives them real-world museum experience, hands-on. Sitting in front of a computer all day is not appropriate.”

Funny, cause as a grad student, I did three internships in three different museums and archives. And all three of the internships were….cataloguing a collection. Sure, there were other projects along the way, but the bulk of my work at all the internships was cataloguing. I think as a curator and the direct supervisor of whomever this intern is, I know what they should be working on and I definitely know what my departmental needs are, other than a NEW BOSS.

For contrast, I present you with the Education Department intern. Before Twitwit was fired, she had arranged for a college student to work in the Education Department full-time (40 hours per week) for 4 weeks starting today. She had arranged no specific project or details. The intern arrived from Connecticut with no idea what she would be doing here or what would be expected of her. Since I’m the de facto Education Director, the Boss has instructed me to orient, train, and supervise this new intern. When I asked her what I should have the intern doing, she said: “That’s for you to determine.” Um, I’m not an Education Director and don’t really know what the fuck she should be doing. How about a hand here? She has no understanding of the amount of time and planning it takes to create a project for an intern and then hand hold them through every step of the way, especially one who is here full-time for the next four weeks, during which I’m supposed to be preparing for and then overseeing the move of all collections, on top of the usual working the front desk and developing the new exhibit.

It’s official. I’m looking for other work.

Employer of the Month

One of the problems with working as much as I have been is I’m getting run down and sick a lot more often. Today I called in sick with strep throat. I can barely talk and I feel like crap. But not nearly as bad as I felt when the Boss yelled at me for taking a sick day.

The crypt keepers volunteers meet once a month and have a speaker give a presentation before they hang out and bitch for the rest of the morning. Today I was scheduled to lead a brief talk. I was supposed to pull some things from the collection and do a show and tell for the volunteers. The collection is full of wickety wak and so when it came to picking items, I thought, I’ll just do some pottery. I know a lot about prehistoric southwestern pottery, we have a lot to choose from, and it’s easy to just pick a few and talk off-the-cuff about this stuff. I figured I’d do a 10 minute introduction to the types of pottery and describe what’s important about each type, and then just answer questions and let the volunteers examine the ceramics up close. The volunteer association is so casual. They always have a group activity or game to fall back on if the presentation isn’t long enough or, less likely, if they run out of stuff to bitch about.

So I didn’t think it was a big deal to call in sick. Even if I could have come in, I have strep throat and couldn’t talk, not to mention these elderly volunteers do not need any more opportunity to come down with something. So imagine my surprise when the Boss bitched me out about how inappropriate it was that I called in sick when I had obligations and how irresponsible it was of me not to save my presentation on the server so that someone else could give my presentation in my absence, and that I would be written up for this incident.

I’ve always taken pride in my work. My work is important to me. It matters that I do a good job, I see work as a reflection of myself, and I want to be good at my job. So it’s very upsetting to me that I’m not living up to my own standards these days. I feel overwhelmed and the work that I’ve been producing does not meet even my lowest level of acceptable quality. I don’t need your yelling at me to make me feel any worse than I already do.

It’s demoralizing to work for someone who doesn’t seem to value my input and to have my opinions dismissed so readily. It sucks to work for someone who seems not to understand what I have to offer. It’s frustrating beyond belief to be spread so thin that I can’t do high-quality work because I’m doing too many things. It’s made me question my abilities as a museum professional. Nay, as an employee, period.

I’ve become someone who does things half-assed just to get them done, rather than do them right, because there isn’t enough time to get things right.  I don’t feel appreciated. I don’t feel like my boss understands my work style, capabilities, strengths and weaknesses, and limitations. I get dinged just because the way I go about something isn’t the way she would. And it’s hard to communicate with someone who always has a look on her face and a body language that say “What the fuck do you want now?” Her feedback is closer to “this is all your fault and here’s why” than to “what we need to work on is…” I came here with such high hopes, the confidence that I had the abilities to make a meaningful difference. But I work for a bully who likes to make other people feel bad about themselves. Thanks, but I got that all under control on my own.

Go-to IT

Once again, I tried to get my boss to wrap her brain around the series of tubes. And again, I got nowhere with it. Disgusted by our website, I suggested that we could start with rebranding our museum exhibits in the least expensive medium available — our website.

To me, traditional and online exhibits are equally necessary. In today’s world, you cannot have a static, crappy museum website. At museum association meetings, museums continually raise the issue that potential audiences are increasingly fractured and it’s going to get harder and harder to attract and retain audiences. People have a lot of options when it comes to their free time — movies, sports, video games, recreational drug use — and folks often choose something other than museums. Well, y’know, if we spent a quarter of the time developing rich and engaging websites, and just playing with the many technologies and ideas available to us — we wouldn’t be 40 years behind the times, we’ll only be 15 and closing the gap. It is unrealistic to think that people will use a museum website only to figure out your hours and phone number. Yes, people want to know your hours and location. But they also want to get a sense for your brand, what you’re all about to make an informed decision about whether or not to spend their time (and money) in your museum.

The web is a 24-hour environment. People could want to know about your collections, the local history, your current exhibits, and your special events at any moment. And every time someone clicks on our website only to find a 1995-designed site (think geocities) with craptastic content is an opportunity lost. I have tried fruitlessly to convince my boss of the importance of this. I came into this position with far more experience in web exhibit development than “regular” exhibit development, but she just doesn’t seem to get it. The fact that our website is a portal back to the days of Gopher and Telnet both implicitly and explicitly reinforces our backasswards interpretation and indicates to potential visitors that if they want current, cutting-edge, and modern, we are not the place. She just does NOT get this. She thinks that we should stick to “being historians.” I may be a historian, but I’m also aware that the web is for content-delivery, not just bells and whistles of cool special effects and flash. And as a content creator, I am willing to put any delivery method to use, and the web is the easiest and most effective way to reach the greatest audiences.

One thing was clear from our conversation. I know far more about technology than anyone else with whom I work. Which is scary because I know only enough to be dangerous. I think sometimes people confuse my understanding of these words and concepts with having the skills to make it happen. I know exhibit development, and I have a good eye for what makes good design. But that doesn’t mean I know web design. It doesn’t mean I know CSS & HTML backwards and forwards. If I did, I assure you, I’d be making a helluva lot more money and working many fewer hours.