Semi-Stupid Tuesday Question: Past the Buzzer

There were a number of reasons that we left Arapaho and, more specifically, Clancy left her job there. The conditions were pretty miserable, she was mistreated in addition to the demands of the job, and she didn’t like what she was doing. That last one I haven’t talked as much about it, but it’s turned out to be the most specific. When she said she wanted to change her career trajectory, I always held a little skepticism that her misery had more to do with the job in Arapaho rather than the job description, and that a family practice job elsewhere might be completely different.

I was wrong, and she was right. Even setting aside everything else, she doesn’t like clinic work. And she was stuck in a job that revolved around clinic work. Though there was a balance between clinic and hospital when she started, it gradually became more clinic-based. Which is the way that things are going more generally, so while she could find balance elsewhere, the opportunities are disappearing and being replaced by clinic-workers over here and hospital workers over there. She wanted to be in the latter group, and her fellowship out here was to give her the training to be so.

Despite the (ostensibly) longer hours of the fellowship, the transition appeared to be a good one. She’d made the right choice, and my skepticism was wrong.

The fellowship is over and she’s going to be starting a hospitalist job at the same institutions. The problem is that one of the hospitals she is working at has not given her privileges yet. They meet for such things once every other month. Which has left her employed but without a job. In the meantime, the director of the affiliated nursing home resigned. So they have her doing that right now.

This has been, if not exactly clinic work, then something to it.

This is not Arapaho. She is not mistreated. The job demands are not as bad. The end is in site, and soon!

And yet, in some ways, or at least one way in particular, this is more frustrating than Arapaho. Because this is past the point where she was supposed to be doing clinic work. When she left Arapaho, she thought she was done with this. So every day she goes in is one more day than she was supposed to go in.

A lot of her career has been like this, for me, where there was supposed to be residency, that we put up with, then after she has maybe a fellowship and then it’s good money for less hours. For a variety of reasons, things didn’t quite work out that way (though the money did, sporadically anyway, get better). That was actually the most heartbreaking thing about Arapaho itself… it was residency-like hours at precisely the point in her career where she was supposed to be beyond that.

So my question to y’all is… when have you felt this way? Where the degree of annoyance is amplified by the fact that you’re not even supposed to be here today?

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15 thoughts on “Semi-Stupid Tuesday Question: Past the Buzzer

  1. “when have you felt this way? Where the degree of annoyance is amplified by the fact that you’re not even supposed to be here today?”

    Career-wise, almost my entire 20s. I pretty much felt that way every day in every “career” job I had then. (I still enjoyed playing both playing music and bartending, to tell the truth, but neither was a “career” job for me.)

    I was raised by a hard-nosed, conservative child of the depression, who taught my sister and I that hard work was its own reward. He also taught us that all work was annoyances and drudgery, or employers wouldn’t have to pay you to do them. When I went into the world I largely believed all of this, and so I spent a lot of time in my 20s in situations similar to Clancy — except that I unlike her, I assumed the answer was to just “keep my nose to the grindstone.”

    I still believe most of what my dad taught me about work, especially the pat about hard work being its own reward, and it’s served me incredibly well. But by the time I was 30, I abandoned the “you’re not supposed to enjoy your work” part of it, and that served me even better.


  2. Actually, for me it was the reverse. I left a position that was unique in the company I worked-I was the only guy in my function and we were building a newish start up. I had my hand in every pie, knowing what was going on-much more than a position in a larger organization. The work was extremely challenging and the hours were fairly long. It was the happiest time of my work life. I was part of building something that looked to be quite successful. Three years later, the company bought another company and everything went to hell. I was no longer in the corporate office, but a satellite location and no longer relevant. My boss told me once that since I was no longer at “corporate” I was occasionally forgotten. Zenith to nadir in less than 5 years. That was pretty much when I bailed on the whole “company loyalty” crap.


  3. having had to follow my spouse’s career around (bodily and temporally), i’ve probably spent most of the last decade feeling like that. you grab joy where you can.

    things are pretty cool now career-wise for both of us, but i don’t know how long i’ll be able to hang in rural ‘murica. i genuinely don’t like it, but i may very well be stuck here until i die.

    the things we do for love.


    • That’s pretty close to my situation, but change “rural ‘murica” to “Chicago.” My wife and I agreed that her career would come first, and I entered the agreement freely and stay in it because I love her and she’s worth it. But it is hard sometimes. At the moment, though, things are relatively good for me career-wise. Not super promising, but my luck hasn’t run out yet (although it could).

      I will say, in a more direct response to Will’s question, I’m not positive I’ve ever had the “I’m not supposed to be here” sense of things, or at least not in the sense that I was overqualified or had already paid my dues. For most jobs–including the fast-food gigs–I’ve usually felt inadequate to the task in some way or adequate, but not more adequate than thou. That’s either a good thing or a bad trait to have, probably a mix of both.


      • “but change “rural ‘murica” to “Chicago.””

        i would, but there’s that whole circle cheese abortion thing they call

        there are upsides like cost of living, far better public schools, far less crime, really cheap fresh christmas trees. if i were into hunting or fishing that would probably be a huge upside. the hiking is pretty good if you don’t get shot, apparently?


      • When we were in Arapaho, I described thinking about our future there as “staring down the barrel of the rest of my life.” It was not – at all, in the slightest – a suicidal thought. But it did have a soul-deadening aspect.

        I had no objection to Arapaho, just living in a town of 5,000 or so. Or, at least, that town of 5,000 or so. And as far as small towns go, it was tops. Reasonably educated, with a university and the county hospital. It was just… ugh. It’s really, really ironic that I am ruralia’s spokesperson here.

        That being said, it completely re-oriented my view of what is necessary and what isn’t. I determined that I didn’t need a city with a million people in it, which is what I am accustomed to. I could look at towns like Pocatello and Bozeman and say, at least in theory, “Hell yeah!”

        We’re in a county with about 30k people in it now. Next to a couple of 100,000+ cities, and within a couple hours of a couple major metropolitan areas. These things help. I gotta do some of the heavy lifting (going out, meeting people, etc) myself, though.


      • I’ve never really lived in a rural setting, and what little I know, or think I know, about it doesn’t appeal to me. For one thing, I don’t drive, so it would be hard to go to larger cities. For another, I imagine there’s less privacy there than in a larger city. So, I would probably prefer Chicago to all that. (And it’s not just pizza….one of the things I do like about Chicago is all the different kinds of food you can get pretty easily.)


      • @will-truman

        there are definitely different notions of “privacy” going on here. a microculture of passive-aggressive (or what i interpret as such) attitudes toward confrontation, as well as just being all the hell up in your business in a way that’s mountain dew rude. (x-treme) it’s very numbing, and a lack of exit rights makes it moreso. i’ve not been chained to a specific place since i was 16, so this is a difficult adjustment.

        plus a more regional, uh, sense of pride in doing as little as possible. as much as i’d like to hire locally – as others have told me it would be “a good thing for people to see” e.g. the usual passive aggressive nonsense – there’s a really good chance the local crew you hire for task xyz won’t show up. if they do show up, they will not finish on time. or they show up eight days later and explain by saying “i got busy”.

        this goes for big concerns and one person shops alike, and both blue and white collar jobs. i never heard anyone say “that’s not in my job description” before i came here – especially when it’s something that was plainly within their job description and they’re the director of said area.

        you can’t reliably hire locally during prime fishing and hunting times, which seems to be about half the year. a local filmmaker who does some work with metold me a ha ha funny story about trying to build his house a decade ago. He needed someone to do the roofing after the frame was up and finished.

        the first crew showed up, took a lunch break, and never returned; the second and third just never showed up to the scheduled appointments or returned phone calls afterwards.

        the fourth? threw a rope over the roof and left, never to return.

        the fifth was hired from a city an hour and a half away, finished it in around the allotted time, and took the rope from the fourth crew back with them. they were the only nonlocal and non-white crew; perhaps amusing given the amount of immigrants done turk er jerbs going on around here among the white locals. i mostly find it frustrating, though.


      • dhex,
        “far less crime” … count yourself lucky, that’s far from universal.
        Truly rural (see Dogtooth, that movie I reviewed a few weeks ago) is all the privacy you could ever dream of. Hell, you could walk around in your birthday suit, with nobody to stop you — and if they saw you on your property, you could get properly irate at them for trespassing.


  4. I felt very much like that very recently. Only in the past couple of months and I’ve been able to have another, younger attorney handle the drudgery of eviction work. Since then, I’ve been able to focus to a much greater degree on the employment law which gives me greater pleasure. It was never that I minded doing the unpleasant work, since after all the existence of that unpleasant work, and the desire of attorneys more senior to me to be relieved of it, was in no small part responsible for my having a job in the first place. But just today, I had to cover for my younger colleagues in eviction court, and was forcefully reminded of why I came to dislike it so much. Should I remain where I am at for a significant amount of time in the future, this is about what I can expect: mostly work that I like, with some unavoidable tedium, and some filling in for the work from which I have finally graduated.

    In the event that my application for judicial appointment is accepted, I must expect that my initial assignments will be to the kinds of judicial postings that are not popular and probably unpleasant. Traffic court, eviction court, maybe probate or family law. Much like in Clancy’s situation, this will be something that I will except and do, with the expectation that at some point after sufficient dues are paid, I will have greater input into my assignments. But when you’re the new person, lowest on the totem pole, it’s only natural that the less desirable assignments go your way.


  5. When I was in school, I was way ahead in math. By eighth grade, I had had two years of algebra. For eighth grade, I transferred to a school where the most advanced class was pre-algebra. The class was very light on math and heavy on vaguely mathy essays and art projects. I hated it. One particularly annoying project I just blew off completely.

    Eventually they came up with an arrangement where a teacher gave me and one other student lessons in geometry after school.

    In retrospect, I kind of see what they were getting at, trying to get students to understand math intuitively and how to apply it to real-world tasks, but the amount of material covered still strikes me as woefully inadequate.


  6. About a year ago, I was looking for a new job. I got contacted by a well-known company, one that’s more or less profession-based social networking. (Yeah, them.) The recruiter said a lot of nice things about my past accomplishments and how they were looking for senior people with high-level experience building software.

    So I agreed to do a phone interview, which turned out to be solving CS1 problems by typing Java into a web page. No actual communication with the interviewers other than “OK, start.” Not a moment discussing what they supposedly wanted me for. The result apparently didn’t interest them, which was fine with me,


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