Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What is.

For all my bleating, there's a lot to love about where I am now. And not returning to my day job is one of them.

Longtime readers may know that I have worked in university administration all my life. Actually, I have worked at one university since I was 21. I turned 40 last year, so I have literally spent half of my life in service to one institution, albeit in a range of different roles.

Like many large and complex [and ostensibly government-funded] organisations, internal reviews and restructures are a prominent feature on the annual university calendar. And last year was no exception. While I was on maternity leave, a pogrom of administrative roles took place. Some 400 roles were discontinued and the university made it clear that voluntary redundancies were not available.

The larger unit where I worked, my team, my role all evaporated in my absence. Like all staff in this situation, I was given the choice of applying for another role or waiting to see if the university could match me with a suitable role at the same level, bearing in mind that my fraction was 0.4. I was out of the loop but I kinda got the impression the uni was hoping a whole lot of people would get jack of the process and just leave, saving them time, effort and money.

And I could share with you all the to-ing and fro-ing that went on late last year. The umm-ing and ahh-ing about whether I wanted to return and whether I should return. And if I did, what sort of role I would want to apply for? And if I didn't, what would I be prepared to claim as my vocation?

But I'll spare you the angst, the ridiculousness, the farcical motions I went through to apply for a role so that it looked like I was playing the game. Although I  do have to mention, though, the kindness and support shown to me by certain senior personnel, who stuck their neck out, making me an offer at a time when they would have fought to justify it. This made me feel seen, valued. And incredibly guilty.

Because, at the end of the day, my heart wasn't in it.

I wanted to write. The opportunity had arrived and I knew that if I didn't seize it, I would always regret it.

(And, in the midst of the not-knowing, I had upped the ante on myself and signed the lease on a writing studio!)

Finally, the news arrived that I had been offered an involuntary redundancy package. (If a job offer had been made, no redundancy would have been payable, regardless of whether I accepted the role or not.)

It surprised me how mixed my feelings were about this.

It finally dawned on me that a massive chapter of my life -- indeed, the one that defined me for a long time -- was finally closing. I need to add here that this was the university that brought my parents to Australia. It was also where I completed my undergraduate and doctoral studies and where I lived for a time. And where I met my husband. Through the time of my employment I had grown up, loved and lost, bought my first apartment, married and had children. I'd met my best friend and some of my dearest friends on the planet.

It was a place that I genuinely loved and believed in with my whole heart (which is part of the reason why, I'll wager, I was so successful in the marketing department). Twenty years-worth of emotions flooded through me.

And then HR gave me the shits by refusing to recognise a piddling few years I'd spent at an affiliated institution. They also calculated my entire service (such as they were prepared to recognise i.e. nine years instead of nineteen) at 0.4 fraction, because policy dictated that payouts would be calculated at the level and fraction of an employee's last role.

In short, I was leaving with a pittance.

Believe me, I tried everything and everyone but, at the end of the day, I decided it was just money and sucked it up. And left.

No Thank You letter. No farewell party. No chance to say goodbye. A quick lunch with my former team, some of whom have moved to other roles, others also accepting redundancies.

The ending wasn't quite what I had in mind and, in many ways, it was downright disappointing. But an ending it was.

And now, I find myself at the beginning of a life which is, in fact, a continuation of the life I have been living. My daughter is about to go back to school. My son is nearing one year old. My mum is coming over one day a week for four hours, my mother-in-law another day a week for four hours, so I can go to my studio and write. I will also likely sneak out on Saturday mornings when my husband is home so I can write.

My redundancy money has mostly been invested but some has been put away for my studio rent, mobile phone bill, therapy bills, sponsoring a child in Rwanda and, of course, other things that contribute to the smooth running of our household.

And although I don't know what I will do once my budget has run out and although the babysitting has been ad hoc to date and although I am nowhere near as far along as where I hoped to be as far as my novels go... this is what is.

And I know how lucky I am to have it. And how hard I have worked for it.

And all I can think is... LOVE.

This post is in response to the third prompt of the Reverb14 reflective writing challenge. All prompts can be found here; you are warmly invited to share your response and link to it in the comments below, if you feel called to do so. 

The next opportunity to connect in this way is April Moon and we'd love to have you join us!


  1. I am giddy with excitement at the knowledge that you are no longer working full time but I shake my head with disgust at how you were ousted from your job and with less payout than your many years of service really deserved...and yet not so surprised considering my own experiences with layoffs. I am happy for you and the big wide open expanse of Possibilties that are ahead of you and I look forward to seeing how your writing develops in the weeks and months ahead! Congratulations on this opportunity!

  2. I'm so excited for you! While the ending wasn't what you would have wanted it doesn't change te value of the work you did.

    Change is always a bit of an adjustment, but I know you will find your way & settle in soon!

  3. Oh Kat, so much tenderness around this - hugs for all the hard! But I'm celebrating you and this new unfolding and wishing you ease and grace and so much joy.

  4. That's amazing! Amazing new start and amazing they behaved like such assholes. Sometimes the change we need is foisted upon us :) Looking forward to reading about this next chapter...

  5. I loved reading this because it reflected the bad stuff about change, too. It's important for people to hear that when you pursue a goal, there will be obstacles and it won't always feel great. And boo for your old job for treating you that way. It happens, but it's not okay. You should feel negative and honor that feeling. I look forward to reading more about your writing adventures!

  6. it is interesting to hear that universities have the same tendency to be crappy in the same way the world over. I'm sorry that happened, I understand it too well. I think sometimes it takes awhile after a huge change to be able to go forward. Some responses and habits have to fall away a bit before there is room for the change.

  7. Oh Kat, I know this situation well, I have been there too (in fact some details of your experience were chillingly similar to my own). It sucked at the time but it turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened. There is so much ahead for you and I feel so excited for you. When your only choice is jump or be pushed, jump, my friend, jump :)