Scylla and Charbydis

7 Jun

As I get older, I find myself more and more frequently trapped between larger and larger rocks and harder and harder places. Or, as we called Rocks’ and Hard Places’ more aquatic cousins back in the day, Scylla and Charbydis. I don’t know if the problems are just getting bigger (they are), if I’m less-equipped for dealing with them than I thought I’d be (I am), or if I’m somehow subconsciously setting myself up for anxiety-inducing decisions and situations (possible… we haven’t gotten that far in therapy). But the result’s the same: it’s a real struggle to convince myself to shower before bed (showering, you understand, being unspoken acknowledgement that I am going to work in the morning in a more real way than packing a lunch that I could just take on a picnic down to the water ever could be) ((don’t worry, I showered)).

Sometimes Scylla and Charbydis are definite problems, other times they’re more metaphorical and existential. Then there are the times when I find myself facing the perfect storm of definite and metaphorical. This is one of those times, and I’m not sure my boat is so leak-proof.

About three months ago I turned down my top choice graduate program because I am practical and they didn’t offer me enough money. Then I inadvertently found out that my employers were reclassifying my position, requiring me to reapply for the job I’ve been in for the past year and go through the whole months-long process of hiring by search committee. Cue Alanis and her black flies in Chardonnay. So, I started looking around for other jobs and allowed myself to dream of leaving, thinking that I would stay until I found something. I’ve found lots of other jobs. They just haven’t called back. Then yesterday, during my final interview for the position I already have, my boss threw this at me: “This isn’t really an interview so much as a conversation to find out how you feel about the position, because while you are doing a fantastic job and we want you to stay, we don’t want to give the position to someone who is going to leave next week.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I lied through my teeth and sold another little portion of my soul. Of course I want to stay, Boss. I just love that I spend my days actively avoiding making coffee for old men (and some not-so-old men) who seem to think that my function in the office is to be a decorative fixture whose youth makes it almost certain she knows something about computers. (Which, to be fair, I do know quite a bit about computers.)

My immediate boss is wonderful (above statement aside). I honestly could not ask for a better place to work in terms of my boss and the other administrative staff, not to mention the salary and benefits. But now I feel trapped. The opportunities for advancement are unclear and, quite frankly, even if they were a little more defined, I wouldn’t want them. Maybe it’s the hubris of my generation, but I graduated summa cum laude and am a member of Phi Beta Kappa. I am creative while still being able to think logically and analytically. The reason things run so smoothly at work, Boss, is because it takes very little effort or brain power for me to complete my tasks. Even the conferences I organize only take part of my brain, if all of my time. I should be more than this; I am more than this.

But then the cycle of guilt starts. Who am I to look down on a full time position that so many people would be grateful to have? Alternatively, who am I to take this full time position away from someone else who wants it more than I do, someone who would put in more effort and not mind showering before work?

I don’t know. I just honestly don’t know.


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