Toxic Value(s)

DISCLAIMER: I do not mean this piece to be a critique of my direct supervisors, all of whom are absolutely wonderful and are helping me work through the systemic problems related to working as support staff in a state institution. I work with amazing individuals. I write this piece as an emotional, raw critique of systemic inequalities and issues that result from the policies in place in public, state institutions of higher education that continually disadvantage me and others in a position similar to mine. The fact that I even feel obligated to include this disclaimer shows the truly bifurcated nature of higher education—freedom to speak out is reserved only for the few. Nevertheless, this issue is too important to remain silent about, and I am working in avenues other than my blog to address these problems. To change the system, we must first critique the system.

“It must be such a privelege to work at your alma mater.”

I get this a lot. It used to feel like a privlege, but more frequently now it feels like poison.

What is value? According to Google’s dictionary function, value is:

  1. the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
    • the material or monetary worth of something
    • the worth of something compared to the price paid or asked for it.

Value sounds important—it sounds good. How can values be toxic? Or how can the value of a person, or what you hold to be valuable, be toxic?

It’s toxic to work in a place where you need to “prove” your value. To work in a place where you are not valued, where you cannot be properly and fairly compensated due to the short-term nature of your work—where short-term work is not valued.

It’s toxic to work in place where you are constantly told just how valuable you are, yet the simple “price” that you ask for—a living salary—cannot and will not be honored. It’s toxic to work in a place where, without debt, and with only rent and a credit card to pay every month, you still cannot afford to live where your job demands that you work.

It’s toxic to work in a place where the people who shoulder the burdens of the institution, who do all of the leg work, and who are not properly compensated for it are required to manually log their hours, day in and day out. Where they are not trusted to do they work they are being (poorly) paid to do. Where they are told that if they improperly log their hours, they are stealing money from the institution. It’s even more toxic to work in a place where the administrators are overcompensated for having big ideas that they then delegate to (read: shove upon) their peons so they can then spend most of the work day—if they come to work—only pondering what frivolous items they are going to spend a limited state budget on.

It’s toxic to work in a place where you are overworked and underpaid—where you are not valued. To work in a place that seems to value people who do not work. People who consistently come to work at least two hours late and leave at the same time as (or even before) everyone else. The privileged people who have no real appreciation for the luxury of earning a living salary. It’s toxic to work in a place where not working—and spending work time seeking other jobs—is rewarded with counteroffers. Where you can be paid, and receive a raise, for not working. Where the people who do work day in and day out, who are overloaded with work, with no time or mental space to seek other jobs, cannot receive a raise. Because apparently it is more valuable to not work and spend your work time searching for the perfect counteroffer.

It’s toxic to work in a place that doesn’t value mental and emotional work and capital. Because it takes mental and emotional capital to apply for new jobs, but when you are already overworked, you don’t have any extra to put toward the job-search-for-counteroffer effort. It’s toxic to work in a place where the people who do have the mental and emotional capital for job searches—who, coincidentally, are the people who are not overworked and already earn more than a living salary, thus freeing up mental space—are rewarded with counteroffers and less work.

It’s toxic to work in a place where your regular workload can double, triple, quadruple, but you aren’t valuable enough to be compensated for it because you are just doing more of the “same” work. It’s not enough to do more. It’s toxic to work in a place where to prove your value, you have to take on different, “higher-order duties,” only to find that even after taking on these duties, you aren’t valuable enough to be properly compensated for the extra, different work.

It’s toxic to work in a place where you are so valued that new tasks, new duties are shoved onto your plate because you can handle it, but when you point out this is more work, different work, higher-order work, you are met with silence. You are met with false equivalencies. It’s toxic to work in a place where, after asking for a raise for this extra work, you come to find that the administration has re-written the duties of your supervisor so that your new, higher-order duties are no longer that. They are no longer outside of your responsibility. They are now your responsibility, and you can no longer justify asking for a raise.

It’s toxic to work in a place where the answer is: “That’s just how it is. It’s a shitty system.”

I know my value, my importance. I am not toxic. My employer, however, is a different story.

ADDENDUM: I want to add that I do really like most parts of my job on most days, which is one of the many contributing factors as to why I haven’t left.

Deconstructing Freedom

Land of the free, because of the brave.

I see this quote going aroud all day on July 4th. So, on this Independence Day, as we get drunk at cookouts, wear American flag clothing items, watch fireworks, and loudly bellow “patriotic” things at each other, I’d like us to more carefully consider what we say and what we celebrate, starting with this quote.

“Land of the Free”

For so many Americans, this land is not free. When you can’t legally marry the person you love, when you can’t go out in public without fear of being killed because of your skin color or your religion, when you can’t be paid equal salary or wages as a male counterpart, when you can’t speak about sexual abuse because you will be blamed, and so many other scenarios, we cannot consider America a “land of the free.” This land is not free for so many people: LGBTQIA+ people, African Americans, Muslims (or people who “look” Muslim, whatever that means), immigrants, women, sexual abuse and rape survivors, Latin Americans, homeless people, people living in poverty, and so many other minorities and underprivileged groups of people. This land is not free for them.

“Because of the Brave”

We are certainly “free” thanks to the many Americans who fight for our freedom–and I in no way mean to belittle the sacrifices that so many Americans have made throughout the decades–but the “brave” are by no means limited to the military and are by no means the only people who have made America a “free” land. Our “freedom” has been built on the backs of enslaved, underprivileged, and minority peoples who are underpaid (or simply not paid, in the case of slaves), undervalued, and underrepresented (to name a few).

For those of us who are lucky enough to confidently say America is a “Land of the free, because of the brave,” think about who you are excluding. How your freedom impacts others and has been built upon disadvantaging others. Be grateful, but think about how you can leverage your freedom and your privilege to help the millions who are not as fortunate as you.

A Day Without A Woman: Power and Choice

Today, International Women’s Day, was also “A Day Without A Woman” for many across the US. Organized by the same group that orchestrated the Women’s March on Washington, the idea of A Day Without A Woman is that this general strike would highlight the significant contributions women make at work and in society and provide another day when women could rally for their rights. I loved the idea of this strike–if we actually had a day without women and every single woman was a no-show, a significant number of people would struggle. So if even a fraction of the female population went on strike, at least another fraction would get a better glimpse at the contributions we make every day to life and to the world.

But in talking with my friends and coworkers, some pieces of the choice to not work, to strike, didn’t sit as well with me as they originally had. The one thing that by far bothers me the most about the strike is that it is, at its core, however unintentional it may be, a classist movement. Some of us, myself included, are privileged enough to work somewhere where we can accrue leave and make the choice to use this leave for A Day Without A Woman (or come to work anyways, as I chose to do). But what about the women who are not so privileged? What about the women who don’t have a choice, and they have to continue going to work so they can support themselves and their families? Being able to take leave–to take a day off of work to strike–is a privilege that not every woman has. And what happens when the women who choose to strike, do? Whose shoulders does that work then fall on? Some of the work may fall on men, but it will also fall on women and non-binary individuals–the more vulnerable minorities. How are we to think of ourselves if, when we strike, we force our burdens onto people less fortunate, less privileged, than ourselves? If a school district closes, as some did, what burden are we then putting on mothers who may or may not be able to take off work or find child care? What work are we making invisible, rather than visible, by striking? By saying that taking off work and staying home (as some women chose to do, rather than go to rallies), are we not making invisible the work of stay-at-home moms? Are we not conflating what they do every with “not working”?

It’s heartening and inspiring to see other women think deeply about these issues, recognizing their privilege and leveraging it to help fight for others who could not strike. To see women recognize the faults of this strike but take leave, knowing that their actions will spark a conversation somewhere. We–women, men, everyone–should absoutely fight and protest against an economic system that has long exploited women’s work and neglected us. But in choosing to fight via strike, we should be careful in thinking about how our actions will affect other women who may not be able to fight in the same way and women who may not be in the traditional workforce. Having privilege and choice is a powerful thing, but we must constantly be thinking about how the choices we make because of our privilege can put undue burdens upon the people for whom we are fighting.

Thank You / Here

Thank you
For assuming the worst of me
For making false accusations

Thank you
For claiming we’re adults but not speaking to me, for shunning me instead,
For being condescending and patronizing

Thank you
For [not] giving me the same chance you gave everyone else
For lying to those who lent you a sympathetic ear

Thank you
For not admitting your own mistakes
For not taking any responsibility for the mess you have helped create
For continually playing the victim while scapegoating me

Thank you
For showing me what our friendship really means to you
For showing me your true colors

So here
You won’t find sympathy or forgiveness–

You will find a smile plastered onto a fragile, cold veneer
With cracks running deep below the surface.

Decision 2016

I’m writing this post with much trepidation–I hate getting involved in politics and typically remain silent, but this election, as so many people have noted, is different. Horrible, horrible things have come out in the course of the election campaign. One of things that saddens me the most about this election is the blind adherence to party labels and affiliations. I know many conservatives/Republicans, and they plan to vote for Trump–they are even proud of their party’s candidate and platform. And to them I say this:*

I know you. I know this man–if we can even call him that–does not represent even the slightest piece of you. I know you would never, ever endorse sexually assaulting women–in fact, you would balk at it. You know women who have been sexually assaulted and abused, and to this day I know you have not forgiven the man who assaulted, abused, and damaged someone you love. I know you love and deeply respect the women in your life–your mother, your sisters, your wife, your daughters. And yet you support a candidate who clearly does not respect women, who constantly degrades  and bullies them and treats them as if they were far inferior to himself. You support someone who brags about assaulting women who would probably congratulate you if you “got some” and/or assaulted someone.

I know you do not yearn for the “good old days” when black people were disenfranchised and enslaved. Unfortunately, you still see the vast majority of blacks as inferior to yourself, but you would never wish a return to the old. I know you do not believe that every practicing Muslim is a terrorist, that every Mexican is an illegal immigrant out to steal jobs. Yes, you have your highly problematic racial prejudices, but I know you do not fully apply these prejudices to each and every person you know who fits the profile. I know you view these people as people. And yet, you support a candidate who goes beyond the blanket application of stereotypes, prejudice, and racism–you support someone who actively and aggressively spews hate speech towards these groups of people and talks about them as if they are inanimate objects, who does not even respect them at their most basic level of humanity.

I know you take pride in yourself and the great education you received at private universities or public ivies. And yet, you proudly support a candidate who cannot string one intelligent sentence together, who cannot apply any of the critical thinking and analysis skills that you hold so dear.

I know you despise people who constantly threaten lawsuits and sue anyone with whom they disagree. In fact, you are disgusted by litigation-happy people who sue for anything and everything, who use lawsuits to worm their way out of responsibilities. And yet, you support a candidate who does exactly that, who has cowardly hidden from his responsibilities and debts behind a personal army of lawyers.

I know you hate how much money you pay in taxes every year–that the government “takes” from you–and you hate people who don’t pay taxes because it means an even heavier burden for you. And yet, you support a candidate who has not paid taxes in decades, who believes he is smart for not paying them–who has put an unbearable burden on you.

I know you value the truth. You absolutely hate it when people lie to you, and you have no patience for people who are not willing to be open and honest with you. And yet, you support a candidate who has lied throughout his entire life, who has lied and deceived at every step of this race, who continues to lie to you, me, and the entire American people.

I know you value freedom and independence. And yet, you have condemned yourself to the exact opposite–with this blind, Pavlovian trailing and support of Donald Trump because he claims to be Republican, you are surrendering your freedom and becoming the ultimate dependent.

Donald Trump does not represent you or your values. Open up your eyes and stop blindly following someone just because he is “your” party’s candidate. Take a look around, pause, and think about who and what he is actually representing. And realize that he is not representing you. Donald Trump represents hatred in a dangerous form. I know you are not like this–do not vote for someone who doesn’t represent who you are.


*I write this only to the conservatives I know because I can’t speak for them or their values.

I am

I am hurting and I am healing.

I am waiting.

I am finding my way.

I am constantly questioning, examining myself and the world around me.

I am intelligent and perceptive. And yet
I am still surprised and stung by the things people do and the things people say.

I am sometimes mistaken for a weak, impressionable young woman, but
I am not.

I am a strong young woman.

I am capable of making my own choices, and I do.

I am capable of forming relationships and standing my ground in those relationships, keeping them healthy for me, and I do. I have a backbone.

I am respectful of the people and relationships around me, but
I am not shy about asking for the things that I need.

I am more than the boxes and categories that people try to fit me into.

I am hard working, professional, and dedicated to everything that I do.

I am confident and
I am constantly working on my confidence.

I am a dreamer.

I am charming, vibrant, radiant.

I am a fierce, compassionate woman with an enormous heart.

I am loved and I am love.

I am careful and careless with my heart.

I am not a second choice.
I am not a replacement.
I am not a sometimes.

I am constant, unwavering, yet always changing.

I am a contradiction.

I am me.

I do not want or need the people who don’t respect and appreciate who
I am.