On the Periphery

Things change. Life throws us curves and changeups. It's good to have a place to vent.

Monday, August 28, 2006

It’s been a rough week, but I'm better now. After losing my job, I went through all the steps of grieving—Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and, finally, Acceptance—but there’s another one that isn’t discussed: rejection. I discovered that losing a job is a lot like getting dumped by a lover.

The parting words were reminiscent to the ones you hear when ending a relationship: “We have to downsize” (It’s not you, it’s me), “We’d like you to work with us on a freelance basis” (I hope we can still be friends), and “We’ve prepared a severance package” (You can keep the ring).

Just like with ending a relationship, losing my job was a painful rejection. Now, I’m used to rejection—I am a writer, after all—but getting a form letter from an unmet editor is a lot different than looking at the faces of people with whom you’ve worked for years and having them give you the old heave-ho. It hurts a LOT more, and really sets you wondering about yourself: If I had been a better employee, they wouldn’t have cut my job. What did I do wrong? How should I change?

The fact is, I did nothing wrong. I was good at my job, I worked hard, produced excellent work, and for the most part, I felt I earned my salary and then some. I simply have to accept the fact that some things just don’t work out and move on.

I feel better about things now, and am not bitter. After all, I will still get some freelance work from my old company, and now I have more time to write my own things. I have a great support group (my husband, my kids, my friends) who constantly remind me that I am a worthwhile person. So that’s it. No more whining.

On to better things.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Lost my job today.
The word used was "downsized." I'll continue as a freelancer on a part-time basis. Trouble is, my bills are full-time, and I'm on the "upsize" of 50! Finding a new job means entering very frightening, very unfriendly territory. To make matters worse, while my age had nothing to do with my situation now, that age is against me as I look for a different job. That's why I decided to go for my Master's in the first place: to make myself more marketable. But I don't know if it WILL make any difference.

My age and experience is the very reason I SHOULD be VERY marketable. I can do it all, because I HAVE done it all. But no one wants it anymore.

I have an enormous number of skills--skills I acquired through education, work, training, and life lessons. Skills acquired by learning on the job, keeping my ears and mind open, and working my fanny off. It's too bad I couldn't have had all that experience and learned knowledge when I was 25. I have them now, and have a good number of years left in which to put them to use, but employers still want someone young. They just don't understand that seasoned workers are the best.

Their loss.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Why is a degree so important? I have more than 30 years of solid experience in writing and editing. I have proven myself over and over again, taking on new challenges and meeting them. I have lived many lives, and have learned from each, building on prior experiences, piling success on success. I have proof of these triumphs: photographs, framed awards, letters of gratitude from former students, employers, and supervisors. Yet if I want to share that knowledge on a higher level I must have that piece of paper with the words “M.A.” emblazoned on them like proof of my worth.

What does that degree really tell about me?

Does it mean I had the tenacity to see a project through? I have raised two children into productive, conscientious citizens. Doesn’t 26 years of dedicated parenting says something for my tenacity? As a teacher, I have been sad witness to parents who gave up, and we have all have seen the products: angry, sullen, destructive young people who never had models to show them how to persevere. Doesn’t my parenting success indicate something about my ability to follow through?

Does it mean that I showed the ability to learn? What about the variety of projects I have taken on in my life, challenges where I had to learn a new skill, all with successful outcomes? Do I need to take a class to show my cognitive abilities?

Does it mean that I was willing to lay out a great deal of money to attain an end? (Consider the costs of parenting.)

So what does a degree actually mean? Wait, I am getting to the point.

Our nation has become obsessed with objective assessment these past few years. What does all this testing actually show about our students? Teachers teach to the test, some even giving practice tests to help the students do better, taking time from general studies of ideas to studies of facts. What exactly are these students learning? That the results are more important than the process? That independent thinking won’t get you where you want to go?

How can children enjoy learning when they lie under the sword of Damocles? What about the joy of exploration, the thrill of understanding and questioning concepts? Where is the excitement of exploring one’s own ideas and how they connect with others—or how they differ? Can a prospective employer to look at scores and determine if a student will make a good employee? Are traits such as personality, reasoning, sensitivity, determination, cleverness visible through test scores?

Memorization is not learning. Learning is understanding the facts and then applying them in a generalized setting. Learning is opening the mind to new and strange ideas, changing preconceived notions, expanding the limitations of understanding. While I am thoroughly enjoying the challenges of grad school, I am saddened that it is a necessity—a test, a means to an end—rather than simply the end itself.