To the Darker Side

One of my friends asked me how postgraduate has been, and my answer was, “Same old. Overworked and underappreciated.” And that, ladies, gentlemen and others, sums up my postgraduate life to a T.

The last week has been particularly shitty. I finally got a taste of what being dragged into department politics feels like here, and it’s just as nasty as everywhere else.

I try to stay away from politics and drama as much as possible. I do enjoy second- and third- hand drama as much as the next person, but I try as much as possible to not get involved. What I’ve come to realise, though, is that the more relaxed I get with people around me, the slower I realise the quagmire under my feet until it’s reached the level of my throat and I have nowhere to turn. And I sincerely tried to stay away as much as I could from the drama, but where there are people, there will be drama.

As someone who enjoys work and the challenge of doing something new, I recently realised that it’s being interpreted in a completely different meaning. While I cannot (and don’t intend to) change people or perceptions around me, I’ve decided to change myself. But fuck me if the drama doesn’t tire me out.

I’ve passed out at 8:30 in the evening due to sheer exhaustion, or I’ve found myself unable to do the work I had planned to do during the evenings once I was home. I was honestly angry, frustrated and depressed, and with less than a week left for finals week, it was a bad place to be in.

And at this time, I didn’t have my usual people to turn to. My partner was down with the ‘Rona while having to figure out what to do about leaving home to go back to his country of employment, and my closest friend, also down with The Virus, was struggling with figuring out her study schedule as the biggest exam of her life approached her. With my two closest confidantes out of the picture, and my family back home suffering their own set of problems by way of sick geriatrics, it was a shitshow all around. Everyone had their problems, and everyone was barely keeping their boats afloat.

At such a time, being alone is a blessing. Not having to care for another human being’s feelings while feeling like shit is a great place to be in, because I don’t have to worry about offending or hurting anyone with my general sense of frustration and exhaustion. At the same time, being alone meant having no one to confide in, which meant that I blurted out my feelings to whoever asked how I was doing. Which, in hindsight, was a stupid thing to do.

My colleague, bless their good, genuine heart, has the most none existent work ethic I’ve seen, simply because they don’t work. If they did have a work ethic, it would be, “Don’t do work, and don’t have work assigned to you.” Which, after careful consideration, I realised was a brilliant idea, but had a lot of implications.

I have always been told, growing up, that hard work is its own reward, which is probably a roundabout way of saying, you’re not going to be appreciated for the shit you do, so learn to appreciate yourself. (An aside, but I should really stop swearing. I don’t swear as much as I used to, but I’m still terrible) Which, while a terrible way of promoting the quality of working into a child, is, in some way, true. While growing up, however, hard work did come along with some appreciation, and laziness was reprimanded, which in itself was an incentive to work well. Personally, also, given my competitive nature, I have always prided myself on efficient and effective work, with the higher goal of achieving ‘perfection’, i.e., a level which I can be happy with.

My current environment, however, treats its hardest worker in the same way as its laziest loafer – that of silent expectation. The lazy person is expected to be lazy, and the worker is expected to pick up the slack for both people. And that, everyone, is the crux of my issue.

Sure, it’s great when you don’t expect anything from others for the work you do, but it’s difficult to implement in real life. And when you do the work of three work alone, and the only response you get is to have more work put on your plate, it gets tough to stay calm. But you have to stay calm – showing your frustration towards your coworker will fuck things up for you, and showing your frustration towards your professors means you won’t finish your postgraduate on time, and the nightmare (which it’s become at this point) will extend for far longer than it needs to.

A piece of advice given to me by my senior came to mind. “Leave your ego and self-respect at the door and enter your postgraduate. For as long as you’re studying, you need to realise that the entire power in the relation rests solely with the professor. So, for the next two – three years, swallow your ego, keep your head down, and finish your postgrad as soon as you can.” And, honestly, I wish it wasn’t so, but it is.

And that’s where change comes in.

I’m going to have to accept that being efficient isn’t the best thing for me. Instead, to paraphrase something someone posted on reddit once, “Always have 70% of your work done. Never have 100% of your work done at any point in time. You’ll just be given more work to do.” And my coworker, while being the bane of my professional existence, has a solid point, and it’s something I might take up.

The other thing I’ve come to realise is that, in relaxing my guard due to familiarity, I’ve started sharing my thoughts and emotions a lot more. That, while is a good thing for me, is something I’d rather not have bite me in the ass, as it has done with before. While I’m happy to open up to others, don’t enjoy the paranoia that accompanies it. So, for a while, I’m going to go back to keep my mouth shut, and ears open.

This isn’t the greatest possible outcome, but life isn’t about the greatest outcomes. I don’t really know what life is about, but I’m trying to make the best of what I have in front of me. I honestly wish things did not have to come to me dumbing down my work ethic in order to keep my mental peace, but here we are. Here we are, and it’s not a good place to be in. How will this go? I don’t know, and I’ll find out soon, if I am not wrong. But, hey, it’s something new to try out, so let’s give it a shot, eh?

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