This is the fourth of our Dispatches from a Distance, a series of short posts intended as a forum for those of us facing disruption in our professional lives, whether that’s working from home or something else, to stay engaged with the community. There is no specific topic or theme for submissions–rather, this is a space to share your thoughts on current projects or ideas which, on any other day, you might have discussed with your deskmate or a co-worker during lunch. These don’t have to be directly in response to the Covid-19 outbreak (although they can be). Dispatches should be between 200-500 words and can be submitted here.
Working from home has its challenges, as many of us have found lately. It is certainly a privilege now to be able to work from home and to remain employed. In some cases, however, this might be an opportunity to disrupt a cycle of toxicity in the work environment. In my case, workplace hostility has been extremely stressful and taken its toll on my mental health, which has in turn affected my physical health. I am looking forward to realigning my focus on what matters in life—myself and my loved ones.
I have not been fully present for family or friends as I would like to be, and I need to feel complete to be able to be there for them. Working from home, now, I am trying to focus on eating well and sleeping again. Last night I slept the entire night without medication. I woke up refreshed, made myself coffee, and felt good enough to start a new writing project. I have been so lost and absorbed with the toxic environment at work that I had been stuck in a loop, ruminating over and over on situations, thinking about the retaliation at my workplace and whether or not I should act on it. I was anxious about going back to work, about sobbing in the bathroom stall in a public restroom, or shedding more tears in front of my colleagues or my supervisor. I have continuously turned words over in my mind, telling myself that I was valid, that I have value to the profession, and that others will recognize my contributions even if they aren’t shared by my supervisors.
Sometimes, we hope that an academic community can save us. We hope that academia understands that we are all colleagues working towards a common goal. We hope that academic freedom and its ideals is a humanist approach, and those who work within its comforts will receive understanding and ethical treatment. I thought that academia would provide me with benefits that I never had, and it delivers health insurance and other benefits which can be hard to secure otherwise. It does not always guarantee respect, of course. I did not realize that academia can be horribly competitive. My experience has led me to consider finding employment outside of academia, although I am sure any economic sector can be similarly toxic. I have considered leaving the profession altogether, and I still consider it.
Right now, I am hoping to find myself again. I have become completely self-absorbed in my situation, which is unfortunate, but it is a cycle that is very hard to break unless something breaks it for you. As I said, we are certainly privileged right now to be able to work at all, especially to work from home. The epidemic has been awful for the larger community, so I hope to do what I can to make myself complete so that I can engage with the larger world again and, hopefully, to be more effective in change that will benefit the larger community as well as myself.