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Archive for January, 2010

It’s such a relief

It’s been a helluva week at chez JennyPA.  Lots of feline drama.  The nice part is, with all the worries about my cat Casey having to have 16 of his 30 teeth pulled and needing regular medication, the one thing I haven’t needed to worry about is what to do about work during it all.  Before, I’d have to figure out if I needed or could take a vacation day to take care of things or try to juggle it while working from home or going into the office.  This time, I just had to worry about moving a lunch date!  So much less stressful.

In the meantime, I’m working on a writing sample for one of the schools.  They wanted one in addition to the statement of interest I already wrote.  So, I’m working on it.  Let me just say that that type of writing is not my strong suit.  I haven’t had that much practice.

Casey’s okay, by the way.  He’s a hurting kitty, but he’ll feel better in a few days and hopefully the pain meds are managing the worst of it.  He’s being pretty good-natured about it all.  He’s certainly in a better mood than I would be if I had just had 16 teeth pulled yesterday.

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It’s very quiet today

My cat Kira is at the vet, having some routine dental work done.  As I type, my other cat, Casey, is once again staring intently into the empty fireplace.  I’ve checked – there really is nothing there.  He’s doing it to mess with my head.  And perhaps to take his walnut-sized mind off the fact that the girl cat is not here to pester.  There’s been no hissing today.  Just the gentle snoring/purring cycle that Casey goes through when he dozes and the sound of a toys occasionally being batted around.

Being at home so much is, in general, very quiet.  It’s a contrast to being in an office.  Even on quiet days in the office, there’s a fair amount of sound.  Printers printing, phones ringing, keyboards clicking,  the near-sotto voce teleconferences from various cubicles.    Once in a while, someone will need to vent, or ask a question or just share something they’ve run across.  There’s almost always something happening somewhere.

When my family gets together, after we’ve caught up on each other’s lives and done the things that need doing, we often find ourselves all quieting sitting in the same room, reading.  We’re all reading different things.  My dad is frequently working on a crossword puzzle.  It’s a companionable silence.  Once in a while, someone will chuckle at something they’ve read, or make that little “huh” sound of learning something they didn’t know.  The rest of us will raise our heads from our books, lift an inquisitive brow and wait for the person to share.  There will be a short discussion and then we drift back to our own reading and the silence returns.

I’d always found these to be cozy feelings – the companionable silence, the background hum of an office.   While I may not want to actively engage with people all the time, it’s comforting to me to know there are people nearby.  It’s a bit disquieting to have things so quiet.  Something else to adjust to.

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I want to take moment to congratulate my sister.  She’s been working on her Ph.D. for a few years now and had her dissertation defense this morning.  She passed with Distinction!!  Rumor has it that her committee used words like “Brilliant!” and “Original!” and that she knocked it out of the park.  This does not surprise me one iota.

She’s no stranger to school work – she has multiple master’s degrees already.  She found something she loved in this one and dove in.  She’s worked harder than I thought possible for a long time.  There have been a lot of ups and downs, but she’s been steadfast in her journey. I’ve been privileged to be around for it (I’ve learned more about her dissertation topic than I ever thought possible!).

She’s my inspiration.

Congratulations, Doctor Sister!!  I love you.

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So, having worked (and therefore generally been in an office) for the last 30+ years’ worth of weekdays, there are things I hadn’t really thought of…

  1. My heat bill is going to be astronomical since I’m home most of the day
  2. My gasoline bills are almost non-existent.  I’m saving on makeup, too.  And dry cleaning.  Although, I don’t think it’ll offset the heat bill.
  3. The grocery store is a very different place at 10:00 am than it is at 6:00 pm
  4. Daytime television sucks.  I mean, it really sucks
  5. The cats have definite routines for their days
  6. There’s a 3 minute siren for the nuclear power plant that gets tested regularly.  I knew that in theory, but it’s different when you hear it and wonder if there’s something you should actually be doing.
  7. Apparently, I need more non-working friends
  8. You can get a lot of reading done and still be productive if you don’t have to spend 8+ hours in the office and and hour and a half commuting.
  9. The neighborhood is really quiet during the day (I know, I know – wait till summer.  I’ll probably be posting about how annoying the rugrats are)
  10. My local library is a great place.  I knew that, too, but it’s different when you can sit and spend some time there.

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One door closes…

and another cracks open.  This week I signed my official severance paperwork.  I also submitted my grad school applications.  I suppose neither act is monumental in itself, but it struck me as an interesting juxtaposition.  Now, I wait.  For severance benefits to arrive.  For grad schools to decide.

My last working day was one month ago today.  I’m trying to develop a bit of a routine.  Something other than getting sucked into the internet all day would be good.  I’ve worked for over 35 years.  It was always who I was.  A new identity doesn’t just appear overnight.  But, slowly, the new me will emerge, I suppose.  In the meantime, I get to go to the gym more, have lunch with friends more, read more, clean parts of the house that haven’t been touched in far too long and yes, get sucked into the internet once in a while.  Plus, I haven’t had to get up at 5:00 once!  Being a lady of leisure has some privileges.

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Here in the US, most graduate programs require a standardized test called the GRE (officially Graduate Record Exam) as part of the admission process.  It’s really just a hoop you have to jump through – it doesn’t correlate to success in graduate school.  Gives the admission folks a number, which they seem to like.  I hired a tutor to help me prepare and his take on the test is that all it tests is your ability to take the GRE on the day you take it.

The GRE has 3 parts – a verbal section, a math section and an analytical writing section.  I didn’t have much trouble with the verbal part.  I like words.  The math section, on the other hand, is designed to confuse and obfuscate.   It’s not that the math is that difficult, it’s the way they write the problems.   Well, that, and the fact that I hadn’t had geometry or algebra in about 35 years.  In some cases, I might just as well have never learned it in the first place!

I had 5 sessions with the tutor, mostly to help me relearn the math.  I never felt so dumb in all my life!  I can’t count the number of times I’d just sit there with a blank look on my face in response to a question.   I studied and practiced and practiced and studied.   Ask me any 10th grade geometry question.   Although, come to think of it, I’ve done a pretty good job of purging my brain of all that crap in the 3 weeks since the test, so never mind on the “ask me anything” thing.

The actual test is computer-based, but you have to go to a testing center to take it.  I suspect people are able to visit prisoners with less security.  I even had to turn my pockets inside out to show that I wasn’t smuggling in any answers.  So conducive to a relaxed test taking environment!  My adrenaline was pumping and wasn’t helped one tiny little bit by the computer freezing in the middle of one of  my essays.  Even the proctor wasn’t sure that what I had already written could be recovered.  Luckily, it was.  You would have heard about me on the news if it hadn’t (“Middle-aged prospective grad student goes postal at testing center”).

In the end, while I didn’t do spectacularly well on it, I didn’t embarrass myself too much.   But I don’t recommend taking the GRE as a form of entertainment.  Really.  It’s not that much fun.

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If I was so miserable,

why did I stay for so long?  Well, honestly, money was a big motivator.  Whatever else the company did, it compensated me very well.  It’s hard to give that up, especially in a tricky economy.

The main thing, though, was the people.  I said in the backstory that I worked with great people, and it really was true.  I didn’t want to leave them.  Working with such a diverse group of folks was a genuine privilege.  Lots of viewpoints, lots of laughter, lots of dedication, lots of respect.  I had the opportunity to make friends out of colleagues, even across an ocean.   Who doesn’t dream of working with folks like that?  I knew I would miss them terribly if I left.

Then it dawned on me that a lot of them had already left or were about to leave anyway.  People that think like I do will be few and far between there soon (not gone completely, though, thankfully!).   I’d be missing them whether I was still working there or not.  In a sad way, that made it easier to decide to go.

I was right, by the way.  I do miss the people terribly.  It’s only been a few weeks since my last day, but I miss seeing or talking to them.   Even with all that’s going on, I think about them every day.

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