In Which I Am In Shock

I am in shock. I’ve just been effectively given the sack.

I feel such a fool, as I’ve been making changes to my life in order to accommodate what I thought was going to be an increase in my study support hours. I was in college this afternoon, seeing one of the college accountants, oddly enough, who had been having difficulty passing her accountancy exams. Although this was a bit of an unusual case for me, the hour had gone very well, and it was in a buoyant mood that I walked out of my rooms towards the car park. Then I bumped into the Senior Tutor who said we had to talk about what had happened in the council meeting, and after we’d made a few suggestions of times we could meet, he suddenly asked if we could talk right now.

The idea had been to bring my job more in line with other teaching jobs in college but the proposal he had put together with an increase in my hours was turned down flat. A lot of the problem revolves around something I can barely explain here which is the title of my job and where it fits into the structure of titles. It’s a complex system and the council refused to have me as a Fellow who a) works part-time and b) is not attached to a University post. Then they had decided that if there was to be an increase in study support, it should be subject specific. (I currently see all arts and humanities students, and the idea is to nominate ‘teaching associates’ for each subject area, which really means that there won’t be study support any more because I can’t see that being organised by harassed lecturers). So that was that.

Much as I absolutely hate asking this kind of question, I said to the Senior Tutor: ‘Did the council think I had done a poor job these past four years?’ And he said, no, they were appreciative of what I had done, it was just that it could not be made to fit with what they wanted. But of course, at the moment I can’t help but feel like I did a bad job.

Mister Litlove’s take on this is that I did indeed do a bad job – at the politics. ‘You never managed up,’ he said, ‘and it’s the people who manage up who really get on.’ And it is true that I do not do the politics, which I loathe and think wholly unnecessary and am in any case completely unable to engage in. When I look back there were enough people telling me I should eat in hall at lunch, and go to the college dinners, and I suppose the Senior Tutor may have been giving me an opportunity when we last spoke to offer some sort of study support kingdom on a grand scale that might have saved me. But I didn’t want to do any of those things. And I didn’t do them. I thought doing a good job was the point.

It still seems peculiar to me, as I had felt so sure, looking back, that I did help the students. Or at least, well, I thought I did. This wholly unexpected change in events makes everything look unsure. Mister Litlove says it’s nothing to do with me at all, but then he is my husband and a sweetie. All I know is that it’s the end of an association that’s been a huge part of my life since I was 18. It feels really, really odd.


94 thoughts on “In Which I Am In Shock

  1. I’m sorry for you, really. I’m sure you did a good job even if you don’t feel that way right now. Unfortunately, in most cases, doing the politics is mandatory and it sucks. (I know, I’m not good at it either)

    I could have thought that only the corporate world has sharks like this but after reading David Lodge and Philip Roth I know better.

    PS: Think of Mathilde in De Vigan: she didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t do anything wrong; the system is stronger than us sometimes.

    • Thank you, Emma, I really appreciate that. I will never understand why the politics are so important, but it is true that they do seem to be. I always thought that academia was better than it was made out to be but I’m a bit disappointed in it – obviously! – right now. And recalling Mathilde is a brilliant idea. I’ll be fine, it was just so out of the blue.

  2. I am so sorry and while I know that saying I have been there and know just how you’re feeling isn’t going to help you feel any better I have and I do. One thing I’m sure of is that you have been doing a good job, but you are so completely right when you question whether or not that is the point; far too often these days it isn’t. What matters is playing the politics. Personally, I think you’re a better person for not being able to do so but inevitably the people in power are the ones who do play the politics and do it well. They have a personal interest in seeing that things stay the way they are. You will have proof that you’ve been doing a good job because the students you’ve been helping will want to know where you are and their concern will get back to you.
    It took me a long time to come to terms with having parted company with an Institution with which I had been involved for thirty-five years but other opportunities did make themselves known soon enough and I ended up in a better place than I had been before. I hope the same thing happens for you.

    • Alex – thank you, and it DOES help that you have had this sort of thing happen too. It’s not even so much the job as saying goodbye to a place I’ve worked for so long and that has been a part of my identity for most of my adult life. But then it was not the same doing study support as being a full-time lecturer, so really I have to look at it that I’ve been in transition for a long time. You are spot on, I think, when you say that those at the top want to keep things just as they are. I’ve found in the past that good things come out of bad sometimes, so I can only hope that something more interesting will appear on the horizon. Thank you for the lovely comment.

  3. Wow, that sounds pretty tough and I can read that you are upset and still raw about what has happened. Taking off my book blogger hat for a moment…in my distant past I worked in HR and my advice to you now is to seek professional counsel. Whether that is the people who deal with personnel at the college or someone external like your union or acas. Of course, I don’t know the full details of your employment relationship with the college, but if they directly employ you I am pretty certain they can’t ask you to go on a whim. Hope you get it sorted, but if it does all end up going tits up, remember that sometimes these things happen for a reason and there may be something better out there for you. Good luck and pour yourself a large glass of wine tonight!

    • Thank you so much for your comment, I really appreciate it. Alas, my three-year contract comes to an end at the end of the week, so I think it’s an easy move for college to make. I thought the renewal was just a formality, so that shows how much I was looking in the wrong direction! But it’s okay, or at least it certainly will be. And I really do hope that there WILL be something much better out there for me.

      • Litlove, it may be too soon to say this, but can I suggest that you look on the “renewal” you were expecting to have been given you, though not in the form you anticipated? You are going to be free, soon, of the institution, and can step away from all that it required of you by way of accommodation, chores, etc. Nothing can stop you from offering your services, which I know you enjoyed doing to some extent, to students as a side business, choosing your clients, or in some other field.
        This is a chance to move away from “what was” to “what can be,” and like all such chances it can take the breath away.
        That being said, I do think getting professional advice is important. You have no record of this conversation, and have no written notice. You were not sent cautionary or warning letters, it seems. Those things might not feel important now but, in the future, could play a certain role in your career and for your personal requirements.
        Whatever you do, I feel sure you will get energy from this change, though it may not come right away, to put elsewhere. Best wishes in this trying time, and may everything out right you.

    • I am around – a lot more than I expected!! As it so happens I found just today the card with your phone number on it that went missing ages ago. I’ll give you a call tomorrow morning!

  4. I’m so sorry. Of course this has nothing to do with whether you were doing a good job and helping the most vulnerable students enormously. I’m afraid this is one of the last things anyone is interested in, in academia as much as in the corporate world these days.

    I think the only sane conclusion is that, the priorities being what they are these days, you are much better out of it. But of course that won’t stop you feeling terribly shocked by the sudden end of such a long working relationship, in which you had invested so much of your talents and efforts for so many years.

    I think that if you decide, after some recovery time, that you’d like to pursue and develop your work in study support, there could well be opportunities elsewhere – as this is a growing and important area. At LSE where I used to work, there is a whole big department called ‘Teaching and Learning’ with a number of expert and dedicated staff, and I’m sure this kind of thing is quite widespread.

    Similarly, I expect if you decided to look instead for some part-time teaching in your academic specialist fields, there would be opportunities. But perhaps this is the time to take that jump into being a full time writer, and one day you’ll be very happy that the decision was forced on you.

    Whatever you decide, I’m sure you will need some recovery time first. Please take very good care of yourself, dear LitLove (they must be mad!).

    • Hugs to you, dear Jean, for this wonderful comment. It’s really encouraging to think that there are all sorts of things I could do. I feel completely unemployable at the moment! Mister Litlove is very much of the opinion that now is the time for me to devote myself to writing (if only it were a better cultural moment for it!) and whatever comes next you are quite right that I’ll be taking some time out. Don’t jump too quickly is something I have certainly learned over the years. The odd thing is, this is the first time anything has ever happened to me, you know, something I didn’t make happen myself. It’s the very first time I feel faced with a plot twist in my life, which is so odd all by itself. I’ll be fine – I mean, compared to chronic fatigue, this is a doddle in terms of emotional processing! Thank goodness for the truly dreadful experiences, which do at least lend some perspective to events. But it is all very strange-seeming. Thank you so much for your words; they really help.

  5. I’m so sorry to hear this Litlove. Sometimes bad things do happen to very good people. If you have spent more time on the people who matter – the students – than on the politics, then I like you all the more.

    You have so much to offer, I feel sure there’s a golden opportunity just around the corner.

    • Karen, thank you so much for your lovely comment. It’s still all sinking in today, and I feel very sad that it had to happen this way. But comments like yours really do help.

  6. W.

    That’s just crazy. And yet, I can’t help thinking that in some ways, this may prove to be an incredible opportunity for you to heal some of the wounds that your position seemed to keep banging up against. I believe there will be a way for you to keep doing the part of your work that illuminated and inspired you, without having to deal so much with the politics and parts that were frustrating and exhausting.

    • Oh I do hope so, David. I did find study support exhausting, and it seemed to take up a lot of my life. When I stop feeling kicked in the teeth, I hope I will be glad that the job is over. But just at this precise moment, I don’t have much hope in fate! I think that’s probably inevitable.

  7. Sorry to hear this. I think it is clear from much of what you put on here that you have a talent for the post you have lost, with insight, sympathy and your own difficult experiences to back that up. I learned long ago that to be good at what you do is of little or no importance to institutions in itself. The people who run them are what my brother calls people who can talk a good job. One of his bosses was good at that, and totally useless at his actual job. I hated the politics too, particularly the pressure to distort and dissemble which is the key to ‘success’ as popularly measured. That is why I could never be a politician. You’d have to be a person who is dishonest to yourself as well as everyone else to do that.
    Whatever is said it is always justified by the institution’s needs, another word for what the deciders can get out of it. I suspect they did not like having a free agent. No wonder they want something more departmental!
    Anyway this will pass, your life will move on, hopefully in fulfilling directions, and who knows what wonders await. It will be sad for you to go, as you are that kind of person, but look to the future.
    Very best wishes.

    • Dear Bookboxed, thank you for this lovely, comforting comment. What you say here is so true. I just hate the dissembling, and the having to be nice to people you don’t particularly care about, and I simply can’t bear to talk a good job (which is an excellent phrase); I just wanted to be doing one. I really do not think they liked having a free agent, nor one who knew the secrets about their teaching and their ways of treating the students. Although I never breathed a word of the things I heard in my room. Cross your fingers for me. I really do have to hope that something better lies ahead.

  8. So sorry to hear this. But as someone who’s been canned a few times, the first time is the worst. OMG. How is this possible? Etc. It’s a hell of a shock, esp. if you did not see it coming and that is a lot to absorb all at once, both being blindsided and losing something you have been able to count on for a long, long time. You WILL be fine. You will find other work and people who truly value you. But let Mr. Litlove be extra kind the next little while. Good luck!

    • Caitlin, it is absolutely the blindsiding that’s been so hard to get over at first. I was getting all prepared to do more hours and had no idea the council might react the way they did. Talk about not seeing something coming! But Mister Litlove has been wonderful and really supportive. He’s been smiling bravely at me a lot, though, which is going to have to stop. But really, other than that, he’s been wonderful.

  9. I’m sorry to hear the news, Litlove, especially since you seem like such a patient and dedicated and giving educator for your students. Hope something good comes out of this in the end, but please don’t beat yourself up over somebody’s else inability to overcome a bureaucratic mindset.

    • Richard, I really appreciate these words from you; they mean a great deal to me. So thank you. I was an idiot not to factor the bureaucratic mindset into the account, but then again, what would I really have done differently? Cross your fingers for me and hope that something good does turn up.

  10. Wow, I am so sorry to hear that. I think your response – did I do a bad job? – is natural, but from what you’ve said in this and other posts I agree with Mr Litlove and the other commenters that it has nothing to do with that. If there were concerns about that, then you’d have heard about it before, and certainly they would have used it as a justification for the action they’ve taken. That they said nothing indicates that there was nothing they could say.

    Academia does sound depressingly like the Corporate America that led to my quarter-life crisis. Managing up was more important than doing your job, and they hated nothing more than someone who wouldn’t fit into a box. The irony was, of course, that the people who were busy showing management how committed they were to the job were the people who cared about it least of all, while the people who actually cared about their job the most and put all their efforts into doing it to the best of their ability suffered because they didn’t show up to enough meetings and off-site events and after-work drinks. It actually worked well for me, in an accidental kind of a way, because I had zero interest in the job, and preferred to go out drinking or play golf or attend offsite meetings in swanky hotels. Due to my lack of interest or knowledge I got several promotions and was destined for greatness, until the dishonesty of it all made me quit in search of a slightly less insane way to live. But I’m sure you’re not in the mood for irony right now.

    I like the way you put it in a response above – this whole thing is like a plot twist in your life. The twist was out of your control, but your response to it is completely within your control, and with all your talent and experience and with what sounds like some terrific support from Mr Litlove, I’m confident that your character will bounce back and deliver some thrilling twists and turns of her own. I’ll be cheering you on, as I know will a lot of others here!

    • I feel a bit daft as I’ve been defending Cambridge for years and saying it wasn’t as bad as all that. Hmm, well, I probably won’t be saying that for a while. The fitting in a box thing is like a mania. And of course I should have gone to all the events and buddied with the other important fellows. But if I’d done those things I would have hated myself and it would have felt exactly as you put it, like an insane way to live. Thank you so very much for your wonderful comment. Honestly, the response of my friends has really pulled me through an awful day today and I am immensely grateful.

  11. Like everyone else who has commented, I feel entirely confident you were doing your work very well indeed – hearing you talk about your students, with so much interest and compassion, has always been an inspiration for me to approach my own with more thought to their well-being. Your point about this being the first time something has happened TO you, instead of through your own choices and actions, is a really good one: no wonder it feels shocking and disorienting, and I’m glad you have Mr Litlove there to support as you figure out what’s next. I’m someone else who can easily believe in you as a full-time writer! But whatever plot twist is next, at least you know we’ll all be following along and cheering you on.

    • Rohan, it means a great deal to me that you, who knows exactly the sort of situation I’ve been working in, have made that comment. Thank you. I really wanted to do a good job for the students, and I just hope that I have helped a few people over the past four years. I would love to be able to write full time, although I have no idea how to make that happen right now. But bless you for your support. It has made all the difference for me today to have my friends being so kind and reassuring.

  12. Oh I’m so sorry! How frustrating to deal with that kind of inflexibility and politics that ends up hurting you and the students. Here’s hoping for better things in future!

  13. I am so sorry that your long association with Cambridge has come to an end and in such a short sharp way. That hurts, especially as you were so dedicated and able to really help the students. I am with Mr Litlove – hoping that the space that has opened up in your life will give you more time for writing.

    • Dear Charlotte, thank you so much for your lovely comment. I think I am just about starting to get my head around it, although it was an incredible shock. To be able to write would be great. We’ll see how it goes. For now, the support of you and my blog friends is just fantastic and I’m really grateful for it.

  14. Dearest Litlove, Just wanted to send a big warm hug across the ethers to you.

    Perhaps this unexpected event will result in something even better?

    • wordsamany, I will gladly take that hug, thank you!! And oh I do hope so. It’s just a big shock at the moment, but it would be nice to think something better lies ahead.

  15. I can only add to what everyone else has been saying — I am so sorry. University politics are the biggest pain ever — when I retired four years ago it wasn’t the students or the other teachers I was glad to see the back of, it was the increasing shift to political finagling. It’s become such a cliche to say that when one door shuts another one opens, but this is a case when it is so obviously true. I think the advice to wait a while is absolutely right — let it all settle and when your mind stops whirling, the right direction will present itself. And how good it is that you have your writing – nobody can take that away. Best of luck getting through this shock, and take it easy, if you can.

    • Harriet, thank you so much for your comment which really means a great deal to me, not least because you know exactly the sort of situation I’ve been working in. I can’t believe, now, that I never paid any attention to the politics, but I didn’t. At the moment everything feels crazy and I haven’t even got used to the thought of clearing out my room (and with the students arriving on Friday!). So I will definitely let the dust settle and just hope for better things. But the support of blog friends like you has been absolutely invaluable to me today.

  16. My younger daughter is a lecturer at a Uni and the politics are something else. There is no escape from them. You can do the best job in the world, as I am sure you did, but the politics will win out every time. I saw it in my office career where I avoided it like the plague and suffered as a result. My problem was I wanted to come to work, do my best and then go home and sleep at night. Not much to ask really.

    I am really really sorry to hear this and though you must be in a total state of shock at the moment, and I know the feeling believe me, just take time now to relax, rest and think about the future. A cliche I know, but when one door closes another opens as I have found throughout my life though one does not necessarily realise it at the time.

    Lots of love

    • Dear Elaine, bless you for this wonderful comment. Thank you so much. What you wanted was exactly what I wanted and of course now I look back and think what an idiot I was to imagine I didn’t need to attend to the politics! But I actually thought that the students were the point. I’ve been defending Cambridge for years, saying they don’t treat the students all that badly but, ahem, I may not be doing that now. It has been a huge shock, I was SO looking in the other direction. But my goodness me my blog friends have helped me today, and turned it into something so much better than it could have been. I’m so grateful for that.

  17. What what what? Oh fool college, to lose such an asset as you, dear litlove. I fear that they will regret it. How absolutely horrible for you. You know, it might have happened whether you played the politics game or not; however, with hindsight perhaps the fact you felt unappreciated recently was because you WERE unappreciated. You know in your heart that you did a good job and that you did help students, even if your colleagues choose not to recognise that. I hope that you don’t feel bad or that it’s somehow your ‘fault’.

    I don’t know if it’s any consolation, but 18 months ago I had to admit that my freelancing career was now so dire that I couldn’t pay the bills any more and was forced to give up. That really hurt, because my family had depended on me financially and since I was solely responsible for my work I felt it as a personal failure despite the fact that the recession was the main problem. However, now I am truly grateful for it. Because of that, I have had the time to learn Flemish and am now embarking on a possible adventure as a teacher – at the moment I really don’t know if it’ll work out and it’s enormously stressful, but actually a great deal more interesting than the work I had been doing. Had I not received the big kick in the bum from having to sack myself, I would be in the same place I was in which was safe but boring.

    So I would say: chin up, dear litlove! Try and look upon this as an opportunity because that is what it really is. I feel confident that once the initial shock has passed you will turn it to your advantage. In the mean time, a big hug – it’s a weird place to be.

    • Dear Helen, I will gladly take the hug, thank you! And it’s really helpful to hear your own story and to know that being obliged to change direction can turn out well in the end. I am SO glad to know that you are having an adventure now, after what sounds like a pretty horrid time. Well, I know all about the horrid time right now, but cross your fingers for me and when the dust settles hopefully it will all look a lot better. I tell you, I don’t know what I would have done without all the wonderful supportive comments I’ve had from my dear friends today. It has made all the difference and turned a perfectly awful day into one that has had many compensations.

      • Dear litlove, I hope that today you are feeling even a little better. I absolutely have my fingers crossed for you and I think the horridness you are facing is much worse (I have to say I was terribly bored with my job). But I think we can often adapt and deal with change more quickly than we expect. You know, it wasn’t long ago you revamped your blog and I think I’m right in saying you have book irons in the fire; maybe this is a challenge you are more ready for than you realise, hard though it is? I hope so, anyway. More hugs, Helen

  18. I’m so sorry about this whole mess. It seems so harsh and sudden. Don’t question your own skills, it’s so obviously not about you, but it’s so sad that those decisions don’t revolve about people’s abilities anymore. Take time for yourself and look at new opportunities!

    • Oh thank you so much, Smithereens. It’s been a real shock as it was the last thing I was expecting. I think right now that if I can keep it from affecting my self-esteem too much, that’s about the most useful thing I can do. Easier said than done! But definitely easier with the help of my friends.

  19. I am so sorry. From what I read of you here – your writing talent, your ability to convey ideas, your obvious care and concern for others – you will be greatly missed by those that matter.

    As has been said, this will take time to process. Maybe in time life and circumstance will provide the answer to what your next step should be. This is a blow and a shock and the reality of it is undeniable. Later on though, there may be the potential for great things ……

    • mm, I really do appreciate so much your coming forward to comment like this. Thank you. It has been the most tremendous shock and I am still reeling from it a bit. But it has helped more than I can say to have the support of my blog friends. It’s really got me through the day. And hopefully tomorrow it will start to look better.

  20. As i said on Twitter I’m so sorry this happened to you. The political aspect of jobs is so hard and especially for people who think doing a good job on time is the important thing. Good luck finding a new job and good luck getting over the shock – it must have come as quite a blow.

    • I can’t tell you what a shock it was. I was getting all prepared for the extra hours I was supposed to be doing, I’d even told the people in the bookshop I was going (fortunately they are the kind of people who will just be nice to me when I crawl back in on Monday). So talk about being blindsided. I never had any idea that the council might turn the proposal down! Of course in retrospect that’s stupid as I had made plenty of enemies doing this job, only I thought their silence meant they had grown accustomed to me, whereas it really meant they were biding their time. But hey, if something bad had to happen, I’d rather it was to work than to my family. Although it’s painful, I’m not actually bleeding! And really your lovely comment and everyone else’s have helped no end in getting me through today.

  21. Oh Litlove! I am so sorry! Try to not beat yourself up about it. It had nothing to do with you or the quality of your work and everything to do with university BS. You are a marvelous, passionate and compassionate teacher who has inspired and helped more students than you imagine. Be nice to yourself. And look on the bright side, you are now free to pursue any number of exciting opportunities. Big hugs.

    • Dear Stefanie, thank you for the hugs which I am very glad to receive and for your lovely kind message of support. I can’t tell you how much it’s helped today to have my dear blog friends rally round. Twenty-five years ended, just like that, it could have been really and truly awful. Whereas, well, the day has had some compensations after all. Thank you.

  22. Oh, litlov. I am so sorry to hear that academia has failed you as it has failed some many of us who have pinned our hopes and efforts on it. Because that is what happened. It and those who have power within it failed you. Not the other way around. Of course you could have played the politics better, but the costs to you and the students you helped would been too high.

    Have you read Women of Academe: Outsiders in the Sacred Grove, by Nadya Aiisenberg and Mona Harrington? It is a wise and insightful discussion of how what we know, what we have learned as women, doesn’t mesh well with the demands of the institution and those who run it—and why our values are needed any way.

    And yes, the loss of identity hurts. I taught at various colleges and left voluntarily, but a still have a bruise, an amputated stump that still flares now and then.

    Breathe deeply. You don’t want to let them make you sick. As the pain eases now and then, get involved in a book or small project to distract you, and imagine what you want to do nest. You have obvious talent. Where do you want to invest it next?

    • Oh MD, thank you so much for your wonderfully supportive comment. It means so much to me that people who have been in similar situations understand and can see more clearly than I can at the moment what is happening. I’m still really shocked by this turn of events, but I so don’t want to let it make me sick as that really would be injury to insult! I’m not quite sure really what chance I have of getting published now I’m not a proper academic any more, but oh well, there weren’t even many chances when I was! I haven’t heard of the book before but it definitely sounds like something I should be reading, so thank you very much, I’ll look into that. And thank you altogether for your reassuring words. It’s helped so much today to have these messages from my friends.

  23. There is nothing I can say that hasn’t already been well said above, but I did just want to send you some moral support and my very best wishes.
    I can imagine how you must feel – you’ve been done a great injustice by an institution blind or insensitive enough not to fully appreciate your gifts and strengths and your importance to the students you have supported, but you will rise above it all.
    Whatever comes next for you may be just what you need, and all will be well. I do hope so!

    • Karen, bless you for that. I can’t imagine what the future will be right now, but I do hope something good comes out of this eventually. But then all these comments from my dear blog friends have come out of it and you’ve all kept me afloat today and I am immensely grateful for that!

  24. Litlove, how is it that you manage to convey even AWFUL news in clear, enjoyable and engaging prose? Stupid university for not seeing the gem they had. My devious mind would suggest lawyering up, but that’s probably just the fighter in me speaking!

    • Dear Eoin, thank you so much! My ideal is to make funny stories out of awful things, but I haven’t quite got there yet….. Even my foolish non-confrontational brain realises that this has been incredibly badly handled by college. Though what I could do about it I have no idea (no one fights Cambridge and wins generally). But really thank you for your lovely comment. I don’t know what I would have done without the support of my friends today – it’s been just incredibly helpful.

  25. So sorry to hear this, Litlove. So sick of large institutions demonstrating time and again that they’re incapable of appreciating the truly worthy. Please know that many of us recognize the truth, and that we wish you well and will support you in whatever endeavor you next undertake.

    • Niranjana, thank you so very much, that is so sweet and kind of you. I really don’t know what I would have done without the support of blog friends like you. You’ve helped make this so much better.

  26. Oh good lord, the politics and inflexibility and gross stupidity of old institutions. Dear Litlove, I cannot believe you were doing a bad job; I can entirely believe that the decision-making council is a pack of idiots. It really, really is not you. A hex on office politics and a bigger, nastier hex on Cambridge.

    • dear ms musings, how you make me laugh! I’m right behind that hex at the moment. I’m beginning to think I just knew too much about my colleagues’ deficiencies, and it didn’t sit well with them!

  27. I know you are upset, as anyone would be. And I wish it had not happened to you. But you know, Victoria, as I have told each one of my children, when it appears the bottom has dropped out of their world – whether it be a broken heart, or not getting the job they were in line for and which went to someone else, etc. – with time and distance we often look back on these things that smart like a slap in the face, and we are able to see that if that awful thing had not happened, ergo, the really wonderful thing that is now happening would not have. It doesn’t give much comfort at the time of course because, let’s face it, a slap is a slap and it hurts. But closing that door means that something wonderful is just in the wings for you and now you will be open to it. I know this to be true for many reasons, not the least of which is that the journeys we are forced to make are often the best…they are where we find all the unexpected surprises.

    • Dear Grad, now that it’s all sinking in a bit and the initial shock is passing, I’m much more able to look at this as an opportunity. Plus, I am just happy not to have to get up and out of a warm house this autumn! My laziness is thrilled to bits. But seriously, I’ve spent half my life at the university and now that I’m obliged to think what else I could do, it will be very good for me to define myself differently. Thank you so much, my dear friend, for your words of wisdom. They helped.

  28. Dear Litlove – what a turning point in your life! How exciting and awful at the same time! Right now it’s quite awful, I’m sure. I look forward to reading your posts as you fashion the next part of your very fabulous life – because I know you will have one. In the meantime, I am sending you a big cup of hot chocolate, a pile of books, and all the time you need to adjust to this big change in exactly the way you need to do it. I’ve been through terrifying changes in my life before (divorce was just one of them) and I am continually amazed at the good things that have resulted, and not just for me.

    BTW – they are going to miss you big-time at your former workplace, they are just too short-sighted to see it. And wow – the support you have from intelligent and kind friends on your blog is really, really amazing. Take good care on this swiftly tilting planet…. beth

    • Dear Beth, bless you for your wonderful and uplifting comments here. It has been awful, and then, amazing, to have all this support come in exactly when I really needed it. And now I’m beginning to get used to the idea, I’m much more able to look at this as an opportunity for something new. My husband feels I’ve been trying to leave the university for a long time, and that this has been a necessary push, even if it wasn’t done in the best possible way (and when are these things done well?). It’s so cheering to hear the encouraging stories about good things coming out of big and uncomfortable change. And thank you for that virtual hot chocolate. I’m definitely taking some time out right now and it’s very pleasant!

  29. I am *so* sorry about this. It’s really all just one big game at at the heart of it all, isn’t it. It doesn’t sound like the student’s best interests are the focus. So typical. I am absolutely sure you helped them immensely, but obviously the uni has other priorities. I can only imagine how disorienting this must feel for you, especially since it was something that had been bothering you before and were trying to accomodate their wishes. I know it’s a cliche, but maybe once the dust has settled this might be a blessing in disguise and they will have done you a favor, but I am sure that’s not how you’re feeling now. Lots of people (as you can see here) regard you very highly–hopefully this will open out to more opportunities where your knowledge and talents will be appreciated! Sending many good thoughts your way!

    • Dear Danielle, you hit the nail on the head there. It IS all a big game and I just don’t play them. And the poor old students always get the rough end of any deal, I’ve found. That’s not fair at all. But the dust is beginning to settle a bit and I am starting to think it has been a good and necessary thing to happen. It’s about time I saw myself differently, not just as an academic. I’ve been trying to make the break for a long time now, to do things differently and let go of old habits. I’m thinking I might never have been able to do that properly while still at the university. I don’t know what will come next, but I’m definitely taking a holiday right now, and that’s always nice. I can’t tell you, though, how touched I am by the amazing support I’ve received, and you have really been there for me. Thank you, my friend.

  30. Oh, Litlove, what a shock to go through. I’m really sorry. Having worked in Corporate America for over a decade, though, I can tell you what I learned about politics: I was fairly good at it, but when I looked back over my career, I realized (or felt) that that was MOSTLY what I was good at. It’s nothing to be proud of, and in fact it felt like something of a waste of my time and abilities. So I quit! And now I write, which is what I hope you will do much, much more of. Many of your posts are absolutely transporting. You are a writer, Litlove, very much so. I wish you well in the transition. Even good transitions are awkward and hard sometimes.

    • Melissa, bless you for this wonderful comment. I was just no good at politics – to the extent that I really didn’t see them at all! But most of all thank you for your kind words about my writing. It’s the obvious direction to take, although I have no confidence about actually publishing anything. But the writing is fun and the learning process is one I really enjoy, so that’s where I’m pitching it for the next phase. You are so right about transitions, but you and my other dear blog friends have certainly helped with this one.

  31. Oh Litlove! I am so sorry that you are having to deal with such a thing. I can’t believe this happened, what a painful thing. Your enthusiasm for teaching and devotion to your students shines through every blog post you’ve every written about them, and I’ve often thought how great it would be to be able to take a class with you. I’m sending you all the internet hugs. I hope you are treating yourself to lots of small pleasures.

    • Dear Jenny, oh thank you so much for your lovely comment. I really was doubting myself about my teaching. It’s amazing how these things just wipe out confidence. But the support I’ve had here has been just incredible and has helped no end. I’ll gratefully take the hugs, thank you, and reading these comments is a huge pleasure for me at the moment!

  32. This is a great pity for the students and the institution but I’m sure that after some time for reflection you’ll find other, perhaps better, outlets for your energies and talents. Wishing you all the best with this next phase.

    • Thank you so much, Amanda. It’s been one hell of a shock. But I’m starting to feel better about it and just glad at the moment that I don’t have to go and do induction days! I don’t know what comes next, but something will turn up in time. It’s up to me to find a place that suits me, now, not bend myself to suit something else.

  33. How terrible for you. We are at the other end of the spectrum – retired. My husband still works part time for his sanity and extra golf money. The pay is minimal, and I do mean absolutely minuscule. The job is pleasant enough, but it is not highly skilled or requiring specific knowledge. We were laughing the other night about how it doesn’t matter. Politics is still part of the landscape if you want a good schedule, enough hours, etc. Funny.

    I hope you find something soone that challenges and fulfills you.

    • Bella Rum, thank you so much for your lovely comment. Retired sounds pretty nice from my perspective! But it’s a shame about the persistence of politics – good for you that you can laugh about them! I’m sure something will turn up, but for now I’m having a bit of a holiday, and that’s never a bad idea.

  34. I know that a school is quite different from a university but when it comes to corporate-types making idiotic decisions for the ‘good of the company’ it’s very similar. I’m sorry that you are losing a home in academia. Angry with them that they don’t appear to appreciate what they are losing. Excited for you at the possibility of a full-time writer’s life. You are right that this about them and not about you. Managers get anxious at people that don’t fit in the box. It’s much easier to just work them out. (And perhaps you can work in this latest plot-twist to a book on academia?)

    • Dear Pete, what is this fitting in the box thing? I don’t understand why it’s so threatening although I am completely convinced that you’re right and it is. Hmm, we need a good psychological explanation for this one! But I really like what you say about your different reactions. It’s very much how I feel – sort of messy and confused, but feeling deep down that maybe this will prove liberating in the end. If nothing else, it’s good to have to define myself a new way. Thank you for your wonderful support, dear friend. It really does make a huge difference.

  35. I just lost my job too, after nearly thirty years as a psychotherapist and I have never been happier. I write all the time now. I was close to retirement anyway. It was just very hatefully, during a life-threatening illness and multiple hospitalizations regarding a brain injury that will take about a year to heal completely. I’m realizing I never want to be a therapist again. I’m sick of all the giving and never taking. I can still write though, but reading is very slow. I remember Maxine Hong Kingston once saying that she was fired from her job and it was the best thing that ever happened to her: she wrote her first novel. Jobs are just jobs. You have so many other gifts. You should be a professional book reviewer. You are the best there is, no exaggeration. This could be the best thing that ever happened to you.

    • Squirrel – NO! I’m so shocked to hear that. And then so pleased that you are free from what I know to be a hugely draining and sometimes thankless job. My first feeling, after the shock and horror, was that I was relieved not to have to fix people any more. It isn’t an easy thing to try and do. I am so sorry to hear that your organisation was even more stupid and cack-handed in its treatment of you than mine was. But at least it helps a person to feel well rid of them! Bless you for your kind words about my writing – it really does mean the world to me, you know. And I will definitely be over to check out your new blog and catch up properly. Inevitably I’m poorly at the moment, but in a very short while I will be fine and with lovely time on my hands for my friends.

  36. I’m so sorry to hear this. I can only imagine the turmoil you are going through right now, but please don’t blame yourself. Some managment people are so blind to what actually happens and only see the numbers on a piece of paper. I’m sure you’ll come through this and find something even better to do. Good luck with whatever opportunities come your way.

    • Jackie thank you so much for your lovely comment. I can’t tell you how helpful it’s been for me to have the support of my blog friends. The news was such an awful shock, but if anything can make it better, then it’s the reassurance and encouragement of my blog friends. Thank you.

  37. I was very sorry to hear you’ve been treated so shabbily. I have no doubt you did your job with care and sensitivity. You could never do anything less.

    From this distance, it has seemed your time at Cambridge had become less fulfilling. Though it is not a journey you’ve embarked on by choice, I hope you’ll now find a way to something much more satisfying. Continuity demands a period of transition but I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming chapter in which our heroine achieves success and receives the rewards and appreciation she so richly deserves.

    • Dear Lokesh – I knew you would have something both incredibly uplifting and insightful to say! You’re right. The university hasn’t been so fulfilling for me, and study support was often emotionally draining for not much reward. Now that the dust is settling, I am feeling much better about what has happened, and that it is time to redefine myself. I wouldn’t have chosen for it to happen this way, but leaving college will be an opportunity to grow up a bit more. And that can only be good. With the support of my dear blog friends, I feel sure I can move forward positively. Bless you, and thank you.

  38. I was on a holiday or I would have commented earlier.
    I’ve only read a few of the comments above so I will probabaly sound repetitive.
    First – From all you wrote recently about the “institution” you worked for – maybe you should feel flattered. Look at the ladder climbers – would you want to be like those – no. See? Sometimes not fitting is the biggest compliment as is not being promoted.
    I never thought there was a differnece between academic institutions and corporate companies. There is a lot which is importnat n these places which has nothing to do with the thing per se.. It’s all about politics and money. Good for you that you do not rush to follow all their rules.
    There are many lessons to be learned in all this. some are more obvious than others but I’m sure like many others above that it wasn’t because you did a bad job.

  39. I’m shocked, too! I can’t believe how easily places of employment throw away such talented people. I’m so sorry to hear it’s happened to you. Having had this happen to me twice, I know how very hard it is not to blame yourself, but don’t. Give yourself a little time to wallow in self pity and then write. Writing has been so cathartic for me.

  40. I think academia can be worse than corporate (or business per se). At least we were taught more of the ‘rules’ but I know, too well, we can ALL be blindsided. Tell Mr Litlove to stop with the sympathetic rictus grinning. Mr Carmichael would probably offer to ‘sort someone out’ which, equally, is not helpful.

  41. Their loss and I am sure your gain. I am on the train and able to check in on your blog and have been reading it backward so I know you are doing better. Still I want to say publicly along with everyone else I am sorry for the shock but absolutely certain that this is going to open up new space for wonderful things for you.

  42. “I thought doing a good job was the point.” Indeed, so do I. But as I look at my 28 years in education, I see that in fact, bureaucracy is the point. I’ve been teaching since I was 24, have never had a year off, and I love it. But I love teaching, not all the accoutrements which surround it. That, my new friend, is a nice word for complete and utter bullshit, which you have experienced in this post. I’m sorry that it’s come to this, but don’t doubt for a minute the positive impact you’ve had on those you’ve touched. It resonates through your blog; I’m more than positive its triped in the lives of the students. A hug for these hard days, which will lead to better ones.

  43. WHOAH!!! What the…?! Just catching up – wow, can’t begin to imagine what a slug in the guts this was, especially to someone quite so petite as yourself – those ungrateful sods. I hope now the dust has settled all you’re seeing is the future and your freedom. And I’ll say it again: of course you helped the students. That’s all you need to know.

  44. I’m very sorry it’s taken me this long to come over here and express my sympathy. I have been following your posts, though, and am glad to see that you are taking it easy on yourself and beginning to recover from the shock. Your attitude toward all this has been admirable and inspiring. I admire your level-headedness and ability to make sense of it and begin to move on. My sympathies are with you!

  45. I’m so sorry to hear about this but am sure that better adventures lie in store for you. It is sad that the people who play the political game the best get ahead and the really valuable people get left behind.

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