Contentment vs. Discontentment: Round 1

I began working at my current position exactly one year ago. I’m not fond of it. Despite the many critical posts about the pharmaceutical industry (and hence, pharmaceuticals), I’m not a fan of medical writing. (I can make an exception for psychology/psychiatry or following pharmaceutical trends.)

It’s peer review time. My coworkers rate me and comment on how well I’m doing at my job. Here’s one person’s input on improving my performance:

"Marissa is eager to learn new tasks related to editing; however, sometimes this enthusiasm replaces a focus to fulfill her assigned role. The most important thing I can suggest to improve her performance would be to focus on efficiency and accuracy for the assignments she has been given and not allow a desire to edit or make decisions override the more important task of performing her assigned duties accurately." [emphasis mine] (My name’s been changed and I’ve revised some of the text so it doesn’t give away exactly what I do.)

I’m not saying that I’m perfect and don’t have room for improvement at my job. (I probably do focus on editing more than my actual job – mainly data entry.) But that comment alerts me that this isn’t the right job for me. I don’t write original copy; I don’t edit; my job allows little room for creativity. As for the "make decisions" part – you got me.

I think back to my first job out of college and (I don’t mean to brag, but) I did one heckuva job. I worked at a daily paper and dove into my position as a copy editor/page designer/proofreader. Within seven months, I was designing and editing front page articles. I also organized and maintained a supplement publication after the chief page designed left. (The supplement was – as my husband likes to put it – an absolute "clusterfuck.") By the time I quit, I’d left it in an organized and manageable state for others to work with. I worked my ass off until 2 a.m. sometimes. I know my boss saw this and appreciated the work I did.

Now, I’m in Philadelphia working as an entry-level medical EA and basically performing data entry. (I admit, I get paid a really good salary to do this.) I’m dealing with it, but starting to look for something else. There’s an editorial assistant position with another company closer to home that actually involves interviewing, reporting, and editing. I interviewed for a similar position at the company last year while living in the South, but had to decline the second round of interviews because I couldn’t afford the airline expense (or the time off). I know I’m much more suited to it than what I’m doing now. It won’t be copy editing – which may slow me down in writing my articles – but it’ll be more than converting Celsius to Fahrenheit and kilograms to pounds. If it’s still available by the time I get my resume together (maybe this weekend), I’ll apply for it.

My job’s somewhat technical. The computer language I use isn’t the problem; it’s spending a good chunk of my time fixing bugs and errors that the development and applications team hasn’t patched up or resolved. I tell my husband – ironically, a developer – that we only have one in-house program that’s "live." The rest are beta versions, Beta 1.1, Beta 1.2, Beta 2.1, etc. The in-house programs are in a constant state of production.

But I have great benefits: cheap health, medical, and dental insurance; disability pay; and subsidized transportation. This has been my main motivations for hanging on so long, but it can’t keep me forever. I’d hate to leave this position because both my husband and I are covered under my insurance, but I know that I’ll only grow more and more discontent here. Discontentment leads to resentment and resentment leads to discouragement and discouragement leads to depression and depression (for me) leads to suicide attempts. I hope to thwart all that.

I managed to weather an awful managing editor this past year (she resigned in April), despite my hospitalization in October and outpatient treatment through November. I worked through my discontent early on and felt much more comfortable by February. However, I’ve noticed I’ve been making careless mistakes lately and not knowing things I really should have known (ignorance). Now, I’m insecure about my job and afraid of starting somewhere else in case I repeat the same crappy job performance. I haven’t done any reporting since 2005 so I’m more than a little rusty. I haven’t professionally edited in more than a year; I’m afraid my skills are no longer good enough to move on and start over. No one’s perfect, but I’d hate to trip and fall somewhere else. Have I simply deluded myself into thinking that I’d work better at another job when I can’t even work well here? Freelancing is an option, but I don’t know where I’d begin or where I’d find the time. (Or the patience for no responses and rejection letters.)

Googling prospective employee names are becoming more commonplace. A search for my real (pre-marital) name yields at least three pages of my published articles. That’s a nice resume boost. Heaven forbid my real name were associated with this blog and prevented me from being hired because I have bipolar disorder.

I’m not quite sure how to end this entry. I started out wanting to write one thing and all this popped up. I’m currently keeping my eye out for another position. I’m being a whiny bitch. That’s OK. I can allow myself these moments. I’ll probably follow this post with another one about the “fear of man,” a.k.a. people-pleasing. I’ve learned that it’s a significant part of my depression. (The mixed-episode thing seems to be something else altogether.)



  1. Ruth said,

    May 24, 2007 at 8:55 pm

    I’m going through something similar at the moment. I’ve spent five years in a job I should have quit after three. Once the passion goes, performance tends to go with it. My situation is slightly different to yours in that I was permitted – indeed encouraged – to go beyond my job description, as the need to for me to do was there, and I was very willing and able to do it. But were they then happy to pay me a commensurate (award) salary? No way, even though money wasn’t an issue for them – I knew this because I ran the books! It took four years for them to come to the party on that one, but by then I felt so used up and unappreciated that the damage done to my ‘attitude’ was probably permanent.
    Like you, I see various advantages to staying put, such as logistical convenience, a decent salary (now that they’re finally paying me properly), and the fact that I’m usually given a free hand to discharge my duties as I see fit. But the endless battles I’ve had, and still have to, fight to obtain and sustain this status quo have taken their toll on my emotional health. It’s got to the point now where I’ve decided to wrap up one last project and then resign, even if there’s no other job on the horizon. I think a break from the world of work might do me the world of good – like you, I don’t want to repeat the same crappy performance elsewhere, which seems less likely if I could give myself some time off to heal (if that doesn’t sound too Californian). Right now, my fists are permanently up, and I know full well that I won’t be able to get along anywhere until they unfreeze, and I can let them gently drop.
    I very much doubt that you’re deluding yourself that you could do a good job elsewhere – in the work world, situation is everything (well, not quite, but it’s more important than most people realise). I wish you luck with whatever you decide to do.

  2. May 25, 2007 at 1:49 am

    Sounds like you’re under-employed. I’m not exactly sure what you do but it seems like you’re way more creative and talented than the job calls for. Of course, it’s always a problem when the salary is good but in my experience, personal fulfillment is way more important.

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