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Making a Midwest Move
If you so choose, I wish you and your partner the best in your move. I am from Nebraska and live on the West Coast, so I’m fairly well-versed in both places. My best advice is to just be yourselves. It is not your responsibility to contort yourself to fit into a more conservative environment. There are plenty of liberal, open-minded people in the Midwest — just as there are moderate and conservative folks, too. People tend to be nice, albeit somewhat passive aggressive. They pride themselves on this niceness, especially in professional settings. Now, this is a generalization, but on the whole, whether the niceness is genuine or not, people won’t be openly bigoted. They may not socialize with you outside of work, but in the office, they will be cordial. As you try to settle in to your new workplace, do what you can to get to know your co-workers. Maybe bring some homemade baked goods. Everyone loves baked goods. Be curious about the people you work with and try to get to know them. Be open to letting them get to know you. Ask for recommendations for things to do in your new city — people love giving advice. Clearly. It can be hard to acclimate to a new environment, but go into the situation knowing that you are not a problem. You don’t need to explain yourself or to apologize for who you are. But truly, just be yourself. And have a little faith that you will be embraced rather than rejected for all the wonderful things you are.
United for All, Not Just Some
Yes, it is worth going on strike. I understand your concerns about the risk you’re taking, and those feelings are entirely valid. But the whole point of a union is collective bargaining for the benefit of all, not just bargaining for some. If you don’t fight to protect early-career lecturers, what are you even doing? It is imperative for every member of your union to do everything in your power to support the most vulnerable lecturers in your institution. Would you want to be abandoned if you were in their position?
Last Man Standing
You haven’t really given me enough information to determine what’s going on at your agency, but I imagine your colleagues are leaving because there’s little room for advancement. In addition to the recent departures of your peers, your promotion is overdue. For many ambitious people, a stagnant professional trajectory is more than enough reason to look for another position. It may well behoove you to see what other opportunities are out there if advancement is important to you. You can also ask your supervisor if there is a timetable for the promotion you’re expecting. The response might help you get clarity on how to proceed.
Hello? Didn’t They Miss Me?
You are not crazy for having feelings. You’ve just been through an intense medical crisis and have returned to work only because you have no other choice. That’s an incredible burden to bear. I hope, between work and continuing to care for your husband, that you can also take some time for yourself and allow yourself to be cared for by your nearest and dearest. As for your colleagues — people tend to get caught up in their own lives. While you were dealing with your crisis, they were most likely dealing with crises of their own, and the coronavirus pandemic and who knows what else. And as you note, the people in your department did acknowledge your absence. I’m not sure you can expect more than that. Your more distant colleagues may not have noticed your absence, however painful that may be. Certainly, your hurt is understandable. Allow yourself to feel it. Perhaps the best way to move past this is to extend your colleagues a generosity they have yet to extend to you. Give them the benefit of the doubt. If you really want closure, ask them why they haven’t said anything about your return. But also ask yourself why this means so much to you. What would their acknowledgment provide? And is there another way to satisfy that need? Regardless, I hope that the road ahead is kinder to you than the one you’ve already traveled. And may your husband’s recovery continue.
Roxane Gay is the author, most recently, of “Hunger” and a contributing opinion writer. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.