I need pretty constant feedback. And I need it to be good. What drives me most is people telling me I’m doing well. This charges me to continue to meet their expectations. If I get bad reviews, I feel angry and betrayed and insulted. Then I feel lost and bewildered. Then I get bogged down in self-recrimination. And it spirals. I must be on the top rail at all times, or I feel like I’m falling into oblivion, poverty, and despair.
Don’t get me wrong. When I’m on the wrong path I want to know about it. It just launches me into terror and shame until I can put it right. And I am constantly convinced that my next evaluation will be the one where I am told that I am failing and have one foot off the plank. And it doesn’t matter how many good interactions in a row I’ve had, it seems. I’m terrified constantly.
In part, this is because I know I don’t work very hard. I’m always distracted. I’m lazy. I blog from my desk. Sometimes it feels like whole weeks go by and I don’t do anything at all. But, somehow, whenever there’s a deadline or a need to produce a result, there it is, living color, right where it needs to be. I don’t really know how it happens.
But I must be doing something at least reasonably right. Because I had my first full-year annual review on Friday. And I was given the highest rating in the history of my department. This comes with a nice little raise (though not a huge one – more like a reasonably generous cost-of-living adjustment) and the opportunity to set an even higher bar the next year. And it comes with another perk.
I get to write the job description for my promotion. It’s not set in stone. But it’s highly probable. My boss and his boss are apparently on board. The VP clinician in charge of my whole division will need to sign off, and HR will need to agree that the compensation is appropriate. This will also not be a huge raise. But it will be like a very generous cost-of-living adjustment. And two of those back to back starts to look like a real raise. My boss believes it will all be done within three months. And it may involve me having supervisory responsibilities.
So it’s all very good news. I appear to be flourishing. I’ve laid out an ambitious agenda for the next year. And I think I’ve managed the expectations of my new institution very well for the first year and a half that I’ve been here. I have more publications in the hopper. I am going to be promoted. I am doing all the things I set out to do professionally and that’s wonderful.
And then, just as I’m fretting about me and what I am and what I do and need and me me me me me, I get the only kind of feedback that really matters. I get a note from someone who has been reading Infactorium and has decided to get back into meetings and get their shit back together and commit to sobriety. Which is what actually matters in this world. Real people, leading real lives, moving forward day by step. Mine is one of those lives. And I’m doing it. Doing the things I couldn’t do as a drunk. Taking steps forward.