Today I had my first bad day at my new job. Not unremittingly bad or anything. Just...stuff that went wrong. Problems that cropped up that I had to deal with. (All of which, happily, was interspersed with the becoming-usual fun or interesting stuff, like talking with one Very Famous Scientist and making him laugh, and doing an interview with a couple of earthquake researchers that was so fascinating it made me feel--not for the first time--like I really am getting away with something here, getting these one-on-one fascinating graduate-level lectures not only for free, but for PAY.)
Still, there was the bad. And, for some reason, it really hung on today. Most days, at most jobs, I can just shake myself free of the annoyance at the end of the day. Maybe I'll trot it out later in the evening as a story to make Baroy laugh or commiserate with me or something, but by then I've let it go. Not today. It stayed with me on the way to pick up Em and N at religious school, it stayed with me as I drove them home, it stayed with me during a PTA meeting after I dropped them at home, it stayed with me while I studied with N for his social studies test tomorrow, and while I put Em to bed and lay down with her for a while.
It was then, lying in the dark listening to my daughter's breath grow deep and regular, that it hit me why. Why it was sticking with me. Because the badness of today had to do with mistakes made by other people at other institutions. People whose mistakes are making me look stupid and unreliable.
In my line of work, reliability is key. I have to be trusted, or the information I'm giving people will be rejected out of hand. And the mistakes made today could very well put that reputation for trustworthiness at risk. (Yes, I'm probably being melodramatic. It's one day, one bit of faulty info. But, like I said, it's been a stickily bad day.) Even though this incident was So Very Much Not My Fault, there's still the fact that my name is at the top of a piece of paper distributed to a large number of people...and there's also still the fact that what is said on that paper is, in some ways, a lie.
But, worse yet, is that these mistakes also made me look stupid. They were mistakes I never would have made, if it were within my power not to have made them. (Yes, I know that's convoluted, but it's the best I can do here. Work with me.)
This is what cuts right to my very core. If there's anything I simply cannot abide, it's being made to look stupid. Because I'm not. There are a lot of things I do in my professional life that are less than exemplary, but I'm not dumb. And being made to SEEM dumb, to APPEAR dumb, when it wasn't even me BEING dumb...urgh. And so, with each email I had to send out ("I apolgize for the error, but...") I died a little inside. And that's why now, a good six or eight hour later, it's still smarting. I'll get over it. But damn. I just want to scream: I'm smart! Not like everybody says... like dumb...*
*Fifty points if you didn't even hesitate before being able to name the movie from which those last two lines came from. Not that it's that hard. I don't have that boy gene, the one that enables you to quote obscure lines from every movie you've ever seen. I can remember about seven lines, from about five movies, those being two of them. When it comes to movie quotes, I'm will happily admit to being stupid.