I'm perhaps a little too cautious about some things. This blog is one of them.
There are times I'd like to be a little more descriptive of some things that happen, or that have happened, to me. That's especially when I feel like venting. For instance, a few days ago something happened at work. I'll spare you the details -- it was a minor episode involving one of my collateral duties -- but it was the last thing I needed the first thing that morning. I really wanted to vent about it.
Chances are I could come on here and talk about it in some cleaned-up, non-specific form, and I could get away with it. Or I could post a one-liner to Facebook about it, as I came close to doing. Heck, I posted a couple of generic one-liners there, but pulled them both. Why? Because, as miffed as I was about the episode, I didn't want to make things worse by shooting my mouth off. You never know who will read what you write, and you never know who will forward something to someone else.
It was at my first teaching job that I came to understand holding one's tongue and never trusting the security or sanctity, such as they are, of electronic communications. The statute of limitations is up on this one, so I'll be more specific in describing it. I was advising that school's paper, and we were carrying out an ad agreement, put in place on my predecessor's watch, for a name-brand credit card. It was a deal worth about $1500, as I recall, and it involved inserts put in the paper at the printer's. I had nothing to do with it.
A few days after the first issue came out, I got this e-mail from one of the higher-ups telling me to put no further credit card ads in the paper, per school policy. I forwarded this e-mail to my boss, whom I thought I could trust. I was frustrated by the pressure I was being put under, and I popped off just a bit. I remember writing something like "If the administration will give us the $1500 we'll lose by breaking the agreement and yanking the ads, I'll be glad to accept no further credit card ads." (I seem to recall it was also about the time the college had worked out a credit card deal with another bank, one of those "use this card and the college gets a contribution every time you use it" deals.)
Now, what I didn't expect was that my boss would then forward this to her boss, the dean. And this dean was famously short-tempered. (Oh, and didn't like me. At all. I will at least give her credit for being more open about not liking me than my boss was.) Anyway, down from the top of Olympus comes this scorching e-mail from the dean, absolutely reaming me for taking potshots at the administration -- and, on top of that, for being petulant and immature and short-tempered and any number of bad things. (Takes one to know one, no?)
Now, granted, I sure could have handled that episode in a little more mature manner. But I hadn't expected my boss to take it farther. The episode ended with me sobbing in my boss's office, with her apologizing a bit too profusely for forwarding an e-mail that she didn't realize was meant in confidence, and so on and so on. Anyway, it all got worked out, and the college let us complete the terms of the existing ad agreement as long as we didn't take on any new ones. Easy enough.
But the seeds had been sown for my demise at that particular job. (I have reason to believe they'd been sown well before then, but if this episode didn't exactly sow the seeds, it at least dumped some Vigoro on them.) Sure, part of it was because I did need to do some growing up. But part of it was that I didn't realize the value in keeping my cool when communicating with others, particularly electronically, and I didn't fully realize there's no such thing as confidentiality in these things. Shoot your mouth off, little one, and it'll bite you. Especially when higher-ups get clued in on it.
So sometimes I write about things on here, and I'm too cautious or too vague in describing them. But there's a reason. I'm trying to strike a balance among exposition, venting, and avoiding danger -- be it with my employer, with colleagues or friends, or with people I don't even know. (I guess it's also a function of being something of a coward, but that's another story for another day.)