I’m very different from most people I know, in that — every now and then — I am so relieved it’s Monday. I actually love what I do for work, so that makes it easier to get to work and get moving. Also, there’s a pool at one of the nearby offices, and I love my afternoon swims. I rarely swim for more than 20 minutes. That’s all I really need. But it does me so much good, to step away from my desk and make my way back and forth across the Olympic-sized lanes.
I had a really full weekend, taking care of a bunch of errands that have been needing done, for many months. I just put everything aside on Saturday morning, and dove right in. And by the time all was said and done, I had cleaned out and rearranged a couple of formerly junked-up spaces, cleaned out my car (which was a few weeks overdue), as well as picked up a bookshelf for my spouse, which they have been needing for a while.
And that feels pretty good. I also organized my study a little bit, making more room on my sit-down desk to work. I wasn’t using that old monitor, anyway. It was just taking up space. And the view out my window is now unobscured.
Then, Sunday, I took care of some projects that required extended concentration. I was a little tired from all the running-around, so I welcomed the chance to just sit down and focus on what was in front of me. It took longer than I expected it to (the 2-hour job turned into 3 hours in the morning, and another 2 hours at night), but by the time all was said and done, the result was far better than I’d expected (or have been able to do, at other times).
One really nice thing I’ve been doing, lately, is reading. It feels so great, to be able to read again, after having that disappear for several years. I always loved to read, as a kid, especially adventure stories, nature books, and guides for outdoor living. My favorite book when I was 10 years old was a survival guide, in case you ever decide to move to the wilderness. Instructions for building your own log cabin, snaring rabbits, setting up a fish weir, tanning hides, butchering a deer (or bear), and foraging for nuts and fruits and wild plants you can eat (or use medicinally).
I think I may still have the copy around somewhere (I lifted it from my parents’ house years ago – they weren’t using it).
Now it’s Monday. My boss is away for the week (woo hoo!). That makes me happy, because my boss is a contentious sort of person, and they bring drama with them, wherever they go. They are very politically connected (and disconnected), and they are “on the outs” at work, among people Who Get Things Done. My boss has an excellent eye for picking out potential problems that need to be fixed, but everyone sees them as an obstructor, and someone who isn’t a good team player… when they are really the best type of team player you can ask for — someone who knows where all the “land mines” are while you’re marching across a wide open field, so you can avoid getting blown up.
People where I work don’t like to be cautious. They don’t like to take care, up front. They like to charge forward — full speed ahead. And then they get blown up. And they race around in circles, desperate for a quick fix to their self-made problems.
And while my boss is brilliant in those sorts of assessments, the net result of their position on most everything, is that they’re seen as a “blocker” and someone who just says “NO” to everything. No fun. Not rowing in the same direction as everyone (well, no, when the boats rowing towards the edge of Niagara Falls). And it’s always some drama with them. So, having them away for the week gives me a break from all that.
It will be interesting to see who stops by my cubicle this week, while they’re not around, “to chat”.
In some ways, the week is easier for me to handle than weekends. It’s predictable. And compared to the self-styled rigor of the weekend, it’s pretty laid-back. I did a lot of heavy lifting and moving stuff around, and now I’ve got bruises on my arms. It felt great to be doing heavy lifting on Saturday. Really, really great. Now I need to rest my body and let it recover from the stresses and strains I put it through. That will happen. And a good swim this afternoon will help work out the kinks, as well.
Anyway, there it is. A new week ahead of me… counting down to the corporate merger later this summer… wondering what’s to become of me… along with everyone else I’m working with. I’ll probably write up some stuff for my resume, so I can get it read to GO, should that time come. I’m also scheduling my vacation this fall, so it’s not going to keep me blocked in my current job much past September. I know I don’t want to stay at the new company — it’s notorious for outsourcing work, and also being cheap and not providing good benefits.
It’s also too “old” for me, as I’ve learned over the past year. The division I’m with (which I hear will be kept in place) is full of folks who are my age, or older. When I first started, that was fine, because I was sick and tired of all the “young whipper-snappers” running roughshod over common sense and experience. But now, after being surrounded by people who are just counting the years (or months or days) till retirement, I really see that I need to be surrounded by individuals who are excited about their work, who have vision and the optimism to pursue it, and who aren’t just sitting around, waiting to permanently head out to the golf links.
So, it’s good that I’ve had this year to get a taste of this.
Being surrounded by 50- and 60-somethings is not preferable to being in the midst of “whipper-snappers”, I now realize. It’s not better or worse, just different… and it’s not my preference.
Happy Belated Independence Day, everyone. I hope you had a good one. And thank you to all the veterans and other public servants who dedicate their lives to making this country what it is today.
The 5th of July is much more significant to me, because — like other things in life — after the fireworks are over, the parades are all done, and the excitement of the celebration is a fading memory, the reality of our situation sets back in again.
And we have to do the daily work of just living in this world.
It’s not glamorous. We don’t get trophies and medals for just showing up, each day, and the mundanity of the everyday can get to be a little much. Plus, today it’s raining. We need the rain. We’re lucky. I can think of a lot of people in this country who would do just about anything for some rain. And I wish I could send it to them. But I can’t. All I can do is give thanks that we’re getting some today.
And also be thankful that it didn’t happen all weekend to trash my days off.
Well, even if it had, that would have been fine, because I laid low all weekend. I was working on my skills. Building on some of my old “muscle memory” for things I used to do on a daily basis. I did a pretty good job, but I also got a little turned around and ended up messing up a bunch of stuff. But that’s good. Trial and error is how I learn. And the worse the mistakes I make, the better I learn.
Plus, these are all things that I’m just doing for myself, by myself. It’s not like I’m getting paid to do them (yet).
Now it’s back to work. I didn’t get any emails from coworkers over the long weekend, which is a miracle. Then again, a lot of folks are laying low and not putting 100% into their jobs, because they don’t know if we’re going to have jobs in a few months. Our collective focus seems to be on the future, not the present, with everyone kind of checked out about our current jobs.
Nobody seems to particularly care. Some people are trying — working overtime — and others are rolling their eyes behind their backs, because they are clearly trying too hard. And some of the “keeners” (those folks who are so “keen” on doing their best) are some of the least appreciated and most dismissed people around. I guess it makes sense that they’d be trying so hard… but then again, nobody knows what the heck is going to become of all of us, eventually, so most of us are just taking a break from our Uber-Alpha Type-A schtick.
So, la la la. What-ever. I’m sure we’ll find out what’s happening to us, eventually. For now, most of us are just puttering on through, waiting for… something… to happen. But some of us are looking well into the future and planning our next moves. I’m doing that. I printed out a list of things I need to study up on and practice, before I make my move. And by the time the fall rolls around (I’m hoping I get to hold out till then), I’ll have that much more skilled accomplishment under my belt. And I can make my move — on my own terms.
Ah, the long weekend. Time to kick back and relax. Go for long walks in the woods. Read a book (because I can!). Do some cleaning around the house, take naps, maybe watch some t.v. — no, not watch t.v. Not during my days off. I really value my time and don’t want to lose it to the television.
I’ll be doing more studying and research this weekend, brushing up on skills, also updating my resume. Just having time to think about things.
My new neuropsych is away for two weeks, starting next week, and it’s a bit of a relief. They mean well, but they’re nowhere near as experienced and helpful as my old neuropsych. They’re still learning — they’re 30 years behind my old neuropsych in terms of life and professional experience, and they’re 15 years behind me, in terms of dealing with TBI.
I’ve been dealing with mild TBI my entire life, so I’ve learned a thing or two. They’re an outsider looking in, and they’re also very much into mainstream medicine, with a point of view that’s very urban, upper-middle-class, intellectual, academic, and aspirational.
I think our class and cultural differences are pretty pronounced. I come from a farming background — rural, self-educated, self-sufficient, and well familiar with hard knocks and having to scrape your way up from the very bottom of the barrel — not once, but many times over. The older I get, the more important this perspective seems to me. And the more annoying it gets for someone who knows nothing about that way of life, to be assessing and judging me and making their best efforts to assist me.
There’s a whole lot I tell this new neuropsych that they don’t seem to “get”. It’s a little frustrating, especially because it’s important background or context information that they don’t seem to pick up. Even worse, they don’t seem very receptive to learning about it, coming to understand it. They’re a bit insecure, to tell the truth, which gets in the way of my process.
If you’re going to do something, then do it with your whole heart, with the understanding that you probably don’t have the first clue what you’re doing, at the get-go… but you learn. You learn.
We all learn. That’s how we grow. That’s how we heal. That’s how we heal from TBI. We learn. We adjust. We make changes and adapt, we apologize for our mistakes and mis-steps, and we pick up and keep moving on. That’s the deal. That’s life. That’s how we’re built, as far as I can tell. So, why not just commit to that very human experience, and go for it?
Why not indeed?
Anyway, the next couple of weeks will give me a chance to settle back down. Working with a neuropsychologist on my various TBI issues — my convoluted decision-making process, my impulse control, my difficulties with focus at work, gearing up for a job change, my challenges at home with my spouse — it’s time-consuming and it can be very tiring. So, it will be nice to have a break from that.
I can just be for a while. Move at my own pace. Not have to figure out how and when to slot things into my schedule. To be honest, as much as it works with my weekly schedule, taking 4 hours out of every Tuesday evening takes a chunk out of my week. And I’m not sure that these sessions with the new neuropsych are really as effective as the ones with the old one.
Then again, I did need to make some changes. I was thinking of terminating with my old neuropsych, six months ago. They they told me they were moving to another position in another area, and that saved me the difficulty of explaining how they were really just annoying me on a weekly basis, and I needed to just take it from there on my own.
It was a boon in disguise.
I do really value the whole process, and it’s important for me to have access to someone with neuropsychological training. So, rather than terminating care, I’ve really been needing to up my own game and take more responsibility for the work, myself.
And that’s what I need to work on, for the next couple of weeks. I’ve been lax about figuring out what I need to focus on, and the times that I’ve showed up completely clueless about what to discuss, those have not had good outcomes. Frankly, they just pissed me off. No excuses here. It was all my doing.
And I need to un-do it. Because ultimately, my recovery is really my own responsibility. They’re just there to help me work through things. I need to get my focus back and quick messing around. I need to properly prepare for those sessions, just as I would prepare for other important meetings. I don’t show up to meetings at work without some idea what I should get out of it. The same should be true for these.
So, there’s my task and challenge for the next few weeks — getting serious and getting lasered in on the issues I need to A) stop creating for myself, and B) start fixing by myself.
I need a little help from my friends, and my neuropsych is the most capable sort of person I can call a “friend” in this specific situation.
Happy July everyone. The next week or so should be pretty quiet for me, as we’ve got a long weekend for Independence Day, and a lot of people are going to be out of the office on vacation both today and next week.
And what a relief it is. Things are continuing to be weird at work, as the merger is supposedly on track, and we’ll supposedly be fully integrated into the new company by the end of the summer. I’m giving a lot of thought to what I want to do with myself. I know I have not been 100% happy with my situation for a couple of years now. I miss doing web development, and I miss being with really technical people.
I’ve been working in situations where people are just skating by, for some time, now. And it wears on me. I really need to be around people who are sharp and smart and a lot more daring than they’ve been in my situations over the past number of years.
So, I’m working on my skills, getting up to speed with reading about the latest technologies, just getting conversant with them. This is really important to me, and there’s even a chance I might be able to do some programming again, after having been away from it for so long. It’s been more than five years, since I was able to regularly do programming, and it’s depressing me that I can’t do it. Programming is my “happy place” — I have such a sense of belonging and purpose when I am doing it… and after years of doubting myself and not thinking I could do it ever again, I think I may be wrong about that.
I have really struggled with learning new skills, since I fell in 2004. I could not read for a while, and I could not retain information, and I could not work with other people. I drifted from job to job, hoping I would find a better fit, but I could never keep it together long enough to make a “go” of it. And I couldn’t maintain my focus on my tasks — it made me incredibly anxious and emotional (and explosive), and it also depressed me. That hindered my TBI recovery, and it made things even worse.
So, I had to find a different way, in a different place. So, I got away from doing that work, and I did more project management since 2010. But as much as I enjoy project management, I’m still not able to really do the kind of work I love — building things. Inventing things. Making things that no one has ever seen before.
That’s my happy place. And when my brain is engaged in programming, I feel whole and useful and complete. Time has no reality for me. I’m just “in it”… absorbed… So happy. So content. It used to be like that every single day for me, and even when I was working for people who exasperated and frustrated me and had no clue what they were doing, I still got to code. I still got to make things.
I’d really love to get back to that… to have that sense of satisfaction and fulfillment on a regular basis… to be totally and blissfully absorbed in my work, like I used to be.
I had a dream the other night, that my spouse and I were looking for a place to live. We were back in an old neighborhood we used to live in, and we were shown a house we used to live in. Before, we’d been in cramped quarters, because there was all sorts of leftover furniture and junk from prior residents in many of the rooms and the basement. The house was even more run-down when we looked at it again, but we loved that house. It had a lot of rooms that were full of the same old junk that was there before. The lawn was grown up, the neighbors had taken over the garden plot, and the roof was leaky.
But this time I was looking at the house with a whole new view. It’s like I wasn’t looking at the old house at all — when I looked into the rooms with that familiar junk, I just saw opportunity. Instead of seeing a pile of jumbled furniture, I saw individual pieces that could be pulled out and restored. And I saw how we could clean out those rooms and have a really nice house, in the end. I could actually see the big picture — not just get overwhelmed by the jumbled mess in all those rooms. I could see a clear path to moving forward. And although the neighbors were suspicious of us at first, when they found out we’d lived there before, they were happy to think we might be moving in, so they could have some help with the garden and other upkeep around the property.
That’s kind of how this job search thing is going. OR should I say, “Career reboot”… I’m being smart about this. I’m inspecting the territory. I’m checking it out. I’m doing my research, and I’m focusing my efforts on first of all finding out what skills are in demand, these days… and then what I can learn / re-learn in a relatively short period of time. There is always the chance that I actually cannot get my head around the newest technologies. It could be that those days are over for me. But I have to find out for sure. I can’t just give up.
So, this weekend, I have a chance to “play around” with things a little bit. To just stretch my wings and see what I can do with myself — and what I can’t. I don’t want to run off on some boondoggle where I waste a lot of time and energy on things that really don’t pay off — and end up humiliating myself in the process. But in any case, I do need to get more conversant in the latest technologies, so I can hold an intelligent conversation with my peers.
And so it goes. In the past, I’d say, “I need to get a new job RIGHT NOW!”, update my resume, and then go after whatever came along first. Now, I have the ability to hold back while I do my prep work, and pick and choose what I want to do with myself. So I don’t get in the same sorts of situations I did before.
If I hadn’t messed up my laptop the other day, it would be slower than it is right now. I had a whole bunch of crap programs running “in the background” that I didn’t need at all.
And now my laptop is much faster. Cleaner. Nicer.
So, it’s a good thing that I messed up in a small way. Because that let me fix things in a big way. Plus, I learned a bunch of new tricks for how to make my computer really work much better.
The main hurdle in my way was my anxiety and thinking that I couldn’t figure it out. But I took my time and was patient with myself and I got a good night’s rest before I managed to fix it. When I stopped worrying and just “worked the problem”, things came together for me.
Bad experience for half a day.
Good experiences to come for weeks and months and years.
I have been getting about 7.5 hours of sleep a night, for the past several days. I’m behind. I didn’t get my nap yesterday, so today it’s time to try again.
I love weekends like this – when I get all my chores done early Saturday, then I have 24 hours to chill. This afternoon, later, I’ll take care of my last few things.
And then supper.
Then back to it.
I’m really proud of myself. I’ve earned a rest. Yesterday, I did something stupid when I was copying files to and from my computer. I got a prompt asking me if I wanted to do something as an “administrator”, and before I stopped to think, I clicked “OK”. And my computer slowed to a grind. I have NO idea what I did, or how it affected my computer, but I thought I was going to have to take it in to get serviced.
And I have no money to get this laptop serviced. I don’t even know a good place to go. I was pretty panicked for most of the day, yesterday, because this is my new, good computer, and I can’t afford to mess it up.
So, I searched around online a little bit, and I found some basic instructions for some things I could do. Run a diagnostic program. Stop some of the processes that start when I turn it on. Defrag. Check the disk. Make sure it doesn’t have too many things running behind the scenes, to slow things down.
I experimented with some things, and I removed a handful of old programs that were just taking up space. Now it’s running much faster. But I’m pretty wiped out from the anxiety and panic and feeling like an idiot.
Now I get to relax. And take a nap. I feel like I’ve been slogging across the Namibian Desert, in search of an oasis. I’ve also been concerned about work, and I did some research on jobs that might work for me. I found some, but the money’s not as great as I want. I may have to go back to taking the train to a nearby city, if I’m going to earn at the level I want. That could work. It would give me time at the start and end of the day to chill. Read. Blog.
I’ve got some work ideas to “sleep on”. I’m giving a lot of thought to what I want my next job to be. I can’t make the same mistakes I’ve made before, where I described what I’ve always done, rather than what I’ve always wanted to do. I have a lot of good experience, but I tend to not use my imagination in moving to the “next level”.
I hope to change that, this time around.
And I can.
I’m not being rushed, not being pushed, I’ve got some breathing room. And I’m coming up on my one-year anniversary, which means I can then safely make a move without it looking suspect.
I don’t want to be over-cautious, but I don’t want to be stupid about things, either.
I woke up this morning in a cold sweat around 2 a.m. I was starting to panic about the prospect of looking for a new job. I’ve done this so often… and I was hoping with all my might that this job I have now would be the very last job I’d ever have to look for — because the employer was supposedly so stable and dependable.
Then, three months in, they announced that they’d be merging with someone else. And becoming bigger, “leaner” and supposedly better.
It doesn’t feel hopeful to me. It feels like vultures are circling overhead. Waiting to see who will get picked off. It’s already been happening.
And it’s a problem. Not just because it’s sucking all motivation and joy out of the work I love to do, but also because it makes everything I do there feel like a waste, rather than an investment. I feel like no matter what I do, it’s not going to matter, in the grand scheme of things. And all the effort I put into it is going to waste.
That’s not something I can afford to do, at this point in my life. I need to stay current and sharp. I also need a team to work with.
One thing that this job has taught me, is that I really do thrive in teams. I never used to be that way, until I started my TBI rehab in 2008. Before that, I was always a loner, always on the outside, never really able to connect with others, because of my communication problems — slow processing speed and poor short-term working memory. It’s really hard to work effectively with others, when you constantly forget what people are saying, and you also are so wiped out at the end of each day, that the cumulative fatigue just kills whatever spark you have, by the time Thursday rolls around.
I’ve been muddling along, with maybe 2-3 good days per week, for years. Small wonder, I never felt up to the challenge of working with others.
But since I’ve done my mild TBI rehab, I now have ways to augment my limitations and work around them. I now have ways to compensate, improve, and also avoid situations that wreck me.
And as it turns out, I work really well with teams. I’m a great team leader. I’m a great project manager. And I absolutely thrivein the company of geeks and nerds and people who the rest of the world thinks are odd.
This job that I have now would have been perfect for me, 10 years ago, when all I wanted to do was find a corner to work in and not have anything to do with anyone else. Just do my work in isolation, not worried by communication disconnects, not concerned with memory issues, because I was off by myself.
Now, though, I realize that I really do need to work with an established team. I need other like-minded people to interact with on a regular basis. And I need to be in charge of leading people towards a common goal. Hands-on, in the trenches, together with other joyously iconoclastic oddballs, like myself.
So, this job has been a great lesson, in so many ways.
Figuring out what you don’t want to do is the first step to figuring out what you do want to do. And now I’ve got that first part figured out.
I don’t want to stay on, for the long term. I don’t want to be part of a huge company. I don’t want to “help take the company to the next level” and “make history” or whatever else they think they’re doing.
They’re starting to ramp up for the new integrated entity, and it’s making me feel ill.
I don’t want to be at group photo shoots, designed to get different divisions on film, so we can all be photoshopped together. I don’t want to send out greetings to my counterparts across the globe. The whole thing feels juvenile and demeaning, like we’re supposed to work up all this enthusiasm for something that is completely, entirely out of our control.
I don’t want to be part of it.
So, I’m updating my resume and reaching out to recruiters who contacted me, months ago. I’m reaching out to former co-workers to see if they know of any opportunities.
I don’t have to rush. I can take my time.
It’s enough that I know I need to get out of there. And at the end of July, I’ll have been there a year, so it won’t look terrible on my record.
What a lovely day it is, outside. And it’s tailor-made for me.
My spouse is going out of town on a business trip later today. That means I can do some things around the house that I normally can’t, because they can’t tolerate the dust and noise and clunking.
I get clunky when I get going, sometimes — banging, slamming, crashing, and making a general racket. And that’s no good for anyone who’s living with me, who happens to be sensitive like my spouse.
Today, after 3 p.m., I’ll be able to mow the lawn all around the house… do repairs in the basement and garage… work on some outdoor fixes that have been needed for some time… and generally clunk around for all the hours we have daylight — past 9:00 p.m., these days.
I’m really looking forward to it — just getting things done without having to tip-toe and be extra careful about my noise, my movements, my clumsiness.
Just be. And do. And fix. Make the biggest racket I can… and not have to think about it, one bit.