Second interview, second thoughts

handshakeI had an in-person interview for a new job on Friday.

All in all, it went well, I think. We seemed to connect well, and it’s the kind of work I want to get back into. I pulled together an updated portfolio of my work in a big hurry on Sunday morning. I had a lot to do, this past weekend — including an all-day event on Saturday and a ton of yard work and other chores on Sunday — so I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked.

But I got it all together within a few hours on Sunday, and I’m fairly happy with the end product. It also lit a fire under me to really pull together a good portfolio of my work. That’s the one thing I’ve been missing, all these years. To be honest, I never actually needed it before, because at the level I was operating at, and based on the companies I’d worked for, everybody just knew I could do the job, hands down.

Now things are different, though. We’ve got all kinds of people making all kinds of claims about what they can and can’t do, and the job market is glutted with posers. So, a portfolio is the first and last line of defense for both job seekers and employers.

Even if the job doesn’t work out — and I suspect it won’t, because I believe they have an open work space floor plan, and that doesn’t work for me. I’m a really “visual thinker” and rely on the part of my brain that processes imagery to do my job. So, if my line of sight is not blocked and I’m constantly being visually interrupted, I can’t do my work.

I learned that lesson loud and clear years ago. And I’m not going back to any environment that’s even remotely “open workspace”.

I’m also not a huge fan of long-ish commutes. My commute right now is pretty good, and the route also includes a number of stores, so I can shop on my way to and from work, without disrupting the rest of my schedule. That matters. It makes a huge logistical difference in my life.

I also can’t work full-time in an office. I need to work from home at least two days a week. I might need a nap, and I need to be at home for that.  Additionally, not having to drive my car every single day makes a big difference in my fatigue levels, as well as the cost of fuel.

Plus, the company wants me to come on as a contractor first, then get hired. I’m not sure I’m okay with that. It leaves a lot to chance, and while they may say they’re stable and supported by their parent corporation, I’ve been around long enough to know how quickly that can change.

Anyway, I haven’t heard back from the recruiter yet. Who knows what will come of it… But if it doesn’t pan out, that will be a relief, too, because I won’t have to make any more changes for a while. I can sit out the holidays and take my time off… and not worry about anything other than a few little projects I have going on.

That, and building out my portfolio.

Who knows what will happen? It’s impossible to say. But whatever happens, it’ll work. I’ll make sure it does.

Back in the saddle again… and again… and again…

binary code - lines of 0s and 1s
Slowly but surely, my ability to learn to code has returned

That old Aerosmith song is playing in my mind, this morning. I’ve been working on my programming skills, over the past week, and amazingly enough, I’m actually able to make sense of things.

This is a huge change, compared to where I was 10 years ago.  Even 5 years ago, I had real struggles with maintaining my attention long enough on anything to learn it. I would get so tired, cognitively, that I couldn’t continue with my learning. And I’d just drop it. I’d learn a bit, then I’d just wander off and forget I’d even started learning something.

Memory is a weird thing, sometimes. I can be so immersed in something… then I’ll get distracted and go do something else, and I’ll completely forget that I was working on anything else.

This is something I definitely need to work on. Because it happens to me at work, as well as at play. I lose track of projects I’m working on, at my day-job. And then I fall behind, and it’s a problem. I get turned around and end up behind the 8-ball, which is a terrible situation to be in for me.

I want to stay on top of things and keep current. But somehow I always get lost in the shuffle. I get distracted. I get tired. My brain starts to shut down on me, even while I’m on auto-pilot, just getting through my days by rote repetition.

So, since I know about this, I need to do something about this.

That goes for my job situation, as well as my own personal situation. In my current job, I need to keep up with what I’ve got going on, so I can just get it done and move on. I don’t want to be with this company past the end of the year. I just want to get out of there, and I need to make a career change back to doing programming again. I’ve come to realize that dealing with people all day in a capacity as a project/program manager is NOT for me. It’s been a good experience, but it’s not for me. I need a break from people and their messed-up emotions. I really want to work with machines. They’re very clear. And they don’t play head-games with me.

Plus, I can listen to music all day if I’m coding. I can’t do that, if I’m doing the people-thing. I need to work in a space where I can see immediate results of what I do. I’ve missed being a developer, and I realize now — once and for all — that this is what I’m meant to do. Not manage shit. Not run projects and programs. Screw that. I just want to build things. Make things happen. Forget the rest. I know where I belong, and it’s not in the position where I’m at now.

So, I’m using my time and frustration wisely. I’m building stuff in my free time. I’m doing tutorials, watching instruction videos while I ride my exercise bike in the morning, I’m building stuff I’ve been wanting to build, but haven’t yet gotten around to it. I’ve got some great ideas, and now I just need to work my way through them. I have another 5-1/2 months till I plan to move on, so I’ll spend time each month working on the core skills I need, building cool stuff that I can show to others, and eventually get myself to place where I’m as confident of my abilities as I need to be, to move on.

There’s a lot going on with me that’s pretty exciting, and I’m looking forward to getting up and running in earnest. I’ll start putting my work out there, as it develops, and see what comes of it. It’s pretty fascinating, really, so this will be fun.

I could use a little fun, for a change.

And this time, I’m not letting myself get sidetracked by distractions. I’m on a mission.

Onward…

One day at a time, one experience at a time… TBI recovery over the long term

brain with lots of question marks
How DO you work your way back?

I haven’t been doing nearly as much blogging, lately, as I used to.

Time was, I’d get up, do my exercise, eat my breakfast, and then spend 30 minutes or so blogging before I got my shower and went to work. I did this (almost) without fail, each and every day. And on weekends, when I had more time, I’d blog even more.

I researched. I wrote. I commented. I actively committed to sharing information about my life to everyone who might find it useful in their own recovery from traumatic brain injury, or in helping someone else who was recovering.

And it was good. It kept me going. It gave me a sense of purpose — a mission, if you will. This went on for a number of years. And yes, it was good.

Lately, I find myself wishing I were blogging, more than I really am. There are a lot of thoughts in my head, but it’s hard for me to sort them out, these days. I don’t think I’m declining cognitively… if anything, I think I’m doing much better than I have in a long, long time — maybe ever. The difference seems to be that I’m handling more on a daily basis. I have more challenges in my work life and home life. I have more responsibilities and more accountability. And that takes more energy from me, to handle everything well.

So, as I volunteer more, as I take on more responsibilities at work, as I gear up for my next career move, as I read more and am more active, I get tired more… so, I need to rest more. And I also have less opportunity for blogging.

And from where I’m sitting, that’s a good thing.

Here’s the thing though — in the midst of doing all that I’m doing, I really need to check in and show the rest of the world that recovery after mild TBI is possible. Recovery of a really high-quality life is possible after multiple concussions. And even when you sink as low as you think you can go, there’s still the chance (however remote) that you can get back.

I used to be pretty active on Twitter, but not so much, anymore. Frankly, it depresses me. It seems like all the concussion and TBI talk is around sports, especially pro football, hockey, Aussie football, etc. Despite the fact that countless non-athletic folks sustain mild TBIs from falls, assaults, and motor vehicle accidents, the talk is still focused on pro sports. Lawsuits. Who’s to blame for CTE in football players… and all that.

And it does the conversation a disservice. Because not only does it accentuate the dire nature of concussion — which just puts fear in the hearts of people everywhere (and possibly makes people less inclined to report or seek treatment) — but it also diverts the attention away from actual recovery.

How DO you recover from TBI? Even Mild TBI can do a number on you (as I found out, 11 years ago). So, how do you deal with it? Work with it? Overcome it? Everyone’s recovery is different, clearly, and what I’ve done may not work for everyone, but for heaven’s sake, certainly we can do better than we are now!

When I say “we”, I should really be saying “I”. Because I’ve been to the “valley of TBI despair” — not once, but a number of times. And I’ve wished I could simply die and disappear into the cold, dark earth. At different points, I’ve lost my ability to read, to write, to understand what people were saying to me, as well as how to regulate my moods and control my temper. I’ve had miserable, terrible headaches that wouldn’t go away 100% for years. I’ve had balance issues, sensory issues, work issues, relationship issues… directly related to and resulting from repeat blows to the head. So, yeah, I know what it’s like — at least in part.

All these things have resolved with me, for the most part… although I do have intermittent issues with them, now and then. And if I don’t talk about that, well, then it’s my bad.

It’s my bad, indeed.

I’m not one for sitting around feeling terrible about myself, though. I’m in a position to make a positive difference, so I will. It’s probably not going to be at the frequency and intensity that I’ve been working at for years, but it’ll be a heck of a lot more than I’ve done for the past couple of months. (Hmmmmm… I seem to remember vowing to do that, a little while ago, but nothing much has happened since then… but I can’t be too hard on myself – something is better than nothing.)

Let me close by saying this: My job situation, as tenuous as it is, is kicking me into gear to really re-examine my job choices. There are things I do really, really well, and there are things I struggle to do. I’ve been urged to master the things I struggle with, for my entire life. Now I’m at the point where I feel like I should put more emphasis on what I naturally do well, and not sink so much time and energy into mastering the stuff that I have trouble with. That’s not to say I don’t want to constantly improve, but I think there’s a missed opportunity to make the most of my innate talents and strongest interests… I just have to figure out what those are, after so many years of swimming against the stream of things I have trouble with.

I’m using this job uncertainty as an opportunity to get to know myself better — not only remembering what I’ve done well in the past, but what I’ve really enjoyed doing in the past (whether I did it well, or not). I have a deadline to update my job goals by next week, probably because of the impending merger, and also rumors that a lot of staff will get cut (mid-level management, I hear — although they always say that, and then it’s the little guys who get axed). I need to state clearly what I’m up to, what I plan to be up to, and why that matters to the company.

So, today (with no meetings — woo hoo!) I can spend some quality time really thinking about them, examining what I’ve done, thus far, and taking stock of what I’d like to continue to do. I can then transfer that into my resume and update it with what I want to do, not just what other people have told me I do well (but I don’t really like to do). Seriously, I am so hard-headed and tenacious and perseverative, when someone challenges me to do something — even if it’s not a good idea — I do it. I pull out all the stops, and I GO FOR IT. But what I’m going for, is sometimes someone else’s idea of a good thing. It’s not always mine.

For the past several jobs, I’ve stepped up challenges and roles that I’ve been asked to take on. Not because I wanted to, but because I was asked to. And I did a fabulous job — better than I thought, actually. That looks good on my resume, and it’s gratifying to realize I did great, but it’s not how I want to keep spending my life. God help me, no. I want to do things that appeal to ME, and that don’t exhaust me like the stuff that other people tell me to do.

That’s my goal. That’s my plan. Now, it’s time to go examine my life, see it for what it has been, what it is, and what I want it to be.

It’s time to dream a little — and put the pieces in place that will let me reach my dreams.

Onward!

Maybe I have a few months, maybe a year, maybe longer

france_roadSo, all the talk is heating up at work about the changes coming down the pike with the merger. A lot of people are pretty upset, because they see the writing on the wall — writing which may or may not be there, actually.

People will do just about anything to predict the future. It’s one of the most human things you can do.

And that’s precisely what gets us in trouble — concocting a future that never actually had a chance to exist, but we somehow think must absolutely come to be.

Anyway, the way I see it, I have a handful of different prospects:

  1. I get laid off in the next few months, to free up $$$ they need elsewhere.
  2. I am kept on, and I spend the next 12-18 months doing my job, seeing how things go. Then, I look for another job in another year or so. Supposedly, all our salary and benefits stuff is supposed to stay in place throughout 2016, but we’ll see about that. If that is the case, there’s no reason for me to leave, because the benefits are good, and the salary is decent.
  3. I stay on indefinitely and take things as they come, settling into the new organization and making my way as best I can.

Frankly, any of the above could happen, and it would be fine. I just can’t live my life with things hanging over my head. I have other interests, other things to keep me occupied and engaged. Whatever the people in charge will do, they’ll do. Whatever I choose to do, I’ll do.

If the two are mutually beneficial, then great. But I’m not making this into the be-all-to-end-all of my life. The whole “career” thing is old, anyway. I just need a paycheck, so I can fund the life I want, and I can live my life to the fullest.

La la.

It’s turning out to be an amazingly beautiful day, today.  We had some stormy weather, over the past few days that chilled me to the bone, but now I see blue sky out my window. I’m not sure how hot or cold it is outside, but I’ll find out when I go out.

I’ve been feeling pretty bad, for the last three days, but I feel like I’m turning a corner. My sinuses are still stuffed up, but I’m not sneezing and hacking, and my throat isn’t burning anymore. I just have to make sure I wipe my nose frequently. And I’ve got tissues with lotion in them to keep me from looking like Charlie Chaplin with a red, raw moustache. I read for a while, as I was riding my exercise bike, and I got a lot of movement in, which is good. I’m stretching more, and it’s helping my hip, and I’m also doing more stairs at work, which gets the blood pumping and helps me forget I’m stuck in a veal pen all day at work. The stairwell is usually empty, and the echo of my footsteps as I walk up and down the three steep flights is a cadence that keeps me moving, even though I’m out of breath.

When I started there, I had to stop, halfway up the flights, to catch my breath. I refuse to take the elevator, unless I’m loaded down with boxes. There are steps right there, which ascend beside the elevator, and when I’m moving at a decent clip, I can actually beat the elevator to the third floor. It’s good exercise, and I can do it anytime.  Since I’m fighting off an infection, I can’t go swimming, so I might as well do the stairs — as well as ride the bike in the morning, and lift some light weights.

Today, I did without the weights. I’m still a little sore from yesterday, and my body still aches a bit. I can get back to it tomorrow.

So, this is my daily work — keeping my body and mind in good working order, to handle whatever comes down the pike. My goals is to both say and believe, “Whatever happens, it’s all good,” because I will make it that way.

Onward.

Winding down the week

Friday is here, and I’m happy to say, I wish it weren’t.

It has literally been over a decade, since I last felt this way, and the time when I felt this way in the past was short-lived. That was partly because my job changed, and partly from immaturity, and partly from TBIs messing up my head and making me a million times more stressed than I should have been.

People used to tell me, “Relax!” But I thought they were crazy. Who could relax under such stressful conditions?

The stressful conditions were created in my biochemistry, as well as my neurology by things I could not detect – things that people told me were no big deal. But they were a big deal.

A very big deal.

Well, anyway, now I understand. And I can do something about it. I’m trying to pace myself, because I’ve been held back for so long by organizations that were actually behind the times, and now I have the chance to really stand out. Take the lead. That’s my job, and it’s good.

What a waste… all those years, people were telling me there was nothing wrong, and I believed them. I took them at their word, because I trusted them. As it turns out, they were just trying to make themselves feel better, because they were invested in me being a certain person in their lives. And if I stopped being the person they thought I was, then they might be wrong about the persons they thought they were.

Funny how that works…

Anyway, it’s Friday. And my old friend actually DID write back to me… They remember our parting in a very different way, I believe. Or the just did a better job of coming to terms with it. In any case, we’re back in touch, now, and there’s the chance for us to interact as adults, with the full benefit of 50 years of living to make sense of it all. And we are actually in similar lines of work, so we can compare notes.

It’s fascinating. They sound so much more mature in their emails than I feel – or hear myself being in my emails. There is something a little stunted about them, though. Like they are reading from an “adult script” that shows how they should talk and think and relate. Still, their own personality shows through. It might also be due to them speaking about 4 different languages (English is not their first), and their expressions come out differently. I know that when I lived in Europe, many years ago, my expressions were different from the norm.

Then again, it doesn’t take living in a foreign country for that to happen. Oh, heck, I usually feel like I’m living in another land, speaking another language, anyway…

Ha. Funny how that goes.

And on that note… it’s off to my day. Onward!

Last day at the old job went well.

I had a really good last day – last couple of days, in fact.

I finished strong, only spacing out on a couple of meetings yesterday. I did just about everything that I intended to do – with the exception of pulling out every single strand of my knowledge and putting it into coherent documentation. That proved much harder to do, than I originally expected. Translating a lot of non-verbal knowledge into verbal streams that make sense to others, is no small feat.

So, I didn’t kill myself over it.

I spent far more time on just making sure that I left all my bridges intact, that I said good-bye to the people whose company I have really enjoyed, and whose help has really benefited me. It was odd, how many of the supervisors of other groups — who had plenty of interaction with me — didn’t even acknowledge that I was leaving or stop by to say good-bye… crickets, from that level of things. I did manage to connect with a lot of folks along the way, but I was also incredibly busy, and I didn’t get out of the building, at last, until after 6:00 p.m.  Folks told me to leave early, but I wasn’t done yet.

So, I left on a strong note. And I cleaned up my cubicle before I split. None of that nasty crap that people leave when they remove the pictures, unhook the computer, etc. Just a clean space left behind.

The main thing that I wanted to leave behind, was sufficient information and training to get people in a space where they can continue to succeed — and do even better than before. I also wanted to leave on a good note, which I did. I am very, very uncomfortable with good-byes (even though I’ve done so many of them, in my ~30-year professional career). And the fact that it was hard to say good-bye this time, too, says a lot about the connections I’ve built with people.

This time has been very different from other changes, where I am leaving to pursue something better, rather than only fleeing something worse. I’ve been a “professional refugee” for so many years, just going from one job to the next, in search of something better. The thing with my last job is that it is better in some ways than the one prior, but it was far inferior in others. And I realize now that, had I taken a different approach, I probably could have stayed at that other company indefinitely and really risen in the ranks.

Still, there were so many tough things about it — especially the commute — that I’m not sure it would ever work for me. However, if I ever want to go back (which I’m now thinking I may, someday), I know a few ways I can make things easier on myself.

But that’s all water under the bridge. I’m getting ready to move on to the next role, and quite frankly, I have so much opportunity to make this new job into something fantastic. They are giving me carte blanche  to kick it into high gear, and that’s exactly what I intend to do. In fact, the great things about my job-before-last, I can try to incorporate into this new job. And do it on my terms.

I can also incorporate the positive pieces of the job I just left, to make this new position what I want it to be. There were so many good lessons that came from the past year, and what I am finally learning is how to make the most of the good AND bad, while not letting shortcomings get in my way.

And on that note, it’s time to look forward. I’m planning on spending most of the day outside – starting with a long walk in the woods.

Time to enjoy being unemployed for the next 48 hours.

Onward.

Gearing up for my new job

Getting everything in place

In three weeks, I will be at my new job. It seems surreal. I am finishing up with my current job, just trying to get all my “ducks in a row”… along with rolling with all the change that’s going on in the organization.

It’s a hard time for most people there. And it’s hard to not get pulled down into their frame of mind.

So, to counter-act that, I am expanding my skillset and gearing up for the next stage in my career. I’m taking some courses that will get me prepared for my new job — and my new career. I’ve always been out on the “front lines” of my industry, and this is giving me the chance to get out ahead of it again.

It’s pretty amazing. Exciting. And the beauty part is, the line of work I’m getting into is so new, there are no real college degrees in it, so the fact that I don’t have a Bachelor’s or Master’s doesn’t work against me. Nobody has that, yet. It’s all about practical results. Being able to do the job. Produce the numbers. Meet the need that my employer has.

I’ve got them covered, in that respect.

Anyway, I’m feeling like I have a new lease on life, with this new job. I’m finally getting out of the rut I fell into, when I crashed my head down those stairs in 2004. It’s taken me 10 years (and a few months) to get myself functional again the way I want to be… the way I need to be. And I still have a ways to go.

I can get there. I’m not going to be held back. I can use the same sorts of skills I developed in my TBI recovery to recover my career, as well.

Now, this isn’t all happening overnight, and it’s not happening in a vacuum. Nor is it some situation where my fairy godmother or a genie from a bottle is showing up to shower pixie dust on me. I have put in a lot of hard work, over the past years, to get to this point. I have been studying and studying, working and working. Back when I was injured in 2004 until around 2010, I was unable to read books the way I had before. I had always been an avid reader, but I lost the ability to keep information in mind long enough to go from page to page. I would literally lose the train of thought if it went on past several paragraphs.

So, I quit reading, period. I read websites, in bits and pieces… news… etc. Whatever I could, without wiping myself out. I studied TBI and the brain, because that was the only thing that held my attention. It was the only motivated reading I could do, and even that was in fits and starts. One of the books that changed my life — The Brain That Changes Itself — I had to read in bits and pieces. In fact, I’m not sure I ever completely finished it (I should do that now).

I surfed the web and researched brain injury. I struggled to find really good sources of information — partly because there weren’t as many out there as there are today, and partly because it was hard for me to sort through all the search results and decide what was helpful and what wasn’t.

I also studied trauma and its effects. I managed to read a few books about trauma, but it was slow going. I had to find summaries online to really make sense of things.

Over time, my ability to read improved — ironically it came back after I had given up on it completely and decided, “Well, I’ll never read again…” It was slow going — fits and starts. But eventually it came back, and I worked my way back slowly.

One of the books I read (Aging With Grace – a study of nuns who outlived the surrounding population by 10-20 years and stayed sharper and functional longer than was typical for their geographical area) showed how “idea density” can contribute to holding off Alzheimers and other kinds of cognitive decline. Basically, with “idea density”, the more ideas that are packed into a sentence / paragraph, the more “dense” are the ideas. And I found out that scientific research papers had a lot of idea density. Not the most, but a pretty decent amount.

So, I started actively looking for scientific papers about TBI that related to me. Long-term outcomes. Childhood head trauma. Behavior issues. Mood disorders. Mental health issues. Sports injuries. Recovery approaches. Rehab. Frontal lobe and executive function. Mindfulness. I specifically searched for information that related to me, that would be useful and meaningful… and I could put to good use.

All together, over the course of several years, I found and downloaded over 300 research papers about TBI and TBI recovery. There were a lot more that I found and did not download. I did not read all of them from beginning to end, but I did read the summaries and abstracts, and sometimes I read the discussions recapping all their findings.

That was the best rehabilitation I could have asked for, because it was intimately related to me, it was self-directed, and I believe it even helped with my gist reasoning.  When I did read the whole papers, and then I read the abstracts again, I could piece together the central theme of the data that was collected, and learn to screen out the things that did not matter. So, many, many researchers have indirectly contributed to my recovery.

Slowly but surely, I’ve felt my abilities improve. It took time, and it took a lot of diligent effort. Each and every day, just about. Each and every weekend. On my free time. During my not-so-free time. I have had a total life orientation towards TBI recovery that has paid off.

I never felt like there was a choice for me. I have been given a lot of gifts in life, and I believe it’s on me to ensure that I return the favor to the universe — or whoever else has helped me.  I really feel that sense of responsibility. Even when I’ve been at my worst, I never lost sight of that. I knew I had to get back… I was on a mission.

Now I can read books again. And I can remember what I read, pages and chapters later. Miraculous. And I’m gearing up for my new job by reading some more. And thinking. And taking some classes. One class I started, but I’ve realized it’s best that I do another class first, so that I have a better foundation. I also need to strengthen some of my skills, including math. Geometry has always made perfect sense to me, and I was doing advanced fractions when I was in elementary school, years before most kids even had a concept of fractions.

It all just made perfect sense.

But over the years, that sense got kind of trained out of me, because nobody was really qualified to help me excel. They were so busy trying to get kids “normalized”, and I was so un-normal in some ways, that they focused on my weaknesses, rather than my strengths. And in the process, any latent ability I had for advanced materials got lost in the shuffle because of my attention/distraction difficulties, behavior issues, and trouble understanding what people were saying to me. I kept getting punished because I simply did not understand.

Now things are different. I’m all grown up. At least that’s what they tell me 😉 And I have to let go of that earlier conditioning. I’m not stupid. I’m just out of synch with a lot of the world. And now I have a new chance to start fresh in a line of work that suits me so well, it’s scary. I’m going to my dream job in less than three weeks, and I want to be ready for it.

So, I’m studying. I’m finding more papers to read, that have to do with my new field, rather than only TBI. I’m also pacing myself, taking my time, not getting ahead of myself and being very systematic about my approach. Because it matters to me so deeply, and I am so grateful for this opportunity to learn and grow.

On top of it, I have an appointment tomorrow with a trainer who focuses on strengthening specific neurological features. I’ve been reading about this method over the past couple of weeks, and I’m very excited to see what comes of our meeting tomorrow.

It’s all good.

Onward.

The interview went well – I think

Staying in the game

So, I had my in-person job interview yesterday, and I think it went well. People were pretty guarded, but that’s to be expected in a high-power position for someone who is high profile, as well. And that’s how things could end up with this job. High profile. They either really, really liked me, or they didn’t think much of me, or they’re on the fence. They’re having another manager meet with me next week, which means they at least want to move forward. It’s really hard for me to tell what the deal is with people, because being in a new space, bombarded by all the new stimuli, causes me to shut down everything except my proactive interviewing self. I’m performing. I don’t have a lot of leftover bandwidth to figure out what they’re thinking. I literally have no idea. But at least I’m going back. One thing I’m going to work on for next time, is not being so “tangential”. When asked a simple question, I ended up going off on a tangent, losing my train of thought, then having to gradually work my way back to what the original topic was. It happened 2-3 times, and it was a huge stressor. But I kept my cool, and I finished up okay, I think. I’m going to have to think about this, I believe. It’s definitely going to be more stressful, but it’s going to be better for my career. I’m hesitant about jumping at the first real opportunity to come my way in a long time, but in my experience, you have to. Opportunities like this don’t come along every day. Worst case is, I’m there for 2-3 years, and I’m not the happiest camper. But it would be a phenomenal career move. Just smart, in so many ways. The commute is longer. But that’s only when I actually go to the office. Most of the folks I’m going to be working with are located around the country, and the manager I interviewed with yesterday is actually based out of a home office, several states away. So, people there actually know how to “do the remote thing”. And they do it without hesitation. Which is what I’m looking for. Ideally, I’ll be able to work from anywhere – which means I can go anywhere, and work from there. It will free me up considerably. It’s what I’ve been needing. The other thing is that I will be a subject matter expert in this new role, using the depth and breadth of my technical experience — over 20 years’ worth — on a daily basis. Right now, I’m nowhere near that. People I work with don’t even know enough to realize that I am a subject matter expert. The company where I am now is very territorial. People have their jobs which may or may not include expertise, and nobody else is allowed to step on their toes. That means, you have people in key roles who may not actually know what they’re doing, but they’re never allowed to be challenged by anyone else, so you have folks clunking along, doing a poor jobb, and never being required to do more. No competition is allowed. There has to be room for everyone, no matter what. It sounds nice on the surface, but it’s a recipe for institutionally protected incompetence. Now that I’ve cracked that code, I feel better. I know it’s not me. I know how things work. And it’s not a big ole mystery anymore. In a way, this understanding frees me up to move on. I seem to stick with situations until I understand them, I’ve learned certain lessons, and I am actually free of pain and suffering about the situation(s). Then again, it also frees me up to stay, because I have no great investment in the company, per se. It’s literally a paycheck that supports the rest of my life, and in a way it’s a relief to get to that point. I’m literally in the best position, ever. I am working with people who have learned to love me (and vice-versa) at a company I don’t have a massive attachment to. I go to work each day and spend time with friends. I can show up each day, do that simple work, and have my time and energy free in many other ways to develop other interests, finish writing projects, and enjoy myself. I also have the leeway to build other technology of my own, and work on my consulting chops, so I can eventually strike out on my own. Not only that, but I have skills and experience that make me a subject matter expert, and I have the means to bring that front and center. I am getting noticed by companies, particularly this big one who is interested in me Anyway, lots to think about. I’m going out of town on vacation to celebrate turning 50, so I may not be back online till next week. And then I’ll need to play catch-up.  So, I’m probably “going dark” for a while. We’ll see how it all goes. I plan to spend a lot of time just resting and relaxing. Unplugged in some ways, more plugged-in, in others. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Changes at work – working out in my favor

Things are moving — gotta move with them 🙂

So, the reorganization work has culminated, and they have started making announcements about who’s going where. I’m in good shape, being with a manager I really like, doing about the same work that I have been, but having access to more training that will improve my overall employability.

It’s working out. Like it hasn’t, in a long, long time. It’s a combination of me not being so friggin’ tired all the time, having a much shorter commute, and having an attitude of gratitude in general – and seeing where I can take advantage of things.

I don’t want to get cocky or take things for granted, but it really feels like things are turning in my favor. After so many years of them going against me (and me not knowing how to take things in stride and get them to work in my favor), this is good. I’m due, I reckon.

Other people at work are not feeling good about things. I’ve been there, and I know what it’s like. In the past, I have been in many situations that didn’t “sit right” with me, and I fought them, resented them, resisted them. The only effect was that I made myself miserable.

Kind of like holding onto a hot coal and expecting others to get burned.

But I know very much how that is. And I know how hard it can be when things change, after you’ve become accustomed to them being stable for some time. There have been several big changes, lately — the office move to a different location, the configuration of the office to a more open (and more noisy and chaotic) plan, and now the re-org — and not everyone is dealing with them well.

I have the advantage of coming from a work situation that was magnitudes worse than where I am now, so relatively speaking, I’m feeling pretty blessed, right about now. I’ve been through so many really sh*tty work situations and changes, with companies who cared far less about their employees, that this time it feels pretty sweet.

Of course, there will be adjustments. Some things will become harder, and some people will become more difficult to work with. But I’m not particularly worried about that. I have almost no commute. My mornings and evenings are my own again. I’m doing work I truly enjoy and have some control over. I also have a job that will translate from one company to another seamlessly, without me needing to go out and learn new things or brush up on my “chops” that have diminished from disuse. I’m getting more training that will bring my skills up to speed and get me more current – that translates to employment security over the long term.

So it’s all good. Even if things didn’t work out that great and I got let go, I now have a demonstrated history of delivering on projects, and that’s what matters. I can hold my own, and I know I can.

Today we’ll be learning more about what’s what. So, I guess I’d better get ready for work. 🙂

Onward

Adapting… and realizing how much good it does me

I have had a few days to “decompress” after my trip to see my family. Two full days of driving — 8 hours there, 8 hours back — did a number on me, and I’ve been foggy and dull since I got back. Also, the pace was relentless while I was there. My family goes at top speed, pretty much all the time (except when they’re sleeping, which fortunately happens more often, these days).

So, all in all, it was a very challenging time — a challenge which I nonetheless rose to, with all good results.

The thing is, now that I’m back, I need to re-acclimate to my everyday life, which is very, very different from how things are at my parents’ place. It’s much quieter here, much less active, and a lot more contemplative. It’s ironic, because my family is very religious, and they consider themselves very spiritually connected. Yet they are so busy going-going-going, they hardly have any time to deeply consider their thoughts and their actions and the consequences of them. I love my parents dearly, and it pains me to see them declining — a little more, each time I see them — because they simply won’t take a close look at what they are doing and eating and drinking and living, and accept what it’s doing to their health and well-being.

My father considers himself a self-made man, which is true in that his diabetes has worsened because of the choices he makes. He thinks he can wish the condition away, but his actions and choices of foods make that all but impossible. My mother considers herself a socially connected person who cares deeply about others, while at the same time she buries herself in busy-ness whenever close friends of hers are in trouble.

I got a good look at my potential future, visiting my parents. And I also got a good look at how things could have turned out for me, had I taken the same path as my siblings. My brother has done well for himself and his family, yet he’s living in a place that is hostile to his deepest beliefs and convictions. My sister-in-law once had big dreams, though over the years she’s limited herself more and more and more, till the thing that means most to her is having a part-time job that lets her take care of house chores. Their kids are doing great, which is gratifying, so there is a whole lot of good that’s come out of their choices. And yet, I wouldn’t trade my life for theirs for any amount of money. Parents make sacrifices for their kids all the time, and I have no argument with that. I do have a problem, though, with completely throwing big parts of yourself and your hopes and dreams and internal convictions out the window, to fit in and be safe.

Of course, people do that all the time. That’s for them to live with. It’s not for me to judge. For myself, though… I choose something different.

And coming back from the trip, I look around and realize that the life I have really does fit me exactly. I’m doing great. I have my limits and my challenges, but I can adjust to overcome them. I have been in a lot of pain for the past few weeks — not headaches, but a lot of back and leg pain — and my mind has been foggy and dull. I have forgotten some things I really needed to remember at work. Other people needed me to remember them, too.

I made a couple of really unfortunate choices at work, the day I was back, and I feel like I’ve been scrambling to catch up, ever since. I mean, one of the mistakes I made was the exact opposite of what someone had asked me to do — and entrusted me with — just 15 minutes before. And I dropped the ball. I was supposed to “buddy up” with someone new at work, and have lunch with them. Their usual buddy had a lunchtime meeting they had to attend at their desk, so they couldn’t do lunch. I managed to keep it together and get the new person down to the caf, then for some reason I spaced out and went to sit in a different area — completely forgot about them and my mission to buddy up… I basically left them to fend for themself among virtual strangers, which would have been a crappy thing to do if I’d intended to do it.

Of course, I didn’t. But that’s what happened. Instead of staying down in the caf, I went back to my desk… across from the person who had asked me to sit in for them. And I didn’t remember what I was supposed to be doing until after I sat down at my desk and realized that I was sitting across from the person who’d asked me to fill in for them.

So, I was feeling pretty stupid at that point. Talk about dull and clunky. And then I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out how to make up for it. I still am. I can’t very well go to the person and say, “Dude, I totally forgot all about you,” because how would that make them feel? Un-memorable, that’s how. And I can’t explain that I have short-term memory issues, especially when I’m exhausted, because that’s going to hurt my prospects at work.

All I can do now, is adapt and go out of my way to be helpful as best I can, and hope that I can develop a decent working relationship with this new person — despite that first faltering interaction.

Realizing how dim and dull I have been, I’ve been turning to my lists again for help, and it’s really doing me some good. I’m actually getting things done, that have escaped me for weeks. I finally got my COBRA insurance papers together and sent them off with the check, so my coverage is re-instated. I had read the paperwork when I first got it, but I missed the part about how you’re not actually covered by ANY insurance, between the time when your coverage ends, and it’s re-instated retroactively. So, the doctors visits that have been happening may not be covered by my COBRA. And I may need to pay out of pocket for them.

That really upset me, and I was thrown off all day yesterday. I also got anxious about the possibility of some medical emergency happening. I expect my coverage to be reinstated next week, and the idea that something serious could happen between now and then was weighing heavy on me.

Then I decided to just roll with it and let things happen as they will. I’ve got no credit card debt, and if I need to set up payment plans, I’ll do that. I’ll figure something out. I’m making enough money now to hold me in good stead.

I also need to sort out some other medical coverage stuff that is so confusing to me, I don’t even know where to start. I have been sweating it out, thinking I’m never going to figure any of it out, and it’s kept me from stepping up and doing something about it. The thing is, I’m not alone in figuring it out — at least, I don’t have to be. There are toll-free numbers for people to call, and I am planning to do that. I just need someone to walk me through the details and explain them to me. It could be that I incur a penalty because the timing of leaving my job and terminating my regular coverage and getting signed up for new plans is all screwed up, but at this point, I’m not sure I care. I’ll just make the money I need, to get by.

Or I’ll adjust in some other way.

The idea of having someone to talk to about this, is really helping me a lot. I’m not alone. I don’t need to figure it out by myself. Nobody is going to know how impaired I am, if I’m asking for clarification. I’m sure even the most brilliant people need help with all this insurance complexity. The whole system is convoluted and filled with veritable land mines, and it’s been that way for a long, long time. I just have to use my head and keep moving — and use the help that’s offered.

That being said, I need to set up time for my spouse to give permission for me to talk to the insurance folks on their behalf. I have to figure things out for both of us, and since my spouse is a few years older than me, issues like Social Security and Medicare are on the horizon. Not sure how that happened so quickly, but there it is. It’s hugely confusing for me, but I have to handle it, because my spouse cannot even begin to approach all the details — they’ve got even more impairments than I do, and their biggest one is panic-anxiety, which pretty much keeps them hostage and immobilized in a self-perpetuating prison.

So, I need to get on the horn with the SSA and other folks to talk about what’s to come on down the line, eventually. There are fees and penalties or some-such, if we do things wrong, and I think we already have stepped over the line. Oh, well. I guess I’ll pay the fees and penalties, then. The good news is (I think), my spouse has been so marginal for so long, not paying into Social Security, but 10 years out of their entire “career”, so that if the government takes a percentage of their SSI payments, it’s going to be close to nil. There are some benefits to living on the margins, I suppose.

Anyway, it’s all a grand adventure, and even if I am dull and foggy and in pain and out of sorts, I have tools I can use to get me by — making lists, and also getting someone on the phone to help me understand everything. There’s also the Web… there’s that.

Speaking of which, I need to sign off now and go check out some websites, in hopes of making sense of things. I suspect I’m going to be a bit screwed by the system, because I don’t know the ins and outs and I don’t have a lot of people in my life who are in the same situation who can help me avoid penalties and fines and all that. But I’ll adapt. At least I have my life, I have my independence, and my life is pretty much how I want it to be.

It’s all good. It really is.

Onward.