I had no idea how much those “bumps on the head” affected me

It feels like no one understands... and heck if you can describe it to them
It feels like no one understands… and heck if you can describe it to them

When I was a kid, I got clunked on the head. A lot. When you’re little, they call them “boo-boos”. Your mother kisses it and makes it better. Or your dad checks to make sure you’re still breathing, then hauls you back on your feet and tells you you’ll be fine.

That was back in the day. 1960s. 1970s. Falls. From heights. Bike accidents. Clumsiness. Playing at recess.

In the 1980s, it was organized sports. High school. Car accidents, too. Two of them within the space of 6 months, if I recall correctly.

It had an effect.

I’m sure of it.

Irritable. No good sense of where I was in the world, relative to other people, or relative to objects around me. Distractable. Easily confused. Angry. I got angry quickly. I was always playing catch-up, and nobody seemed to notice.

They all told me I was so smart… Why wasn’t I as smart as they thought I was? What was wrong with me? What was wrong with me?

I had no idea that any of the concussions had an actual effect on me. I knew I was dizzy and dumb and numb for minutes, hours, days after the biggest hits, but I had no idea that it could last. I had no idea that it did last.

Maybe that dumbness, that numbness blinded me to my own difficulties. I’m sure it must have, because coupled with that fog, was an energy… a furious drive to go-go-go that propelled me through life, like someone on a 6th century battlefield who gets hit in battle and has to keep going, keep fighting, keep running and charging and defending and thrusting and parrying, lest I end up dead like the rest of my comrades.

Like that. Only I wasn’t in any outward battle.

It was an inward battle.  And I was attacker and the attacked.

I never knew…

I never knew.

Saturdays and Sundays should be reversed

lawnmower

I have a general complaint for the Western World – Saturdays and Sundays should be reversed. For those of us who “run hot” all week, Saturday is the last day of the week that we actually have resources to do everything as well as we would like to. Municipalities should have the town dump open on Sunday afternoons. Banks should be open then, too. Business should have hours on Sunday afternoons.

And they should all be closed on Saturdays.

Think about it… people only have so much energy, and if you push people to keep going top-speed through Saturday — to take the kids to their sports / dance competitions or various clubs… to run errands, do the week’s food shopping, go to the bank, get your hair cut (oh yeah, I did that yesterday, too), and generally tool around at near-top-speed… you’re going to encounter herds of people who are all in a pretty bad way, all forced to interact with each other.

And that’s no good.

It’s very bad, actually.

Of course, this structure all presumes that everyone can KEEP GOING on caffeine, adrenaline, fear, joy, and necessity.

But not everybody has energy left over in reserves.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world isn’t about to change for me, so I have to do my own adaptations. The biggest one I’ve come up with, is a Friday afternoon nap. I usually work from home on Fridays, so I get up and do my work, my thinking, my concentrating. Then I have some lunch, maybe go for a walk down the road and back, and then I lie down for a nap. I don’t set an alarm (unless I have that cruel, cruel bi-weekly Friday 2 p.m. conference call). I let myself just sleep.

Sometimes I sleep for half an hour. Sometimes I sleep for three hours. I’m exhausted, and there’s no way I can request a reduction in hours without compromising my position, especially now that the company is changing hands. Word has it that the new company is much more amenable to working from home as much as humanly possible, so I might even be able to do it more… but who knows?

Anyway, for now, I have that approach.

Another option I have is to take the trash to the dump earlier in the week, like Wednesday, when they’re open till 7. Or during the day on Friday, when I’m working from home, anyway. I could do that. But I’m usually pretty fried by the end of each day, and on Fridays, I’m also pretty wiped out, so it’s actually easier for me to do it on Saturday morning.

But yesterday was a real task … just so laborious and zombie-like… And now that I think about it, it might be worthwhile to shoot for Wednesday, before I’m completely wiped out. Or push myself on Friday, before I take my nap. The idea of having a Saturday free of having to deal with that chore, is quite pleasant. I’ll have to re-jigger my schedule and see what comes of it.

The other stuff I have to do, like get my hair cut (about once a month), I generally have to do on Saturdays, because that’s when I have the free time. The barber is in the opposite direction of my work, so it’s no longer on the way there, anymore. So, unless I go on Friday (which would take a chunk of several productive hours out of my good “thinking” workday), there’s no really smooth way to segue that into my week.

I guess I’ll just have to bite the bullet with the haircuts, and stick with that. Or start shaving my head. Or get a buzz cut that will last me for months. Or let my hair just grow, and run around with a pony tail or a bun or some-such. Then again, I hate it when my hair gets long. It’s even more distracting, with the ends getting in my eyes and hanging on my neck. And then I have to comb it. My hair does what it should, when it’s short, so I keep it that way. And that works.

For chores like shopping, I grocery shop almost every day on my way home from work. I do this to keep my list small and also break up my day. It’s not bad — and it also keeps me from having a massive list that I lose track of. I also try to do other shopping on my way home from work — office supplies, greeting cards, hardware… If I take the long way through the town next to us, I can get a lot of things bought on my way home.

Another thing I usually don’t have to do on Saturdays is mow my lawn. I generally think I’m supposed to mow on Saturday, but it actually works better to do that during the week, after work, when it’s a little cooler. It only takes me half an hour to mow my front lawn, which is the one that matters, so I don’t have to feel obliged to do it on the weekends.

All in all, I think I have a pretty good system in place for many things I do. My system spares me from my weaknesses, and it makes the most of opportunities. And my Saturdays actually aren’t too crazy-busy, to tell the truth. I just don’t have much energy at all, for the things I need to do. And I feel like I’m walking around in a grouchy haze, which isn’t fun for me or anyone else.

I’d really just like to enjoy myself on the days I’m off work. If the rest of the world isn’t going to accommodate me with making Saturday into the day of rest, then I’ll arrange things, myself. One trick at a time, it can happen. One small improvement at a time.

Onward…

Q3 Goals done – Yes! Bring it on.

hand holding pen, checking off lists on a checklist
Got that covered

I just got notified that my boss approved my Q3 goals. Woot!

That’s done. Now I can just live my life and do what I please, come what may.

I’ve been spending some time really digging into the “corners” of my past year at this job. Next week is my 1-year anniversary, so now’s a good time to do a retrospective and see what all I’ve accomplished… and figure out if that’s what I want to do with myself in the future.

I need to brush up on my resume this weekend, just to have it in good working order, in case I’m let go next week. And yes, I’m very nonchalant about it, because it’s a distinct possibility, and I have NO idea what’s going to become of me.

BUT I am confident of my ability to find another position. I’ve come to realize, through dealing with many other people, that I have skills and abilities that are assets to any organization. After years and years and years of not thinking I’m a “people person” — because I would lose track of conversations, get confused, not feel like I was keeping up, and I was a total blithering idiot — I now realize that I can hold an intelligent conversation with other people, if I just pace myself differently and interact with them more, in the course of our conversation.

I’ve also become a LOT less self-conscious, thanks to working with a neuropsych on a weekly basis. Just having someone there who’s intelligent and experienced and isn’t going to judge me for being weird — because they know what my limitations are, and they understand the nature of them — is a huge help. I practice conversing in those sessions. There are other benefits, of course, but it’s mostly the conversation practice that I need and benefit from.

So, I feel like I’m really well-positioned for whatever happens next at work. I suspect, if anything, they’ll keep me around but slot me into a different role, because the thing I do now has changed a lot, since I started, and it’s sidelined me and not made the best use of my abilities. Whatever. I’m happy to live a life of simulated productivity, just like everyone else. For all their talk about how “slammed” they are, they spend an awful lot of time on Facebook and watching videos😉

So, today is all about doing a retrospective on my last year, as well as working on the handful of things I’ve got going for a handful of people at work. It’s fine. It’s Friday. Everyone is working from home, pretty much. And so am I.

So am I.

Lighting a candle of my own, while the world seems to burn around me

hand holding lit match, lighting a small candle
We can’t do everything, but we can do some thing

I’m focusing on just being really kind to other people.

… Carving out my own little space of heaven on earth, where others can be treated with dignity and respect and offered what they need most – connection with a living, breathing person who sees their worth and humanity.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that a lot of people just want to connect, just want to talk, just want to be treated like a real human being.

And that’s what I’m going for these days.

In the supermarket… sharing a moment with someone trying to figure out which package of chicken to buy… in the elevator, just chatting with someone who wants to be acknowledged… at work, where everyone is worried and uncertain… at home, where my spouse wants to just hang out and spend some time together.

It takes time to connect with other people. It takes energy. And at the end of a long day, I don’t always have the strength to do as much as I would like, or to do it as well as I’d like.

I could have stopped a little longer to talk to the woman in the supermarket. I could have said something more intelligent to the veteran who was sharing the elevator ride to the 2nd floor. At work, I could go out of my way to be a little more friendly to people. At home, I could spend more time just hanging out with my spouse, talking about things we both care about.

I can think of many things I would like to do better. And each time I make the effort, I learn a little bit more.

I’m not perfect. But I can do something.

And so I shall.

Onward. Together.

Less than two weeks left at this company

Just floating along...
Just floating along…

So, it seems the merger is speeding up, and I may be working for a different company in another two weeks. How strange.

The lucky thing is, I will have a little over a year logged at the existing company, so I won’t look like a “jumper” when the company name changes on my resume in such a short time. I need to have at least a year in at a place, so I don’t look like a “flight risk” later on.

So, unless I get laid off in the next week, that will happen.

And that’s good.

Things are really strange at work. Nobody’s really doing anything work-related. At least, not obviously. They’re doing online crossword puzzles, checking Facebook, answering personal email, walking around out in the far parking lot while they’re talking on the phone (maybe to recruiters), or just hanging out. It’s like everyone is just on hold, until the final word goes through.

As for me, I’m trying to accomplish one concrete thing a day — today I put together a plan of action to help some co-workers who need to do a certain task on a regular basis. Tomorrow I will concentrate on finishing up my goals for the coming quarter. Wednesday, I have meetings all day. Thursday I’m volunteering in the morning and then going to work in the afternoon, when I will run some reports and send out some announcements to people. Friday, I will do my retrospective on the week and figure out what I’m doing next week.

So, that’s figured out, and that’s fine.

All in all, it feels like a weird limbo-ish bubble at work. People are upset that the company they have loved for years and years is going away. Others are shrugging their shoulders, because this is what happens, these days. I think a lot of older folks on the brink of retirement are panicking a little, for fear they’ll be let go before they can just retire. As for me, I’m watching everything just kind of roll by.

Only time will tell how this all works out.

Only time will tell.

So, 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!

Taking the pressure off with work

silhouettes of a group of five businessmen - one of the silhouettes is a different color
It’s hard to say if the orange guy is out, or if he’s staying, while all the others are shown the door

So, rumor has it that there are going to be massive staffing cuts before too long at work. Nobody — but nobody — knows their fate.

How wonderful!

I mean, it’s not wonderful for people who need to keep their jobs and keep supporting their families.

It’s not wonderful for people just on the verge of retirement, who will find their plans hosed by rich people who aren’t getting richer fast enough for their tastes.

It’s not wonderful for people who don’t have a lot of skills to transfer into other companies or other lines of work… people who have been at low-level positions with the same company for so many years, that their salaries will never, ever be replicated if they go to a new company and have to start from scratch.

But it’s wonderful, that it takes the pressure off all of us to PERFORM AT OUR PEAK LEVEL, DAY IN AND DAY OUT. You can almost hear a collective sigh of relief, at how much less pressure there is to be ALPHA MALE/FEMALE and UBER-PRODUCER-OF-THE-DAY/MONTH/YEAR/DECADE.

All that gets old, after a while. And it’s a relief to just go about my business, doing what I do because it’s the right thing to do, rather than because it’s politically expedient.

I’m supposed to do my Q3 goals a few weeks ahead of time. I also had to do my Q2 recap a few weeks ahead of regular schedule. I think they’re trying to line everyone up and pay out our bonuses before we’re let go. And that’s fine. Because it may give me the month of September off — or at least a few weeks — to regroup and just enjoy the fine weather (assuming it is fine).

This is the harsh reality of the job market in my lifetime. It’s never been any different for me, so it seems business-as-usual for me. I’ve never known stability in any job, they’ve always moved things around, always cut staff, always merged and joined and “transformed” organizations — most often to benefit the ones in power. I feel bad for everyone who’s been at this company for the past 10-15-20 years, who had some stability and constancy, but to be honest, they’ve been in a magical bubble that was bound to burst, sooner or later. And I feel bad for some of them, because the skills they used to keep employed there, aren’t going to translate elsewhere, necessarily. The cultures are different. The people are different. And what cements your place in one company, won’t always work elsewhere.

Everything is unheaval. Everything. The best thing to do, is embrace it. Update your resume. Look around for other jobs. See what the market is like and where the biggest opportunities are. Follow your gut, use common sense.

And never, ever, take anything for granted.

This is the new world for many — and the old world for me. I wish everyone the best of luck…

The 5th of July

US FlagHappy 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.

Onward.

Easy does it… sometimes, but not all

construction site nighttime scene cranes and lights
Downtime is time for me to get to work – Photo Credit: Pixabay

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.

So… onward.

SO, SO ready for this long weekend

field of sunflowers with blue sky overhead
Summer is shaping up nicely, so far

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.

rundown house in a field
This is kind of what my programming career seems like to me

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.

That would not be good.

I know better know. And I can DO better now.

Onward!