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.
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 DOyou 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 alwayssay 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.
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.
And in another 12 hours, I’ll be home again, parked in front of the t.v. to watch a good movie with my spouse. We celebrated 25 years of marriage, last night, and it was a very sweet celebration. We didn’t go out. We didn’t do anything extravagant. I made us a couple of steaks, and we opened the cards and little presents we’d gotten for each other.
It was a modest celebration, really. It’s our Silver Anniversary, but we don’t have the money to get any big silver items. So we got some little silver mementos that really represent the commitment and love we still feel for each other — even more than ever, after all these years. We had cake. We took selfies with the cake — which is always a hilarious activity. We don’t have smartphones, so we have to take a bunch of shots with our little flip-phones, and we get some pretty hilarious pictures in the process.
It’s probably one of my favorite things to do together. It’s just so funny!
I got to bed a bit late, but how often do you celebrate something like that?
Plus, it’s Friday!
And I can sleep all weekend, if I like. I just have a few chores to take care of, but I can get them all out of the way in the morning and then go back to bed.
And sleep. And sleep some more.
I’m still wiped out from that business trip from the week-before-last. I can’t believe how long it’s taking me to rebound, but I’ve had my hands full.
PLUS, they’ve announced a possible timeline on the merger, and it’s happening about three months earlier than we thought it would. So, I’m up in the air about what to do next. I’m going to sit tight and see how it all shakes out. And just do my thing, regardless of what they do.
Unless they lay me off. No, come to think of it, I’m still going to do my thing. Layoffs really can’t stop me. They may require a re-think and re-shuffle of my priorities, but they can’t stop me.
So, it turns out that my group will not be affected directly this round of layoffs. I got the news yesterday afternoon, and I had very mixed emotions.
On the one hand, it’s a huge relief to not have to start my job search again. It’s also a relief not to have a job search hanging over my head during the holidays.
On the other hand, I was looking forward to having some time off and taking a break.
Then again, I guess I get both of the above, because over the coming months, people are going to be pretty checked-out, due to the ongoing merger of our company. The buyer still needs to figure out where we fit in, and who knows where we will end up. The metaphorical sea of management decisions will continue to wash up on our metaphorical shore, and who knows what it will all bring? Metaphorical driftwood? Detritus from past wrecks? Erosion? Metaphorical treasures that have been buried out at sea for a long, long time, only to be washed up onto the beaches of our lives — surprise!
I fully expect that over the coming months, people are going to be in various states of dissolution and departure, as they either dissociate from the trauma of not knowing what’s to come, they go looking for other jobs, and they freeze in the face of not knowing what direction to go.
What’s our motivation for doing what we do, every day? Clearly, that motivation is going to be changing over the next months for a lot of people, since the motivation they have had for many, many years — being a part of a local company that’s made good on the international scene, and tying their identity to that company — is going to change… even disappear… as our employer gets merged into a completely different company. For those people who relate to their job in terms of just keeping the money coming in to support their families, things may not change much… other than a profound existential angst over whether or not they’ll be kept around. That angst is justified.
It can be pretty unnerving for everyone who doesn’t take charge of their own frame of mind and their future. We have no control over what goes on around us, and we have no way of knowing if anything we do actually tips the scales in our favor. For those who are in wait-and-see mode, it’s the worst of all worlds. Because nobody in positions of power is going to tell any of us what’s going on. They can’t. Or things might fall apart.
So, we have to just keep on keeping on.
Or make our own way.
Personally, I’m in the process of making my own way. I’m taking this opportunity to regain my focus on building something independent from my day-job. I’ve got some ideas I am developing, some projects that really bring me a lot of happiness and a sense of purpose. They’re something that I have control over, and they let me express myself and my own interests, even while I’m “stuck” at a job that’s being run by someone else who doesn’t know I exist, and frankly doesn’t care — insofar as I have nothing to do with them directly, and I can’t do anything significant for them, other than performing my small part in their grand scheme.
Having my own projects relieves me of the resentment I feel about that. It gives me a way to redirect my energy in a positive, productive direction. It takes the pressure off, because it lets me create something of my own, as part of my own unfolding life… not a helpless pawn (as one of my co-workers described us yesterday) at the mercy of management and their schemes. It gets me off the tenderhooks of waiting for management to make up their damn’ minds about what’s to become of us. It lets me take action in ways that matter to me.
Bottom line, I make a lousy pawn. Truly, I do. I need more than that. I’m capable of more than that. And, in fact, there’s more in store for me… and I don’t find any comfort at all in seeing myself as being too small to matter. None of us should feel that way… although some feel more comfortable with that perspective, for sure.
Anyway, it’s all a work in progress, and when I take the attitude of a student observing what’s going on and learning from it (rather than being a hapless victim of an impersonal universe), things get a lot more tolerable. And it becomes about me making sense of this all, rather than me succumbing to the senselessness of an impersonal cosmos that frankly doesn’t give a damn about me or anything that has to do with me.
I don’t believe in living only in that kind of world. It seems to exist, but beyond that, within my own heart and head, there is so much more.
What a roller coaster. One day, we’re up. The next we’re down.
I started out yesterday feeling pretty great. Then came the speed bump.
My employer announced its quarterly numbers about a week ago, and they just missed their projected numbers by a smidge. But they still missed.
So, yesterday we found out that our bonuses will be affected by the shortfall, and there are a lot of unhappy campers walking around. The holidays are coming, and there’s going to be a little less Christmas cheer for some.
The crazy thing is, I’d bet good money that none of the people actually responsible for running the company will have their personal financial situation affected. A lot of them have a ton of money, already, so even if they do share in the bonus payout reduction, they won’t feel even a 10% drop — whereas the rest of us “on the ground” have a very different story to tell.
I think it would be much more fair for the people in charge of the big decisions to take the hit, rather than passing it along to us. It just feels like a sort of punishment. And that on top of the ongoing negotiations about the company being acquired… It’s all very exciting.
And my back and hips are killing me, because the chair they gave me is for sh*t… and I have been sitting too much. I used to have a self-constructed standup desk at my old office. Four cases of seltzer water with a shelf on top. I think I’ll reconstruct that. I have the room in my new cubicle, and it’s the exact right height for me. We’ll see. I do have a shelf that’s the right height, as well, so maybe I don’t need to reconstruct it. Bottom line is, I need to be standing, not sitting. Sitting is bringing the pain.
So, my bonus is messed up, I have no idea if I’ll have this job in another 6-8 months, and people around me are getting tweaked… emotionally needy… upset… And it’s just the beginning. The acquisition/merger won’t be done for some months, yet, so we’ve got a ways to go. There are a number of acquisitions and mergers going on in the tech world, right now. Some of them have epic proportions. All these people being moved around and nudged/pushed out of their comfort zones…. It’s like the whole world is in flux.
But at least I’m not in the dire straits that people in the Middle East and Africa are. All those people being displaced… Holy crap, it’s just crazy.
In the midst of it all, I can count my blessings, which is fortunate. And I am actually in a really good space. I have a line of work that I love so much, I do it in my spare time. I just love it, and it really is a natural progression of my skills, abilities, and interests. Compared to where I was, just a year ago, my situation is much more stable — and this, in spite of being on the verge of possible displacement.
The thing that’s more stable is my prospects of employment. I have a killer skillset, with the right kind of experience at the right kinds of companies (home-grown global corporate success stories that everybody in the region knows about and respects). And my skills are portable across a number of different industries, so that bodes well for my ongoing employment. I’m less concerned about working for only one company for the long term. That’s never actually been my ideal. I’m much more concerned about staying viable — especially as I’m getting older in a field where employers favor people who are 20 years younger than myself. And the happy fact is that my skills and abilities are still very much in-demand, and they meet a lot of needs very neatly.
No need to “shoehorn” myself into a position – I’m flexible enough to fit in a lot of places, which has really been my goal all along. While I do love the work I do for a living, and I do it on my own time as well, I still have a lot of other interests that I need to pursue without financial pressure. I have research to do and writing to do. I have blog posts to write. And I need to do that all without having to worry about where my next meal is coming from. That kind of stress is a killer.
So, I’m looking on the bright side and just having fun with things. I had a dark time on Sunday, when all the excitement of the past week caught up with me, and I started to sink into that dismal place where I didn’t feel like going on. At all. Of course, I had to, because I had things I needed to take care of, but I just didn’t feel like it. And that, after feeling so strong and clear for many days…. depressing.
But I took it easy, got some rest, and yesterday looked very different to me. Today looks different, as well. I’m getting back on track, having fun with things, and really digging into my work. I have no idea what they will be doing with me or anyone else on my team, in the future, so I’m just “doing my thing” and doing the work that’s meaningful to me — and also valuable in the market. I’m doing my research via online job boards, to see who’s paying the most — and for what types of work/skills/interests.
I know I’m supposed to follow my bliss, but it’s a lot easier to be blissful, if you have a roof over your head and a belly full of nutritious food and a healthy body… not to mention hope for the future.
I do have all of the above, and I plan to keep it that way. It hasn’t been easy, and if I didn’t work at it, I could easily be in very different straits. But I don’t feel like struggling and hassling with basic survival things, so I’m laser-focused on finding where I can improve… and doing just that. It’s all trial-and-error-and-success. And some days I have huge setbacks.
Today, I can see how all my setbacks can set me up for a better future.
Every piece of info I get about how I screwed up is valuable. It gives me more info about how to move forward in a different way. Story of my life. My mistakes are my own — and they can be the most valuable possessions I have. When I realize that, it frees me up to do more things.