Well, this has been an interesting couple of weeks. I totally screwed something up at work, and I’ve been working overtime since the beginning of February to make it right.
It’s been so wrong, it’s been mind-boggling. How could I have screwed up that badly? Huh. It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything this egregious. In fact, I’m not sure I ever have.
But there’s a first time for everything.
Seriously, I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. But it was bound to happen, eventually, under the current conditions:
No management support
Uncooperative coworkers who don’t keep me in the loop
The whole thing is really messed up, and I ended up at the forefront of it all. The good/bad news is that there are more pieces of this Monster Project coming not far behind that will have the same kinds of problems that my part of the project did.
So, I won’t be so alone, anymore.
Not that it’s any consolation.
I was pretty torn up about the whole situation, last week. Wrecked. But I’ve acclimated to this particular failure, and now… well, I just don’t care. What it means for my future… don’t care.
They’re going to re-org us, anyway.
Some people dislike my boss, and a lot of other people dislike my boss’es boss. And chances are, they’ll interpret this failure of mine as a failure of leadership (which would be nice, to not have to take the fall for a broken system). Everybody knows I’m smarter than the person who screwed up, last week. Something else must be wrong.
Well, anyway, it’s Saturday night, and I’m exhausted. Had a full day today, after a full week. Tomorrow might give me a break. We’ll see. I’m tempted to just stay in bed all day, but that will never work. I often think about doing that, and then 20 minutes after I wake up, I can’t take just lying there anymore. So, I get up. And get out. And put one foot in front of the other.
I’m regaining my balance, after a pretty intense week. I’ve been working long hours, sitting for long hours, and that’s brought me a whole bunch of pain. On top of that, I attended a memorial service for a friend who passed, yesterday. They were very close friends with my spouse, who is taking the loss very hard. Death is never easy, but when it happens at a relatively young age, and the person taken is a central part of the community and people’s lives, it takes on a whole other dimension.
I’ve been up to my neck in one problem after another. It’s been like trying to stay afloat in the ocean during storm surges. No sooner does one wave ease up, and I catch my breath, than another one comes along.
It’s been pretty brutal on me, and having to juggle the logistics of the memorial service arrangements added to the overall stress. I was one of the people who spoke about the deceased, and I had to come up with something meaningful to say, which I did – and it was very well received. It was an honor. But it happened at a really bad time. Which, of course, I can’t control. At all. These things happen.
And I bottomed out. It was like driving down a rutted road and hearing the undercarriage of my car scrape every couple of meters. Nerve-wracking. Grueling. And I know my “miss” at work, which really screwed up the project I’ve been managing, is being taken very badly by others. Even though I’m not the only one working on it, I still seem to be getting the blame. And lo and behold, before my follow-up meeting yesterday, I was informed that my boss’es boss and his boss’es boss and his boss’es boss had a meeting. I’m quite sure they were talking about my project. How could they not? It was such a glaring failure, it’s breathtaking.
But hey, at least I go all-out, when I do things. There’s no half-measures for me.
All in all, looking at the project in whole, it occurs to me that one of the things that made my “miss” so dramatic was that I rolled it back. I pulled it back from the live website and went back to the technology that we were replacing. That doesn’t happen in the company that acquired my former employer. They roll stuff out and move on — even if it’s broken. They leave broken sh*t hang around on the website for years, and they don’t think twice about it. That will never do. And if they fire me over this, good riddance. I don’t want to work at a company that does that.
No wonder they’ve been losing close to a billion dollars a quarter. Not a million (with an “m”), but a Billion(with a “b”). Kinda makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about why it hit me so hard, and I think the big reason was that it just wasn’t consistent with what I expect of myself. It went directly against my Sense-Of-Self, and the person I believe I am. It also went against the kind of person I present myself to be around other people. It was a flaming disconnect between Who I Am, and what I did. And I lost all sense of who I was, where I was going, and what was to become of me, in the process.
I had the same level of intense personal anxiety and despair that I had for years, after my TBI in 2004. And it was even more extreme, because I believed with all my heart that I’d gotten beyond the “lost-ness” of my past. I believed I’d trained myself out of my ineptitude, that I was keeping up, that I was on top of things. And when it turned out I wasn’t, it hit me hard.
And that’s exactly what happens to you after TBI, in general. You lose yourself. You lose connection to the person you were. And the more advanced you are, the more disorienting it can be. It can be absolutely crushing, to lose access to the Whole You that was so well trained in life, who could do things just by reflex before… but suddenly can’t manage the simplest things like tying a shoe properly or remembering more than 2 things on a shopping list.
It’s crushing. And I got crushed last week. Absolutely hammered. From the inside, andthe outside. Because I’m not supposed to do that. I’m not supposed to fail that majestically. People are relying on me to NOT screw up to the degree I did (and I fully admit it and take responsibility for that). I let them down. I let myself down. I messed up. And now I have to dig myself out of the hole I fell down.
Of course, it’s not all about me. It’s not 100% my fault. What happened was the result of an extended process of everything being supremely screwed up, and people in a position to help not doing anything — in fact, doing the opposite: withholding help, keeping me out of the loop, not communicating, not collaborating, and forcing me to do their damn’ job. I was the last best defense against those people, and I wasn’t up to the task.
So, we live and learn. I’m working my way back to firm footing, even though everyone around me (except for people in my immediate group) are backing away from me like I’m anathema.
Well, good riddance. They’re part of what’s made the company lose so much money over the past years, and losing their allegiance is no loss to me at all.
Life goes on. Some days are better than others. Some years are better than others. This year is off to a crappy start. So it goes. Here’s hoping it gets better. If it doesn’t, it won’t be for lack of my trying.
In years gone by, I had a terrible time sticking with a job for longer than a year or two. I’d get so overwhelmed and exhausted, I’d have to leave before people figured out that I was, in fact, overwhelmed and exhausted.
I’ve had a tough time sticking with this current job, too. And now it seems like I’m going to get a reprieve from the monotony of same-old-same-old, because apparently the company is being sold… again.
It’s only been a few years, since they shuffled us from one company to another. From what I hear, there were a lot of layoffs. I haven’t been personally impacted, other than losing a couple of people who were occasionally really helpful to me. And I certainly haven’t had my world rocked by restructuring, the way others have.
But this time might turn out to be pretty significant.
It’s impossible to tell.
All I know is, the change I’ve been craving is right around the corner, most likely.
I had a good conversation with a recruiter the other day about a new job opportunity that sounds like it would be a pretty good fit for me. Well, partially, anyway.
I tend to get so focused on Making Things Work that I can lose sight of whether or not I really should make something work.
In this case, the positive parts of the job opportunity quickly took precedence. The job involves leading a team of web developers and redesigning a website that’s in need of an update, and having long-term prospects at a local company – instead of having to travel across the country on a regular basis just to remind people I exist. And those parts sound really appealing to me.
The thing is, when I checked out the website I’d be working on, and I checked out the company, I realized I’d be starting a really awful commute. It would take me into the thick of some of the worst traffic in the region, on a daily basis.
Also, I’ve never been a huge fan of the technology they use. I’m not sure I want to be using it, each and every day. Especially after a long commute from home, in terrible weather.
So, the shine has kind of worn off the opportunity. And I’ll probably respond to the recruiter that I’m not interested because of the commute. Right now, my commute is relatively easy, and I can work from home pretty much when I like. Plus, I get a week off between Christmas and New Years, so that’s huge. Paid time off that doesn’t count against my vacation time. I know it’s concession bribe from the Overlords to keep us happy, but it works. It does make me happy.
Anyway, I have to be really realistic about what will work for me. Diving into a whole new work situation that involves more driving and (probably) more frantic activity, politicking, and is pretty much of an unknown… That’s not the right move for me, right now. It makes no sense to get a better job that makes my life worse. It’s supposed to help me all across the board, not cut into my quality of life, for a few more dollars.
While I’ve never been a huge fan of “embracing my limitations”, this is one situation where it only makes sense to be realistic and not indulge in that against-all-odds thinking that I CAN DO THIS!!! Other people can fight the odds and prove They Can Do It!
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.
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.
So, rumor has it that there are going to be massive staffing cuts before too long at work. Nobody — but nobody — knows their fate.
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…
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.