Laying low, letting the dust settle

snow covered buildingsIt’s snowing again. Or rather, still snowing. So, I’m going to work from home today. Take it easy. Focus on my work. Keep things simple.

I’ve spent the last few weeks clearing out a lot of extra clutter from my life. A lot of old projects were hanging around that were going nowhere. If something hasn’t gotten anywhere in 6 months, I need to learn to let it go. A lot of those old projects were years old — some of them older than 10 years.

Time to let it go. Just accept that they’re not going to happen, and they were never going to happen, in the first place, because I was following a “success template” that works for others, not me.

Frankly, a lot of the “recipes” for success that are out there seem completely foreign to me. They’re all about money and power and influence, which is the default First World mode, I suppose. But it’s just not for me. Personally, I’d rather focus on doing good work and being supported in doing that, without having to do all the marketing mental mojo that goes on.

As we’ve seen in the news, lately, online marketing can really be a problem… especially when it’s used to trick people into doing what you want them to do. Leveraging the weaknesses of human nature… deceiving… manipulating… I’ve been in that world, and it doesn’t sit right with me.

Anyway, it’s time to hunker down, watch the snow fall, and get some work done. I have a quiet day to myself, today. I think I missed a late work appointment I had last night — completely spaced out and forgot about it. So, today, I need to make up for that as best I can.

It’s another day. Life goes on.

Advertisements

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!

Covering my tracks

This really is a turning-point time for me.

I’m in the process of cleaning out nearly 50 databases for websites I created over the past 15 years.

This is not a small thing. It’s saying good-bye to a lot of labors of love (well, farewell, really, because I’m getting backups of them all before I delete them).

It’s a little nerve-wracking. But it’s high time I did this. I have been building websites as a way to keep myself occupied and technically sharp, for many years, but I’m at the point now in my work and profession, where the stuff I’ve been doing is really old news.

I really belong out in front. Not following along, using what other people have built for mass consumption, and getting stuck with managing the fruits of their misinformed labors.

I don’t want to be mean-spirited. I’m just kind of sick and tired of mass-consumption “content creation tools” that were not properly designed, to begin with.

I’m kind of “over” mass-consumption anything. Maybe I’m just getting older, losing patience, getting a little slow on the uptake, but it seems to me that I’ve never actually been all that comfortable in the mainstream, flowing along with everyone else.

I need to be true to myself and get back to the frontier — where I belong.

It’s funny. Once upon a time, I was out in front — building websites before most people even had email. Then I got a good job doing that, and I got pigeonholed by the corporate overlords who wanted to keep me in my place. I never quite got used to being in that place, and I moved around a lot in that good job I had — taking on different responsibilities and challenges.

Then I fell. I got hurt. My head wasn’t working properly. I couldn’t see my way forward, and I spun around in circles a lot. A whole lot. In fact, all these websites that I’m taking down are really a symptom of my malaise and frustration and lack of direction, over the past 12 years — and even a few years prior to that.

I’m past it, now. And taking down all these sites and starting fresh — with only the ones I want to keep, moving forward — is a definitive step towards cleaning up my past.

And making way for my future.

Onward.

Ups, downs, and everything in between

I’m feeling considerably better today… getting some sleep makes all the difference in the world. I have been pretty exhausted by the end of each day, and two nights ago, I got about 8 hours of sleep, which is always welcome. Last night I got about 7 hours, which is good, too.

Sure beats 5-1/2 hours, that’s for sure.

So, I have the day ahead of me. I just finished my workout with weights, and my arms and back are tired. That’s good. I need to push myself, physically. I haven’t done that for quite some time, for some reason. Just up on my head a lot, I guess.

But now that’s changed, and I’m on the good foot. Does this mean, though, that I will never have a down day, or I will never get sucked into a dark place?

Oh, no. The dark and the light go together. It’s just when one gets the upper hand and takes over the show, that things become a problem. If I can just let myself be, and let the feelings come and then pass, so much the better.

I’m still feeling pretty positive about my job. I am treating it like a form of rehab — no, not exactly rehab… more like a stepping stone to something greater. What that “greater” is, I will eventually find out, but I’m on a trajectory UP — with a few downs thrown in for good measure.

The project management work I’m doing now really suits me, and it’s the kind of work I realize I should have been doing for quite some time. I’ve long been frustrated by the way others managed projects, but for some reason, it never occurred to me to take on that role, myself. Of course, being a project manager is a little difficult if you don’t feel comfortable dealing with people or managing situations. It’s taken me a number of years to get past the conviction that I couldn’t talk to people, and I wasn’t any good at connecting with others. That’s not true at all, I see now (thanks to working with a neuropsych on a regular basis for the past 5 years). And now I can do my work.

The beauty part is, that old dread about my skills becoming obsolete is a complete non-issue now. Looking back, I realize that I was under constant pressure to keep up… keep up… keep up. Back in the day, that anxiety and pressure fueled me, but it took a toll. It felt like it was making me smarter and sharper, but the long-term effects of that kind of pressure were not good for my brain.

Looking back on my life, considering all the head injuries I’ve had, I’ve spent an awful lot of time in stressful jobs — because they were stressful. That fueled me — or so I thought. It was a constant source of adrenaline and pump. The thing is, ultimately, your brain pays the price for constant stress, and even though you feel sharper in the moment, you’re actually impairing your brain’s ability to learn new things and reason through more complicated issues.

Not many people know that — they think that the pump is all they need. But while we’re sorting through new situations and adapting to them, we also need to step back and let our brains and bodies integrate all the new information — your brain and body literally need to digest it all, just like you would a really big meal. If you’re running around in a state of mental indigestion, it doesn’t feel very good. And your life can’t change as positively and as effectively as it otherwise could.

It has taken me years for this reality to sink in. I’ve known it — intellectually — for a long time, but in practice, I haven’t been able to put it into action. I’ve stayed with the high-stress, high-pressure situations that made me feel sharper and kept a steady stream of stress hormones in my system. While I was in the midst of it, it felt normal. It felt natural. But now that I’m out of all that, I realize just how big a toll it took on me. It literally dulled me, made me feel worse, and dragged me down. And all the while I thought I was so alive…

This is a huge issue with me, and I feel like I need to recover from that long haul of stress and strain, so I can move into the next phase of my life. I just had a birthday, and in less than a year, I’ll be 50. It feels like there’s this imaginary line in the sand that I’ve moved across, and I need to gear up for the next half of my life — with all my faculties as intact as can be.

And I’ve been worried about the job situation, thinking that I wasn’t going to be able to hang in there. Justifiably so. Technology and programming and all sorts of esoteric details about how code works, are the kinds of things you need to constantly keep up with. But that doesn’t need to worry me, because I’m now in project management  — which is the kind of work that draws on the skills of many people, not just you. It’s also the kind of work where you can actually get better as you get older and more experienced. It’s not like the frantic rush of being a programmer, where you have to constantly keep your technical chops up to snuff, with the pressure to do your one specific job in a way that will never fail. What hell that was… I can see that now.

At this point in my life, I’m on a path that offers me some real long-term employment security. Good project managers are in very high demand, and the work really suits me, thanks to my background in design and authoring and programming. I can speak the language of just about everyone I talk to, and I enjoy working with them as much as they enjoy working with me.

Of course, I’ve been on the job about six weeks, so it’s early, yet. But I’ve known within weeks, in the past, if a job situation wasn’t going to be that great… and I have none of that sense right now. People at work are moving on, and there’s some turnover (because we’re going to be moving offices in the fall — closer to my home, actually). But the people who are moving on are folks I don’t actually “click” with, so it’s no biggie for me. I haven’t worked with them long enough for it to matter to me personally that they’re leaving.

So, it’s another day. Each day is a new opportunity to find out something new about myself and the world I’m in. I’ll have my ups and I’ll have my downs, but ultimately I’ll still have me.

And that’s pretty cool.

Onward.

Getting my house in order

The pieces will fit together, if I pick and choose and let some things go.

Just got up from my afternoon nap. I had an early start today, waking up at 4 and working for a bit, before helping my spouse and some friends get out the door to go to a business event they are attending. Lots of movement, lots of activity, lots of coordination, lots of details to remember for things that had to be remembered.

After they got on the road, I took the opportunity to do some yard work. I usually can’t start yard work till late afternoon, because my spouse usually sleeps till 2 p.m., and they don’t much care for waking to the sound of a lawn mower or leaf blower. So, I had some freedom to just work, and I got a lot cleaned up. Then I had some lunch and ran some more errands, came back home, took a long, hot shower, and collapsed for almost 2 hours. I could have slept longer, but I decided against it. The days are getting so short, and I have a lot I want to be doing with myself, while there are still daylight hours.

Anyway, it’s better if I don’t sleep too long – I don’t want to hose my ability to get to sleep tonight. I’ve been waking up at 5 a.m. regularly, so the sooner I can get to bed at night, the better. Obviously.

Now I’m figuring out what I’m going to have for dinner. I think I’ll make myself some lamb, which my spouse doesn’t like, but I love. Times like these, when I’m flying solo, are perfect for me to eat foods I can’t normally have when I’m cooking for us both.

The one challenge with the lamb is that I’ll have to prep and cook it. I toyed with the idea of subsisting on crackers and caramelized onion goat cheese spread, which is like a crazy drug to me, for some reason. But I really need some protein. I worked a lot today, and I’m sure I’m going to be sore tomorrow. So, I need to get some meat in me.

So, lamb it is. I won’t have to hover over the stove, just prep it, put it in a pan on the stove, and set the timer. And get some more work done in the meantime.

I’ve got a handful of things I want to do with myself in the next couple of days — I’ve already done one of the big things: yard work. I also need to reconstruct my study, which I now realize has to be re-stocked with certain books I had taken away a couple of years back. I have a lot of books on my bookshelves which do not reflect where I’m at these days, or where I’m going. I’ve been back and forth about my next steps and where I want to go with my career, etc., and I’ve been clinging like crazy to the technical angle, like my life depends on it.

News flash – it doesn’t.  The technical angle is something I recognize and remember loving. But my career has moved on — and I need to just admit it and accept that. In fact, my career is very much in flux, right now, with nothing absolutely certain about where I’m going. The only thing certain, is that it’s in flux and it’s headed in some new direction that I still have to figure out. I have an idea about where that direction is — and if I can stop preventing that from happening with back-pedaling to the technical stuff every other day, so much the better.

Seriously. It’s like I have amnesia. I need to make a sign for myself

YOU ARE NOT A TECHNICAL WORKER BEE ANYMORE

And be done with it.

I guess I just get nervous and try to head back into the arenas where I used to feel safe and secure. The thing is, I felt safe and secure, because I knew what I was doing. That’s not the case, anymore.

Part of the issue is that I’m being contacted by old friends and colleagues who “knew me when” — before my fall, before my life fell apart, before I stopped being able to pick up new things at a moment’s notice and run with it. The inner workings of my brain are so very different, now, and none of them saw me go through that flame-out over the past 7 years. For all they know, I am still the technical whiz kid they used to know.

But I know better.

I guess I need to do a better job, too, of communicating to folks what my new life is. It’s kind of embarrassing for me to “admit” that I’m not highly technical anymore. And it’s also bothering me a good deal. But that’s the fact of the matter. It’s just how things are, now. Time to move on.

This is a theme in my life, these days — moving on. Getting my act together and just moving along. There’s a fair amount of grief that is going with this, because I’m having to let go of things that used to be such a big part of my life and my outlook. It’s like I have to stop hanging onto parts of me and my life that died years ago, but I have still been pretending exist. I’m kind of like one of those people who can’t let go of a beloved pet, so I keep their ashes — or their stuffed body — up on a mantle, so I think that part of them is still with me.

It’s kind of creepy, actually, now that I think of it.

Yeah, it’s time to get my house in order and let go of things. Just let ’em go and move along. Gid-along little do-gie and all that.

Because when I think about it, I have a bright and shining future ahead of me that’s well outside the bounds of where I used to function. I got into technology as a reaction to hating my old effing job that I had back in 1995, and it’s been good to me. But the changes over the years have not been positive and the job market has shifted away from me in a very big way. I need to move along in this new direction I’ve identified — do some good work, make some good progress, and let my life transform itself.

Hanging onto the past, no matter how well it once treated me, is no good for my future.

So, tonight after I have my lamb dinner, I’ll move the old books out of my study and make room for the new. It’s gonna be a whole new day.

Onward.

 

Not dancing around it, anymore

Well, the job interview I was supposed to have today didn’t pan out. The company went with someone who was asking for less money and had more specific skills, even though they probably had less overall experience than I. Oh, well. Back to square one, I guess.

I’m getting a bit downtrodden about the job search thing. I have put myself out there in the market, but I haven’t gotten the kinds of responses I need — and what’s more, I feel like I’d have to really “shoehorn” myself into some of the positions to make them work. I am not finding the kinds of direct hits, I’d been hoping for.

Well, the economy is challenging, so that’s to be expected. At least I have a good job already. It’s stable and it gives me predictability so I can build up my skills — which I’m doing right now. The more people I talk to, the more inquiries I get for specific skills that I sorta kinda have, and that I can get up to speed with on my own time. It’s abundantly clear, what I need to do with my free time. Now I just need to do it, instead of dancing around it and trying to figure out something new and different to do with my life.

I’ve been shying away from technical work, because I’m not up to speed with a lot of new technologies. But that can change with time. The thing that’s stopped me, has been my trouble with reading and understanding and retaining information. I also run out of steam and get discouraged, because this is much harder than it used to be. It’s a combination of things — age and TBI and being out of the technical market for a few years.

Also, the last time I was in a highly technical job, I was really struggling and faking my way through a lot of what I did, and I just couldn’t do it, anymore. But now I have reason to think I’m going to do better than I did before.

One of the huge benefits of seeing all my old friends and family this past weekend, was realizing how well I’m doing — and how much better I’m doing than I was before. I literally did not recognize some of the folks, the last time I saw them. I had grown up with them, but seven years ago, just a couple of years after my TBI in 2004, I had no idea who they were. Their faces didn’t look familiar, and they had to introduce themselves to me.

That was pretty embarrassing, and it left a mark on my spirit. It was just one more thing that held me down.

But this past weekend, when I saw them again, I could recognize them up front and I knew exactly who they were. I was amazed at the difference — I actually recognized them. What a relief.

And if I can remember them, and my brain is working so much better than it was before, then I can certainly get back in the swing of things with working on my technical skills and making some progress there.

Surely.

The incentive is pretty big – all the jobs I keep getting contacted about, which are in my desired rate range, are technical ones for skills that I can — and should — have in my portfolio. And these are things I can learn myself. I’ve been doing this type of work for close to 20 years, so why the heck am I holding back on learning these things?

Here’s why —

  1. I have sorely struggled with things that I used to know how to do, which now give me trouble — things like reading and remembering. It’s demoralizing and exhausting.
  2. Fatigue knocks the stuffing out of me on a regular basis, so I can’t even begin to sit down to work on things I need to work on, after the day is done.
  3. I get started on one thing, then I get distracted and I end up doing something completely different.
  4. I lose track of time and forget what I’m doing, and that keeps me from moving forward.
  5. I had it in my head that the old way of making a living was cut off – I had to find a new and “better” way to do things. The only problem is, those new ways don’t pay as well as the old things, and that’s demoralizing, in itself.

So, all these are excellent reasons for my not moving ahead, but they’re no excuse. I know what the problems are, and I know how to address them. I’ve been meaning to… but I’ve been scattered and at cross-purposes with what I want to do with myself. Now I can do something about that, and just settle down and work on what I need to work on. Sharpen my skills. Showcase my talents. And get that job I have been wanting to get.

The other thing I’ve been dancing around, is the commute thing. If I’m willing to take the train to a nearby city, I can make a lot more money. And I’ll be in a city, which is energizing. But the monthly commuting costs — over and above everything else — will be close to $400/month, which means I need to make A LOT more money. That ups the ante, with the type of work I can/should do. It means I can’t settle for a lower-paying job. I need to go for the best I can get.

And I need to just apply myself wherever I can. Not spread myself too thin. Take things one at a time and do them in order. I have easy access to books and instruction materials and a computer, so there is nothing to prevent me from just settling in to do this work. And come out on top.

The only thing stopping me, is me. And that’s enough of that.

Onward.