Things are really looking up! I’ve been away from this blog for a really long time… about eight months, in fact. And it’s been a really busy eight months.
When I last posted, I was in the process of looking for a job. Or had I just started a contract? I think I was on the cusp of re-entering the workforce, trying to get my ducks in a row, trying to make sure that my resume was in fact a work of fact (and not fiction ;), just working like crazy, trying to keep my head on straight and not freak out, realizing that my brain has changed and is not going to return to how it was anytime soon… if ever… and realizing that my brain actually had changed numerous times, over the course of my life, and a lot of the assumptions I fondly held about myself might have been “off” — if not flat-out wrong.
It was a lot to process, considering I also had to keep my head above water, find a job, pay the mortgage, and try to maintain some semblance of normalcy in my life. It was a lot! But then, when I really sat down and thought about it, I had been wrangling with these types of challenges almost my entire life… I just didn’t realize it, till the end of 2007. And once I realized it, and I took a long, hard look at how well I’ve actually done in life, well, that made things a little bit easier.
A little bit…
But some things still were pretty much of a challenge for me, and since I’m given the option between laughing and crying, I think I’ll see if I can keep my sense of humor as I recount what’s been going on for most of the past year.
In January (I’m pretty sure), I started a web developer contract position at a major multinational technology company that has its headquarters cleverly built into the side of a hillside with a commanding view of the rolling countryside below it, about 20 minutes from my home. It was actually a really great gig, as the money was pretty good, the hours were flexible, and it’s the kind of work I’ve been doing since 1996, so it’s almost second nature to me. Actually, it is second nature to me.
(Note to those who think that computer programming is “beyond” the ability of a TBI survivor: Computer programming/web development is perhaps the best employment I could possibly find because A) it’s very binary, as in, you either get it right or you get it wrong — either what you type in works, or it doesn’t, B) the only person who ever needs to know how badly you screw up, is the computer, and it will never call you idiot! imbecile! stupid! space case! (at least to your face ;), so you always have time to fix your errors before some human comes along and notices your screw-up, and C) this line of work tends to be heavily project managed, at least in corporate environments, so I always have someone looking over my shoulder who can help keep me on track).
But back to our regularly-scheduled programming…
Anyway, I had this great gig going on at a huge company in a huge building with a huge employee population, and I was working on projects that were being used in countries like Latin America and Europe, and I was making pretty good money. The only problem was, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to my stressors, and I wasn’t getting enough rest, and my “issues” started to kick in. I found myself becoming increasingly stressed over my work — there was some takeover bid being considered, and people were nervous about their jobs, and the environment was actually too big for me — the space itself was cavernous and I found it disorienting to walk down hallways that were not only BIG, but were also very sterile and, well, hard. I have certain sensory issues that make me really sensitive to sounds and light, and the actual sound of walking down those corridors… the echoing in my ears, was actually a stressor.
Plus, I was having communication issues… having trouble understanding what I needed from the work situation — what worked for me, what didn’t. I wasn’t able to articulate very well about the things that got to me, like not having a properly configured computer that was hooked into the main system the way it should be (I was essentially doing network work on a “standalone” computer, so I never knew if my work would come out right). And the guy I was working with was also not very communicative. I could never tell if I was doing an okay job or not, and I didn’t know how to ask in a way that didn’t sound stupid to me. I tend to be the kind of person who doesn’t like to call attention to themself, anyway, so I didn’t want to highlight the fact that I felt like I was falling behind in my work. I didn’t want to give anyone the wrong impression and seem like I didn’t have confidence in my own abilities. If I did that, I was afraid I’d set off the alarms and people would start to look for problems with my work, and then I’d lose what little control I had over my situation.
Well, long story short, I actually did lose control of the situation, and by the end of the 2-1/2 months I was there, I had successfully alienated my recruiter who’d placed me there — no, alienated is not the right word — more like, infuriated, pissed off and completely distanced (I can still smell the bridge burning behind me) — had pushed everyone in the group away from me, and I’d gone off to a permanent position that suffered a similar fate to the one I had just left.
Yes, I went from the frying pan into the fire, but this time, in March, I was driving twice as far and dealing with a company that was a fraction of the size of the one I’d just ejected out of.
I took a job doing more heavy-duty development work with a little start-up that made big promises and sounded like a great thing… like a cyber-tribe of sorts, with a close-knit group of people who liked to play as hard as they worked. And my decision to sign on with them was both ill-informed and ill-advised. I mean, I asked all the right questions… I even wrote them down ahead of time and checked them off on my list. But the answers I got did not “correlate with the truth” — in other words, they told me what they thought I wanted to hear, and I took the bait, hook, line and sinker.
That tale is a sad and tragic one — even more sad and tragic than my ill-fated stint at the MegaCompany. The long drive fatigued me, but the frenzied pace and the lack of structure is what really took its toll on me. Plus, it turned out that the technology they built was NOT as ready for prime-time as they said it was. It was, to my systematic and logic-seeking mind, a total friggin’ nightmare.
And I really screwed up with my exit from there, too. I wasn’t able to keep up with things that were happening around me, I ended up making stupid comments and drifting way off base in meetings, I wasn’t able to concentrate, I wasn’t able to deal. Plus, the building was situated in a place that was very remote — I couldn’t get away from the office without considerable effort, and I just got so turned around and freaked out… it was very sad. And I started having serious issues with memory and logic and being able to interact with other people. By the time I left there, I’d really alienated everyone in the place, and my excuse that I was leaving for health reasons (which was quite true, tho’ not the entire truth) barely got me out the door without being attacked by the CEO and the President, who both had a terrible reputation for tempers and verbal abuse. It’s not that I couldn’t have survived their vitriol, but what worries me is what I might have said in return. I have a real skill for going off on people and venting inappropriately.
It was bad enough that I had to bail on them after three months. I didn’t want a full-on TBI-exacerbated confrontation on my conscience, too.
So, I did the humiliating but necessary thing — I made excuses and snuck out the back door. ’nuff said about that adventure. For now, anyway… there are lots of juicy tidbits that are very educational in hindsight, so I’ll write about them later.
Anyway, somewhat demoralized and downtrodden, I started another job a little over three months ago with another multinational corporation, doing web development work. The team I’m working with is small and close-knit, and between the ADHD and other personality quirks and old sports head injuries, we all manage to reach agreements about how to deal with each other well. So far, so good. They know there’s something “different” about me, but they don’t hold it against me. And frankly, there’s plenty about them that’s different, too, so I’m in my element.
When I look back on my work history, I have to say it’s a little disconcerting to see how short a time I’ve spent at so many companies. The longest I’ve ever been in any one group, is 2-3 years. I include my 9-year stint at a multinational corporation in that, since I jumped around a bit, and I moved from group to group — I was in 5 different groups in the 9 years I was there, having made a deliberate decision to move on, myself. So, while my resume says “Such-and-such-A-Company” (1997-2005), the fact of the matter is, I had five different jobs there, in five different groups:
1. 1997-1999 — web developer
2. 1999-2000 — software engineer (yes, it’s different from being a web developer)
3. 2000-20002 — technology integrator
4. 2002-8/2005 — software engineer/architect
5. 8/2005-12/2005 — technical writer
And because all these were done at the same company, they don’t “count” as career shiftlessness. So, I can get away with it and camouflage my issues and still look great in the process. Which is great for my resume and career.
The only problem is that now I’m out on my own and I’m not doing this at the same company, so my resume is starting to look a little more sketchy. Which isn’t good for applying for financing, and it isn’t good for finding other jobs.
Fortunately, for the time being, I’m in a good place at a good company that’s in the healthcare industry, so there’s not bound to be any decline in business anytime soon.
And despite the fact that the last two attempts I made at finding and keeping gainful employment were sad chapters in the book of my life, the fact is, I didn’t get fired, I left on terms that were my own, and although I truly regret the fallout and consequences to the people I “bailed on”, the fact is, no animals were harmed in my experiment, and everyone is still standing. So, it’s not a
total loss, and I did learn a lot! (I simply must write about this later!)
Things are indeed looking up!