Finally – finally (!) I get some time to myself, to zone out, to get into a flow state, to center in and reconsider my life. Or rather, have an uninterrupted block of time to consider what I’ve been considering, but haven’t had time to act on.
I really been needing things to change, work-wise, and I’ll have a chance to decompress and really think about where I want to go with my work. I have to say, I’ve never been very career-minded. I’ve been connected to my work, for sure. Web development and technology design are in my blood, and I love it with a fierce, burning pride that I don’t often see in others – even in people who have been doing this for a while.
But I’ve never actually felt a connection with the people who cut me a paycheck, every week or two. I’ve never really felt like I was part of their plan, and I never really felt like they had a lot of loyalty to me. Their loyalty was always to themselves, and while I know that it sounds incredibly naïve, I could never understand why I was expected to have undying loyalty to them, when they wouldn’t reciprocate.
Call me silly, but it just seems equitable for the recipients of something as valuable as your loyalty and most of your valuable waking hours every day – that is, your life force – to show at least a little loyalty in return.
I’ll admit, I have gone through a number of different, shall we call them “attachment cycles“ to the places where I worked. At one place, I was heavily invested in what they were doing, as well as what I was doing for them, and I believed in the products and services we were offering. It was clear to me that my work each and every day really furthered things in a good and positive way. The applications I was building, the initiatives I was leading, and the end result of what we were building… It all actually did matter. Millions of people really benefited from the great job we did. It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty good. And much of what I helped to build is still in place, although you can’t see it on the surface.
The thing is, that was 15 years ago. And over the last decade and a half, a lot has changed in terms of how the Web works, who’s working on it, how people learn and how people implement things. I have to say, I just don’t agree with a lot of the changes that have happened. The frameworks people have embraced, which have made the whole lot of us more vulnerable and brittle. The shortcuts that promise to do things for you more quickly, so you save time and money. The services that prevent you from learning How Things Work, in return for delegating important functionality to that service. I think so much of it has been driven by organizational considerations, larger political aims that forge alliances across countries and companies, and which are geared more towards furthering shared economic interests than building good technology.
We’ve come quite a long way, I have to say. And it hasn’t always been fantastic.
Just think of the hack that’s been going on since last March. If so many companies hadn’t delegated critical functionality to One Single Company, would we be as compromised as we are? Well, let’s not talk about that now, because at this point, I’m not sure anybody knows how compromised we are – and the people who would know, certainly won’t tell us, because we’d probably all freak out.
Anyway, despite 3+ decades of investment in technology and keeping on the cutting edge, I now I find myself increasingly pushed out of the world that I helped build. People young enough to be my children are going out of their way to tell me that I don’t know what I’m doing, even though I made the mistakes that they’re making along time ago, and I pretty much know how it’s going to turn out. They have no idea how much I actually do know. And they don’t want to hear from me. They want to make their own mistakes. They don’t want to learn from others to save themselves the hassle – much as many of us would love to spare them. They’d rather just do it themselves.
So, I’m inclined to let them do that. I mean, why stay attached to something that no longer has a need for me? Why keep trying to connect with people who have no interest in connecting with me?
It’s just not a good use of time for any of us.
That’s why I’m so excited about the next two weeks. I will have time to putter and explore. I’ll have time to install different applications on my various laptops and try out different things, without having to worry about the time constraints. Christmas is going to be very low-key this year, since we’re not going anywhere and nobody is expecting us to. In the past, it was fairly time-consuming, just staving off all of the invitations and the protests and the pressure to go visit people. It takes a lot of energy to constantly tell people, “No. I told you last time. No, we’re not coming to you over the holidays.” This year, there’s none of that arguing, so that actually leaves me a lot of extra bandwidth.
Since I’m not going to the post office to mail out packages, that means we didn’t actually buy any thing that we need to package up. And since it’s just the two of us at home, and my partner has been really sick for the last few months, we just haven’t had the energy to really do the whole Christmas thing. It makes me sad that she’s been so sick, and things don’t look good. But the bright side of that is that I don’t have to run myself ragged, making everything Christmassy, which I don’t really like, anyway.
Come to think of it though, I should probably do a little something for her this year, since I’m not sure that there will be more Christmases with both of us, after this year. Her health is very bad, and even when she rallies to do things with other people online, it really takes a lot out of her, and she has to recover for several days after the fact. A 90-minute Zoom call with friends wipes her out. It’s bad. And she won’t see a doctor. Flatly refuses. When she does talk to people about it, she hides her symptoms. Including with me. I’m at a complete and total loss.
So that’s really depressing. And when I look at the last several months, looking at how I’ve struggled to do things that I used to really enjoy doing, I realize that I’ve been intensely depressed. Of course, I’ve been disciplined about my life, with regard to the things I have to get done. Me being depressed doesn’t change the fact that the bills need to be paid, and food needs to be cooked, and the clothes need to be washed. I think I’ve just been depressed for so long – as long as I can remember, actually – that I’ve just figured out how to keep the essential things going, which is more about the most basic self-preservation, than an interest in keeping everything running smoothly. After all, having to catch up with stuff that I put off is even more demanding than just doing it while I’m depressed. So I’m just saving myself time in energy by taking care of things pretty much when they need to be taken care of, never mind that there’s no joy in any of it, and I’m just going along rote.
Even though I’m incredibly depressed, and I go for long stretches where there’s just not a whole lot of joy in my life in general, that doesn’t stop me from living my life. And in fact, it doesn’t stop me from finding some pleasure in some things along the way.
Well, I don’t want to talk about that anymore, because talking doesn’t really change anything, and I don’t want to burden other people with stuff that’s just mine. Things are hard. So what else is new?
I am really excited (in the midst of this dragging depression) about just having the freedom to work on some of my skills for the next couple of weeks. I definitely need a new job in the new year. I haven’t felt connected with anybody at this current for quite some time, and the next generation of people coming in are more than happy to push me out of the way. The company where I work, I now realize, is way too big for me. It’s enormous. Once upon a time, I was fine working at companies that were that big. But over the years, I’ve become so much more experienced in so many different ways, that staying employed as a highly specialized cog in a vast array of machinery… well, that just doesn’t work for me anymore.
When a company gets this big, and there are a lot of established organizations, everybody has their specific role, and nobody is allowed to do anything different than their one specific role. That just doesn’t suit me, because frankly, I can do a number of different jobs more than adequately, and I have a whole lot to say about those different areas of experience. I have thoughts. And I share them.
But when I speak up, it’s seen as a threat I’m drifting into other people’s territory. I’m not staying in my own lane. And while I understand why it is so important for specialists to stay in their area of specialty, that just doesn’t work for me, anymore. I have too much experience, I have too much insight, I have too much else to contribute. I’m not being conceited. This is an objective fact, and people I work with have told me that my experience is wasted on my current position. So I have external validation, which is nice.
I’m really torn about whether I want to stay in high-tech or not. I think the money is going to keep me here, but I have to find a way to work in it that’s not going to lock me down in front of a computer every waking moment of my day. Years ago, I was fine with sitting in front of a screen for 10-12 hours at a time, building the things.
But now, the thought of just sitting in front of a glowing screen for all those hours, each and every day, kind of horrifies me. There is so much more to do in life. Plus, if I sit that long, then the pain sets in, and then I can’t sleep, and then I can’t think, so it’s a vicious cycle. It’s really a conundrum, because I love getting into the flow of coding and working on my computer. But if I stay in the flow too long, which is not necessarily something I can control at will, it can really take a toll on my body and mind.
So you see my conundrum.
Well, I have a couple of weeks to just live my life the way I would prefer to live it, and I can design a schedule that works for me, kind of as a template for how I want to live my life next year. I’m not going to bother with New Year’s resolutions, because it never pans out. Ever. And then I feel like a total failure by the time February rolls around.
So, I’m just going to figure out how I want things to be in my life, right here and now, and take steps to make sure I can keep doing them as the weeks and months roll by.
And I’ll enjoy what I can, while I can.
2 thoughts on “I’m off work for the next two weeks. And I have to say, I’m really excited about it.”
I have many different thoughts and self-reflections spurred by your post. My job is, to a significant degree, about earning a living. If they didn’t pay me, I wouldn’t show up. However, the question of “loyalty” plays out a little differently for me because unlike many, my job was associated with an oath. But it wasn’t an oath to the organization. It was an oath to the Constitution and the people of this country. I’ve always taken that seriously, though I’m aware not everyone does.
I wouldn’t call it “patriotism”. Recently, my youngest read The Left Hand of Darkness and she was struck by its take on patriotism and how relevant it is today. She wanted to talk about it with me.
“No, I don’t mean love, when I say patriotism. I mean fear. The fear of the other. And its expressions are political, not poetical: hate, rivalry, aggression. It grows in us, that fear. It grows in us year by year. We’ve followed our road too far.”
I do, broadly speaking, love my country. I see its potential and want to move it in that direction. I’ve always had a complicated relationship with the idea of “patriotism” and that quote captures some of it. I also see how the things I do benefit the people who live here. I enjoy the technical challenges, but I also like the sense that what I do matters. If I have to spend hours a day working anyway to survive, it’s nice to be able to see some of the ways that time is meaningfully spent.
Even so, I wouldn’t say I feel any particular loyalty or love for my organization. At every step when I’ve been faced with a demand to do something some part of the organization wanted but which in my estimation was wrong in some way that I felt violated that oath I took, I have stuck to my guns. So that part of our relationship has sometimes been contentious. I have generally been proven right eventually, but that eventually sometimes took multiple years. Even so, I have somehow steadily advanced in my career, despite the nature of that relationship and despite the fact that I’ve hardly ever made “career moves” or taken any proactive step to advance my career. Outside some very early things I did to get a shot at showing what I could do when allowed to program, pretty much every career shift has come because I was sought out rather than because I sought it.
I just worked on things that interested me and tended to acquire developing areas of technology outside what I was actually officially working on because I had a need to fix something and then others across the organization followed my lead and did the things I suggested they do. One of those side areas was DNS. It really was something I was pushed to fix in the nineties because it was causing issues with some other things I was working on. I got everyone on the technical side to listen to me and ended up designing the whole architecture and guiding everyone on how to implement it. All the way still working on my “real” job developing complex applications, in some cases to resolve some pretty significant real world issues. As I do, I delved deeply into understanding how the protocol worked and the vagaries of all the common implementations of the protocol. And kept involved in staying abreast of everything that developed over time.
Oddly enough, that side thing I unoffically worked on relatively early in my career first because it was causing me issues and then because it captured my deep interest, became a central aspect of my official late career. I couldn’t have predicted that at the time. It was never a calculated career move. I don’t think I’ve ever made any of those. But to an outside observer it probably looks like some pretty prescient decision making.
Yeah, the massive hack is as bad as it looks. I wouldn’t say anything that hasn’t been publicly reported and am not privy to anything additional I don’t have a need to know, but it is quite serious. My particular organization’s institutional paranoia, coupled with my own paranoia, seemed to have helped us to some degree. We don’t even treat other networks in our own department as trusted. Everyone and everything outside our network is untrusted and we don’t trust things on our network very much either, though more than things outside it. And we weren’t customers of the particular company involved, at least on any large scale. Not sure that was the only company compromised, though…
We’ve used the USPS ability to print labels and schedule package pickups for free when mail is delivered to send out packages to kids, grandkids, and others all year. Yeah, no going to post office for us.
I’m sorry to read about your partner’s health. That sounds really serious and I’m sure must be the thing most weighing on you. I think I’m usually dealing with trauma reactions than things like depression, though it’s hard for me to tell. But yeah, I understand the part about getting everything done no matter how well I may or may not be doing on the inside. Even under severe stress I still function for some meaning of the term. When that breaks, it tends to do so fairly spectacularly but up to that juncture I’m not sure how much people can even see from the outside.
Good luck. I hope these couple of weeks help you reset. And hope things in general go well.
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Thank you, Scott. I appreciate it.
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