I’ve been having a really hard time for the last month and a half (or more, if I’m honest, possibly back to early October). I’ve been trying to decide if it’s my own personal form of SAD (based on it being Death Memory Season1), or if it’s something else.
For example, I make decent to very good money currently. I still worry about bills, because I’m wired that way; but as long as I don’t splurge every single month on frivolous (read: unnecessary) items, I can pay my bills including extra on my credit cards. That means I’ve been paying down one large credit card, and trying to keep the others at minimum. I’ve been doing slightly odd (for me) things with multiple credit cards to keep my credit up, based on advice from bankers and loan advisors. My credit isn’t as trashed as it once was, when I was the victim of identity theft, but it’s still a little weird. I still get calls based on that thief’s name actually being very close to mine. She’s changed it since, as have I, but it doesn’t really force the credit bureaus to behave.
Why is this a problem? Well, even though I make a decent wage (more than fair, because of various perks), I feel sort of trapped. I’m not in a field that I consider “mine”. I actually work in a field that I don’t particularly enjoy, at the moment. I am not a numbers person, but I’m working with them. Sometimes, I can trick my brain into thinking I work in computers, or with databases, or with any number of adjacent fields – but I’m not really, and sometimes my hindbrain narrows its eyes at me as if to say, “Hey. Wait a minute… Is this what we wanted to do when we grew up? Because I don’t think it was even on the D list…” And my forebrain has to play Jedi mind tricks.
In general, I really like my co-workers. We go on cool trips together! We make each other laugh! I don’t really ever forget I’m older than all of them, but some of that is my own hangups more than anything they do intentionally. But there have been a non-zero number of times lately where I don’t feel listened to. I will report an item verbally and in writing, but somehow, sometimes even within the hour, the information is requested again. It’s most annoying when it happens within minutes.
And after the last week or so, I’m beginning to think that is the thing besides my personal SAD that is making me particularly grumpy. It was especially galling the other day to be told by my manager that she was listening, she just didn’t retain the information! It’s making me really question my usefulness, effectiveness, and importance. Because at this point, I’m concerned it truly is me! My communication skills have just deteriorated that badly!
On the other hand, I really don’t think they have. Usually, the people hearing but not actually listening and retaining that information are also dealing with a lot in their own lives, and are just very distracted. And I want to be empathetic and forgiving of those problems. Everyone is human and should have their own lives outside of work. I just find my patience is frayed to shredded about that. I’m not forgiving about it. And I’m therefore mad at myself for not living up to my own expectations.
I haven’t figured out a solution for this, other than to vent on twitter occasionally, and now on a blog. I would like a change to see if that would help, but I can’t (and really, don’t see the need other than this thing) job hunt. I wouldn’t be able to find another position of comparable level at this pay scale, really. Base salary? Sure. But not actual take home pay. So I am not sure how I’m going to fix it, in the long run, other than continue to take very deep breaths and try desperately to weave my patience back together every weekend so that there’s some semblance of it, no matter how patched, come Mondays.
1. Death Memory Season: September – lost my youngest maternal aunt at entirely too young of an age, also first marriage had a BIG ending step of actual physical separation; October – lost the first cat I raised personally from a kitten, basically my baby boy (I’ve got another baby boy, and I’ve had other cats, and this was the second cat I helped raise from kitten ever, but he was MINE); November – dad really took a downturn with his cancer; December – lost both mom and dad (in separate years) in mid and the end of the month. I adore the fall, I really, really do. And autumn through early winter means 3 of my favorite holidays, but damn it’s hard for my emotional memory.
My brain is adapting. And that’s fine. I’m … basically letting it problem and puzzle solve. I’m still not quite to terms with my job title. I feel like accounting tech just isn’t quite accurate. But I’m definitely in accounting. I just also dig in programs that are only tangentially related to the accounting part of the job. I like it. I like the boring repetitive stuff because it’s extremely satisfying when it all clicks and voila you can see the pretty picture and it works and people get paid (us, them, whichever, usually someone gets paid when all the things click into place). The part where I dig into stuff to try to figure out how it works is also useful and fun. So that’s nice.
I’m so tired and wrung out when I get home that I don’t know what I want. I get home, I get the mail, I do a few quick chores, I change clothes, I eat, I curl up on the couch and … everything sort of stutters and then hiccups and then tries to continue. I don’t often want to watch TV (the cable box is currently unplugged and the TV is off). I may or may not have energy to play with the cats (today I snuggled and play wrestled before/after putting their food out, but I haven’t gotten out any zippy toys yet tonight). I don’t feel like I have the energy to write (I’m making myself write a blog about not blogging in order to stretch this muscle). I sometimes get distracted and don’t finish small chores (I just remembered the sink is full of soapy water).
*ahem* The sink was full of soapy water. The kitchen is cleaner now.
But this illustrates my point. I will start things and then midway through a project I will remember another project that is either equal in priority or higher and veer off. I mostly manage to resist lower priority things if I’m the only one thinking of them. But my priority sorting does get a teeny bit suspect, as well. There are a number of projects that I should really do. At least one major project (with a few subsets) would result in day to day life being easier, I suspect. But it’s a big project, and my body will hurt if I do it, and my heart might hurt if I do it, and so I keep shoving it down the chain of prioritized tasks. On nights like today? Psh. That task flickers in on my radar only as an item I should feel guilty for not having finished months and months ago.
The advantage tonight to having the cable box off (and to my sweetheart refereeing a soccer match) is that there is one less distraction. One less thing to stop me from trying to do something marginally creative.
I don’t even remember now the path my brain took to get there, but I remembered this past Saturday with friends, when Font Folly teased Zork Fox about needing to write 1,000 words before he would accept his Skill Point distribution on his character sheet.* The point was, as we were all chattering in between doing other things and tinkering with our character sheets, setting up, locating dice, and making sure we had beverages accessible, was to just sit down and do the art thing. And sometimes, switching things up to be opposite or just slightly different from normal might help. But mostly, just actually sitting down and writing or drawing or whatever the task was. Just that act was enough to sort of get something out.
It might be crap. It might not be. It might not be what you really wanted to write or draw. I drew a portrait of a cute girl and a horse that day. The horse was on purpose. The girl was because I started moving the pencil and got a girl’s face. That happens a lot. Probably because one of my default doodles is an eye. I went on to try to work on a tattoo design of theater masks and it completely imploded. I stopped before I got too angry, because I wanted to enjoy the gaming. And I’d gotten two drawings out before I started failing at what I wanted to draw. So I’m still calling it a win.
And now, today, I’ve written just under 900 words. That’s not amazing. If I were writing a book though, and shooting for 1,000 words a day, I’d be at just under 90% of goal. So it’s not bad, either. I have to keep trying to maintain the positive outlook, and just keep doing. Art. Writing. Crochet. Whatever it is, I need to keep working the creative part of my brain; so that when the problem solving part is so exhausted that the rest has to compensate for it having had a dramatic faint in the drawing room of my skull, the creative bit can still come out and play a little bit.
*We were gaming. It was awesome. I hardly ever get to do that in person and it was so nice to see everyone and give and get hugs. Plus I dragged a sister along, which was equally excellent.
In my previous job, I was an “administrative assistant”. That was a little bit of a lie. I mean, I was. I also did the occasional executive and personal assisting. I also did general front desk receptionist work, which included catching the phones and dealing with mail (incoming and outgoing). I was also a little bit human resources and a lot bookkeeping, because we had downsized so much. I also did the occasional bit of technical support for software. And I was in the process of learning weird network junk because I was the one around to do it.
In my new job, I’m an “accounting clerk/tech”. (Depending on what we’re doing, we either say tech or clerk.) I took a bit of an hourly pay cut to take the job, except that I also am technically salaried now. And I have insurance benefits (medical, pharmaceutical, dental and vision discount). And I have a week paid vacation. And assuming it’s a good month/year, I have a chance of bonus type things (including a trip with the whole company and plus one of choice). So really, it’s going to work out to be slightly more than I was making. I won’t have to be paying for my own medical/pharmaceutical insurance out of pocket. I will be paying a portion of it, but much less out of pocket. So, overall, fiscally, it just made sense.
I report, in the main, to one person now. And then I have 3 other bosses (the owners of the company, only 2 of which are ever actually in office). I’m her assistant. It finally occurred to me today that I’ve been continuing some “personal assistant” habits that I really don’t need to do. She doesn’t need managed in those ways. (There are other ways that I do personal assisting that are useful, but they have more to do with leaving a certain part of my brain on permanent record mode, so that when she asks “what did we do about X?” I can actually answer, even if it’s not something I specifically have assigned to my task list.) In general, we work as a team, splitting the work. She is also HR, but at the moment, we’re keeping me confined to accounting duties – mostly payable and receivable.
It’s requiring the unlearning of some previously useful habits.
In general, I really like the people I’m working with. A lot of them make me feel old. I’m somewhere between 10 and 14 years older than most of the people in our office. My boss is actually 8 days younger. One of the owners is within a year or so of our age. But everyone else is much younger. It’s a young company, only a few years old.
Sometimes, I can’t tell if various personality clashes are because they’re younger, or inexperienced, or if I’m set in my ways and opinions of what particular job duties are covered by specific positions and professional levels. I’m discovering that lately, I have an extremely low threshold for patience with regard to someone being rude. Where normally I might stop and think “perhaps they don’t know any better, they’re so young” now I really tend to be disgusted and frustrated that co-worker represents a company I work for.
So, I find myself actually taking breaks. For one thing, it’s encouraged that we take our lunches away, and that we take breaks (even if they’re just “smoke” breaks for a few minutes out doors). Our office is across the street from a bike path that runs along a river between multiple parks (depending on which turn you take on the path). So, I’ve been taking decompression walks. Hopefully it helps with the frustrations of the new job. If nothing else, it’s better for my health. According to the Health app on my phone, some of the shorter circuits are as much as a half-mile long, so theoretically, with 2 breaks, I’ve walked a mile on top of whatever I walk normally during the day. In general, that can only be good for me.
If I’m distracted or online less, it’s because I’m dealing with a lot of energy expending on these things. Please feel free to reach out to me via whatever medium we usually talk. I am trying to remember to reach out to friends and I’m trying to schedule in events with friends, but I’m sure I’m going to mess up occasionally. As the routine gets more stable and feels consistent, I’m hoping that it will be easier for me to pick back up art/writing projects.
My degree (undergraduate, I never ended up getting a graduate degree), is an English degree. Worse (as people who like to point out that degree is worthless like to say), it’s a bachelor of arts, not even a bachelor of sciences degree. My minor which started out in Computer Science, ended up being an “Interdisciplinary” minor, consisting mostly of lower level programming languages and a number of technical theater courses (mostly design type – set and lighting specifically). (This was due to both my inability to learn and therefore pass “Statistics and Probability” taught by a math instructor who should have been forcibly retired, and an unwillingness on the part of a department head to grant an exception in curriculum to a different statistics class (ie: the one taught by the business department, rather than the math department).) My original plan was to write manuals for people who wanted to learn how to make their computers do cool things. I figured that even though those teach yourself books weren’t huge yet, there seemed to be a market for them. (Cue hysterical laughter from the peanut gallery.) The computer science professor who taught several of the lower level languages courses I’d done well in was confident enough in me that she’d allowed me to take Assembly concurrently with the stats course. I was getting a low A in Assembly, even though stats made no sense. She went to bat for me on the exception request. We just couldn’t get it. So I had to drop the Assembly class and subsequently the minor. Because I’d been taking various theater classes (mostly technical but some history and speech based ones in there as well), it was easy enough to merge those “electives” into my existing courses for my original minor. Between the change and a reduction in class hours during a time when my mom was sick and I was working full-time, I was pretty happy to only graduate two summer terms “late”, as opposed to the end of the spring term.
In my working career, I have not written anything seriously. No manuals, no newspaper articles, no journals. Nothing like that. I’ve written a few blogs or contributed to advertising copy, and I’ve cleaned up some cover letters and occasionally contributed my opinion to making contracts and other documents easier to understand. But I’ve held jobs as a shelver at a public library, a catering waitress, pizza baker (and seller), university police dispatcher, retail clerk (and lower management – all the responsibility and hardly any perks) at video and music stores, an independent HTML copy/paste contractor, an office support staff at a residential construction company, an office support staff at a company that provided supplies for drug testing, eventually an administrative assistant (and bookkeeper) for a residential construction company, an office support staff at a financial office, an office support staff at a property management company and an accounting clerk for an affiliate marketing firm.
The only jobs even remotely related to my degree are the office jobs, and even those are stretching it a bit. Mostly, what undergraduate degrees are still good for (when they’re BA’s especially, but even some BS’s) are to show that the student/applicant to the job will stick to a decision long enough to complete the goal they set for themselves. Some people might say that’s a very cynical way of looking at things, but for some hiring managers, it’s also the truth.
I held the jobs at the residential construction company from spring of 2002 through late summer of 2005, then from late summer of 2006 until now – mid-summer of 2015. Really, for the last 7 years or so, I’ve been in some sort of part-time situation of 80% time or less. For the last couple years, I even tried a few secondary part-time office jobs to try to help make up the percentage to get to “full time” (or slightly over for a short time where I came very close to burning myself out). I probably should have looked for a true full-time job many times in the last 7 years. I couldn’t and wouldn’t, because I really actually felt as though I could retire at the residential construction company – if it could just complete recovery from the recession. I believe in the quality of the product, to the degree that I’d build a home with the company if I could afford it myself. It still hasn’t recovered though, quite. A lot of similar companies in our area have gone out of business, and mine is still limping along.
But I was offered full-time at one of those other part-time jobs, and the package (salaried, benefits – health and potential for more financial benefits) was such that I felt like I had no choice but to accept it.
It’s been a very surreal two weeks. On the one hand, I made the choice. No one forced me to decide what I did. On the other hand, I didn’t feel like I really had a choice because it was between the financially intelligent decision and the emotionally satisfying decision. I chose the financial one, because I’m tired of living paycheck to paycheck, not having a true savings account, and having to pull money from what should be my retirement someday. I’m incredibly privileged to even HAVE that option. It isn’t even one I earned – it is entirely due to having lost my parents earlier than I would have liked.
Thursday was stressful, unnerving and exhausting as my final day. I feel like I’ve let people down who depend on me. It doesn’t help that more and more lately, people (clients, co-workers, subcontractors) would comment on how generalized my knowledge had become and how much I actually did. My co-workers are sad to see me go, and they’re probably a bit nervous about working together to take over my duties – but I know that after some awkward days coming – they will figure it out and be just fine. And they say it was a smart decision, and that they’re happy for me. They took me out to lunch and gave me a heartfelt card saying goodbye. And I believe that they want what’s best for me, but I’m still sad.
But, and, I’m also excited to see if the new job and it’s benefits will be all they are promised to be. I’m hopeful that by this time next year I will have amassed a small bit of savings. I’m even tentatively hopeful that we can be looking at buying a house. I’m already sure I’ll be thankful to have employer provided insurance (which will save me about $100 per month).
Overall, it will be a good choice. I will learn to find job satisfaction in things at the new job. It will be a different sort of satisfaction. It won’t be a satisfaction based in pleasing clients with a physical product, but I’m sure there will be something.
And maybe, since it uses such a different place in my brain, my creativity will flow better.
My 2014 opened with a proposal, which was wonderful.
There were moments of hope, when my sister applied for jobs in-state and a state nearby.
There was the excitement of getting a new car for the first time in 12 years.
There were moments of sadness, when my sister lost her cat, who was her baby, and my nephew.
There was a new life welcomed to the world, a new human niece to another sister.
There was the cool convenience of being able to help my sister apartment shop via Skype.
There was the joy of welcoming her here in advance of her belongings, and helping her shop for and find a car that works for her.
There was the joy of getting married to my sweetheart of many years.
There was the relief (and sadness) of having to admit that my secondary job, while useful for funds, was not useful enough and definitely not useful enough to offset the stress that was making me miserable.
There were moments of hope as my primary job seemed to experience a slight uptick in work and sales.
There have been good moments of reconnecting with past friends, strengthening bonds with current friends, and sadly realizing that a few friends are perhaps better suited as acquaintances.
There have been moments that were better for writing, baking, cooking, and drawing. Creativity has overall been good, even to starting a new game with friends.
There have been moments where I have not been all I would have hoped, health-wise, and in fact made no advancement but rather backslid in terms of exercise.
There have been moments where being socially aware and critical has been depressing, overwhelming, and frustrating in the extreme as I watch humans as a whole Not Do Well.
There have been a few shining exceptions to the nastiness as some things are more accepted in my corner of the world.
Still, being hopeful, I am declaring my personal 2014 to have been a good one. I hope that 2015 is as good and better, that I continue to improve as a person in my health, my creative self, my interactive self and my working self. I wish everyone the best year that they can have as well!