Raising the bar

The last few weeks have passed in a blur. I’ve been working long hours and been absorbed in the demands of the project I’ve been working on. I’ve been racing from one crisis to the next, coordinating tasks and making decisions. I’ve doffed one hat after the after to don a new one: reacting to the UK, initiating things in New Zealand; planning the Asian project and discussing the Irish one. I’ve drawn up project plans, written long documents, spent hours in meetings and on the phone to all over the world. I’ve argued and pushed, gone home sour and come back invigorated. I’ve learned things I never thought I would, been stretched and challenged and at times overwhelmed. And I’m in my element.

I suppose I must be under some pressure, especially as it’s my plan that has now been adopted as the plan going forward. Truth is though, I don’t. All I feel is a drive to do things, to get them done. I feel an intellectual challenge, as if this is a puzzle that needs to be solved. It’s true, the more difficult it becomes the more I enjoy it – the bar is raised and I must jump it. That’s what I’m here for though, to see how high I can jump.

I had forgotten I could feel this way, but, though I did have some doubts, I’m still quite sure this is not the life for me. For a start, this tempo can’t be sustained: one day you’ll burn out. I’m sure it pales also, after a while, as most things do. If it was just work, just something that has to be done then maybe I could manage it. Few things are that pure though, and I’ve had to deal with politics and wrong-headedness, incompetence and apathy. They are the degrees of difficulty on a project like this, but I could live without them. In a perfect world it would be just me and the project, the goal, in a locked room, winner take all.

I’ve realised I’m not interested in power anymore. If I’m left alone to do the job as I see it should be done, then I’m happy. Power only counts for me when things are not as they should be, and then the power only counts to make it right. This has been a badly conceived project, poorly planned and rushed into, they have leapt before they’ve looked and have paid the price. It’s been my job to set it right. At times I have been frustrated in having to work against my instincts, but now the way ahead seems clear. If it works out right, there will be no-one else but me to blame if things go wrong.

In between working hard I have had some kind of social life. I’ve been to the Caulfield Cup and yesterday to Derby Day. I’ve had one Friday night session back in the city. Just being in the place was good for me: I felt that I was plugged in again, I drew energy off the raw power of the place. What I haven’t done is write here, or anywhere else really. A job like this sucks all the creative energy out of me – another reason I would not want this life for too long. By necessity I did manage to polish up a section of my travel diary for submission to Lonely Planet. I don’t have those little creative epiphanies though. I see things and sometimes come to describe them in my mind but mostly my eyes are turned elsewhere. I can’t even sleep these days without thinking about work.

I have dreamt though. One night about zombies, of all things. Damn hard to kill, and quite frustrating. Another night I dreamt about Berni. I didn’t realise I had dreamt about her until much later in the day. I don’t think of her as much as I used to, but she is still there.

I feel at a strange point in my life. I’ve always been determined to live an ‘interesting’ life, as if nothing else was worth the effort. My life has been interesting – not always in the best ways – and continues to be. I have a kind of contentment, as if I’m happy with the way things are now – knowing though that I’ll want a lot more. There seems that opportunity though. This morning I received a text message from a friend travelling abroad. He is in Finland, near the arctic circle, or the North Pole, as he put it. He was staying in a log cabin, he told me, and was watching the reindeer graze nearby. Wish you were here, he concluded with. I wished I was to, but am sure that one day I will be. I don’t know which way things will go but I’m quite sure I will not lose sight of I what I want: to live an interesting, rich and rewarding life. Right now the world feels as if it is spread out before me. I have opportunities that most people can only dream of.

In the next few months I have to decide which way I will turn. It’s hard, because whatever I choose means giving up some else: opportunity cost, as my old economics teacher taught me. It’s good though. I feel utterly myself, and that is all I’ve ever wanted.

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