Searching for conviction

This is my third crack at writing this post over the space of about 5 days. I’d have posted an earlier version except each time I realised I was still processing what was happening. I had yet to come to a stop. Perhaps I have now.

The first thing I want to report is that I’ve started applying for other jobs again, which is a good sign I’m not enjoying the job as much as I expected. It seems to me over the last couple of weeks I’ve had one good day followed by one bad day, and vice versa. That’s not a satisfactory ratio.

I’m not going to dwell on what makes a day ‘bad’ – in general terms, it’s a combination of things: frustration with process and culture – getting things done, or answers from people, mixed in with poor communication and a general sense of having stuff dumped on me without support. All of that exacerbates my dissatisfaction with the piddling and insulting salary they’ve given me – a full 20-30K under the odds. I wonder why I should put up with this frustration when I’m so poorly paid for it.

These are the practical frustrations, but they go deeper than that and become almost existential for me. That’s not a normal circumstance, but is indicative of the stage in my life.

Some years ago I was some mini version of a master of the universe. I was confident and ambitious and sometimes swaggering and mostly invulnerable and seemingly bulletproof. With all of that comes a kind of inner conviction that permeates your soul and influences your behaviour. I reckon I always know the people who possess that because they never seem hurried or flustered, never seem to doubt and have a commanding sense of self-possession. There’s something impressive about them, and sometimes daunting. It’s something I almost consciously assess, certainly in a work environment.

In my case, I had some part of that, but then all sorts of things happened, all well documented. There was no real occasion for it once the struggle was to survive from one day to the next, though it may have added some steel to the struggle. I did survive and have taken much from that, but all the while – as I was well aware of – that inner conviction eroded.

Now that I am beginning again and taking on some of the work of yesteryear and working in that environment once more I am doing it from habit. I’m fortunate that I know my stuff, and that gives me some confidence. And I’m fortunate that even if I don’t feel it so much familiarity means that I can assume a role that was once born to. I may not have the same conviction as before, but for the most part I can fake it. (And for the record there are many who claim I’ve never changed from that day to this, the swagger never went away. I know different).

So in the normal course of events I can get by – but when I start to second-guess and doubt I feel very fragile. I know this. I knew it coming it. I don’t like it, but I accept it and believe that maybe for my development it’s a necessary thing. I doubt it will last, but until then I have to deal with it.

What it means in the present circumstances is that I question what I really want and what I have the appetite for now. I have changed, and maybe fundamentally. I like the idea of being ambitious and hungry and striving and aggressive. I have no desire to be second best. They’re slogans, though. I can repeat them under my breath and believe them true still, but are they true inside me?

My sense of these things is that I’m maybe a little gun-shy. I’ve waited for so long to get back to something like this that at the first hurdle I shy from it. It feels as if I don’t have the force or endurance to embody the virtues I espouse. And I wonder if it is some kind of defensive mechanism to prevent myself getting hurt again.

This is the process I’ve being going through these last few days, and why I’ve written and re-written posts and discarded them, because I was still working through this.

Above all, I’m a rational man. I’ll reason my way through these crises. That’s what I’ve done on this occasion. I don’t have all the answers yet – it may be that I’m no longer suited for what I did before. The way to find out is to keep going. If I am to come to that understanding it will be because I have properly tested it. And because I’m rational I realised there was little value in worrying about these things and letting them affect me. I’ve worked through that, just as I always do, and decided that I’m much better acting and being pro-active and failing on my own terms if it comes to that, rather than others.

In the end it means just being myself. I set myself the goal to be more humble this year, and true enough, that’s worthwhile. Now’s not the time to go back into my shell though. I am by nature dynamic and challenging. This time it means pushing through the frustrations, and I don’t think being humble will cut it. I’m going to do things my way and it feels better already.

I’ll still look for other jobs, and in the meantime will continue to test my true ambitions. I suspect I’m just as hungry as ever deep down inside, and reckon in time this fragility will pass. I’m like someone in his first job. Given time the conviction I now assume will be a natural part of me once more, but if it doesn’t, so be it.

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