No stomach for it now

Tomorrow morning at nine I have a coffee meeting with a CIO about another potential job at another iconic Australian organisation. When I got the call I said yes, naturally, I’m interested but, you know what? I’m not.

I go tomorrow with a degree of reluctance. It doesn’t sit right in my stomach and hasn’t for days. I suppose I could call it off now, but I’m not yet at that stage.

It doesn’t take much for me to figure this one out. On the surface of things, I’m in the market for a new job. I want a more challenging role and a better salary. I’d like to work in a more professional and supportive organisation. No arguments there. What I’ve come finally to accept is that I have no real appetite for the great responsibility I would once come to grasp with both hands. This has been an uncomfortable realisation.

Right from very early on I was an unconsciously driven man. It was rarely an overt thing with me. I didn’t proclaim it, I didn’t think about it much, and if you met me you’d probably come away thinking that yes, I was pretty switched on, but also pretty laid back.

It was an unconscious thing because I didn’t really know anything different. If I was to do something then, of course, I’d do it to the best of my ability. I was drawn to better and more challenging roles largely because they were more interesting, and why wouldn’t I want to do something more interesting? Then the perfectionist in me wouldn’t allow me to stand by and watch as things were done not so well so I’d step forward, put my hand up. All these were innate to my character but combined they propelled me onwards and upwards. It worked well because my ego fed off that. Never in my life did I refuse a challenge, which mostly I took as an opportunity to test myself. I relished this. It was like adrenalin to me.

When I returned to the workforce after my break I wondered if I would be the same. I was relieved to discover I’d lost none of my smarts, and the edge remained. In many fundamental aspects, I’m no different. I still strived, I still wanted more, I was still impatient to achieve.

A lot of things underneath had changed though. I still had the energy, the focus, even the fierce intent, but the passion had subsided. I always wanted to be ‘the man’ before. I always wanted to be number one. Number two meant there was someone ahead of me. This is the thing though. Like the job a few weeks back, the job I’m meeting about tomorrow is a full-on, high-profile, demanding position, the sort I’d have loved before, but which – I know now – I have no stomach for.

In a lot of ways, it’s a tough realisation. You carry on with attitudes out of habit sometimes, and when habit begins to wane you do it out of attitude. Like I said, I’ve never turned down a challenge in my life – what does it mean if I start doing it now? It felt wrong, even unmanly, just to consider it.

In my mind I understand it better, my id if you like – it’s the ego I have to overcome. But then its the ego I’m trying to overcome in many aspects because it’s time.

I’ve had a bunch of jobs pop up lately, including two on one day last week. I wonder why it’s happening now, but I expect little of it. I expect at some point tomorrow in my conversation I’ll be enticed by the prospect of taking the reins again. The imagination will get going conceiving of what I can do and my mind busy figuring out the how of it. In concert with my imagination, my ego will whisper in my ear. I’ll be tempted, I know that much, but right now I go there because I said I would, and because – as a salve to my ego – to prove I still can.

Assuming I survive tomorrow’s meeting I have to consider what this means for me. Some of the reasons I find roles like this less alluring now is the work/life balance, and the belief that I should be writing. That means I set my sights lower. I can still earn a perfectly good salary and do good, interesting work without putting myself on the line.

It’s funny I speak of the ego here for I’ve been contemplating a bold and uncomfortable act that will expose me to many. A few of us are having mini-profiles of us published in the office. One of the questions relates to revealing something of yourself which is true but which no-one would believe. Originally I wrote about how I memorised pi to 155 decimal places when I was a kid. That’s a typically glib response from me.

Somewhere along the line, I wondered if I should reveal I was homeless, but wonder if it’s inappropriate for such a forum and self-indulgent.

The thought of everyone looking at me and knowing that of me is very uncomfortable. At the same time, I want it behind me. I’ve found that revealing these things goes a long way towards defusing them. The bloke who sits next to me is very open about how he ended up at AA and I marvel at such casual candour. That ain’t me – never has been, never will. I need to be more open though as I so often repeat.

I know I think more than most people, and I think that leads to more feeling too. Contrary to outward appearances, I feel a lot. For most of my life, all of that has been contained within me. I’m trying to let it out, but it’s slow and awkward. I think maybe it needs something like this, something more dramatic not to break the container, but to put a crack in it at least.

I’m very much in a dilemma about this, but must have it figured out by lunchtime tomorrow.

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