The turning wheel

You live a long time and sometimes you get caught up in things that twist in you and work you up, but then the days go by and one day it’s a year later and a year after that it’s all forgotten and in its place probably is something else no different. It’s not worth getting worked up. It’ll pass.

I left work on Friday grateful for the second week running that I didn’t have to come back the next day. Unlike last week, when my mood was more prickly, I left for home this Friday feeling utterly dispirited.

It had been an ordinary week for the reasons already touched upon, but then on Friday a couple more added themselves to the list.

I finally had my meeting with the boss for him to explain why I’d missed out. He told me I’d been “pipped at the post”, and that it cost me that I hadn’t referenced the customer in our interview. That seemed to me overly pedantic as I wasn’t given the opportunity to elucidate on my experience or perspective, and even more so considering the customer in this situation is internal. I cocked an eye at that but didn’t argue. I did give him some feedback, however, including the disappointment I felt at having my proposal ignored only for a much later, near identical proposal given the green light. I said other things too, but none worth repeating.

I got back to my desk at about 4.30 and checked my messages. There I found a couple of mean-spirited complaints about the activities of the engagement committee. We’re bending over backwards to represent the staff and put on activities they can share in and these two (one really) choose to complain at the bother of it because they’re not interested. My first response was ‘get to get a fucking life’, but sensibly I abstained from replying. I left wondering, why bother?

Thankfully I’ve managed to right things since. I’ve accepted that it’s very unlikely that any meaningful opportunities will come my way in this organisation. And I’ve asked myself a series of questions related to that: is it really what I want? Have I moved on so far (or the world moved so far away) that what I desired once is no longer relevant? Do I want different things? Can I reasonably expect to excel in an environment that is so foreign to my experience?

They’re valid questions and I don’t pretend to have all the answers now, though I have inclinations. What I want, I’m sure, shifts with what is possible. I remain instinctively competitive, which is one of my problems. It clouds the truth. It urges me to take on challenges potentially that I have no innate desire to attain. Mallory said he climbed mountains because they were there. I think I have a similar relationship to challenges.

Likewise I’ve been battling what I see as unprofessional practices, but ultimately I wonder if it is I who am out of step? If this is the world now – less ‘professional’, more ad hoc – then perhaps I should just accept it? Probably sensible, the problem is it means compromising my standards. Can I live with that?

More generally it’s true that my heartfelt desires lie in different directions. I may retain some of the habits and instincts of a lifetime, but my inclination is to a gentler, more intimate future in which I tend to the things that warm me. Should I give away my more assertive ambitions? Maybe.

Likewise, it’s no point being upset. The events of the last week have angered and aggrieved me, and no matter the justification for such emotions – and many of my colleagues believe there is great cause – much of the hurt I feel is the insult to my ego. It’s a battle for me to let that go, but something I’ve tried now since the beginning of the year. It’s hard work.

The difficulty is that I suspect my ego is much more robust – developed? – that most people’s. I may be aware of the need to settle it down, which is a plus, but knowing and doing are two different things when much of it is pure instinct.

In this case, I feel aggrieved because I feel I have been poorly handled, and perhaps unfairly handled. That’s a puny thing, though. That’s my ego fighting back. Take away my ego and I remain a man attempting to get by. Being upset won’t change the facts, and is unproductive besides. This is what I must keep reminding myself – separate yourself from your ego.

For a while now I’ve waited to go to what I think of the next level. Having battled back to a situation where I had fuck-all and a precarious future I at least have some stability in my life. It’s still far from easy. Life is not plush. It’s better than what it was, but it’s still a struggle. I have expected at some point to move on from that and experienced some false dawns. I’ve felt like I’ve had my life on hold, and have deliberately held back from committing myself to outcomes until things changed.

I think that mindset has to change. Perhaps it will never move on appreciably from what it is now. I expect there will be incremental improvements here and there, but the big leap forward – as my experience, my expectation, and my ego have expected – may never occur. If that’s the case then perhaps I should release the handbrake I’ve put on? There are things I can’t do, but others that only take a change of mind.

As I have accepted there is no real future in this job, so I will not push so hard. I’ll still give my all, but keep it small and local. I’ll look elsewhere and if something good comes up will take it on. In the meantime I commit myself to completing the project at work that I have begun, because it is only half done, and because it may look good on my resume.

I know it sounds lame, but I want to be a good man, but don’t always know how that works. I know I have to be better than my petty grievances. I think being open and honest is part of it too, though easier sometimes said than done. I think what I wrote the other week about being smaller is true also – I’ll always have the big elements in me, and nothing wrong with them – but the small makes me a gentler, more intimate man. Finally, I think, I need to let those things into my life I’ve held off on because the time wasn’t right. The time may never be ‘right’, but I don’t think I can live without them.

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