Resisting the matrix

Now that it’s Saturday morning, I can look back on the week with a feeling of acceptance that was absent throughout it.

A lot happened. I was in Sydney for the start of it and it was interesting and a good diversion and I came back with my head full of conflicting ideas. Through the midweek, there was the sobering medical news, which culminated in confirmation that both my hearing and eyesight has declined, and I have a cataract thanks to the radiotherapy.

Towards the end of the week I experienced frustration with work. I had returned from the conference with a clear idea of the way forward that was at odds with the prevailing thinking. The more I looked at it, the more certain I became.

No part of me is a dilettante. I’m rational and logical, but I’m also passionate and committed. I want to be in the thing I do. I have great faith in my powers of analysis and have learned to trust my talent. It may sound immodest, but I stand by my judgement because I have looked deeper and with a critical perspective.

For a moment I was caught up in what I concluded. I was in a position to influence, but not change things. I’m as near as anyone to being a subject matter expert, but my expertise is secondary to the status quo. It’s easier to do nothing than it is to do something.

Logically, I sit here today as near as certain that my take is correct, but I’m almost certain that nothing will change. I spent much of the week examining the issue and driving the point. I was busy with calls and emails and speaking to people. I could not accept doing nothing: and this is why.

I had a sense of righteous certainty that translated into frustration and mental agitation. I had been drawn into it, as I’m prone to be, by wanting to achieve something that was right and the challenge of overcoming the obstacles in my way. I admit, there is much of the purist in me in those moments – the evangelist that will brook no contradiction. The idealist in me takes over from the pragmatist.

I will continue to prosetlyse my case, because it is the right thing to do, but I have come down from my high horse. By the end of the week I felt discouraged and cynical. I felt sour with the belief that nothing would change, no matter the overwhelming case to do so. I questioned my purpose. Then, randomly, the thought occurred to me: I’ve been drawn back into the matrix.

What does that mean? It’s the realisation that this isn’t really what I want to do. This is not the person I want to be. I’d been caught up in the battle, unable to see past it.

It’s fine to care and to be passionate, but I know well in the scheme of things that the outcome of this little battle means nothing. And I knew in that moment that there’s something personal in this: I don’t like to be thwarted, not when I’m right. But then, it matters little really. And I remembered, as I stepped away, this is not the life I choose.

There is food for thought in the months ahead. I’m almost certain that this isn’t the place for me long term, but I have to be patient in the meantime and accept what I cannot change.

There are likely changes ahead, as mooted a couple of weeks ago. Things are restructuring and there’s clearly a cost-cutting drive in progress. For every three people who leave, only two are replaced. Those remaining are placed under unreasonable pressure. New managers will likely bring different priorities and agendas. There may be opportunities there, but just as likely are dead-ends.

I’m well regarded professionally, but I suspect also seen as someone insubordinate to titles and policies (which is true – I aim to be honest to myself and speak out when I think it’s due, regardless of audience. I think that’s as it should be.) From a distance, I seem a hard man. Closer, an affable and considerate colleague. I know I have some strong advocates in the business who value my perspective, work ethic and ability. And, in my area, there’s no one who comes close to my level of knowledge.

How much does that count? Probably quite little. No one is irreplaceable, even when it’s damaging to do so. The water closes over very quickly and soon it’s as if you were never there. It’s the way of things.

It’s good to remember that. The world moves on. So do you. I’m never going to be less than committed, and I don’t want to be, but if I’m to continue in this line of work it’s probably with an organisation better aligned to my values and energy. The question to be answered is if this is the line of work for me still, and if there’s anything else I can do?

I’ll know the answer to that in the fullness of time. Now, it’s time for coffee with a friend.

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