Time for me

Very busy lately and struggling to get away from my desk because if I don’t do it no-one else can and just because of that I took Wednesday off as a mental health day. Right up to the moment I sent the message to the office Wednesday morning I doubted that I would actually do it. I feel like I’m cheating when I take a sickie, which I am. As well, my mind nagged me with the things that had to be done but fuck it, I don’t work as a brain surgeon and no matter what I think there’s nothing that couldn’t wait. And so I just rolled over in bed and had another snooze.
There’s value in days like Wednesday. Sometimes you just need time to get back in touch with yourself. You come back better for it, and if you don’t do it you run the risk of winding down. I’m as fit as a Mallee bull these days, both mind and body, but that’s not to say that the mental edges might not begin to fray unless I took some time for myself.

It was a delightful day. I lay in bed for a while reading with Rigby snuggled up against me and a latte on the table beside me.

Later I wandered up the road in the winter sunshine. Had a coffee and a slice, bought some groceries, and picked up my dry-cleaning. Back at home I read a little more, did my tax, browsed the internet, and basically chilled out.

As the afternoon went on I flicked Netflix on and watched as I did some cooking – a beef, mushroom, caramelised onion and ale pie first, then a pumpkin coconut curry. I had myself a hot bath then had dinner of the pie while I watched the news. The rest of the night was similarly mellow. Come work yesterday I was in a different frame of mind, which continues as we speak.


Engaging reluctantly

For the last 6 months there has been an engagement committee at work. It was set-up to address many of the engagement issues within the business as highlighted in an annual engagement survey. Basically it reported that general satisfaction was pretty low as a result of poor systems, inadequate communication, and a general sense of being undervalued – all valid complaints in my opinion, and a surprise to no-one except those in their ivory towers.

From a corporate perspective a lack of engagement means poor productivity, no real loyalty, and increased absenteeism. For them it’s all about the bottom line, but they understand if the bottom line is to improve then it must become a happier workplace. Hence the engagement committee was born.

I had the opportunity to put my hand up at its inception, but thought it inappropriate that someone in my position should be involved. I have a lot of ideas in this area and was involved in the review that led to the formation of the committee. As you should know by now, I’m a purist. I believe that a committee such as this should be utterly independent and be run by the people for the people. Such democratic principles mean a lot to me, so I opted out. Of course such principles have little to do in the real world and my direct manager was quick to drive her agenda and influence the outcomes of the committee.

As it happened three of the committee members were quite close to me. A. I need not expound on more here except to say that she was a driven and committed contributor, and that while she was on board the committee had some direction at least. She left when she took a job upstairs.

Another of the members was a knockabout character I’ll spend 5-10 minutes a day yarning too. He’s very efficient and organised, but became exasperated by the running of the committee to the point that he opted out as well.

The third, W., is still a part of the committee and has contributed equally to its limited success and its abject failures. He’s a well-meaning guy driven to make it a success, but with little idea of how to achieve that. His people skills are primitive, and he managed to put offside other members of the committee. He also lacks any imagination whatsoever, essential if you are to capture the minds of the people it’s looking to serve.

The result of all this is an engagement committee that has failed to engage. It runs random and sundry events, none of which really address the issue of engagement. It’s a lame-ass organisation that has caused me no end of exasperation witnessing it.

This guy, W., would speak to me almost daily – including often on the weekends – about what he should do and how things would work. I would give him my advice and he would agree, and sometimes become excited, but then either do nothing about it, or get it entirely wrong. Naturally this made my exasperation even more fierce.

There was a spill of positions for the committee at the end of June. I hoped to take on a new role, or exit the organisation completely, but I was sorely tempted to apply. I discussed it some with A., who encouraged me to put my hand up. Ultimately I did just that.

I only got ratified in the role last week, but we had our first function on Friday night, an awards night. I had nothing to do with the planning except for organising the trophies – which I did previously when I wasn’t a part of the committee. I rocked upstairs 4.30 on Friday to pitch in. I asked the question “when’s the food coming?” and was told by W. that no food had been ordered. I exclaimed. You can’t do that – people will be drinking, and besides, they expect food. Well, we threw out half the food last time was his answer. Well then, let’s just order half as much I said.

Long story short I rushed downstairs and ordered some urgent food, ready just in time for the event to begin. In the end the night was a success, going on much longer than I expected (or hoped for). All the food was eaten.

Going forward I hope to implement some ideas that directly impact on engagement, which I take to include shared purpose and interactions going both ways and creating an environment in which people want to come to work. To achieve that you need a sense of community I think, which includes trust and curiosity and generosity.

Among other things I’m hoping to get a book club going. There are a lot of readers here and it’s an interest that can be shared. We have an online hub now and I’ve got someone to write a monthly book review, and advocating we create our own group within Goodreads and integrate it into the site.

I want us to learn more about each other and want to unearth the unknown stories and hidden talents across the organisation. There are formal, work related commendation systems here, but they’re basically mercenary. I want to move away from financial rewards and move towards a system when recognition is its own reward because we do it for each other. To that end the recognition is not about how good you do your job, but how good a teammate and person you are. I’m proposing an Unsung Hero and a High 5 award – for those who do things selflessly day after day from the goodness of their heart, and for those who go out of their way to help when its needed.

There’ll be more to come, including possibly a mentoring program, and will look at introducing RDO’s. That’s just me and I’m only one member of the committee. I’ll be careful to give everyone their say, but it’s true that I’m the most senior member of the committee and there are others relieved and hoping for me to take the lead.

As I said to W., I didn’t join for this to be a failure.

My second coming

What an interesting week it has been, though in subtle ways. This time last week I was unhappy at having my plans thwarted. Today I feel refreshed.

What has happened? Little that’s material. I was knocked back from one job, but had another suggested to me, and another couple at work mooted to me. Nothing is ever definite until it is, but at least there appears a promising trend.

After my disappointment, I bounced back quickly, as always I do. I’d be interested to place myself of today against the man I was ten years ago and make a comparison. In many ways, I would be pretty much the same, but much has happened in that time, and there are differences. I’m tempted to think most of them are positive.

I was always a strong man, but that strength has been proved by experience in the years since. In so doing it has transmogrified into something more authentic. It’s the difference between muscles wrought in a gym and those that come from hard labour. The whole experience has belatedly made me more open and accepting. I am more mindful.

I’m just as smart as I ever was, which came as a relief. I feared being out of the game for so long that my reflexes may have failed me, but I’m it and a bit more besides. In general, I’m less diplomatic than I used to be, though still capable of charm. As I’ve explained, my experiences have left me with impatient with the insincere and insubstantial. Life’s too short. I remain very effective.

One odd difference is that I seem to have hit a late prime. A friend a few weeks back said I was looking better than I had for a long time. I think much of that comes down to a state of mind. When you’re weighed down by the struggle to effectively survive it impacts on appearance and demeanour, and a revision in attitude since has probably helped.

At the same time, I am looking good. I’m fitter than I was ten years ago, and most days I walk out the front door, better looking too. I come from a good-looking family and so the importance of appearance, if not a sense of vanity, was imbued in me from an early age. I still recall quite vividly my mum telling me that I would grow up to be a man with the good looks of someone like William Holden. As recently as a few weeks ago I was emphatically reminded that I look just like Colin Firth – not something I agree with. But still.

(A peculiarity – like Benjamin Button, I seem to be ageing in reverse. I’ve always looked youthful for my age, but it seems now that as my ageing has slowed still more than my contemporaries are going by me more quickly. I have no wrinkles at all, and though I have grey hairs they make my hair sandy. I was always worried that one day I would wake up and find it had all finally caught up to me. I was afraid that this youthful advantage would be denied to me and the opportunities it gave me lost. Bitter day that would be! I no longer think that. As long as I stay healthy and fit I’ll always be youthful).

On top of all this came the realisation a couple of weeks ago as I sorted through my books that there was still a lot of life ahead of me, much to look forward too and be excited by. That’s an attitude I want to embrace, and having brought it to the forefront of my mind I find it infusing me with expectation. It’s helped by positive signs on the work front, as well as with my writing.

I’ve come through tough times and survived. I’m reframing this time of my life as a late flowering, a renaissance, and it’s amazing how that shift in perspective changes things.

One thing that hasn’t changed yet is my relationship status. It’s shocking to think but for basically the last 6 years I wouldn’t allow myself the possibility of a serious relationship. I wanted to get things right first. I needed to stabilise. The time is now right and fits well with this state of mind.

Nothing is more complex than relationships. I’ve documented the situation with A., which is ongoing. I’ve given up trying to work that out, except to acknowledge that she likes and respects me but there is something that keeps her from me. That’s up to her to figure out now. I hope she does.

In the meantime, some episodes on Friday night brought to light other possibilities.

I’m very wary of being the cute older guy that younger women want to have a fling with. I’m not against a fling, but my priorities are more serious. All that is doubled when the women at question are from work.

There was a function in the office on Friday night I helped to organise. A. was there for a while and very typically was aloof for part of it before reaching out to mitigate it. Strange that the lightness and flirtiness of her emails no longer translate into the flesh. As I said, she has to come to terms with that.

There was another girl there I’ve become friendly with in recent months. The first time I set eyes on her I felt a visceral attraction to her, but it was purely physical. In recent times we’ve overlapped and got to know each other well. She’s smart and fun and very attractive and has a lovely smile and likes me. It’s at the stage where it might quickly become something more if we choose it – a drink, some flirtation, then…

On Friday there was both drinking and flirtation, but other people too. I enjoyed it, but at the back of my mind was two things: A.; and the knowledge that I’m a much older colleague of hers. She’d be about 28-30, too young for a serious long-term (A. is 35).

I knew about this woman, but another emerged on the night. Perhaps it was the alcohol that did it, but a woman I’d merely nodded to in the past or exchanged conventional greetings with was quite aggressively flirtatious with me. I enjoyed it. I always enjoy flirtation and aggressive flirtation is my favourite kind.

She’s not as attractive as the other, but has a raw sexuality which is alluring. In basic terms, I’d love to fuck her and think it would be a great fuck too, but I almost certainly won’t. She’s about the same age, less pretty, more assertive, and probably wants no more than a fuck if her behaviour Friday is any guide.

I’m gratified by the attention and glad for the possibilities, but doubt there is anything I can really do with either of these women, for the reasons I said above. It might be different if I didn’t work with them, but even then, I want a keeper.

My gut-feel is something probably will happen with the pretty one, but in any case, the trends are positive. Renaissance it is.

Moving and shaking

So I know, what about this job interview I spoke of so casually? Here’s the story.

As you know, I was pissed off after having my proposal for a new role being knocked back and was grumbling about it and generally feeling sorry for myself. I’d decided to start looking for a new role again and had actually sent off an application over the weekend but, fair to say, I wasn’t yet in that looking for a new job headspace. It was fortuitous then when I got a message through LinkedIn while I was sitting on the couch Monday night.

I get all sorts of email and messages and most don’t amount to much. I’m pretty chill about it these days, but it doesn’t mean I ignore them. On this occasion it was a headhunter pitching a few roles at me, two Process Engineers, and another the Chapter Lead for same. He said it was for a ‘tier one’ client and enquired whether I’d be interested?

I responded Wednesday morning and by late that afternoon we’d chatted briefly on the phone and arranged for a preliminary interview at 10 o’clock the next day. Let me say right now that this is much further than any of these conversations generally go.

He’d told me the client was ANZ and that they were in the middle of a huge transformation project adopting Agile at scale and looking to become a much more responsive organisation in general. It was a very ambitious goal, and laudable. And, as I read about it, pretty interesting too.

The conundrum for me was which role was I interested in. For many years that was a simple question: the answer was always the biggest and best. My ego demanded that – I would not knowingly accept anything less than the top job on offer. I always figured it was generally more interesting as well plus, as I was telling my offsider yesterday, I don’t like being told what to do (“Really? No!” he responded mockingly). I’ve always wanted to be the man, and for many years I wanted to be plied with responsibility and challenged with complexity and couldn’t understand anyone different to that. Now I’m that man.

I interviewed yesterday and it was pretty easy and I felt very comfortable, but it gets a lot tougher from here. We discussed the scale of the project and I was intrigued by it and, putting everything else aside, would find it fascinating to be a part of it. There is a lot more to it than that though – a challenging interesting role that just so happens to be permanent, great for my CV, and – like all banks – a handy salary (up to 3 times more than my current salary for the more junior roles).

I’m definitely interested and keen to progress further, but I wonder what I would have to sacrifice. It would be demanding work and for a salary like that they rightly expect a lot – a demand I would have thrived on before, and in large part still would.

What concerns me is what it would mean for my writing. It’s going gangbusters right now and I am full of confidence that I’m on a winner. It takes a certain amount of mental energy to achieve that, though. I have the time and space to manage that right now, and with a bit to spare. I think I could probably manage, but I’m not certain.

I spoke to Donna the other night and she told me how she’d had the opportunity to apply for a more senior role everyone expected to get. She never applied, and the reason boiled down to the fact she didn’t need that responsibility anymore. She was older now, less overtly ambitious, and with more sophisticated goals. As she told it, she was happy to work with her team and didn’t want to be removed from that.

A great part of me is intoxicated by taking on such an interesting and challenging role. I’m sure I can manage it and the thought of taking it on excites me, and it’s not simply my ego speaking. At the same time I know I don’t need that much these days to be happy, and certainly don’t need the swagger that goes with being top dog.

I’ll play it as it comes, and there’s every chance it won’t progress much further. I’m probably overthinking it again, but that’s my rational self needing to tease out every nuance.

As it happens everyone is dropping hints now at work that if I hang around something good is coming my way. I don’t like hints, but I’ll take them.

Frailty and power

I went out for dinner last night with Donna. It happened to be the date of my mum’s birthday, and it’s become a tradition that we catch up on that date to celebrate.

We didn’t dwell on it. I don’t think we mentioned mum once except towards the end to mark the occasion. I wasn’t maudlin or sad. I’m glad to remember and I think it’s a fine thing, but I’m past the point I dwell on it for too long.

But then this morning as I’m heading to work on the train I’m listening to an audiobook and there’s a scene where there’s someone who had gone away many years ago returns to the town he grew up in and reunites with the friends and family and the woman he loved. He’d gone off, had adventures, made a name for himself, and to some he’d become a hero. But then he is undone meeting these people he once cared so much about, all of whom had missed and wondered what had become of him. Their affection for him was undiminished and he is embraced, forgiven for his absence and loved for his essential qualities, buried deep within his hardened exterior. He had gone away, become tough through experience, then returned, and in his return he connected not only with his loved ones, but with his sensitive self, so long neglected.

I listened and felt incredibly moved. I could understand completely, as if it reflected my life – though it doesn’t, not directly. Then, as he is held by his adoptive mother I found myself gazing out the window of the train with tears in my eyes. I felt as he did at that moment, though in a different context.

I have not gone away from my mother, she went away from me, and she won’t be coming back. I remembered that feeling as he is comforted by his mother, the strong man made frail by love and I missed that and envied it and realised that it was something I could never experience again.

I have lived without it. He went away, I stayed, but both of us became hardened in the interval. Love was not something we encountered and we took its absence for granted. He didn’t know what he had forsworn until he was wrapped in its arms again. I forget too what I no longer have, but am reminded – unsatisfactorily – when I witness the experience of others.

As I said, I’m not about to get my mother back and that’s a fact of life. That’s not to say I can’t experience variations of that, and I earnestly hope, expect, and plan to do so. Like a lot of things, that’s just the situation now.

I have these moments but the truth of it is that I’m an incredibly resilient character these days. I get knocked off course sometimes or experience a wobble, but it doesn’t take long before I right myself again and some innate quality is reasserted.

That was at 8 o’clock this morning. By 10am I was sitting in a fancy office high in a tower at the bottom end of Collins street being interviewed for a job. I blitzed it, though it’s only the first of a few. I found myself inflating to my persona, confident and articulate and in control, tall and stylish and direct. It felt my element, as if I knew the moves before they were made, aware of the impression I was making. It’s all performance, though largely unconscious. I left knowing I’d killed the interview and thinking how odd it was that so recently I had been touched by frailty – and now was a master of the universe.

Mum would be proud.

With the fam

I had my niece and nephew come into the city on Friday to have lunch with me. We went to TGIF and each had a burger.

I saw my nephew a couple of months ago, but I hadn’t seen my niece since before Christmas, and as she’d forgotten her Facebook login, exchanged no messages either.

My nephew was as I remembered him, tall and lean, but my niece had grown appreciably. She’s tall for her age now, and will likely be a tall woman.

We had a fine time as I plied them with questions and discovered unlikely facts about them. My niece, for example, was excited by watching some gaming robotics convention over the weekend, and has aspirations to become a game designer, if not a gamer.

My nephew has the mandatory desire to become a rapper, and demonstrated an impressive knowledge of the genre. He prefers the old stuff, 2pac, and Notorious B.I.G. If not a rapper he’d happily be a game designer also, but will probably do media studies and follow up with something in that area.

After lunch we went back to the office and they oohed and aahed at the views over the city. Kids always love that stuff.

I waved goodbye to them and back in the office people were quick to comment on how strong the family resemblance was. Later that day I got lovely messages from both of them thanking me for lunch. When I told S to keep in touch and that we must catch up again next school holidays she said she couldn’t wait. Nice to hear.

My shit’s fucked up

So I’m at work and struggling in a big way. It’s like after Friday that I’m allergic to it. I managed to get over my disappointment over the weekend, but as soon as I walk in the door I get smacked in the face with it again. It’s actually pretty demoralising, and a feeling I hate.

It’s not surprising because I’m now officially between a rock and a hard place. My direct manager, wanting to plan for the future, put the acid on me a few weeks ago which eventuated in an arrangement that I would resign from my job if this role didn’t come through. It hasn’t come through, and so…

I’ve not said anything to her yet. I’m not keen on being unemployed, but I’m not over-keen on hanging around here either. I have a meeting with her on Friday when it must be addressed.

I don’t know what to do. If a handy job came along then that would be the perfect solution. I hate being here. I feel profoundly gutted. I’ve got no career path and a diabolical salary – and I’ve missed out on the CPI rises because they skipped over the review process with me. I’m tempted to have another word with the department head, but don’t want to make such a big deal of it. I’ve already mentioned it to the digital marketing manager, who has been very sympathetic. In the meantime I feel bloody awful.

I thought about taking a few days off just to get my head right but – ironically – can’t afford to leave the job unattended.

It’s probably a good time to sit down with myself and figure out what I want to do next. Plan A is off the table, and probably B and C too.