Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I wish I was special

Three jobs ago, a few days after I gave my notice and began final preparations for a year of travel, the Vice President of Engineering popped by my cube to say, "You can't leave, Imbecile! We were going to make you our star."

By "star" he meant "vassal."

You see, a few weeks earlier, the company had "downsized" - damn, I love euphemisms! - and I was the only technical writer who made the cut. That meant six or eight books to write and, oh I don't know, 35 engineers to wrest information from.

If you've ever spoken to a single engineer, you might understand how daunting 35 might be. If you haven't, imagine using dental floss to yank a hippo out of a lagoon.

I had no interest in being a "star."


OK, that's sort of a lie.

Truth is, I'd always been a teeny speck of a star in my innumerable places of employment.

(OK, that's also a lie but I'll explain that some other time.)

In many of the technical jobs I've had, I've been pretty well regarded. Maybe not a star but a ... Christmas light! Somehow, I managed to maintain Christmas light status throughout the tech boom of the 90s while only working 40 - 50 hours a week when many of my co-workers regularly worked 60 - 80.

The same thing happened in high school. I always did my homework on the bus or in my lap in the 5 minutes before each class bell rang and yet somehow managed to be a Christmas light of a student. Teachers liked me. A Latin teacher once lost my exam and gave me an A anyway because she assumed that's what I would have earned.

This was not a good thing. I'm not exactly proud of it. My point is merely that being a pinpoint of light in some evergreen shrubbery was easy and I liked it. I especially liked that it was easy.

Nowadays, however, my little bulb seems on the verge of shorting out or at least being outshone by some actual stars around me. I sit one cube away from someone who is such a shimmering tower of luminescence that on some days I can barely see my monitor. And I hate her for it.

(not really. I love you.)

(But you're interferring with my little flicker. Stop shining so brightly! Stop working so hard!!)

I tell her all the time to stop working so hard. I pretend it is for her own well being (and it is mostly for that) but it is also because I can't keep up. At least I don't want to. I don't want to work half as hard as she does, but I also don't want to be so massively outshone. Dammit.

And that's the real problem. She doesn't work so much harder than I do, she just accomplishes a shitload more. People count on her. People listen to her.

I want to be listened to and counted on too!


I just don't want to have to work hard to make it happen.


She's thinking, "You do work hard. You are listened to and counted on."

And I'm thinking, "Will you please just let me be frustrated?"

And that might be the most insightful thing I've written all morning. My problem isn't about how much I hate my job or how hard I should work or whether anyone is paying attention to me.

Maybe the problem is that I want to feel frustrated and I'm in a constant mad scramble to find excuses to do so.


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