Here I am. I seriously tried reading everything I had posted and it's like walking around in your old high school and going "man... I remember feeling this was who I was... but..."
A lot has changed. I see hits on the site, but have no idea who's actually reading and who are just spiders for spammers. If you're wondering if this story has a happy ending... it does... but here goes...
After the "job security" post I made I spent the next year or so working for that company. I met the love of my life, and we were engaged. About 6 months before the wedding I get called on a Thursday to ask if I'd be available to come to a meeting on Friday. I had been recommended for a different department due to my skills being a perfect fit, so I figured that was exactly what it was. I had been eyeing that transfer for a while, so I made sure I took a nice long shower, ate a hearty breakfast, and dressed up in my best clothes to go in and meet with the director of my (and that) department.
They had me wait in the hall and I get a phone call. It's from my real estate lawyer. I mute it. I had been waiting for almost three months to find out if the offer we made on a short sale was approved by all the banks that owned a piece of it. I figured one good piece of news deserved another! What a day!
I went down to my office where my supervisor was and told him. He laughed at me and kept getting ready for the day. I had to show him that I was carrying a folder full of termination details for him to even believe me. They never even consulted with anyone who supervised my department before choosing who to lay off.
I spent the rest of the morning completely paralyzed. I sat at my desk in a busy office just staring off into space. The union guys I worked with came up one after another as the news got out and all had no idea what it was even like to go through what I was going through... they're union... they don't get laid off, they get no work for a while and then come back when there's work. We company jerks don't get to come back.
I sat for hours just waiting for something to cross my mind. Everything I loved about my life was predicated upon this job. It saved me. I had lost so much weight when I was unemploiyed that people didn't recognize me. I went from eating every other day to paying off my student loans a big chunk at a time. I had just dropped most of my savings on a ring that rivals the stars in the sky and the rest went towards a down payment on a house...
... a house...
I missed a call...
Turns out the bid went through on my house that morning and I was to come in and figure out the closing details ASAP. I called my lawyer and explained what I was going through. I was bracing for another 2 years of starving myself to get by. He listened to everything I had to say and said "I'll call you back. I'm sorry." This is the boring part, but eventually we got our deposit back. Turns out you CAN find someone worth a damn out there if you keep trying.
Something was different this time. I had a partner. My wife and I met when I was at my worst. I couldn't even afford to take her out for lunch. I had to overdraft my checking account to get a round trip ticket to meet her ($16). We just walked around and talked... and I knew I'd be with her for the rest of my life...
even when it's hard... and we got tested early.
Her and I hit the ground running. Got my resume up to date the day after I was let go. I had it professionally printed (300 time) and started spamming it out to everyone who was in a related field, was in the area with a job posting, or had ever responded to any correspondence in the past.
I got zero calls back.
After about 2 weeks of this and going through almost a gig of data sending resumes via email I got a call from a company that wanted someone for a great job. I went for the interview, they told me it was filled that morning, and offered to have me interview for a job of about half the quality. I went through with it and accepted their offer... for half what I was making doing what amounts to data entry at a company that had just been restructured and had no idea what I would be doing.
I spent a few months getting to know everyone and how much I hated data entry. Then I realized that I know enough to make this place better. I met with people all over the company to streamline processes, improve the quality of information we processed, and reduce human hours on projects to the point where my job was all but gone in 3 months. I didn't even care. I was able to do what I love doing... make things better. I went from panicking at 5PM that I couldn't possibly finish all this work to listening to pandora most of the day and playing farmville because there was absolutely zero for me to do. I asked for new projects and crushed them too. I was doing so well I figured they'd give me a medal.
Turns out I was wrong.
People didn't take kindly to the fact that I was questioning processes even when I was able to save the company hundreds of thousands of dollars. I was confused. Why would me spending my time to make the company more profitable make me the bad guy?
Whatever... I'll just keep dominating this job to the ground and picking up more and more responsibilities as I go until I get that pat on the back and "good job."
A few months later and I've been given just about every responsibility in the entire wing of my building and have a direct line to the head of IT who's on orders to do whatever I say to improve the systems beyond where they were at that point. I was riding high... but I still wasn't feeling welcome. I got stuck behind an accident coming back from lunch one day and got in something like 5 minutes late... my boss made sure to point that out and tell me he'd be making a note of that "in my file" (whatever that is). I thought he was kidding... I was staying later and later due to my hatred of traffic and my desire to obliterate any work I could get in front of me. How could someone who comes in an hour and a half early and leaves 2 hours late be beat up for a single instance of 5 minutes behind schedule due to a problem outside of my control?
Oh well... I'll just do this job well...
Then it happened... someone told me that "you obviously don't like it here." I hated it there, but I found my own way to make the best of it. I was doing top tier work and saving the company and our clients a ton of money while also building strong relationships with people who were blown away by the new level of service I was providing. For whatever reason... and this is my biggest self loathing point of interest... I can't tell what people see. I don't even think I'm feeling a way and people can read it on me as if I was wearing a sandwich board.
I didn't believe it at first, but I started paying attention to people's reaction to my presence. I was involved in the same "did you see Dancing with the Stars last night?" crap everyone else was talking about and commenting on how crazy the weather has been recently... but people had a different posture when they talked to me. I started feeling that they hated me and were just being... "nice."
This started creeping in my head and I couldn't let it go. I started just ignoring everyone. If I could be great at my job and complete every task better and faster than it's ever been done before I can be useful That's what an employee is there for, right?
Wrong. I got a strange review. It gave me super high praise for everything I've ever done, but said that I wasn't a great choice for the job with the way I work and they'd like to see me change how I work ASAP.
I didn't get it. Then, my boss, who met his wife back when he was a total maniac badass started talking candidly. "You know, you can be who you are but not show it. People here are afraid of you. Nobody likes working with you even though you make everyone's life easier because... you obviously hate it here and it makes people uncomfortable. There's a lot more to success than how good you are at the job."
Keep in mind I smiled at everyone and always tried to be positive about everything. The late nights, the early mornings, the short lunches, the extra work load, everything was a challenge that I was attacking and trying to show that I was enjoying. The problem was nobody was buying it.
Then I stopped buying it.... I hated that place. After the review I felt just as lost as I did sitting at my desk in the old job after being laid off. It didn't hit me as quickly, but it did. Eventually I'd catch myself letting work pile up and not even having a clue how to get through it. I was no longer masterfully carving up work like a sushi chef... I was sweating uncomfortably in my cube staring at the clock.
I'm motivated in a specific way. I love a challenge and like working without a ton of guidance, but I want to know the goals desired and the standards guiding my decision making. Without goals and standards I get nervous. What makes me feel better is doing unquestionably good work. When I can leave at the end of the day and go "mission accomplished." I feel like a million bucks and sleep like a log. When I have no idea what my work is being judged on because the standards are missing or I have no idea if my decision making is in line with goals I get nervous. Extremely nervous. Like wound tight, knot in my chest, no sleep type nervous. Being told that I am doing the work of a whole wing of the building better than they had ever dreamed it could be done but that they hate me threw me for such a loop that simple tasks started feeling impossible. I would go through a whole project so quickly and know I did it right but at the end start second guessing myself and start over. Then I'd see what made me feel that way and know it was a false positive, but start over...and over... and over until I could do it so quickly and accurately that I was memorizing the thousands of inputs. Then I'd turn in this 1 hour project in 1 hour, but would have done it 5 or 10 times before feeling it was complete. At that point I'd want a "good job" to feel like it wasn't a disaster. Because it was a nothing assignment, it wouldn't even get an eyebrow raise from the person receiving it, so I'd get no closure.
and on and on and on.
I figured this is what life is all about and that I'd just enjoy my time at home. My wife was adjusting to her first real commute and was totally gassed all the time. She'd get home and if I didn't throw a net over her she'd be in pajamas and getting ready for bed within 5 minutes of walking in the door. So, that left me alone with my thoughts most nights. I felt miserable... so I wanted a dog. I attacked that project like anything else and within a month had researched every dog training/socialization method I could find, met, temperament tested, and spent time with over 100 pit bull terriers. I've always loved the breed but never had one of my own. I brought home my 4 year old boy and now at least someone was ready to play and cuddle when I walked in the door. It helped to have something really fun at home that depended on me. I'd take him for long walks, play in the yard, and cuddle with him on the couch every chance I got. It felt nice. I was distracted from everything else that had happened because he didn't give a crap about my job. He just wanted me to throw the ball so he could go get it.
I was falling into a groove (rut) where I just did everything I could do to survive the day and get home to my dog and looked forward to weekends with my wife. Again, I figured this was just what everyone else deals with and eventually I'd figure it all out. The problem was I wasn't sleeping. I would seriously sit and just read endless news stories, play stupid games I wasn't even enjoying, or just listen to music until 2 or 3 in the morning before finally feeling like I could sleep. I didn't want to go back. Sleep meant I had to go back. I would put off sleep as long as I could. I would feel terrible by Friday night, but I'd be ready to actually to go to bed when my wife was ready to sleep too.
I was feeling that anxiety I felt when unemployed again. Money was super tight due to the low wage I was pulling and the mortgage that I was fighting month to month.
Oh, almost forgot to mention... every penny I'd ever saved was gone by the time the wedding was over with. The wedding was small, but we paid for it ourselves. That plus the down payment on the house and I was starting at literal zero dollars.
Then something special happened.
I got a call from an old friend who was laid off later in the same day I was and he said something that lifted me right back out of this funk "I got a job doing the same stuff we did together at a new place down the street and they are looking for people. I gave them your name. Email me your resume immediately."
I was called to schedule an interview that day. I was hired on the spot. I'm good at what I do and they didn't have time to train anyone, so they had very little choice. I only stayed in the cube for 7 months total. I was only able to give a week's notice or the job offer was being pulled. I said goodbye to the people who I thought were different. The ones that really were a pleasure to work with. Each one of them was like "yeah, shocked you made it this long..." I hated them all by the time I left. My boss left a half hour early that night so I had to leave all my company issued stuff in a pile outside his office with a note thanking him for the opportunity and asking for him to understand why I had to leave.
I have been at this job for about 4 years now.
What did I learn from that experience? My wife is the true love of my life. I'm so lucky to have found her. I think back to the choices I made that ended with me not getting a real NFL shot (I was signed and cut before I ever made it to camp one time). When I do it all stops being fun when I think about how I'd of never met my wife. I picture myself chasing her down the street going "YOU'LL LIKE ME IF YOU GIVE ME A CHANCE!" and her being all "BEAT IT, CREEP." It's funny to think about, but it helps keep things in perspective.
The other thing I learned is that there are a hell of a lot of very mediocre people in business that go very far and live very comfortable lives based on them being status quo. Doing better than the average gets you nowhere. Doing worse doesn't even matter all that much either as long as nobody ever catches you not enjoying your job. I've done a decent job of pretending that I'm happy all the time (which is statistically impossible even though I love my job). I've also stopped trying to improve things anymore. I want to do just enough to prove I'm good enough and then fade into the background. I realized that my motivation to go above and beyond came from my belief that you get what you deserve. You don't. You get what people are comfortable giving you. If you are a threat due to being too good or you aren't seen as the kind of guy who'd be fun to play a round of golf with... then you get to carry the load while everyone else makes the money, gets the respect, and moves upwards.
Then there's being too easy to keep. Some people are just so good and so low maintenance that they never go anywhere, but they also are never hassled. These guys go their whole careers doing the same job and are happy that way. That terrifies me, but I've been learning step by step that I don't know anything, maybe that'd be preferable to scratching and clawing for scraps. Who knows?
Screw all that introspection and nonsense... I am a father now! I love my life. I could be happier theoretically, but why should I be? I've got everything I ever wanted.
Do I live happily ever after? Who cares? If I found myself panhandling tomorrow I'd still be able to say with confidence that everything I've done since I met my wife to today was worth it and a total success. I may not be doing what I thought I'd be at this point. I may have goals I haven't reached yet... and my truck still isn't finished, but I wouldn't want it any other way.
Goodbye for now. I'll try to write again soon, but if I don't, know I lived happily ever after.