TagLife

What I want to be when I grow up

I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. When I was young, I wanted to work as a designer and one day own a design shop. I laid out newspapers in college in print. Then when the web became a medium of its own, I started learning HTML and CSS and tried to expand my work there.

I graduated college with a degree in Creative Advertising. It taught me I didn’t want to work in advertising. I wanted to work in design. But the economy was terrible and I had to find a job.

I fell into tech support. First supporting a rollout of Windows XP computers. Then moving into the world of quick printing then back to tech support. I’ve worked in some version of technical support since 2007.

In the past decade I’ve worked in some interesting places and some I’d rather forget. I find the challenge in solving problems fascinating. But fixing the same problem every day is a fast path to burnout.

I got out of straight technical support and fell into event management and webinars. An opportunity presented itself and I took it. And now a couple of years later, I find myself at another crossroads. I’ve hit a place where I need to make a major decision.

Where do I go with my career?

What I do

I could keep doing what I’m doing and work in Rich Media and Unified Communications. Explaining WebEx and teleconferencing to people. Organizing upgrades and planning future applications and tools to help communications.

I enjoy the technical challenges of building out a system for our customers. I want to help make their life easier and worry less about technology and more about what they do. I don’t want a chemist to worry about her WebEx account. I want her worrying about chemistry.

What I could do

Technical Writing / Documentation

I also have an interest in technical writing and documentation. I like to document how things work. I enjoy testing them to see how systems and applications work in practice. I need to know how something works and write it down so I remember it later.

I enjoy explaining how things work. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned and writing out detailed steps to repeat a process. I’ve always prided myself on my documentation work and always made a point to document as much as I could. Either for my team (or myself) or the customer.

I live by the idea of helping out Future Carl. I’m going to need this again and I won’t remember when I do so I better write it down. If I don’t help Future Carl out, who will?

Event Planing

There were aspects of my last job around event planning I enjoyed. I enjoyed the logistical planning for successful events. Granted, I was working in a single building (most of the time) and with a set group of people (government employees).

But I worry about the long-term appeal of the work. Will it get old after a short time? Will it be fulfilling? Or stressful?

Technical Track

I could go more technical. Find a path to take I enjoy. Whether it be in the realm of Unified Communications & Rich Media where I am now. Or if I take another branch from the tree of technology.

The problem with that is I don’t know what I want to do with myself. There are lots of things that seem interesting. But are they hobbies, fleeting interests or solid career paths?

The common thread in all my work is helping people and making things work better. I want to take the challenge out of technology and make it work for the people who need it. Not the other way around. I want to help people do their work better. I need to figure out how best to do that in a fulfilling and profitable way.

Here is a promise, and a fact: you will never, in your life, ever have to deal with anything more than the next minute. However much it feels like you are approaching an event – an exam, a conversation, a decision, a kiss – where, if you screw it up, the entire future will just burn to hell in front of you and you will end, you are not.

— From “You were not born scared and self-loathing”: Read Caitlin Moran’s heartfelt open letter to troubled teenage girls

Adulting

When I was a teenager, being an adult frightened me. I had no idea how to be an adult. All of the things I would have to manage as an adult seemed overwhelming. There was just so much and it would never stop. It would never get easier.

Now that I’m in my 30s and can look back on my teenage years and with my 20s fading into my past. I am less afraid. But I still have no idea what I am doing. But that’s the thing. No one has any idea what they’re doing. We are all doing our best. We are all figuring out this thing called life one day at a time.

We are all faking it as adults. We all struggle.

No one has everything together and I want to say that out loud because it helps to hear it.


Recently, I read a post called Supposed to be where the author talks about his struggles with depression and weight.

So the first time I took a walk in the summer heat aimed at ‘starting a program’ I actually hoped I might die. I’ve written this before elsewhere and told people, but I’m convinced their reaction is to think I’m being dramatic. I’m not. I shuffled along those pretty wooded trails in that hilly park by our home in Georgia and by the time I reached a ridge where there was a slight breeze and the peaceful rush of the Big Creek below, I thought, very clearly, hopefully I’ll die here. A man the size I was at the time, with my uncontrolled hypertension, well, I was supposed to die in that situation.

He struggles and he succeeds. It’s not easy. But he finding success with hard work and determination. He is doing his best. We are all doing our best. This is something worth repeating.

We all struggle. We all do the best with the life we have. It’s hard for everyone. No one has a perfect life where they face no adversity. We are all trying our best. In the age of social media where everyone posts their highlight reel for their friends and family to see, we don’t post about the rest of our days.

Recently, I saw a video that puts this into perspective. It asks a simple question:

Facebook can be depressing because everyone else’s lives are better than yours… But are they really?
httpv://youtu.be/QxVZYiJKl1Y

We don’t post about our sadness.
We don’t post about our failures.
We don’t post about the days we’re too sick to get out of bed.
We post the best parts of us.

But it’s not the whole picture.
We all fail.
We all struggle.
We all have bad days.

But we don’t share those. We fear if we do, people will stop following us. We’ll lose friends online. We will be facing a truth no one wants to publicly admit.

Life is hard.
We’re all in this together.
Let’s try to help each other.

Contractor’s Dissociation

I tell people “I work at the National Cancer Institute.” Not “I’m a contractor working for Terrapin Systems supporting the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health.” Partially because it’s a mouthful but mostly because they’re eyes glaze over and they want suddenly want to talk about the weather.

Being a government contractor often means having very little contact with the company I actually work for and pays my salary. I work on the client site. For the client.

I am one of them.

Scarlet CONTRACTOR Letters

Scarlet CONTRACTOR Letters

It’s a strange dissociation. Some contracting companies are very hands on. I’ll interview at their offices for their people initially. I will meet HR and Finance people in addition to the recruiter. I will meet my manager-to-be if I’m hired. I will know the faces attached to the phone numbers and email addresses. It all feels very real.

Other contacting firms might as well be ghosts. I’ve never met the people. Never been to their offices. I don’t even know where the offices are. Sure, I have an address but it’s still not real. It’s just a number on a page. I know they exist because my salary gets paid. And I get emails from people I don’t know and will never meet.

It’s a strange life, that of a contractor. I often think of it as being a hired gun or a nomad. Roaming from job to job. Learning a new language. A new culture. Then doing it all over again in a few years. In the world of IT Support, every job is the same. But every company is different. Changing jobs is all about unlearning everything I know culturally about where I am but transferring my technical knowledge and soft skills to the new place.

It’s like moving to a new school. All the subjects are the same. There’s a gymnasium and a cafeteria. There’s a track and rows of lockers. But everyone is different. I am the stranger. I have to make new friends. I have to learn new social norms and expectations.

I would love to live my grandparent’s ideal. I would love to work for one company for 20 years and never think about leaving. I want a company to invest in me. But that’s not the world I work in.

I will never work for one company for 50 years, retire and receive a pension. I will never be taken care of by a company I’ve committed my life to. That world no longer exists. I’ve never worked anywhere more than 3 years. I’ve been laid off in budget cuts. I’ve been fired. I’ve left for a whole host of reasons. My mother is fond of say I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. And it’s true. I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.

Perspective

It is important to gain perspective away from the keyboard. To remember there is more to life than sitting behind the keyboard and reporting like as it happens. Sometimes when I sit and photograph an event happening or write about it, I am not truly living in that moment. I am a reporter on the scene, live from my life.

It is really important to keep up my sanity and get out to live my life. This afternoon I did just that. After having to work yesterday morning, my wife and I took a walk around the downtown area of Bethesda, MD where we moved this past February.

Moving to a new place in the midst of winter is always a challenge to explore an enjoy. It is so cold, it is not pleasant or enjoyable to go out and see this new city you now call home. Now that spring has sprung, it is a perfect time to walk around the city and see the flowers in full bloom.

It is also a perfect temperature to spend a couple of hours touring local shops and browsing all the wares and goods for sale. We also spent some time looking through a local flea market which is always exciting because you never know what you might find.

We ended the afternoon with frozen yogurt being our only buy and with a half-dozen new restaurants on our “to try” list. Overall, it was a perfect spring day ending with dinner with Annie’s father since our mothers are both over 4 hours away. So we chose the nearest family member we could to enjoy a meal with.

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