Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Existential pains

It's been a hard week. My company, and my responsibilities in particular, got hit hard by an outside audit. When it's all over, I'm expecting disciplinary action (though probably not a suspension; there's too much work to do to have me out). That's in part due to the fact that so many of the things were supposed to be maintained by fixed since the last audit, then maintained by me. Fixed, I did. Maintained, less so. I'm not good at ongoing projects (refer to my ongoing blog series). I tend to let everyday things go by the wayside for larger, more immediate projects. I suck at balancing them, partially because balance would add more time to the job I already work 9 or 10 hours a day for (excluding lunch).

I don't like that.

I'm paid well (probably better than I should be), the organization is a loyal one, and the company is headed in a good direction. It's the longest-term job I've ever had, by far. I also stopped enjoying it a long time ago. I mean, I still love delving into the numbers and producing a written work of art about a product. I don't like that my job has become a catch-all for problems, though. It often seems like nothing in the whole building is going right, and it's my job to look into each and every incident. Honestly, that's close to what I do, anyway, but add in every urgent report that anyone needs to make a customer, auditor, or government happy. Someone was instructed to take a couple of pieces of everyday work off my desk, and later asked, "How many of these are you supposed to do? There's not enough time." Time is what I'm short of. I'd love to have a career instead of a job, and that's sort of where I've been heading with this company, until recently. A career that takes time away from my family is too much, though. Yesterday, I completely missed my son. He was asleep when I left, and asleep when I got home. It was his first day of first grade, and after the hellish experience that we all had in his first semester of kindergarten, I wanted to spend some time with him and talk, sit, and relate. I did call him, when it became evident I was unlikely to make it, but it's not the same. I barely spoke to my wife after my 15-hour day before we went to bed.

That where the "existential dread" sorta comes in. I'm a high-anxiety sort of person, though not as badly as I once was. Ten or fifteen years ago, this week would have seen me huddled in a whimpering ball in a corner somewhere. Now, I just tend to not eat (as I'm writing this, the sum total of food eaten in the last 60 (correction because I was interrupted; 62) hours is 4 pop-tarts, one and a half bananas, a couple of glasses of milk, and a gallon or so of water), and not sleep well. What gets me though, is that it makes me realize that I've been mising out on my wife and kids. I was very happy some months back when my schedule altered so that I see them all before I leave the house. That doesn't happen so much, anymore.

The "existential" part of this sort of goes along with my godless attitude. I don't believe in an afterlife, so what I've got now is it. So when something forces me to miss out on my family, friends, and enjoyment, I get serious pangs of regret. I functioned rather well at work this week, overall, but when I tried to talk to my wife on the phone, I nearly broke down almost every time. I missed a milestone yesterday, one that I won't get back. There are a lot of those, but I have to wonder how missing any of them is worth it. I only get one chance to be a good husband and raise my kids. I screw that up often enough as it is; I don't need my employer to help out. But, again, it's a good job. It lets us live comfortably enough that we don't have to worry about money, which is a big concern for anyone right now. As hard as they worked. my parents had to raid my piggybank to buy bread and milk sometimes. We even got the proverbial "government cheese" on occasion. I know that killed them a little inside, because they had to sometimes worry about where the next meal is coming from. My kids have never had to face that, and I don't want them to while it's my responsibility (they can starve a little when out on their own; everyone should have to, for a while). So, I think it's a little selfish of me to give up (or screw up) a stable job to be happier with myself and my kids, when it may be hurtful in other ways. And, no matter what, I only get one chance to do it right.

With my track record, that scares the hell out of me.

So, it might be comforting to think that it's all going to sort itself out in the end, on a faraway shore, in a fairytale place where all is right and good. I don't believe it for a minute. People selling tomorrow always want payment today. And, aside from that, I know that today is here, so I should take today for me and mine. Tomorrow isn't a guarantee, regardless of the promises made. I've got to grasp what I know is real. When you can trust in something higher, it absolves you from making the wrong decision; I don't have that luxury. Consequences aren't out of my control (they aren't out of anybody's control, but I have to take responsibility for mine). That makes for a hell of a decision-making process, and the choices are as likely to be as irrational as any. I have to weigh different levels and kinds of harm, which means there's really no good option. It'll never get any easier, though. I'll just have to live with that, at least once.