Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Life Wounds

Ok, I originally thought that my most recent post belonged only on my "You know you're an adult when..." blog. But the more I think about it, the more I believe that it belongs here too.

This is me. This is who I am at this moment in time.

So, rather than duplicate it all on this blog, you can find the original posting by clicking here:
You know you're an adult when... get your dream job, and then someone tells you that you've failed completely at it.

Coincidentally, two of my best friends in the world have gone through similar experiences in the past six months. It's like a virus, or the Gen X version of a (pre-mature) mid-life crisis. (Who has a mid-life crisis at the age of 32?!?) I won't say that misery loves company, because I wouldn't wish this experience on anyone. But I will say that I take courage from the fact that I'm not alone. They're both surviving, improvising, adapting, and possibly even overcoming, so I have hope that I might too.

One of my friends has a saying, "Life is hard for stupid people." That's a basic truth. Stupid people make bad decisions, which put them in difficult situations, from which they have fewer options and make even worse decisions. I've been hearing her say that for years, and the whole time, I've been smugly relying on a theory implied by the inverse of that truth, which is, "The smarter you are, the easier your life should be." And then, suddenly, the bottom dropped out of the theory, and I have been decimated to find out that being smart isn't enough. Oh, and by the way, working hard, having good intentions, and desiring to be productive and successful aren't enough either.

Life is hard.

Life is certainly not fair.

(Actually, in the grand scheme of things, that might be a good thing. "Fair" isn't all it's cracked up to be.)

...I'm not seeing any upside to the "Life is hard" thing, though...

Monday, March 27, 2006

You know you're an adult when... get your dream job, and then someone tells you that you've failed completely at it.

NOTE: This entry was originally posted in a different blog, but after Blogger added the label feature, I decided to consolidate everything here.

WARNING: This entry isn't going to be a light-hearted as the other postings on "YKYAAW..."

I have three blogs, and they fall into three distinct categories:

  1. My day-to-day blog - Also includes travel and vacation stories.
    (It's now out-of-date by 2.5 vacations, but that's not really the point right now.)

  2. Wonder - Thoughts about philosophy and religion.

  3. YKYAAW - This blog was originally conceived as a pseudo-ironic look at how a person occasionally (and unexpectedly) realizes that he or she is actually becoming a grown-up, even though he or she may really feel like a little kid just pretending to fit into adult society.

Unfortunately, the subject matter at hand fits most closely into the YKYAAW category. And so, instead of some light anecdote, you're going to get a full dose of reality here. Ready?

I have worked at the same company for the past eight years. Within the first year of starting work, I knew that I wanted to be a Design Engineer in R&D, and for almost six years, I pursued that goal relentlessly. A year and a half ago, that dream came true, and I finally, officially became a Senior Design Engineer. In January, I received my first performance appraisal-- which was basically, in a nutshell, "Your performance is completely inadequate, you're on probation, and you have 90 days to convince us not to fire you." Two years ago, I got the highest rating possible (reserved for just a handful of people in the entire company) and a huge bonus. So this was a shock, to put it mildly.

Since then, I've gone through several of the 5 stages of coping with catastrophic news:

  1. Denial & Isolation - Yep, been there, done that.

  2. Bargaining - I'm trying to figure out if making contingency plans for a lawsuit falls under "Bargaining" or "Denial"

  3. Anger - Oh, yeah, I've definitely fallen down hard right in the middle of this one.

  4. Depression - Plenty of this one too.
    I cry...a lot. If you count the days when I break down sobbing vs. the days that I just manage to hold on by my fingernails, I'm probably averaging about 50/50.
    And I'm really tired, all the time. Of course, lying awake all night thinking about work will do that to you. And even when I am asleep, I still can't escape from those thoughts-- On Saturday night, I had a very disturbing, very realistic dream about running away from my life.

  5. Acceptance - I didn't think I was here yet, but last night I found myself filling out an application to go back to school for an entirely different career, so maybe I'm starting to dabble in this one.

(Oh, and I also think that Humiliation, Frustration, and Overwhelming Indecision need to be added into the middle of that list as well.)

Sometimes, it feels like it takes every bit of courage I've got just to get out bed and go to work. I wake up with a headache that starts in the muscles on the sides of my skull, and by the time I swipe my badge and walk in the door to my office, I feel like I'm carrying a 25 lb lead weight in my stomach. By 10am, the headache has encompassed my entire scalp, and my throat is sore because I forget to swallow when my jaw is continuously clenched. By 4pm, I'm mentally & physically exhausted from the stress, and I still have a few more hours of work ahead of me.

I am trying to keep some sort of perspective. Certainly, things could be worse. No one in my family is sick or dying, my husband is a source of strength, and we have enough savings to survive for awhile if I do lose my job. But I've been looking, and I'm just not seeing the silver lining here, or even the light at the end of the tunnel.

I feel wounded.


And I'm starting to wonder if courage even means what I've always thought it means. Because right now it just feels like a word that describes a lack of any better options. What are my options? Should I fight? Should I quit? Right now I don't even know which option is fighting and which one is quitting.

The thing is... it's still my dream job. I can't think of anything else that I would rather do. I love being an engineer, and I thought I was good at it. Certainly, it's a huge part of my identity, which is exactly why this ordeal has made a such deep wound that hurts all the way down to my core.

What I'm wondering now is... Will it heal? Soon? Eventually? Or do I need to cut it out like a disease and throw it away? How deep will the scars go? How long will it take for them to fade?

How obvious is it that I'm broken?