Careful what you wish for

I just went beyond two weeks without posting anything new. What have I been up to?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Bored. That’s the only accurate description. I go to work and then wait for something to happen. I wait for some problem—preferably a crisis—that requires my attention. But it doesn’t happen. Everyone is too good at their job. No one needs a bail-out.

When I started at my company eleven years ago, something came up almost every day. Not only were we insolvent, but the company directors, those eight people who ran the operations, made up the rules as they went. We were constantly trying to undo some misguided action. Those were the fun days.

As the years went by, things settled down. The ‘loose cannon’ employees moved on (or were shown the door) and new, stable managers replaced them. We created and then recreated policies until we got them right. We figured out how to earn money and not spend it so fast. All the excitement is gone. Boredom.

Somewhere along the way, I went astray. My productivity sank, I became forgetful. I worked sloppily and therefore slowly. I became depressed, clinically so. Not a lot, just enough to put the brakes on my life. To put me in a holding pattern. It took me years to figure this out.

It seems I’m always looking for a crisis. Last winter I got one. My depression escalated rapidly and deeply. Suddenly I was sad; I was confused; I was irritable; I was stuck in bed when I was supposed to be heading out to work. Now I wasn’t doing anything at home either. I’d become a zombie.

The psychiatrist nailed it on her first attempt. She prescribed Wellbutrin, an anti-depressant, and it worked immediately. I woke up from my sleep. I looked around and found that most of my life was crowded out while I was inattentive. Tall, hardy weeds had surrounded me. My area of influence had become a tiny, poorly manicured circle in the center of a large, overgrown field. The only relationships I’d maintained were with my wife and my two kids, and those needed work. My interests were now simply running and writing.

In the four months since awakening, I’ve worked to rebuild my life. My personal life is a work in process, I’m still catching up. But my work life quickly straightened out. I attacked the tasks I’d been putting off for years (filing!). I reworked analyses I’d already completed with more accurate results. My day-to-day tasking, I completed in a fraction of the day.

So now I’m bored.

I’ve wanted a new job for seven years. I’ve wanted new challenges, better compensation, a new start. But I haven’t been ready. Five years ago, I sent out a flurry of resumes, and I was called in for a handful of interviews.

And while I easily get the interview, landing the job is the trick.

My performance in person never matches the employee portrayed on my resume. On my resume, I’m capable and sharp. My skills are boundless, I dabble in everything. I’m a take-charge person who is useful in any company.

This is all true and accurate, but I have a clear fault. I’m not “quick on my feet.” I never have an answer right off the cuff. I need to mull, to contemplate, make notes. I need to run the scenarios in my mind. I need twenty minutes to give an impressive answer.

This trait doesn’t transfer well to a job interview. When I’m asked those what-if questions we’re taught to expect, my mind goes blank. My answers are always incomplete… or incomprehensible. If they sent me the questions in advance and let me think about them, write up some answers and present them in a briefing, these prospective employers would be wowed. But give me fifteen seconds to formulate my thoughts and you’re going to get crap.

Last month, I sent out three resumes. These three jobs would each be a nice increase in responsibilities—or at least an interesting new challenge. Two of those organizations called me in to interview. My challenge: meet the promise of my resume; appear well-organized and intelligent; be as clear and concise as my well-crafted resume.

Besides my slow working brain, I’m hamstrung with social anxiety. Possibly these are, in fact, related. Because my brain works slowly, I have trouble in social situations. The normal give and take of a conversation eludes me.

Here’s a conversation I had today.

Dan: Hi Jeff.

Me: Hey, How’re you doing?

Dan: Good, how ‘bout you?

Me: I’m good. So, how are you?

Dan: I’m still good…

I simply can’t think of the next thing to say. I don’t know how to continue the conversation.

To some degree, I can turn this off in a work situation. When I’m discussing the task at hand, I can stay focused and keep on track. But even in work conversations there are opening pleasantries and a polite wrap-up. And this is where I stumble. Especially the wrap-up. The conversation lags, I’m awkward, I panic. I walk away leaving the person hanging halfway through a story—or sometimes even a sentence. Or I stay too long and we stare at each other. I never know the right time to quit.

My two initial interviews went well. I rarely stumbled, and I walked away from each surprised and impressed by my relaxed performance. But the first job I interviewed for, the CFO of a Lutheran Seminary, was a terrible fit. For starters, I’m not even Christian. I gave that up years ago, when I decided I didn’t agree with many of the basic tenets.

On top of that, extensive travel is required. I’m a homebody. I thrive on routine. Every day is the same. News and writing in the morning, a book before bed. Work and a run during the hours in between. Any additional time is spent with my family. I don’t want to travel. I want my life exactly like it is now but with a different job. I want to spend the next half-dozen years with my kids as they’re getting ready to turn into adults.

I was simply unable to muster the necessary enthusiasm during the interview to get a call back.

The interview with the other company, I fairly nailed. I’ve now had my second interview as the Director of Operations of a bilingual charter school. As if they read my mind, for the follow-up interview, I was asked to prepare (in advance) a ninety-day work plan. They’ve called my references and now I’m waiting. A fifty-fifty chance. I’ll get the job or I won’t, and this is where the anxiety hits. I might change jobs. I might shake up my life for the first time in eleven years.

There’s an age-old saying “Be careful what you wish for, it might come true.”

Or I might not get the offer. I might not be the right fit. Someone else might be better. There’s probably a saying about this, too.

It makes me sick to think about it.

I should know in a day or two.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And now I know. I received and accepted an offer. I start a new phase of my life on July 17.

11 thoughts on “Careful what you wish for

  1. I was a wonderfully organized and creative employee before I retired. But my social skills….. well, I can’t really call them skills. I say hello to a stranger, just to be friendly; they look the other way and ignore me; my day is ruined. The social world perplexes me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations on the new start. Change is exhilarating. And scary. And exciting. And terrifying. I’m glad you took the leap! P.S. You are not alone in your trouble with the polite small talk niceties. I have a habit of negating the “good-bye” portion and just hanging up the phone at the end of a conversation. It’s been pointed out sometimes the other person may not be aware the conversation is over, but in my introverted head I know it is and move on.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations on your new job! I kind of know how you feel about being bored – I’ll be ending my stint as a news journalist for a local daily tomorrow, and in spite of myself I can’t help but miss the adrenaline from chasing stories, teasing quotes from sources and jamming out articles on barely a moment’s notice. Hope you have fun! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have those same social anxiety issues and awkward conversations. I never know how to end a conversation. I definitely prefer texting over phone calls even though I’m an age group who should prefer phone calls.
    Anyways, we just keep going and challenging ourselves. Congrats on your new job!


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