Sunday, April 9, 2023

Why I Blog

As with my last couple of posts, writing has been a tricky endeavor. My head feels muddled and it's hard to linearize my thoughts in a manner conducive to a blog post. Still, I try. It's an interesting problem as there is a lot of stuff I want to write about, but there's enough thinking pulling me away from those items. In essence a lack of feeling centered and in the moment; preventing some level of agency in my writing. I'm not sure what to do about it, but to keep scribbling as best I can. 

Heightened anxiety is the best I can attribute this state to. As much as I lament continued lamenting of the new job I think it is the reality that I am a slow adapter to change. Maybe this is a good opportunity to look back to other times I've had some big changes in my life. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately) these times don't happen terribly often.

Working backwards chronologically, the biggest next most recent thing was the divorce. It was a tough time, although I don't feel like as much was "in motion". Things were stable at work at that time, fortunately but everything else was in flux. So what did I do? I wrote about it and I wrote about it and I wrote about it some more. Thus, maybe I shouldn't worry too much about writing about the stresses and discomfort of the new job? It seems to be my natural, maybe a little obsessive, way of dealing with big events. A form of mental processing, filtering and filing to make sense of my new world. 

Maybe the trouble is I spent a long time writing about that, but then went on a bit of a fitness journey and wrote a lot about that. The fitness writing felt like it reached a few people and I liked that. In contrast, the work stress writing feels whiny. The reality is that's okay. All of my writing has been initially meant for me to work through my "stuff". If it's found helpful by others, that's great, but the intent is to help me work through my challenges.

Maybe the next biggest challenge before my big "D" was taking my previous job. That was an exciting time. We had been living out of state for nearly eight years and it was time to move home. Having family close again was excellent and feeling "settled" was welcome. However, I did love my postdoc position in Maryland. I had an excellent peer group, my work felt productive and interesting and living in the Washington DC area was bustling/exciting. There was a little "gray area" time after moving home to MN where my postdoc advisor and I discussed my coming back, but it logistically didn't seem to work or make sense once home.

Thinking back it also took me a while to get comfortable in the full-time role. I specifically remember sitting in a conference room after a meeting about "runcards", the stack of papers/instructions that outlines how a device is made (aka a "traveler"), and thinking I wasn't in that proverbial "Kansas" anymore. It took some time to adjust and adapt, to learn and grow comfortable and competent. 

In a sense, the discomfort (I could even call it pain) is an indicator that growth is happening. There are times that the pain is from a role not being a good fit, or from a dysfunctional work environment, but it takes time and mindfulness to sort out one from the other. One important metric is if I'm feeling myself grow competency and maintaining a curiosity to explore, learn and grow in the new role. I am indeed finding some of this in the current role, however I am also safely finding myself missing working more directly on technical challenges. 

I'm very hands on, an experimentalist and problem solver at heart. This role is more about solving people/resource problems and coordinating getting work done. That said, it sits weird with me. This may indicate that the role may be a stopping point to develop some new skills that I can bring to a more integrated position. Else, it may mean that I need to find a side project or two that I can contribute on.  There are a couple of ideas out there and the idea that I can pursue something like this does create an elevated level of satisfaction. Another thing I'm finding satisfying is the learning about the technology area that my current company aims to be the leader in: quantum computing. 

I've been taking some evenings to indulge in a beer and work through some textbooks on the subject. I am now getting to the point where I'm becoming curious in the actual applications of quantum computing as well as the various physical implementations. 

As you can probably tell I don't really subscribe to the "work to live, don't live to work" cliche. One doesn't usually get their PhD and such to rest on laurels make their mom proud (even if she is). We do it because we love it. Still, I do think there should be some good work-life balance. One aspect I find challenging is the no shortage of household repairs/projects that need to be done. I grew up in a very DIY household. I don't think I've yet brought a car to a mechanic for anything besides new tires or an oil change. This is where the home life can get bogged down in projects I'd rather not be doing, but stubbornness keeps me on them. Home time I'd rather spend working on creative projects, my micro-business or enjoying my kids the last few years before they're off to college/adulthood.

Maybe part of the growth here is to learn to let go of fixing all the things myself and drop a dollar or two on, for example, finishing out my basement bathroom or replacing the clutch on my 5-speed.

This brings up one last area of the new job where I need to take advantage. I'm now in a role that can be done remotely. That means I can travel and work as long as I have a decent internet connection. I need to start abusing the heck out of this, even if it's just heading up to the cabin for the early part of the week. Ideally it would be fun to visit old friends and family as well as see new places. The former there I may ask a little more sparingly, but new sights and life experiences are in order. I wouldn't mind 2nd shifting in Europe or maybe even doing a little magnetics research on the side visitng a lab (my word, I'm a nerd).

After reading over this, the bottom line is I need to keep writing. This post was tough to start, but by the end it has me feeling optimistic, maybe even a little inspired. As usual it was insightful and the words flowed well after I got going.

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