Not Broken Yet
The job almost broke me last week. I'm honestly surprised it took so long, but there I was, pulling into my usual parking spot down in Lot 11 and it hit me. Have you ever been so tired that you felt drunk? It was a ridiculously beautiful day. The sun was shining, the skies were blue, the temperature hinted at the coming of spring. I had the sunroof on the car open.* Meatloaf's Paradise By The Dashboard Light had played me to work. What was going to play me the rest of the way- the long walk down the alley and up the hill to work?
I untangled my headphones, plugged them into my phone and shoved them in my ears. Natasha Bedingfield? Maybe Unwritten? Something cheerful and uplifting? I did a quick search and, finding it, hit play. I listened for a moment and shook my head. No, I need something- yes, that was the perfect. I hauled myself out of the car and into the sunshine, slamming the door and slinging the canvas bag that had the various things I hauled to work everyday in it over my shoulder and setting myself to face the task ahead.
I must have looked drunk as I staggered slightly, grim expression on my face, exhaustion pouring off of me as the opening chords to AC/DC's Highway To Hell echoed in my ears. I smiled. Now this was just about perfect.
The last week of February and the first week of March were about as bad as they can get. It was all hands on deck. People were on vacation, getting whatever particular form of plague was sweeping through our tiny Communications Center or desperately fighting off the aforementioned plague as best they could. The train damn near came off the tracks that week- and I cashed in chips with our babysitter (grandma) and put my shoulder to problem along with everyone else- but for the first time in six years of doing this job, I found myself wondering: "what the hell am I doing here?"
There are months where I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. I tripped, fell over sideways and somehow stumbled into a job where you have to think on your feet, multi-task like you wouldn't believe and where every single day is absolutely 100% different. Other people, with their nine-five desk jobs? They could keep those. I got to sit in the eye of the hurricane of chaos and nonsense that most people don't know about and rarely see. In the symphony of weird strangeness and almost anarchy that is life sometimes, I am one of the rare few that gets to hold the baton. Its challenging. It's empowering. It's terrifying, amazing and fun- sometimes all at the same time. But damn, it's getting harder and harder to do.
Overtime becomes less exciting when it keeps you from seeing a wife who's working her ass off and hanging out with kids that are amazing amounts of fun. You start resenting the job when it eats into your time and your life- because after all, without a certain amount of balance and without actual time away, you get surly and bitter- twisted and cynical. You get fed up pretty damn fast. That was that week- a low point, a nadir. (I'm hoping it's a nadir anyway.)
After that week, suddenly a desk job didn't seem so bad. Suddenly the thought of set schedules and weekends off seemed, I don't know- tempting almost. The Missus and might find time to develop a hobby or two... maybe even get friends (real ones, I know- weird, right?) that we see more than twice a year. I'm not going to lie... I started looking. It was dispiriting at first- there was slim pickings out there- but working on the principle that you miss 100% of the shots you don't take, I sent in some applications. I did get a nibble on one and thanks to a night out at an excellent wedding, I totally forgot about the phone interview and thus, for the first time in my life, had a job interview while taking a shit. (I didn't actually tell them that... though maybe I should have.)
I'm not really in a position to take a pay cut- nor am I desperate enough to contemplate doing so without a very good reason, which is why it occurred to me that I might be in the best position of all. Six more years gets me clear of a hefty chunk of my student loans. I don't have to go anywhere. I can look around now and again- keep my nose to the ground for the right opportunity. And if it comes, it comes- but if it doesn't, then I've got a rare commodity: a job that pays me well that I'm actually pretty good at. And that, as they say, ain't nothin'.
We're into the back half of the month now. I'm not sure how I'm going to feel a month from now, but I know that this month the job tried its damnedest to break my in half.
But I'm not broken yet.