Broccoli and a hard place

This post is not going to be easy to write, not because the words are hard but because it means facing up to difficult things.  But without the facing-up-to, the difficulties will just continue to exist, elsewhere, where I can’t get my hands on them.  I’m grateful for the writing, to help me face the hard stuff.

I have been of many minds about work this year, from tearing anxiety to actual happiness and contentment to worry to fear about leaving to fear about staying to frustration to resentment to regret.  Overall, it has not been a positive trend.  A few weeks ago I was pushed to the point of simply wanting to drop everything and leave  — no alternate employment ready, no ideas for what I wanted to do next, just desperation to make the unhappiness stop.  It was not a considered decision and I’m glad I didn’t go through with it.  But I also haven’t been able to believe that I can really go back to being happy and content where I am, doing what I’m doing.  Not anymore.

There are better days and worse days, but in general, most of my days are not very good.  It’s not that they are actively bad, though; I work for a really good company and with really good people, I mean genuinely good human beings who I like.  I don’t have a boss looking over my shoulder every other minute, I have enormous flexibility regarding my schedule, I’m well respected, I’m well paid.  All to the good, yes?

But not enough.  I look at the list of good things, and it’s still not enough.  I’ve been staring at this fact for weeks, trying to understand what on earth I’m looking for if it’s not this.  Seriously, how many people are desperate to find any kind of job right now, and I’m discontented with this situation?

The thing is, you can have great huge gobs of the wrong things, and they don’t make up for not having the right ones.  This week, after a very helpful session with a counselor and some pondering on my own, I think I can name the thing I don’t have, that makes everything else just piles of wrongness:  challenge.  I’m bored.  I’m alternately twiddling my thumbs, or else completely disinterested in what I’ve got to do.  I really hate to say it; I feel like an enormous whiny selfish brat saying that out loud.  With so many people overworked and stressed or not having any job at all, I’ve got a job that looks wonderful according to specs, and I’m unhappy because I’m bored?

You, my clever readers, may well think here, “There’s a solution to that, why don’t you ask your employers if they’ve got more challenging work?”  I could; in fact I know there are challenging things that need to be undertaken.  The next problem is … I just don’t want to undertake them.  I work on the technical staff of my company, in a technical job — the things they are going to ask me to do will be technical in nature.  And I just … don’t want to do this kind of technical work anymore.  Computers can be useful tools for making things, but my job has not involved much making; I’m one of the people who implements the things other people make, and answer questions so they can get on with their making, and fix things when they get broken.  It’s troubleshooting and problem-solving and can occasionally present interesting puzzles, and I’ve proven myself fairly good over the years at solving the problems or circumventing them.  But my real love is making things.  Words, yarn, fabrics, connections, ideas, music, stories, laughter.  I don’t get to make any of those things, or much of anything else, in the job I have.  I used to enjoy it more, but I don’t now.  It feels empty.  I try to care, I try to engage, but I have not been able to, not for a long while.

So I’m in this place that feels a lot like getting really hungry, and asking the people in charge of food if I can please have some.  And they say “certainly, here’s a nice big bowl of broccoli, eat up.”  Which is all well and good, except I hate broccoli.  It’s a worthy vegetable and I’m sure very healthy for the people who can stomach it, but I’m not one of them.  My metaphorical choices, then, are to keep getting hungrier and hungrier, or to force myself to choke down something that repels me.  I wobble back and forth, getting hungry enough to have a nibble, and then I gag and go back to starving.

But while I’m moping over my broccoli, there are people who are really starving, people who have nobody to give them food at all, and have been trying hard to find someone in charge of some food, who would love to have my broccoli because it’s far better than truly having nothing.  So I have this broccoli I don’t want, and feel guilty for not appreciating it more and eating it up and asking for more broccoli.  Even though I just don’t like it and I don’t know how to engage it or try to make it more palatable.

I really do feel like a whiny git, writing this out.  Like a spoiled kid who wants things to just be different, and doesn’t know or care about the realities of the world that make “just be different” impossible.  I’m grown up enough to know that the world doesn’t always change, that I cannot expect life to be easy and uncomplicated, that I have accepted responsibilities and need to carry them out as well as I can, including the responsibilities of my employment.  I feel that I am carrying them very poorly, and I wish that it were a valid option to simply put them down, to cleanly and honestly leave them behind; or else take them back in a firmer grasp and carry them better again.  I don’t see my way clear to doing either.  I don’t have anything to put them down in favor of, and I have been unable to live up to my own sense of how I ought to carry what I have.  I have gotten this far, but I’m still left in a hard place; I really don’t know what to do.

My taiji master said something during class on Monday evening; that anything half-done looks like a failure.  A cake half-baked is a gloopy mess; a house half-built is a set of sticks with some wires and bits sticking through them.  My living reality includes this gloopy, half-built mess that is my job, and my longing for change, and my confusion and tiredness.  Part of me, even tired and confused, still believes that there are other things in the world for me to do; that I’m not stuck, I’m just half-done.  All I can do tonight is pray that the work will go on; that I may have the strength to stay in the oven a while longer; that I will be enabled to grasp the hammer and keep building.

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5 comments so far

  1. Lynn on

    OMB, boredom is the WORST thing ever! Yeah, yeah, children are starving, there are wars on, yadda yadda, but seriously, boredom is really soul-sucking, especially for intelligent, creative people.

    So, look for something different to do and try to think of it this way: When you leave your job for one you like more, your job will open up for someone else to take. And that person might be ecstatic about your old job. That’s a GOOD thing.

  2. Barbara on

    It sounds as though you are narrowing in on what you would like to be doing instead of just general dissatisfaction. For now your current job provides you with the financing to search and equip yourself for the next step in your journey through life.
    I have never heard it was a law that something that interested you for X number of years has to interest you for the rest of your life.
    I hated broccoli most of my life while my husband loves it. I know it’s healthy so we eat it a couple of times a week and now I merely dislike it and can eat a whole serving before gagging. Just don’t ask me to put cauliflower or brussel sprouts in my mouth.
    Best wishes on your journey of self discovery.

  3. brother on

    Please keep your taiji master’s words in mind, “that anything half-done LOOKS like a failure”. Give this portion of your life enough time to evolve. Plus I’ve known that your only “half-baked” for years. (HA)

  4. Loredena on

    My first few jobs, I hit the ‘bored, not learning, need a challenge’ at the 2 year mark. The next couple of jobs I lasted longer, but by the time I left I was in a black cloud funk that was worse than I had realized. Challenge is critically important! So is creating — for me, programming was creating, and I still miss it at times, is it an option for you?

    Also, I had a bit of a trend — the first sign that I was bored and needed a new job was when I started registering for every crafting class the local recreational center offered (seriously, not just pottery or basketweaving, but ornament making!). That generally satisfied the learn/challenge/create urges for long enough for me to find my next new thing.

    Consider your current job as funding and security to prepare for you next one :) do a good job while there, but don’t let it define you or take over the rest of your life (part of the soul-sucking for me was so often the support end of my job meant evening/weekend/holiday work, to the detriment of my health and sanity).

  5. Liz on

    I don’t think you’re whining at all. It’s difficult to try to figure out why things aren’t working when on the face of it, everything is better than good. Figuring out what’s missing and where you might go to get that fulfillment is good, but keep in mind that you don’t need to leap off the cliff without a parachute. What Loredana said above applies to anything you might end up doing.

    The absolute worst that happens is that the path you think you were preparing for turns hard left and you end up somewhere new and different. Take truck driving as f’r’instance. Huz loves driving, and spent the coin and time and uncertainty to get a job doing it. He hated it, but he’d never have known without trying. (He’s back at the job he quit to drive)

    Sure, there’s a risk that changing everything ends up changing nothing, and you’d become just as stifled on your new path, but if you don’t try, you’ll never know.


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