An Anxious Musikalischer Mittwoch

So, I’m having that kind of week.  One of those tense, anxious, awful weeks where all manner of things from work to car to house, even the cat is adding to my worries.  To be honest, I’ve not really be that tuned in to the music I’ve listened to this week, although I have to admit that when certain songs have come up on rotation, I’ve been far less likely to compulsively hit the skip button.

One of those songs is the appropriately titled “Anxiety” by Ladyhawke, appropriately–though I didn’t know this until 5 minutes ago–from one of the countries I recently visited, New Zealand (and not to be confused with Ladyhawk sans e, the band from Vancouver, BC., although they’re good, too)

As I’ve said, I’ve not necessarily been that focused on what I was hearing, so I won’t try to fake any kind of meaningful analysis of the song.  It’s basically pure co-incidence that the song title fits the mood of this week, I couldn’t tell you if the lyrics really match up, though.  Clearly something about the sound must be preventing me from hitting skip, but I’m not sure what.  I’m sure when I’m more clear-headed I’ll have a better idea of why this tune is spared the skip this week when so many of my usual go-to songs have been callously passed over more than once (I think yesterday was the first time I ever willingly skipped past George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning”….).

At any rate, “Anxiety” has been moved up to a 5 star rating on my iPod.

I fail at Vacation

I’m one of those people who can almost always summon the energy needed to get through the task at hand. I can function on four hours sleep per night for a couple of weeks at a time in order to survive the end of semester crunch. I can muscle through an autoimmune flare up. I can write a ten page paper in three hours. The problem is I tend to collapse afterwards.  Since late elementary school, the result of this ability has been me being sick over every school break. Oh sure, I make it through the semester with nearly perfect attendance, but as soon as there’s no school to miss anyway I’m down for the count. It always seemed unfair; I never got to enjoy my break because I was inevitably sick as a dog.

This didn’t get much better during undergrad. And there was the added entertainment of professors thinking Thanksgiving and Spring Break were justifications to assign extra work.

It continued through my MA program with the added twist that work didn’t necessarily stop over Winter and Summer breaks.

When I started my PhD it got even worse. Now I spend ten hours a week at least over the Summer working in a job that doesn’t pay me. My father keeps scolding me that I’m supposed to be on vacation and I have to explain to him it’s the trade off for having fifteen weeks “off” in the summer. Of course, during the semester I tell myself that fifteen weeks “off” in the summer is the trade off for working sixty hours a week for what is barely a living wage. The bottom line is that, like a lot of grad students, I have more to do than can feasibly get done, so “breaks” become “catch up time.”

What really hit home today, however, as I left the office (having spent my second “vacation” day in a row there) is that it’s not going to change. I dealt with those ruined breaks back in undergrad by promising myself that when I got a grown up job my vacations would be true vacations. Little did I know then that I’d be going into academia. Part of the reason I had so much work to do yesterday is that it was catch up time for my boss as well, so he spent that time creating more work for me (I’m sure that’s not quite how he viewed it). I’m going into an industry where there’s no such thing as vacation time—you work it around the course schedules. There are sabbaticals, but you generally have to find a way to finance them on your own. Want to have a baby? (I don’t, but if I did…) You can take a semester off or pay for a substitute.

I just feel like some of my motivation is gone. All that, “It will be better when…” is turning into “I need to learn to cope with…” Ugh.

Anyways, I’ve decided I’m not going into the office tomorrow!

I brought home a bunch of files, so I could work from home.

Catching up with a Time Vampire

As you all sort of know I took my PhD qualifying exams a few weeks back. It was a weeklong torture ritual, but thankfully it’s over now. Well… sort of.

One of the great things about my department is that they arrange for the rest of your life to stop for a week so that you can concentrate on your exams. The bad thing is that nothing actually stops. I work three jobs, two that I actually get paid for. I took the week off from all of them. And it was great.

Except… all the things I needed to do that week in those jobs, still needed to be done. Which meant that when I got back, I had two weeks of work in three jobs to catch up on. And… well you can’t do that in one week. So here I am, weeks later, still trying to catch up. Because I do just about as much work as a person can do in a week on a normal basis. The problem with that is it leaves no time at all for doing work from previous weeks.

So what little time I have is still being sucked away by a time vampire that should have been dead weeks ago.

Re-creating The Wheel

I had hoped to have an entertaining and informative Time Vampire to share with you today, but the truth is….

THE BLOODY MEAT-SPACE, BILL-PAYING JOB INTERFERED AGAIN.

Ahem, sorry to yell.

Mostly the time suck has come in the form of that age-old story: re-inventing the wheel.  You all know the drill, and you don’t even need the details of my meat-space job to understand.  Task A is something that’s been done before.  But no one bothered to, oh, I dunno DOCUMENT anything so now, you’re  stuck, spending life-shortening spans of time in a desk chair re-doing what had been done before (and in once case, it had been done, but so poorly that it was an embarrassment to even open the file, so….).

No one wants to re-invent the wheel.  Progress depends on us not having to go back and do the remedial work.

So, for those of you, gentle readers, who hold mundane, meat-space jobs, do humanity (and other bloggers) a kindness:  make sure your files are correct, your processes are documented and that people who follow you into a position after you’ve either retired or won Powerball have a small chance in hell of being able to reference what they need and go home at a reasonable hour rather than sitting and trying to re-piece a puzzle that, clearly, you HAD to have done before, but of which there is sadly no evidence.

Seriously.  It’s a public service.  You will get good karma.  Possibly all you need to get into heaven.  May even make you smarter and more attractive.

The Grammatical Standard

During a call to Kristy, I was venting on the failure of a particular manager o’ mine to grasp the basics of proper sentence structure.  No, this particular moron is not ESL.  English is his mother tongue.  Were it otherwise, I might be less apt to judge.

This led us to a discussion of the fact that both of us seem to harbor a kind of hierarchy of  grammar failures.  Some things are totally acceptable in my world.  For example, placement of commas is a subject that I’ve heard well-respected English teachers debate to a point where I was expecting violence to erupt.  I tend to rank those errors lower on the scale of offense since “reasonable” minds could differ.  Some errors I care less about in certain contexts.  For example, I tend to overlook one-off there/their/they’re errors in an e-mail partially because I am totally guilty of slamming out a message and, for reasons I’m still trying to understand, using the wrong “there” even though I know good and well the proper choice.

But Kristy and I both agreed that subject-verb agreement errors are something that ranks as highly unacceptable once you’re above a certain age (approximately 6 in my world).  I’ll forgive a verbal mix up that’s clearly born from one’s tongue going faster than one’s brain.  Even a written subject-verb agreement error may be understandable in those cases where the writing is informal and the sentence is one of those complex beasts with mixes of plurals and singulars (none of those, however, apply to the particular moron about whom I was venting).

I also have a slightly greater-than-average aversion to people who don’t know how to use “myself.”  I’ve noticed that this error is VERY common in cases where the speaker is both arrogant and ignorant (a dangerous cocktail).  Somewhere along the way, these people were yelled at for using “me” instead of “I” and they internalized this to mean that “me” is bad.  To make sure they sound suitably educated, they now refuse to use “me” and wind up substituting “myself” as if it means the same thing.  It doesn’t! (Side note:  usually, these people will also make the I/me error).  To the scores of people who don’t care much about grammar, maybe this sounds fantastic.  To me?  Fingernails on a chalk board.  I can’t help thinking less of people who do this.

So, ‘fess up, folks:  What grammar errors drive you batty?  Anything in particular that makes you want to strangle people (and feel free to point out the shit one which I consistently error out around here).

In Which Cammy Gets Way Too Introspective

I am visiting Texas right now. Apologies for any typos–even after so many months, I am still no touch-screen expert, and for the first time in years, I am traveling sans laptop.

I have a Texas-battery that requires charging now and then.  This trip partially fulfills that need, but I have come to accept that my need to return here is not just an over-active case of state pride.  It is also a realization that within these borders, and most particularly to Fort Worth, I have the greatest concentration of friends and family of any place on Earth.  The links may not be as strong as between my parents and my brother, but they are close.  And they are time-tested, and they are constant — both in terms of the relationships themselves, and in terms of geography.  And geography is something my closest relationships (immediate family in particular) are far from consistent on.

So I have been asking myself: am I a fool to want to move here for the friends?  I know it is not–nor could it ever be–all my friends.  This is the downside of the wonderfully diverse group of people I have befriended over the years:  I will never, ever have all of them in one place for more than a short period.  But the friends here are numerous,varied, blend well with my other circles, and this set has remained in place for more than a decade in a city I like, and which has great potential–some of which the outer level of this circle is influencing.

Right now, I live where my only real friends are those I made at the bill-paying-job.  The job itself has made opportunities to expand that circle difficult.  I know I am lonely, and I know that loneliness is inherently unhealthy.  I find myself very, very drawn finding a job here in Ft. Worth as much for the social connection as to escape from the stagnant and unhealthy job situation I am currently facing.

But, I come from a family that has moved because of the job–which I respect.  This past of work-defining-place rather than place-defining-work is making it hard to judge whether my own feelings are wisdom, or folly.

What Day is It? Is it My Turn?

First off, Note to Kristy:  I’m not sure if it’s my turn or not!  But I’ll post tonight!

Now, for the rest of you, gentle readers, I’m all kinds of screwed up on my days.  I made the dubious choice to work through the night the other day.  My first all-nighter since, I think since law school, but  I’m not sure that’s completely accurate.  It was definitely my first time ever to pull an all nighter for job related reasons.

The good news is, I got done what needed doing and aside from some meetings next week that involve travel (crap), my workload will drop off dramatically from here until the turn of the year.

The bad news is, well, you remember when I proclaimed I am way too old for this shit?  Yeah, I’m way to old to recover adequately from a literal all-nighter.  I’m still not sure of what day it is, and that’s not an exaggeration.  I’ve checked my phone for the day no less than three times today.  Sad.

The experience has been surreal.  For one thing, do you know how shocked the baby-boomer set is when they find out you were at work the entire night?  Yeah.  As my buddy Stephen said, “You ARE the water cooler.”  And I was.  I didn’t go out and proclaim my dedication to work, but when the early- arriving employees noted the frost on my little car out in the parking lot, I couldn’t hide it.  In fact, I got more than one call at my desk to check on me.  I think the initial fear was that my car was there because something had happened to me.  I don’t think it reassured them much to think I spent the night typing in my cubicle like a fiend.  I suppose I should be touched that they care, but mostly, I was mortified that I wasn’t going to be able to hide it by not talking about it.

Is it just because for my older colleagues, the last time they pulled an all-nighter is separated by more years than my last attempt?  Or is it so strange to think I would be that intent on finishing a task for a job that’s rather thankless?  Either way, I didn’t expect news to be that big.  I ran home around 7:30 for a shower and breakfast and I was back in around 8….and apparently, this news traveled with as much fire as the initial over-night event.  But I couldn’t help it.  There was shit I had to do, and the drop-dead date was that day at 5pm.  I couldn’t afford to go sleep off my night’s work just yet.  What was I supposed to do?

I am tempted to defend myself on this whole thing by saying that the situation that necessitated my not going home wasn’t my doing.  For once, I wasn’t pulling this shit through any fault of my own procrastination.  It was 100% because people did not listen when I told them the time I would need to finish something and kept re-assigning my time, without extending this particular due date.  I was caught in a mess not of my own creation.  And I’m not sure if this fact made everyone more or less inclined to question why I put myself through the wringer to get it done.  By all rights, I could have (finally) put my foot down, not turned it in complete and refused to take blame for the situation I was put in.

Instead, I did the work, inverted my day and have remained in a state of foggy semi-confusion since.  Honestly, I’m not sure there’s much that could compel me to do this again.  I think my 24+ hour marathon effort days are done.  I can’t say that it’s beauty rest I’m in need of, it’s more like “ZOMG-at-least-try-to-avoid-getting-any-uglier-and-also-to-not-die” rest.

I don’t think I’ll live this down at work.  I had senior level people looking at me in a state of wonder, “You didn’t go home last night, did you?”  “No.”  “What are you running on?!?!?”

I was honest in my response, “Caffeine and the fear of missing a deadline.”

So my apologies to all of you expecting something from Kristy, if this is her day.  I knew not what I did.

I am too OLD for this Shit

As I’ve referenced previously, ye olde bill-paying, meat-space job has put me in the big middle of a hot mess of a project.  Said project is approaching a deadline (unrealistic, as most deadlines set by business majors tend to be), and for this reason I’ve been hurled back in the time machine from hell, to law school finals.

Honestly, I’m too old for the kind of marathon effort involved here.  Marathon effort for something I really love and give a damn about?  I’m there, and could probably tap into some reserve of energy built on eagerness.  For this?  I’m done.  I can take no more and the reality of my age has smacked me in the face.  If I thought I loved sleep in college, that’s nothing to my love for it now.  And the sedentary requirements of this project combined with the characteristic slowing of metabolism that starts to rear its awful head around my age, have made me fat, flabby, and completely unenergetic.   If there is a word for the kind of stiff pain in my shoulders right now, I’m not aware of it.  I thought of trying to coin something but all that came to mind is OMFG I HATE STRESS GET ME OUT.  Not quite succinct enough to catch on, I’m afraid.

It’s all rolled up as one nasty little reminder that, time is marching all-the-hell over me.

Yeah, cause I TOTALLY wanted to ponder that 20 days out from my birthday.

For the first time in my life, I really understand why people count down to retirement.  But I realized when I was about 14 that my generation would never get to retire, so the sober reality that I could possibly die in a cube with no sleep and sore shoulders kinda makes for a down day.

Feel free to tell me this will pass.

No, really.  TELL ME THIS WILL PASS.

Another Year….Another Nanowrimo I’m Missing

I’m sure there are some out there who would deride me over this, but, I’m willing to take the hit.  I am, once again, failing to even bother starting Nanowrimo.  November has to be the single most craptastic month of my year to attempt this.  In school, it fell in the midst of tail-end mid-terms, and the opening season of finals.  I mean, I definitely could have more than made my word count some years…it just would have been in the form of a legal brief rather than a novel.

And in my particular line of work, well, it’s not much better there.  For some very particular, but sadly dull, business reasons, it’s a highly inauspicious time of year to attempt taking on anything else.  And my pay-the-bills job would have zero understanding for an attempt like this.  Not that they’d fire me, but they would look at me like I’d grown another head, and it would probably take 3 attempts to explain what it was before the meaning would even start to sink in.

The one year I started–and clearly didn’t finish–was 2008.  That one started out strong…and then got completely derailed by a very happy event–I got my passing score on the Texas bar exam, and had to drop everything to drive to Austin and get sworn in.  Then I wound up going back home with my parents in anticipation of Thanksgiving. It was all down hill from there.

So, here we are again.  The general job issues are actually magnified more than normal this year.  I’m missing enough posts right here because of meat-space.  If I were to try Nano, you’d basically have to write me off for the month.

I’m strongly considering declaring my own month.  Unfortunately, half the greatness of Nano is the effect of the masses and the support group atmosphere, and I can’t recreate that if I try this in, say, February or June.  So, either I fire up my own gumption, or I can cling to the hope that one day, I’ll see a November where joining the rest of the would-be authors will not be total stress-inducing folly on my part.

Time Vampire: The All Day Meeting

The bill-paying-job has had me in solid meetings for a day and a half.  Today’s grueling session started at 7:30 and ran until after 5.  We even ate lunch in the room.  It’s exhausting.

And it’s a total time suck.

It’s not just the time whisked away by the unfathomable boredom of 14 power point presentations all in the same corporate-barfed-here standard templates.  That’s bad, but what’s worse is everything else job-wise that doesn’t get done when you’re having to down caffeine to look like you care about statistics on shit that does not impact your job directly.  While I’m locked away in this corner of hell, the e-mails are still coming, the data still needs analyzing, the phone is still ringing.

So, thanks to this meeting impeding the flow-rate at which I would normally handle my workload….I’m going in on my Friday off.

Again.

And my Saturday.

And possible my Sunday.

This time vampire might just be the most evil of all.