A lot of time was spent angsting about my job to family and family friends while I was visiting my parents for the holiday. I was rather surprised by myself, I hadn't planned to vent such bile while I was on what amounted to my first major vacation in about two years. Add to the equation the fact that I was visiting my family and the goal was to relax, well, I didn't help myself much in that regard. My parents spent a vast portion of that time taking opposing sides of the fence from one another -- my father was understanding of my frustrations but not particularly supportive. My mother was concerned and supportive, on the other hand. Perhaps this isn't as much a case of "opposition" as it was two people looking at the situations I described and stories I told with different perspectives and ideals. My father, for example, believes that I'm being an ass about taking these things personally and that I should stick with the company because it's a decent gig. My mother believes that I'm only setting myself up for a fall on the scale of what occured a little under two years ago, and thinks I should leave when the time becomes opportune so as to avoid a repeat of previous escapades. I, personally, am wavering between the two options. I'd like to stick the job out, but if the conditions remain the same it's most likely that I will seek employment elsewhere. I don't care for the attitude of being a quitter, or admitting defeat, but maybe I need to think of the impact that the environment is having upon my health and use that as a baseline for decision making for the time being. A number of my friends have expressed concern at my current state of wellbeing and outright anger some days at the way things run at my job.
An entry or so I was talking about nostalgia. Yes, I am indeed yearning for those supposed "Good ol' days," which were at the time quite shitty. What is it about time that mellows memories and lets us look back on them so fondly, that tricks us into thinking that the misery we were going through (or thought we were going through) back then is so much more paletable than whatever it is we're going through today (or believe we are)? Is it maybe a fondness for that which we know? They do say that familiarity breeds contempt, and people certainly do as a whole long for things which are known quantities and predictable. The present, affectionately known as and refered to as the here and now has a very strong history of being anything but predictable or a known quantity. Humans -- for all their immense curiousity and creativity -- very much like to life in ruts where things are comfy and surprises aren't that frequent. When you reach a certain age, surprises cease to be "fun" or even "obstacles to be overcome." They become frightening, mishappen shapes that lurk around every corner, ready to spring out from their hiding places with leering grins that show sharp, murderous teeth. Surprises become ominous things that only serve to disrupt the quiet, predictable routine of life and create stress.
In light of my unhappiness with my job, I've been doing a lot of thinking about what I do for a living, where my career has been and where it will be going if I take certain avenues. A sliver of doubt has entered my mind, wedging itself into my conciousness and itching just like a strand of fiberglass that works its way beneath your skin. It's a maddening feeling, because I don't like doubt. I like certainties in my life, I'm very much a creature of habit who likes a number of constants around him. This sliver of worry, my friends, has manifested itself in my mind time and time again with a quickly increasing frequency these last few weeks. The thought is, Am I really happy in this field? Will I ever be happy? It is no secret that the Information Technology field is a fast-paced, fast-growing and very stressful vocation. I would say that aside from air traffic control or public safety (police / paramedic / firefighting) there is no more stressful a field than IT. I realize that a great deal of this depends upon the goals, the history of the company, the way it functions and does business, the areas it services... what may be a stressful job at one company could be the most serene one available within another company -- but by and large people in IT burn out very quickly because of the amount of rush-rush-rush they labor under and the huge decisions they can be faced with. I also recognize that this field is subject to another problem, one that every job faces, but is in this case highly magnified: it is what I have dubbed the "Good day / bad day syndrome." The good day / bad day syndrome can be most easily described as the cycle of positive and negative feelings your left with at the end of the business day (or your shift) each day you're at work. There are days when you just nail every single thing, have a perfet score and walk out of the office feeling very good about yourself. You feel accomplished, competent and very much on top of your game. Then there are other days where, for some reason, you are left feeling nothing but drained and uncertain, a state which I have come to refer to as "beat down." Those days are the worst. The ones inbetween, well, you call those a draw and move on with your corporate life. That being said, every job has the syndrome; from the cashier at the local Quik-Stop to the dude who runs the corner dry cleaning store, every job has its good days and its bad days. Yet for some unaccountable reason that seems to manifest itself about one hundred fold more strongly within IT. This strange swirling vortex of doom is perhaps a byproduct of the passion of the people who work within the field -- many of them feel very strongly about their jobs and are very steadfast in their positions upon technology X, Y or Z. I think, also, that the culture much of today's IT populace comes from contributes to this.
Regardless of the cause, I find myself beginning to doubt -- for the first time in my life -- the choice I have made in terms of my career. I've always loved technology, from the lowliest VCR to the most cutting-edge SONET router I've loved technology. I was raised with computers, something my father feels was perhaps some of the best money he ever spent because it prepared me so very well for today's world and job market. But I look at the job I'm in, and how unhappy I am with the stress and the infighting and the pressure to come in under budget, on time and without any glitches. Okay, I think. If I go to another company it'll be better. It simply has to be, they'll be more organized and respect my opinion because they know I'm good at what I do. This current job is just a fluke in terms of stupidity. But deep down, in my secret heart, I know that simply isn't the case. I've worked enough jobs to know that by now. Every company, no matter how new or how well-established it is... in its own way it is a rolling wreck held together with duct tape and baling twine. This field, by and large, is always going to be stressful no matter how much the shop I go to might have their shit in order.
Do I really want to continue living with this much stress and worry?
You see now, gentle reader, why this splinter has so perfectly lodged itself within my psyche. I think about this, and I am left feeling vaguely unsettled, as if I might have wasted several years of my life and suffered for a job I don't want to stay in. I'm left feeling uncertain as well, because I don't know what the proper course of action should be in this case. The other night I was laying in bed, circling this splinter of dismay and concern like a predator stalking its prey, trying to find a weakness, some Achille's Heel that I might exploit so as to remove it and the worry it causes from my mind. I wanted to rout this worry, I wanted to drive it from my conciousness like a village mob with torches and pitchforks. Banishing it, I felt, would let me feel more comfortable and strengthen my resolve that this is, in fact, the correct course for me. So the little splinter of worry spoke up, But remember the last time you were doing something that made you happy, and paid you? And lo, I did. I remembered the last time I lectured in front of a group, and the time before that when I was serving as a temporary faculty member for the college, teaching a group of students about UNIX. Granted, those were cases where those students were eager and there of their own volition to learn, but it left me feeling very happy none the less.
I've started to think about a total change in careers, perhaps persuing something in education. I don't know that I could handle the elementary level or even the high school level -- one is too animated, the other too surly. But if I were teaching technology at a college, would it not be possible for me to have the best of both worlds? A part of me is very, very attracted to this idea. Maybe it's wishful thinking and I'd be foolish to persue it, or maybe it's the salvation I'm looking for. I don't know, exactly. Having worked in academia as long as I have (and the fact I'm working for a company that runs fully accredited colleges doesn't hurt here either) I know some of the pitfalls that comes from working in a school. But right now, those pitfalls seem like little more than small dips in the pavement.
On a completely different, and unrelated note, Ra had been doing better this week. He hadn't thrown up for about two days -- however he chose last night to relapse and toss up what little was left in his stomach. I can tell you one thing, my friends -- the more expensive the food is (these prescription foods are insane in price) the worse it smells after it has incubated in a cat's stomach for five or six hours. Bleah, what an odor.
Something that I forgot to mention about my trip home to Minnesota: home cooking. Home cooking rocks my world. I forgot what a wonderful cook my mother is, my efforts continue to pale alongsider her slightest dishes. Ham and potato, turkey and peas, pound cakes, flapjacks with bacon... all the meals that I remember from my years with my parents were there for me. I couldn't get over how good it tasted. I need to force myself to cook more often, and stretch myself a little farther than the "take a bachelor chow meal, mix it up a little and run with it." My years as a student obviously had a negative impact upon my culinary skills, which is something I regret a great deal and must work to rectify. Oh yeah, the fact that I make the amount of money that I do every year certainly doesn't help me either, because I figure my time is more valuable than a the $50 I might spend to buy a full spread from Boston Market for Thanksgiving. Ask roho, he'll tell you that I only buy the finest pre-prepared meals for my holiday occasions at home!
MTV aired a show called "Sex2k" last night around 10pm Eastern. The topic for the show was "Plushies and Furries." When the furry fandom heard about this, talk about an instant blow-up. Alt.fan.furry had a thread over 100 articles long, and the show hadn't even aired yet. I suspect, after people got to see the show last night, the mail servers must be popping circuits left and right for a.f.f right now. I didn't know if I should laugh or cry about the footage and dialog that was run. Overall I found it comical, because I find a lot of sexual fetishes to be pretty odd and amusing. My largest gripe with it is that the people interviewed are made to look like subject matter experts, and their words are taken as law by the uninformed masses. My second largest gripe is the positively rabid reaction so-called "exposes" like this Sex2k show inevitably produce within the fandom. People are positively burning up because of this. For those who are incited by this show and the viewpoints presented, let me take a moment to quote something I said earlier on the IRC when the linenoise happened to kick this topic up out of the dust:
I don't know why people are so surprised this show had all the seedier sides of furry fandom. It's called "Sex2k" for god's sake, what did you think it was going to show for thirty minutes? Sleeping kittens, serene butterflies and daffodils gently caressed by summer breezes? Good fucking christ, folks. It's a show about SEX. Therefor, it is a safe assumption that they will TALK ABOUT SEX, and will try to interview people and get them to talk about their SEX LIVES and their KINKS. A show that focuses on SEX does not care if the fursuiter goes down to the local hospital to entertain terminally ill children ages 1-6, they want to know if the person in the suit gets off to rubbing against another giant panda.
I mean, come on, this show WAS NOT that shocking when you take it in the context that it's a show about kinks. I found it no more disturbing than the HBO "Real Sex" series where they had an episode about people who enjoy so-called "watersports," or the other episode about people who find branding erotic and pleasurable. From that context, in the genre of "let's talk about sex and kinks" it was a perfectly normal show and not particularly exploitive.
That's my answer and I'm sticking to it. Now, the part that irks me is that these people, who stand up and say that Furry is about being gay and banging zebra fursuits via "strategically placed holes," that part pisses me off. You know what, if that's what Furry is for you, that's fine. What you do in your own bedroom, behind closed doors, is none of my business and so long as you don't hurt or kill anybody/thing it's fine with me. But you may not stand up and make a blanket assertion that Furry is about these items X, Y and Z and nothing more. That reflects badly on me, and for me Furry is definately not about those things. SO yeah, I'm a touch torqued off, but I'm upset about the way these items were presented, not that they were presented in association with Furry. I also am not pleased that the convention I help staff for was prominently featured in the show. Why? Because it causes the constaff inordinant amounts of unnecessary grief, and makes us more attractive to the less desirable elements. In a sense it's bad publicity for the con in that it's incredibly good publicity -- I mean, you couldn't ask for much more than to have your con featured and the name mentioned repeatedly on prime-time cable television on a network watched by your main demographic. You see where I'm coming from in this -- it's a mixed blessing. Add to the mixture the reactionary idiots who will sieze this as some sort of "evidence" that our con is contributing to the negative connotation attached to Furry fandom and we're likely in for some e-mails that will be the electronic equivalent of freezing an exploding nuke in time, bottling it and mailing it off to your least-favorite Backstreet Boy. I do not envy the conchair one bit, and I support him one hundred percent. I just wish the idiots of the fandom would go find a pool to drown themselves in and save us the grief of having to deal with the mental diahreha that will inevitably spill from their mouths and keyboards. This is an exact replay of the entire Vanity Fair debacle. You'd think people would take a clue and learn to just move on with their lives -- all this arguing about who is to blame is pointless, it solves nothing and the blame is ususally attributed to the people who, in my opinion, are not the source of the problem. I think in general that Furry just loves to infight. I'm glad I've stayed pretty much removed from this whole thing since my meltdown with the furry populace. In summary, if you've seen this once you've seen it all the times you need to, because the opinions/predictions/blame all stays the same, it's just the names that change. I have better things to do.
On Yet Another Different Topic, I will be going out with Roho and possibly Aureth tonight, taking a trip up to Mickey Finns, a local brewpub and eatery. Evidentally some of Roho and Aureth's buddies from college will be in the area and I was invited to tag along. That'll be sort of cool, because it will have been almost three years since I've seen a couple of these folks.
Aside from that, I have very minimal plans for this weekend. I will likely spend it listening to music, cleaning the carpet with the new vacuum cleaner/carpet scrubber my parents gave me for Christmas, doing laundry and placing art. I have even more art that I must find a home for. I think, given my space constraints, I better start nailing things to the ceiling, otherwise I'm never going to get it all displayed or organized.
You've got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run...