I think 2018 has been a pivotal year. I’ve leant forward and made changes. I’m definitely not where I’d be if I’d allowed it to be more of the same.
Professionally, I started my third year with ECS. I think I had difficulty breaking the surface tension of that company. There was a secret room where people I didn’t know made decisions which affected me. I felt my influence and contribution were negligible. They were generous in putting me through education and certification to update my skills and marketability but seemed unwilling or unable to find me any work to exploit this, and eventually assigned me to a project that I found intolerable. This broke down my vestigial loyalty and inertia and spurred me to find something more engaging.
I’m pleased with what happened. No longer a docile company man, I devoted myself to job searching and underwent many interviews. A couple of these came with technical challenges, to set up solutions beforehand and talk through them on the day. I felt capable and empowered. It worked, and in September, I joined Cloudsoft. This is my first proper management job: I’ve been a team leader and technical lead before, but I now hold the grand title of VP of Operations.
It’s been a completely absorbing four months. It’s not spreading out into seventy hour weeks as I feared, but the waiting for something to happen that previously characterised much of my career has been utterly banished. I’m listened to. My opinion is sought. I don’t have time to ponder whether I’m equipped for the next task, but just get on with it. The rhythm of work is intense. It’s a complete contrast to everything that’s come before in my working life. In the past, there would occasionally be incidents which had to be managed, displacing all other activities and taking top priority. That’s what it’s like all the time now. Time passes quickly.
I feel similarly autonomous and empowered in other spheres of life. At the start of the year, I met my cousin Ruth, who I hadn’t seen for decades. I’d taken the initiative to reconnect and as well as regaining a relative, I feel I’ve found a friend. We’ve met twice subsequently and it feels like an antidote to the ravages of time elsewhere.
Friends, colleagues and family continue to be diminished and taken. Cancer and dementia chip away at my life’s cast of characters. It dawned on me yesterday what it would be like to be old. I expect that I will live to be old because I’ve learned before it’s too late how to eat move and sleep to ward off predators. I’ve been expecting that my own robustness and independence may diminish. But I suddenly realise that like my mother’s, my address book will have entry after entry that’s been scored through. Time will assassinate my circle of friends before it comes for me. Old age may be very lonely.
As I become more confident in my own identity, beliefs and principles, I’m less inclined to keep my mouth shut. Several times in 2018, I’ve expressed myself forcefully to others in a way that’s left me depleted and withdrawn afterwards. I think some of this is old age and an accompanying impatience with others’ perceived failings. Some of it’s just stress leaking out because I’m so busy. And some of it is a nasty side-effect of 2018 being a year when I banished quite a lot of self doubt.
The future used to be a cloud of uncertainty - a spread bet of probabilities. As Helen and I come to terms with where we are in our lives, I’m becoming more precisely attached to possible outcomes. We are now hurtling forward at such a high speed that this cloud has started to condense on us and we can feel it more directly. It’s dawning on me that I’ll just about have learned how to play this game when it’s over. I didn’t feel like this ten or even five years ago. My perspective has changed.
My Buddhism-inspired mindfulness practice helps with all this. I’m open to everything that I feel but experience no compulsion to change anything as a result. If I’m definitely always one thing, it’s interested.
In that spirit, it’s been an interesting year.