Saturday, February 12, 2005

Uncomfortable in my own skin

I've had a rough week. Plain and simple. There is much change going on in my professional life and it is spilling over in my personal life. MBH has decided I don't handle change well nor the stress that accompanies change. Maybe he is right. I always liked to think that I could "go with the flow" as it were but maybe that is just my self delusion. The problem with self delusion is eventually you either have to face the reality that is all around you or you are going to find yourself locked in that little padded room somewhere. Sounds nice in theory, peace/quiet, etc. but they don't let you play with sharp knives or hot ovens in those padded rooms; a definite downside for me considering my real life revolves around cookbooks, stoves, ovens and whipping up "stress relieving goodies" for me and my loved ones. My reality is that I'm going to have to deal with being a full fledged manager within my organisation. I don't like it but if I want to keep MBH and Katley in the lifestyles they've become accustomed to, not to mention support my cookbook habit, then I had better get that copy of "The Dilbert Future: Thriving on Business Stupidity in the 21st Century" I saw at the Harvard Coop last weekend. A little history may be in order here for you to fully understand why this change is causing me so much angst.

I work as a Sr. Engineer for a very large internationally recognised brand electronics and loudspeaker company. Yes, that one. Actually, as far as corporate America goes, the company really is not a wretched place to work beyond the fact it IS corporate America. I don't worry about my job security (that much), I have excellent benefits for MBH and myself that I don't worry about losing (that much), ample vacation/personal time that I am not harangued about taking (that much), I have a boss who doesn't micro-manage me (that much), and the division within my corporation is one of the "up and coming". So, you are sitting there reading this wondering, "What is she grousing about?" Here is the rub (isn't a good working knowledge of Shakespeare wonderful?), I sold a partnership 12 years ago in a company I started to come to work for this corporation because I hated being a manager and "in charge" as it were. I mean I HATED it. I hated dealing with the operational side of business. I'm an engineer who finds dealing with P&L margins the most boring math there is on the face of the planet. I don't do "office politics" well; every review I have ever had at my current company has the phrase "doesn't play well in the sandbox with others" somewhere (hey, I was hired because I went angels fear to tread!!). I fidget in meetings because my brain is off on the last acoustical problem I was working on or wondering "what if I used this amplifier with that speaker". I have reputation for being a "clinch player who will make it happen and when it does it will sound fantastic but she's prickly". The last three years I've been the defacto supervisor of an in-house tech/applications group and frankly that was as close to middle management as I wanted to be. But, yesterday, after a week of internal shakeups and the appearance of more to come, I found myself sitting in a meeting with my boss's boss discussing the direction my group should be taking and answering questions like "if you were leading the group, where would you take it?" and "what do you see as the biggest hurdle to take your group to the next profit level?" I felt like asking this person, "shouldn't you asking PHB #1 about this?" but for once, the Sand-Castle-Kicker in me decided to get out of the sandbox and go climb on top of the jungle-gym to see what the air up there tasted like. And you know what, it wasn't as smog filled as I remember it to be and that is a bit scary and my skin doesn't feel like it is fitting right anymore and I think that Anne Klein suit I saw in the window of the store on Brattle Street might look really good with that scarf that MBH bought me for my birthday and isn't this an excuse to buy those really great shoes I saw at Filenes during lunch on Wednesday...

Recipe for Comfort Dinner in the Midst of Career Angst:

2 1/4 Cup Water
1/2 Cup 1 Minute Cream of Wheat
1/2 Package Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
Dash of milk/sugar

Bring water to rolling boil. Lower heat to medium and stirring constantly (unless you are like me and like a few little lumps in your hot cereal), add Cream of Wheat. Cook for 1 minute or until Cream of Wheat thickens. Remove from heat, put in large bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Add milk as needed to make creamy. Top with as many chocolate chips as you think you require (this is proportional to your comfort need, 1/2 a bag is typical). Let chips get gooey but don't stir them in. Serve in bed with one romantic comedy: "Mostly Martha", "Amelie", "You've Got Mail" work well here, and a really tall glass of cold milk. Footie PJs are optional. Katley and MBH required.