Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Kiku & Cola
"You're not detail oriented. I think it's because you're always looking at the bigger picture but, still, not detail oriented."

It's not a direct quote it's a hybrid. There's a lot to contribute to the hybrid because it's the same feedback I've been getting for at least three years, probably more, at my desk job. The review was in December and it's almost April and I'm still thinking about it.

If you think that's a long time to dwell on something, when I was a kid we had report cards that are probably outlawed now. You could get grades in subjects (though we had weird grades like S for Satisfactory and U for Unsatisfactory instead of the usual top of the alphabet) and then there was a giant list of scenarios in which you also got evaluated. I don't really remember all of them but it was things like participating in discussions, being on time, helping to clean up. The one I remember is "Performs well in new situations."

I was a good student. I was the child of teachers, the grandchild of teachers, the product of a community of teachers. I knew how to school. I was never great at it. I was a solid B- at it, though. In fact, my GPA for 4 years of high school and 4 years of college was 3.33333333333333333333 ad infinitum.

Still, I couldn't conquer that "Performs well in new situations" category. I'd have a string of S for satisfactory and then, blip, NI for Needs Improvement.


Now, at age 49, I can be more cavalier about it. I mean, guess what, I'm still crappy in new situations. I don't like 'em and sometimes I panic and handle them poorly. I try, though. I always try not to panic.

I can also be more angry, though. Nobody ever gave me a grade that reflected how I was running that race against myself. They could have told me if I was better than I was the last quarter or the last semester or at the beginning of the year.

I mean, that's just a basic animal training thing. I don't reward a dog for sitting still for 3 minutes and grade them poorly if they fail. I figure out how long a dog can sit still and I reward them for doing their best and [insert explanation about variable reward schedules] over time they can sit longer. Eventually they'll probably be able to sit still for 3 minutes. Some dogs will be able to sit still for 30 minutes. Some dogs will work their asses off to get to that 3 minutes and we'll celebrate the shit out of that because they did their very best and that's the longest sitting of which they are capable. Reaching one's personal best is worth a celebration.

Why is this feedback just now setting me off?

Lola (front), Biscuits (back)
To be honest I'm not exactly sure. I suspect it is about moving more strongly toward not having a desk job anymore and wanting to do that intelligently and relatively safely while simultaneously wanting to just fucking do it. I think I'm at a point where a braver person might make the move. In this world right now, though, leaving a job that provides health insurance while your parents are getting older, and so are you, seems profligate. Being within sight of the move, though? Makes it harder to gloss over the challenges of the old job.

I got a tooth implant. (Stick with me, I'll tie this together in a minute.)

If you know how much a tooth implant costs you'll see the tie easily. I had a second-from-the-back molar crack clean across and right down to the root. There was no saving it. Leaving a blank spot would imperil that back tooth. The rest of my mouth is pretty healthy. So, despite the cost, the implant seemed like the right path for long term success.

A tooth implant costs around $5,000 when all is said and done. One tooth. It's around $2500 for the removal of the old tooth and jamming the post in your jaw then about the same to clean you up and make a new fake tooth and grind it into the right shape for your chewing pleasure.

Back to the dog training for a minute.

It's been going well. I know I keep telling you that but let me elaborate. By well I mean 6-12 sessions and classes each week in addition to my desk job. Most of those 6-12 sessions require scheduling time and follow up, just so you don't think it's only 6-12 hours per week. These 6-12 sessions per week are, over the course of a year, making me a decent chunk of change. It's not enough to cover my nut (if you'll pardon the expression) but it's getting there. Getting there much more quickly than I expected.

I'm tired and heavily scheduled, is what I'm saying. I'd gotten soft with just the office job. I liked to have at least one full day off per week with nothing in it. Sometimes now I don't have a full day off a month.

Not being a novitiate in the Cult of Busy I am starting to get resentful of this transition time. A bad review at the job that I'm trying so hard to slide out of graciously makes it so much easier to envision flouncing out in a huff.

It wasn't a bad review, though. That was the one unpleasant thing in it. I've given reviews. I know you're supposed to give a person something to work on. (I also know you're supposed to sandwich it between two thick slabs of praise but that's a different essay.) This is my thing to work on. It's been the only thing to work on for at least three years so, in fact, it was a pretty good review. However, I thought I was working on it. Perhaps I am but there's no way to know because I'm getting it as a repeating note not as a comparison to previous years. In previous years I think I did work on it and I think that by March I probably wasn't thinking about it that much.

This year I'm still thinking about it.

It's fair to say I'm stewing. I'm still looking at all my actions and seeing where I'm hunting down a detail ("See?! I am too!" says my resentment.) and where I'm failing ("Oh, yeah, I totally did not see that. Fuck." says my humanity.) All this mindfulness is pissing me off. (I know it shouldn't, I'm bettering myself, why be mad about that, but I have to be honest here.) I was so mad I thought, "Maybe this is it. Maybe I make the leap. Maybe this is how other people do it. They just get so sick of not being accepted for who they are that they...."

And then I went for a dentist appointment and charged $2400 to my credit card and I went back to the office and checked my notes to make sure I hadn't forgotten any details.

Which is all to say that it looks like I'm going to be a reluctant worshipper at The Temple of The Busy for at least another year and probably two, maybe more. This is how small businesses are made, I get that. It is a high class problem indeed to be a start up business who is getting so much work that it feels like a burden. Being able to do all these jobs well in parallel can only bode well for how well I'll be able to work when I'm concentrating more closely on one career.

At least I think that's the case. Maybe I'm overlooking some details.


  1. I was teaching some yoga when I worked in Margaret's lab, but then started teaching LOTS of yoga when I moved into Hong's lab. I didn't like the new lab and teaching yoga made me feel good. Teaching so much yoga though really put a wrench in my own personal practice.

    The year before last, I got a bad review at work. Part of it was me but part of it was not my fault. I stewed for months over it all and then I went into hyper over achiever mode. Things are good now. I like my job and I teach just enough yoga to not be on burn out mode. I've found a balance.

    You'll either find your balance or make your grand leap. You're doing amazing.

  2. I remember those S and U and NI "grades"! And I also remember what review time was like at my last job. Yuck. I was very good at my job but in their eyes I had some interpersonal issues with co-workers. So my reviews were always the same: Mostly glowing with a blip or two in a couple categories. Did I think twice about the good things they said? Nope! I focused on my shortcomings and nearly drove myself crazy. I'm SO glad I don't work there anymore because it really was jeopardizing my mental health. I made one (ONE!) mistake with a person early on in my career there and they put my every move under a microscope. Who can withstand that kind of scrutiny?! And the worst part is I started buying into their measurement of my worth.

    For the most part, I think people are either big picture people or detail people. Both are equally important. You are a big picture person and there is tremendous value there. Yes, it's good to work toward being more balanced between the two but in the mean time they have an employee who sees the big picture and that's not a bad thing.

    Huzzah! So glad your training business is going so well! I hope it really takes off and you can kiss the desk job goodbye for good.