Things I've Learned So Far: 2010Q1
All right, everybody, it’s that time of year again: the end of a quarter! And so tonight I kick off what is destined to become one of my favorite traditions: the quarterly What I’ve Learned So Far.
I’m well prepared. It’s 10:15 now, and I’ve been priming myself with liquid courage (Dr. Loosen and Chateau San Michelle, two of my favorite Rieslings) since about 700p this evening. So prepare for some unusually candid moments here on SIGPWNED. The truth may not always be pretty, but it is usually hilarious. At least around here.
The point of these What I’ve Learned So Far posts is to reflect on things I’ve come to understand in the last 3 months of life and then write them down for posterity. (Or whoever’s reading, actually.) Some things will be funny, some things will be serious. I hope you find them all worth reading.
And so, without further ado:
What I’ve Learned So Far: First Quarter 2010
Alcohol is fun, and you should remember to enjoy it (responsibly!) at least a couple times a month. Life is complicated and stressful enough that relaxing can be very hard to do. I’ve discovered that a glass of wine a couple times a week works wonders. Alcohol helps not only as a mild depressant, but also as a ritual for relaxation. Clinking wine glasses is what Pavlov would have used if he’d been testing on people instead of dogs.
As I mentioned above, Riesling is my current weapon of choice, especially Chateau St. Michelle (about $8 at HEB). Another favorite is a nice buttery Chardonnay. (Can you tell I’m partial to white wines?) If I have to go red, though, Menage a Trois is always what I reach for first. But when I’m at my most impatient, I like a nice Amaretto, especially Disaronno, ‘cause liquor does it quicker. :: hic ::
But even if alcohol can help you relax, it isn’t happiness in a bottle. And remember…
The appearance of happiness is not the same thing as happiness itself. People telling you that you’re happy, and that you look happy in your pictures on Facebook, and how they wish they were happy like you obviously are, isn’t what makes you happy. Being happy is what makes you happy. Nothing else.
And don’t expect the rest of the world to know the difference. Sometimes, if you look really happy, you’ll be the only one who even can tell the difference. This can be especially hard in relationships, where you don’t always want to (can’t?) show your unhappiness, in service of something greater. But you have to, because…
Relationship aren’t just for fun anymore. If they ever were. I got out of an 8-month relationship in January, and it was one of the most challenging of my life. We tried hard to make it work, but it just didn’t. I’m still reeling, and I learned a lot from it, but the biggest lesson by far is that I’ve reached the age where relationships have started playing into how people live their lives. Should we move in together? When you move, should I follow? I’ve never taken relationships lightly, but this new stage lends them a whole new gravity. It’s… intimidating.
But patience is the better part of virtue, so for now I’ll feign wisdom and just say my foot-dragging is smart. And speaking of patience…
Patience is a virtue. Even (especially?) the biggest dreams take time to pursue, no matter how hard you push. Trying to make Consumetrics work has been a long, hard road, and I’ve pushed harder than I knew I could. I think I really believed I could make it work if I just pushed hard enough. Evidently not.
I’ve learned that the good dreams will take ten times longer, and will be ten times harder, to achieve than you expect, but they’ll be a hundred times sweeter when you do achieve them because of it. No matter what, don’t stop believin’. (Hold on to that feelin’!)
And yes, I actually did sing that in my best Steve Perry voice. Won’t you join me? No? Well stuff it, because…
Life is all there is, so make it count. And it’s already here. I spent my whole life up until now preparing for my future. I worked hard all the way through college, landed a nice job, and then busted my ass again in grad school (while working full-time!) to do big things in my future. Now, I realize that I am now living my future. There is nothing to wait for, nothing to prepare for, nothing to save everything for, because it’s already here. I find its arrival anticlimactic.
Perhaps it’s a quarter-life crisis, but I feel as if I’ve missed some things along the way: I haven’t kissed a girl beneath the Eiffel Tower. I haven’t fought a gladiatorial battle in the Colisseum. I haven’t seen an opera in the Sydney Opera House. I haven’t committed a gummy bear sacrifice in the ancient Mayan ruins. Hell, it’s been 8 years since I watched a sunset off Mount Bonnell not five miles from my condo.
Work is good, and I enjoy it. I don’t plan to stop working. But it’s time to start making room for other things too. And that will be hard, because…
I will work too much. It’s just part of who I am. Some people get addicted to cigarettes, others to alcohol… I’m addicted to work. For me, there’s nothing like the rush that comes with seeing a big software project come together, or seeing my work being appreciated by others. I feel untouchable, invincible. On top of the world. I imagine that’s what cocaine feels like. Thankfully, I don’t actually know.
So. For me, the hard part will not be getting up and going to work. It will be going home. And I have to understand that about myself. And — hopefully! — find that special someone who gets that, and will gently remind me when I’m being a workaholic. (Or kick my ass, as needed.) And she’ll help me be patient with myself, per the previous point. And help me believe I can do it, because I’m very smart, and…
Stuff — even great stuff — is made by regular people. In my mind, big important things like cars and computers and big-name software has always been the product of preternatural forces beyond my merely mortal comprehension. At some point over the last 3 months, though, impressive things stopped being made by superhuman wills, and started being made by regular people.
I’m not sure quite what flipped that switch, but it’s been an adjustment. Since Big Things are made by people like me, I now have no reason not to be making Big Things myself, which is a new thought that pesters me frequently. (Dear Left Brain: Shut up. I’m working on it.) But I’m coming to realize that it’s not about how much you know, it’s about how much you do and who you know. Specifically…
As you age, your career stops being primarily about learning and starts being primarily about output and networking. In school, to understand the course materials, turn in (formulaic) assignments, and regurgitate that knowledge on a test is called “success.” That is: as students, we’re taught that learning is the goal. Not only necessary, but also sufficient. Then we’re dumped into the Real World of milestones and meetings and deadlines, and something just feels off. Over the last three months, I’ve realized that it’s because the lessons from our whole life up to this point have prepared us not at all for this alien environment. In an office, simply to do work on time, reliably, and without undue fuss is to excel.
While the lesson has arrived late, I also understand that may be for the best. At this point in my career, the revelation is empowering because I have been prepared by experience (and Riesling, at the moment) to receive it and I have the tools to do something with it: I’m starting to network more and “build my brand” as my friend @caniszczyk recommended. I imagine that my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed self from 4 years ago would simply have been depressed by this idea.
I guess I’m growing up.
But even if it were still depressing today, I’d be fine tomorrow since…
Things really are better in the morning. There’s nothing quite so desperate and despondent as a long, dark night alone. Feeling down? Feeling really down? Call a friend, read a book, and go to sleep. You’ll feel a hundred times better in the morning. Promise.
Whew! that was a lot of stuff off my chest. It’s nice to reflect on the last few months of life and just spill it. Thanks for sticking with me, gentle reader.
And so concludes my first Things I’ve Learned So Far post! it didn’t feel as profound as I was hoping it would as I typed it, but maybe it was and I just didn’t know it. Like it? Hate it? Let me know!