Thursday, March 09, 2006

In a Rut, But In a Good Way

I'm a software engineer...a professional geek. It has been said that the difference between a nerd and a geek is that a geek gets the job done. I've been getting the job done a lot lately, and I'm starting to attenuate.

My work life is really very cyclical. There are days when I could just go to work in the morning, put a dummy in my chair, go home and sleep, and get up and go get the dummy again for all the work I get done. The phone gets slow, my mind gets slower and things just fall into a dull pattern.

This is not one of those times...and I really haven't had a long slow period since I started my new job with a small company. When you're working in a small company, it's eat or be eaten, and anybody who doesn't pull their weight for very long will be pitched to the sharks.

I've been working hard the last month or two on a new software release that will happen in the next couple of weeks, and it's a BIG upgrade. That means there are 14,000,000 details to take care of, and given that there are mainly two of us working on this, at least 7,000,000 of those are mine to nail or screw up. I've got about 3,000,000 of them done, 3,000,000 of them lined up but can't do them until during or after the upgrade, and about 1,000,000 yet to address. That's a lot of 0s.

And now I've gotten into a peculiar state that in my experience is known mostly to software geeks, social workers and musicians/artists. I've been working so long and so hard at something I love to do that when I force myself to take a break, I'm all nervous and fidgety. It's hard to sleep sometimes. I've started to go to work a few minutes earlier and stay a couple hours later. I work at night from home sometimes.

Chances are slim to none that this extra effort will pay off in the form of a raise or bonus. The most I can expect from The Boss is a pat on the back, which I'll probably get once the thing is done. That, and job security....and maybe a day or two of comp time, if it goes particularly well.

Things are much different out here in the sticks than in the big city where I used to work. People measure things differently. You take your sense of self worth much more from your own internal feelings of accomplishment and having done well than from a fatter paycheck, a bigger house or a flashier car.

You also know your neighbors, have closer friends, live a slower, more natural lifestyle (when not trying to meet a deadline), and more often do without the expensive restaurants and outings on Lake Minnetonka. You can pull over on the way to work if you feel like it and drink your coffee while you stare out over a corn field or watch the mist roll off the lake. You can ride a motorcycle without the constant feeling that you're about to become a nasty statistic. You can sit in the back yard at night and watch a million sharp points of light instead of a few blurry spots in the middle of a glowing haze.

A year ago, I had no idea I'd be leaving the life I'd been living for over a dozen years. Now, I can't believe I stayed in that rat race for as long as I did. I'm busy sometimes, but I've found a peace of mind I haven't had since high school, and since high schoolers never have peace of mind, this has to be better...especially when you consider that things in the past always look better than they really were, and the best times in the past look to me about on a par with what things are for me now.

I'm doing well. I love my life.


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