knowing the question

That last entry was kind of grim, huh? I know I’ve written something grim when no one comments, but but I get email from loved ones saying “are you ok” or “I’m worried about you”. The downside of tranks (which I just adore), is that there’s a bit of a crash on the tail end. […]

That last entry was kind of grim, huh? I know I’ve written something grim when no one comments, but but I get email from loved ones saying “are you ok” or “I’m worried about you”.

The downside of tranks (which I just adore), is that there’s a bit of a crash on the tail end. I wish I had a cut-and-pastable version of Art Pepper’s autobiography, straight life (which is fucking brilliant), because it captures the extremes of this like nothing else]. People with psychosis disorders or extremes of depression sometimes find it leaves them with, in effect, all the misery and black depression that it’s held off for ten to twelve hours, collected and concentrated and experienced all at once. I’m lucky. all I get, the rare times I take it to help me sleep, is an hour or two of grumpiness on the tail end, before my psyche self-corrects.

That’s not to say any of what I wrote yesterday was inaccurate; but the tone wound up more intensely bleak than is my usual style due to lingering effects, and oncoming trank hangover. I consider that actually a good thing, because it helped me actually get over a verbal drought and say something.

The problem I’m having, lately, is a combination of a huge hit to my productivity, and a vastly increased workload (trying to build a side business of my own, as well as my team at work having to support many, many projects at the same time).

It sounds like I’m whining when I say this. But it’s really causing me a problem. Being productive isn’t really my most consistent skill at the best of times.

Going from having an office to living it cube-land has been disastrous for me. Sure, I was a cube-dweller for the better part of two decades before I started my current job, so it’s not like I’ve never been there. But I have a huge problem with distraction. In the past, I managed that by staying incredibly busy doing fairly linear work, and by working at home when I could (in my previous job, that was almost half my time). This job’s different. Partly because my team are less staffed, partly because we’re more specialized, partly because the schedule we’re on is vastly more accelerated. And also because my current employer still functions like a pre-internet company and does things face to face, in meetings and hallway conversations. So crucial support people need to be physically in the office, and physically near the key users.

For me, this is the very worst environment for productivity. I don’t sound-screen well; I hear everyone around me having a dozen different conversations. I don’t visually screen; my peripheral vision is acute, and I track movement and changes in light constantly. In my old bldg, I had control over light (I left it off all the time, with only natural window light). I could screen sound by closing my door or playing music. I could even drop my blinds and lock my door for when distraction was at it’s worse (or, you know, so I could catch up with my favorite web cam girls).

For me, that was as ideal a situation as I could have, working in an office bldg. I was close to my user community, but I had methods to manage my environment, and my distraction level.

The bldg I’m in now is, frankly, about as badly designed as is possible for a modern office bldg. What I suspect is that it was designed by architecture students who’d never actually worked in an office, because the wrongness is so fundamentally obvious. Hard walls everywhere; offices and conference rooms walled in glass. Cube walls are half glass (thus blowing both reasons for cubes; sound screen and privacy). Celings are high, and the lighting has two options (off and as brightly glaring as a stage). Most of the flooring is hard surface, with the little carpeted area hard at leather, and black, a color that shows every bit of dust and spilled food. Instead of conference rooms, we have un-walled “soft seating” areas.

In all this noise-and-light-fest, I wound up in the worst corner in the bldg; a corner that sticks out into a major walkway, at the junction of stairs, and coffee/break area. My corner is bombarded with constant slamming doors, loud chatter, roaring coffee machines (they’re as loud as espresso machines), and traffic moving past my glass-walled cube in a never-ending stream. And of course, with no sound buffering, every person in the area is party to every phone conversation anyone has.

Use Headphones, people say. But unfortunately, my inherent jumpiness and resistance to vulnerability makes me loath headphones. I’ve never been able to work in them, and don’t even like them when I’m alone in my house. As much as I loved a doobie and dark side of the moon back in the day, I still always preferred to have the lights off and the speakers screaming than a pair of headphones.

So the last few months have been a constant struggle for me at work. And it cascades; I can’t make personal calls at work the way I used to, so I’m no longer able to use my breaks to manage personal business. I used to do my banking, make appointments, all manner of things that needed both the phone and business hours, from my desk in between tasks (because let’s face it, there are always moments of the day when we’re goofing off, and it was better than playing solitaire, checking facebook, or visiting ‘guess her muff’). Now, I can’t make my goof-off time personally productive; I’m not making appointments I need to make (dentist, chiropractor, tax guy, etc).

The sum of it all is that I feel harried all the time; I feel like I’m incredibly busy. But I’m not getting enough done. I can feel my time getting wasted. I’m not even enjoying it when I fuck off, because I know when I’m done it’ll be even worse.

I don’t have a solution for this right now. My company is in a space crunch (which is good, ultimately; we’re growing, hiring in a down economy, but it has a short term cost in terms of comfort). My building, built to house two organizations with growth room, was full before we’d even moved in. And being a key support person, no one wants me off site, not even one bldg over, because they feel my attention on them means they get better support (they’re profoundly wrong, I respond best to email, not to being accosted in the hall).

Sure, it’s easy to say i’m lucky to have a job, that if I worked in a filthy place for a shitty wage doing dangerous work, I’d dream about a job like I have now. And I know that’s true, I’ve had jobs like that. My problem is,I’m better than this. I’m capable of being not good, not competent, but truly great at my job. And right now, I’m not there. I’m struggling to maintain mediocrity, and that isn’t enough for me. I could be mediocre for a lot less stress than this.

I guess the answer is I need to make some fundamental change. I know that; two weeks ago on a whim I sent a resume to facebook (they had a job listed that was a perfect fit for me, though they were too stupid to realize that and send me a polite form blow-off letter.) I don’t think I actually wanted to work for facebook; I think something in me just knew I needed to start thinking about what I’m doing, what I want to be doing, and what the delta between these is. I don’t have an answer yet, But I guess I know that’s the question.

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