Sunday, November 11, 2012

At a Crossroads

I am at a crossroads. But aren’t we usually? Buy a newer car? Change the oil? Pay the bills? What's for supper? Where are we running today? What should I wear? The number of choices available is astounding. Most of the time the choices are not ultimatum style, but sometimes they are. It sometimes seems like we spend more time at intersections on our commute than we do driving. Even during the driving we pass intersections. 

Six days after getting back from Indonesia I still woke up at 7:30 AM, an hour and a half after normal, and two and a half hours after the time I get up to run in the morning. I don’t really know what kind of expectation there is to returning from 12 hours time difference in a country that is very different than I am used to. I feel like I am not getting much done, despite getting things done. The feeling is a little like being sick, a little like not getting enough sleep, and 

I don’t know. I mean... I don’t know. Next week I am set to present what I learned in Indonesia to both the people directly impacted by my trip and anyone else at the company who cares to listen. I am not ready. As in, I don’t have the presentation ready. I’m stressing out because I learned so much so quick, how do I communicate that to other people? I have videos, but a video with a 35 degree field of view does not well compare to the 180 degrees of view I have or the smells or the temperature and humidity of actually being there. 

On top of that, I have been planning something for a long time. It was, and hopefully is, going to happen in 2013, it still could. As the stock market dives and I pay my bills, I wonder, should I give up or postpone this dream? That is a depressing thought. 

On top of that my running is not going great. As I often say, when life is going well, running is going well. 

Reading this, listening to myself whine, I wonder, ‘what in the world do I have to complain about?’ I mean I am so blessed! I am so fortunate! I have so many gifts! I have the best life in the world. Seriously. Who gets to go to Indonesia for a week on business? Not to mention I visited Singapore and Hong Kong. Perhaps this is the return from international travel culture shock. 

I feel obligated to perform at a certain level all of the time, with the expectation for myself that some times I will perform above that level. I did a short two week project last year which we calculated will save the company $150,000 in the first year it is implemented. If that is at all accurate I more than made up for my salary in two weeks of normal work. Yet one day of feeling unproductive or one week and my mind kicks into fear of being fired. Unemployment was not fun. Yet now I have two years of additional engineering experience, I could probably find a job most places. I could probably start my own shop and have a good idea of what I am doing versus 2010. 

I am nearing my second full year of work without more than two consecutive business days of vacation. (The exception is that our company shuts down from Christmas to New Year’s so I did not work that week.) Assuming a 40 year career I’ve passed 5% of it. Assuming a 50 year career from age 20 to 70, I’m 13% of the way through it. Those are both significant numbers. Not huge, but enough to have a look into what my future could be. It makes me nervous. Why? Because I spend about 45 hours a week at work, 55-60 hours a week sleeping, 15-25 hours per week running and coaching, probably six hours a week in the bathroom, six hours a week driving around, three hours at church, ten hours a week watching something, five hours a week cooking and eating, and that leaves 18 hours a week unaccounted for. That probably gets taken up reading, watching something, walking around, socializing, sleeping in, and doing one-off things like calling my family, going to a Heritage Trail meeting, grocery shopping or doing my laundry. The point is, maybe 2-3 hours every day do I have at home after I finish supper before I go to bed. I hear that a family or at least parenting probably takes 30+ hours a week. How am I ever going to do that?

I just finished reading Makers, by Chris Anderson. The book is about me. I have funded projects on Kickstarter, I have used, I have used CNC mills, and gotten parts produced on a 3D printer. Yet I work at a giant international Fortune 500 company. Where do I exist and where does Isaiah Janzen, or ij05083, exist? When I was in Hong Kong, I saw people everywhere. It is crowded. Crowded more than I have ever felt in New York, Chicago, LA, Boston or anywhere else. I wondered, amongst the crowd, how does one have any personal identity in such a dense and populated region?

I don’t know. I care. I do know that. I want to best the best I possibly can be, which in many respects means being a world expert and totally unique. After my recent trip to Indonesia I can easily say that I am one of the most invested and knowledgeable people in the world when it comes to the structural fatigue of leveling tracked feller buncher lower frames. That is not saying much, but that is knowledge and experience I have that few others have. And honestly, it’s worth at least tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands. 

Perhaps what I am trying to say is that I have value for the panoply of experience and achievements I have and despite the feeling that doing something crazy (standard American definition of crazy) would diminish my value, it may actually increase it. Honestly, you can’t give me advice for the right answer, because the right answer for you is not the right answer for me. Furthermore, the path I choose to follow is a path that has never been done before. I can’t read what I am supposed to do from a book or manual or website or worse, a blog. So I’m a little stressed out. I do this to myself. I think it’s all part of a process. I wasn’t stressed out in Indonesia when I had to be on my game. No, I come back to comfortable United States with everything that I know and understand and I struggle. I would think it would be the opposite. 

So we sit here at this crossroads. Make a choice and thus make a change? Or make the choice to don’t make a change?

People might think it is premature of me to talk about stepping outside of my comfort zone and taking a risk. ‘You just returned from Indonesia!’ they say. ‘Wait another year, a few more paychecks.’ Just like they did. I’m not trying to be just like them. I’m also not trying to be not like them. I don’t know. I’m a bit of a restless person. Like I said before, it is never enough.

Changing subjects, here is a crossroads video from Indonesia. 

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