Across the blogosphere you will start to see many annual review posts, much like this one. Some, will take a very different approach in recalling certain events which evoked emotion, while others will bring you a much more traditional approach, bringing you a chronological recap of the year that is past. To take a cue from fellow blogger John Anyasor, I wanted the inspiration for my annual review to come from a single word.
For me, this year can be summed up in one word. DEDICATION.
the act of dedicating or the state of being dedicated
I found myself throughout the year dealing with dedication on many levels, from personal, to professional and everywhere in between. Now, dedication is somewhat easy for me as I am kind of an all-or-nothing type of person. I really don’t do (or like to do) anything half-assed. I put my heart, soul, brain and body into everything I do. It is that determination which has helped me become successful in my career at a young age.
Maintaining Through Adversity
The last half of my 2009, as well a the beginning of 2010 were definitely marred by a lot of adversity. After 8+ years with the same company, moving up through the ranks, advancing my career, I was ready for something else. Different? Maybe. I had to find something. I had to take control of that situation.
I can not abandon my friends and my colleagues. I kept telling myself.
Much time was spent dealing with a project that was handled very poorly from the start by management. As the engineering lead on the project, I took a lot of the weight and responsibility of the project, along with my boss and my project manager, who are also close friends of mine. I felt a sense of loyalty to them. My boss had been by my side, literally and figuratively, for over 8 years. My project manager, 3. We were in this together, entrenched, fighting the fight.
It was taking its toll on me. Body, mind and soul. I was working out, eating healthy, doing what I could to make sure I was giving my body the best, but the 8-12 hour days were physically exhausting. 70 miles a day, round trip, coupled with a brutal work day consisting of meetings where I was screamed at, more meetings where I was told I was fucking up, and yet more meetings where we watched the project quadruple in size, but not in budget. I would spend my days frustrated and dejected. I would unwind on the drive home, only to realize that I was taking out the left over frustrations on my family. I became a shell of the person that I was capable of being. It took me twice as long to do things that would normally be mundane tasks. I was exhausted.
I stayed the course. My colleagues, my friends, needed me. We dedicated ourselves to each other. We all knew that if one quit, the team would not maintain. We dedicated ourselves to finishing the project to the best of our abilities.
We never got the chance.
A Bump in the Road
As this horrid project continued, we all started secretly, then started vocally, wishing that something drastic would happen. Threatening to walk out, threatening to sue the client. As the war wounds piled up, the stress leave started, it was the sign that the beginning of the end was starting. We were all too far removed to realize it.
The pay cut the previous year, the lack of bonuses, the promise of “sticking it out” was a sign for all of us, but there were a few of us, the core of the business, that vowed to right the ship.
The fateful day came in April, 2010. It started innocently enough as a lunch meeting with my CEO and my boss. It ended with my boss pulling myself and my project manager into a closed door meeting, informing us that we were to soon be officially told that the CEO/Owner had sold the company.
What did this mean?
Was the project over?
Did I still have a job?
What about my owed vacation time?
What were we all going to do?
What if they fire me?
The questions came fast and furious, and from all angles. We tried to digest it over the course of the next few days. The 3 of us had phone conversations, meetings, lunches. Most of the time we stared in disbelief at what seemed like an unfitting and unwelcome end. Yeah, we all wanted out of the project, but we did not want this. My boss was in the process of buying a house, my project manager has a young child and a wife. I had the easiest of them all. I was not married, no kids, just me and my girlfriend and our houses. Though, it seemed all my dedication for 8+ years had gone for naught.
More details emerged, we were sold to another company in the same industry who needed to enhance their engineering team. The truth came out. Engineers like myself and my boss, as well as project managers like my good friend, were the reason that we were purchased. As good as that should have felt, it felt a little like lipstick on a pig. Does not matter how you dress it up, it is still an ugly animal.
More good news, we were all getting to keep our jobs, our pay rates, our vacation. Other details came out that were not so bright. In my case, I now was subject to more out of pocket expenses for health care, as the new company did not cover my health care costs, nor did they offer vision or dental in their basic package. Then, I found out that by the end of the year, I had to use 3+ weeks of vacation, as we were not allowed to roll over time to the next calendar year.
The hits kept coming. Our new company did not even sound dedicated to us. My new boss was MIA. The owner was all talk, more worried about getting back to his cabana on the beach.
I did all I could do, I tried to protect myself and my family. I immediate updated a resume that I had not touched in well over 3 years, and even at that, those updates were only specific for my job. Fact is, in 8+ years, I never had the urge to search for a job elsewhere. Never had the urge to play the free agent market and take my services to the highest bidder. I was happy with my job and my employer. Now, the old resume got updated, and after 2 weeks of 3+ hours a night, it was posted on LinkedIn and Monster.
We signed our new contracts on May 1, 2010.
A New Chapter
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” – Maria Robinson
It was with the hardest time in my professional career did the greatest opportunities present themselves, as is typically the case. Through the turmoil of the end of an era with my previous employer, I used the opportunities presented to me to drastically change 2 major parts of my life.
On an overcast summer day as my girlfriend and I were exploring beautiful Sonoma Valley wine country for my birthday, I put into action a plan that had been months in the making. Without much of a set in stone plan, and more of just a feeling for when the time was right, I proposed to my girlfriend of 5 years. Needless to say, she said yes, and just under 5 months later we were married in a beach ceremony at sunset. My partner in crime, the woman who keeps me grounded, was now mine forever.
The best part about my wife is that she encourages me and drives me. She encourages me to do what my heart desires, to follow my instincts and my dreams. She supported me when I started interviewing for jobs all around the country, and was there by my side when I started my new position. For the first time in 8+ years, I now had a desk job.
August 10th was my first day on the job, and after 4 months on the team, I am realizing that this was something I needed to experience for myself. I needed to know first hand the difference between a consulting job and a desk job, the politics that go with it, the freedoms, and the hindrances. I learned that I am someone who values the freedoms that come with some jobs, and how being locked up in a cube every day is not necessarily the career path I want to take for the rest of my life. There are days when I do not even see the sun, or go outside for 9+ hours at a time, and that bothers me.
Looking to the Future
It was those realizations, and a subscription to Gizmodo’s RSS feed that I came to an understanding about the direction I want to start taking things.
I had a blog for a long time, mostly software/hardware reviews that only friends and family read. But recently when Windows Live decided it was merging its blogging platform, Spaces, with WordPress.com, I went back and forth on the decision to migrate my blog, which I eventually did. After seeing the power in WordPress, I thought that it might not be a bad idea to get back into blogging. But what to write about? Even then, now 2 weeks ago, I was lost.
I was enthralled, intrigued, jealous and sad. I thought about how fucking awesome a trip like that would be. Then I looked up at my beige cubicle walls. Thought of my “vacation home” in Arizona (don’t get me started). Thought about my overall monthly expenditures. Thought about the boredom I had been experiencing at work lately.
I almost got discouraged.
A few clicks here, a few referrals there, I ended up coming across some great bloggers such as Joel Runyon, Mars Dorian, Jenny Leonard, Mike Donghia, J.D. Roth and so many more. I started following blogs and websites on travel hacking, location independence, minimalism, budgeting and finance and others. With such a plethora of great information out there, it is hard not to be overwhelmed with it all. The overwhelming message that I have learned from them all is something that we all should know, but realistically, always forget. Hard work, determination and self pride are imperative to being successful at anything. But on top of that, they have reinforced that I am completely in control of my own attitude, reactions,actions, motives and most important, my present and my future.
And with that, my re-dedication not only to my blog, but to myself. A dedication to live a life that I am proud of.