Sunday, March 22, 2015


Reading Kate Heddleston's post about the negative impacts of an argument culture produced a bit of an "a ha!" moment for me. I think I'm closer to understanding what happened to make me abruptly quit a job that was perfect for me on paper. It has been almost a year since I quit, and although I am glad to be on the track I'm on now, I would like to understand what happened.

I am usually quite good at sticking to a long term plan, and the long term plan this time last year was for me to stay at that job for another 2-3 years, building up money to support an eventual foray out on my own. Striking out on my own 2-3 years early has certainly made the transition more perilous for our family finances, and although I still think it was the right thing to do, I want to understand what made me throw my long term plan out the window and just quit, so that I can better protect myself from future issues.

I will probably write more in the future about the ways in which the culture at my last full time position was a poor fit for me. I'm not quite ready yet: I feel like I'm still gathering the pieces that will allow me to put together the puzzle and understand what happened. I now know that there was a cultural mismatch and there was a commuting problem, but those don't seem like all the pieces to me. I'd like to understand the entire picture before I start expounding too much about what is shown on any one piece.

What I can say now, though, is that in some ways I would probably have been better off if I'd left that last job earlier. It did a fair amount of damage to my belief in my own capabilities, which is something I've been working to build for decades. I am surprised by how easily years of work can be undone, but I have to face the truth of where I am now and just start rebuilding.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I sat and watched my daughters' gymnastics classes. Petunia has recently moved up to a harder class, and is thriving, Yesterday, I saw her walk confidently along the high balance beam, without even the pretense of holding her teacher's hand. Her arms were out to her sides, and her head was up and she just walked along the beam, ignoring the teacher following along and spotting her. I thought back to when she first started gymnastics. She would inch tentatively along a beam that was just an inch or two off the ground. She picked her way along slowly while her classmates ran around her. She started out far more timid than her classmates, but has worked on her skills and is now as confident as anyone else in her class.

There is probably a lesson for me in that story. I've had a setback, and feel more timid than I did a few years ago. But I can work my way back from that deficit. I just need to focus on working on my skills and build my way back to where I was- or better.

Tungsten Hippo was initially conceived as a side project to help me build new skills and also protect my own belief in my technical skills as I worked in a job that was undermining that belief. I haven't been using it in that way lately- I've been focused on content, and not on making website improvements and the like. So today, I didn't just add another taster flight post (this one about assassins). I also added a new taxonomy for blog posts and now you can see all the taster flights at once. This is not hard to do in Drupal, but it is not as straight-forward as it is in WordPress or Blogger, which have tags enabled by default.

I'm also bumping my efforts to learn how to create Android apps up in my priority list, and I'm making time to include more background learning about Java and the theory of programming while I learn the specifics of Android programming.

I think the final thing I need to do to shore up my confidence is start studying more of the academic literature about management. I was by all accounts really good at this aspect of my job. The problem was that it was not an aspect that got a lot of respect. I think management is worthy of respect, but maybe part of me has internalized the negative opinions about it. To combat that, I'm toying with setting up a schedule for "journal club" like posts over at my "real name" blog. (As always, send me an email or DM if you want a link to that blog- I'm happy to share, but am hiding the association of this blog with my real name from Google, so don't make many actual links.)

I have to find the right balance between doing what I need to do to bring money in for short term needs and doing what I need to do to support my long term mental health and goals. I'm finding this balance difficult to strike, but perhaps if I just keep inching along I will eventually find my way back to the confidence I need to walk confidently on the high beam again. In fact, maybe I'll be able to walk on a higher beam than I've ever managed before. In the meantime, I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and at least I'll make some progress.


  1. Anonymous10:43 AM

    This talk on why women do unrewarded management work by Lise Vesterlund is really interesting:

  2. Anonymous2:09 PM

    I hate arguments where someone brings up obscure facts to make you feel less knowledgeable.

    - Virginia

  3. I would look forward to those management posts! I really want a theoretical grounding in business/management but I don't want the 100K+ price of business school. I've considered doing something similar.

  4. I really appreciate this post today. I'm in an environment that has changed a lot and I am struggling with feeling like I'm just too old and dumb. A recent almost-new-job (an internal candidate appeared at the nth hr) reminded me I have lots to offer. This stuff is hard to talk about.


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