I was going to write a post over on my real name blog about how I recognize good project management, and why I think good project management matters.
Or maybe I was going to write a post over on Adjusted Latitudes about the lure of the long trip, inspired by some thoughts after reading Rowing for Latitude, by Jill Fredston. (It is an excellent book. You should read it. Let me just say that my ideal long trip looks nothing like her long trips, but I wish I could write as well as she does and that book made my feet itch.)
But life, and specifically parenthood, got in the way. My kids have tomorrow off school, and I decided to take the day off and have a "play day" with them. We have big plans, including a return trip to Chuck E. Cheese to procure enough tickets to get a stuffed hedgehog Petunia has her eye on. Petunia has been talking about this trip all week. She has been negotiating with Pumpkin to convince Pumpkin to donate her tickets to the cause. I don't love Chuck E. Cheese, but I confess I was looking forward to seeing Petunia procure her hedgehog.
But then tonight, right before snack time, Petunia announced she was tired. She didn't really eat her snack. She willingly went to bed early.
Uh oh, I thought. Is she coming down with the cold I fought off at the start of the week? (Or, God forbid, something else that I'm going to catch next week?)
We read stories and turned the lights out. She went to sleep. I left her room and went to do the dishes... and then she came out of her room all sweaty, saying she got hot.
Damn. The poor kid is probably going to be sick tomorrow. No Chuck E. Cheese. No hedgehog.
I went back in and helped her settle back in bed and go back to sleep.
And then I did the dishes. It is now 45 minutes after when I thought I'd start writing a post. Most importantly, I'm feeling deflated and not like the badass whose opinions on project management the world needs to read.
So y'all get to read my whinging about life instead, I guess.
One of the things that Rowing for Latitude (which again, is an excellent book and you should read it) made me think about is what I'm doing with my life.
Don't get me wrong. Unlike Fredston, I have zero desire to spend four months at a time rowing in frigid water for hours every day. But I have to confess that spending 11 months every year spending hours a day sitting at a computer writing emails and statements of work was maybe not how I'd imagined my life would go, either.
I think Rowing for Latitude triggered these thoughts because they were already nascent in my head. I've been thinking about what I want from life a bit lately.
I just took the better part of a paycheck and transferred it into my Annorlunda bank account. It is the first time I've done that since I put a few thousand dollars in to start the company. Annorlunda wasn't broke, but my balance had dipped below the point at which the bank starts charging fees, and I decided it was silly to pay $8 per month out of pride at not having to invest "extra" cash in my company.
Still, that transfer of money, along with some struggles with book marketing that I may write about at some point (basically, what I was doing with Facebook ads stopped working and I stopped wanting to send money to Facebook, so I need a new marketing plan) have really made me stop and think about what I need from Annorlunda to keep it going. The answer right now is that I don't know, so I'm full speed ahead publishing some great books this year and hoping I figure it out!
Whatever I want to do with Annorlunda, it is clear it is not a path to financial independence anytime soon (or really, ever), so either I need a different plan to go back to being independent or I need to fully embrace the career I've gone back to.
But the career I've gone back to has its own set of quandaries. Twice since starting my current job, I have been approached by people at other, competing companies and asked if I'd be interested in applying for a job that would be an objectively better career move than the job I have now. I like the job I have now! I like my colleagues! But it was a "step back" career-wise and there is no path for advancement. And yet, both times I told the people "not right now, but thanks for thinking of me."
My reason for saying no is that I don't want to move, and both of those jobs would have required relocating. Younger me would not have made this decision. Both jobs were in good locations, that I would probably enjoy living in. But I am settled here, and I'm not sure if that even just refers to the fact that the idea of uprooting my kids is incredibly daunting.
Also, my current job comes with incredible flexibility, which is very helpful in my life (and my kids' lives) right now. It is hard to imagine another job with a good paycheck and benefits that would be this flexible.
So, I am apparently not prioritizing career advancement. What am I prioritizing? Hell if I know. What do I want to have done in my life when I look back from the ripe old age of 99? Hell if I know.
I'm doing a lot of thinking and a lot of reading and I wish I could synthesize all my thoughts, but I've tried a couple of times and have the blog post drafts to prove it... and I'm not there yet. Here are some random things that have stuck with me as I think about it:
- When I was in high school, I read Dr. Zhivago. I remember not a single thing about the plot, but there is a quote from the book that I wrote down in the book of quotes I kept and still have: "What are you conscious of in yourself? Your kidneys? Your liver? Your blood vessels? No. However far you go in your memory, it is always in some external, active manifestation that you come across your identity.... You in others - this is your soul." I had to look up the full quote, but that bit after the ellipsis has stayed with me all these years. I think it is deeply true.
(Incidentally, I have a ridiculous number of quotations from Les Liasons Dangereuses in my quote book. I am not sure if this reflects the brilliance of the prose or some weird fascination I had with that book as a high schooler.)
- A couple of years ago, I read Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande. (This is also a great book that you should read.) The part of the book that has stuck with me the most is the part where he talks about the value of asking someone who is nearing the end of their life what is “enough” for them - what they need from life to think it is worth continuing to undergo treatments to prolong it. The idea is that this helps guide decisions about when to pursue life-prolonging treatments and when to instead focus on maximizing the enjoyment of the days that are left.
One of the people he writes about would be happy as long as he could eat a bowl of ice cream and watch football. Gawande’s own father, when faced with a tumor in his spinal cord, says he needs more. He does not want to become a quadriplegic. He does not want to be unable to care for himself. The point isn’t that one answer is better than the other. It is that each person has their own answer, and that if you know what the answer is, it will be easier to make good decisions about treatment.
I think there is a larger message in this idea, a message about how to decide what matters in life, but I haven't really been able to put my finger on it. I mean, I love a good bowl of ice cream as much as anyone, and who knows, when I'm nearing the end of my life the ability to enjoy a bowl of ice cream may in fact be my criteria for whether it is worth continuing to fight for more days... but it is not enough for me right now. I can't decide if that is a failing of perspective on my part or if I just need to think harder about what is enough for me right now.
I think there will be something from Rowing to Latitude that sticks with me like the above items, too. I just don't know what it is yet.
And now I have finished the beer I poured myself after the dishes were washed, and so I think it is time to go to bed. Here's hoping I wake up to two healthy kids and a trip to Chuck E. Cheese's!