Friday, May 16, 2014

Big Job, Little Job - Soft Nights and Soft Cats

Today was one of those days with The Big Job to do.  In this case, that was a fairly sophisticated and elaborately-constructed confection of Excel and PowerPoint, balancing across the chasm of (thank goodness I have these) two large monitor screens, and basically both sticking out their tongues at me, taunting me.  Unfortunately for these particular Excel and PPT data, I appear to be a reasonably quick study, and the were unable to daunt me entirely.  Four or five pithy and specific questions fell out of the job - but, considering its scope and importance (and the urgency for it - all this was before eleven a.m.), that's pretty good brevity in the unanswered-questions-about-incredibly-involved-numbers department.  Better still, I'm very definitely gaining comfort with a process and with information that, only three weeks ago, I had never seen before.

As old as I am, it appears I am still capable of learning, and it's gratifying not only to "get it" but also to know that my coming to understand these things *makes me more valuable*.

A week or so ago, in one of those hallway-chats with another admin, she said to me, "They have you working on things that are way beyond your job description."  She wasn't pooh-pooh'ing it nor complaining on my behalf, the way we kind of do with office friends, she was just expressing surprise at how much I'm taking on.

I've been part of a slow-starting project which will cross not only all of the business lines at our employer, but also includes a number of departments participating in an initiative.  Not a great deal has happened there, but it's already introduced me to folks and groups I wouldn't know (yet anyway) otherwise, and it's showing me to those people.  Never a bad thing - for me individually, nor for my boss and my group, whom I represent.

I'm also working on this sophisticated update work, which will be a regular task going forward.  Less visible, but ongoing - and so, just as valuable and in (usefully) different ways.

There have been times since leaving my last job, one of a significant majority within my career which was focused on financial services, that I've thought about the opinions Certain People might have about my move.  The industry I've come to is heavily populated with regular guys - you don't see a lot of suits, you don't hear so much self-conscious corporate-speak.  We distribute stuff.  One of the areas of greatest focus in my work now is the fleet.

It's impossible for me not to believe that some of my acquaintances see this move as being downward in a way that doesn't answer to the actual content of my job, my satisfaction with it, the people, or the executive-ness of those I support.  There is this culture in the US, that “white collar” is superior to … well, anything else, in some ineffable (indefensible) way, but:  I just don’t see that.  Not least, because – frankly, how many people even WEAR white collars anymore?  The only people I’ve seen in that old standard, “professional dress” for the past fifteen years have been women.  Oh, we had ‘em at That One Place – but it wasn’t as ubiquitous a conformity of suitedness as you might have found just a few years before I worked at “the second-highest administrative tier of one of the largest financial services firms in the nation.”  Not by a heck of a shot.  It’s all Polos all the time almost anwhere you work now, and if grey flannel was drab, lord deliver me from khakis …  Heh.  (It’s a mighty fine thing I do not go man-shopping when I am at work.)

Anyway – as to the content of my job, which I would consider to be a pretty important factor in any job, let it be said that I see no kind of diminishment in the fact that the information I work with is about trucks instead of servers.  There is nothing intrinsically elite about the hardware of a computer - and, though the computers for which I supported a team to mess with 'em were destined to move our nation's economy ... well, now the trucks I work with have a bit to do with our economy as well, frankly - and I'm much more deeply involved in their particulars than I ever could be in those humming bits of hardware I never even saw.

I see "my" trucks now.  All the time.  Not twenty-four hours ago, I was eyeing one of our drivers on the freeway, making sure he was behaving.  It gratifies me that my favorite places to eat are supplied by people I know, with products I can get behind, that I get to eat well every day at work, that sometimes I'm the real, human voice a person gets when they call our company with a problem or a question.

Yet there is zero doubt in my mind there are people (both those I have worked with, one or two I share blood with, and some I just "know" to one degree or another) who imagine I've moved down in the world.

Yeah, well, this "down" and crucial set of duties I've enjoyed digging into more deeply over the past five months.  It comes with people I respect every bit as much as anywhere else I've ever been, and intriguing little perks too.  There's an aspect of comedy at my office not available anywhere else I've *ever* worked (how many cubes in your cube farm house gigantic glass jugs of wine sitting alongside big jars of minced garlic and giant cans of anchovies, all of which are funny enough - but have recently been befriended by a few pretty sizeable cans of what looks like butane? Party!).  There are the occasional treats left for us to enjoy - not just catering after a meeting, but that one day it was a full crate of breads, or the more-hazelnut-than-cocoa-version-of-Nutella stuff someone had at their desk with a generous supply of sampling spoons.

There is the fact that, seriously, the meat where I work now is easily twenty times better than the stuff at my last job that, even when they tried so hard to make it palatable, seriously was like enough to make the Baby Jesus cry.

That's not small potatoes, kids - you should pardon the expression (not like you get any choice, right?).

Even the fact that the toilets don't flush at me before I've even had the chance to get in the dadgum stall, and I now don't have the tiny, momentary psychic stress EVERY SINGLE DAY of wondering whether the idiot things would do it again - that's one less constant, tiny damned stressor in my life.  All to the good, thank you very much.

I have no more to apologize for in where I work today than I ever had to apologize for in being a secretary at all, is what I am saying.

Not the only point on my mind, though (inevitably).

I haven't taken a lot of time to just REVEL in this job change.  At first – well, it was the holidays and I felt bad about leaving my last job (that was so hard) and I’d been in the habit of lying about even looking for a job for so long maybe the stealth just clung to me.  I know I didn't want to go all gooey and "oh I have this shiny new thing in my life" (again).

But ... I haven't really reveled in a lot of the shiny new things in my life, over the past two years.

Gossamer was easy, and I still revel in his shiny little pearl-grey butt.  Penelope, as everybody knows, didn't kick off a period of easy-as-pie New Puppy Love.  As much as I love her, our honeymoon period was perfumed with poop more than pina coladas, or whatever it is The Kids Today enjoy on their honeymoons (I never really did one of those).  So - the new job, I didn't want to get too excited.  The whiff, in particular, of being a complete snot to my former coworkers, whom I still miss very much, seemed very much inappropriate, professionally.  So I kept the teenage-girl-with-a-new-crush thing tamped down.

I've kept a lot of excitement tamped down, is what I'm saying.  Not wanting to jinx things, or concentrating on other things, or just not wanting to be an insufferable braggart about insert-my-blessing-here.

Seems to me, though there are still and always reasons not to be a shrill little LOOKIT ME drama queen about it, I should perhaps review this policy of constraint on those causes for jubilation I am blessed with.  It's not natural for me, and ... well, you know, three years and counting without a vacation proper – two years of stress and fear since Sweet Siddy La’s death – Mr. X being squillions of miles away.

I could use some reason to get happy.

Pharell, of course, is all very well - but that song only lasts a couple of minutes, and I am no Lupita Nyongo and I know it.  I just need a little seat-dancing.   A little open-windows-going-down-the-road-with-good-driving-music.  Eine kleine nachtmusik, even.  The year has finally realized it's time to provide what my dad always joyously described as "soft nights" (I can hear his satisfied, deep intake of breath now, his low, gruff voice filled with a warm smile).  With luck - I'll get to those unbearably lovely nights in June with more reason to be thankful than I deserve.

We'll see.

For now, moment by moment.  With my great job.  My headache-inducing chart data.  And one non-poopy puppy and a pearl grey cat.

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