It’s Thursday night and I don’t have an office to go to tomorrow. Today was the last day for my current place of employment, T2 Systems, in our old building and tomorrow the whole company will be working remotely in quiet preparation for the move into the new office on Monday. Leaving my location of employment for the past eight years has called up no small number of reminiscences. You don’t work somewhere for the better part of a decade without building up a lot of feelings about the place though admittedly even looking back at my blog entries of the time it’s hard to put together a suitably reliable timeline. However, for my own posterity I will attempt to do so lest I forget it permanently. This may be understandably dull to the point of tears for many of you unlucky enough to read it, but I write not only for you but for future me. I will endeavor to minimize the lachrymal invocations.
The story begins, if my math is to be believed, late in 2003. I was hired away from a rather tired and inscrutable company that did some sort of insurance(?) to be a web developer under my old boss, Chris, who was also my manager at Software Artistry/IBM/Tivoli/Peregrine. (Ah, what halcyon days were those when one’s place of work could so repeatedly change names without actually changing locations.) When I first started at T2 the company was a tiny intimate place and I utterly and completely failed to fit in. Sure I came to work and did what was expected and did it well but I was figuratively and literally stuffed off into a corner with nobody else around. I still remember coming to work for weeks and ticking off on a piece of paper how many days it had been since I’d spoken to anyone but my boss. It was just as miserable and isolated as I have ever felt in my entire life. The company was tiny, everyone there already had their place and their clique so this socially awkward developer dude didn’t stand a chance. Even to this day after working here for so long I still think I’m viewed with some suspicion because of those formative years when I was just a haunting ghost in the office with no perceived personality. At any rate, analysis of personal dynamics aside, those first two years were painful ones. Or, to slip temporarily into the vulgar vernacular, they fucking sucked. Big time.
Moving along, late in 2005 I arranged with the company to telecommute. Having no real connections in the office aside from Chris this wasn’t a particularly hard decision. Better to sit at home alone than sit at work alone, no? So I packed up my scant office belongings and set myself to work from the upstairs spare bedroom. This went on until early in 2008 and while it was not nearly as soul-singeing as the previous two years it was still a period of vast personal stagnation. Trapped in a tiny pool with few outside contacts my life could have utterly wasted away if it had been allowed to continue.
What eventually drew me back to the office seems almost like a miracle. While still working remotely I managed to make a personal connection with someone in the office despite my own perpetual non-presence. Whether this was because my psyche had grown impossibly hungry for friendship or that I finally stumbled upon a compatible soul is difficult to say. Whatever the case though, it drew me back to the office and whetted my appetite to actually interact with other people. The most important part was that by actually making a connection I had some reasonable reassurance that I was a person worth interacting with. Years of isolation had very nearly convinced me that I was not particularly worthy of anyone’s attention. That caused me to withdraw even further and thus perpetuate the situation. By finally having one friend I managed to build enough self-confidence to start having relationships with a few other people. This is not to say that I’ve mastered the art but I’m at least able to carry on a semi-reasonable conversation.
With my reintroduction to the office we enter the modern era. The past four years have seen me through some spectacularly interesting times personally and in every case the only real constant in life was 7835 Woodland Drive. In the time I’ve been there I can’t help but feel that I’ve really come of age and become as close to normal as is probably reasonable to hope for. Eight years ago I sat in a cube in the corner scared to get up and go to the loo by a certain route for fear of meeting someone in the hallway. My isolation was complete and self-imposed and torturous and it was all brought about by a gnawing sense of self-doubt and personal worthlessness. “What could I possibly have to say that anybody would want to listen to?” my addled mind questioned.
Today I feel well-integrated with my own small corner of the company though I do regret that my connections with others outside my corner are non-existent or weak at best. I still feel a great sense of distance between me and the majority of the company and I have absolutely no clue what to do about it. Bridging those personal gaps takes a skill that I haven’t yet mastered. I’m still an outsider but at least I’m not alone in the corner any longer.
What newness will the new building bring? What new opportunities will arise? What new connections will be made? I don’t know. But time will tell and the journey to the future begins on Monday.
Normally…. I’d end with the previous paragraph. It concludes with a rather saccharine upturn of hopefulness and optimism but I’m struck with another thought that’s only remotely related to the rest of this post. The question is… what part does this blog play in my personal dynamics with others at work? It has to be admitted that I do tend to lay some pretty raw stuff out there. I don’t pull any punches and that has to have an impact on those who read it especially when they also have to go to work the next day and look me in the face.
If I had to guess, the impact is probably an acutely polarizing one. Someone who works with me on a regular basis would probably read this and have one of two distinct reactions. The first, of course, would be to mutter “what the HELL?” under their breath and devise ways in which they can never lay eyes on me again. Some really dislike dealing with other people’s emotions so they stay as far away from them as possible. The analogy that comes to mind is that of a hot stove. The stove is hot, don’t touch!
The second reaction (at least one hopes) is to have some deeper appreciation for what I’m putting out here and to realize that contrary to some popular opinions at work I really do have a soul. I’ve been told from time to time that there are those in my workplace that just plain dislike me. I’ll admit that in every possible way that absolutely intrigues me. I spend a lot of time trying to imagine what psychological process has to occur for someone to actively dislike me. People do tend to mistrust an enigma but to extend that to the point of actual personal dislike of someone? Just plain odd. Further, I can’t really be all THAT enigmatic given the thousands and thousands of words I’ve pumped out on this blog with utter lack of restraint and sometimes even common sense.
OK, it’s late and I’ve really made a mess of this post. The original intent has been lost, my writing style has slipped into the mud and I’ve meandered into some bizarre work-centered psychological self-assessment. Suffice it to say that the last eight years have been interesting and diverse ones. Let’s hope for eight more as entertaining and perhaps to get invited to a few more parties. Or, more accurately speaking, let’s hope to get up the nerve to actually GO to a few more parties after having being invited.