On the one hand, I know from Zen that ultimately desires themselves need to be transcended. On the other hand, my work life kind of sucks but I can't put my finger on what it is I really want. Maybe with enough rambling something will emerge I can use....
So the thing is that I have no connection to work. I don't want to make friends there (a self-fulfilling prophecy that is so far coming true); I don't want to rise into management there; I don't want to be doing my current job there; I don't see any other jobs there that I DO want to do. I wish my weekends were four days long. By Friday evening I'm so dang tired I just want to sleep forever into Saturday.
On the bright side, my sweetie found a fantastic gym to go to and I've been going regularly. Since my birthday 13 days ago I've dropped almost seven pounds, that's about 60% better than my best weight-loss period two years ago. Though it's only been two weeks, I'm still on track to lose 80 pounds this year. But I don't really have time for any other hobbies. I passed up a chance to go to Half Price Books because I don't have time to read anymore; which is just another way of saying I'm still not yet living my own life yet.
My life right now is work and workouts Monday through Friday, and then a weekend of almost being my normal self. Except Sundays roll through and I start getting depressed again thinking about work.
I've figure out that I deeply miss my "the zone", those periods of 4-6 hours where my brain is actively solving a cool problem and demonstrating real progress to the goal. Writing code is an easy way to live in the zone: each passing hour and it gets closer to working. Solving engineering problems does that too. I managed to have one pretty neat optimization problem so far that did in fact require code to solve and that was fun. I also wrote some analysis stuff in a new language and that was fun too. But the vast majority of my time is spent tracking dollars, updating reports, attending meetings (some of which are entirely useless), and living in Word and Excel.
It's strange that I feel so hampered by my computing platform. I miss my Linux desktop a lot, with its decent performance (Vista blows when you add in the anti-virus scanning every freaking file access), multiple desktops, Unix-y networking (ssh/scp/X11), LaTeX for really nice-looking equations, multiple programming languages, and of course unhampered access to the 'net. Our desktops at work are locked down, though we can get temporary admin to install stuff. Our network is locked down too with egress filtering on web-based email and streaming media. The only programming language out of the box is VBA. It's weird that this bugs me so much, but it does. I feel disconnected from the world when I'm inside my cubicle. I can't drop my work persona for even a few minutes because I can't access my personal online self. I can't carry my cell phone around -- but there's a good safety reason for that so it doesn't bug me so much.
Maybe part of what's bugging me is that I see the social power structure at work so much. Blue collar is the people downstairs with the break room; white collar is the people with office doors that close. (And no offices are windowless, so total privacy can never be had.) I'm grey-collar sharing a room with four others. The older folks behave like layoffs can never happen to them, and then they grumble about being underpaid. Perhaps they all have finances capable of handling a few months without work (I'll be lucky to handle one month without work). These are the same people who ultimately need to retire/leave if I am to advance, but I don't see them doing so. They seem all tied together to me; when one of them is ready to leave they'll all go, but they are all holding on as long as they can and using each other's connections to stay put. At the same time, none of them seem like the kinds of friends I'd make in real life.
But that begs the question of who would I really be friends with in real life? Most of my friends I can do a lot with like sports and conversation and stuff, but I'll be damned if I know how to actually meet them outside the college life. My last round through college I didn't make many friends because I was a married grad student, but we did find a few through a church. But around here churches are scary so that's a bust.
The scariest part of work is thinking about the business side of things and what the 3rd-level managers on up are doing. They live in email and meetings and seem endlessly interested in "metrics" and "targets" which are supposed to somehow quantify the effectiveness of the organization. I think of _The Organization Man_ and how the whole industry of standardized testing arose. I wonder why so many people formally trained in engineering can think these business metrics are in any way analogous to physical measurements. And I shudder at the thought that I am expected to someday be at their level.
I've found myself daydreaming about returning to university fulltime. But that would require a PhD, the pay sucks, I'd still be a manager rather than a real researcher (unless I wanted an even lower post-doc paying job), and sweetie and I still wouldn't fit in. Our new president is interested in green jobs and maybe that would fit the bill. Or maybe a non-profit organization -- I'd be willing to drop a bit in pay if it meant I could really believe in the mission. And I hear that non-profits attract weirdos who don't fit in otherwise too.
All this rambling for what in general is a great life. We've got a house and a yard and plenty of elbow room if we ever decide on kids. (But then I don't know if I'd want my kids immersed in the xenophobic crap that passes for normal around here.) We've got a rare opportunity to get very healthy very quickly. We've got mostly decent finances and our investment in the house probably won't sink even in this crappy economy. I don't have time to read, but in a year I will. I've got enough vacation days to de-stress from work and make it to next year.
But how I miss college towns and people who don't look like my scary redneck doppelganger. I miss my days as a programmer; even though I hated the "business logic" I was writing, at least I could dress comfortably and being a little weird was part of the game. I could live in the Bay Area and dance my way around programming jobs, but then we'd never have the chance for family and I'd have pissed away my engineering degree and the huge debt we took to get it. Maybe I could find work programming engineering applications, but then how many of those jobs would be Windows-only? But surely someone out there needs a hybrid like me?
I just don't know where to go from here. Big picture wise I mean. Small picture I'll just keep working out and losing weight -- I need to anyway if I want any hope of dazzling at interviews.