Sunday, September 10, 2006

Stressed? Sabbatical may be the answer

I tell you .. I was very, very, very close to just retiring, going bankrupt and just giving it all up.

After working very hard for the last 10 years and taking way too few vacations --- I was growing stressed and tired of the same ol' bullshit - day in and day out - regarding the software consulting biz.

Tired of the late vendor payments, tired of the floating requirements, tired of Uncle Sam Federal (and his cousin Uncle Sam State) continously raping me (and all small business owners), tired of the unaffordable health insurance, tired of the unbearable work schedules, tired of the technical short-sightnedness of managers, tired of the hidden agendas, tired of the interviews, tired of bullshit QA, tired of new .NET libraries to learn, new XSL functions to learn, new XQUERY functions to learn, new AJAX, new design patterns, new tiers, new data access methods, new releases of databases & IDEs & QA tools & 3rd party components & software versioning systems, new languages, new application blocks, new software processes, agile this, extreme that, SCRUM here and Waterfall there .... UML the entire thing ... AHHHH !!!! .... JUST SHUT
UP !!!

So I took a break ... after bombing several interviews (which has NEVER happened to me before) I wrapped up my lease, wrapped up my current contract, packed up my Pilot and I've been on a semi-sabbatical (still working a part-time telecommute) for the past 2 months on the west coast. Went hiking in the Flagstaff mountains, took a slow drive through Sedona and onwards to Scottsdale, AZ. Then went due west to LA, outrunning thunderstorms on the highway and then took a VERY slow drive up the Pacific Coast Highway towards San Fran... stopping at beaches, redwood forests, wine makers, mountain trails, restaurants .... some food ... some wine... lots of pictures (see the camoflauged animal ?).

Relaxed in Monterrey for a week then subletted an apartment in San Francisco for 3 weeks and did nothing but jogging, site seeing, tons of walking, eating, reading, watching movies and some blogging ----- ahhhhhhhhhhh.

Visited Stanford, Berkeley, Palo Alto, Fremont, Petaluma,
Wine country, Muir Beach .... attended Renaissance Fairs, festivals, exhibits ----- and then finally just locked down a temporary hotel for the last month in a suburb of San Fran to reflect on my life, my career and my immediate and not so immediate future. I had to answer some serious questions ... look in the mirror type shit. And during the last month ... the answers just started bubbling up.

Did I still love coding and software? YES
Did I still have my childhood loves of science & technology? YES
Did I still love learning? YES
Do I still hae unresolved anger/conflicts due to childhood ghetto shit? YES
Do I regret the major decisions in my life during the last several years? NO
Does this president suck or am I just in a crappy mood? BOTH
Do I still give a flying shit about other people ... do I still care about my fellow wo/man? YES

And last but not least ...

Do I still have my best personality trait ... Am I still an optimist?

This was an important question. Optimism has been an important coping mechanism for me and a gift I've always had in my life. My natural optimism got me through some VERY DARK YEARS during my childhood and my early 30s.

I wasn't sure at first but this answer is slowly becoming clearer to me and I like the result. YES.

After reflecting on those issues I decided to wake up every morning and just do what I felt like for that day ... so If I wanted to work my telecommute or wanted to read a science book or wanted to watch YouTube videos all day or listen to Yoga podcasts or go out jogging or just code for myself ... or take some free lectures online from MIT or Berkeley ... then thats what I would do for that particular day.

WOW -- that worked like a charm.

It's like an old college friend that I saw several months back describing how he felt when he attended one of those Silent Buddhist Retreats where you give up all your phones, email, clothes and food and do nothing but meditate and stay absolutely silent (and half-naked) for 10 days. He told me he started feeling crazy on the 2nd day and by the 3rd day he was ready to just kill somebody -- but then he mentioned that something strange begins to happen after that 3rd day ... he described it as a fog that begins to lift from your mind -- he told me " ... there's nothing left after that ... but the truth... your truth just begins to bubble up and you get this amazing clarity of thought .... " -- that left an impression on me prior to my trip and I have experienced that to a certain degree during this mini-sabattical.

Once my fog began to lift I realized that what I truly still love and like to do ..... and its the same shit that I loved when I was 17 in high school.

Computers, Gaming, Girls, Sports, Medicine, Software & Science.

Nothing has changed. It was still all there but it just gets all dusted up and obscured when Life Happens. This is the same stuff that still makes my pink parts blush and this is what I'm going to continue to do during my life -- Until the next mini-midlife crisis :)

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