Sunday, November 04, 2012
Interpretation of 'Everyone'
"Hello, Katie," colleagues say as they peek over my chest-high cubicle wall. I shift my attention from the television screen I use as a monitor and smile at them, amusing myself with the mental image of gophers popping up to say hello.
"Hi, gopher friend!" I chirp in my mind and begin conversations either friendly or professional.
There is additional noise where I sit, but I've purchased a red iPod nano to help mitigate that distraction. I downloaded a bunch of music from my iTunes account - some songs I've never found time to hear - and fit the now-more-comfortable headphones into my ears. So I listen and think and work.
I rose from my chair to embrace a colleage as he came around my gopher-proof wall. I motioned to the table I'd share if anyone sat near me and I cocked my head inquisitively as he sat and opened his computer.
"How are you?" he asked as he glanced up from his screen.
"OK," I replied with a shrug. "I was home last week and that was difficult. But overall? I'm doing better."
We chatted about work and I made notes on certain items. Projects that had been mine. Decisions I'd once made. And I stared at my replacement - the man who'd been awarded the job I'd so wanted - with a mixture of fondness and sympathy.
"So how's it going?" I asked, feeling separate from what once was. It feels like a different world when I return to that part of campus. I frown when former colleagues invade my new space - they don't stay against the wall like good gophers but lumber in and take up space, glancing at my photos and shuffling through papers curiously.
He talked about problems and issues and exhaustion and I nodded in response.
"I'm happy here," I noted though he hasn't asked.
"Everyone wonders what you're doing," he replied, shaking his head. Rather than taking offense, I grinned.
"I've not communicated my new role very clearly yet," I told him. "I'm getting settled and rumors are settling out - I think people are figuring it out."
"But you were known globally!" he protested. "And now you're..."
Which made me laugh.
"And now I'm here, sweetheart," I continued to chuckle as I patted his hand. "I'm still working in R&D. I feel like I'm doing more good here, actually - making a difference. I get to travel with my mom rather than catching planes and taking meetings for work. I listen to music rather than taking endless conference calls."
I paused. Thought.
"I loved what I did - what we did as a team. But I had serious frustrations. I wasn't completely happy. Obviously. I needed a change. And this has been good."
"But everyone," he began and I finally scowled and interrupted.
"There is no 'everyone!'" I protested. "It's like saying 'the business feels this is a priority.' Complete crap. Someone - who has a name and a life and hopes and dreams - made a decision. Or wonders what I'm doing. And I've realized it really doesn't matter.
"Perhaps," I continued, "you're disappointed that I'm not around to do the work you don't like. And I can say with utmost sincerity that I don't care. Perhaps certain teams have expressed disappointment that I no longer answer their questions immediately or scramble to meet their needs. And because I like and respect you - you, not this elusive 'everyone' - I'm telling you that this was the right move for me.
"So if you, and I paused to call him by name, "are wondering if I've regretted my decision to abandon ship, the answer is no. Not at all. I don't want to return to academic research. And I don't want to go back to that level of management. Not right now. Probably not ever. I need my emotional resources for me and my family. The business - and nobody in it - is allowed to have them to the extent they were once permitted."
He nodded and I waited for him to indicate he missed working with me. That my contribution was considerable. But that acknowledgement did not come and I found it barely stung.
So I'll say this as a reminder to myself - especially as I seem to find myself here repeatedly - consider the goal. And weigh that against the cost. Life is full of options and perhaps some appear unattractive until you're forced to examine them more closely.
"Is God taking care of you?" Mom asked one night as we cried together over the phone and I told her to trust in Him.
"He is," I replied. "He does. It just takes me some time to accept it sometimes."