Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Idle Not-Even-Remotely Rich

Yeah, yeah, I know. No updates for ages. I've been pretty damn preoccupied with the whole "job going away" thing and I've been trying not to dwell on it too much. Or, should say, any more than I already have been. It's fairly all-consuming.

Anyway, as of yesterday afternoon I am unemployed. Signed my severance agreement, cleaned out my desk, and hit Bitter Hour with some friends (it's like Happy Hour, but the humor is far more angry and pointed). We attempted Melancholy Hour, but got tired of sighing forlornly every 30 seconds. I don't really do melancholy too well -- it's a bit too wistful and passive.

But yeah. Anyway, I am now among the idle rich. Well, except for the "rich" part. Not by a long shot. But we're OK for a while , and I've got a number of potential "things" moving through the pipeline. A couple of very interesting opportunties that will hopefully continue to move forward, as well as several other things a bit farther out on the horizon. Plus I have about 4 different recruiters shopping me around. The main worry I have is that they'll take more than a few weeks to gel up at this point. I really don't want to eat up all of my severance or touch our savings (meager as they are) if I can avoid it.

Plus, I've never been out of work. Well, not "never," but not anytime in most of my professional, post-college and -marriage life. The last time I didn't have a job was over 14 years ago. This is somewhat unnerving. I'm not really sure who I am when I'm not bringing home the bacon.

All in all, I'm doing OK I guess. I'm depressed, that's obvious, but not cripplingly so. The overall sensation is more akin to a sort of wry resignation and generalized disappointment. "So, this is how my career at NetBotz/APC ends: Not with a bang, but with a whimper." Seven years, the first half of which was fueled by the fervent hope of dot-com success, the second half of which was characterized by a steady succession of disillusionments and disappointments, with the final chapter consisting of 6 months of broken promises followed by the abrupt ending. Kind of a crumby story arc, but it's the one I got.

Mostly I'll miss the people I've worked with. Many of my favorites had already left, but we still had a solid group of folks who really enjoyed working with each other. That sensation was largely the reason I was still working for this joint the past couple of years -- I preferred working with people I liked over working in a job I enjoyed or for a company I admired or for a salary I deserved. I still would make that choice, so no regrets, really.

Tang Soo Do has been a source of peace and an outlet for stress through all of this. If I weren't already dealing with getting my injuries back under control (neck and back are nicely on the mend -- I 'd say I'm about 80% back to normal) I would probably have trained 5 nights a week for the past month, just to keep releasing the negative energy I've built up in a positive manner.

My technique is a bit shaky right now -- my kicks are off, and I'm not really sure why. I think a good part of it has to do with my confidence being kind of unsteady just now due to the job crap. That sense of instability tends to leak out into other unrelated areas of my life, and I find myself less trusting of my ability to do anything right. It's absurd, but there it is. But I'll work through it and get things back on track again. Once again, I get this sense of my dojang time reflecting my life in the "outside" -- a microcosm of sorts. Usually I feel like what I do in the dojang has a greater im pact on the rest of my life, but right now I get this feeling that the energy is flowing the other way, that the crap going on outside is pushing its way in and affecting my training.

And well, that's normal and fine I think. I passed treating Tang Soo Do as just a hobby a while back. It's something I want to do for the rest of my life, something that is already part of my life, not some separate pastime that offers momentary distraction from the rest of my life. Right now life is in a bit of upheaval, and it's reflected in my training and performance. As things settle down -- and they will -- then my the stability will realize itself in my training once again.

Gup testing is being held today, and for the first time since I began training I'm not testing. I'm on the first "wait" period, and won't we allowed to test for my red belt until September. And honestly, that's a good thing. With the whole job mess the added pressure I'd put on myself preparing for testing might have been too much, and if I didn't feel up to snuff on my technique I would have really put myself through the mill if I didn't feel like I hit my usual level of performance.

But Christine and the kids are all testing -- Trevor and Christine are going for their green belts, and Miranda goes for her next stripe on her belt (after which she waits six months, like I'm currently doing, to test for red belt). I'm going to suit up and offer to help with the test in whatever way they need. I might just be an uki for one of the testing folks who need a larger partner, or I might wind up just being the guy who brings the testing board water. Whatever -- I just like participating, and I know it's going to feel weird not getting on the mat to test for the first time. Regardless, I'm looking forward to getting there and focusing my energies on my family and friends.

Mood: A tad bit gloomy
Now Playing: Nina Simone, "Feeling Good: The Very Best of Nina Simone"

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day, and Worry

Ahh, Father's Day. Coffee and the newspaper were brought to me, in bed, at 8:30 (I was allowed to sleep in, which was greatly appreciated after arriving home from my friend's birthday party at 1:00, after a bit of a sake-fest...). Breakfast tacos were procured not long afterward. Then we attended an early showing of Shrek the Third, which was far more enjoyable than I expected given the mediocre-at-best reviews. The a nice bubble tea (green tea and passion fruit juice with boba -- yum!), lunch at Texadelphia, and grocery shopping. Now, Christine is preparing chicken parm for my father in law and I, which will round out the day nicely. A really nice afternoon, all in all.

If only I weren't so preoccupied with work bullshit. Or, rather, soon-to-be-out-of-work bullshit. The interesting new job I thought I had an almost certain lock on came up a bust -- I was the #1 candidate, until the very last interviewee came in, and he turned out to be a 100% skill match with previous experience doing exactly the job they were looking to fill. And the second headcount that I thought was available turned out to be for another division or group, so while I thought I was interviewing for one of two possible positions, I was only interviewing for the one.


So, this past week has been a bit of a rough one as a result. I went from thinking I had a lock on a fantastic job to having no leads whatsoever. I've got some nibbles going now, but nothing certain as far as interviews go. This is all very unsettling.

I've never been much good at job hunting. Pretty much every job I've gotten I got by being directly asked to join a group or company. This is the first time in my professional career where I've actually had to go out and try to sell myself and my skills. And getting the "thanks but no thanks," even when it was such a close match between me and the guy who got it, really does a job on my sense of confidence and worth. So yeah, I'm a bit of a wreck.

Still, no reason to panic just yet. I have two more weeks of work, so two more paychecks. Plus a nice pile of cash for severance, and nearly 50 hours of unused vacation time as well. We're not looking at moving into a cardboard box under an overpass anytime in the near future or anything. And I know I'll find something, sooner or later. This is going to be okay.

I just want it to be okay now.

Mood: Unsettled
Now Playing: Paula Cole, "Courage"

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Drained / Waiting

Sigh. Feeling a little out of sorts today. The last couple of weeks have been fairly high-octane. Too much going on, first with the impending departure of my job, then with the networking and chatting up several friends to gain access to several very desirable positions with other companies, then with interviewing for one of these positions, then with a vacation to NYC with the family, then with returning and having a follow-up interview for the position I'm hoping to land, and now with ...

Waiting. It'll probably be about a week before I know for certain whether I've landed this new job or not. I mean, I think I've got it. I know I'm qualified for the position and I know I interviewed well. I was a bit nervous, but other than my nervousness leading to a couple of overly long and meandering answers, I don't think I came off as anything other than confident and capable. There are two positions available and while I'm not so arrogant or delusional as to think that there's no way there's another more qualified candidate out there, I have a hard time believing that there are two.

Plus I have an advocate who I'm sure will vouch for me as a good selection, and he happens to be the manager of the person I'm interviewing with. So, given that my skills are solid and I have some very notable "pluses" to bring to the table, I think that my buddy's recommendation should be a fairly solid way to set me apart from anyone else who is interviewing. But the person I interviewed with in on vacation for the remainder of this week and she told me that she was so booked up that it was unlikely she would be able to finish the "candidate selection process" before she headed out of town.

So now it's just waiting. Agh.

I'm really trying to to not get caught up in the whole job search panic thing. I'm keeping my search narrow right now, and have basically cherry-picked about 4 or 5 positions to pursue, with 3 different companies. I really want to avoid the whole contacting recruiters/posting resumes on-line route, because it just creates a whole lot of static and noise. Lots of phone calls and glad-handing from people looking to put you in ANY position they can, so they can make their signing fee and move along. I don't want just ANY job. I want something that is interesting, challenging, with opportunity to learn new skills and grow in new ways.

So that's what I'm focusing on. 4 or 5 specific positions that I've identified with a few companies. I'll be much happier with this entire process if I feel I've maintained control of things every step of the way. I don't want to fall into the "hapless flailing about" style of job searching that I see happening with some of co-workers.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.


So, a few weeks ago I went back to my doctor to see what we could do about this nagging pain in my upper back and neck. It's been haunting me for nearly 2 months and had shown no signs of improving. So he slammed me on a 6-day round of prednisone, which helped bring the pain levels down a bit, and I've since begun physical therapy with my friend Pieter. Turns out I managed to seriously inflame two of the vertebrae in my upper back, which caused a whole bunch of other problems -- muscle stiffness and constriction due to the pain in the spine, referred pain in my right arm due to the inflamed nerves, and a misaligned rib due to the prolonged muscular stiffness. Fun!

So, I wound up having to take two weeks off from training, mostly because I have a really hard time taking it easy when I train. The improvement was significant. Still have some pain and discomfort, but I'm seeing Pieter 2x a week for adjustments (lots of cracking and popping, including one really brutal technique to get my rib realigned). I'm back to training, which is causing some backsliding -- some pain, some stiffness and soreness, some restriction of movement in my neck. But overall I feel like I'm improving. My current goal is to be pain-free by the time I attend the International Tang Soo Do tournament up in Rhode Island in July.

The last month has been an interesting time for me, in my training, due to this injury coming at a time when I'm also on my first prolonged "waiting period." I tested for 4th gup a couple of months ago, and now must waiting 6 months before I can test for 3rd gup (red belt). So for the first time since I began training in 2005 I am actually going to sit and watch a gup test and not participate. I've been spending some time thinking about this, trying to figure out what I should be doing with the extra time, what I'm supposed to be accomplishing in my growth as a martial artist during this period. I'm not having issues with the curriculum I've had to learn. Some of it is tricky, but I get it done well enough to test with. So, from a purely physical standpoint there's no reason I couldn't test in the upcoming gup test, which is still about 4 weeks off anyhow. More than enough time to sand off any rough edges.

So, what is the other three months for? I've been struggling with that a bit. It's not because I'm impatient to reach 3rd gup -- I look forward to testing, but I'm starting to worry less and less about rank advancement as a motivator to train. I'm more concerned with my current inability to grasp what progress, exactly, I'm supposed to be making right now. Obviously extra time training will have a beneficial effect on my physical skills when test time comes. More and more repetition leads to sharper and more confident technique. But frankly I've seen some really poor technique in high-level gup testing get passing grades, and I am confident that I can do the equivalent of "B or better" work on anything I try. So I'm not really so concerned about my own ability to physically perform at a reasonably high level of skill, even if I were to test sooner. So that's not it.

The obvious answer is that this is time for more internal growth and exploration, time for me to start looking inward to see what this art is teaching me about myself, and to get a better understanding of what I'll need to do in order to continue to learn and grow in the art. And this period of enforced reflection coming at the same time as my latest nagging injury definitely provides some food for thought. Obviously, as the techniques become more and more physically demanding, I am beginning to encounter some of my own physical limitations. They are fairly minor and can almost all be linked to my ongoing difficulties with shin chook, as well as with wan gup and him cho chung. Too much tension, and a tendency to practice all techniques with perhaps too much power and speed. But the results are a significant amount of pain and discomfort that interrupts my training, or at least my full enjoyment of my training.

I'm turning 40 this year, and while I'm pretty healthy it's becoming obvious that, though I'm in good shape, I just don't heal as quickly as I used to. Where I used to be able to train through injuries and get better in spite of continuing to aggravate underlying problems, I'm now finding out that some injuries just don't get better without rest. As always, the majority of my problems stem from over-exertion while tense. Too much power, not enough control and relaxation. So it's becoming clear to me that I need to focus on relaxation, on control of speed and of power, over the next few months. That I need to worry less about mastering techniques and extending my knowledge of curriculum and more on assimilating the lessons and deepening my understanding of the eight key concepts in general -- and of shin chook, wan gup, and him cho chung in particular -- in order to best continue on this path.

Now, I just have to figure out how...

Mood: Pensive
Now Playing: Tyler Bates, "300: Music from the Motion Picture"