Singing the Year 1 Blues
So first I’m going to admit that I should have taken a long time off of work between Hell and my academic job.
I was burnt. But what do people really mean when they say that? Usually it means that you’re depleted, that you lack fuel to convert into energy. It’s hard to be productive. Maybe you can’t be bothered to give a shit about anything.
Some degree of this was definitely going on when I started my new position. I felt like, why should I work all that hard for this place? I took a massive pay cut to come here. I don’t need to give it my all.
For the first two months, I made a conscious effort to do very little. Instead, I focused on the basics. I arrived at work on time every day and took the time to get to know people, just chatting it up and being friendly. I didn’t leave early or take super long lunch breaks. Eventually I started to slowly ease myself into learning the new systems that I’d be working on, but it took a while for me to feel ready to dive in with my whole mind and heart.
Like a dog that had been traumatized by too many loud firearm reports, after my time in Hell, I’d found that I’d gone work-shy.
The good thing about taking a new job is that you get to leave the old one in the dust.
But the bad thing is that the new job is open for a reason. Your employer has stuff that needs doing. In an office environment, this can be due to the unexpected departure of an employee, or new projects that require specific expertise.
In my case, it was both. Someone left shortly before I came on-board, and this produced gaps in work coverage that I was expected to fill. So somewhere in my third month I went into the office to suddenly find my manager leaning on me quite hard. He gave me a nasty project that had been kicked around the team for the past two years like a rotten hot potato. And this project suddenly had to get done, for various business-related reasons. Current staff was already busy and refused to do it, hence, I owned this enormous mess.
It took me sixteen months to get it done, from about April of 2012 to the end of July in 2013. During that time I took on many other smaller projects and also managed day-to-day operational tasks.
Some months were manageable, and I was able to complete my work within the 35-hour maximum that I was allowed to contribute each week. But many were not. I went through one particularly difficult two month stretch which saw me working every weekend on Sunday mornings, a period that started at 5AM and usually went through 11AM, because this was the only window I was allowed to work on certain applications and systems. This absolutely sucked — I had to wake up at 4:30 AM on Sunday, a time so early that it threw off my body’s internal cycles and left me feeling out-of-whack for two days afterward. Oh, and it also obviously ruined my weekend.
Although I was generally compensated for the weekend work, it was not a 1:1 trade and I was unhappy about the constancy of the work. I was sort of promised during the interview process that things would be easier at this job — and they were! — but perhaps not enough to solely justify the drop in salary.
So I decided to push back. I had a long conversation with my wife and we agreed that we’d wait until 6 months had passed before I confronted my manager on this subject, and I did. (I’ll get into what happened a bit later in the post.)