I suspected this time of the year would be harder than average for me, that time when everyone goes back to school and gets back in the swing of academic life post summer vacation. I identify this as personally challenging on two fronts: being an outside and being out of schedule.
For most students, the end of August marks the end of summer vacation. Sometimes that 2-3 month break is exciting, and other times it’s a very boring experience. Either way, you probably weren’t in school going through the usual motions. This is no longer the case now that I’m out of school. As simple a thought as it sounds, I’m very accustomed to shifting gears every few months from project to project as the seasons changed. It was predictable, I could look forward to it, and it’s no longer the case.
During my time at RPI I found that I had 4 work cycles: Summer vacation (aka open source broad value RCOS work), fall semester (deploy and build new things for RPI), winter break (experimental things / break from coding), and spring semester (fix all the bugs and make things stable). Now that I have this 9-5 job (well, technically my critical hours are 8-4, but I usually risk it and delay a bit) that’s no longer the case. The end of August is coming and there’s no dramatic, or even subtle, shift in my work in the pipeline. I don’t know if this is what actually bothers me, or it’s the fact that I can’t shift my work if I wanted to. I mean technically there are these business quarters that are suppose to be important for something, but the only weight they carry to me is on paper. As far as I know, no one rallies around them because event X is coming up and we’ll all be moving back to campus or something. They are just dates.
Now that I have left RPI I feel very much like an outsider. Being on the other side of the country doesn’t help one bit with that feeling either, because my social interactions with relevant parties as nearly non-existent. I guess I thought work would keep me too busy to notice, but that’s not the case at all. I whole heartily enjoyed where I was at RPI and what I did. Professionally: I could hack my way through any academics you could throw at me, but more importantly I had a fair amount of experience and expertise so I could tackle just about any problem thrown at me. The same side of that coin also made me a resource for others, people would collaborate with me, ask me questions, and generally make me feel of some value. Socially it took me something like 4.x years to finally start to open up around folks and come off as a nearly friendly (or so I’ve been told) person.
Such is not the case in my new job. Sure, I feel valuable when I complete units of work but I’m not sure if there is anything that I’ve done that is specific to Brian. Anything that’s expected of me isn’t specific to me as a person, it could just as easily be passed to someone else on my team. Perhaps the largest contrast has been from going from the guy who answers questions to being the guy who has to ask really stupid ones. It’s not a pleasant feeling at all, especially when it’s very easy to to ask really stupid questions to really really smart people.
As I see folks moving back and gearing up for another semester my mind starts launching into projects, ideas, conversations, and input that I, as an alumni, and no longer in any place to give. Biting my tongue really isn’t fun, but I know it’s part of this process. That doesn’t mean I like the process at all. Part of me envies those that have managed to drag it out as much as possible, or found ways to get a taste of it every now and then by staying in touch and visiting. Not really an option for me.
I hate to extend the ship metaphor, but often I feel as if the ship is leaving port without me this time and I’m stuck on the docks. I’m left staring at you through some silly looking glass, wondering how much time will pass until we cross paths again. The optimist in me has a particularly hard time convincing me the probability of that even is high.
Good night moon.