#299 In which our hero tries to catch up.
The blog’s been dark for a couple months not because I don’t have anything to write about, but just the opposite. Lots of big stuff has been happening lately. Some highlights:
After all the doom and gloom in the past six months, mom is actually doing really well. I mean, she has COPD and as such, she’ll never have the quality of life she once did. She progressed rapidly from needing oxygen when she exerted herself, to needing it for longer periods while she recovered from illness, to full time. For a long time she keep telling me that she was sure that she’d get off her oxygen as soon as she recovered from the latest bout of flu or pneumonia or whatever.
She doesn’t say that any more.
It’s pretty clear that she is now permanently tethered to her O2 tank. In fact, there was an incident several weeks ago where she lost power in the middle of the night, meaning her oxygen concentrator machine stopped working. She didn’t think she had enough bottled O2 to make it through the night (she only keeps a few small bottles in the house, enough for her to take with her when running errands) and she panicked. She called 9-1-1 and the local fire department brought her a big bottle of O2. Of course, the power came back on an hour later.
She said it was quite the fuss in the neighborhood. She laughed it off, but I know full well that the reason it was a fuss in the neighborhood is that when people see an ambulance in my mother’s driveway, they assume the worst. And they should.
But, as of now mom’s in pretty good shape, all things considered. Even her latest cancer scans came back clear. And the weather’s finally starting to turn, so mom’s getting back out and about. Being how social my mother is, this is a critical turn of events.
Bullying at School
Lily (my 7-year-old) had a run-in with a bully at her daycare. She had mentioned had N. was sometimes mean to her, and both The Scientist and I witness N. being a little bossy, but we really didn’t make much of it.
But one day while my wife was picking up, she was there when this little girl mouthed off to the teacher. The Scientist chided her (that the teacher didn’t immediately address this disrespectful kid is a whole other story) telling her that she was being rude, and shouldn’t talk to her teacher, or any grown-up, like that. She pouted a bit, and stomped off. A couple minutes later one of N’s hangers-on came over and told my wife, “N. says she doesn’t care what you say, because you’re not her mommy.” So The Scientist went over to N. and said, “Y’know what? I know your mommy and maybe I’ll just talk to her about your behavior directly.” This seemed to put the fear of God into her, and she straightened up. For the rest of that day, at least.
But soon after Lily started telling us that N. was bothering her at school. We told her to ignore N. as best as she could and not engage her. But Lily said that she tried that, and N. would follow her around the classroom, taunting her and basically being a shit.
So, the next day of daycare, The Scientist pulled the center director aside and told her what was going on. And then the director pulled N. aside and said something to her. Whatever it was, the situation seems to be handled. N. isn’t bothering Lily any more, and even plays with her sometimes. Lily is such a sweet kid that she holds no grudge whatsoever.
It’s tempting to just dismiss this as kids being kids, but it worries me. Mostly because Lily is such a sensitive soul, and it only takes something minor, like being excluded from group activities by one mean girl, to set her off. And bullies, like the proto-mean girl N., feed off of that. I worry that Lily will constantly be the target of shitty kids who enjoy making other kids cry. Part of me wants to always be there to intervene and smack down anyone who dares hurt my child; but another part of me wants Lily to learn to be tough, and deal with crap like this herself. I’m sure the real answer is somewhere in-between the two.
And now, the really big news! I quit my job! And got another one! Not necessarily in that order!
I’d been increasingly unhappy at my job for some time. First, it was in Akron, meaning a 45-minute commute every day. Which sucked in terms of gas consumed and wear and tear on my car but, honestly, after five years I had gotten used to the drive. In fact it was kinda nice to have the time to listen to the news or, more often, audio books. But still, in the winter you could count on at least a couple days in which the 45-minute drive turned into two hours or more. And it was always a pain to juggle kid pick-up and afterschool activities with the drive.
The agency had also changed considerably from when I first started. Five years ago it was fairly laid back, and really tried to keep things fun with monthly activities like a 5 o’clock ice cream social, or 2 o’clock margaritas or an impromptu pancake breakfast.
But, over time that stuff started to go away. My department used to have departmental outings; for example, we all took off at noon one day and went bowling. That stopped happening, mostly because the volume of work demanded that we needed people there at their desks churning out the work at all business hours.
And that’s really the biggest thing that got to me, the agency turned into a factory. It felt like we were all on an assembly line, and the overriding goal to was crank out a large volume of work. If it was good work, and creative work, that was a plus. But mostly we needed to hit the deadlines. Which became shorter and shorter, most of the work due in a day or less. And even the projects where we had enough time to give them some good thought got short shrift, since they went to the bottom of the pile so we could address the short deadline stuff.
I had some run-ins with account people who actively dissuaded creative thought in favor of “safe” concepts that would sail by the client. More and more I was put into the position to create copy that wasn’t the best, just the least objectionable.
Everyone in the Creative Department was worn down. I didn’t even put up much of a fight anymore when confronted with absurd deadlines or piss-poor direction. I just rolled over and did what I was told.
Which is the worst possible situation a creative person can him themselves in. Because I really believe that creativity is a muscle, and if you don’t exercise it regularly, it will atrophy and die. I was very much in jeopardy of having that happen. Which could mean that not only was I not doing my job very well, but I might actually be hurting my chances at ever getting another job. I’ve seen co-workers who have a portfolio of work they did five, ten years ago. With nothing creative to show done recently. That’s a huge red flag to a perspective new employer.
Even so, I only half-heartedly looked for another job. And, as it turned out, a job found me. This is such a ridiculous story that I’m going to write it up as its own post. Stay tuned!