Monday, May 24, 2010

Hiding Out

I live for the weekends, especially these days. Usually my weekends are a combination of family activities, going out with the Boy, getting some things done around my house, etc. This weekend most of my family was out of town. So I had the whole weekend to myself with no prior obligations. I ended up spending most of my time hiding out with the Boy.

It was actually one of those great weekends where you get almost everything done that you had planned on doing. We did some chores around my house, went shopping for some new summer clothes for the Boy, hung out with his friends at party on Saturday night and then spent Sunday afternoon moving some plants around in my yard to give the landscape a fresh new look.

In addition, my kitchen remodeling project is close to completion, so I have been eagerly anticipating the finishing touches. I met with the painter for a final estimate on his part of the job and picked out a few options for the tile back splash. Everything seemed to be humming right along. Until Sunday evening came around.

The dread of Monday morning takes on a whole new meaning when there is so much to look forward to at home and so many things I would prefer to avoid at work. I have three weeks of very unpleasant work-related activities coming up and it makes me want to just bury my head in the sand until it is all over.

It starts with a management retreat this week. As I have mentioned before, the Company is fairly spread out geographically, so the management team decided to fly into the office where I work for a three day face to face meeting. It begins with a management dinner on Monday evening at which, my Boss was quick to remind me, attendance is mandatory.

The idea of a 'mandatory' social event seems ridiculous to me. The main purpose of a social event is voluntary, spontaneous interchange among people. There is no bigger buzz kill than to force a group of unwilling participants to gather around a dinner table. The Company already controls our lives from 9:00 to 5:00 and now they are going to require us to get together and have fun after hours - whether we like it or not.

Just because I work with these people does not mean I have any desire to know them on a personal level. All I want is to do my job and then go home. Plus, my lifestyle does not really support the standard topics for polite social conversation among grown ups at these types of events. I am not married and I don't have any kids or pets. I am remodeling my kitchen, but that is certainly not something I would want to share with any of these people.

Not to mention the fact that I hate my job. So having passionate discourse about how we can increase revenue or get more sales in the pipeline is not something I can get myself psyched up for. Overall, it is going to be really awkward and uncomfortable. Maybe if I was more engaged in my job it would be different. But that is not the situation I am in right now.

This morning I was talking to the Boy about my dinner party dilemma. "Sometimes I wonder why I feel so strongly opposed to it. After all, it is just a dinner. Yet, I can't help feeling like it is some sort of violation of my personal integrity," I explained. "What's wrong with me?"

"There is nothing wrong with you," he said reassuringly. "You just don't want to play their games."

He is absolutely right about that. Not only do I not want to play their games, but I really don't want to watch the others play either. There is a guy I work with who happened to start at the Company around the same time as me. We are both at the same level, but with different projects. While I have been plagued with the most challenging clients and an implementation team that can best be characterized as the Bad News Bears, he has had a high profile government contract with all of the resources of the Company at his disposal.

We also have some fundamental differences in how we treat people. I have tried to promote a casual and positive team atmosphere. He prefers a more dictatorial approach. As a result, he is one of the least popular Client Directors at the Company. But he is not really worried about what his staff thinks of him. He has his eye on the bigger prize. Just a little Eager Beaver, all hyped up on the company Kool Aid and shamelessly promoting himself at every opportunity.

Over the past six months, I have watched the Eager Beaver kiss up to my Boss, her Boss and the Boss above that every chance he gets. When I started at the Company, my Boss told me that I could have her job someday. Now that it has become clear to her that I am not interested in this progression, she has declared the Eager Beaver as her unofficial successor.

Now, I have no problem if that is the career path he wants to pursue. By all means, to each his own. I would just rather not have to give up my Monday night TV shows to eat bad Mediterranean food while the Eager Beaver does his thing.

Assuming I make it through this week, the following week my Boss's daughter and her team are flying in to test their database. This will involve three days of sitting in a confined space and constantly responding to verbal assaults from the Daughter. To make matters worse, we are expected to invite them to dinner in the evenings, so they have a pleasant testing experience.

There is certainly no love loss between the Daughter and my team. In fact, the whole team was complaining to me all last week and arguing about who would have to take the client out to dinner. My only hope is that the Daughter shares my aversion to insincere social gestures and politely declines our offer. If only I could be so lucky.

The week after that I have to fly to Fargo, North Dakota to visit with another client. Their attitude toward the Company is neutral at best. We are in the fourth year of a five year contract and I think they are just biding their time until it is over. The best part about my trip to Fargo will be going out to dinner with one of my team members who works in the Baltimore office and is also flying in for the meeting. As she so aptly described it, we are unwelcome visitors at this client site. But we have to go anyway.

So I guess that is why I just feel like hiding out. All I want to do is get my kitchen finished and bake some muffins. Once again, it seems like my work life is getting in the way of my real life. And that's no way to live.

I was talking to one of the Boy's friends at the party on Saturday night and I mentioned that I really wanted to be a professional writer, but I wasn't sure I would be able to make a living at it. She told me about her girlfriend who works as a free lance writer in Minnesota. Apparently this woman takes assignments to research various topics and then writes articles for a local magazine. And she charges by the word.

What a simple concept. Having a job where you can work from home, learn about things you are interested in and get paid more than a penny for your thoughts.

That conversation was the small glimmer of hope that I needed to get through these next few weeks. Who knows, maybe I will post a special edition of the Cupcake Diaries - Live from Fargo. In the meantime, wish me luck!

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