This week we had our Christmas party at work. One of the activities was to open up our "department time capsule" and read the answers. The time capsule was actually my idea. My job is to focus on strategy for our company, so I thought it would be fun to ask everyone some questions about where they thought we would be in one year.
There were prizes for whoever had the closest answers to where we actually ended up. I asked my assistant to read the responses in advance to figure out who won. Later that afternoon, she came to my office to review the results.
"So, I read your answers to the time capsule and I started cracking up," she teased.
I paused for a moment and then I remembered what she was talking about. At the bottom of my time capsule response I had written a message that said "If I have left the company to open up my own yoga studio and flower shop, please tell everyone I said hello!"
"Oh yeah," I replied. "I totally forgot about that." I made some joke about how I was so into yoga at the time I wrote that response.
"Don't worry, I won't mention it to anyone," she assured me. I think when she said 'anyone' she really meant my boss.
After she left, I started thinking about how I felt about my job one year ago. I was in the middle of a huge system implementation and working 10-12 hour days and weekends. There was no way I could catch up or dig out from under the weight of all of that responsibility. I was completely miserable.
If you had asked me in January what the chances are that I would still be working here in December, I would have said with certainty that it was 0%. That is why I wrote that note. I had no intention of being there when they opened up that time capsule.
I have started a lot of system implementations, but until now I had never seen the end of one. Usually I leave a few months before the end. I work so hard for so long that I burn myself out. Then I tell myself that this company doesn't deserve me and I should find a new place where things will be better. Then I leap out of the burning building just before it explodes, like an action hero in the movies.
In the past, my solution to being unhappy was to change my situation. Which works for awhile. Until the same problems catch up to you, or perhaps you create some new ones.
After a health scare over the summer I woke up and realized that I was not responsible for the success or failure of the implementation, or any other project at work for that matter. Then I stopped working so many hours. And other people stepped in and picked up their share of the work.
I finally got to experience the end of a system implementation. And you know what I found out? They never actually end. Things are still broken. And there are pieces of the project that will carry over until next year, and the year after that.
Everyone at work was really unhappy for awhile. But we all survived and now we are moving on. Maybe that was something I needed to see.
Sometimes leaving isn't the best strategy. Sometimes you have to stay.
I can't say that I love my job now, but I also don't hate it. More importantly I learned that I don't need to love my job in order to be happy. I can seek happiness elsewhere.
And now that I am not working all those hours, I should have plenty of time to find it.