Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I love my job. I feel the need to start with that, and to let it be known that I am fully aware of how blessed I am in my work and (particularly) in my coworkers.

In the past month or so I feel that I've regained the joy in my work that I had during my first months (excepting, of course, the ridiculous first few weeks). I had let go of a lot of this joy and excitement about the things I get to do, the things I get to spend time thinking about, in the anxiety and pressure of helping to publish two papers, of numerous speedy revisions on these papers, staying up all night attempting to code things I don't fully understand, finding errors several weeks later in completely different places, and having to stay up all night again in an attempt to fix them. But mostly, in the constant worry that something else would go wrong, already had gone wrong. And in a sense this was all pretty ridiculous, the level of anxiety I allowed myself to get worked up too, but at the same time it was not all crazy, because in the present the quality of my work makes a difference to the people who I work with and in the future it is possible that the outcomes of my work may be put to other uses. Nonetheless, I very much want to be able to handle the stress better; not just for myself, but because I know that I let my anxiety and worry bleed out into those around me, the people I work with, my friends, Jeremy.

Over the past month I started working on a new project; I love working on this project. I'm more than a small bit worried that at the end of it we won't be able to accomplish what we would like, but I think the topic is interesting, the methods are interesting, the data are interesting. I'm working with someone I've not worked with before, which is nice as well, another person to learn from. The work is also a lot more focused than the work I've done in the past--a single country, rather than all countries--which I ultimately prefer because for me, at least, it means a deeper understanding of what the numbers actually mean and working, albeit distantly, with people who have a personal connection to the estimates.

I'm nonetheless having trouble getting over the shear volume of things that I Do Not Know. It's utterly frustrating; I hate having to ask for people to explain things multiple times (though am blessed with working with people who are almost universally graceful in this respect), I hate admitting to not knowing things that I, at least in theory, could already know, and I hate not knowing how to go about getting to a place of better understanding. I constantly want to explain to people that I really do know and --more importantly to me at the moment--understand a lot of things: I can tell you many things about organic chemistry, for example, or genetics, or physics. I'm confident in my ability to teach these things as well, which is something that I, legitimately or not, take some measure of pride in. But these things are not at the moment particularly useful, and that's okay, I just would like to be at the same place with the things that would be useful. This is all, of course, a testament to the extent to which I define myself and my value to others by my abilities; this is probably appropriate in a work setting, but I've never been great at separating my work from the rest of my life.

And today, despite being a day of again getting to work on a project I enjoy, was ultimately frustrating because I don't fully understand the things I would like to fully understand. This frustration was severely compounded by being switched back to a project that I not only feel much less equipped to accomplish well but also am far less enthused by. And frustration with myself, additionally, for letting my frustration be so apparent to my co-workers that it's now a burden on them as well. I must, must, learn how to keep these things to myself or at least to the people who I am legitimately close enough to--so basically Jeremy and a few friends--that I can reasonably expect them to share this with me. I feel moderately hypocritical saying that in this type of venue, but I think I can reasonably expect that it's really only those people who read this blog in any case. And perhaps even not them, given my extreme infrequency in posting.

All this to say: I am done, insofar as I am able, unnecessarily complaining. I am done, again as far as I am able, letting my frustration get the best of me, and particularly letting my frustration affect others. I am trying, as much as I can--and in all honesty this really isn't hard to do as long as I'm the least bit intentional because I am so blessed--to remember how privileged I am in my work and the people around me in all areas of my life. And I am writing this down so that when I forget all of this, which will almost certainly happen, I will see it and be reminded.

the end.

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