June 1, 2007

lacking momentum

People talk about being at a crossroads at certain points in their lives. But me, I think I live at the crossroads. My entire life seems to be one long debate about where I should focus my energies.

OK, it's clear some things come first: Family and beer, for example. And college football in high definition. But look at my career. Halfway through college, I nearly switched from Electrical Engineering to English. My career arc has taken me in a sort of spirograph from tech writing to programming to marketing back to programming to project management to entrepreneurship to programming to program management. And along the way, I've dabbled in writing fiction (and nonfiction) under the fantasy of some day being able to write as a career.

Back in 2000 when the dot-com bubble was expanding, I turned away from marketing (not entirely but mostly) to focus on web programming because I figured when the bubble burst, I could benefit from having established programming skills. Turns out that was a terribly prudent move. I fairly quickly got a good programming job at a bad company while many marketing people were out pounding the bricks looking for openings. And it was my database skill that hooked me up with my current company, and my web skill that got me my current job. But I find my role shifting dramatically away from programming, and now I'm very confused.

I love my job, my company, my boss, and what I do. What I do makes a difference [pdf]. But it's one of those jobs that can expand itself to take up all your waking moments and all your energy. The number of task forces and committees and boards and advisory councils and such I could join is enormous, and all of them full of interesting people doing meaningful work. And, it looks like there will be a call for that expertise in the future, and not just on the regulatory side. Plus, I get to hobnob with some pretty interesting people in some pretty high places in the corporate, nonprofit, and public sectors.

When I look ahead to my twelve-year personal plan, though, I pause. (Why 12 years, you ask? If you've ever had your youngest child in first grade, you'll understand.) In 12 years do I want to be at the top of this field, an expert among experts? Given that I'd have nearly 20 years experience in the field at that point, it's not unlikely. Or do I really want to be doing something else like living the life of an author in a mountain cabin, writing best sellers? Maybe that's unlikely, maybe not. But I know I can't have two parallel 12-year plans with such disparate outcomes. Especially when family and beer come first.

If you have advice on this question, feel free to share it in the comments.

Writing Update:
I've just fine-tuned and sent off my three short stories that recently boomeranged back to me in their SASEs. Although finding little & literary markets can be time consuming, one benefit is that you get to read a lot of good stuff in the process.

1 comment:

T L Reynolds said...

Peter,
Good luck with your stories. It is tough to go through the old-fashioned route but there are benefits, as you mentioned. This approach is well worth the wait.