2018 sees the tenth anniversary of a rough time in my life. A decade ago, in pre-blog days, I experienced a period of work-related stress that had repercussions for myself and those around me. Now, at some distant remove from that episode, it seems a reasonable moment to pause and reflect, in a manner that wasn't an option at the time.
In 2000, I began working for a small, but growing, electronics company which, in many ways, became my dream job. It was a rewarding time, both from the sense of making a difference and also remuneration. As the company's ranks swelled, we all rode the wave of hard work and job satisfaction, and after eight years, I found myself managing a product line as well as co-ordinating installations and repairs. Those latter roles began to need more resource and manpower but, in fire-fighting mode, I was either too busy juggling projects or too close to the problem to recognise it for what it was.
The upshot was that I internalised everything, taking the burden of the looming deadlines, customers' high expectations and general lack of resource as my problem, not the company's. This was not a healthy state of affairs and, inevitably, I ended up as a sobbing wreck in the boss's office.
Sent home and visiting a doctor at my local surgery, I vaguely heard the words he was saying... something about a football pitch, countless blades of grass, one blade among many, yada, yada. My head was still full of all the things that weren't being done at work so, when I returned home, all I could explain to Our Lass about the doctor was "When the heck does he think I have time to mow the lawn?!" After a time (memory has kindly erased how long), I returned to work, to a company that was also wondering what was going to happen next. I did not appreciate their point of view for some considerable while.
Whilst I'd been away, things had been happening, resource was being created and a whole department began to take shape. Unfortunately, it seemed unlikely that I would be a part of it, as I was offered the choice of several other, perhaps less demanding, roles. At this point, I began to realise that I was on a journey of sorts. I hadn't heard of the Change Curve, but being told that I was no longer required in the role that had suited me like no other was a proper blow. Shock and denial turned to anger.
Having asked for a weekend to think things over, I channelled the anger into a heartfelt letter to the boss, outlining why I thought he was wrong. Subsequent redrafts followed, each lifting a cloud as the expletive count lowered. All through this process, the song playing in my head, and I do not know how it came to me, was Green Day's 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams'. This was a band whose output tended to be generationally restricted to the bedrooms of First and Second Born, so I likely absorbed the vibe, unconsciously, through the walls.
The following week, letter delivered, I felt strong enough to argue my corner, resulting in the small victory of a desk in the corner of the nascent department. From this vantage point, I was able to rebuild some self confidence, using the best bits of the old me to forge a more resilient, but wary, new me. During that time, on site with a trusted and valued customer, I talked about what had happened. Bless him, the customer kindly gave me the "It's ok to say no" talk which, in many ways, was the final piece of the puzzle. In the years afterwards, I hope I repaid his kindness, it was the least I could do.
I spent a further five years with the company, with my only significant use of the word 'no' being the occasion when I refused the position of departmental manager. Later, when the question arose again, I accepted, and had the honour of managing (at least on paper!) the best bunch of colleagues a guy could wish for. They were often infuriating, occasionally ridiculous, but frequently sublime. To a man and woman, each understood the need to complete the task, using their many and different skills to accomplish what was required. A chap can learn a lot from a team like that.
So now, whenever I listen to 'Boulevard...', it reminds me of not only the low point, but also the highs. Which is quite cathartic and pretty much all you could ask of a SOMP track.