A bit too high…

I’ll be the first to admit that my Instagram feed is not generally what most people would consider “wholesome.” It’s thick with porn stars, egirls, and instathots. Thankfully I don’t subscribe to that particularly American brand of puritanism that shrieks and clutches its pearls at even the mention of the human body. 

Occasionally, though, some other things break through the Insta-clutter. A couple of nights ago I was scrolling through my feed and I landed on a photo of row after row of books. It was a real thing of beauty – formal, but comfortable; well loved, but equally well maintained. 

“I want something like that when I build a house,” I mumbled to myself before filing it away for reference should the occasion ever present itself to build my own book room from the foundation up. 

Upon closer inspection, of course I want something like that. The picture that so fascinated me was of the royal library in the Palace of Versailles. 

It’s good to be ambitious. Goals beyond food, shelter, and procreation are what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. I fear, however, in this case I may have set my sights just a bit too high. 

Friday feeling…

If you spend any time on social media you can’t help by notice the inundation of posts celebrating the arrival of Friday – as if Friday was actually part of the weekend and not just another fifth of the regular work week. As for me, my #FridayFeeling is largely one of profound disinterest – apathy mixed with a deep desire to be almost anywhere else (war zones and 3rd world countries excluded). Mostly, though, it’s a desire to be at home, with a good book and a stiff drink, surround by fuzzy animals. At this stage of life my desires are modest and reasonable.

It’s increasingly hard to remember there was a time when I was actually ambitious – when I wanted to go places and do things. It’s even harder to remember there was a time when I had the mental energy left over to make those things happen. That’s especially true when the here and now is so often taken up with just trying not to fall asleep during a staff meeting and smashing my face into the table or drooling all over myself.

The problem with doing good work…

The problem with doing good work is largely that the reward is often finding yourself with even more of it that needs doing. In exceptional circumstances you’ll arrive in a position of having done so well that a well running portfolio will be taken away and given to someone else so that you can take on a whole laundry list of troubled efforts in order to get them turned around.  That’s really the ultimate punishment for a job well done… It tends to be a vicious cycle; spend a few years getting things right just in time to hand them off and spend the following few years getting other things right. Trouble is, you never get to really kick back and enjoy the tasty fruits of getting it right before a whole lot of wrong ends up falling on your lap.

The sorry truth is when it comes to work, I’m not a brilliant seer of the future. I’m really a rather simple sort who’s content enough to put my head down and bull through whatever’s in front of me. I’ve given up any ambitions of being a boss, so I fight where I’m told, and I win where I fight. It’s a simple if not particularly energy efficient approach to getting things done.

In the deepest, darkest recesses of my mind, though, I do sometimes wonder how many cycles of wash-rinse-and-repeat the designated fixer should reasonably be expected to contend with before losing his proverbial shit all over the executive suite.

Racing towards the end of the year…

I’ve spent the last twenty minutes blowing the dust of five posts from the archives and couldn’t help but notice that we’ve worked almost all of the way through 2007. The last of the November posts are up and December has made it’s first appearance. Time flies when you’re having fun. Especially when you’re posting material from before the point when you got the ridiculous idea that posting every day was a good idea.

This week is the usual assortment of minutia, complaints about the onrushing Christmas holiday, and a fun little post from a time in my life when I was still professionally ambitious. Those always make me smile. It never ceases to amaze me how much your Give-a-Shit level can change in six short years.

Enjoy the archive posts and be sure to check back tomorrow for brand new gripes and complaints.

It’s Sunday. You know the drill…

Maybe if I didn’t still have a head full of crud, I’d take the time and effort to come up with a more snappy title for today’s post. Sorry, but you’re not getting that level of effort this morning. I mean you don’t always expect me to bring my A-game right?

The good news from today’s trip into the archives is that we’ve wrapped up the posts from September 2007. September ends more with a whimper than with a bag, but in a blog that’s just a play-by-play of what’s going on in life, that’s to be expected. October is looking a little more interesting so far. The first two posts you’ll see were apparently written when I was still professionally ambitious and not nearly as cynical as I am today. I’d almost forgotten there was a time like that. Maybe once the posts from the archive series is complete I can backtrack through the blog and point to the exact moment when I threw up my hands in disgust and decided to focus on other things.

Hopefully you’ll enjoy your time in the archive today as much as I have. We’ll return to regular programming tomorrow.

Wrapping up August (2007)…

The last posts from August 2007 and up and ready for your reading pleasure. Usually these Sunday morning updates are delivered in a five pack, but I didn’t feel right about leaving one post just hanging out there waiting Wayback machinefor next week, so you get a bonus sixth post today and I get a clean slate to dive into posts from September 2007 next week. Sounds like a win for everyone involved, no?

A couple of editorial notes on this weeks posts:

August 24, 2007 is the first mention of what will become jeffreytharp.com that we all know and love today.

– Apparently back on August 29, 2007 I still considered myself young and ambitious. Talk about a few years changing your perspective on things. I’m not quite ready to label myself old and crusty, but my greatest ambitions these days involve getting home to hang out with Maggie and Winston and have precious little to do with life at the office.

Check back next week as we step into the wayback machine and travel to September 2007. I’m sure a good time will be had by all.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Comcast. Making the list for the third or fourth time this year is the cable company that everyone loves to hate. Ever since I downgraded my service a two months ago, my bills have been arriving with what I’ll generously call wild inaccuracies. I spent 30 minutes yesterday on the phone with a very nice CSR who thought she was going to be able to make this month’s round of corrections. Except, of course, she couldn’t because the amount of the correction was in excess of $25… which triggered the need to execute what I believe she called an “elevation form for tier two service.” Instead of being transferred to this group of genies, I’d have to “stand by for them to contact me sometime within the next five business days.” I don’t know why I ever hold out hope that anything can either A) just work the way it’s supposed to work or B) Be corrected with a single phone call. Clearly my expectations are misaligned with reality.

2. The five day work week. I’m out of practice with being at my desk for a full five days in a row. I know this because it’s Thursday and the only ambition I have left is to muddle through tomorrow and get to the weekend. It’s not that the week has been particularly busy, problematic, or strange… but the trek from Monday to Friday has just seemed to go on forever. Now if I can just gin up enough oomph to drag myself through three more long weeks, I’ll be all set for the 11-day Christmas weekend.

3. Lunch. When I worked in DC, it was two blocks to Chinatown, one metro stop from Union Station and the Hill, or a 10 minute walk in almost any other direction to find a diverse and tasty array of lunch options. Here in Aberdeen, there’s a Subway, a Burger King, and a few other lunch places that more or less serve the same thing. While I don’t miss the daily 90 minute commute, I desperately miss having some variety in my lunch options. I miss General Tso’s from Tony Chang’s, burgers at the District Chophouse, and deep dish from Armand’s. At this point, God help me, I even have fond memories of the build your own salad bar next door to the office and the hot dog cart set up on the curb. I’m not expecting an urban food environment here in the wilds of north eastern Maryland, but if I don’t find something other than sandwiches soon I may have to resort to bringing my own food… and that’s just not an option I want to entertain.

Friendly advice for the young and ambitious…

I was once like you. I was young and ambitious. I wanted to streak up the career ladder further and faster than anyone. For those out there who want to climb, you’re eventually going to reach the point where you’ll be required to make a life-altering decision. You’re going to have to reconcile a nominal pay increase with the enormous pain in the ass that is becoming a first line supervisor.

If you’re even hesitating for a second in deciding whether that’s something interesting to you, let me key you into a secret – It’s not worth it. It’s not worth it at twice the pay. Sure, if you’re lucky there are going to be one or two hard chargers in your group, but most of the rest are going to be average at best and you’ll land an unholy sprinkling of dregs, sociopaths, malcontents, and those whose best service would have been to retire a decade or two ago.

Take a bit of advice from someone who was ambitious before you came along. Find yourself a nice mid-level position, gather the reins of a couple of projects, and enjoy a fruitful career concerned with meeting your own deadlines and being limited mostly by only your own capacity to work. Don’t, under any circumstances, allow them to make you a supervisor, team leader, or any other euphemistic term for becoming part of the problem rather than its solution. You’ll end up looking back at what started out as a promising career and wondering when it became a low-budget shitshow.

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of previously de-published blogs appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.

Well, there’s your problem…

One of the biggest challenges of being young and ambitious and employed by the federal government all at the same time is that due to it effectively being a closed system, the ranks are filled with crusty old bastards who are blocking your route to plum assignments. They’ve been retired in place for years now and have no intention of leaving. For the generation coming up through the ranks, these are nothing so much as roadblocks, whose skill sets and mentality would be better suited for the government of 1967 than that of 2007. I’m not suggesting here that there should be a mandatory retirement age, just that there reaches a point where it’s no longer in the best interest of the government to keep these people on the payroll. In fact, I don’t know why you would reach 40 years of service and actually still want to hang around. Personally, I’m planning on playing a hell of a lot of golf by that stage of the game.

Of course the reality is that the federal bureaucracy is, at some unspoken level, a make work program whose personnel system has an unfortunate tendency to softly discourage young employees from turning a job into a career. When there is no clear path to advancement or even lateral transfer into a more attractive position, what incentive does a mid-level 20-something employee have to stay the course? Why would they wait, possibly for years, for a position or a promotion that no one can guarantee? Organizational loyalty is a great thing, but it has to work both ways. If you can’t reward the hard work and dedication of the Young Turks who designed and helped build the organization, they have to look to other opportunities and to their own future. Our generation isn’t one to sit around and “pay dues” just because that’s what our parent’s generation did.

The time has come to distribute the spoils of the transition we helped carry out. Historically, though, revolutions have a bad habit of eating their own young – just ask Robespierre or Marat. I’d recommend we all stay out of the tub for a while, just to be on the safe side of things.

A visit from my black dog…

Those of you who have been regular readers (thank you, by the way) may possibly have noticed a somewhat cyclic pattern to my posts. I know in reviewing them from time to time, I have identified a pattern that seems to emerge, at least to me, quite clearly… Building up a full head of steam and ranting or railing on a particular topic or series of topics, punctuated buy a post or two of more sullen thoughts. Until I sat tonight to write, I hadn’t put it together that those periods when my mood darkens are closely aligned to the times when I have the least to do… To those times when I have nothing to throw myself wholly into or to get lost in. They are the times I take counsel in my fears.

As I sit here tonight, I thought I might share some of those thought, some of those fears, with you.

Perhaps my greatest fear is that I’ll never be as great as my own ambition. It tends to be worse near my birthday and those who have spent any time with me in late May are probably all too familiar with my lament that Alexander had conquered an empire by the time he was thirty. As I write tonight, however, the thought, the fear, that plays on my mind most, is a question of why my own path seems so different that that of so many others. I’ve watched a parade of friends and associates pair off, marry, and settle into a routine of family life. And I’ve watched myself drive away the very possibility of those things in my on life at every turn. Just the outside prospect that things could move to that point fills me with abject dread and brings on images of the walls closing in on me, of suffocating under the weight of it.

The better part of the last three years has consisted of vaguely organized chaos, of flying across the country at the drop of a hat, of learning to think of hotels as second homes, and of never really being able to plan more than a few days of my life in advance. There is at least a part of me that envies those who know they’ll be home each night and know what and who to expect once they get there. There is more than a little regret for some of the opportunities I have allowed to pass untaken and for those my own chaos has hurt as it unfolded around them. I’ve not always been proud of the things I have done or the decisions I have made, but in almost every circumstance, I believed I was acting for the best. Some, however, were made in moments of fear, and of these, I am the least proud.

I will feel better tomorrow, because that is how these things work for me. Thought my black dog still lies at my feet, writing tonight has been a catharsis, as it almost always is.

I don’t often choose to post something this soul searching, so read and digest while you can… before I wake up in the middle of the night realizing what I threw out for the world to see and delete it… You know how I hate putting a weak face to the public.

P.S. Just so you know I’m not taking things too seriously tonight, I seriously considered posting this under the “Pets and Animals” category just for a lark and to see if anyone noticed.