I’m a reasonably smart guy. I’ve never hidden that fact or been embarrassed by it the way some people seem to think you should be. There are, however, times when native brain power just isn’t enough.
This morning I went through my usual Saturday – did things like take a load of trash to the landfill, stop by the bank, and roll past Tractor Supply for the biggest bag of bird food available. Then I made my fatal mistake.
You see, today is Saturday. I didn’t think of it as anything other than Saturday. One of 52 that we get every year. It’s the day of the week even I get groceries. What every other person in the county apparently thought of today as, however, is “the last Saturday before Thanksgiving when they should take the whole family to the supermarket and pick up three carts full of food.”
It didn’t even occur to me. If it had, I’d have changed the plan and done my shopping at 5am to avoid the masses. I should have known better, should have been more aware. I was awash in a vast see of dumb as hell and have no one to blame but myself.
Mercifully I’m home now. If you want me to leave, setting the place on fire is probably the only way to shake me loose… and even that isn’t guaranteed to get the job done.
It has come to my attention that there may be a feeling that I have a tendency towards being too critical of people and things. I’m told “mistakes happen.” They surely do… except that what most people call mistakes I’ve found to usually be caused by failing to plan, not training hard enough, lack of attention to detail, or just generally being sloppy in the way you execute your day to day responsibilities. Negative consequences resulting from any of those things are not so much mistakes or random accidents as they are direct results of some general failure to adequately prepare or perform.
I don’t say that to cast dispersions upon anyone. Legitimate mistakes do happen from time to time. Random chance sees to that. I’m perfectly willing to admit it. If it seems, occasionally, that I’m overly sensitive to such things or that I’m living with unrealistic expectations of others, I can only ask you to rest assured that I also live with those standards for myself. I know instinctively that I will never have a worse critic than the one that lives inside my own head. I feel every honest mistake intensely – and every consequence of personal failing or inadequate preparation like a body blow.
In our daily endeavors it’s a fool’s errand to demand perfection. There’s simply no way to control for all possible inputs. Even knowing that, though, I’ll make no apologies for expecting good order and discipline to prevail. All I can promise you, and I swear this before the gods, is that I will never hold another to a standard higher than to that which I hold myself.
I’ve spent a not insignificant part of my career railing against people who have meetings just to have meetings or the ones that could have been just an email. I run a standing Tuesday morning meeting. It’s been on the books for longer than I car to remember. Usually it lasts about 45 minutes, we hit the highlights of what changes took place in the last week, and we go our separate ways. I try very hard to never miss a chance to cancel it when there are so few changes from week to week that they can be easily pushed out as an email.
I fucked up today. I had a chance to cancel a meeting and I didn’t. Honestly, I basically forgot about it even being on the schedule until 30 minutes before it was supposed to start… and that’s only because Outlook stood up and told me I needed to dial in to the conference number. Because I spend my life online calling other people out, it’s only fair that I make this full and complete confessions of my sins.
Today I was the douchebag that held a meeting that could have easily been an email. I’m embarrassed and ashamed and have brought grave dishonor upon myself and my ancestors.
Four years ago at this time I was sitting in a very empty house wondering if I had lost my mind for accepting a demotion and dragging all my worldly possessions a third of the way across the country to start a job with an outfit I didn’t know anything about. Anyone who was following along back in 2011 knows I wasn’t quite so much running towards this new life as I was running away from the one in Memphis that seemed to implode at every turn. I was following that most basic of animal instincts: Home = Safety. Now of course I was never in any real physical danger, but mentally I knew my position was untenable. Stay put and I was going to slowly (or not so slowly) come unglued.
Interstate 40 to I-81 to 70 was the route to my salvation. It was the route home. With every mile West Tennessee dropped behind me the more like myself I felt. The last four years have had their own set of issues, of course, but none of them have ever felt existential in the way they were before. I was correcting my Great Mistake and my psyche knew it.
Sitting here now, in a different house, looking out at the last of the day’s sun streaming through the towering oaks and maples, brightening the stark white mountain laurel blooms, I think that listless, wandering part of life is finally behind me. Maybe I haven’t found enlightenment, but finding a sense of place seem to be just as important.
I suck at holding my tongue. It runs counter to my natural inclination to get loud and rowdy when points of personal pride are involved. I can only hope that my silence is never mistaken for assent. I have a long memory, particularly when it comes to keeping tabs on those who think I’ll stand idle while they malign my integrity. If I don’t react it’s because I’ve opted to respond in a time and a place of my own choosing rather than based on someone else’s timeline.
My very first instinct when something stupid happens is to think about it as a “blogable” moment. Occasionally, despite how pitch perfect the post would be, a cooler head eventually prevails and I realize that now is not the time to shift my career dissipation light into overdrive. Instead, I bite my tongue, and file the original post away for future reference or for inclusion in Jeff’s Great Big Book of Asshattery, currently scheduled for publication in Fall 2036.
I may be keeping my own counsel. For now. But I urge you not to make the unfortunate mistake of thinking that I’ll ever allow myself to be backed into a corner – Especially by someone whose quiver is only filled with tersely-worded emails.
As best I can figure, life is collection of opportunities taken and those missed. On the whole, I like to think I’ve seized the initiative more often than I’ve let a good chance pass by. Occasionally, though, a good one slips by despite your best intentions to the contrary. If you’re incredibly lucky and manage to find yourself in just the right place at just the right time, every now and then you might just find yourself face to face with what could have been if you dove left instead of right. When life hands you a do over, it’s best not to ask too many questions and hope the older, wiser you is more audacious than your younger self. I tend not to make the same mistakes twice… but that in no way prevents me from making new and different mistakes at every opportunity. Either way, I’m taking my mulligan now.