Dear Professional Life:
First, I want you to know that it’s not you, you’re great. It’s me.
We’ve had some crazy times together over the last 21 years and you’re an important part of who I am, but we’ve always been honest with one another so I need to tell you something that’s really going to be hard to say.
It’s taken me a long time to build up the courage to tell you this: My feelings for you have changed and I’m just not sure what you and I have left between us anymore.
I know this is hard for you, hey it’s hard for me too, but in the end, I hope you’ll see that it’s going to be better for both of us to re-examine our relationship.
I hope you won’t blame Eva because this started a long time before I became a father. Remember how miserable I was at the end of the 1990s, right before we left South Florida? For years you and I had a blast cranking out those 60-hour weeks, launching a print magazine, and designing and building all those online startups in the early days of the commercial Web. But the stress beat the crap out of me and I was crazy with insecurities. Then we go crashing into washingtonpost.com like a runaway freight train careening off people and projects and doing the crazy hours again and stumbling up the org chart together. We got so much accomplished, and at such a vicious place, but there was always a tension inside me, a tension I couldn’t figure out until I got to PBS years later.
You remember the environment at PBS? That has to be the friendliest place I’ll ever work and it helped me understand what was going on back at The Post. See at washingtonpost.com, everybody treated everybody else like crap and you were judged mostly on the quality and quantity of your work; at PBS, how you treated others determined whether or not you could get ANY work done. (The former results in both great productivity and high turnover; the latter breeds passive aggression and inertia.) I couldn’t verbalize it at the time, but there was a huge gap between the kind of a guy I needed to be at washingtonpost.com and the kind of a guy I really want to be. I was able to close that gap quite a bit at PBS.
Dealing with public media zealots has its challenges, but their influence helps make PBS a wonderful, unique place. And the design team we had there? Best team ever. I had only agreed to manage staff again so I could take on the redesign of pbs.org, but that’s probably the most effective I’ve been managing staff which is ironic since I was so wildly unsuccessful with the redesign. I resuscitated that damn project three times before I finally accepted that it was dead on the table. I’m trying like crazy the whole time to unlearn most of what I’d learned at washingtonpost.com about moving a project through a system, but I just couldn’t get it done.
For years people had told me that I was hard-wired to be a consultant and now that I’m at Sapient I believe they may be right. As you know, things have gone well here and the periods of high stress have been both short and relatively infrequent. But things haven’t been right between you and me since we got here.
See, I don’t think I love you anymore.
God we had passion back in the day, didn’t we? We could barely keep our hands off one another in Vermont and South Florida and then back in D.C. But when we were at our most intimate, I was an intense, stressed out wreck. I couldn’t relax and I barked and growled at my friends and family. I can’t be like that around my daughter, it’s unacceptable, and I don’t want to slip back into being like that with my wife. Do you understand what I’m talking about? I’m sure I’m not the only one who has sensed the distance between us. It means that I’m not a magnet for stress anymore, but now it seems like ennui is hiding behind every corner.
It’s not that I don’t care, I always care about my work. And it’s not that my work isn’t engaging, I always find interesting aspects to concentrate on. Professional Life, you and I just aren’t the pair we used to be.
And, if we’re going to be honest here, your suspicions about me looking for love elsewhere are true. In the nooks and crannies of the day, I’ve been making slow progress on a half dozen personal projects. I just re-launched this blog and there’s the novel I’ve been rewriting, the quirky Web design book proposal I’m pulling together, and the picture books I’m drawing and writing. These aren’t hobbies and they’re not just a passing infatuation. In fact, if I thought my family could afford it, I’d sign up for the five remaining courses I need for my Masters of Writing degree and I’d write, illustrate, and go to classes full-time. But I’m not going to turn my back on success. While the things I do best may not be the things I enjoy doing most, I like them just fine and I will eventually get my projects done, one way or another.
Look, I need to know that you and I can still be friends, okay? Really good friends. We may not have the lusty relationship we once did, but I still need you to be a special part of my life. You’ve been a great companion ever since we were kids and I will always care deeply about you. I mean geez, where would I be without you?
Love and kisses,