Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More Punctuated than Equilibrium


Last night I found myself reading about luck and success.  In the light of Richard Wiseman's work it would seem my actions placed me in the unlucky camp.  Specifically I sought certainty and had a rigid notion of success.  Certainly the last 4 years were built around an intended outcome that when realized proved unsatisfying.  What is on my mind this morning is why now. It is fair to say my geologic career is more punctuated that equilibrium, why did I now choose to change focus.

This is not the first time I have had a layoff.  This is not the first time I have wanted to write.  This is not the first time I have had time off and some cash.  And this is not the best time, that would have been in January 2012 when I was favoured with a large one time cash surplus.  So what changed.  Why did I wake up this morning and know I was getting up to write.

The answer comes in two parts.

 Firstly I did not know the four year experiment would end in unhappiness.  When I went to BCIT, the experiment was still starting yes I had written off field work but I needed to test where I could fit in the industry.  The assumption being tested was if I found the right position in the industry I could be happy there. Even as recently as January 2012 the data was inconclusive. I did not yet know that work would get no better. This winter and spring proved conclusive, I was happier there, than doing fieldwork, but not happy.  Then I got laid off.

Secondly control.   Careful planning had gotten me to where I was, but the weighted random number generator that is the price of gold drove me backwards.  I could plan all the passionless career moves that I would need to remain in the geology/GIS field but as long as I am tied to the mining sector my job security is at least partly governed by stock markets random number generators.   I no longer want to be governed by that boom bust cycle.

It is the twin motivations, the failed experiment and my setbacks being too far beyond my control that are driving my new motivations. The four year experiment proved that I can engineer my own success. The exploration industry has shown I want to fail on my own terms too. I now want to control more of my successes and more of my failures and I can not do that while gold's value bounces around as people try to measure their insecurities.

So I get up to write.  If the words suck it is because I did not try to make them better.  There are a lot of ifs, and my optimism is at least partly tied to my bank balance.  But It was my motivation to get up.  Getting up is normal but to get up earlier rather than later so I can get to work on the project that is magical.

So remember live cheap and type fast.

Friday, May 17, 2013

From here.

Where Do I go from here.

When last I wrote here, I had explored where I had ended up and looked at some places I passed through on the way. A needed exploration of what was tried.  While I no longer want the same jobs I have held in past it is not all regret.  There were some good adventures and I am happy that I have settled in Vancouver.   The pressing question is where do I go from here.

 That question lacks a clear answer.  The first response in looking for jobs is to try to find something the same yet different.  There is a comfort in knowing there is familiar work around.  Yet reading those job postings is dull.  Being technically capable, does not make the job interesting.  I read them and know some time after the learning curve levels off I will bore and my indifference will surface.

To make matters worse the job postings that best fitted my skills and experience were both in the oil and gas sector.  I am only indifferent to getting gold out of the ground, I might be actively hostile in dealing with the burning stuff, and burning stuff extraction and transport industries.  And yet my historic failure of imagination  leaves me unable to see myself in the roles described in other job description.  The process has only just begun, I will seek out jobs because well between boredom and the need for cash flow something will have to be found.

As I write this line it has been three weeks almost to hour since I had the talk at work.  The lack of work is a mixed blessing.  At first a relief, there was a pent up need for a vacation I never could get myself to take, I was feeling spent overall.  But I was used to filling a chair for eight hours and providing useful services for up to 6 of them.  The first week sailed by before I started to wallow in intellectual doldrums.  As my brain scrambled for something to engage upon it tripped across a novella I started years ago and had last touched last October, it has been dominating my thoughts since.

Its terrible timing to take to writing pulp fiction.  Both from the standpoint of my own professional best interest and on the simple fact that it is never a good time to try to become a write, now is worse than usual.  Yet when I look back at inspirations, personal heros,  the names that cross my mind are not geologists, cartographers or prospectors, they are writers.   So I fail to answer the questions of what job I want and fail to imagine where my career is going, I can answer a different set of questions. Those answers doom me to a fate of poverty and drudgery.

Yet here is a field I have studied when left to my own devices, a hobby I have toyed with since forever.  I have read and absorbed countless books.  Talks and books on writing have made me think I could do that.  Many free hours up north were spent learning a few things about writing.  Perhaps I spent too much time learning a few things about the business without product of my own but that is past.      So thinking about what I always wanted to do I find a body of unfinished work.  

For ten years three major stories have been spinning around my head.  There are others but they lack form.   Three tails lodged in my brain for as long as I have been chipping at rocks and pining for chance to go home.   Currently I have picked up the one that is the easiest to write. Yet I know its a terrible tactical move.  No matter how fast I write how well I write, I will have an eviction notice before I have a rejection letter.  Yet foolishly I have let these ideas lodge themselves in my brain.

There has been an underlying assumption in the majority of the professional choices I have made since I got my undergrad degree. Safety.  I took the suring things when I could get them, I planned the last 4 years on making my life more secure.  And those choices became increasingly passionless.   Is it time to take a risk.

 Find a job what leaves me with enough energy to consider writing more frequently.  The mind numbing technical jobs have contributed to the sharp decline in blog posts.  While I am trying to get my bearings I will live cheaply and type quickly.

In the words of Spider Robinson.
Do The Next Thing.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

There and Back Again.

Greetings again.
This is the second post on digesting my lay off.  Here I will ramble about various factors that lead to my ending up here, and perhaps more importantly find a way of avoiding that fate again.  Not simply the fate of getting laid off but the dissatisfaction that came with jobs I have had in the past.

Getting laid off, and having it happen after I was at my best is not an isolated event.  Its not at all surprising considering the industry I landed in.  I took my second exploration job just after I finished my undergrad.  Gradschool was considered, but after the better part of 7 years chewing through my undergrad I was spent.  So I took a job with a gold company in the Northwest Territory.

The opportunity to develop my career was there, the drive was lacking.
Work was not bad at first, and I can see the tone of this blog change over time as the stagnation set it, but it was largely routine technical work.  Ultimately I am too much of a home body to endure collecting data for someone else's project while living on the far side of the middle of nowhere.  It cannot be ignored that I saw too many folks in the field who were sacrificing access to friends and family for the job, when those were the things I most wanted.

  The failure to connect with several branches of a field enforces the notion it is not for me.  Leaving me with the question what do I want do when I grow up.  So far I have a far better idea of what I do not want to do.  Those technical but repetitive jobs are a mental cul-de sac that leave me spent and angry, this is true whether it is clicking a mouse in MapInfo or taking notes of drill core. Those posts lead to periods of slow decline and burnouts.

 This leads me to believe that I want more control and intellectual engagement in my work.   Beyond that I have little vision as to what an exciting engaging job could be.  In a paragraph deleted from the first draft of this I rambled about the assumption that I would  become an academic.  It fit everyone's image of me and it is the only professional sphere where I can imagine what the work is like.   However, assuming defaults is not the goal of this post.  I want to cast aside a few things and reassess from there.  So here then is a list of the knows.

One, I have always had a deep and abiding interest in space exploration.  I think I read Red Mars 5 times.  The sense of place that book built made me think of mars as a place.  It has contributed to my love of deserts.  I used to spent too much of my spare time keeping track of as many deep space missions as I could.

Two, I have read too much science fiction. And sometimes think that with my melange of science knowledge and science fiction ideas I should become a paper back writer.

Three, if you ask me to describe my dream job, I can't. I can image working in academia only because I have spent enough time around such things as to have some image of what a career there could look like.  If you ask me what I could see me doing in the public or private sector I have no clue.  There is a complete failure of imagination there.

4, The most creative period in my life was a brief period in Kelowna nearly ten years ago.  I had finished the semester, I was working part time and was waiting for my field job to start.  I had a computer that barely ran, no internet connection and time.  It was during this period I started to develop the stories I still have to finish writing.

5, As awful as my grammar and spelling are, I still find the act of writing one of the most satisfying things I can do.

6, Work this spring was made extra difficult by many friends and acquaintances posting their academic or professional milestones, while my work was staying the same.

This list is incomplete and inconclusive.  There is one conclusion I can draw, many of the choices that left me unhappy were safe bets.  The devil I knew, because jumping outside the box was too intimidating.  When you have been moving around the same box for 9 years and not finding either security or happiness its time to get a ladder.