Wow these last six months of my career has been intense. I cant pinpoint any one project or situation but yeah intense. In this time period I have noticed quite a few things.
- My stress level is through the roof.
- My processing ability is way down.
- I am always exhausted.
- My anger responses are higher than normal.
There have been other things but these all tie in. If you look at any of this you could probably look at it and say oh yeah stress is the key to that. But I don’t think it just ends there. Last week a very good friend told me Josh Stress is all in your mind. While that is partially true I think there is more to it, but in this case he is right that it does not account for all the things going on with me. To just be honest and boil it down I think I am dealing with some low to mid grade depression. No Im not clinically depressed no I am not going to start taking meds but I am struggling a bit.
In the mix of this I got an email from our Network Architect (Ethan Banks) asking lots of really good questions about our business. Ethan is one of my two remote workers and while I answered some of the questions I felt it was more important to get face time with Ethan and talk through the questions. So right away I started talking to him about me flying out to New Hampshire to hang out for a day and see what we could come up with. The times I chose ended up being right before his vacation. Here I need to clarify a bit. It is really HIS vacation. Ethan is doing a multi-day hike across the White Mountain range solo, which is AWESOME! But back on point here we discussed the times and how we would work things out when suddenly he messaged me and said why don’t you just come along on my hike? My initial reaction was um cool but he doesn’t mean it. But he did! So a bit of discussion with Ethan, and then my wife and I was booking a flight to meet Ethan the day he planned on starting his trip and then hiking out on my own on Saturday and catching a ride to the airport.
So hear I sit at the Airport in Manchester, NH writing this after what has turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life and quite possibly a critical pivot point in my career/life. So I want to be clear here, Ethan is an amazing person and I am lucky to have been offered an experience that I would never have taken on my own. Also we accomplished everything I wanted to in our face to face time even it if it was more face to back time as I followed him through the rain on the trail. But the real game changer for me was the tranquility of the experience. THIS WAS HUGE.
In the previous week I had dealt with some heavy work stuff and in the process of that my mentor asked me to take 30 minutes and simply journal. When he said journal he was not asking me to think he was asking me to write/type what was in my head and not in format for consumption but just to release emotional energy. Well it worked and in 30 minutes after I started the exercise I had a page worth of enlightening information and I was less emotional and more focused on the task at hand. I bring this up because there is a particular segment of that journaling that is relevant to this conversation. Let me warn you its pretty raw
I need rest
I need exercise.
I need to find peace.
I need succeed without failing.
I need help.
I need a refuge.
I need a fucking nap and I dont know why. I should not be this tired.
To put it simply my 2 days and maybe 5 miles in White Mountains game me almost all of this. The last item about the nap led me down a path last week that made me recognize that I was probably dealing with depression. The others are simply things I needed. And this is how the last two days have helped me get the things I needed even if for a brief clarifying moment.
I need rest:
This one may seem a bit counterproductive when you look at what I did over the past two days or if you look at some of the other answers. But rest is not about sleep. Rest is about quieting your mind and body and being able to recover. While I did sleep like a baby in the hut I cam away rested in ways I am not sure I can fully express at the moment.
I need exercise:
This is pretty straight forward. I am busy, I have lots of responsibilities and by the time I could work out I really need the sleep. Well when you decide to go hiking in the White Mountains, which included stints on the Appalachian Trial and in the rain you are exercising as you ford streams up to your gut and slipping your way up the granite path ahead of you, no excuses just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I need to find peace:
This one is really ambiguous. But at least part of it is I need time for my mind to work. I spend so much time talking and interacting that I was stunned what happened when I wished Ethan Good luck this morning and we went our separate ways. Me back off the mountain and him on to a grand adventure. For me months of talking and debate and super high emotions were suddenly crystalized into action items as I moved downhill with nothing to interrupt my processing. It was calming, instructional and peaceful and way to short.
I need succeed without failing:
Every damn day we are pushed to succeed and I have made a pretty good career at doing just that. Yes things go wrong and sometimes I really mess up. But overall I win. But with every single big and even most small wins come hundreds of little failures. Those add up. The project was complete and successful but we were behind schedule and those pesky bugs is a good example. But in the last two days all I had to do in order to succeed and not fail, was to keep going and in a few cases make a good choice to slide on my butt and not try to walk down a sloping rock face. Simple success with not microscopic failures is empowering!
I need help:
Im not Psychotic, Im not going to hurt myself or anyone else lets make those clear. The help I need is people to help me process and define structure personally and professionally. Spend some time with Ethan Banks and you will find not only is he a solid engineer but he is an amazing friend. He did not let me down on this trip. He let me talk, gave me feedback, he told me things he is doing and it gave me at least some part of what I needed. Add to that I intentionally sought out an Executive Mentor a few months ago and that is another key part of this equation. I have so much more to say on that topic but another time this post is long enough.
I need a refuge:
I desperately needed a shelter from the storm. I am a fan of Deadliest Catch and even those Men of Men know when to get the hell out of dodge and hide behind and island while the sea rages. I needed to sit out a storm and I can tell you The White Mountain range is a pretty solid insulator from whatever is ranging around them even when the rain is driving and your cold and soaked. Not having cell service, responsibilities or exceptions for two days was critical for me and amazing.
I need a fucking nap and I dont know why. I should not be this tired:
This out of all the items is complex. As I pointed out I think I am dealing with some depression. But aside from that I am also dealing with overload of responsibilities and expectations. While I did not get a nap while in the mountains I did have the opportunity stop last night at a cottage and eat hearty food in a warm environment with other hikers and then put my head down in a bunk to one of the most peaceful and restful nights I remember in very long time. As to the I dont know why part .It is clear to me that I am overloaded by the other needs listed above. My trip did not fix this but it did give perspective.
So why do I tell you all about my mini-vacation. Because it was important. I think everyone needs their own trips to the White Mountains with Ethan Banks. As his boss I can tell you that there is not enough time for me to give him off to let him run your around the mountains with all of you but I am pretty sure he would love it if he could. Instead you should do some journaling and if you find out what you need. Then find a something to do that meets those needs and if your lucky you can go do it with someone who also fits your needs and then it will be epic. Me I just got lucky. The trip was planned before I knew I needed it and before things hit a panic point. When I decided to go I hoped I would just be able to keep up and make it back to the trailhead for pickup. When I left today I was disappointed I could not do 8, 10, 100 days. I truly found something I needed and deepened a relationship with someone who was already a key person in my career.
If your a struggling with any of this stuff I am not a profession, but if you just need to chat I am open. Life is hard, the technology field is brutal as are many others but smart hard working people deserve the opportunity to have support to brace themselves with when it all becomes a bit to much. Feel free to follow and hit me up on twitter @joshobrien77 if you wanna talk.