A Journal of My Mid-Life Crisis
28 September 1997 - The Overexamined Life
If the unexamined life is not worth living, I'd have to add that there's a lot of danger in the overexamined life, too. I was in the office all day Monday and Tuesday, which is long enough to really get out from under a lot of paperwork (real paper and virtual paper - I just now realized that I think of, say, answering email as paperwork). And finishing writing my performance review was a major chunk of what I got done. I still find it hard to feel like I accomplish much when I spend so much time running from one working group to another, but I guess that's just the nature of the job and I knew what I was getting into. Everyone else seems to have the same problem from the hallway discussions.
And, of course, there were also weekly highlights to write. Which always seems to take much longer than it should. Which is what got me thinking about the overexamined life. Every week at work we write highlights, basically an activity report for the week. Every two months these get condensed into the bimonthly report, which goes up the chain a bit further. Then we have our annual performance reviews, quarterly inputs to the board of trustees report, etc.. One could easily spend as much time writing about they did as they did actually doing the work. I don't object to reporting on what I did - nobody knows what you do if you don't write anything - but it always seems to take up time that could be spent more productively.
Speaking of spending time more productively, I really hate going to Huntsville, Alabama. It isn't Huntsville per se that I object to - it's that I spent two entire days traveling for a five hour meeting. There's a four and a half or so flight to Charlotte, 2-3 hours in Charlotte and the one hour flight down to Huntsville. On top of which, this was an AIAA Sensor Systems Technical Committee meeting and those always induce a particularly heavy dose of imposter syndrome on me. I'm an algorithms geek, I know almost nothing about sensor hardware, and I feel way out of my league in discussions of, say, coherent lidar technology. I have to keep reminding myself that almost everyone I know says they often feel imposter syndrome.
Other weirdness about Huntsville - my usual definition of an airport hotel is a hotel that is maybe within a half mile or so of the airport. The Four Points Hotel in Huntsville is an airport hotel in the extreme - it is located in the airport terminal. This did make it convenient having such an early flight Friday morning, as I could just return the rental car after coming back from dinner Thursday night and then all I had to do in the morning was walk downstairs, check out of the hotel and go through security to my gate. But it's weird.
Oh, yes, I was actually home Tuesday night to play trivia on Foundation. We had a lot of fun telling the other regulars about dinner at Payless. And I have to count getting Cypria to level 50 as one of my accomplishments of the week! Probably time to start a new character or two and explore some more. Realistically, it's time to break my mud addiction, but I've been saying that more or less since I started mudding. One of key decisions I've made about my trip is not to bring a computer along. I had ruled out a notebook computer already, since they do take up too much room if you're really trying to go around the world with just a carry-on, but I did contemplate buying a palm top. There would be a certain convenience factor in easy email accessibility, but when I thought deeply about it, what I am really trying to do in going away for so long is to break out of my normal life patterns. And having a computer with me would make it harder to do that. I still expect to keep in touch via email, but I will depend on cybercafes and other publicly accessible means to do so.
While I did waste much of the weekend mudding, I did do a little housework, particularly major grocery shopping and cooking (no travel this coming week!), a fair amount of assorted reading, and a lot of sleeping. But I was also generally lazy. I was supposed to drive over to North Hollywood for the Dreamshapers organizational meeting on Saturday afternoon but I was just too tired to go anywhere.
Copyright 1997 Miriam H. Nadel
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