The last month has been hard — and in the context of the pandemic and the previous 15 months, that’s saying something. Even so, I’ve neglected my blog not because life is hard in general, but because much of the difficulty comes specifically from my work. To be honest, blogging is like my job, only with fewer rules. In fact, my job is changing so that we’ll even be using a content management system like WordPress (only harder to use, unfortunately). Not surprisingly, when I have a heavy workload of writing, I’m less inclined to spend my free time writing.
I want to take a little time to write down what’s going on, though, because future me may find it interesting… And sometimes writing helps me process my thoughts.
Let’s see. First, not a job thing: Benji started two-day-a-week in-person school on April 5.
This development has 100% been for the best, but in the weeks before and since then, we’ve had to adapt a lot of routines we’d developed over the last year. Despite the excitement and joy around going back to school two full days a week, Benji has also demonstrated many more emotional outbursts, resistance, arguing, and uncooperativeness.
It’s especially hard because Benji is fun and enjoyable to play with… as long as we’re doing what he wants. As soon as I ask about schoolwork, tell him to do a chore, or even suggest playing a game that’s fun for me, he explodes. He yells at me, he runs away “crying,” he wails that he’s tired and just needs more rest and he’s going to go lay down RIGHT NOW…!
Intellectually, I expected heightened emotions with this routine change. Too bad that logical anticipation hasn’t actually made dealing with all the yelling and fighting any easier. Often by the end of an “async” day — he has three of those a week — or a weekend, I just want to crawl into a dark, quiet hole and have nobody talk to me. The two workdays a week he’s in school are definitely the most restful I get.
So that’s Benji, or at least part of what’s going on with him. At the same time, I have an enormous change to my work situation. I’m still working for the same company, but taking on an entirely new role. It feels like staring a new job, except without the bump in salary, benefits, or title (all those stay the same for me for now).
You might think changing my role is good, and in general you’d be right. But this is happening because my colleague who was in this role previously, not to put too fine a point on it, failed. Now my boss is bringing me in to try to succeed where my colleague — a talented senior writer who helped hire me — didn’t. No pressure or anything.
I’m supposed to come into this team that has never worked with a technical writer, help establish a process where we integrate technical writing into the development cycle, and document the features they’re producing. My boss wants someone who will speak up in meetings to advocate for technical writers’ needs, who will ask questions and push back and generally represent technical writers.
Nobody ever accused me of being excessively quiet, so it’s possible I may have the personality needed to succeed in this role. I don’t know, but I’m going to do my best.
Oh, yeah, and this team has a release in the middle of May. I just finished a release for my previous role, and now it’s right back into crunch time again, except I have no earthly idea what is going on. I don’t even know how to use the content management system (CMS), which is completely different from the tools I used in my previous role, let alone what’s in the CMS, what the new features of the product are, how the product works, or, well, anything.
Meanwhile, we’re hiring new writers. We’ve filled two openings, with those folks starting in the next couple weeks, and we have two more openings still to fill. When we do, our writing team will have grown from three writers to seven writers in less than six months. That size team definitely needs a manager, but right now, we all report to the VP of User Education — who’s also in charge of e-learning and a pretty enormous team of writers in India. He’s too busy to really manage, although he’ll certainly do his best. But for day-to-day things, I’m the senior writer currently available, so I expect to spend time supporting our new hires and our junior writers.
I definitely intend to try to lead on team culture, even though I’m not officially a technical lead or team manager. Our writing team is split across a couple different states, so even without the pandemic, connecting writers together is going to be an important challenge.
With the pandemic, one of the things all the writers on our team talked about amongst ourselves was the sense of isolation. We each wrote from within our own little world, about totally different products, never needing to collaborate. My boss intends to continue the paradigm of siloing writers by assigning them to specific development teams, rather than having a pool of writers any of whom could pick up a given piece of work.
Even if we’re all working on different projects, I want to find ways to help writers collaborate closely together, to support each other, grow our technical writing skills, and become better at our jobs. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do without any official authority, but I’ll do what can. (And if you have any suggestions, please let me know!)
Despite the surgery, my left leg isn’t doing so great. I’m experiencing mild to moderate symptoms and constant fatigue in that leg when I ride. I’m not going to talk about it more because when I think or talk about it too much I get this crushing weight in my chest and I want to cry. But it’s hard, because usually I use biking to calm myself, work through challenges, pray, meditate, whatever. When I ride and my leg hurts, I end up spending a lot of time talking to myself about accepting that reality, not fighting it, not wanting something different. It turns biking from a peaceful refuge into one more situation where I have to spend emotional capital dealing with yet another thing outside of my control.
With all this chaos and heavy emotional demands, I’ve really been struggling with anorexia thoughts again. They always gain strength when I feel like I need to get things under control. I start worrying about my weight and what I’m eating, thinking critical thoughts about my body, delaying meals (an easy thing to do when job transition meetings pack every workday), feeling guilty about eating certain foods… I know what’s going on, but I have to spend more emotional capital and discipline making healthy eating choices and telling myself true things, and some days my reservoir is completely dry.
I don’t want to leave this on a depressing note, because it’s not all bad. Ian and I keep working on our relationship, and while it has ups and downs, I feel like we’re slowly but steadily making progress. My parents and Ian’s parents help out with Benji a lot. We’re about to start putting solar panels on our roof and maybe kick off some more home improvements. We’ve had some lovely weather. Despite my leg I’ve gone for a few nice rides. We have well-paying jobs, a home, our health. Indeed: a lot to be thankful for.