It’s odd when your expectations are diametrically opposed to reality.
At work, I’ve climbed the ladder a bit and the next rung, one I never really thought I’d get to, is pretty well within my grasp failing only with my own failing. If I were to follow many of the examples before me, which I kind of expected to, I needed to get even tougher. Harder. More heartless. When one considers “the man”, thoughts stray to cold, calculating, tough, and serious MF’ers. Over the last 5 months, I’ve found the opposite. I’ve found I needed to be kinder. Softer around the edges. And I’ve found my “serious business” limit is a few hours, max. Then I just revert to the me that makes jokes and bad puns in big meetings, uses emojis in emails, emotes wayyyy too expressively over video calls, and otherwise is just the silly human being that is the core of my identity.
For the last few years, I managed projects. I mentored and guided people, but they had other managers to take care of the true personnel stuff. I now have a dozen human beings that I manage directly and find myself pseudo-managing a few more. Projects are black and white. They work or they don’t. They’re fun or they’re not. They’re clean or they’re buggy. Humans are full of grey areas. They have feelings, thoughts, concerns, bad days, or personal emergencies. Humans are wonderful, surprising, and amazing creatures. They are also unpredictable, imperfect, and at times illogical.
For all the challenges managing people presents, there was always something missing when I wasn’t and it feels right and good to be back to it. Going from zero to twelve people was a huge pendulum swing, but I’m enjoying it even if some days after work I just need to stare into space for a while. My sardonic wit, my little black heart, they’re fading a bit. One of the penultimate interview questions is, “What is your managerial style?” Over the years, I think I’ve adopted the chameleon as my management spirit animal, as my answer is this – whatever the team, situation, and project needs currently. And right now, we need kindness, we need communication, we need humanity. We are an organization of full competent adults that needs someone to nudge them the right way occasionally and remove roadblocks in front of them instead of some super serious stern meeting face grumperpants handing out reprimands when someone makes tiny mistakes and making sure people are taking 1 hour and not 1 hour and 10 minute lunches (what even is time right now?). So, rather thankfully, I have been afforded the opportunity to change for kinder rather than having to harden the eff up (even more).
I suppose some of the hard edges falling off my persona right now may also relate to the lack of competition in my life. I’m in a league season of my new Covid “sport” Bloodbowl where I’m barely playing and totally phoning it in. Instead of practicing all the time, I play 1 lazy practice game a week and show up to official games with an IDGAF mood. I’m no longer feeling like I need to prove myself in the same way at work. This is odd, because there’s so much more at stake, but the sentiment is more like “I believe in you, here’s all the support you need and also here’s some realistic criteria for success” vs “I don’t believe your worthy, prove me wrong, and hey, the bar is about 10x higher for you than anyone else”. I do fine with both, honestly, but I can tell you that one feels like a challenge and the other feels more like being the underdog in a competition. Also, in the sporty section of my life, I’m just fighting to DO triathlon vs compete (either with others or even myself).
Swimming is going quite… swimmingly. I’m at the pool 2-3x per week and can tell it’s doing nice things to my cranky back. At the beginning of the swim workout, it’s a bit grumbly, but through the first ~500m or so it does something that I can only describe as “working the kinks out” and it’s a little jarring but then I’ll swim nicely for the rest of the time. I always feel better after getting out of the pool. I’m slow right now, but I’ve had a few good back days where I’m faster, and I can see a path to swim the 1.2 miles of a half Ironman in four months without an issue. I’ve got an Olympic distance swim on the plan today (1500m) which is honestly pretty much there. I have missed the swimming shaped hole in my heart, and I’m yearning for long swims where I solve all the problems and plot and scheme how to take over the world.
Cycling (outdoors – the aero position on my trainer is NOT so great right now) is also progressing nicely. I always feel better after I bike (mentally and physically) than before, even now that I’m approaching a 2.5 to 3 hour long ride. Last week I remembered the KT tape and my back held up like a champ for 35 miles. I’m very confident that I’ll be able to ride 56 miles in September – though riding it in aero position on my tri bike is certainly an open question. Bailing out of the “office” for a lunch or after-work bike ride is bliss and I’m doing this once or twice a week. Honestly, if this CONSTANT RAIN would stop, I could probably do this more often but apparently Texas is now the new swampland in training and the sky can’t stop crying about it. Get over it and give me the hot – at least I can predictably and miserably cycle in 100 degree heat. 😛
I can do the full dozen strength set (with knee pushups, switching out v-ups for something else) now, no problem. I just keep forgetting to do it. I have been succeeding at it 1-2 times a week – which, if I’m trying for 3x week, means I’m failing just as often – but it’s better than nothing. Stretching and rolling have fallen off. This isn’t great. I need to do better here.
And, let’s save the worst for last. Running. I gave it a try this week. One mile. Thirteen minutes. It didn’t feel great during, and my back was SO SORE after. I have a lot of unkind words for running right now. I’ve been asked to refrain from this sport before we hop a plane to Mexico where I will be hauling dive tanks so my back can be in the best condition it can be, so I’ve called it until later this month. Swimming and cycling are great, and I am extremely grateful to be back to them, but not running sucks. I miss the time in my head, the same song on repeat in my headphones because today THIS IS MY JAM, distracting myself by thinking all the thoughts to ignore the hurting and/or just succumbing and becoming one with it. I miss the pain because it gave me the most pleasure – endorphins are a hell of a drug and the other sports don’t quite give the same fix.
Instead of simply complaining, let me list out my plans of attack to fix it:
- Actually stretch, roll, and do the strength work. Apparently, I need to schedule this separately on my calendar from workouts or I will skip them.
- I hate saying it, I’m going to hate doing it even effing more, but maybe I need to start with run/walk cycles instead of straight running. Ugh. I guess it’s better than not running at all.
- I now have an adjustable standing desk as of… today. This is the last thing I can think of to fix my back. If it doesn’t resolve itself, it’s probably (past) time to bring in some sort of medical opinion. It’s entirely frustrating since I didn’t DO anything to it, and I’m pretty knowledgeable about the human body and sports stuff, but maybe there’s some physical therapy that I can do to make it behave.
Even with the run issues, I’m going to have a little faith and sign up for the Kerrville Half (not the Aquabike) this weekend. It’s only 10$ to transfer to the Aquabike if needed. I know me – if I sign up for the swim-bike event only, I will be less motivated to attempt to solve my run problems. My goal for this race is to complete, not compete. It’s simply enough to do sporty things again and I have zero expectations for PRs or podiums this year. Just the motivation to resume training is enough for me.