Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Perfect Visit

Last week I went to visit colleagues at my former place of employment, an excellent suburban hospital about 40 miles north of the city.

In some ways, it felt like yesterday that I left; in others, it felt way longer than the year it's been.

It was really nice to see everyone and catch up. Henry enjoyed it, too. Here he is with the Chief Financial Officer. I think they were going over the latest financial statements.

I think your interest rate assumptions might be too aggressive.
Let me eat the paper and see.

Photo credit: Jen DiChiara

Yet when I returned home from the three-hour visit and the two-plus-hour drive up and back (shades of my former commute), I felt like I'd been hit by a fast-moving freight train. A half second too long of a blink, and I might have passed out on the couch. Way. Too. Much. Stimulation.

How on earth did I do this before?

Part of the fatigue, I realize, comes from no longer being used to an office environment. But another (big) part is that I am an introvert by nature. I need solitude to recharge, as opposed to some people (ahem, Rayne) who are energized by being around people.

I've generally come to understand my limits in social situations. I know when my social cup runneth over, and I leave before I lose my patience and say something snarky or, just as likely, fall asleep at the party.*

It's never occurred to me, however, that this basic need might be a big reason why I've not found peace in my professional life. I have taken countless Myers-Briggs Type Indicator tests (INTJ for those of you familiar) and other personality assessments. None of these tests has ever suggested I become a manager in a bureaucracy. Like, for example, a hospital.

One of my work friends commented that it must be frustrating to be good at a job yet hate it. "Hate" is way too strong of a word -- I really liked the people I worked with (thus the visit) and was proud of the work I did while there. 

But it's true, the hours, the commute, the job itself left me decimated, deflated, depressed. I was always stressed out and frustrated. In fact, that's how it's been for all my corporate jobs, for-profit and not-for profit alike.

Being in a business setting brings out my worst, most perfectionist, most aggravated and aggravating side. In my work life, I always let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I can never seem to demand anything less than perfection from myself and those around me.

It's exhausting. For everyone.

When writing, in contrast, I rarely take such a hard line. I view writing as creative, expansive, exploratory. It will never, can never, be perfect, and I knowingly accept that truth. 

Nay, I embrace that truth.

And I'm way happier for it. 

Now, how do I pass this tiny nugget of wisdom on to Henry?

* I once fell asleep at a dinner party at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Yep, that was me.