Career and Mental Health

I’ve had a really good career.  You might even call it a blessed career.  I’ve never lost a single day of work since my first job as a paper boy in the 80s…more or less.   The only time I was fired was when I was 16 and working at a clothing retailer.  I was so uncomfortable with the suggestive selling that I went into the back and started to cry.  The boss came back and gave me sympathy.  She said, “Hey.  Why don’t you go ahead and take off.”  I was grateful for her understanding, but when I came back for my next shift she said, in the same sympathetic manner, “I’m so sorry.  You’re not on the schedule anymore.”  I was very confused.  She had fired me, and I didn’t even know it.

I’ve always made good money, at least since I quit teaching, and I went on a long streak of loving my job.  I worked at one job for 12 years until a new contractor came in and cut everybody’s pay, and I’ve been wandering ever since.  I took a more challenging job for less pay so that I could work closer to home.  After two years of that job, I was drinking myself to sleep every night from the stress.  Then I took a job working on systems to manage very high security government systems which required a high security clearance, but because of my history of smoking pot I didn’t get the clearance so my contract company had to move me out of the position into the one I’m in now.  If software engineering was like cooking, I was a top chef who’s now back to flipping burgers.  I get paid well, but the work is going to hurt my career.  I don’t want this on my resume for more than a few more months.

I have two recruiters submitting my resumes to 4 companies; two of them big-name.  Salaries ranging from what I’m making now to 25k higher.  So how do I choose?

Well, the stressful job might have killed me if I continued to drink like I was…and driving like I was.  The job I have now, I have virtually no work to do, and the work I get is so easy that it’s done before it’s started.  Neither are good for my mental health.  If I do not stay busy, then I will eventually get depressed or get up to no good.  If I’m working 60 hours a week and weekends with unreasonable deadlines, I will break down.  I’m very good at getting jobs and very good at keeping them, but I’ve lost the confidence to choose a good one for myself.

I’m in no danger of losing my current job, so I can afford to be picky.  I’ve told the recruiters exactly what I’m looking for.  Honestly, I could bring a much higher salary than I make, but at what cost?  You think they pay a guy $125 for the same work as someone making 100k?  They want leadership, effort, hours, dedication, and brilliance.  I have a modicum of all of those things, but when it comes down to it I just want to come to work at a reasonable time, leave at a reasonable time, and not think about it when I go home.  This is my career, yes, but it’s not what I care about.  I wanted to be a high school choir director, but I couldn’t afford it.  I had a wife who wanted to get advanced degrees then stay at home to care for the kids.  That shit costs money.  We’re just a few paychecks from being dead broke.

She teaches now, but we don’t survive without my bread-winning.  It all comes down to my ability to continue making a good salary with good benefits… AAAAAAAAND stay mentally healthy.  Without good mental health, I cannot do any of those things.  My next job must be balanced.  Challenging but not drive-you-to-drink challenging.  Easy, but not so easy that I just don’t give any fucks anymore.  High-paying, but not so much that they can demand more from me than I can give.

I have a lifestyle that I don’t want to change, and perhaps shouldn’t change.

Sunday:  Go to church and direct the music.  Go grocery shopping. Clean the floors. Relax with my wife.

Monday:  Go to work 8-5. Swim.  Make dinner.  Relax with my family or go to AA depending on what time of year.

Tuesday:  Go to work 8-5. Swim. Make dinner.  Go to AA or orchestra rehearsal depending on time of the year.

Wednesday:  Go to work 8-5.  Swim. Make dinner. Rehearse choir. Relax with my wife.

Thursday:   Go to work 8-5.  Swim. Make dinner. Relax with my family.

Friday:   Go to work 8-5.  Swim. Make dinner. Maybe take my wife out on a date.

Saturday:  Eat breakfast with my parents.  Teach voice lessons.  Eat lunch at the Indian buffet.  Relax with my family.


THIS WORKS FOR ME.  Any deviation from this affects me.  But I have to be flexible.  It doesn’t always happen this way.  There are events, and that is fine.  I enjoy seeing the kids’ stuff (or I did, they’re graduated now).  I enjoy going to concerts or playing in concerts.

If my job doesn’t fit into this schedule, I worry what might happen.  Say, they want me to start working later hours, and my commute is longer.  How do I cook dinner?  If I cook dinner late, how do I relax with my family or go to AA?  If I work far from a swimming pool, how will I get my swimming in?

What a fucking mess.  It makes me wonder if I should say, “You know what?  Fuck my career.  I’d rather have a kindergarten job with no stress which fits my lifestyle.”

Huh.  I have someone’s dream job right now.  I get lots of money for coming to work to blog, Facebook, Twitter, and do the odd bit of work and I’m home by 5:45.  Am I crazy to want to leave that?

Government workers do this all the time. For a whole career even.  But I worry.  I worry about the future of a job like this.  Everyone else around me appears to be working a lot.  I see red flags that suggest that my job will go away in the next 2 or 3 years.  I also see future employers saying, “Ok, tell me why you used to work on enterprise java applications with millions of lines of code and terabytes of data to working with Access and Excel files?”

No.  This is bad for my career and bad for my mental health.


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