Tonight I sit in the Hotel Montanushof in Grevenbroich Germany. It’s a touch after 3:00 am, but I can’t seem to get to sleep for the life of me. Got a solid nap this afternoon, so it’s not all bad… In my sleeplessness I perused my Facebook statuses since I got out here, and let’s just say they’re a touch on the negative side, to grossly understate the situation. I suppose that gave me a bit of motivation to delve into what it is that drives me to keep doing this job about which I constantly piss and moan.
First and foremost, regarding the bitching, it’s not always this bad. In this line of work, there are good jobs and bad jobs. Right now, I’m mired in the worst of the worst: a system install in a foreign country. This is pretty much as bad as it gets. Our installs generally take two weeks give or take a day or three, and rarely include a day off. Especially in Europe. It’s really expensive out here so our boss wants us in and out as quickly as possible. Also, due to budgetary concerns, the size of our install ‘team’ has been reduced to two guys. The first install I went on back in the day had four guys for the first week, and three for the second. Somehow we’re still expected to get things done in the same amount of time, with the same quality of craftsmanship. This is absolutely insane, but not much I can do about except bitch to deaf ears.
Also, with the time difference (it’s 8 hours later here than at home) the trip starts off with a pretty nasty case of jetlag. I spent my first few nights here tossing and turning and missing home and missing a girl. That’s not a good way to start two weeks of long, hard work. With the stupid amount of hours I’ve been putting in, I haven’t been able to catch up on my rest, and that starts a nasty cycle of getting about 4 hours of sleep a night and then pounding astonishing amounts of Red Bull the next day to keep going. This of course results in not being able to sleep the next night, and it’s hard to break out of this little cycle of exhaustion. We’re getting closer to the end of the project, and the plant just delayed the commissioning of the system which sucks cause I won’t be home on time, but means I have time to slow down and work normal people hours for the next few days.
Anyway, the above coupled with being in a foreign country and not speaking the local language, I end up lonely as a guy can be. Facebook is a very convenient, if not appropriate outlet, and in English too. So I gripe and complain, and eagerly await any encouragement, hell any social interaction I might get. And not surprisingly based on my attitude, I’ve been asked more than a couple of times why I still want to do this, and been told not so subtly that if I hate my life as much as I seem to I should quit.
Well. Here goes. In high school and college I was a pretty lazy dude. I always did wonderfully on standardized testing (33 on my ACTs), and got decent grades without really trying. School came pretty naturally to me, and I used that to get by with exerting the least amount of possible effort, rather than to excel. College was a little different, I actually got better grades, and tried a bit harder, but I majored in English. With my ACT scores I could have easily majored in something, ya know, useful. But English was fun. I spent 5 years running around breathtaking Boulder, Colorado delivering pizza, drinking beer, smoking weed and chasing women. When I studied, that meant finding a sunny spot in the grass and reading for a few hours. I did well in my program, but still didn’t really have to apply myself.
Upon graduating I realized the err in my ways. I spent six months living in my mother’s basement (thanks Mom), looking for any kind of job that would take me. I eventually found one. Selling used video games at the mall. So needless to say, when this opportunity presented itself I jumped at the chance. I started as a part-time employee, earning peanuts and with no benefits. It quickly became apparent to me, and my boss, that I had the problem-solving ability to be pretty damn good at what they were having me do, and the scope of my responsibilities started to grow. At some point I realized this was it. This was my dare-to-be-great situation. This was 4.3 GPA in high school I was wholly capable of but never bothered to earn. This was the mechanical engineering degree that I balked at when I was 17. I had to do it.
Cut to now. Almost four years later I’ve had a full-time position for the last two. Health, dental, PTO, all that good stuff, and earning better than 60k a year. Not ridiculous money, but beats the crap out of minimum wage. I’ve developed contacts with some of the biggest engineering companies on the planet. I have recommendation letters from people at Fortune 500 companies with ‘Sr.’ and ‘V.P.’ in their titles. My future is pretty bright these days; substantially more promising than when I had an extensive food service resume coupled with an intimate knowledge of the 20th century post-modernist movement. Not to mention I’ve been to places that 24 short months ago were but neat pictures on the internet.
I’ve got money in the bank I’m planning on using for a masters in business so I don’t have to spend the rest of my life crying in hotel rooms and sweating and bleeding to earn a paycheck. Hopefully I’ll be buying a house before too long. I’ll be the frist to acknowledge that what I’m putting myself through is a bipolar at best existence. I go on work benders, get paid, go on sleep benders and try to have a few days of fun and then do it all again. But if I can keep my head above water for another few years I’ll be in pretty good shape.
Since I’ve started being an actual productive member of society, my appreciation for what my parents did for me has gone through the roof. I can only imagine what it’s like to work your life away AND find time to rear and provide for a child. I guess that’s lead me to believe that what I’m doing now isn’t for me, it’s for my future family. I want a wife and kids and a house with white picket fences and a little dog and all that bullshit. And I guess right now this seems like the best way to get there.
So please forgive me for my absurdly negative behavior when I’m out on the road. When I’m knee-deep in a difficult project it’s easy for me to forget that there’s an impetus behind all this, and it’s a good one. I know that 10 years from now I’ll look back on this period of my life as the first time in my life where I poured 110% in to something, really gave it my all, and got to see the rewards.
Off to sleep. Another fun-filled day full of laser spectroscopy awaits. Thanks for listening.