Hello, my treacherous friend

These last two months have been stupefying and amazing. I’m not entirely certain where to begin, but I want to take this opportunity to share a bit about how my life has changed, and how drastic, terrifying, and fantastically good those changes are.

Work

Looking in through the window of my new office; nameplate on right, and a poster on the wall to the left.

Almost three months ago, I was promoted to Lab Support Administrator at Missouri State University. Prior to that, I had been a Centralized User Support Specialist for several years, and within that position I was becoming increasingly depressed and frustrated.

This came to a head last summer, when my depression hit a low reminiscent of my feelings before I met April, and my frustration was trending towards anger. This wasn’t at any particular person or situation, but rather stemmed from a general discontent with the whole situation. I work hard, I don’t get much time off work (four days in 2010, not counting weekends and days when the University is closed), and I get frustrated with inefficiencies and people whose performance seems unsatisfactory to me. This work-related depression began to affect other parts of my life in serious and alarming ways, and something had to change.

It wasn’t a magical switch being flipped when I was promoted, but this position and the type of work that comes with it has been surprisingly generous to me on a mental and emotional level. I’m enjoying what I do, a lot, and that surprises me. What surprises me more is how fulfilling the work is. It is meeting needs that, on some level, I knew I had but that I was never able to name. I feel like I’ve been flailing around for years, trying to figure out what would satisfy me and make me happy, and now I’ve finally stumbled into the right situation.

Management isn’t where I saw myself, but I’m really enjoying it, and now I’m considering getting a master’s degree in the field after I finish my undergrad. Of course, this newfound fulfillment has affected a lot of other things in my life.

By the way, I decorated my office for the first time since I’ve had an office. Check it out on Flickr.

Writing

Matthew lying on a sofa trying to write while Ophelia, their gray cat, lies on his chest.

It has been difficult to accept that I am not a writer. I write, yes, and putting words to a page is easy for me, but it’s never going to be my career. I always thought it would be my career someday, and it is sad and painful to let that go.

That said, I have never felt as fulfilled professionally as I do now. To push myself into a writing career would be to foolishly force myself into a field where I have never felt truly fulfilled. I’d be setting myself up for more disappointment, frustration, and depression.

Writing was a necessary creative outlet for me, and the startling thing is that I’m finding it no longer necessary. My work gives me the outlet I need, and when I get home I’m satisfied. Before when I played computer games, I always felt guilty for not spending more time writing. If I read other people’s stories, I could only feel justified if I was studying them for ways to improve myself. Now I can play for fun, with no feelings of guilt or shame. When I read, I’m just enjoying the story.

I wonder if the psychological issue is one of control. I could control the worlds I built, and the stories and characters I developed, but now I have enough control at work to feel that need met. And because I’m not trying to force myself into the mould of “writer,” I can just be myself.

SilverPen

Screenshot of the SilverPen Publishing home page on 12-29-2010

At the lowest point of my depression last summer, I saw a way out. For years I had wanted to be a writer, but had never done anything about it other than write. I didn’t do anything with the work, and I didn’t put myself out into the world to be challenged and to try different things. I decided to start my own company so I could be a writer.

It was great, and it was just what I needed. I did some site design, I wrote a lot, I did some freelance work, and it met the needs I had that work was not meeting. I felt immeasurably better, and this improved my life in other areas that had been negatively influenced by my depression.

I haven’t done much with it since October, when I got the new job, and I find myself not really regretting this. It’s hard to regret something in the past when I feel so good about the present. And I recognize that I desperately needed SilverPen to get through that time. I don’t think there were many external indicators for how far down I was—certainly, there were indicators, but they didn’t communicate the true extent of the problem—and I was growing afraid of how my life would go without a change. SilverPen provided the change I needed, and if I hadn’t gotten the administrator position, it would have carried me through. Now that I have the job, SilverPen is less of a priority.

That said, I still intend to maintain it and do work with it, but now that I feel that my needs are being met, I feel professional fulfilled, and I’m making a bit more money than I was before, I’m thinking about transitioning it to more of a focus on helping people rather than making money. I’d like to do more work with helping people improve their writing, helping them with rĂ©sumĂ©s and to prepare for interviews, and maybe talk about project management some. I’ve given some rĂ©sumĂ© advice over the last few months to people, and after reading over a hundred in the last couple of months, I’m beginning to get a feel for what a good rĂ©sumĂ© needs to contain.

We’ll see what the coming months hold. I may have trouble finding the motivation to work on it when I feel so good, and it really comes down to how rough next semester will be in regards to my classes. But I like the idea, and I think it’s a way I could keep the project going while helping people.

Academics

I finished another semester, and this time got two A’s. As a point of reference, the last semester I had was Fall 2009, and I dropped out not halfway through.

At this point, I need just thirteen more upper-division course credit hours to graduate. I need one class each for my major and minor, and I have one general education course I need to test out of. This Spring, I will be taking seven course credit hours, which will leave me three for the summer, three for the fall, and I should graduate in December 2011.

My classes this Spring are an online english literature course, a history of Judaism class that will focus on the Holocaust, and a one credit hour course on translating the Mishnaic writings. I’m looking forward to it, but I have no idea how much work will be required for all of them, so it might be a near overwhelming semester, much like the one I just finished (which was much harder than I anticipated, and probably my most challenging semester yet).

Right now I’m trying to decide if I want to get a master’s degree after I finish my bachelor’s, and what I want to get it in. If I’m going to get one (which I never thought I would), it makes sense to do it now before we have kids. I’m torn between two programs: professional writing and project management. The writing program would enable me to help others with their writing, and I think it would be good for me long-term, but I’m enjoying management a lot and I think that master’s program would teach me a lot more than the writing one would. My motivation isn’t so much to get another degree as it is to learn something, and I think I’d learn a lot in the project management program. I’ll probably wait to talk to the department(s) until next fall, but I’m sure I’ll make up my mind sometime this semester.

Reading

My Christmas present from April (in a manner of speaking) was an Amazon Kindle, and I am loving it. In the last week I’ve read about 1200 pages (only finished one book so far, though), which is probably more than I read in the last four months. I’ve always enjoyed reading, but I’m enjoying it even more on this device, and it makes it a lot more convenient and easier to read.

In this, I have discovered that I am very much a creature of convenience. If it’s not convenient, I’m probably not going to bother. In regards to reading this means that when I find a book I want to read, if I can’t get it and start reading immediately, I may never get to it. Going to a bookstore, waiting for it to come by mail, or tracking it down in a library is more trouble than it is worth to me. When I can click a button and start immediately, though… that’s just magic.

We’re in the future, and it’s great. So far I’ve read a fantasy fiction novel that I loved, I’m about 14% into a biography about Theodore Roosevelt, I’m reading about how to better have difficult conversations (something I need to learn to do better for my job), and I’ve copied all my D&D stuff onto it so I can reference that more easily at our next game.

April and I had been talking about getting a big(ger) TV and the accoutrements to make a really nice movie watching experience, and we may still do that someday, but I decided I’d rather invest my time into reading rather than watching movies. I don’t regret the decision, and I’m really enjoying reading everywhere I go now. After avoiding e-readers for the last couple of years (except my phone, which I have been reading books on and which I’ve been enjoying in that capacity), I’m really glad I got one and look forward to having it on our next trip.

Married Life

Matthew and April on the Showboat Branson Belle

Man, we’re good. Better everyday. I don’t think I have anything else to say on the subject, other than to express how grateful to God I am for April.

April has finished her first year of her master’s in counseling, and she will graduate in August of 2011. We’re back to playing World of Warcraft together and have managed to get most of the people we know onto the same server/faction, so that’s been nice. The coldness of winter has cut into our bike riding and outdoors time, mostly because I dislike going outside recreationally, but that just means spending more time together indoors.

Our third anniversary will be in January, which we finally realized after several weeks of disagreement about which year we got married. I could have sworn our fourth anniversary was coming up, but alas, I was wrong. We will have been together for five years in February.

Church and Religion

Vineyard is still good, and we are very thankful for the community there. I’ve struggled a bit with the sermons, many of which have seemed a bit shallow of late, but we definitely like the church. In addition, I’m thinking about starting a small group this spring.

It may very well be a bad idea, since school might be nearly overwhelming by itself, but I feel like God has prompted me to do this for a while and I’ve avoided it. My plan is to address the more mystical/spiritual side of Christianity in regards to angels, spiritual warfare, witchcraft, the gifts of the spirit, etc. I’m not well-educated on the subject, which makes me feel insecure and nervous about it, but at the least I can create a safe environment to discuss the subjects. What education I have is mostly experiential, with a bit of reading thrown in, so hopefully that will be enough.

Signing off

Time’s short and I want to get this done. I have a feeling blogging will continue to be a low priority for me, but I’ve meant to catch up for weeks, and since the University is closed and I’m on holiday I wanted to take this opportunity to write. Cheers.

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