Monday, April 26, 2004

Now, Discover Your Strengths

I have spent a few evenings reading Now, Discover Your Strengths, and through the website for this book, I discovered that I had the "Learner" theme. I love to learn. This isn't news to me, but it's comforting having it validated. But the description of this talent contains this: "The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences..."

What interests me most? The book doesn't explain how to answer this, but it does state "You will need to find your field ... by listening to the yearnings that pull you and then seeing what moves you." What pulls me? What moves me? It's something that I've thought about because I am reporting this after my first day at a new job. That's right: I switched jobs.

Over the past several months at my previous employer, I slowly began to lose my interest with their "subject matter". Yes, the work involved computers, something that has fascinated and intrigued me since grade school. The work specifically involved multi-computing hardware and software. The problems I faced were multi-faceted. But after a year or so, I was becoming despondent with how difficult the subject matter was. It was an area of computers that ultimately didn't engage or thrill me.

So I stayed in my "comfort zone" amidst all this technology: I focused on software tools, not the hardware that was the mainstay of the company. But even in the comfort zone, I found myself in areas that I wasn't completely comfortable with. More importantly, I was in areas that I didn't find myself desiring to learn.

I was productive, but I was aching to "do more", to "be more". Which leads me to another strength identified by that website. I have the "Maximizer" theme. I have a talent for measuring myself against excellence. I don't want to fix what I lack. I want to increase what I already have.

So over the past few months, I searched the meager market for a position involving technologies that I knew well and technologies that I desired to know well. I networked. I practiced. And now I'm at a new job.

I believe I've found subject matter that greatly interests me at my new job. Now it's time to Learn and Maximize.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Childhood Friends

I was blessed with great childhood friendships.

Two weekends ago, I attended the wedding of one such friend, someone I knew since elementary school. He invited a few other childhood friends, so the order of the weekend was nostalgia. Who remembers what happened to whom?

Since I've known some of these people since grade school, the ties are especially strong. In an old diary, I wrote that old childhood friends are like fine leather gloves. Even if you don't wear them for years, they still easily form a natural fit around your hand. The gloves are creased in the right places. They're easy to put on.

I often ponder a theory that as we get older, it's easier to make friends. When you get past college, you've often learned "how to get close" to people. We've learned how to be direct, and how to ask meaningful questions. One long evening of talking is enough to form some good bonds.

Childhood friendships are different from college and post-college friendships. Childhood friendships start out very haphazardly. You're next to someone in homeroom. You live close to them in the neighborhood. These friendships are tested during the high years of peer pressure and puberty. Childhood friendships are formed at an impressionable age, and an age when parents can still be a strong influence. More importantly, they're formed when we all had time; long stretches of time, in which you can learn about your friends playing tag, going over their house, watching movies, or making iced tea.

If you were lucky, you grew up with your childhood friends. You tested one another in your attempts to broaden yourself beyond your comfort zone. You provided checks on one another. And as you made new friends, you "tested" them against your old friends. Before you know it, you pass the mile markers of life with them: school proms, driver's licenses, college, first jobs, marriage, children, baptisms, anniversaries.

I don't often put on the fine gloves that are my childhood friends anymore. But recalling the warmth of those gloves, the warmth of those friendships, is enough to make me smile broadly. I had a great childhood thanks to these friends. I was glad to be in that warmth two weekends ago.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Everything Became Smaller

I was in New Jersey this past weekend, attending a wedding. I spent the night at my parents' home, the home I grew up in. It was the first time I had been back home in three years.

My childhood house seems incredibly small to me. I felt like a giant, walking in and out of the rooms my brothers and I slept in. The toilets felt small. The kitchen felt small. The driveway in which I parked my car felt small.

Even when I walked outside, the feeling didn't leave me. I had to walk to my friend's place in the morning and as a kid I remember how long that walk was. This past weekend, I was somewhat startled making the turn at the corner from my street to his street, and seeing him so nearby.

Distances that used to be far are now short. Things that used to be big are now small. Maybe that's what being a grown-up is.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Forgoing Counts

What gives? There are now ads here again? And where did my counter go?

Just so you all know, I've decided to move the site, to yet another location. I haven't done this yet, but I plan to soon. The new location will be ad-free. I've also decided to forgo my web counter. The final report showed this:



Full disclosure: In March 2003, I decided to put the counter on ALL my web pages.

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Thirty-Six

Today was my 36th birthday. I wish I could say that I did something special or out of the ordinary, but it was fairly routine. I remember saying out loud during my boring commute to work "Now don't get killed today, OK? That would suck." In the continually running dialogue (monologue?) in my head, I remember that thought making me chuckle and making me somewhat nervous, until I safely arrived at work, at which point the thought of dying disappeared.

Work was routine. No one knew it was my birthday.

I didn't open any presents tonight, because in a tradition that my wife and I enjoy, we opened presents the night before. So last night, my daughter bounces out from her dinner table to announce "Presents! For Daddy! Open presents, Daddy? Presents? Happy Birthday Daddy! You like presents? Happy Birthday Daddy? Happy Birthday Mia! Happy Birthday Mommy! Open presents?" During this entire little speech, she grabbed a wrapped box, and tried to hand it to me. What fun! So after dinner last night, Mia helped me open all of my gifts.

My brother Ron called. My brother Renato sent e-mail. My mother-in-law called. A few other nice e-mails. I spent a lot of time drifting off into dream land, thinking about friends, about family, thinking about that inevitable cycle of life.

I watched most of NCAA Women's Basketball championship. I broke down boxes for garbage day tomorrow. I enjoyed a brownie. I read bits of a book. I listened to part of a DVD commentary.

As I sign off tonight, my prevailing thought: I'm glad to have gone around the calendar one more year!

Monday, April 5, 2004

Eating Alone

A few days ago I ate lunch by myself in the company cafeteria.

My group apparently went out to lunch, but I missed them because I was at a meeting that ran late. So there I was in the cafeteria, eating by myself. It was disconcerting.

I think it's one thing to eat by yourself in a fast-food joint where you are often eating in the company of other loners. It's another thing to be eating in a cafeteria at work, where you often know everyone by name, if not by face. Normally if I find myself unable to join my group, I go to a smaller cafeteria to eat alone.

Just like in school, there are the usual cliques in our company cafeteria. The same groups of people, and often the same exact tables. Our group has our own table, but we have second and even third choice tables, in case someone else has taken "our" table. I sat alone, somewhat worried about "what other people are thinking." But of course, I know that no one was thinking anything. It's not school. It's work. I'm grabbing lunch. So what if I'm by myself?

I lingered a bit in my aloneness. When I finished, I headed back to the office, skipping my usual dessert.