What a Weird Couple of Days…

So the past two days (the last two days of my nine days of reflection which began Monday the 10th) have been some of the weirdest in my life and I’m left totally lost, confused, maybe still a little bit angry and with a lot to think about.

So yesterday at 7 AM sharp I get called into my boss’s office along with one of the salesmen, which I thought was just weird. I then got chewed out, being told “cussing in the office is against company policy” which then ended in an official written warning. Needless to say I was rather enraged at that point, especially since everyone in that office uses coarse language. Inconsistent enforcement of the rules just screams targeting to me.

I then retire to my office, still fuming with rage and try to accomplish what I’ve got on my docket but try as I might I just couldn’t. Yesterday wound up being a total blur for most of the day as my anger just stewed. Toward the end of the day I typed up a short, sweet letter of resignation because I’d just had enough. I printed it, taped my office key to it and marched right into my boss’s office and handed it to him along with my key and company cell phone.

I was expecting it to be a case of “well, OK, bye” but it was anything but. I don’t know if it’s technically legal for your boss to refuse a resignation but that’s essentially what he did by telling me I was making a big mistake. Whatever, I thought, I can make it official the next day right? So I just went home and I was still so steaming mad I just skipped my evening ritual of a cigar, a drink and didn’t even eat dinner because nothing sounded good. I took a sleeping pill and my allergy medicine and went right to bed ,where I slept almost 12 hours straight save for my daily 5:00 alarm blaring, which I promptly silenced and ignored.

I rolled out of bed looking like hell upon my 2nd alarm (set for 6:00 AM) sounding, which is about when I leave the house every morning. I gathered up my company logo polo shirts, stuff them in my car and hit the road with the intent of just being at the office long enough to leave my shirts behind, along with my company phone and office key and bolt. Talk about symbolic – my great-grandmother died 16 years ago today. How would it have been for my career in the crane industry to die the same day? It just seemed like destiny to me.

I arrive at the office and notice my boss is in a meeting. “Perfect,” I thought to myself; I’ll slip in my office just long enough to leave my stuff behind, get what few personal belongings I still have in there and then bolt without even being noticed. Well, as you might imagine it didn’t pan out that way, for just as I was about to leave my boss gets out of his meeting and tells me good morning, to which I responded with the old Eeyore-ism “If it is a good morning, which I doubt.”

A brief exchange then ensued, with him telling me to smile (you don’t EVER tell me to smile, by the way – I’ll smile if I have a reason to and if I don’t I won’t) and he outright goes “you think too much.” Well, maybe I do, but that’s how we autists are, don’t you know? We can’t help it.

Anyway, I went on about my business as mostly normal today, still unsure of my own future with this company and even this business. If it’s less stressful for me, I was even offered to work from home on a most-time basis, coming up only to check in once or twice a week. I have to admit that’s a very attractive option, but I will have to do some soul-searching because I can’t help but think that I have a target on my back still.

Luckily I’ll have some time to ponder it. Due to having a lot of unused sick time tomorrow will be my last day of work for the year. Given statutory holidays and weekends in between that, I have damn near two weeks off coming up. It’ll give me a lot of time to think and to maybe cool down from my blinding rage. Whatever the case, I’ve got some serious soul-searching to do.

Today 16 years ago was no doubt the worst day of my life. The day I lost my great-grandmother was unquestionably such. It was nearly as bad a day today. Not quite, but close. Maybe December 19th is just cursed for some reason, kind of like the Ides of March.

Whatever the case, as always thanks for letting me vent. Now time to go light some incense, meditate, and reflect upon the life of the most influential and important person in my life.

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Embracing the Starving Artist Lifestyle

I remember about a year ago how I wrote a post saying how I once thought being broke was the worst possible thing that one could be but how wrong I was as I started wising up a bit. Oh no, being broke is not the worst thing that could happen to anyone. The worst thing that could happen to anyone is to be miserable, no matter how much money you have. You can be rich and miserable or broke and content. I know people in both categories.

And that’s when I had an epiphany at work today and happened to think maybe it’s time to take my own advice. Someone royally pissed me off on Facebook and I teed off on them saying how much I hated my job, my coworkers, my bosses, everything about it. Of course, Facebook being the open and public platform it is, I’m sure someone will see it and tattle on me. I don’t list my employer on Facebook but it doesn’t take much to do a LinkedIn search now does it? I’m sure they could find out somewhere.

Alas, I had a moment of clarity just then, given the events of this past weekend. Chances are I will lose my job over that rant, but I’m surprisingly content with that, and it’s giving me an opportunity to entertain the starving artist lifestyle for the next phase of my life. Even if I don’t get fired, I’m seriously contemplating walking away from the stresses of being a staff engineer at a big corporation and being a starving artist.

Now, whatever has possessed me to think of doing something so crazy? Well, I can’t disclose too much on a public blog as I don’t want anyone stealing any ideas, but let’s just say one sleepless night I had a moment of inspiration to write a musical. I’m not the greatest writer, but I’ve written some stuff in life.

So why then would I try something like that?  Well, it just so happens I have a writer friend locally, and a damn good one too. I pitched the idea to her as a collaboration work and she absolutely LOVED it. We sat down to dinner at our digs, ate pizza, drank wine and it took us no more than 30 minutes to bang out a general plot, theme, setting (location and year), you name it. It just flowed out of us. I think we compliment each other as a team too – I bring more of the musical knowledge while she brings the writing talent. Given that, I think we are a killer duo.

Now, things like this obviously don’t come together in a few days, a few months or maybe even in a year or two. That’s why I say I’m almost preparing internally to be a starving artist. Even if I don’t get the ax, I’m seriously thinking of resigning from my job at year’s end and taking a low-stress (but admittedly low pay) job that would really allow me to focus on this project. I’m thinking something like a hotel night auditor – the least busy and most boring shift of a hotel that would have a lot of down time or maybe bartending part-time in a gay bar or something (seriously, the Davy Dukes and/or Meggings could be a hit in those settings) and thus having a lot of time at home. Options like these would give me plenty of downtime to allow me to do research, contribute to the writing, choreography and nail the musical score/composition Given the way we just got on the same page from the outset Saturday night, I really think this is meant to be and it’s a concept that I think could make us household names. Maybe I’m dreaming, but this could be our ticket to fame and fortune (she hasn’t broken through yet herself which is a damn shame).

As mentioned, this is a big decision and I’ll need to sleep on it. I’ve luckily got enough money in the bank to completely pay off my car at the moment (which still has another at least 100,000 miles of life in it – I’m only at 73,000 miles on the odometer right now) and drop my insurance to liability only (as I’d get next to nothing in a collision payout anyway at this point). I’d still have plenty of emergency funds. Student loans of course could be put into forbearance or put into income-driven repayment to minimize my expenses.

Obviously it’ll be a bit of a downgrade lifestyle-wise, one way or another, but what good is living in the lap of luxury if I’m drowning in abysmal misery? I’m so fucking tired of waking up and saying to myself “well shit.” I’m sick and tired of crying myself to sleep every fucking night in horror because I just don’t want to go to work the next day. I’m sick and tired of the headaches, the GI issues, general lethargy and the pain of piles (sorry, TMI, but you probably figured out that’s what was causing my pain last week).

Again, just a thought but this corporate bullshit has got to go. Despite being trained in mathematics and engineering, I’m an artsy type all the way. Maybe this is the break I’ve been looking for? We shall see, but it’s something to chew on. One way or another, something has to change. I’m fucking miserable where I am. I can’t go on like this.

When Stress Manifests Itself Physically

If there was ever any indication I needed a career change and fast, it’s my body just starting to break down entirely. It’s been stressful lately, so stressful I am having headaches, tachycardia, hypertension, palpitations and we won’t even talk about the most recent manifestation of that stress except to say my ass hurts so bad I can’t sit down for any length of time. Make what you will of that but I’m sure you catch my drift.

The stress has been building gradually over the past few weeks but last week was the straw that broke the camel’s back as it were. The head engineer passes the buck on one of his pet projects and makes me draw something up in Autodesk Inventor, a software I’m not too familiar with. Between being under the gun there and trying to handle my other duties, well, I about imploded.

Then I get kickback on a previous lift plan drawing I had done and get bitched out because of one reason or another. This ain’t the first time. Apparently nothing I do around here is good enough.

What started out as looking like a good move has quickly soured. It’s getting to be even worse than my previous job. I can’t catch a break and everyone is complaining about something.

Of course, that’s only part of my problem. The personal life/family stress I’m facing right now isn’t helping either. It’s just a perfect storm as it were.

I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know what career would be better suited to me. I guess I should start looking though. Doing some research as it were. The crane business is no place for an autist. It’s way too stressful for us to handle. I have had three meltdowns at work in the past two weeks. I’m absolutely miserable.

Anyway, sorry for all that. I just needed to rant. Forgive me. Life just really sucks right now. At least I have my blogging buddies and my few in person friends to lean on for support. You mean more to me than you know.

And Thus It Starts…

Here it is, folks – the beginning of the end of my career in the crane world. It’s only a matter of time now.

Thursday was a particularly bad day – the worst day I’ve ever had in my 3 years and change in the industry. I had it coming at me from all directions – internally, the overly pushy Odessa branch manager who thinks I should just drop what I’m working on to cater to his every need (sorry, doesn’t work that way), to the business development director being all up my ass for a major project (who I think is probably more important than aforementioned branch manager) and then the P.E. and head draftsman pressing me for some CAD models (and if anything that gets priority, not the piddly shit our other lift planners can handle – I’m one of only two people in the company other than the P.E. with AutoCAD and/or Inventor proficiency).

Combine all of the above with a failing computer (my work computer has been fucking up something fierce lately) and that was a recipe for disaster. It was a recipe for a full-blown meltdown, which I had around 1 PM Thursday afternoon. I couldn’t excuse myself quickly enough to get to privacy before it happened either, and due to that I’m now under a radar.

Just when I thought my coworkers might be sympathetic, it turns out they aren’t. They complained to my branch manager and to HR. When I tried to explain myself they didn’t hear any of it – they wrote me up anyway, for something that was utterly beyond my control. Of course, once that happens it’s all downhill from there – so much as letting one four-letter word slip and I’m going to be written up again and possibly/probably terminated on the spot.

Take it from me that the crane business is no place for an autist. It’s just not. There is no “steady stream” of work in this industry. It’s one extreme or the other – either extreme boredom or extreme pressure/stress. My time in this industry has taught me that. It is absolutely toxic for us.

It’s not like I keep it a secret either. They all know. Shit, I have an outward symbol of my condition on my left wrist! It’s very clearly displayed at all times. I’m not required to cover my ink at work so I don’t go out of my way to. All one has to do is look at my left wrist to know what/who I am and maybe, just maybe have some understanding. Alas, that is simply not the case.

With that being said, this fits a pervasive pattern that I have seen in my life. I start a new career, it looks promising initially, goes well for some time but ultimately fails. Why should I be surprised?

“I thought this time, this time, I’m gonna make it; why I thought so I really don’t know? Tell me lies and I’ll come running…I could close my eyes and tell you just exactly what’s coming. Life’s gonna turn just a little unkind.” 

That’s a little modified movie song lyric, but you get it. At one point does one throw in the towel? At what point does one give up and resign himself to the fact he will never have a successful career? All I know is it’s been this way since I finished undergrad in 2008 – it’s a pattern that started right then and there and lasted up through my teaching career, my time in grad school and now my post-grad school life. I just can’t keep doing this.

I don’t know what to do anymore. I just don’t. All I know is I’m right back where I was: feeling depressed, miserable, angry. What the hell am I even doing here? I’m sick and tired of being mother nature’s joke (I use that term since I’m not a believer in a personal god). If there is some sort of greater purpose for my existence, I just don’t see it. Maybe it’s so people can get their rocks off as they take delight in the misery of someone who can’t control it. Maybe I am here to provide mere entertainment value to the sociopaths of this world.

Whatever the case, I don’t like it and unless something changes soon, I might just move my miserable ass to Zurich where I’ll have Dignitas in my backyard. I’m sure it wouldn’t take a whole hell of a lot to convince them that I have no quality of life and that I am a prime candidate for euthanasia. At this point it just seems as though being put out of my misery would be the best option.

3 Years in the Crane Business

August 27th is a bit of a personal anniversary as it were – it marks the day I got my start in the crane business. I was quite cynical about the whole thing when I started, thinking I would last my usual 6 months to a year in it before I failed out again, but somehow I have managed to make it a full 3 years now – 2.5 years with my former company and I have just completed 6 months with my new company.

So how are things going? Truth be told, not that great. After the “newness” wore off of this job, I’m about 90% as miserable as I was with my previous company. The upsides? My boss isn’t a verbally abusive tyrant and at least I’m back in my hometown with what few friends I have. In that light, am I better off than I was this time last year? Absolutely. Am I happy? No way.

I almost hate to admit it but I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be happy. It’s been so long it’s a foreign feeling to me. I feel so bad day in and day out. Sure, I have my bits of euphoria but that’s about it – nothing lasting. At the end of any of my fun little excursions I’m right back to where I was previously – miserable.

I just don’t know what to do anymore. Part of me thinks I should find a new industry but will that really be the answer to my woes? Realistically speaking probably not and especially when looking for a new industry involves another probably relocation, which I learned the first time around that’s a big mistake. Abilene is my home. I don’t want to leave it again. The other part thinks maybe eventually I’ll become numb to this whole thing and just quit caring. I also question the validity of that notion.

One way or another I feel trapped, and with the increased FDA regulations on the tobacco industry in the US, L&B just isn’t feasible. Unless the FDA reverses course and grants an exemption to the long drawn out approval process for premium cigars and premium pipe tobacco, the regulations are going to kill that industry in the US. We’ll still be able to get cigars but we’ll have to buy from overseas. It really sucks.

So the next question is, with the revised guidelines now vs. when I was younger, should I maybe consider an aviation career? At 31 years old, that might be very difficult to do with mandatory retirement at age 65. Zero flight time to 250 hours + all ratings takes about five months in an all-intensive training program, and then to even get in the door with an airline I’d have to log another 1,250 hours (the minimum requirement to get an airline job in the US is 1,500 flight hours). That puts me at about age 35 +/- before even getting in with a regional airline, and then about another 10 years at that level before moving up to a major or legacy carrier. By that point, I’m only looking at 20 years in the majors at most before mandatory retirement, all while having to work another job on top of flying because flight instructors and regional airline pilots don’t get paid worth a shit, all while having an incredibly huge debt from flight school (that shit ain’t cheap!). In other words, I’d likely be ass-broke for the next 15 years of my life at least, which presents its own challenges.

I just don’t know what the hell to do. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Natalie Cole once sang “I thought this time, this time we’re gonna make it; why I thought so I really don’t know…tell me lies and I’ll come running.” Well that’s pretty much how I feel right now. On what should be a celebratory day, it feels like I’m lamenting it instead.

And people wonder why I subscribe to the antinatalist viewpoint. Dr. David Benatar was right – it really is better never to exist. Then there’d be none of this BS to deal with. Alas, we do exist and many of us have an interest in continued existence so ceasing to exist once already in existence is also a harm. Again, a catch-22.

Well fuck.

EDIT: Apparently this is also my 500th post. Hah. Two milestones in one fell swoop. I only wish it would have been a happier one. Oh well.

Autism, Jury Duty and Being of “Sound Mind”

Right now there is a high profile capital murder case about to be tried in my area. Luckily I do not live in that county as I likely would have received a jury summons. It seems like the entire county was called up.

Make no bones about it, I refuse to serve on a jury unless I am compensated dollar for dollar my lost wages. Every company I have ever worked for only allows two days off for jury duty per year and such cases as this one go way longer, which would mean I’d have to either completely expend my paid time off or take unpaid leave while being compensated a measly $40/day. That just ain’t happening.

Don’t give me this whole “civic duty” nonsense either. I do not believe in the notion of such for the same reasons I am not a believer in “social contract.” As a libertarian, I naturally reject state ownership or collective ownership of our lives. Jury service should be strictly voluntary, or if you really want to help someone out, pools selected from those who are unemployed or disabled. Then they get a bit of extra money while the rest of us don’t have to worry about forfeiting a large chunk of our incomes.

Alas, I have only been called for jury duty twice in my life. The first time I was a full time student so I was exempt anyway. The second time I did not have that option and was in full time employment so I used an excuse that I felt I could and that I likely would not be questioned on: I checked the box that says “I am not of sound mind or good moral character” and returned it. I never heard another word about it.

I always figured if in the small chance I was questioned on it I had an easy out anyway, namely my autism diagnosis. I don’t know if that would have flown but if not my 2nd option would be to claim I was not of good moral character – something I probably could do seeing as how I’m a left leaner in a very right leaning area.

Nonetheless I realize what a slippery slope it could be. Obviously I do not believe people on the autism spectrum (and particularly the higher functioning end) are mentally deficient. Could I maybe be doing the whole autism acceptance thing a disservice by using it as an excuse? I don’t want to unintentionally harm the community, and especially those who might be interested in jury service. Then again, how would they ever know unless one self-discloses it?

I don’t know. It’s a complicated topic for sure and something I sometimes struggle with. I can’t afford to take time away from work for jury service so I’m going to use the easy out, but at the same time I don’t want to hurt my tribe. Of course, if jury duty was optional as it should be this wouldn’t be an issue.

I don’t know. I would like to hear everyone’s thoughts on this. How would you react? Autistic or not. Please comment.

In Between a Rock and a Hard Place…

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that my little business venture (not even considering what would be my ultra dream job because that’s not attainable at all) has probably been derailed permanently. I am in between a serious rock and a hard place and I just do not know what to do or how to proceed, because it’s a “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” situation for sure.

So, with that, here’s the scoop: my sister’s second kid is due in October. That will put her having two kids by two different fathers. I’m not so judgmental of that situation in and of itself, after all my sister and I have different biological fathers and let’s face it – shit just happens. However, when you have mom, dad, sister, BIL + two little kids living in a 3 bedroom/2 bath house, well, you can see how that just doesn’t work. Also, I come and go quite frequently due to work (the crane business involves a lot of travel after all) but their house is also technically my permanent residence even though I’m only here less than a quarter of the time so you can see how this is a sticky situation for all parties involved.

With that, it’s clear we need a bigger place – a house big enough to fit all of us in comfortably. This means 5 bedrooms, 3 baths and a large common living area and kitchen. We just don’t have that here. Time to look for a new place, which is stressful in and of itself.

Well that’s stressful but manageable right? Well, here’s where the real stress comes in and what’s liable to totally derail my vision to own a cigar & liquor lounge permanently – I’m the only one in my family with good credit.

My poor dad was seriously injured on his job in 2005, my senior year of high school. He was an independent distributor for a local bakery and as such he had no insurance. He blew out his already bad knee which had to be completely reconstructed. No insurance + reconstructive surgery? Can you say massive medical bills? That combined with a lack of disability insurance put a major financial strain on them at the time that they just could not recover from.

My dad was out of work for well over a year, I was a broke undergrad and my sister was way too young to work. All that was a recipe for financial ruin, and that’s exactly what happened. Their previously unblemished credit went down the shitter in short order. They got behind on everything through no fault of their own and have never been able to recover.

Now, my sister I’m a little less sympathetic to her situation. She went out-of-state to college, goofed off instead of went to class, failed out, defaulted on a student loan and racked up several medical bills from her first pregnancy. As such, her credit is about as rock-bottom as it gets when it comes to American credit rating formulae. As far as brother-in-law? Hah. He’s got credit card fraud on his record. His credit sucks even worse!

So where does that leave us? My parents’ credit is fucked, sister’s and B-I-L’s credits are both super-mega-assfucked, but despite having a medical issue 9 years ago that bankrupted me also, I have managed to clean my credit up and although my credit isn’t completely perfect, I can get approved for just about anything. As such, guess who would have to be the primary borrower for a new place? You guessed it: ME.

Now, as my younger sister and B-I-L are in their respective situations due to their own doing, if it was just them in the picture I’d tell them to sort out their own problems. However, with one kid already here and another on the way, that is so much harder of a thing to contemplate. I’m less worried about their well-being (I couldn’t care less honestly, they’re both fuck-ups) as I am the well-being of my 3-year-old nephew and soon to be newborn niece. Of course, my poor parents I’m super sympathetic to for putting up with their shit for this long and I gotta give them credit for doing it. I wouldn’t have had the patience myself!

So having, for all intents and purposes, dependents puts me in such a bad spot. What the hell do I do? If I do the bleeding-heart liberal thing and agree to take on what would be a total mortgage, well I would never make enough money owning a cigar and liquor lounge to pay that mortgage plus all my other living expenses. In essence, I’d be signing myself away to indentured corporate servitude for the rest of my life. Leaf & Barrel Cigars & Whiskey? Fuh-fucking-geddaboutit.

Now, option B would be to be a selfish prick and pursue my own interests at the expense of the two kids especially. See, shit like this is why I don’t want kids of my own, but it’s like I’m being thrust into much of the stress and sticky situation of having to be a parent (in an indirect way). Alas, if I take option B I fear for the kids’ future especially, as well as keeping all kinds of stress on my parents.

Man does this situation suck the big one. I truly do not know what I should do. With option A I’m sacrificing my own goals and dare I say my own mental health and would no doubt drive me into a deep depression long-term and possibly/probably even suicide (due to being stuck in jobs I hate, but pay well, forevermore), with option B I’m potentially harming my nephew and soon-to-be niece. This situation really, really fucking sucks all the way around.

So dear readers, I open up the question to you: If you were in my shoes, what would you do? I hope some of you chime in and maybe even send me private messages because I really want someone I can talk through this with. It’s a major decision that is going to have major ramifications one way or another. Like I feel myself getting sick just thinking about the gravity of this decision. I’ve been faced with difficult decisions in the past, but they all pale in comparison to this one.

Please share your thoughts.