There has been a lot going on with us as a family and me as an individual that I have not talked about here. It is about time to let some of it out in the public sphere, as difficult as that is for me. Late last year the stress of work got to me in a pretty major and debilitating way. My job was a constant source of stress piled on stress. While I was able to work from home a lot, which was nice, it also meant that the demarcation between work and home became blurred to the point that I was never "off work". I was checking email in the evening, on weekends and on vacation (to the point that I stopped taking vacation time at all). It finally came to a head and I ended up being off work for a while.
Since a major factor in my mental health is my work environment, in times past I would alleviate this by changing jobs and at the same time usually changing locations. That was not a viable option for a lot of reasons in this case and at least the moving part was hard on my family. Besides I was starting to recognize what had been apparent to others, i.e. this was just a band-aid and not a solution. So I decided to use the time I was off to step back and ponder. What I decided to do was take a broader look beyond "find another job". The conclusion I reached was to take what I like doing, managing people, and apply it to a new industry that I was more interested in than financial services which is largely an exercise in trying to sell people stuff they don't want or shuffling make believe money around that only exists "on paper".
As you might have noticed I have been thinking a lot about the American economy and what we make and what we buy. I am concerned that so many of our jobs involve shuffling fake money around and buying cheap stuff made overseas by children with money that is borrowed. I read about all of the unemployed/underemployed men being left behind in our "information economy" driven by technology and data and wonder what they will do in the future. I started looking around, even while just driving with the family, and saw lots of manufacturing facilities: steel mills, glass operations, machine shops, etc. So I live somewhere with limited opportunities in financial services (which I am done with anyway), plentiful opportunities in production and a very highly regarded community college. Searching the help wanted ads in the area revealed a substantial demand for people to manage production employees, people with management experience and production experience. The one I already have, some eight years worth of management experience. The other? Not so much. So I found myself in a bit of a spot. Either I apply for a bunch of jobs that I really don't meet the qualifications for or I get myself the qualifications. I chose the latter.
This has led to some interesting developments. After a long time out of school I find myself back in class, albeit online, taking formal courses in manufacturing technology towards a technical certificate. At the same time I resigned from my role in financial services and have started a new job at a glass company. It is pretty entry level but it is giving me the experience I need. I fully expect 2014 to be a transitional year for me as I pick up the experience and education I need to move into the career field I want. It is going to be interesting financially as well since I am not making nearly as much as I was but I also expect that to change fairly quickly. I started the new job last week and it is a refreshing change to have something tangible at the end of the work day, something I contributed to the making of, as well as not having to worry about something going wrong and checking email every five minutes. On the other hand I am a bit sore from standing in steel toed boots all day long and my feet have so pretty impressive blisters but I only broke one piece of glass so I thought it was a success all around!
Some of this is pragmatic and some is philosophical. From a pragmatic standpoint we like living here in northeast Indiana. It is close to home, both geographically and culturally. We have carved out a home here and we like it and we are surrounded by people we know and like. For example, yesterday our sow was in distress because a piglet was lodged in the birth canal (she already lost the other 7) and they were able to first offer advice and then offer to butcher and skin her so we didn't lose the meat as well as the babies. Kind of a bummer but better than having a 400-500 lb. dead hog to deal with and all that meat wasted. As I have said multiple times, we like it here and where we are offers an industry I want to get into. So this is the right move for the long term in this area.
Philosophically I am looking to do something more meaningful even in a very basic way. I cannot see myself working in a cubicle under fluorescent lights in a temperature controlled setting the rest of my life. It just isn't good for me . I need a job that is more active. I really liked working in retail but the hours were awful as was the pay. I am hoping that a production environment combines that with a tangible result, something more than an electronic ghost to show what you did for the day. I am not creating a populist utopia in my mind where work in a manufacturing environment is glamorous. I get that it is hard work. Last week cemented that in my mind! I know that it is hot (even in winter!) and loud and potentially hazardous. I am not really afraid of that, I am afraid of what another decade in financial services would do to my health, physical and mental.
We are still working on finding ways to supplement our income at home. Losing our sow was a major setback, I was counting on keeping some of the gilts from that litter to breed later on but that stuff happens in farming. We still have lots of plans that hopefully will become more tangible in 2014. There are also some big writing projects I am working on, not for money at this point but in the future who knows?
So that is what is happening here. 2013 was an awful year, especially the second half. 2014 looks to be difficult in some ways but a positive move forward in many others. I will update our progress from time to time. Onward and upward!