26 December 2008

What a difference 12 months makes

Got the in-laws in town at the moment. We went for a bit of a tootle around today, and as I was driving around the bush, I had a moment of reflection.

What a difference 12 months makes.

I was thinking back to what I was doing a year ago.

# I was in a job that I was increasingly unhappy with.
# I was unhappy with my financial situation - comfortable but burdened by a large amount of debt.
# I was unhappy with the course my life was taking - being sucked into a series of marginal, difficult but unskilled jobs, that while I was doing them extremely well, # I was being let down by poor business practices of either the business or my managers, and was finding it extremely difficult to recruit talented people who were prepared to take on a difficult job and take some responsibility.
# I was unhappy with the fact that while I consider myself to be quite an intelligent person and a good employee, I was pretty much unqualified for anything. I held no qualification beyond completing my Year 12 schooling, plus a couple of dime-a-dozen TAFE or similar qualifications that I had probably earned through previous employers rorting the traineeship system.
# I felt I was trapped in the job I was in, as I could not bring it upon myself to leave, and leave the company & my friends there in the lurch.
# And to top it all off, I was on call for the entire Xmas / New Year period, by myself, with no family around, my girlfriend in QLD visiting her family, and all of my friends being away as well.

I knew I was in trouble when I spent New Years Eve in bed (by 8:30pm no less), and dreading the sound of the mobile phone.

This heightened state of stress continued well into January, and came to a head on Australia Day (I think, can't remember). And it went down like this:

It was a stinking hot day, and I had stupidly agreed to a ride up Mt Hotham with a couple of buddies. Climbing is not my strength at the best of times, riding with 2 very fit guys on a 40 degree day was less than intelligent, especially when one of them finished the Melbourne Marathon in sub 4 hours, and the other came Top 20 in his age group at the Highland Fling. Just to give you an idea of the calibre of the company.

I just couldn't keep pace with these guys, and they took off, and left me to ride up by myself. Not a good thing, seeing as I was in quite an unhappy place internally, and having that much time to think while I slogged my guts out up the hill compounded the negativity of my thoughts.

It came to a head once I hit CRB Hill, in full sunlight, no shade, and hot, hot, hot. I had run out of water, the hill was getting steeper, and every time I crested (or thought I had crested), I would see the road continuing to snake up. I was absolutely desolate, exhausted, close to tears, and wondering how I had got myself into this mess.

I finally grovelled my way into The General, where compadres #1 and #2 had a cold beer plus a big bowl of deep-fried goodness waiting for me. This relieved some of the pain, but then we had to turn around and go back down. Which actually involved a fair bit of up, into a now roaring afternoon headwind.

By the time we made it down (I managed to stick with the group, in a downhill situation, physics is my friend) we were absolutely toasted. My face, eyelashes and eyebrows were white from dried sweat. I had found the bottom of the tank, and kept on going. Possibly the worst, mentally and physically, I had ever felt after a ride - and this includes my recent Highland Fling DNF. We got back to Harrietville, dropped the bikes, and stumbled straight into the creek, still in knicks, jersey and shoes, and sat down in the ice cold water. Not even an ice cream from the dodgy little ice cream shop there could revive me.

On the drive home, I was miserable. I had to go back to work the next day, I had just wasted a whole day of my weekend torturing myself cyclo-style, and I could concievably see no way out of the situation. It was just going to be Groundhog Day from thereon in. Any recreation time from that point on would just be tainted by the fact that I had to go back to a job that I hated.

How was I going to break the cycle?

I can almost remember exactly where I was. I had a moment of clarity.

I was going to sell my house (rented out at the time, and we were renting a house), take 12 months off work, live off the proceeds, and take the time to get myself a decent qualification in something, and use the opportunity as a springboard to get myself into a better job, or even better, working for myself.

First call was made at 9.01am the following morning to get the house appraised. I wasn't putting a great deal of faith in the so-called property boom, and I thought if I netted 30K from the sale, that would be enough to live on for a year, and then start life at ground zero again once I went back to work.

Next there was some discussion with family and friends about what precisely I should look at studying. I wasn't keen to do a 'general'-type course, eg Management etc - my opinon of these is that they are too broad, and maybe not taken as seriously as they should be by potential employers - myself included. I've lost count of the number of people I've interviewed over the years with management qualifications - First Line, Cert IV etc etc, and they really couldn't manage to get themselves out of a wet paper bag. But that's another post.

I looked at a couple of profiling-type tools, assessing your strengths, weaknesses, interests etc to guide you towards a potential career path. Interestingly they were steering me towards either statistics or meteorology. I am a numbers person by the way, very motivated by systems and process.

The suggestion came up from my girlfriend that I look at GIS as a possibility. This really appealed to me, I've always had a fascination with maps, data, and exploring. The chance to combine these plus play with some really, really cool software was just too much of a temptation to pass up.

I made some enquiries with NSW TAFE, found a decent distance-mode GIS course, and enrolled.

To cut a long story short, the house sold in 2 days, for a little more than I was expecting, and I finished work in early April. The balance of the year has been a mix of study, riding, tripping around, racing, and now working.

And I'm a much happier human being.

What a difference a year makes hey?


Groover said...

What a journey in one short year! Well done and here is for an even better 2009. :-)

BTW: I could feel your Mt Hotham pain and crinched reading "CRB hill". :-)

Dee said...

I have been meaning to welcome you to the Spatial industry, and time has flown since you wrote this. I hope you find something to your liking. There has been a skills shortage and it is a resilient industry. Contact me if you need some Queensland links!