Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mid-life crisis

I’ve managed to avoid the desire for a two-seater open-top sports car. The bike doesn’t count because I’ve owned large motorcycles since I was a teenager.

The other thing I’ve been doing since my teenage years is engineering. First, science O and A levels, then a civil engineering degree. After graduating with a Desmond (Gaudeamus igitur), I spent six months as a motorcycle courier before finding a proper job in the civil engineering profession. And I’ve been more-or-less continually employed ever since. Twenty-six years: you don’t get that for murder.

Regrettably, this is now how I feel about it. Instead of actual engineering, which a colleague described as “an industry which needs a couple of big buckets of common sense,” I find myself being inexorably tractor-beamed into the Death Star of Financial Management and Quality Assurance. There seem to be ever-increasing layers and layers of Business Bollocks between me and actually Getting Things Done.

I’m driven to wonder how anything ever got built before the post-war introduction of Gantt charts and Quality Plans; before Construction Design Management. Are all those Victorian and older structures merely figments of my diseased imagination? Was the universe created yesterday, complete with false memories? The oldest bridge in the world is the Pons Fabricius in Rome, which was built in 62BC. How did the Romans build that?

“They had massive whips, Rimmer. Massive, massive whips.”

The engineering industry has openings for Planning Engineers and Quality Assurance Specialists. If I wanted an electrical sub-station designing, Id get an electrical engineer. Why then am I expected to be a master of all trades where planning and QA are concerned? 

My point is that I’ve become completely disillusioned with everything I do for a living. It pays well, but I only continue to do it so that one day I’ll have enough saved up so that I don’t have to do it any more. Ten more years. A decade. Not so much a word as a sentence.

So I need a change. Changing employer would only exchange frying pan for fire. And because of employment laws in Qatar I’d need a No Objection Certificate from my current employer or be banned from working in Qatar for two years. NOCs are Not Coming In Doha, Mr Goat.

What else could I do, assuming a career rather than merely a country change? Having done engineering for so long, I have a very narrow set of skills. What I do, I do very well. And I must be good at it; feelings of self-doubt are logically unfounded because if I were a fraud I’d surely have been found out in under 26 years.

·     Barring the vanishingly unlikely chance of making it big on Britain’s Got [not very much] Talent, any alleged ability I may have as an actor or singer isn’t enough to make a living.

·     Writing bestsellers? Read Alexander’s blog about self-publishing and marketing his book. All I need is an original idea, a plot, and some protagonists. “The first in the Phuqinora trilogy from a major new talent.” Yeah, right. I can just see that happening.

·     Driving, perhaps? I can do that, and I even earned some money once for piloting a car in a TV advert. It’s a small and irregular income stream. I don’t need to do motorcycle courier work again, and I don’t have nearly enough tattoos to qualify as a proper White Van Man.

·     Scuba instructing sounds like a great idea, and it’s something I can actually do. Getting paid to dive every day in the tropics? Getting paid a pittance, more like, until my abused middle-aged body gave up in disgust.

·     Retraining as a teacher? Frankly, notwithstanding any ability I may have as a teacher, the mere concept of standing in front of a class in order to put food on the table fills me with abject horror. Full marks for anyone who does it!

So I’m stuffed. I can’t stand doing what I’m doing for much longer; certainly not for ten more years,  and I can’t not do it for fear of never being able to afford to retire.



Gnomad said...

I feel your pain, my dear chap. If I had a decent solution I would already be doing it myself. As you know I did go into teaching and if you can find a decent school whose ethos matches (or at least doesn't collide with) your own, it's really not so bad. I have found my prosopamnesia to be a bit of a draw back, but have some management strategies that lessen the issue. Keep at it, take it one day at a time, don't take any of it personally and rely on your Beloved Wife who will help you through better than anything else. If all else fails come over and we'll put the world to rights in the company of Captain Henry Morgan and Mr Glen M Orangie :)

Mita Ray said...

Hang in there Mr. Goat, something will turn up. I am an optimist (even in my middle age).

Jayne said...

Bit of a bugger innit?
Not quite sure what to suggest really, but do know of people who jacked everything in several years into their 'careers' to revert back to studying & then doing the career of their 'heart' (as it were).
Go for a long'll clear a few of the cobwebs :-)

Anonymous said...

Come diving more often Mr Goat, Two days of getting wet and exhausted just about sorts you out for five more days of anguish - and you are needed by the way. You might even enjoy it.

Mme Cyn said...

You already know Beloved Wife's take on this -- and I mean it. Do what will make you happy, and we will work the rest of it out.

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Anonymous said...

You did good lasting 26 years. I can relate as I work in IT and its even worse than engineering, we have: change, problem, incident service, assurance and team managers all non-technical work that stand in the way of getting REAL work done. So many hoops to jump through before you can get your work approved...26 years you say - I need to last another 19 yrs to be on your level.

On another note, have you thought about contracting? Usually contracters are brought in to resolve/focus on specific technical issue's. So maybe thats a viable option plus the £££ ain't bad too


Anonymous said...

Dear Goat...about 20 years ago, a very, very wise woman told a young lady who was "stuck" because she couldn't settle on a direction that "one doesn't have to do the same thing for your entire life!Just pick something you'd like to do for now" Well, that young lady, for once in her life, heeded the wise woman's words, became highly focused, achieved what she set out to do, and has made a loverly life. If you too would like to hear the wise woman's words, please email tmil. Retiring at 55 is great, but working beyond that if the work is stimulating, can be wonderful also. But being miserable at what one spends most of their waking life doing is not fun...and, it isn't as though you have six chickadees to feed and clothe. Tmil and tfil wish you well. email us. tmil

Mme Cyn said...

Wise woman indeed. =)


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