Wednesday, July 9, 2014

On Getting Fined For Wordiness

In my last annual review at work, my team leader said that if there was an area where I was lacking, it was that I could be taking more ownership in my projects. I didn't agree, but what could I say? I sometimes feel that I'm the only one taking ownership, and other times I feel like I'm begging for the opportunity.

Lately, though, I've been taking so much ownership that my days have been filled with the kind of electricity that accompanies those on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I still avoid meetings when I can, quite intentionally, but nowadays it seems like I talk with everyone. I talked with my team leader today, and it was one talk out of far-too-many. I was asking him to help out on an upcoming project, and in that moment I realized that I was taking ownership, possibly more so than he was comfortable with. I was enlisting my team leader to work for me, and while I was chatting with him, I remembered his comments from my last annual review; and then my jaw started to lock up.

I was suddenly overwhelmed. I felt like I'd exceeded my annual limit for spoken words, and like I was starting to get charged extra; in fact, I was getting fined for going overboard with my wordiness. I was finding it hard to breathe.

In moments like these, I continue as best as I can. I tell myself to focus, to relax. I do what I need to do, say what I need to say, and accept that I can get back to the frills later. Once I'm away and my head isn't vibrating so intensely, I find a way to recharge: I do a tiny task, one that involves no communication, and another, and another. Soon enough, the emergency subsides.

Although I love taking ownership, does it need to involve so many people? Can't I just get things done?


Wednesday, July 2, 2014


While sitting with relatives at the back of the house one night in a suburb of Chicago, I found my attention drifting from the conversation. I was mesmerized by the brief flashes of light around the yard.

"Lightning bugs," I said, smiling. "It's been so long since I've seen them!"

"You don't have them in Seattle?" my aunt asked.

I shook my head, and continued watching the fireflies dance.

After a while, one of my nieces came up to me and opened her hands. She held out a lightning bug for me, and I thanked her. I reached out and let the bug crawl onto my finger. Soon, my hand was glowing.

Later, I thought about that kind gesture, and about how -- while I'd been focused on keeping up my part of the conversation with my relatives, and probably struggling to deal with all of the attention -- they'd simply been conspiring to see that I was happy.

Sometimes, I guess having the light shone on you isn't so bad.