Monday, September 15, 2008

The Bubble Bursts

I've often thought about the process of growing up and all the painful moments of self-discovery that I've experienced in my nearly fifty years of life. There were the early ones, such as the realization (a) that I would never be a great athlete, (b) that I was not endowed with genius-level intelligence, and (c) that most of the girls whom I regarded as attractive were not attracted to me. However, I have to say that the greatest disillusionments of my life were reserved for my adulthood. First: that, unlike me, not every Mormon kid of my generation grew up believing that it was more or less a doctrinal imperative to have a low sense of self-worth and an impaired sense of ambition. Quite literally, a day doesn't go by that I don't feel the far-reaching effects of what I call "King Benjamin Syndrome," yet it's obvious now, judging from the overinflated egos I continually encounter in the church, that I didn't have to view myself as slime or consider it wrong to want to excel in some worldly pursuit.

Second: that the management paradigm on the administrative side of Sandia National Laboratories, where I work, has gradually gone from being almost strictly meritocratic to being, well, something else -- which has caused me to realize that I'm wedged squarely under the proverbial "glass ceiling." It was nice to leave the CFO organization (the most-glaring bastion of the new philosophies) three years ago and move out to the "line," where at least I'm able to provide direct financial support to managers and staff of a technical organization. However, now all of the "line" admin personnel are being sucked back into the CFO organization, which I regard as the surest sign of the company's ongoing descent into the maelstrom of abject irrelevancy. The worst part is that I have no other choices -- after sixteen years at Sandia, my only real option is to keep doing what I'm doing until retirement in another 9-14 years (and hope that there still is a Sandia for that length of time).

And third: that my lifestyle -- which is dominated by having to go to work and then having to attend various church meetings, activities, and service projects -- is largely incompatible with the things that I find most rewarding in life: romance, spontaneity, creativity, travel, and outdoor recreation. One of the good things about working at Sandia is having no shortage of annual leave and other days off; however, I still find it extremely difficult to devote resources to those things that, to me, make life worth living.

I don't ask for much, since many of the things that I enjoy cost little or nothing. But will things ever change?