I haven’t written on here in a few weeks. I’ve wanted to, have had every intention to, yet haven’t. I don’t know why I’ve avoided writing, I really like it. If you’re waiting for me to complete my other story, I will soon. I’ll get there, I promise. So I’m giving it a go at 1:30 in the morning, while quietly jamming to ska on Spotify, to get back in the habit. My idea is to share confessions as a husband, father, brother, middle child, etc. So here it goes…
I’ve been at the same job for 12 and a half years, and the thing I’ve excelled at the most is the technical aspect of the work – production of maps, databases, investigation, numbers, nerd stuff. In mid 2015, the owner of my company and my boss approached me about taking over the management of the department after my boss would be promoted to executive management. I, of course, said yes. As a husband and father, it was a tough choice, but wasn’t. I knew a promotion meant more hours, more travel, more responsibility, more time away from the family. But it also meant more money for the family, more opportunities, more possibilities. Having been there for a decade by that point, I felt it was finally time to step up.
January 4, 2016
I took over the department on January 4, 2016. I went from being the key analyst in the department, to being the boss. It took some adjusting, I’ll admit. I had a hard time removing myself from the work and focusing on the overall department management. During my first week as director, two new employees started – Lance and Omar. I dedicated time to training them while getting the work done, but kept neglecting the management portion (kinda like how I’ve neglected writing). The first couple months were bumpy – I had a miscommunication with a client which delayed a time-sensitive project, went to a small town board meeting where I bumbled my way through a presentation on student enrollment projections, leaving my client unimpressed, and got grilled for 5 minutes at another board meeting that was being broadcast on some local station. It’s safe to say that some things could have gone better in those first few months.
But I eventually got my feet under me and things got better. Six months in, however, Lance quit. He got an opportunity to work with family that he couldn’t pass up, so he took it. Then a week later, Nicole quit. She was moving back to San Diego to live with her boyfriend and be closer to family. Nicole was a much bigger loss than Lance, and I miss her. I got knocked down, but had to get back up. The work wasn’t slowing down and I was down two employees. Once again, I started neglecting management duties for more immediate needs.
By the end of summer, Jason transferred into my department to replace Nicole and I’d hired Rebecca to replace Lance. I had to dedicate time to training new(ish) employees, putting management duties on the back burner again. At this point, I’d become more noticeably frazzled, both at work and home. I was constantly stressed at work, trying to complete projects, meet deadlines, train, and manage, all the while feeling guilty that my job had was taking more of my time than I’d originally anticipated, keeping me away from my family for greater periods of time. When I was home, I stressed just thinking about work. As my time away from home grew, the time I was there was in high demand. It isn’t easy trying to keep up with four separate conversations with four excited kids on the days you return home before dinner. I became snappy and impatient with my children, forgetting what it was like to be kid myself – It kills me.
As my stress grew, I slept less and ate poorly. Quality sleep meant over four hours a night. I was tired, grumpy, and frustrated all of the time. Then came the anxiety, lots of anxiety – I was failing my department, I was going to get myself fired, I was a terrible husband, an even worse father, a failure, a loser, an insignificant speed bump in this life. I’m still wrestling with some of this, but not as much lately. All of this started spilling over to work – errors here, missed communications there. The executive management started keeping closer tabs on me and the department, trying to diagnose what we could be doing better. Eventually we righted the ship again and we made it to the end of the year.
Yes, we drove to New York City.
During our children’s winter recesses at school, we embarked on an epic family road trip to the east coast. We saw so much of this country. It was amazing and exhausting, but also definitely needed. Unfortunately, I caught a cold at the start of the trip which manifested into a full blown sinus infection that landed me in the ER the night we returned. I missed my first week back at home sick, falling further behind at work. It took me another three weeks to fully recover. Angela kept urging me to try the keto diet she was following. I resisted at first, but came around to the idea at the end of January. My only requirement was that I’d be allowed to start the day after the Super Bowl (we got invited to a party this year for the first time in a while). I excelled on the keto diet. In two months I dropped from 275 pounds down to 232, far surpassing my wife’s results (to her extreme frustration). I had to punch two new holes in my belt and buy new jeans. I was feeling good, proud, confident… but nothing gold can stay.
Ryan quit In mid-April. Ryan had been at the company for over three years and was an integral part of the department. His departure hurt a lot. Exactly one week, Omar quit. He had taken the job believing it was more GIS orientated than it was. I may have oversold it. He didn’t have a job completely lined up yet, but was on the second round of interviews for a GIS job with a local city. Omar appreciated my excellent t-shirt collection that Angela has helped me amass over the years, especially my selection of cat shirts. On his last day, he gave me a gift – two new shirts for my collection.
I was right back in the same position again, having to do the work, trying to manage, trying to hire new employees. In mid-May I interviewed candidates for two open positions. I had multiple candidates apply, all with masters degrees, and all women. I convinced the company to hire three of them. I spent the next several weeks training new employees, doing more work, neglecting management. Everything was going OK, until Jocelyn quit. Jocelyn was our department’s admin and the closest thing I had to a confidant at work. Jocelyn was awesome and I miss her too.
I couldn’t catch a break. I fell off the diet wagon and slowly started regaining weight. My sleep got worse. Several times per week, I was having bodywide muscle spasms. I didn’t know if this was from lack of sleep, stress, temporal lobe epilepsy (diagnosed at 19), or a combination of everything (I’m going through medical testing right now). The spasms, twitching, anxiety, frustration, anger, and overall meh demeanor continued into summer. I brought this information to my bosses because I felt they had a right to know.
Biswolds go Southwest
We ended up going on our annual family summer road trip at the start of July. Another opportunity to forget about work and spend time with the family – Just what I needed. The universe wasn’t having any of it though. Nearing the end of our trip, as we left Santa Fe, I got a call from Rebecca – she quit and that was it. I decided it was time to throw in the towel. I couldn’t do this anymore. When I got back from vacation, I informed my bosses of my intention to step down from director of the department. It was an unceremonious end to a lackluster reign in the department. I couldn’t keep repeating this stupid cycle. In a year and a half as manager of the department, I had 6 employees quit and only ended with one original employee from when I started in the position.
Angela and I discussed whether stepping down was the right choice, which we agreed it was. I needed to make changes in my life because what I was doing wasn’t working and it was affecting everyone, at work and home. Coincidentally, I stepped down at about the same time that I went on my writing hiatus at the start of August, for what it’s worth. I don’t know if they’re related, but I’ve been enjoying returning home at more normal hours, being able to leave more work at home at not worrying about work as much in general. I’m still sleeping awfully (it’s 3:30 a.m. now), still having the occasional muscle spasm, and can still be irritable, but my anxiety has lessened, my frustrations shrunk. It’s not perfect, but it’s working. As I’m returning to a normal work routine, I hope I’ll find more time to write, because I have lots of things I want to say.
It hurt my ego a little admitting that I’d been defeated, but it happens. Stepping down was a hard decision, but it wasn’t. Just like when I took the job, my family was in the forefront of my decision. If I continued down the same path I was headed, it would end badly. I took the job thinking about the opportunities I could provide my family, and resigned thinking about the opportunities we’d miss if I didn’t make a change. Maybe when I’m ready, I’ll give management another shot in the future, but for now I’m happy in a reduced role. The last year and a half have been very difficult for me personally and professionally but I’m glad I’ve had Angela and my children sticking by side through it all. My family is everything.