The Job

I have a degree in landscape architecture. Which, for the first 9 years out of school I was using. Then I got laid off. During the recession. Looking back it was really a blessing in disguise. I had just had L (she was 5 months old), both P and I were commuting insanely to a large metro area, the girls were in daycare for 9+ hours a day. It sucked. I was slowly losing my mind. When the layoff happened I told P that I would take my time finding something else (even though our mortgage was HUGE), something more in our area where the commute wouldn’t be so horrible and the girls could be in daycare for, I don’t know, maybe 7 hours a day instead of 9.

I searched, and searched, and applied. Nothing. Trouble was I was 1 out of 500 people applying for the same job it seemed. So I stayed home. I watched the girls, and realized very quickly I was not cut out to be a stay at home mom. Applause to all who can do it, I just can NOT. I found an opening for a job closer to P and I’s families. I applied, got an interview and after 2 months of back and forth I was offered the position. It was not in landscape architecture, it was as an Auto*CAD manager. Still, I’m great with the program and it seemed good. I would be in a satellite office, small and intimate. During the interview process P got laid off from HIS job. Now it was, I have to take this opportunity.

So, we packed up and moved back to our home state and put our condo on the market as a short sale. I felt like a failure. We couldn’t make it in the big city so we were heading back to south nowhere NY.

Then I started my job. I have to say, I loved it. I loved figuring things out to make the drawings work better, I like collaborating with the corporate CAD guy, I liked the project managers. It was long hours, but the other folks made it more fun. I mean I really enjoyed going to work every day. I was home for most dinners and P would make them and everybody fell into a great groove. P was going to stay at home (he still rocks at this job, he’s a great stay at home dad) with the girls while he got some medical stuff taken care of and I would work and not have to worry about taking time off if they were sick or had appointments. This went on for the first year and a half.

Then some things changed in the office. Some of the project managers were temporary so they were going back to their own offices. I won’t lie, I had two people that I would call friends leave. I’m still in touch with one on a semi-regular basis (she has since left the company but she has to be one of my favorite people on the planet). The whole dynamic of the office changed. We had the same amount of work, more people, and it started to feel, well, like slave labor. Long hours, no appreciation, constant undermining. It was awful. It hasn’t gotten better. It got worse for a while, but it seems to be leveling off a bit. I’m still miserable. There are two reasons for my misery, and neither of them have to do with the company or my co-workers:

I’m not doing landscape architecture, not even close, and I miss it, lots. To clarify, I wasn’t a landscape architect who did pretty plants and flowers for private homeowners. I helped renovate sports stadiums and designed fields for high schools. It was amazing when the kids would play at these newly renovated places for the first time.

I’m working in an industry that goes against some of my own ethics and views on how we treat our landscapes. More to the point, I don’t like telling people what I actually do at my job. I don’t mind telling them who I work for, but not what I actually produce and why.

Now here’s the kicker. Where we are, in our home state, I love it here. I love the community we live in, I love the surrounding area, I love it all. We just bought a house (a fixer upper) and I’m loving it even more. The trouble is, there are not a lot of job opportunities for me here. I did interview at another place and it went fantastic until I gave them my salary requirement. Then I never heard back. So… um… yeah. Still, I think back about what I liked most my first year or so at this job and there are some key points that stick out:

I loved solving problems.
Even if I didn’t know how to make the answer happen, I was on the phone trying to find someone who could. When it came to the engineering side I would say things like, “From a person who doesn’t know anything about pipe design, this seems silly, why can’t we do this…”. The collaborative nature of the office allowed this, my ideas weren’t always used, but they were weighed in with the others. It was great.

I loved learning more about how to make software work for our needs.
I still do this a little bit and I still love making it happen. Again, if I hit a road block I call those who can help. In the end I think I just like pushing the limits. Seeing what works and then making it more streamlined so it’s available for anyone to use.

I really enjoyed working with good people.
I didn’t always agree with them or enjoy their company. However, there was a certain amount of respect and professionalism there, always. We are sorely lacking that here now.

I don’t think we’ll ever get back to those days again. I’m not sure what I’m doing is really what I should be doing to keep myself happy. I just keep my eyes and ears open and see what may come along. In the meantime I’ll enjoy going home and being with my family as much as I can.


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