It’s been two weeks since I last wrote. It’s been a weird couple of weeks and what you read here is the end of some thinking.
I don’t do well with established projects
There’s a very special kind of leadership that can come into an established space and steer it. Mountains of documentation don’t phase them. The sure knowledge that this job will take five years of gentle nudging comforts them.
I am struggling to become that kind of leader. I feel like I ought to – novelty is rare in my organisation and being able to lead when everything is already in flight seems like an immensely valuable skill. For now I’m struggling to get out of the mode of wanting to act, to direct.
This is almost certainly linked to my desire for shorter feedback loops, because acting will give you feedback. Even acting in the wrong direction will give you feedback. It’s a reasonably way to lead in a complex space where you just have to move.
I’ve been offered a move into a new role that will be more responsive, with smaller feedback loops. I feel like I ought to feel I’ve failed, having only done this current role for a month, but I honestly feel like it’s been a success. I put in place a couple of good processes and I worked out what kind of leader, what kind of person, I am at the moment. I count that as a win.
hollow people fill the space
This week was a reflection on whether my imposter syndrome (with regards the human race; I’m confident I belong at work) was because I’d been trying to imitate the person I thought people expected. For a long time I’ve known there was a sort of hollowness to the way I moved through the world, and part of going to therapy was trying to work out where that came from. I think I’m starting to understand it. It’s the hollowness of the uncanny valley. It’s the slightly out of sync feeling you get watching someone follow a dancer. There’s nothing organic – it’s just a shade, a shape that fills the space where something real was. It’s creepy. Don’t believe me?
And so now comes the work. If I don’t have a person to define my self around – if my self is not just “the space left by other people” – then what is it? Who is it?
How do you find it?
This week I spent half an hour chatting to someone because they asked me for my advice, and about half way through I realised that I was good at it and it was going to be helpful. I’m finding that I’m starting to feel more comfortable in asserting my own knowledge and experience around the organisation, and I’m enjoying it. I think it’s linked to the above, though I’m wary of leaning too hard into work to find a personality for the same reason that it’s not served me well to lean into a partner for it – because I, you, one becomes reliant on it.
Nonetheless this growing sense of maturity is reinforced by having a very civilised breakfast with my sister; by switching Salem’s insurance to a better deal; to actually going to the gym once a week. I am slowly starting to feel like an adult, and I think by that I mean a sense of stillness. I have a better feeling of what is going on, and I am more comfortable than I was in acknowledging the things I don’t. A friend told me this week that they often felt like “the acorn under the oak tree” and I’ve never felt such serenity as when I said, “I don’t know what that means.”
Having the chance to experience my sister as a fellow adult is a gift. Having a workplace that makes time for conversation and gives space for it to unfold is a gift. This diagnosis, I think, is a gift, because it is the first concrete thing that I can start to build my sense of self around. How? Because it validates my own experience. And my self has to be built on true experiences, even if those aren’t the same as everyone else’s.
That’s it, I think. I think that’s the problem with the hollow man. He’s just repeating the experiences of other people back at them, and without truth underneath them they seem shallow and unreal. From here a self can crystallise without being crushed under the weight of “Well, most people like this thing,” or “It’s weird, that you don’t do that thing.”
I can be weird now, and not like most people.
What a terrifying prospect.