On Almost, Miserably

Clouds over Denver International Airport at Sunset

(That’s what half-relief looks like.)

It’s a touch melodramatic, but whatever.

No one wants to fail. Or even come close to almost failing. But brushing the sharp edge of great accomplishment and even greater ruin is something that must be done. It builds character.

This particular task was a big project at work. We didn’t have to do it, but I pushed. I wanted to prove that it could be done. And we almost had it. I was there. I spent my Friday night typing answers into spreadsheets (damn you, spreadsheets!). I emailed updates to my team, as we had previously discussed, so that everyone would be on the same page. I was ready. I sat down this morning and I started the remaining pieces. I was prepared. I coordinated work efforts. I printed ahead to avoid the same conflicts we’d run into previously.

But as it always does, time slips away when I most need it to linger. The final pieces didn’t come together until way too late. The printers are like prehistoric beasts that amble on at their own speed (well obviously, they’re machines. You can’t make them go any faster). The humans who feed them (imagine me as zookeeper here) are caught up in the middle of a million things, and so the beasts spit out the wrong pages, printed on the back of the right pages, or worse yet, you survive printing only to meet a downfall somewhere else.

I hate team efforts. In theory, they’re so great. Everyone will work together, and it will all be good. But in the end, something always goes wrong. Then there’s the inevitable finger-pointing and attempts to come up with new plans. (Not that I’m saying that happens all the time to all people, I’m generalizing. But I’m also not wrong.)

Not that I’m so afraid they’ll fire me. I mean, I live in a constant state of fear of termination – even though I’ve never been fired from anything in my life – so much so that every time my boss emails me and says, “Come into my office,” even if it’s a meeting I’ve called, a jolt of panic shoots through my heart. I imagine that by the time I finally quell that fear, I’ll be called into an office somewhere only to enter entirely nonchalantly and given the news that I’m being let go. So instead, I think I’ll just keep letting the tiny panic happen. It’s reassuring.

I so desperately want to prove that I can handle it. I like it. I like challenge and projects, and being busy. I so desperately want to be able to handle it. “It” is the crushing weight of projects right now. I want to think that they’ll all be perfect, that they’ll be shipped off quietly and early, that we’ll manage to finally get one done where no one has to stress, but I don’t imagine that will ever be. That’s the problematic nature of team efforts. They don’t get easier with more hands, but they don’t get easier with fewer hands, either.

For my part, I swear I’m trying. I’m trying so damn hard. I worked so hard to avoid any of these problems this time. I corrected. I made adjustments. I thought ahead, but apparently, not far enough.

I found myself driving to the airport at 7:30 pm, pushing the accelerator down with abandon, gripping the steering wheel and staring intently into the distance, wishing that I could somehow close the gap between my location and my destination with sheer will.

[Of course, my gas light came on. With 50 or so miles to go, the gas light is a terrifying thing. I never let the tank get low. I’m the type of person who fills up at a quarter tank. This was, of course, just another inconvenient error in a month that’s seemed to be an endless tragic comedy of all things unintentional and yet so disheartening. Think of the new tires immediately after Las Vegas. Another example? Yesterday, I put my ice cream in the fridge instead of the freezer. Perhaps it’s early-onset dementia, but perhaps it’s just life overload. On the plus side, I made it back to my neck of the woods without running out of gas.]

I arrived with time to spare. For the second time in as many months, I got free packaging. The address checked out. Everything fit neatly. In less than five minutes, I was on my way out the door, finally headed home. So that’s a relief. We made it. Hectic and hellish, but done.

Through a series of misfortunate events (both of my own making and of the kind that fate likes to throw in just for fun), I keep coming up short lately (in life, too, not just work). Tomorrow, I’ll walk in there and take responsibility for everything, and I’ll feel like a failure.  I’m just so frustrated. With myself. With this summer. With all of it.

But at least now I can look forward. Hopefully tomorrow will bring something wonderful. Tuesdays are usually such good days.


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