I am a week away from 6 months of working at SpaceX. It’s nearly unfathomable how bizarre that is.
I was in Austin, in December, identifying what was wrong with my career. You can read about it on this blog. I felt the urge, jumped up at exactly the right moment, and landed working somewhere else. Half a year later and I’m just beginning to notice what it is I am doing, and despite all of my misgivings about how I stack up on this team, I think I’m keeping up pretty well… As far as the job goes, anyway. What ends up sliding to the wayside is everything else.
I actually saw a similar phenomenon at my old job: I had no “ready-made” friends in the area, no desire to mingle, no sense of community, no local hangouts. I was so disconnected from work colleagues in age, ideology, interests. I had what I knew: television, video games, Meebo. To cope, I joined a gaming clan, hanging out with strangers online rather than meeting strangers in town. By day, a stealth NASA software dev, and by night a gamer on a team of some really great geeks. Sometimes I even ventured out to West Coast havens like Cupertino, Rancho Cucamonga, Disneyland – prompted by visits and invitations by college friends.
It took me 2 years of work surveillance just to create a social life, brought about by meeting fun work friends. It’s not normally that hard for me. Working the new job was more like it; I knew at least 20 or 30 people by the first week that I would want to hang out with, outside of work. The question is, when would we ever have the time?
On the weekends (when I actually get to have them), I think about what I would want to do next, and when. I need to make up a list of skills that I need to take away from this job, so that I can at least have some sort of defined goal. I’m not sure I would actually leave as soon as I acquired these skills, but at least I would feel like I could. As for when, the job that siphons life from you and expels sheer wonder is not easily laid down.
There’s the grad school factor: I promised myself I wouldn’t go to grad school until I knew what I wanted to study (the topics so far are (vague) software engineering tools, (less vague) distributed embedded systems, and (possibly very specific?) Human/Computer Interaction). I’m not even sure I could get into a decent grad school, since I am sure I will do very poorly on the GRE given my previous track record on standardized tests.
There’s the obvious monetary marker: whenever we go public, and I have the stocks I earned. A noble idea, with a fictitious date. Most of my non-rent income goes to student loans and car payments/insurance ($400 each), and I’m attempting to pay those off with my salary rather than bet on the stock market.
Then there’s the age factor, that perhaps I will be ready to start a family (however the hell people do that these days) before other goals are met. I have a lot of questions, and not too many answers. At the rate I push through hours, I think a lot of my decisions, like the one in December 2010, will be made on vacations. I should set up more of those.
Before any of that, however, there’s the matter of work-life balance: I suck at it. The Sandwich Diet is not half bad, and I have 3-6 sandwich sources near my apartment that I can leverage for food. I can cook a few things too, when I have time. When I don’t have time, it usually means that work is feeding me well, which is a bonus they don’t tell you in the interview.
Exercise continues to elude me. I respond well to group exercise activity, and had a great initial attempt at yoga, but sickness and other factors led me to a few demotivating failed attempts. I lost my weight set to what I can only assume is a pack of garage sale hawkers who barged into my possibly-left-open garage door and claimed my 140lbs of handweights as their own. I’m still waiting for them to pick up the exercise bike. At the moment I’m seriously considering a hybrid road/cruiser bicycle, since there are hills south of me and beaches west of me. The lack of time still gets me, though – I will have to make it a point to take Saturday mornings off and go about town for an hour. This by itself seems difficult, because I could be sleeping. If it saves me from getting sick or gives me a higher stress tolerance, I may have to simply deal with it.
In 4 months, my work will be on the Space Station; in 6 months, who the hell knows?