Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Decisions, Decisions

There is a book on my desk with a picture of a Magic-8 Ball framed in bright neon green which insists on grabbing my eye, titled "Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work." My boss gave it to me today when, fighting back a fresh round of hot tears after finally getting a hold of myself, I told him I wished I had a Magic-8 Ball, that "I just want to make the right decision." The decision is whether or not I should I leave my current job for a new opportunity.

The Background:
I wasn't really looking for another job. But as one of my coworkers left my company, she said she was going to work for a large business I highly respect. I mentioned, off-handedly, that she should let me know if she heard of any opportunities within the company. She did. I applied. To my surprise, They made an offer. I had two reasons for pursuing the new opportunity: first, it is less DoD-centric than my current employer, who develops sensor systems for military and law-enforcement operations. While most of my friends and family are watching Mr. Trump's first hundred days with horror, I'm particularly repulsed because I can see how the work of my company very well might support some  unsavory missions and projects under his administration. This was brutally hammered home one night as I took a break from working on a proposal centered around providing prototype equipment for dangerous special operations, only to read an article about such an operation which resulted in the death of a U.S. soldier and several civilians. I don't want to spend the next four (or eight) years knowing that I'm feeding Mr. Trump's war machine. My other reason for leaving my job is that it is extremely high-stress. It cuts into my time to support the kids and take care of the house, and more importantly, cuts into my emotional bandwidth for stress at home. It's difficult to endure a day that involves heated tempers, tight deadlines, and microscopic scrutiny of my work product, only to arrive home and rush to get dinner on the table and deal with the general tornado that is four kids in a house. it's hard to be positive and energetic with the kids when my day felt like marathon and often isn't over if I have more work to do after they go to bed.

When I received the offer from the new company, you would think I would be thrilled. They offer everything I need: a clean conscience, less stress, more time with the kids, and they even offered to continue paying me the same salary I receive now. But I'm still struggling, and here's why:

Technically, as of me writing this, I will receive a slightly higher salary from the new office that I am making now. However, when I gave my boss my two weeks notice, he asked me to wait one day and hinted that he will be making me a counter offer tomorrow. Money is not tight for us at the moment. We have enough to feed the kids good healthy food, keep them warm, give them clothes, and maintain a roof over their heads. Even after paying the mortgage every month, I usually have money left over that I put into savings to cover any dramatic repairs to the house, while Kris buys groceries and pays the utility bills. This coming Friday, all that might change if a judge decides that Kris needs double or triple his child support. If that happens, I may need to cover more costs for the family, which will mean less savings to handle disasters like a broken HVAC system (coming to a theater near you Summer 2017). Money isn't everything. It certainly isn't as important as being available for the kids when they need us. But I want the peace of mind to know we can care for their financial needs. We haven't even started saving for college yet, and the oldest will be applying to schools in only six years, with the other three following fast behind.

In five years, I've worked for five companies (seven, if you want to get technical.) I'm a job-hopper, the corporate equivalent of a cheater or an easy lay. With every interview I go to, I explain that I have good reasons for leaving each of my previous employers. In most cases, I wasn't happy with the corporation's ethics or I butted heads with an executive. At my current position, I have some issues with a few coworkers, but ultimately, I have a high level of respect for both the president and the vice president, both of whom I work with directly (the VP being my supervisor). Despite occasional elevated voices, brutal meetings, and morale-gutting assignments, I see them as a sort of family. I care about their health and well-being as much, if not more than, I care about the company. And I suspect that, while I'm one of more than 200 employees they oversee, they care about me as well. Which is probably why, when I went to announce my two weeks notice today, I barely got the sentence out of my mouth before I broke down crying. Apparently I want to leave my company, but I don't want to LEAVE my company. What will happen at the new company? If my current employer wasn't "the one" will I stick with the new company for five or ten years, or will I work there for 9-18 months and get frustrated and move on again, just like I always do?

Right now, I'm doing exactly what I want to do, which is handling every aspect of the proposal process. Unfortunately, I'm doing several other things in addition, and I'm getting way too much of a good thing. In the new company, my lightened work load will mean that I'm only touching a few parts of the proposal process, and hardly ever writing, which is my real passion. When I gave my two weeks today, the VP said that he loves how I am "student" of our company. I've worked for the last 18 months trying to understand the highly complex work we do and the impact it has on our customers. It's something I enjoy and I take a lot of pride in. It's something both the president and VP recognize as one of my strengths. At my new company, it might not matter any more. But maybe at the new company, some of my other strengths will come out. Maybe I'll be recognized for being proactive or for being a team player.

As I'm writing this, I'm realizing that I'm fighting to justify staying at my current company. But I just don't know if it's the right thing to do. It's killing me, in a way, it's slowly destroying my mental and physical health and I can't seem to maintain any sort of boundary to protect myself and ensure that I'm giving the kids the love and care and attention that they need. And even if I can establish those boundaries, none of that is going to ease my conscience about the work we do. I can argue that our systems are used to protect our soldiers. I can argue that they are in the hands of responsible professionals who will use them for good. I can argue that. And yet every time I see an article about another botched operation or questionable law enforcement policy, I will have to live with the fear that I somehow indirectly supported it.

I'm privileged to be struggling with this decision today, and I can't stop crying.