Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Pursuit of Happiness

It was 105 degrees yesterday in Dallas. When it's that hot outside, the weather is invariably the chief topic of conversation. People vie for the "hottest" story. "My car was so hot today that . . ." "It was so hot outside today that . . . "

Halfway home last night, it suddenly dawned on me. I'm feeling happy.

And not just happy around the edges, that limp sort of almost-happy. I mean real honest to goodness, straight up, laugh out loud happy.

I think my joy is enhanced by the fact that the last three months have been tough ones. I quit my job because I was miserable and almost immediately had a serious health scare.

There's nothing like having an unresolved health issue when you're staring down the calendar at unemployment.

I'm not through with all the scary issues yet. I've still got some health stuff to deal with down the road. And I'm still not in a "permanent for keeps" job.

But I am in a job that suits me for right now. I've accepted a position doing "special projects" for my department at the university.

The first project is a lulu. I'm developing the business continuity plan for my department. For business continuity, read "disaster plan." Today will be my third day on the job.

It's the perfect job for me. I get to go around talking to people all day, asking them to explain how their divisions operate. My department has over twenty divisions and more than five hundred employees--not to mention students, post-docs, fellows, visiting scholars and clients.

Right now, I'm sorting out the functional roles of each unit. Every one has multiple functions, but they don't all have the same functions: educational, clinical, research, billing, administrative, publications . . . the list goes on and on.

Today I obtained floor plans of the three main buildings. Among the tasks I've set myself is to identify any potentially hazardous substances: chemicals, gases, compressed air, CO2.

My boss trusts me to do the job and has given me autonomy. I've been setting up appointments all over the campus. I need to talk to the Information Resources staff to find out how our data is stored off site. I need to talk to the Physical Plant people to determine how the backup generators and Sensaphone systems operate (Sensaphone is an alarm that automatically begins telephoning a list of numbers when certain conditions are met; for instance, if a sub-80 freezer's temp suddenly rises to sub-50). I also need to think about a plan for moving the campus functions off site if it suddenly becomes impossible to continue operating on campus.

Not to mention a plan for evacuating all our sites and checking to make sure everyone has made it out. AND a plan for confirming the location (and safety) of all our faculty, classified staff and visitors to our campus during an incident.

I've always loved those material conditional statements: If so-and-so, then such-and-such. This project will ultimately become an exercise in building a series of material conditional statements.

So . . . maybe the secret to joy is to have work you enjoy, that you're qualified to do, and which you find meaningful.

At any rate, I'm not about to complain. I'm just going to keep on doing my interviews, feeling blessed and . . . happy.

4 comments:

Mike Keyton said...

Maya,
I've been meaning to write. Really glad things are going well for you. Those happy days are the best.
Mike.

wordtryst said...

Nothing sucks like a job you hate. Shucking it off is truly liberating. Sounds like you're where you should be.

Maya Reynolds said...

Mike: Thanks so much for your kind words.

Warm regards,

Maya

Maya Reynolds said...

Tryst: Yes, it's the right place--for right now.