I'm Officially On The Home Stretch Now
It was only a matter of time. Try as I might to fight it, I’ve been here long enough to know that this place will inevitably suck the life right out of you. Life slowly spirals downward into a monotonous routine of little else besides work-sleep-work-sleep-work-sleep. I knew it would happen. It’s been just under one month since I returned from vacation, and it appears to have finally hit bottom. Two weeks ago I had no problem coming up with fun, entertaining, interesting stories for this here blog. Now I can’t think of even one story that’s worth your time. I go to work, then I go to sleep, then I wake up and do it all again. Today I picked up some clean laundry and put it away. That was the highlight of my day. I’m not joking, it really was the highlight. I put my headphones in, hit “play” on the old iPod, and started putting away laundry. Ten minutes later it was over. I look forward to doing that again in five days. Even something like doing laundry in this place operates on a very strict schedule, which is why I’m able to tell you exactly how many days it will be until I put laundry away again. Yep, it’s quite a fabulous life that I live. Work, sleep, work, sleep, work. My Help Desk is shorthanded again for the first time since I arrived back from vacation, which essentially means that my free-wheelin’ days of playing the boss role are over. No more sitting at the big desk in the back, pretending to be busy when I’m actually just surfing the web. Now I’m up front again, answering the phone and talking with the customers, returning their stupid emails and fielding their stupid questions. I knew this was coming -- you see, the Help Desk staffer that is now gone was scheduled to leave on vacation next week anyway. I knew that my return to the “front lines” was inevitable; I just figured that I still had another eight days or so to get ready for it. Then I woke up this morning, and I learned otherwise. Allow me to give you a little bit of background, because I have nothing else remotely interesting to say. My staffer, we’ll call him D, was scheduled to leave on vacation next Thursday. This meant that I would have to make my return to the “front lines” next week in order to cover the vacancy (it’s somewhat unfair to use that term given the fact that there are soldiers out here who actually do work on the “front lines,” whereas I just sit in an office and provide tech support. My apologies to the real fighters). I found out when I woke up this morning, around 1100, that D had received the dreaded call from the Red Cross late last night. The Red Cross only calls for one reason, and that’s to tell you that you’ve been granted Emergency Leave. You only get Emergency Leave when something very distressing has happened, so it’s never good news when the Red Cross calls. D learned last night that his uncle had passed away, and thus he was being sent home on Emergency Leave. He was on a plane early this morning. The one good thing about Emergency Leave is that no one can stand in its way. Once the Red Cross has verified a legitimate reason for Emergency Leave, you can guarantee that you’ll be on the next flight home. No one can stop the Red Cross once they’ve gotten involved, and to my knowledge no one’s ever tried (I should hope not anyway). If the Red Cross says you’re going home, then by God you’re going home. One week is the standard duration for Emergency Leave, but we all know D will be gone for much longer. His one week would put him back on this base next Wednesday, and he was leaving on vacation next Thursday. The big boss (my boss) has already told him to just stay home until his vacation is over, which is not until mid-July. We won’t see D again for a while, if we see him again at all. D was a hard one to read -- every time he left on vacation he swore he wouldn’t be coming back, although he always did. This time, he just might not. I guess we’ll find out next month. The point is that he’s gone now, so I’m back to the “front lines” to fill in. I’m not very excited about it. To top it off, I know it’s only going to get worse. It’s not just that D’s gone; it’s also that work has really started to get to me again lately. Right after I returned from my break, things were okay -- work was busy, but we were keeping up. I was thoroughly enjoying playing the “boss role” by sitting in the back office and “supervising,” which is boss code for doing absolutely nothing at all. I came into work whenever I wanted, left when I wanted, and didn’t necessarily have to do very much actual work if I didn’t really want to. It was fun for a couple of weeks (although in retrospect I spent way too much time on the internet), but it was bound to end. I’ve been mentally done with this job for a while now, but it seems that my boss is still very much into it. He still wants to see results, to see that things are getting done and that they’re getting done right. So much for my little vacation -- it’s back to the real world now. This past week has been nothing but “action plans” and “training goals” and meetings and charts and graphs full of numbers and matrixes that I could frankly care less about. The big boss cares though, and I care about not getting fired just yet. So yeah, welcome back to the real world. I suppose the good in all this is that it’s likely to strengthen my confidence that the decision to come home at the end of this summer was the right one. I’ve been having my share of second thoughts about that lately, although I’m not really sure why. It probably stems from the fact that I don’t really have any kind of a plan for when I get home. I’ve got a million ideas in my head but no real “plan,” and I’ll be honest, I’m a little concerned about that. My future after Afghanistan is so wide open that it’s sometimes scary; scary enough, it turns out, that I’ve found myself wondering if coming home is really the right thing to do. I may not love life out here, but for a little while there it wasn’t terrible, and at least it was...well, something. I think that being shorthanded for a while, and forcing myself to deal with the “front lines” of tech support again, will help me remember just exactly why I wanted to come home in the first place. I’ll be straight with you, this return to the “real world,” to doing actual work, is going to suck. I’m not looking forward to it at all. There will be no more late nights, no more sleeping in, and no more strolling into work at 1100 or noon or whenever I can drag my lazy butt out of bed. There will be no more sitting in the back and surfing the web, trying to pretend I’m doing something productive. Starting tomorrow, I’m officially back to the daily grind that made me grow to hate this place so many months ago. Back to the busyness, the stress, and the idiot customers with their idiot questions. I know what some of you are thinking, so to be fair I’m not trying to plead for your sympathy. God forbid I should actually have to do some real work for the insane salary that I get paid. All I’m saying is, as much as I’m not looking forward to the next couple of months of work, in a way it will be just what I need. It’s not going to be a whole lot of fun, but I know that when I board that plane roughly 60 days from now (maybe less -- we’ll see how things go), I’ll be so excited to get the heck out of this place that I won’t know what to do with myself. And that, my friends, is something to look forward to.