Paging Glory Hound

“Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride—where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation.”
— Fitzwilliam Darcy, Pride and Prejudice, ironically as it turned out

I’m having issues with moving to another position that doesn’t stress me out with oncall.

Specifically, I’m having a hard time saying yes, let’s do this.

The background of the matter: I don’t sleep while I’m oncall (pager and such). I can’t take the medication that would allow me to do so. Sometimes I can get a little sleep, but that’s incidentally when the pager goes off. It’s gotten to the point where my talking is slow and thick because it’s always been only a few days (or none) since I was last oncall. After a weekend oncall, where I don’t sleep for 72 hours, well, I really can’t make up the sleep in just one day for some reason.

Most people find it quite natural that I would pursue a position without a pager. I daresay most people in my position would have done so long ago.

I did not, not until things came to an absolute head (which really was rather detrimental).

And that is because I’m excessively proud of what I’ve done in the past in the face of oncall. I’m prideful about being on teams that always had oncall, because they were at the heart of the business, because working on massively distributed systems on astounding scales sounds—and is—awesome. Because work that affects millions of customers world-wide is hella cool. Oncall is a necessary price of such prestige. It couldn’t be otherwise.

My new position will serve a department of customers. There will be no parallelism nor anything of the same distributed nature. It’s difficult for me not to see that as a lowering. There’s a societal pressure, too, amongst some of us in these so-vital teams; the idea that we must be special for enduring so much, and that those who give up are to be pitied, shrugged over; and the remaining must soldier on, because projects and oncall wait for no man or woman.

But then I remember all the senior engineers, including those I really respected, almost all of them stars, who left the various teams I’ve been on due, in large part, to the oncall burden. They went on and did other things, of necessity things not like what they’d done before, and yet they were happy. They had their own glories, or, more likely, they were not prideful enough to need glories. (I think there is a difference between work that makes you proud and work you seek for glory.)

It took my bartender an hour of similes and metaphors to convince me that what was holding me up was my pride. But really, his work had its foundation built by my friends, who are the campaigners for my soul when, through pride or some other excuse, I refuse to be one.

I’m drolly amused that I picked a specific time and place in my life to become temporarily obsessed over Pride and Prejudice, only to have its themes actually become relevant in my life.

A post like this by a fool deserves some sort of resolution, but resolutions tend to fall apart for me. So I will simply look to not be so foolish with my health and sanity over supposed glory that has little value to anyone, including myself.

4 thoughts on “Paging Glory Hound

  1. I don’t currently have the capacity to work full-on for however long it takes. I used to. I miss it.
    But reality is reality.
    I think that if some people depended on my coding being clean and correct and useful, I could not guarantee that now – and therefore must leave such to the ones who can.
    In the same way, I can do puzzle games – like Myst – but not games which require speed of reflexes. Nor can I apply again to the astronaut program – not any more.
    But I am darned glad I had those chances, and took them, before – I don’t have to regret not having tried.
    That has to be enough, since I can’t make it otherwise by sheer effort of will, or any combination of chemicals.
    I think I may understand a tiny bit of your problem – but tell you that you have enormous value if you will grant it to yourself by doing well what you CAN do now. Be thankful you tried – and succeeded.
    The other great thing is that you can write – which most people can’t, including most of those people who are doing the on-call job you would like to do. That is not what you would rather have, but it IS what you have. (I write, too.)
    Don’t know if that helps. If you don’t want things to help, nothing can help. If you look at your life as a continuum, and continually change and improve, almost everything WILL help.
    (My working title is Pride’s Children – and I only mention it because of what you wrote.)

    • Thank you for your kind words. They do help. And you’re very right about “If you look at your life as a continuum, and continually change and improve, almost everything WILL help.”

  2. You wrote about not sleeping for 72 hours straight — nobody handles that level of sleep deprivation well.

    Yes, being in an on-call department is a recognized demonstration of specialness. But there are better ways to prove you are special and awesome than by suffering. If you switch to other work, you can still prove your awesome competence — better, even, because you’ll actually be awake for it.

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