I had Thursday to Monday feeling pretty normal, which is huge.

Tuesday was not so good but there’s a reason for that: I was really bored at work. The doomed project has actually disappeared from my radar because the client has basically cancelled it. Bit of a surprise but not really. If I was the client I would have cancelled it too. It’s the right outcome really. If we had scraped through then my boss probably wouldn’t have learnt anything from the experience. So now I’m in the lull between projects. In the last few weeks I went from relaxed to frantic and now I’ve moved onto bored. Some pacing would be nice.

I’ve always had trouble with being bored at work. Sometimes it’s OK and I just ride it out by browsing the internet, but other times I seem to become insular and frustrated. Sometimes I just have no patience for it. When it happens I feel my chest tighten and that’s it, it’s embedded itself and it’ll take a while to get rid of it.

The interesting thing is that I projected this frustration onto the Office Crush. I centred it on her, even though it’s really nothing to do with her. I have felt this way plenty of times before, before I even knew her. But it’s ironic really because just after it started coming over me we had an amusing chat about kitchen politics, and until I sat down to write this and had to think about exactly how today went, I had forgotten all about it. I was doing OK in the morning, she seemed a bit grumpy/stressed and we hadn’t talked much and I was content with it, but by late afternoon and after a day of boredom, I was mentally putting it all on her. The emotions timeline and the events timeline are completely out of sync. If she is going to be a part of my life, even if only my work life, I have to become better at managing my own emotions.

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It ends?

So it finally happened, she mentioned her wedding plans. I knew it was coming. I knew she was engaged because I spotted the ring on the first day she was here, approximately 5 seconds after thinking “wow, she’s attractive!”, blissfully unaware of the emotional roller-coaster upon which I was blindly embarking.

But this is the first time she’s actually said it and I expected that when it finally happened it would feel like a bit of a blow, or a lot of a blow to be more precise. I was actually getting frustrated earlier on in the day before it happened. With her, with me, with life, I don’t know. Some combination thereof. I was starting to wonder if I needed a new job to get away from her. I had tried to empower myself earlier on in the day by making the decision not to talk to her unless she instigated it. It didn’t help my mood when I heard her mention the word wedding, but I wasn’t exactly in a great place to start with. So I sat there quietly all afternoon pretending to be busy, not feeling particularly empowered.

I went for a run in the evening. I went out feeling unhappy and I came back feeling calm. I didn’t know what to expect the next morning. I woke up really early and couldn’t get back to sleep, but that’s not particularly unusual. By chance, it ended up being just the two of us in the office for the first 20 minutes after I arrived. Before I’d even sat down she had asked how I was and exclaimed “you were quiet yesterday!”. We ended up talking all that time before anyone else came in.

And… it was fine. At the time and afterwards. I’ve felt relaxed for the last few days. Three days in a row now, for the first time in weeks.

I didn’t know how it would affect things. I didn’t know if it would make me go cold on her, probably to her complete confusion. Or if it would cause more internal conflict in trying to deal with her. But it’s been fine. Maybe this is what I needed. I like her and she’s fun to talk to and I still see her as a bit of a personal challenge, but now I have a more definite barrier in my head that it’s not going to go any further and I can accept that. I never thought it would anyway but I guess a bit of uncertainty can cause your imagination to get excited. The longer term is, of course, no more and no less uncertain than it was before, but my imagination is more interested in tomorrow than next year. The short term now looks like a settled matter and maybe that’s a form of closure.

I expected to at least have some more mixed feelings. It confuses me a bit that it seems simple so far. It makes me wonder if there’s more to come. Part of me thinks that my whole attraction to her makes no real sense and therefore it’s probably a blunt biological way of telling me to hurry up and find someone, and there’s not really anything special about her so it probably wouldn’t work out anyway. Another part of me finds the idea of letting her go completely incomprehensible because she is literally the only person I’ve ever felt so strongly about, so she must be very special. Neither side seems to be winning at the moment. We’re going for a more moderate “she’s still there, and nothing has really changed, but don’t expect anything to happen”.

So I suppose we are in a tentative OK, but wait and see stage.

I think both sides are a bit wrong really. I’ve previously expressed exasperation at being so attracted to someone so much older than me but if I’m honest it’s not a huge surprise. The surprise is the intensity, not the person. She is exactly my type. I’ve always found older women more attractive than women my own age and it just so happens that we are apparently quite personally compatible, which, for me, feels like quite an unusual thing so it’s not unreasonable to think she’s special. The attraction does make sense, just not the intensity. But I don’t think either of us could easily fit into the other’s life. She has two children, she smokes, she seems a lot more outgoing than me. I would find all of that hard. The children especially – not just for the obvious reason but also that whereas I’m the same person at work and home, she is almost certainly not. So it probably wouldn’t work out, but not because it doesn’t make any sense.

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Work improved a lot this week.

The work I was incredibly negative about last weekend actually started working properly on Monday, which is pretty much a typical software estimate. I didn’t expect it to and became quite apathetic, but as soon as I stopped caring, things started coming together. We found some other problems which are pending investigation but my boss seems very pleased and doesn’t seem to regard them as really being my problem anymore. Just in time for my pay review! Will I be back to my usual project soon? Maybe…

The office crush came back after a week and a half off and made me feel like I was back at square one, although, actually, square one was terrible and it’s not quite that bad.

I realised that I am mixing several issues with her and this might be why it has been so difficult. And intense. I have seen my relationship with her as a chance to grow as a person, socially. Well, not so much a chance, more of an obligation. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. I have grown. If she’d started five years ago I would have thought “what would she see in me?” and that would have prevented me from talking to her much. Now I have a lot more self confidence, except, paradoxically, it seems I am still just as insecure. Five years ago the insecurity would have stopped me from forming much of a relationship with her. Now it drives me to form a relationship with her. Explain that.

But I have that same chance with a lot of people I work with, with whom I’ve never made the effort to establish much of a personal relationship, because, you know, I don’t fancy them so I never had quite the same amount of motivation. So that’s the new plan – I make that effort a little bit with everyone (or at least, people who will be receptive to it). Maybe not as much as with her, but enough to relieve some of the self-applied pressure. I have written before that there has often been a negativity driving my interactions with her because I feel bad if I think I am shying away from any personal challenges. I can expose myself to the same challenges with other people too, so let’s try separating it from her, or at least spreading the load.

So far it has worked well. Or… I should rephrase that. Whether it will make her any easier to be around is something that will become clearer in time, but I have learnt that one of my coworkers is having physiotherapy for problems with his lower back/sciatic nerve, one of the interns is going through a long interview process to go into machine learning at a bank (I didn’t quite understand the application of machine learning…), and another one really likes a TV program called Mr Robot and lots of films I can’t remember the names of, including the one he really wanted me to watch. Also, he really likes to talk.

Confusingly (for me), later this week she started dressing up a little more – like she did when she started and was presumably conscious of making a good impression. The lipstick and high heeled ankle boots are back. She stopped wearing lipstick after her first or second week. I actually thought when I first saw her the first day she dressed up that she must be expecting to be in a customer meeting, but no. Is she trying to impress someone? If so it’ll be a very short list as two of the more likely suspects weren’t in this week. We actually had what I can only describe as a ‘moment’ on Friday when she said something fairly innocuous to me as she was leaving but there was something about the way it happened and the way she locked eye contact with me and directed it purely at me instead of including the person next to her … and a particular word choice … that made it seem very personal. It surprised me at the time and I didn’t know how to take it. I still don’t. The person next to her started laughing to himself so he obviously thought there was something unusual about the way it happened too. It’s not likely she knows I have a crush on her. It might have vaguely occurred to her as a possibility because I have accidentally given the odd hint, but nothing incriminating enough that she’d have any confidence in such a suspicion. So I know I shouldn’t read too much into it, and even if it went exactly as I remember it (possible, maybe even likely) and even if she intended it to happen exactly like that (much less likely), it doesn’t really change anything. She still has a partner and kids, she still smokes, and workplace relationships are still a terrible idea. But it really does add to the confusion, which does make things a bit harder.

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In crush news…

I was doing pretty well up until a week and a half ago. I got into a place where I was comfortable with her and wasn’t getting nervous about seeing her and was generally content about how things were and weren’t going.

Unfortunately she then disappeared for a week and a half. Seven working days in fact, from Friday to Monday inclusive. The Friday was holiday so I was expecting that, the other days were, well, let’s call them sick days. Every day I came in and saw she wasn’t there I felt some relief at knowing I wouldn’t have to deal with her that day, but after a few of those days in a row I got a bit bored of this and started to miss her. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that. Plus, the uncertainty was a bit hard to deal with. When I saw she still wasn’t in yesterday morning I was fairly convinced she must have left (she wouldn’t be the first new-ish starter to disappear in mysterious circumstances) and let’s just say I didn’t really like that thought.

She later emailed yesterday saying that she expected to be back in today, so of course this morning I felt deeply nervous from the moment I woke up, and to be honest I didn’t sleep that well either. I expected to go in and see her sat at her desk with the office virtually empty at that time and casually ask how she was and if she was feeling better as I came in and sat down, but I actually bumped into her before I got into the office properly and she asked me how I was instead, which wasn’t the plan at all. Completely unprepared for this I did a not quite stellar job of acting like an intelligent human being, although to be fair it wasn’t terrible either. I relaxed after that and I did a much better job later on, but first thing was a pretty underwhelming performance.

So I suppose the summary to this is I seem to have gone backwards. Hopefully it’s just a blip from the sudden change of routine.

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Work less hard

I don’t tend to define myself in terms of my work usually. Usually, I go in, work not particularly hard and then go home. I don’t do free overtime. I don’t rush things. I don’t bogged down in things. Occasionally I’ll spend all day working hard but usually I don’t. The result of this is that I usually produce high quality code that doesn’t blow up on production systems when you’re least expecting it, because I don’t find myself under pressure to submit code that I’m not confident in. I have one live project which the sys admins told me they needed to reboot because its uptime was too long. The projects I have a lot of input to tend to go smoothly because I have realistic expectations of what I can achieve and I try not to sabotage myself with optimistic assumptions. And also, importantly, my usual manager doesn’t pressure me to sabotage myself either.

This week is a bit of an exception. I have worked hard on things I don’t want to be working on, and I have achieved absolutely nothing. Literally not a single thing. It’s the worst of both worlds.

The summary is this:

I’ve been moved onto a doomed project of my boss’s (who is not my usual manager). It’s doomed because of bad decisions from management, i.e. him.

Bad technology choice is the biggest problem. We’re using something that’s not very mature, not very well supported and not very widely used. It’s OK to try things out sometimes, but there is an obvious alternative we could have used which is popular and widely used and would have been a far safer bet. I wasn’t involved in the choice here so I don’t know the details but from knowing my boss for the past 5 years I know he sometimes has an aversion to what he calls ‘fashion’ and homes in on unpopular things instead. You have to fight against him when you see him doing this, and even then it’s no guarantee you’ll get him to back off. We have another project I have occasional involvement with which is plagued by a dependency on a completely unsupported and abandoned library for which there wasn’t even a real requirement. I tried to get him to set it aside multiple times before we actually started using it and I eventually got back the justification “I know, but I want to see how it works”. Using technology that nobody else is using is the last thing you want when things go wrong because it means there’s no help easily available. And it will go wrong, because if nobody else is using it, it’s not very well tested.

The second problem is the fact that the developers for the past year were two student interns(!). We don’t actually have good developers at this company. We have me in the office, and everyone else is either a student intern or a contractor in eastern Europe. Why eastern Europe? Because they’re cheap. Why are they cheap? You know the answer to that. Occasionally we get developers who are actually on par with British developers, and then they leave within a year because it turns out they can earn more than £4 per hour. Amazing how economics works like that, it’s almost as if you get what you pay for. That’s my boss’s choice and I find it slightly embarrassing that we’re a software company which refuses to pay the going rate for software developers. It doesn’t really affect me usually; for the past few years I’ve been working on projects where I’m the main developer and I make sure quality is there. But the last few weeks have been a reminder that outside of my bubble this company is not very professional.

I’ve found it a bit annoying that he has acted as if I’m going to swan into the project and make it all work. That’s a form of pressure and it’s unreasonable to expect me to be able to do much quickly with a year’s worth of existing work containing a lot of decisions I wouldn’t have made and using technology I wouldn’t have chosen. Ensuring quality is fairly easy when you write the code yourself and have a project manager who values your opinions, but being handed a load of broken code and being told to make it work better is a different kettle of fish. And, crucially, my boss does not value my opinions. Or anyone’s. He doesn’t trust the people who work for him and always wants to be controlling the details – at least, when he’s interested in them. Not only do I find it really annoying to be essentially ignored, the other pressing concern he should have is that he’s not really benefiting from my skills on the project because he’s not giving me the freedom to use them.

I wasn’t too happy about it the first week, so last week I went in and made a conscious effort to be more positive. It has been a total failure. I ended up working harder than I should have and I literally did not impact the project in any way whatsoever. I could have stayed at home all week and it would have made no difference.

Monday and Tuesday were spent implementing some performance fixes which my boss wanted me to write. I had explained to him on at least three separate occasions that they would likely have no effect, but he blanked me every time because, well, I said he doesn’t trust people but it might be more accurate to say he trusts himself more than he trusts others so when he latches onto an idea and gets excited by it that’s the end of any kind of discussion. Result: waste of time – my code had no effect. He was completely shocked.

I managed to do some of my own investigation and found a real performance issue, so in the aftermath I managed to get him to focus on that instead. I spent the rest of the week trying to push that particular task into a background thread but after initially promising results I’ve hit some pretty major roadblocks due to obscurities in the technologies we’re using. It’s a total hack anyway to work around an architectural problem in a dependency so I shouldn’t be surprised. He was trying to get me to put my unready code in for testing on Thursday, but after working on it all day on Friday I’ve gone from thinking it might be ready on Monday to no longer being confident it’s even possible, and, even if it is, I’m less convinced it’s a good idea.

He won’t be happy, but, then again, if the project goes down in flames he might learn something.

So this next week will be a new approach. I tried working hard and I produced absolutely nothing useful while just getting frustrated about it. Next week I will go back to working not very hard.

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Work and things

Work has suddenly become a lot more busy. I’ve been moved onto a project which is in a bit of a state. It’s been a stressful experience so far due to the subtle lack of a calm and considered approach from higher up. The main problem is the MD wants to be programming it himself, but isn’t, so instead he’s micromanaging the actual programming and getting incredibly excited about exploring things, which results in priorities that change literally by the minute. It’s been a few years since I last worked on one of the MD’s projects and I forgot he was like this. I’m fairly sure he’s got worse. He makes it difficult to use your own judgement because he tends to prescribe things in great detail, which he’s not always best placed to understand. So you have to go with his approach, even if you can see it’s not the best idea, because it’s easier to try his approach and then show him the resulting problems than it is to convince him we should be doing something else. I spent two days this week not really achieving anything, despite it being urgent, because the MD has very vague but very strong ideas about what he wants to achieve and how he wants to do it. Managing the MD is a skill in its own right. So I am finding this quite stressful. I am not handling it very well, really. Hopefully with some more practice…

The good news is that this stress doesn’t seem to have centred itself again around the Office Crush, which is something I sort of expected to happen. It didn’t make much sense a few weeks ago and I was worried that general stress was just latching onto her because stress is a strong feeling and she evokes strong feelings, but it hasn’t played out that way now. So I think I am ‘over’ her in as much as I still have a massive crush on her for reasons I don’t understand, but I’m no longer losing sleep over her. It still seems bizarre. Up until about six weeks ago I was beginning to wonder if I still had any romantic inclinations at all and then BAM, she wanders in and it turns out I do. Shame they aren’t directed at someone maybe a little bit closer to my age and not already taken.

So, yes, I still have a massive crush on her but I doubt she realises it because I am not really worrying about what I say to her. It seems to be happening much easier. Earlier this week we were talking about the (minor) earthquake and she mentioned that she remembered one from 2002 because it woke up her daughter who was a baby at the time. It rang a bell with me because I recall going to school the next morning and remembering that it had briefly woken me up only after a friend mentioned it. I told her this, because, being conscious of an age difference, the first thing you do is mention that you were still at school when she was a mum in her late 20s. I’m smooth like that.

Later on she said “you know, it makes me feel really old that you were still at school then”. I paused and eventually went with “Hmm, yep, I was, there’s no way around that one”, while grinning sheepishly because I felt I’d backed myself into a corner there. If I’d been more diplomatic I could have tried a “oh you’re not old”. It was almost an invitation. Maybe it was because I apparently declined that invitation to be polite that caused her to burst into giggles when I gave my fairly lame response. Maybe I delivered it just right. Maybe it was just absurd. I don’t know. But she found it hilarious, so somehow, completely unintentionally, I got the best reaction that I could. Far better than had I gone with a more careful response. So that’s good. It’s exactly how things should be working. And it’s also an interesting point that I should just be me and not shy away from these things. Yep, there’s an age difference, I’m not going to impress her much by pretending there isn’t.

She is a bit of a mystery in some ways. I am finding out bits about her relationship, so of course I’m trying to gauge how secure it is and unfortunately (for me) I think the answer is very secure. But I’m a bit confused by the chronology of it. She has a 7 year old son who she talks about as if he’s from her current partner, but (uh oh, Google snooping alert) she was still using her married name less than two years ago but uses her maiden name today. She wears what looks like an engagement ring… why wait so long after divorcing/separating to revert to her maiden name, especially if she’s going to get re-married, and why would two people wait 7 years after having a child to get married? I haven’t figured out an explanation that ties up all of that in a satisfying way, so it seems to be a case of choosing what I prefer to be unsatisfied by. The fact that there is a 9 year gap between her two children does lend credence to the idea that they are with different men, but the married/maiden name doesn’t make much sense in that case. I could try delving deeper on the online front but I’ve decided to set a self imposed limit there. It’s inconsequential, I’m just incredibly curious for obvious reasons.

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THE LATEST ON THE office crush, which is, for those just tuning in, entirely unrealistic and not going anywhere.


She is not trying quite as hard with her appearance as she was in her first few weeks, but I still find her REALLY attractive. I am definitely making more of an effort with my appearance though. Nothing major, but I’m being more conscious over making sure I’m wearing clothes that make me look good. Not a bad thing I suppose.

As far as anxiety related symptoms go, they’ve mostly disappeared – I think because I managed to flush out a lot of self-doubt. There are some things left over but they’re not really a problem. I think I hit them head on and it’s helped me relax a bit.

But overall things are going well. She is becoming more chatty with me and we have some running jokes that she seems to enjoy bringing up. And when we accidentally (on purpose, or not) end up in the kitchen at the same time for the third time that day, she doesn’t give me an “oh not you again” look. I’ve somehow managed to time it such that she walks in when I’m in there as much as vice versa so I don’t think she realises that I do it on purpose sometimes. But I’ve also been a bit self-restrained. I think I’m trying to optimise for the number of opportunities to talk to her rather than really trying hard when they do come up, which seems a bit more natural. So sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. But that’s how it’s supposed to be. People aren’t ‘on’ all the time and if she thinks I’m trying too hard she’ll probably work out why, which probably isn’t really what either of us wants. Sometimes I later realise I missed natural and easy ways to exploit those opportunities, and that frustrates me, but then I think “that’s OK, I’ll spot it next time”.

I feel that if I’m going to be secretly fawning over her, which I don’t seem to have much choice about, then I should be using the experience as a learning opportunity. It’s a new experience to me in many ways. I’ve never been seriously attracted to a co-worker before – someone whose presence I have to be in 8 hours a day – and she is so different to the kinds of people I generally meet. And older. The fact she is so different is probably what grabbed my attention so tightly. If I can build an enjoyable relationship with her then that’s both a good outcome on its own and an achievement, even if it’s not quite the relationship I’d have pursued if things were a bit different. In this sense, she is an interesting challenge.

I have stayed in my current job as long as I have because I’ve always felt like I’ve been learning new things. In the last year or so I’ve actually felt quite bored and the thought of going somewhere else has crept into my mind. But now, once again, I feel like I’m learning new things. Not things I will be putting on my CV, but things I want to learn regardless.

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