So, Now What?

When I was in my teens, I remember wanting to accomplish two things. I wanted to be a CIO of a company, and I wanted to be a writer.

At the time, the CIO option seemed such a faraway goal and unachievable, that I found myself chasing my dreams of writing as it seemed a more likely proposition and something that didn’t require a car, a bank account, a work permit, and perhaps a resume.

Throughout High School, I wrote often.  I kept very little of it – my goal at the time wasn’t to write for others, but to write for myself and I treated each thing I wrote the same way an athlete would treat a workout session – important, but ultimately forgettable. 

As I grew older, I transitioned away from my dream of writing – because as these things normally work out, the dream I found to be the least achievable was actually the one I would go on to eventually come close to present day achieving.  Man plans, God laughs.

So here I am, 37, in the middle of a Pandemic – leading a technology team through uncharted waters of full-on remote work, and sitting at desk in my home office everyday – rather than walking through an office daily, or flying to locations – simply put – distractions have been forced away. 

A week into Quarantine I made two major revelations, one comfortable and nothing shocking, the other one very much uncomfortable and a bit hard to swallow:

1) I love my job. I get fulfillment out of it. It is important to me, and I continue to find value and challenge out of it.

2) Outside of work, I am woefully unfulfilled, and have been searching for fulfillment in all the wrong places.

1 is easy and does not warrant much discussion. I have a great team and peers, and a good mentor of a boss. 2 is where I got hung up. You see, when you work in technology, it’s easy to take on the persona of the always-on technologist for friends, family, and your house of worship. In fact, in some ways – you are almost expected to fit that role.

I have worn that role well because it was comfortable. I have used my work experience, my passion for technology, and my willingness to help others to create a persona that has worn out it’s welcome. I’ve been “the guy” to go to for technology – spending a ton of my energy and time supporting others in their mission through technology and helping them be creative.  I said yes to everyone, no to nobody, and allowed myself to believe that my best contributions were to occur behind a computer and thus where I should stay both at work and at play.

It took a pandemic to prove me wrong. When the projects others needed my assistance on changed – when the well of after-hours hobbyist work dried up, and the rhythm of work changed – I literally found myself sitting in front of a computer, and perhaps like many of you – found myself asking:

So, now what?

My technology projects did not give me the same level of excitement as before – do not get me wrong – I love technology – but it does not define me like it used to. My help to the organization outside of work I am a part of was met with frustration and unfulfilled vision with no deep relationships being fostered.

I, for the first time I am a long time, slowed down long enough to realize I was woefully lost in just who I was and what I wanted for myself.

Then I remembered my 13-year-old self:

The kid who would read 6 books at a time, and still find time for online gaming, and tinkering with technology.

The kid who ran a pirate radio station in his neighborhood – not because he necessarily wanted to learn more about radios, but because I thought maybe the block wanted to hear what I had to say (spoiler: they didn’t).

The kid who figured out at a young age that he could write his would-be girlfriends’ cheesy poetry and get a response (spoiler: it rarely was a good response).

The kid who used to secretly write short stories about people and faraway lands for nobody to read, then delete them later.

If 13-year-old me could visit me now, he would be proud at first.  We would spend the day together – he would see a wonderful family, a wonderful job, good health, and good fortune.  But then, when the day was done and the dishes were washed from family dinner, and the job at work was complete for the evening – and it was just me and my 13 year old self in my home office – no more emails to check or projects to do – he would ask:

“So, now what?”

And I would not have an answer.

And you know what, 13-year-old-me? That is just not okay, is it?

So here I am, 13-year-old me. I am back, and I am going for goal two – I am going to write.

I will call it, as I tried once before, Remotely Nowhere.

Why Remotely Nowhere? That was the name of the online bulletin board system I ran as a child with some old computers and the extra phone lines I begged to have in my house from my parents.  I ran Remotely Nowhere as a place for other geeks to get together and just have a place to write – about tech, what was on our mind – and just life. It flourished, because it used technology to produce my creative outlet of writing – technology as a tool and not a way of life.

So, I will continue to be me, the technology leader. But I owe that kid from 1996 something so much more. He has been waiting long enough to show up but giving me the space to figure this out on my own. 

It is time to go back to that promise and become that writer.

I hope you will join me. I think I have stuff worth writing about, and if not, that is okay too –

I am doing this for my soul, and for 1996 Grant Dawson.

You know – just in case he shows up.

– Grant Dawson

  Noblesville Indiana – May 2020