I was accused of being a pessimist today. It was a fairly routine conversation at work, a discussion of projects, timelines, and expectations for what is going to happen over the course of a project. My boss and my coworker were discussing their optimistic outlook and some information they’d gotten recently that made them expect good things. I contend that I merely brought them back to reality by reminding them of some important bits of information about the project and the course of similar projects in the past, but they felt that I was just looking for a reason to be miserable. I told them that I’d stop saying things like this when I was proved wrong and we all walked away from the conversation feeling discontent.
To be fair, I do tend to look on the bad side. As someone whose work happens at the end of projects, I’m incredibly familiar with all the ways projects can go wrong and the impact that can have on a project. After all, as a tester, I’m frequently the pressure-release valve for a project’s timeline. If I had a dollar for every time someone said that we could make up that time in testing and another dollar for every time I was told that test would just have to work longer hours for a bit to make sure the project releases on time, I would be able to flip someone off the next time I was told either one of those and never work again.
Still, I doubt I would be as “pessimistic” if I wasn’t right. Sure, I don’t assert stuff like this often and only do it when I know, for a fact, as surely as one can without actually experiencing the event and traveling to the past, that what I foretell will come to pass. I’ve stopped taking pleasure in saying “I told you so” because it has happened so many times and I still am forced to work longer hours to make up for the difference.
Most of the time, that’s not a huge issue. We’ve been understaffed for so long that I’m used to it and I’m currently broke enough that I would ask for more work to do if I ran out of reasons to do overtime. I understand my limits well enough that I don’t push myself further than I can handle. My boss respects it when I say I can’t work any more hours and won’t try to convince me to stay if I don’t want to. He even makes sure I know that I don’t have to do overtime, which is good, but I do wish people would listen to me when I tell them stuff isn’t going to work out the way they want. Better to prevent an issue than have to work through it, you know?
I don’t like that it is depicted by my coworkers as pessimism, though. It is exhausting to know I am right, to have no one listen to me when I warn them about an upcoming problem, and to then be accused of pessimism without fail when I try anyway. I know it can seem to some people like I am a specter of bad news, appearing with problems riding in my wake, but is it the messenger’s fault the land is being invaded? Or should they be commended for realizing what was about to happen and trying to warn those around them?
I feel like a sandwich board prophet, calling out from the streets that the end is nigh, only to have people laugh and dismiss me as being of unsound mind because the end is not currently bearing down on them from the horizon. Today, I am a pessimist. Tomorrow, I will sit in a meeting and be unable to muster the spirit to even mutter “I told you so.”
It’s isn’t some rare talent or some special power. It is the power of prediction born of experience, long observation, my childhood (learning to read emotions and predict behavior), and knowledge of the patterns that make up the world I live and work in. I wish I could teach this to people around me, so they could see what I see when I’m pointing out the problems in a project, or that it was truly some kind of power so I would never miss a pitfall. I’d make a fortune on the stock market or with lottery tickets and would be able to leave my job to enjoy my private mountain/forest, charitable foundations, and non-stop creative fulfillment.