Mission Control

Ben stepped through the door into his small office and collapse into his chair as it automatically adjusted itself to his profile. As he rubbed his eyes and waved at the coffeemaker on his desk, the lights flickered on, adjusted to his morning profile, and powered up his workstation. The surface flowed into the shape of a keyboard and the screen projects started through their power-on routine, cycling through every color and configuration. It was pleasant to watch, but made his head hurt, so he turned to his wall.

One light on the wall, positioned where there should be a window, slowly changed from the standard full-spectrum white to a square of his favorite vista back on Earth, a section of the Grand Canyon that glowed as the sun rose over the rim. The sun in the picture he’d used to create the Smart Window warmed to a bright ten thousand lumens, helping to push the sleep from his eyes and mind while he waited for the gurgling coffee maker to finish it’s job.

While he waited for what his coworkers called his “old-fashioned dirty bean water,” Ben tapped through the log-in on his desktop and cycled through his team’s off-hours messages. There wasn’t much of interest, just the usual memes and links to YouTube videos for research ideas, so he spun himself around in his chair a few times before switching to his internet browser and checking out a couple of forums. Once the coffee was done, he poured it into the ceramic mug on his desk and set it aside to cool.

He sent a few follow-up messages to one of his coworkers who’d sent him some direct messages and was just about to start digging into one the issues he’d been assigned when someone rapped on his wall. Ben lazily spun around, grabbing his now-drinkable coffee as he went. “What’s up, Christine?”

“Hey, Ben. We’ve got a conference call coming up in ten. Lewis scheduled it half an hour ago but forgot to invite anyone but me, Vince, and Landon. I’m going to need you on that.”

“Really?” Ben sipped his coffee and arched his eyebrows at his senior coworker. “Did he ‘forget’ to include anyone else, or did he actually forget?”

“The universe will never know.” Christine shrugged and leaned against the wall. “But you need to do your thing today. He’s got something to drop on us.”

“Yeah?” Ben sighed and put his coffee down. “You sure? I’d love to not need to be a part of this today. I’d really like to do something else with my first hour of work today.”

“Yeah. He managed to include the right manager and the two people who he’d be able to override, so he’s got something he wants done.”

“You’re too nice, Christine.”

“I mean, he is my boss. I can’t exactly tell him no.”

“Fine, then Vince is being too nice.”

“Landon isn’t going to like it, but no one is listening to him about Lewis anymore. They all think he’s got a vendetta at this point.”

“Yeah, but he’s our manager. It’s his job to represent us to everyone up the chain.”

Christine shrugged and pushed away from the wall. “You’ve got ten minutes now. Best get yourself ready.”

“Fine.” Ben shifted in his chair and it molded to his new position. “I’ll do it.”

“Thanks, Ben. You’re the best.”

Ben waved a hand and the room’s light changed so his face stood out as the chair raised itself, pushing him into a standing position in the open corner of his office.  When he turned around to look, Christine was gone so he waved the door closed. As the glass pane sealed with the rubber frame, there was a hiss of air from the corner as his temperature preferences got priority over the lab settings. Dropping everything else from his mind, he focused on preparing the right attitude for a call with Lewis.

It was a mixture of frustration, weariness, and assertive stubbornness. Lewis could talk circles around almost anyone and those he couldn’t talk his way past would eventually give up because he was more willing to waste time in a pointless argument than anyone else. Except Ben. Ben was the only person on the team who was more stubborn than Lewis and could keep up with him. Which means he got pulled into meetings sometimes just to tag in for people during long discussions or arguments when Lewis wouldn’t stop talking over people.

As he prepared himself for his least favorite part of his job, he straightened his tie, adjusted his top button, and took a deep breath. Two minutes of organizing his thoughts later, the wall in front of him beeped as it was fed into the conference call Christine was managing. The display showed everyone standing awkwardly as they self-consciously preened in front of the camera. As the youngest by two decades, Ben was the only one who’d never known a phone call that didn’t involve video, so he locked eyes with Lewis and smiled in greeting just as he began to talk.

“Good morning, everyone. I’m glad to see you all today and I wanted to share some good news. We’ve made a new sale to a big customer, TerraFirm, so we’re supporting their first launch to the Mars colony.”

There were a lot of shocked faces on the screen and Ben’s was among them. The first person to speak was Landon, who started very slowly. “Lewis, that’s incredible.” He paused for a moment, clearly searching for words, and then carried on. “But who authorized you to make a sale?”

“No one, Landon. I merely facilitated two people communicating.”

“Grace would have said something to me about a sale that high profile. Who gave you the authorization to make a sale?”

“I just said no one authorized me, but I didn’t make a sale.”

“If I call Grace right now, she’ll tell me you didn’t make the sale?”

“Correct, Landon.”

Landon made a few gestures, typed on the light keyboard that appeared in front of him, and then a new person was added to the call. Grace, the head of sales, was still climbing out of her chair when Landon started talking. “Grace. Sorry to interrupt your morning, but Lewis says you did a sale with TerraFirm for a Mars colony run.”

“What?” Grace’s face went slack in shock. “No! I think I’d know if there was something that high-profile in the works.”

“Could you make sure nothing slipped through the cracks.” While everyone waited for Grace to return to her computer and start cycling through the sales database, Ben kept his attention on Lewis, watching him keep the same placidly neutral face he wore whenever he was lying out his ass about something. Lewis noticed and gave Ben a small smile, throwing in a cocked eyebrow when Ben didn’t react. Just when Ben was about to say something, Grace turned back to the call.

“I don’t understand. We got a payment today from TerraFirm but I didn’t make any sales.”

“I managed that conversation.” Lewis nodded his head and Grace stared at him. After no one said anything, he continued. “Richard was on the email change when negotiations because, so sales was involved.”

“Lewis…” Ben shook his head and stared at the floor for a moment. “Richard died two years ago. You attended his memorial.”

“So I did, but the deal had his blessing.” Lewis gave the entire call his small, placid smile and Grace abruptly vanished. “I don’t see what the issue is. Dealing with customers is part of my job.”

“No, Lewis.” Landon emphatically shook his head and stepped closer to the camera. “You job is to figure out what they want and bring it to the project team for approval.”

“TerraFirm wanted us as their guidance system for their Mars colony trip and here’s the project team plus several extra people. I don’t see how this is a problem.”

“The problem is, Lewis, that you’re not allowed to make decisions or commitments on behalf of the guidance team!” Landon’s face was almost as red as Ben’s tie as he shook a finger at the camera, now less than an arm’s length from Landon’s red face. “This is the last straw, Lewis.”

Landon’s camera shut off and everyone but Ben and Lewis quickly followed suit. Ben stood where he was, eye’s still locked onto Lewis’ face as Lewis looked around at where each of the other callers would have been as they hung up. After the last of them had disappeared, Lewis pursed his lips in bewilderment. “I don’t see what has everyone so upset.”

“We had a meeting less than twenty-four hours ago about our development plans for the next year and you didn’t bring this sale or customer up. You even agreed to our plan. And now you’ve go-”

“We can still do all that stuff you wanted yesterday.” Lewis’ brow furrowed as he looked away from the wall, toward his computer. “There’s no reason we can’t do both.”

Ben’s face was still pleasantly neutral but he had his hands behind his back and they were clenched so tightly it looked like his tendons were about to break. “You’ve gone and not only made a commitment we aren’t prepared to meet, but you’ve given us less than six months to meet it. TerraFirm’s launch is in one hundred forty days and we have no idea what systems we’ll be integrated, let alone what hardware they’re working with.”

“We do launches all the time. This is just one more.” Lewis waved his hand dismissively and the camera switched to a head-only view for a moment before he remembered to set it back to the full-body picture. “What is so difficult about that?”

“We do low-Earth orbit launches and the occasional lunar mission. Mars is a different beast entirely and we haven’t even run simulations on how to manage something like that. We have no test data and we literally just powered down half of our supercomputers to do firmware and hardware upgrades. It’ll be another month before we have them back up and running again.”

“That’s all development time. Vince is already working on it.” Lewis took a seat in his chair, clearly signalling that he’d like to end the call.

Ben sighed and shook his head. “You’ve got no idea how this works, do you?”

“I used to be a developer, Ben. Of course I know how the process works.”

Ben laughed and smiled. “You’re so out of touch you don’t even know you’re out of touch. Good luck digging yourself out of this one, Lewis. It’s been awful working with you.”

Lewis was pulling himself out of his chair, a startled expression on his face, as Ben waved to terminate the call. Once he’s sat down, grabbed his coffee, and swapped his office back to its standard settings, he saw Christine appear on the other side of the glass as it went transparent again. She nodded to him and swiped the door open.

“I heard that.”

Ben shrugged and took another sip of his coffee. “That’s fine. I’ll say it to anyone.”

“Yeah, but he’s worked here for twenty-five years. You’re on year three. Do you think they’d listen to you or to him?”

“I don’t really care. I don’t want to work for a company that’d pick an employee with an HR record like Lewis’ over a new, promising employee who has had three glowing reviews and several commendations from his peers.”

“Okay.” Christine sighed and leaned on the door frame. “Whatever you say, Ben.”

“Can you really believe he sold a Mars mission?” Ben drained the last of his coffee and set his mug aside. “It’s impressive, considering we’ve only done local traffic.”

“Sure.” Christine folded her arms across her chest and looked down the row of offices to our asset management area with a giant “Mission Control” sign floating over it. “It’ll be a fun project to test, I suppose. I just can’t believe he expects us to have it ready to go in four months.”

“It’ll be awful.” Ben nodded and then turned to face his wall as the call-waiting chime rang in his office. “I’ll catch up with you later.”

As Christine closed the door, Ben rose to his feet and gestured to take the call. Landon appeared before him, still red. “I don’t know what you said to him, Ben, but he’s pissed.”

“Lewis always is, after one of our talks.”

“Well, good job. You got him to quit.”

“Oh.” Ben’s eyebrows rose and Landon laughed.

“Congratulations, there’s a new opening in project management and I know you’ve been looking for a chance to move up.”

“I mean, sure.” Ben shrugged, trying to regain control of his face and failing. “But I’d rather do any other job than this.”

“That’s good.” Landon nodded. “Lewis hasn’t formally tendered his resignation, so I imagine we’ll still see him tomorrow.”

“Ah.” Ben’s was no longer struggling to control his face.

“Yeah. I suggest preparing a timeline for the development he wants since it seems like we’re going to need to do it. Grace says we automatically processed their money as it came in since no one can send us money without a signed contract, so we’re stuck doing the dev and support.”

“Shit.”

“That’s it? I had a lot more colorful words than that.”

“I don’t know what to tell you, Landon. That’s all I’ve got right now.” Ben lowered himself into his chair and put his head in his hands. “I can’t believe this.”

“Well, just make sure to get the software proposal done in the next couple days and maybe trick the weight sensors so it’ll not notice an extra two hundred pounds of tall asshole.”

Ben chuckled and smiled at Landon. “I’ll get right on it, bossman.” Landon smiled back, nodded, and hung up. Ben leaned his chair back and closed his eyes, already feeling like it was time to go to bed. After a few minutes of that, he got up from his chair, walked out of his office, and strolled down the row to Christine’s office.

“So, I’ve got an idea.”

“Yeah?” Christine spun her chair around to face Ben.

“I’ll need you to help me get Vince to go along with it, but I think the three of us can pull it off.”

“Pull what off?”

Ben winked and smirked. “I’ve got a new mission for us. Operation ‘Lose Lewis.’”

Christine groaned and slapped a hand to her face. “That’s a terrible name. Why would you do that.”

“If we absolutely knock this project out of the park and point out every single instance of Lewis trying to mess up the project, I think we can finally make a strong enough case to have him removed.” Ben pulled out his phone and started tapping notes into the company’s app. “I just need Vince to set up a few things for our daily calls with Lewis and I think he’ll do it if you ask him.”

“Okay, sure.” Christine pulled up her phone and looked at the notes Ben was writing on her virtual wall. “This all seems pretty straight-forward, but how do we get it to stick?”

“We threaten to quit less than an hour before launch. Hold the whole thing hostage until he’s removed.” Ben glanced over his shoulder at Landon’s office on the mezzanine above. “I think Landon would love a reason to do it and no amount of screw-ups is enough to overcome everything Lewis did before he started on his current streak of assholery.”

“I suppose.” Christine starting adding notes to her wall and then waved Ben away. “You get the speeches and proposals ready. I’ll get Vince started.”

Ben gave her a thumbs up and walked back to his office. Once he was inside, he dimmed his lights to his preferred working level, shut the door, put on his favorite synth-rock album, and pulled out his personal phone. It took a moment for it to connect to the satellite network through the metal building, but he was able to open a few personal files when it did.

He set his phone down on the desk and set it to projector more. Once it popped the document up on front of him, he started adding a couple of notes, crossing out items in a list, and humming along to the music. Once all his updates were done, he saved the file and reviewed the events and notes listed in the document.

He scrolled through it a couple of times before checking the box next to a line item that read “Lewis makes a sale he wasn’t authorized to make,” Once the animation finished it’s run, he checked the next three. “Provoke Lewis into threatening to quit,” “Turn down joke job offer from Landon,” and “Convince Christine and Vince to help set up Lewis for launch-day ousting” all had a line drawn through them before fading until they were almost transparent. Lewis looked through the last few items, ending on “Lewis quits job and you are in a position to become a line manager” as he smiled and muttered “all according to plan.”

Going the Distance

“Rob, have those reports on my desk by five.”

“The ones about the iodine levels in our ice cream?”

“Correct.”

“Sure. I’ll scan and email the-”

“I need the actual papers.”

“Mr. Barnes, you know I work remotely.”

“I saw you taking your meeting notes on them and I want those for reference.”

“The scans will have those.” I propped the phone up with my shoulder and dumped the reports into my scanner. “I’ll have Lou print them out.”

“Mr. Gellis, if you don’t have those on my desk by five, you’re fired.”

“Mr. Barnes, that is impossible. I live five states away.” I pressed scan and started emailing Lou with instructions to muss up the papers.

“Then you shouldn’t have applied for remote work!” I could hear his sneer in his voice. He’d been trying to fire me for years because his boss let me move away.

“Fine. They’ll be on your desk by five.”

“See that they are!”

“Have a good afternoon, Mr. Barnes.”

Four and a half hours later, my phone rang. “Hello, this is Robbie Gellis with McLew-”

“These clearly aren’t your papers, Gellis. You’re fired.”

“No can do, Todd. I caught a flight just in time but I had to leave them with Lou so I could catch my return flight. You’ll find my notes throughout the reports and a coffee stain on page two.”

“There’s no way!”

“You’re welcome to come out here and prove otherwise, Mr. Barnes.”

“That’s five states away! I’m not flying over there just to grab some papers.”

“Have a good evening, Mr. Barnes.” I hung up and turned off my work phone. Someday, he might actually do it. I’d find that hilarious because my listed address is five states in the wrong direction. Working by phone was the best.

Before the Beach House

Thomas opened the door and looked down at the woman lying in the sand at the foot of his porch. “Do you need help, Sue?”

“No.” Susan looked up at the darkening sky and felt her heart throb in her chest as the shock of her skid across the asphalt started to fade.

Thomas stepped out onto the porch and looked down the street after Susan’s partner and then eyed the blood staining the sand underneath Susan. “You sure? That looked painful.”

“Everything’s fine here.” She lifted a hand up into the air and waved it in Thomas’ direction. “You can go back inside, Tom. I’ll follow in a few minutes.”

“Alright.” Thomas turned away but paused at the door. “Make sure to brush the sand off before you come inside.”

“But it’s a beach house, Tom.” Susan let her arm fall to her side and tried to turn her head toward her older brother. Her neck screamed in protest, so she stopped.

Thomas sighed and turned around again. “Yes, but I want the beach to stay outside.”

“Sure thing, Bro.” Susan smirked and pointed two finger-guns at the sky. Thomas walked inside. “Yep.” Susan let her hands slowly fall back to the ground as a wave of pain swept through her again. “Everything’s pretty alright.”

Half an hour later, as the sky finally gave in to the sweeping darkness and the first stars appeared, Susan rolled to her front and stood up. Her back was caked in bloody sand, but she didn’t seem to notice it. Instead, she stared after the ex-partner who’d decided assault was an appropriate response to being bought out of a business she’d been holding back. Daisy would be someone else’s liability.

Berserk rages didn’t belong in shopkeeping. She’d be happier as an adventurer again.

A Man of Numbers

All Theodore cared about was numbers and all he wanted out of his life was to find particularly challenging sets of numbers to play with. Let the others have their social lives and their romances. Numbers were all he needed.

Columns of reference numbers scrolled past as he looked for a break in the sequence. Each column’s total should equal all of its reference numbers added together which should equal the total of the column left of it plus the number of reference numbers in the column.

It was a tricky algorithm, but it ensured only he could create new reference numbers. If they didn’t all add up correctly, the program wouldn’t close when he tried to exit. It meant staying late, frequently, but he didn’t mind.

After almost two hours of searching, he found the new reference number and followed it to the document it represented. It was a few sheets of transcribed meeting notes someone had hidden on the network.

After he finished reading through them, his heart was racing as he typed an email to his boss. They were hiding something from their bosses and he’d found them! He hit send and went home. Tomorrow couldn’t come soon enough.

The next day, he met his boss on the main floor to watch two security guards and the man’s manager talk to the culprit for a moment and then gently guide him out. Theodore recognized his cousin Bill, as Bill tried to pull away from the guards.

Bill saw him and shouted. “Theo! Please!” The guards grabbed him and continued to guide him toward the foyer. “Theo! Tell them! We were just making plans to throw a surprise party for Gus’ birthday tomorrow!”

Theodore’s stomach lurched. Gus, his boss, turned to him and sighed. “Dammit, Theodore. Not again.”

For Hire

It should have been everything he wanted. He’d done viral marketing, learned how to use Twitter, and even got a decent camera for Snapchat and Instagram. He’d discretely entered social circles, splashed across the local newspapers, and put up posters where his ideal clients frequented. His dreams of being a friend-for-hire were shattered. His family had laughed at first, but then he started getting calls. Now, two years later, he finished replacing the money he’d borrowed from his savings.

It just wasn’t like he imagined. He’d left his fliers and advertisements vague so no one felt limited, but it had backfired in a way he never imagined. What he did wasn’t bad and he even enjoyed it most of the time. It was just so different from how he’d envisioned his future.

Gone was the idea that he’d make a living by being friends with socially awkward nerds with money. Gone were the thoughts of helping older men get around and run their errands. Hell, gone were even the thoughts of being used as a taxi service to ferry people without cars around since his rates were cheaper than an Uber.

He sighed and sat down at his office computer, opening the program he used to push new advertisements to all of his media accounts. He reviewed the new ads he had composed and, after one last deep breath, published them. Friend for hire no more. In the business world, you had to recognize your niche and do your best to inhabit it. He’d even filed all the paperwork to update his license at town hall. As he turned off his computer and went home for the day, he admired the sign on his door. “Peter Foster: Grandson for Hire.” At least he would never need to bake for himself.

Unfortunate Business

Arthur walked through the door into the sunshine, briefcase in hand, and dreaded the walk to work. His office building was only a mile and a half away from his apartment. That was one of the perks of living in the city, he supposed. But he hated how crowded everything was. It always took him longer to walk to work than it should have. He was in a hurry this morning. There was a meeting at 9 o’clock at which he was supposed to present his proposal. He patted his briefcase unconsciously, feeling the reassuring bulk of the envelope.

Arthur nervously adjust his silk tie as he watched the heavy flow of foot traffic moving up and down the sidewalk from the stoop of his apartment complex. People paid little attention to him as he stood there watching them. With a small, tired sigh, Arthur stepped down the stairs to the sidewalk and joined the throng.

Arthur waded through the sea of people moving back and forth, to and from apartments and offices. Some of the people had the almost unkempt, disheveled look of those coming off a night shift, and others had that crisp, almost vacuum-sealed look he associated with lawyers. There were punk rockers, high school students, women going shopping, men drinking coffee and glancing at their watches, women applying makeup as they shuffled through the crowd, and everywhere was the noise and smell of automobiles.

Arthur was bumped and jostled as he did his best to stick close to the buildings. Someone as small as he was did their best to stay away from the street. It was only last week that he had read of some poor soul accidentally getting pushed out of the sidewalk traffic and into the way of a bus.

Arthur checked his Rolex and ducked into a small alley between two large buildings, taking advantage of the decrease in foot traffic to speed up. About halfway through the alley, someone jumped out from behind a dumpster and, with a disgustingly wet “THNK,” clubbed him in the head with what looked like baseball bat.

Arthur stared for what seemed like almost an hour, stunned, at the dark figure holding the bat in its hands and wondered why he was taking so long to fall down. Arthur noticed a large red splotch on the side of the dumpster. He wondered if it was blood. Maybe it was blood from a previous victim? But no, it was only rust, he realized, as he got closer to it; some of the paint had been worn off over the years and the metal below it began to surrender to the harsh elements of the big city.

Finally, with a “thud” that sounded like it was coming from fifty feet away, he hit the ground on his stomach. It was surprisingly dry. He had always imagined that the alleys where people got mugged had pools of water and slime everywhere. Thank goodness there wouldn’t be any wet spots on his freshly-pressed suit when he made his presentation. The ground was also very warm, despite the approaching winter.

Light kept flashing into his eyes as it reflected off cars passing by the far end of the alley and through the gaps in the passing crowd. Why did none of them come to help him? A driver in one of the cars should have been able to see him lying there, and surely one of the people on foot would have already called the police. But why did no one come to help him? Why did no one stop and look in the alley?

Hands rifling through his pockets. They took his wallet out of his jacket pocket, his cell phone from his pants’ pocket, and they just TOOK his entire briefcase. They didn’t bother looking through it. They just took the whole thing.

Arthur had an important letter and plans in that briefcase. They were part of a business deal that would finally get him that promotion he’d been dreaming of for the past two years. At 34, he would be the youngest junior partner in the history of his company. He would finally be able to get a house in the suburbs for Alice. He’d be able to buy each of them a nice car. An extravagant SUV that just guzzled gas. He and his wife would finally be able to have children, a dog, maybe even a cat.

But the hands had taken his briefcase with his letter and the plans for the proposed office complex. And now his watch too! They also began tugging at his wedding band. They were leaving him with nothing. Suddenly, the ring popped off his finger and the pressure of the prodding hands was gone. After a few moments, Arthur supposed that they had finally left him alone.

Suddenly, a pair of feet walked into his vision. He wondered what the feet were doing there. Where had they come from? Had they noticed him lying there and come to help? And what was that? There was a long, thin object next to them. It looked like it was round. The bottom didn’t rest very well on the ground. It dragged behind the feet, never once lifting from the ground like feet would.

The feet stopped right in front of his face and the round, thin object got closer to his face. He realized then that it was made of wood. Very well-polished wood. With some dark, wet splotches on it that partially covered some writing. The unstained portion read “Louisville Slu-”. He wondered what a “Slu” was.

Suddenly, it moved a little on its own, skittering about on the concrete, no longer following the feet. Then, it jumped up and disappeared from his sight. He heard another one of the meaty, disgustingly wet “THNK’s” from earlier. It seemed like he should have felt something. But he couldn’t quite place his finger on what it was he should have been feeling. It was all very odd. He had taken this shortcut through the alley almost every day for the past 3 years and he had never fallen down onto the ground, nor had hands ever searched him. He heard another of the “THNK’s” and thought he should have felt that too.

The feet finally started moving away. They ran down the alley and he saw then that the feet were attached to some legs, and these legs decided to go into the back door of one of the buildings bordering the alley. Arthur hoped that the feet and legs were going to call the police. But why, he thought, did he want the police? That’s right. The hands. They took his house in the suburbs with a car, kids, and pets. He wanted those things back. But first he needed a nap. He was extremely tired. He had been up so late working on his car and kids. He smiled as he drifted off, as the world slowly faded from his senses. At least he had remembered to make photocopies.

Once More, With Feeling

Well, it is done. I’ve lined up a new job that I start in just over a week and I leave my current job in one week, on January 6th.

This is what I’ve been working toward since September, when I posted last. The job search, application process, and transition planning took up so much of my time that I didn’t have much time for writing. Even if I had the time, I couldn’t have written anything here because they would have crept into anything I attempted to write and I didn’t want to give any hint of what was going on to the people I work with/for (I wouldn’t put it past them to follow employees’ blogs to make sure we’re not bad-mouthing them).

But now that’s all over. I gave my notice weeks ago, transitioned all my projects, found new owners for my areas of expertise, synergized with my developers to maximize our returns during my last few weeks, and generally did a lot of Business. Now I’m coasting to my last day with a few days of puttering and trying to find an effective way to use my last week so that none of my coworkers are left with a mess they need to clean up. Then I’ve got a long weekend to myself (first one in two months, thanks to the holidays, business trips, and the stress of job hunting) before starting a brand new job with brand new people. Brand new opportunities around every corner and a chance to, this time, succeed in ways I never could at the job I’m leaving.

I don’t know that this new job will be better. I truly doubt it could be worse, though. This new job will hopefully leave me with more time and more energy to write. I can finish my book. I can update this blog regularly. I can do something with my poetry other than crystallize my emotions as a coping mechanism. There’s just so much opportunity out there when I’m not having my soul and energy drained every day.

I will be back soon. Probably not tomorrow because, tired as I am, I’m throwing a party for all my friends to ring in the New Year. 2016 has been a crazy long year full of misfortune, anger, hate, wonder, luck, and love scattered through the doldrums brought on by my job. I felt like we should gather to mark its end and remember what we’ve got to look forward to in the next year. Sunday, for sure. I’ve got a lot of stories about Dungeons and Dragons, video games, Overwatch, movies, and books to tell. I can’t promise much other than 2017 is going to be a new, much more active year for me. One way or another.

Happy New Year, reader. I hope you’ve got a chance to take a moment to appreciate the end of the old and the start of the new. Breathe it in and then let it go. Move on from what has been and look toward what will be. Pick your favorite cliché, really. As people often point out, clichés are cliches because they have a certain degree of truth to them that we can’t quite do without. So embrace yours and let it be for just this once. You owe yourself at least a little peace at this time of the year.

This Sounds Kind of similar to Feng Shui, but it’s Really Basic Psychology

What do you need to create a positive environment? I’m being specifically general here. Positive work environment at whatever job you hold, positive home environment, positive creative environment, etc. Seriously, Its super open-ended.

Mine tend to shift depending on which ones. For my creative environments, I like low light, no glare, some kind of music playing softly (though the music changes depending on what I’m doing), and something to drink. Usually water or tea are my beverages of choice, but I’ll drink anything but alcohol. Alcohol and I have some significant creative differences. I also need someplace away from movement and activity since I’m constantly distracted by anything moving. Like all the dogs from Up. Its horrible.

At work, my positive environment has a lot less to do with what’s around me and a lot more with what I’m doing. Sitting still too long bums me out, so I take walks around my building and drop by my coworkers’ offices to give them candy. I am known, and worshiped, as the Candy God by my peers. Mostly I like making people happy and you’d be surprised how much positive effect a bite-size Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup can have on Twenty-Somethings. Other than that, I like to change my office around fairly often, do lots of different work tasks, and get heard when I’ve got something to say.

Positive environments are important to me because I have a tendency toward dour outlooks, depression, and jaded negativity as a result of, well, mostly student debt. That’s the biggest cause. For pretty much everything that isn’t just super awesome in my life. Honestly, aside from that and its side effects, my life is pretty awesome. This is a rare moment of real appreciate, brought to you by the power of a positive environment and two hours of ass-kicking exercise.

Literally ass-kicking. Someone snuck up behind me at my foam fighting practice and was going to nudge me in the butt except I started backpedaling right into their foot. It was a cat-ASS-trophe.

This sort of environment something I’ve spent a lot of time and effort into learning to create. And to do without. As a writer who has a full-time job to pay my bills, I can’t really afford to spend all my time in this perfect little world. I can’t create this kind of environment on business trips. Hotels generally frown on burning candles and I’d hate to have to buy matches at every destination. I also tend to work late so I can’t always get my writing time in at home, sometimes its done sitting on one of the couches in a lounge somewhere or on a bit of shady grass.

That being said, it’s always so much easier to work when I’m at home. I’m more relaxed, better able to focus, and a lot more creative. I do my best work at home.

I think a lot of people underestimate the value of a positive environment. A lot of introverts have it pretty well-figured out since we need this sort of thing to really relax at all, but every can benefit from knowing what you need in order to do you best. Maybe its collaboration with a group of peers or the quiet of an office by yourself with signs warning people away. Maybe you need complete silence or maybe something rhythmic to keep your mind focused and sharp.

There’s nothing wrong with needing a specific setup to work. Knowing how you work best and doing what you can to create that sort of environment can not only help you excel, but it can help those around you and your relationships with them. The more relaxed you are, the easier it’ll be to interact with them. A lot of workplaces do studies on exactly this sort of thing, which is how we’ve gone from cubicles to the “open office” concept that removes privacy and gives everyone access to you at all times (can you tell I’m not a fan? Thank god I’ve got an office…).

What do you need? I’d love to hear about it.