The Slump

Couldn't hit the broad side of a barn from 10 feet.Sometimes things just fall apart.

Life is going grand and then the pitcher throws you a knuckler that dances like Fred Astaire and you swing right through it.  Suddenly the 12-game hit streak you were on means nothing and you’re in the midst of a 1-23 slump, floundering below the Mendoza Line and praying for a pulled hammy so you can have an excuse for riding the bench for 15 games while you figure out what part of “and then you hit the ball” you’re failing at.

Yes – I’m going all baseball on you today because, well, it’s (almost) baseball season.  With spring training in full effect and the weather (in theory and according to the groundhog) turning up the boys of summer are poised to take to the lush green fields of ballparks all over the United States in just a matter of weeks.  I’m looking forward to my 10-0 Royals making a run at the Central Division title this year, although history would tell me a strong spring training has absolutely no bearing on the regular season.

But I digress.

Actually, no I don’t – I chose baseball specifically because baseball mirrors life in a lot of ways.  Sure, you could probably make the argument a lot of sports mirror life, but this is my blog so we’re using baseball today.  There’s a lot of parallels you can draw, and for me the hitter who’s batting a solid .400 for three months and then watches as pitch after pitch eludes his bat is a very fitting one for these days.

But probably not for the reason you think.

The last two or so months for me have been an interesting roller coaster.  Since I left my job effective December 31st I’ve had a lot of time to contemplate, plan and introspect.  I’ve had the opportunity to do some of the projects that I’d put off for a while, get myself back in a workout routine and learn some stuff.  I’ve gotten to code more in the last six weeks than I have in the last several years, applied for more jobs than you can shake a stick at (note: I still have no idea how many that is technically, but suffice it to say it’s a lot) and interviewed more times than I have in my entire 16-year career at Sprint/Embarq/CenturyLink.

When I started things felt good.  I decided I was going to take some time off since I hadn’t had more than a couple days off in a row for years (lots of years).  Roller coaster: up.  Then I realized there’s a reason I don’t take more than a couple of days off in a row: I’m not built to be a homebody, and I’m pretty sure my kids were ready for dad to go back to work by day two.  Roller coaster: down.  So I started re-frequenting my favorite coffee shop (Homer’s on Red Bridge) and getting some of the stuff I’d put off organized…and it felt awesome.  Roller coaster: up.  And then I became a “Job Seeker” on LinkedIn (connect with me here) to let prospective employers know I was looking for the next gig.  Roller coaster: up more.

Then I realized there weren’t a whole lot of jobs that fit what I was after and my skills out there.  Roller coaster: down.  But I kept looking and rebuilt my resume in a format I really like (and, more importantly, recruiters seem to appreciate).  Roller coaster: back up.  And jobs started appearing that seemed to be right in my wheelhouse.  Roller coaster: still going up.  I discovered I love to interview (good opportunity to meet people, hone quick-thinking skills, improve the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes).  Roller coaster: cresting the big hill.

And then things didn’t happen.

Roller coaster: tipping.

And then came the “we’re sorry” e-mails with titles like (no kidding – this is one I got) “FYI: The status of your job application for XXXXXXX is terminated“.

Roller coaster: tipping some more.

And then it seemed like everything else was falling apart – I had insomnia and zero appetite.  My workout routine suffered, my caffeine intake suffered, my bacon consumption suffered.  It wasn’t stress about the job so much – I’m pretty damn good at what I do and I knew it was just a matter of time until I hooked up with a role where I could rock somebody’s world – I just felt like there’s was a dark cloud following me around.  My eternal optimism was still there (I even called – correctly, I might add – that MU would beat Florida in Columbia despite my Tiger friends giving me the “seriously – did you see us play last time?” speech/look), but it felt like every positive carried a handful of negatives with it.

Roller coaster: racing towards a fiery oblivion at the bottom of the hill.

Then a funny thing happened.  Suddenly from the jaws of being sent down to the minors I felt the solid crack of the curveball being propelled onto the outfield grass (yes – I TOTALLY just changed metaphors on you; just remember this is why you love me).  It was just a single, but it was a solid one-base hit.  I’d been there before and maybe this was just the start of another 1-23 run but it didn’t matter – I was standing on first base right now.

I got a call from a recruiter about a pricing gig that I’d turned down a few months earlier.  The company was having difficulty finding the person they wanted so they upped the ante and wanted to talk.

And then the next swing of the bat and the ball dropped in front of the left fielder – another interview that went well…for a job I had no direct experience in (procurement).

Then a ground out to short that I nearly beat out – they said it was a difficult decision but ended up going with the other candidate (it was down to the two of us) who had quite a bit of experience in that kind of job and with the specific systems and could hit the ground running immediately.

Then another great interview and a couple of good prospects popped up.  Base hit, walk.

A fly out – an “I’m sorry” e-mail.

And then this week.  An inflection point – I was going to get several at-bats that would determine whether I finally broke free of the psychological funk that was tanking my average or if I was going to continue to bring new meaning to the word “futility” day after day, week after week.

A great interview for a different kind of position on Monday followed an e-mail asking for my availability to fly down to Houston for a final face-to-face interview on the pricing gig; an AWESOME interview Tuesday.  And then on the way to play some video bingo with my friends I got a call from a recruiter I’d interviewed with six weeks ago about a position I would be an awesome fit for.

Solid base hit to left; single up the middle; double to right center; homer smack into the middle of the cheap seats.

Sure, the slump I was in hurt my average and maybe I’m not back to my .400 pace yet, but it doesn’t matter – Pauly’s back.

I’ll keep you apprised of the situation, but I’m feeling optimistic.  Not cautiously optimistic like I am with the Royals (Shields and Santana were awesome pick-ups, but there’s still the Tigers to contend with, and I think the Tribe are going to come on strong this year, too) – fully back-to-myself optimistic.  I can hear “Sweet Caroline” playing, smell the ballpark hot dogs and taste the crisp flavor of a freshly-poured beer.

The slump is over.

(post image courtesy of InventorSpot)

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