On the morning of my birthday, I was treated to brunch by one of my friends. After a little while, we were joined by my wife, who had been pottering about in town. After a couple of cups of coffee and a pretty decent breakfast - although they could do with learning how not to over-crisp the pancetta, but that does sound horribly like a middle-class problem - I nipped off to the loo. On my return, we finished our drinks and went our separate ways.
It was only later that I heard of the conversation that happened in my absence, where my friend asked my wife what had happened to the cynical me that she knew so well. We work in the same building at work, and every time she saw me now, I seemed to be smiling and laughing.
I've been reflecting on this ever since. The simple truth is that I'm much happier in my job at the moment. It's not that my work is particularly different, and my desk is barely ten feet away from where it was before, but the people I work with have changed everything for me.
I used to think that I was ruthlessly logical and analytical and that I worked best on my own; I didn't really understand other people and I didn't really want much to do with them. My Myers-Briggs profile said something similar, and I was happy to allow myself to fall into that stereotype. As the profile says:
"The INTP has no understanding or value for decisions made on the basis of personal subjectivity or feelings. They strive constantly to achieve logical conclusions to problems, and don't understand the importance or relevance of applying subjective emotional considerations to decisions. For this reason, INTPs are usually not in-tune with how people are feeling, and are not naturally well-equiped to meet the emotional needs of others".
It's taken me a long, long time to realise it....and apparently I'm now an INTJ....but that's bollocks. I now understand that other people don't mean nothing to me, they mean everything. I like to do a good job, but I get an infinite amount more fulfilment from helping someone else to do a good job. In my old job, although I worked in a team, I didn't have a team and I basically worked on my own with no responsibility for anyone else. Sure, I'd started doing a lot of mentoring of some of the younger recruits into the department and found that fulfilling, but it wasn't until I changed jobs that things really changed.
First and foremost, I escaped a toxic atmosphere; only realising how poisonous the air I had been breathing was when I finally stopped breathing it. Then, as my job evolved, I inherited a team to manage. Suddenly, instead of an informal role helping to look after people, I had a formal management role with some actual responsibilities and a team that is getting bigger and bigger. I've thrived on it.
I was catching up with one of the younger members of my team the other day, and she was telling me how her attitude had changed over time: she used to be a really accomplished footballer, playing at age group international level. She was driven and competitive, and then she got a cartilage injury that stopped her from playing for a year. After that, she was all about the success of the team, and became the captain who got more satisfaction from helping other people enjoy the game than she did from her own personal achievements and ambitions. I envied her. She's in her very early twenties, and she is wise enough to understand something it took me the best part of twenty more years to work out for myself.
Better late than never, though. I'm only on secondment in this role and it is time-boxed. Pretty soon I'm going to have to make my mind up if I want to return to where I was before or look for something else. I've been avoiding thinking about it, to be honest. It's really quite simple though, isn't it? It's probably better to face an uncertain future than to go back somewhere that was clearly leaving me unfulfilled.
At least I'm smiling more now.