(Or my really rather foolish and silly need for adulation.)
I brought my ARIS server to life today. I did it in the middle of a client meeting, when I fired off an email to someone and said “hey, I don’t think it’s going to work, but try to connect to Larry (the server) and see what happens.” I figured she would get an error message, and that error message would help me trouble shoot.
I got back an email.
“I’m in. I’m staring at the reference databases. What do you want me to do next?”
In the middle of a meeting, out loud, with pure surprise in my voice:
I have spent the last 2 weeks feeling like I am cro-magnon woman poking things with sticks. I poke and nothing happens, or sometimes I get an ugly message, and I don’t know what to do next, and I swear to you I have dreamt of my IT problems. I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in 2 weeks. I am so far below the water line of my skill level I’m not even drowning. I’m just sinking. Every time I had another problem, it wasn’t just fixing the problem, it was learning a whole new realm of IT.
I sent out a note to my boss and some other people this afternoon, announcing that we had a bouncing baby server named Larry, and that he had taken his first breath and shouted something that sounded a lot like “event driven process chain”.
I was happy this afternoon.
And everyone responded back nicely. Except, the person who tested for me, well (and this is where I feel small and stupid and petty), she got as much praise as I did in those emails.
And it is stupid and small and petty. I get that. It’s just, I did all the work. I actually told her how to add the server and the name, and it just so happens that she was the one it worked for. I have spent 2 weeks spending every damn moment thinking about this, and she did 3 minutes of clicking.
And we both got the credit for doing the work.
I was all excited and I told Mr. California at dinner, and he kind of shrugged. He builds stuff that is orders of magnitude more complicated than this. I get that too.
It’s just: I was proud of myself, and I wanted someone to jump up and down and tell me that they were proud of me. I get it, for a technical person, this is child’s play. I get it, I get it, I get it.
But it wasn’t child’s play for me. It was really, really freaking hard and I was so damned proud of myself. It wasn’t just the actual business of figuring out how to log into the server and how to download the files and how to unpack and how to install and what to change. It wasn’t just that.
It was conquering, over and over, my fear that I was doing something that was so far out of my frame of reference and my skill set that I had to keep taking a deep breath and telling myself that if I blew up the server, well, I told them I had no idea of what I was doing, and the server was virtualized anyway, and what was the worst I could do? They would build me a new server. I might not be popular but no one was actually going to die.
It wasn’t just that it was hard and I did it, it was a personal victory. I was so sure I couldn’t do this. I was so sure that I wasn’t skilled enough, didn’t know enough, couldn’t figure this out. I was so sure that I couldn’t do this. And I made it past “I can’t” to “I did”.
I actually wanted someone to say “I’m proud of you. Not just because you did it but because you didn’t think you could, and you kept poking away with a stick. You didn’t throw in the towel. You kept trying and trying and you got no help from the IT people, and you did this thing. And it was a big thing for you.”
I’m a grown up. If I’m not proud of me, if I downplay what I did, you know what: I can’t expect everyone to do it for me. It’s not reasonable or sensible or even particularly mature. I get that it’s my approval seeking tendency, and it’s my penchant for being an overachiever, and all of my life I have struggled with being good enough. I get that this is about a 6 year old little girl that just wants to be good enough as she is. I get it.
But the 6 year old wanted the ticker tape parade. Not the whole works with confetti and dancing girls. Just a bit of a parade.
And now she’s pouting.