Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Being angry

A friend of mine lives in the southeast and her friend is currently in Phoenix for a workshop. She wrote me about a short trip her friend took which reminded me of the nearly five years I spent in Arizona and the big desert rivers northwest of Phoenix on the highway to Williams. I had that area for field work for a year, the standard time after which trips are rotated.

My friend wrote that she was sorry about the painful memories, and I had to think they weren't painful, as I've said the experience there was professionally very rewarding but personally sucked. Not because of the rivers, although there were times I hated the work, but because of living in Phoenix, and one other thing that haunted my entire time there. Having to go there and having to be there after promises by management about my future there.

At the time I was sent there I only had four years in the USGS, all in the Eugene, Oregon office with four other people, an office chief, a secretary and two other field technicians. The office chief and one technician had their minimum 30 years in the USGS and were eligible to retire. But the senior management in Portland had decided they were immune from pressure to retire.

Then the news came down the (Oregon) District wouldn't balance its budget if it didn't lose people. And so employees on a list of people who were single and didn't own homes, meaning could transfer soon and cheaply, were selected and offered to other Districts. The Arizona District which had a problem recruiting people accepted two on what's call forced transfers.

A forced transfer is where your "ticket", meaning your personnel slot - every federal employee has an assigned slot to meet personnel requirements for staffing and quotas - is transferred elsewhere and you either accept the transfer or "be resigned", meaning your resignation will be submitted in your place. That's the deal, keep your job there or you're fired.

Doing some homework, these are technically illegal and the requirements for the list of names is discrimination. In addition, more money is saved forcing a retirement that forcing a transfer, generally two or three to one, based on salary and benefits. So the forced transfers weren't about money or people. So what then? Beats me as I've never understood it.

Anyway, the technician, who like me was new to the USGS, was given the choice of Flagstaff or Phoenix, you can guess which he took, and I got the other one. And so I went to Arizona. I was angry in Eugene getting ready to leave, on the trip there and the whole five years there. It changed my career and life, and I still haven't gotten over the anger at the management in Portland about the decision.

And worst of all is the anger I had there. It shaped my whole attitude there. I was promised a short time and a transfer back within 3 years, except I kept seeing vacancy announcements for the Portland field office for the jobs they sent us here for. But it took applying for two of those vacancies to learn I wasn't even being considered to return. The management had made the decision to forget I ever worked there.

I eventually got a conversion from a technician to a professional hydrologist in Phoenix and some project work with reports which I never got to write after doing most to nearly all of the work on them. I also got the chance to learn a new facet of the USGS, real-time data systems and get the opportunity to transfer to Tacoma, Washington. It's as is always said, "And the rest of the story...."

My friend reminded me of my anger. During our exchange of e-mails I used Google Earth and Map to check out the some of the desert gages I serviced and see how much my anger inhibited me from being open to the desert environment and learning more than I did there. And while I worked in and learned about five of the seven desert zones of the Southwest (California to New Mexico and Nevada into Mexico), I could have learned and enjoyed more.

I wore my anger like a shirt (you don't need coats in Phoenix) and never took it off the whole time. I did a greater variety of field work there than I did in Oregon or Washington combined, and much of it in the desert and moutain backcountry. It's beautiful country and I let my anger prevent me from seeing all I could see.

The moral of the story is that anger never helps you and only hurts. Not just you from having new experiences and becoming a better person, but the people around you who see and feel your anger. You don't hide it, it's as obvious as they say, the nose on your face. It's always there in your body, your manner, your words, your tone and tune, etc. You hand it out every time you work or talk with someone else.

And setting it aside isn't the answer. You have to get through it and forget it. And despite hating your situation, it's all you got at the moment. It's your reality, and that's the one thing you can control. It's your choice, and from experience I can say anger isn't worth the trip and baggage.

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