Warped Fog

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I named this photograph “Warped Fog”. I named it that because of the odd sense that something is wrong with the scene when you look at it. Obviously it is a landscape reflection that isn’t in focus, which is something I don’t usually do, but there is something wrong that is hard to place.

Much like this part of my life, I am in a bit of a fog concerning where things are headed. Using “Things” is a bit in descript. Last year, my life was devoted mostly to the corporate world (again), and further helped me realize the path I needed to follow was not going to be found there. Don’t get me wrong; there are several things that I enjoyed about my 21-ish years in the corporate world. Being in Operations, more specifically, in retail and fast-casual food had its perks. It meant that I was a jack-of-all-trades. I knew a little about everything, but not a lot about anything. I can do enough to get by negotiating a commercial real estate deal (lease or purchase); I know how your balance sheet and cash flow statements should look and sound the alarm bells if they don’t; I can “keep the books” well enough to get by in a small corporation; I can write HR and Operation manuals, and policy and procedures; I can structure budgets for labor costs and hours , COGS, and EBITDA  (or EDITDAR if you needed it), with realistic goals since I am the one that wrote the manual on how to accomplish each, etc…. But I am left with too little knowledge of each to go into those worlds and work at any level other than the ground floor due to my lack of intimate knowledge and schooling. Makes me laugh when I say “schooling”.  It sounds like the Clampetts and Jethro knowing his gazidas.  (look it up)

But what did I enjoy about my corporate career? And for that matter what drove me away from it? I enjoyed being the leader of people that needed guidance in their lives. Most of my friends and colleagues aren’t the people I would prefer to lead. They already have a planned life, most of which were pretty much born into, and are following and adjusting course easily as needed. The younger group of employees I worked with, along with people that have started much like I did in life and hadn’t been exposed to the fact that there is a world outside of 20 miles of their house, are the people I enjoyed leading the most. I have been in their shoes and I know the path to get them out…….kinda. They are the people that I have the opportunity to change the direction of their lives and make sure they end up in a better financial and mental state when I leave them. As an example, I was able to help a young man with enormous potential, who would have been something great in the world had he not been born so far behind the eight-ball. Howard, let’s call him, had the charisma of a politician, the athletic skills of a super star college player (football and baseball), the drive and tenaciousness of Bill Gates, the high standards of Steve Jobs, and incredible street intelligence that would allow him to maneuver in and out of any circle of people he chose in life to be associated with. He, unfortunately, was born “on the wrong side of the tracks”, literally. Don’t get me wrong, by his family’s standards he is that super star I described, but I saw a real leader of people that could have taken him around the world and knew he had the key to any door he chose to go through.

I was able to leave “Howard” better off. As an example, I showed him a simple Excel spreadsheet showing how compound interest and modest deposits could allow him to retire by the time he was 50 with more money than he could really grasp, (he was only 22 at the time) and some basic leadership gave him a push in the right direction to further his career in the food world to as far as he wanted it to go (or more likely believed it could go).

This is what brings me to the part that drove me away from the corporate world. I, as I have said time and time again, have problems with depression and anxiety, and have throughout my life.   I’m not saying that I’m an empath, but I clearly take on the emotions of people around me, as well as, empathize with the futures that I know they are destined to have. All around me was negativity. I saw their futures, and I saw the misery most of them lived in without thinking twice about any other options. And many times there were no other options; by the sum of their actions or not. My job as a leader was exciting, but my job as a manger was awful. I can sum up a manager’s entire job quite succinctly. First, draw the company box (set the rules and regulations), then put the people inside the company box and explain to them that they are not supposed to go outside of that box, and lastly, constantly say “No, get back in the box.” That’s all I said 99% of the time. Over and over and over again. Finally, I realized that the reason I had to continuously say that was because they didn’t want to be in the company’s box. They wanted to be in their own box (lives and rules). The problem is, that the business they worked for did not belong to them, and in order to maximize efficiencies and therefore profits for someone else, they had to ….take a guess……..(drum roll)…….. Stay in the Company’s Box!!

So, I knew that I could no longer take the daily grind of say no, no, no, no, no, no, all day everyday. It was too negative to do, and it was depressing to see so much potential in people that life was never going to allow to bloom into.

So, I left. That took care of the cause of some of my depression, or at least allowed me the room to work on it. Now for the anxiety.  A new question….What the hell do I do now? As of now, I see Warped Fog in front of me. I kind of recognize the picture/future, but something is off and I can’t put my finger on what it is.

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4 thoughts on “Warped Fog

  1. Ashley

    Great post. I could really feel the emotion in your writing about the negative feelings that transpired from your time in management. It seems to me you are in a fog because you cannot let go. Not necessarily meaning you are a control freak for lack of a better term, but more fear based. I could think of many things that formed that anxious place inside you. I have been there and I am still there from time to time. I have done much soul searching thru the last few years. More recently than ever. Maybe you should keep searching thru your photography and blog to find answers and hear others advice and opinions. All I can say is it is okay to let go…be you. Try to realize we live in a broken world. We can only control ourselves. It sounds cliché, but take life one day at a time. That’s made a difference for me. Rest assured that you always will have an understanding friend in your corner.

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    1. The Faces of Depression Post author

      Thanks Ashley for the advice. Maybe it is a “letting go” thing. I know I chose to take a path that probably means a lot less income. Of course money isn’t everything and can’t buy love or happiness (or any other cliché). But it does make it hard since I had a standard of living that isn’t achievable without my wife’s income now. Relying on someone like that is very uneasy for me. Ha! Sounds like a control thing again 🙂 I guess I’ll just see what the future holds. The Faces of Depression non profit corp will be finished being formed in a week or so. I’ll be able to work on building that up to raise awareness and destigmatise depression and anxiety. Lots of work ahead for sure.

      Thanks again, Lee

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  2. Jennifer Eisley

    I enjoy reading your blog posts. I too, have wrestled with depression and anxiety most of my life. Four years ago I left a corporate veterinary practice precisely because the constant efforts to keep me in the box were leaving me drained and burned out. I now do relief veterinary work on a per diem basis, which is better, but it seems like once a year or so I have a flirtation with making my relationship with a particular practice more permanent, but it always seems to fall apart, mostly because I seem to have trouble dealing with vet practices that don’t meet my standards. . .

    I have rearranged my life priorities to put my exercise and my creative life much higher on the list than my work life, which has been immensely helpful, but I have constant anxiety about the future and retirement and I never seem to get ahead of the paycheck to paycheck survival curve. . .anyway, I appreciate your writing and look forward to more of your insights.

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    1. The Faces of Depression Post author

      Jennifer, thanks for the response. I’ve also rearranged my life for sure. I have dropped the ball on exercise and need to get back into the groove. Once it gets warmer I’ll do more hiking photography day trips. (Excuses, I know :-/ )

      I like how you’re able to subcontract here and there. I’ve thought about that for the food world, but it would probably be more of a consulting approach so I may get stuck somewhere for 6 months.

      I love my photography but probably won’t make a living selling art. (Leevannphotography.com)

      I’m really counting on me being able to get The Faces of Depression non-profit off the ground. I want to speak to groups about my experiences and try to destigmatise depression and anxiety as much as possible. That’s really the whole point of the project. Did you see the website itself? TheFacesofDepression.org Hopefully that can turn onto my life’s work. Fingers crossed!!

      I’m glad to hear you’ve found some ways to relieve yourself somewhat from letting depression take over. That’s huge! Congrats on the hard work 🙂

      Thanks again for the chat. Lee

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