Finishing Something (At Last)

I’ve just completed a module of my Master’s degree. I’ve submitted the last assignment (just over two weeks early) and I’m finished! It’s a small triumph, but one I particularly cherish these days. Because for years and years in my last job, I never got to enjoy that feeling. Not ever.

It has been about a year and a half since I left my last employer, with feelings of mutual relief. It had always been a high-pressure environment ever since I first joined, but in the last couple of years it had been excessively so. Since they implemented “agile”.

Now, agile can be wonderful if done properly – so I’m told. But this version of “agile” wasn’t. It was just an endless queue of poorly-specified requests that were always needed asap regardless of complexity.

We never finished anything. Ever. Projects were “done” when they ran out of budget and we had to start a new project. And they still had requirements being added to them as “maintenance requests”. There was no way it could ever be done. Week by week, the clients would pick the top priority for us to work on now. And they meant now. As in, deliver it now, please. Because agile. It was like a nightmare where you run and run towards something but never get any closer.

Everything that wasn’t delivered from the endless ‘To Do’ list was a failure on the part of the developers: a lack of efficiency. Something we had promised but hadn’t done. (Never mind that we had told them endlessly that it couldn’t all be done. We had somehow promised). Our failure. Our weakness. I knew, obviously, that this wasn’t true, but endlessly being told that I just wasn’t good enough still got to me.

It’s a year and a half since I left that employer, and started a career break for full-time study. Earlier this year, I had my first set of exams. I was surprisingly tense and anxious about them, which I put down to the fact that I hadn’t sat any exams for ten years; I was relieved to find that they were quite easy. Once the exams were done, I felt a huge weight lift off my shoulders and felt happier than I had for many years. It took me a little while to figure out why: I was done. I had finished something. For the first time in ages, left to myself with a fixed set of work to do, I had done it properly and on time. Until that moment, I had subconsciously assumed that I would screw something up and never finish.

That was several months ago, and I’m preparing now for my second set of exams, but I’m nowhere near as stressed this time. I’m enjoying the study, and learning something new. I’m looking forward to completing the qualification (in a few modules’ time). And actually, I’m doing pretty well. It turns out that I wasn’t bad at finishing things. I just needed something that could be done.

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