Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hitching Post

Most folks at some point in their lives put themselves to a task that requires months or years to conceive and carry out to fruition. One experience of this sort that many can relate to is going off to college to get a degree. After several years of hard labor, there comes the moment when the goal is realized. In the quiet after the graduation ceremony, it dawns on you that your task is complete, that all of the effort and energy that fueled and controlled a sizable aspect of your existence is no longer required. In such a moment the mind can become befogged with confusion over loss of purpose. How you approached and prepared for each new day will no longer be the same. For those of us who thrive on consistency and regularity, such sudden changes can be scary and require a lengthy period to work our way out of as we struggle to redefine our identity and decide where we will next direct our efforts.

Starting in 2007 I began work on the development of a new multi-million dollar detector system to be used at the laboratory where I work. It took me nearly a year to define the system requirements and another three years to complete the design, as I worked with a team of mechanical designers and engineers. After interacting with vendors around the world to manufacture the specialized components for the project, I then formed a team of scientists and technicians to work with me to actually assemble the equipment, a process that took three years to complete. The construction phase of the project ended early last year and I began on a long program to verify that the new equipment met the exacting design specifications. In the period from December 2013 to February 2014, the detector system was successfully installed. A project that required nearly eight years of my effort has now been completed.

Over the past several weeks I have been struggling to keep my mind on track at work. The day-to-day pattern that I had become inured to is fully in the past. Even though I have a lot of work on my plate and other projects that need my attention, I feel like I don't quite know what to do with myself. In short, I have become unfocused and uneasy. I realize that I will have to get back on the horse soon as other deadlines are approaching. Maybe today will be the day that I go back out to the hitching post.