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J.R. Buchanan

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Me, My Thoughts, and I

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August 6th, 2015

Surprise!

We all have surprises in life. Some are good, some are bad, and some you remember for the rest of your life. We're all faced with challenges that we have to overcome. Sometimes we learn something from these challenges. Some times the challenges come as a surprise. Sometimes this happens at work.

This entry is a re-telling of a story I have posted elsewhere on this site. I suppose I could just link to it, but I'd like to tell it again, surely in a slightly different manner.

This happened almost 30 years ago, in 1986. I worked at a small factory in Westfield Indiana. I was working as a student engineer while I completed my degree (EET from Purdue University, I took my classes at the Indianapolis campus, IUPUI). I'd been there about two years at this point and had designed the electronics for some of our products and built a lot of prototypes, as well as doing a lot of drafting. One day I was working and the general manager came in. I didn't like him much, and that feeling was mutual.

In fact no one liked him, and he had a very low opinion of the employees. My cubicle was on the other side of the wall from his office. A wall that was thinner than he knew. One day I heard him say, "The employees are all afraid of me. That's on purpose.", which he then followed with a statement about how he liked this and how it kept us all in line. Another time I heard him tell someone that he was the boss, and that meant that he could do anyone's job better than they could, otherwise he wouldn't be in the position he was in. Once he asked our painter to stop using primer to save money. He wouldn't do it at first, saying that the paint wouldn't last, but he gave in when his job was threatened. I saw this exchange myself. Later, when the paint on our products started flaking off, he was fired for not using primer. This tells you what sort of guy our general manager was.

One day I was at work in the lab, and he walked in. He told me he had something to show me. I asked what it was and he just said that I had to see it for myself. He led me out of the door, and across the parking lot to our sister company. They mostly formulated pesticides and cleaning supplies. We went into the building and past the formulation vats into a mechanical room. We went through several rooms I'd never been in before and wound up behind a curtain. Just as I realized that we were on the stage in the auditorium, he led me through the curtain, introduced me and told the room full of people, many in military uniforms, that I would be their teacher today. Then he ducked out and left me on the stage.

Surprise!

Well, I was in a cocky mood that day, and full of confidence, so it really wasn't as bad as it could have been. I said, "Hello class, what the hell are we learning today?" I was probably somewhat manic at the time, I was usually manic or depressed in this period of my life, my bipolar was in full swing and it would be 15 years before my mood swings were explained by a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

They laughed and told me that we were going to be covering the diagnosis and repair of the pump control circuitry in one of our pesticide foggers. Luck! I helped design that circuit, and knew it very well. I asked for a little time and went back to my desk to get some manuals and blueprints. I taught the class, all went well, and I felt pretty good about myself. What could have been a crisis was averted partially by luck in the subject in question and the mood I was in that day.

Even though it went well, I had even less of a liking for our general manager after that.

Remember when I said that we learn from these challenges? What did I learn from this one? That I liked public speaking. It was thrust on me with not warning, so I did it. And I enjoyed it. Years later, I had the opportunity to combine my mental health advocacy with public speaking, and I tried it. It's gone well since, and I currently speak twice a month on living well with a mental illness through NAMI IOOV (In Our Own Voice). I tried to make that clickable, but the huge URL to the NAMI IOOV page never seems to work when I try to embed it.

As usual, I'll post future updates to my Facebook and Twitter pages. Feel free to follow or friend or message me.


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