Since I got back from vacation I have been unusually whiny about all the work I have to do. Partly this is from getting soft and lazy over the course of my nearly-month-long break, and partly because our political officer is taking his vacation, so there’s some slack to be picked up. However, in the course of incessantly whining and moaning to anyone who would listen (you know who you are, and you’re the best!) it occurred to me that I myself am at least partly responsible for my plight.

My job is very self-directed, which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a sharp contrast from my last job, which was entirely client-driven: whatever I was doing I did because someone told me to, and it came with precise specifications on the form and content of the final product and a strict deadline. I have clients in this job too, but their requirements are much less specific. Broadly speaking, my job is to know about the Economy of Guinea and to tell the folks back in Washington the Important Things They Should Know, while carrying out Activities That Advance U.S. Economic Interests. But who decides which Things are Important? Who decides which Activities I should devote my time and energy to? For the most part, I do. I’m not completely a free agent – I do get some mandatory assignments and I run everything by my bosses of course – but there’s a lot of latitude there.

This much freedom was absolutely terrifying when I first started. I had a huge terrain to survey and absolutely no idea where to start. I eventually got the hang of it, and now I mostly really enjoy being able to have some control over what I do at work all day. But then when I find myself overburdened it’s my own damn fault, because I gave myself too many projects and set the bar a tiny bit too high. No one’s standing over me making sure these self-assignments get done; if they don’t get done, it’s quite possible that no one will notice or care. Except me, because I have professional pride. So I still have all this work to do but I can’t really complain about it. The worst of both worlds.

Well, that was kind of cathartic. I guess I’ll get back to work now.