NBC news has compiled a great list of organizations. Please consider.
“I’m out for more clients. Which makes me sound like a hooker. Great.”
“Nothing wrong with the world’s oldest profession! My assignments often include solicitation letters, so…”
– C. and Beth ponder the virtue of their pens
We did family photos with J.’s clan a while back and we just got the proofs. A few thoughts:
The camera does add 10 lbs, even after you’ve lost 20.
I am white as a ghost and probably should learn something about bronzer for future photo ops
Makeup in general NOT heavy enough.
For the first time in photos I feel like I look my age, as opposed to 5-10 years younger, I can’t tell if I’m a fan of that or not.
My sisters-in-law are gorgeous and gorgeously photogenic.
I believe sincerely in eye cream.
Holy cow. I’m short. I mean, duh, but seriously. My 11 year old niece is nose high! Heels next time, I think.
“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”
- Newton’s First Law of Motion
Hindsight is, as they say, 20/20. I’m not a person who really lives with regrets, I find them unhelpful (unless real and valid guilt is motivating you to change past behaviors) and unnecessarily time consuming. But I do enjoy pondering on What Ifs, and I often wonder what I might have done differently if I knew what I know now. For example:
If I’d known I’d be at this job for nearly five years, I would have looked harder for one that had better career potential, or at least that I enjoyed more (although in my defense, I did look and good jobs were scarce on the ground for most of those five years).
On that note, if I had known how many false starts to move elsewhere would have proved fruitless I would have been more proactive about finding a new job anyway, instead of putting up with it for “six more months.”
Along the same lines, I might have looked for a new and better flat. Our former managers seem to walked off with all of the tenets deposit money, which has meant we have to pay this month’s rent again to our new managers and other assorted troubles. I would say I’m surprised, except that they were terrible managers. Though good at kicking up a fuss, I don’t always enjoy doing so and thus I put up with leaky faucets, patchy heating units, bad wiring, and other problems (some of which took a literal year to resolve, and most of which still haven’t been addressed) long past the time I should have demanded more.
I would have been more proactive in pursuing my own career goals instead of allowing myself to get bogged down worrying about J.’s.
I’d have devoted energy elsewhere in some work assignments. For example, if I had known how little the administration was going to do in replacing me, in spite of 4 months’ notice and a lot of extra effort on my part to prepare, I wouldn’t have argued so much for more time. I would have simply taken the time they allowed me with my trainee and focused on completing some projects to include on a resume, and improved what I could before I left. It would have saved several months of stress and sleepless nights.
I would have tried to see setbacks as opportunities to do something new instead of falling back into safer Plan B’s.
I’d have made a stronger effort to let the opinions of others affect me less. I admit freely that I want to be well thought of, but I might have been more concerned with cultivating specific peoples’ good opinion instead of everybody’s.
I would have been more forceful about my worth. As my duties crept up, and then as I took on two other people’s responsibilities after they quit or retired, I largely allowed it to happen without commentary as to whether my pay should have increased as well. And when I attempted addressing what I was making vs. how significantly my job description had changed, I allowed myself to be shut down too easily. Lesson seriously learned.
I would have taken more classes. I had some idea of doing a masters program while working, but the administration shot it down (even though they allowed a coworker to do so, grumble). But I did take a couple of online and in class courses, one of which resulted in a publication in a literary magazine. Should have done more, who knows what else I’d have under my belt now.
Basically, looking back and summing up, for the past few years I’ve lived entirely too much in the future and not nearly enough in the now. I fell into the habit of looking forward to change instead of enacting it in the present. At some points I chose safety over risk, and still feel I was right in doing so, but there are some places where I definitely could have tried for a bit more danger. It’s funny how something can become your normal without your realizing it!
But I’m going to do better about being an active force instead of an acted upon object. I’m out of practice, but I have high hopes for myself.
Looking over the last five years, regrets not included, how would you have done things differently knowing what you know now?
“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.”
― Leonard Bernstein
Three weeks from today will be my first day in nearly five years that I don’t have a full time job. Getting there is equal parts exhausting and frustrating, but strangely not in the least terrifying. I thought I would feel more panic or at least fright about the future, but there’s none of that.
The legal team at J.’s future employment has started the ball rolling for our visas.
We have short term housing worked out.
J. has a current job.
I’m getting braver by the day about diving back into freelancing.
My trainee is still struggling mightily and there is so much out of my control when it comes to her training. I can’t force people to hold certifications to suit her time frame, I can’t even always get her to commit to the training time I want. I had to arm wrestle with administration to get what I have now, and the whole experience has been an lesson in a lot of energy expended for very little thanks. I may have to post about that next.
Training itself is challenging, and not just because my trainee has very poor retention! She constantly makes little mistakes and errors – from typos to major data storage snafus – that she does not catch herself. I fear even running to the vending machines now because I’ve come back to find her giving a patron majorly incorrect information, and once stopped her from disseminating highly confidential paperwork. She requires constant supervision. Lest you think I’m being too hard on her, these are things she should already have experience with as a dispatcher, it’s not new aspects to her job at all. I can see why they are trying to find her a new position, but I’m surprised they think giving her mine is a way to minimize damage.
It is the end of my semester and my supervisor is truly swamped with trying to get her assignments completed, and so she is not as available for me to address concerns with her. It’s not her fault, but the business culture of my office is (unfortunately) rather dog eat dog and I honestly worry about being blamed for my trainee’s lack of knowledge once I’m gone and no longer able to respond to such criticism. That sort of thing has happened to others in the past and I’m anxious to avoid being another casualty of it.
My new 6:30am drop off time is seriously hurting. I’m in a perpetual state of nearly-but-not-quite sick and due to the way schedules fall out we often don’t get home until after 6 or 7pm at night. At which time we need to cook, clean, and run any number of other errands. Last night I didn’t get dinner on the stove until nearly 9pm – the hour I wanted to be in bed. Speaking of dinner, a diet of pizza and cereal because we have not been able to make it to a grocery store during normal business hours isn’t helping. Dinner was a heavy duty vegetable minestrone to combat fears of scurvy!
Three weeks from today is going to be a good morning! The next 20 days are going to be stressful in the extreme. Perk me up, kittens, bring me your offerings of humorous tidbits, words of wisdom, or even commiseration as I do battle with elusive retailers for the MP and rewrite another section of my manual for my trainee!
“Monday is a lame way to spend 1/7 of your life.”
– Author Unknown
Weekend was a blur of family photos, a bit of local activism, and many dinners. For the first time in memory, Sunday dinner at my godparents spread out over three tables (plus one for the kids)! All wonderful but not exactly relaxing. Hence when I stumbled through the office doors this morning at that hated time 6:30am, I didn’t even try to force wakefullness; I just set another alarm and fell haphazardly onto the loan sofa in the department. I awoke an hour later covered in some sort of sofa-fuzz that needed a lint roller to resolve, but refreshed and ready to start the day.
Until our housing management company called and said our previous managers did not properly transfer our deposit so they have no record of our prepayment of this month’s rent. Currently, we’re tracking down four year old bank account information to prove ourselves and liking our former managers less and less by the minute (although to be fair we like the new ones quite a bit. We just wish they’d been our managers to start with as I imagine if they had been we would not currently be having these issues). I spent lunch wheedling information out of some people who did not want to give it to me and chasing information up phone trees like a metaphoric cat. And my trainee forgot every single thing I taught her on Thursday – plus she’s taking two days off next week which is two days of training she won’t get and desperately needs, since I only have 16 days left.
Mondays. I do not recommend them. Pizza for (a late) dinner, I think. Onward.
“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
- Albert Einstein
Last week was hard, kittens. Sleep deprived, having to cover for coworkers out of the office, training replacement, too many projects, borderline cold that never materialized hard. I was not sorry to limp out of the office Friday. Luckily I had brunch on Saturday with Jane and a phone call with Peregrine to set me up cheerful again and I took Sunday off to just relax – something, it turns out I’m really bad at doing. Comically bad.
20 days left at the PD. Four weeks from today is my last.
My trainee is flying my desk so I’ve taken up residence in a corner of the front counter with my laptop (lugged from home every morning) and tea. It’s uncomfortable and requires a bit of contortion, but I’m pretty chipper (see again: 20 days).
We’re starting to gear up for selling our possessions right from underneath ourselves. Local minions, or those who know anyone looking locally, in need of some household goods/furniture, let me know.
Family portraits this week for J.’s side. Which is substantially larger than mine and looks to be a major production! All of his siblings and their children will be in town, which will be fun since his whole clan doesn’t get together too often.
Things I shall not miss about the PD – being told to take lunch breaks and to not worry about assisting patrons when I’m clocked out (even if no one else is available), only to be reprimanded for not being available to assist a patron because I’d clocked out for a lunch break. Le sigh.
The babies on either side of us are still wailing nightly. Reasons to look forward to moving out.
― Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics
I’ve been watching a parable in motion the last little while, minions, and the results of pondering on it have been varied.
I’m training my replacement at work. She is a very kind, good natured woman who loves her dogs and is a bit too generous to unappreciative family members. But she is getting old and is increasingly unable to do the job she has now, and the department (in an effort to care for its people) wants to shift her somewhere else without letting her go. It’s a very noble idea and I admire the sentiment behind it, but the application of it has been really frustrating to adapt to. Because, though she is a lovely woman, she lacks some basic work skills that people take for granted these days. I thought I would have to train her on responding to media requests, it turns out I’m teaching her how to cut and paste in electronic documents.
It’s uphill work and sometimes I get frustrated with her lack of focus and memory retention (she is older and not in excellent health), but working with her has been an insight into how I must look coming out of survivalist mode and into a new professional landscape. Here’s the problem I (and a few other friends I’ve talked to about this) am facing. I’m ambitious, I want to work hard, and I want to learn new skills. But I’m mediocre.
I’m not talking about personality or aptitude (although that may be a conversation to be had when my ego is less fragile), I mean that I am indistinguishable in many ways from a lot of other workers.
I work at a university, and every year the incoming class of freshman – though admittedly growing, in my opinion, more loutish every year – have skills that I don’t have. For the purposes of creating and marketing content, there are more ways now than there were when I graduated less than a handful of years ago. These kids understand them almost intuitively because they make up the world they move and operate in. I was born before the internet, the nephews and nieces we visited this evening have known how to operate smartphones since the could scoot haphazardly across the floor. Frankly that same dubious personality and aptitude might be my best selling points currently, because looking over the skills and resumes of friends (to say nothing of these freshmen)…I have got catching up to do!
When I say I’ve been in survivalist mode, I mean it. An entry level job where I have been able to gain some work skills, but precious few for the industry I want to work in, and even fewer local opportunities to pursue them elsewhere. There was no other work to be had when I graduated, and within two months of my graduation work got even harder to find. I was lucky I had the ability to put food in my mouth, so I hunkered down and focused on surviving – I’m only in retrospect realizing how stressed and scary it’s been, just surviving. I see how people get stuck doing it. I’ve always believed that to lever yourself up out of anything, poverty, ignorance, or bad circumstance, required a foothold of some kind, something to push yourself off of. I believe that now more than ever because I’ve been living without a foothold for a long time (with a good education even) and it’s rough. It’s limiting. It doesn’t allow you to pay enough attention to peripheral developments that can help you.
That’s what happened to my trainee. She learned how to do one thing and one thing only. In the meantime things developed (like email and word processors) and she was so busy surviving on her one skill that now she can no longer do it, the road to learning to do something else is a hundred times more challenging for everyone involved.
Moral of the story: never quit adapting, minions. Mediocrity is optional.
To that end I’m reaching out to friends and acquaintances I admire who can help point me in the direction to gain skills I lack. I’m using every interaction I have for the MP to try and learn something useful and use it to be more effective. I am trying to remember how to be creative and more proactive after a few years of monotony and prescription. I’m trying (and gah, the sentimentality of this hurts physically to type) to be more optimistic and brave than I’ve needed to be for a long time. It feels a bit scary and uncomfortable, to be honest, like stretching muscles and parts that have atrophied when I wasn’t looking. I’m not special at all, and that’s okay. It just needs to be remedied.
Alright, that’s it! Everyone out of the confessional! Er, unless you have some wise words or musings to add in which case let’s just quietly snag those wafers and wine to munch on and slip back in to chat.
“While I don’t believe that money guarantees happiness, I know it helps. Because money can buy you the freedom to live life 100% on your own terms.”
– Brian Tracy
I’m loathe to confess this, ducklings, but it’s the truth: I’m a walking cliche. Money concerns have stressed me out over the past year and a half, and it’s probably made me a bit less good humored. Winding down my first Real Live Grownup job is contributing somewhat to that stress. I know it’s the right time to leave, J. has a signed contract to start a new position in mere months, we’re not going to starve and we’ve planned pretty wisely for it, but the truth is I’m a bit freaked out.
Getting our student loans for J.’s graduate degree and then immediately turning around and paying it to a school was a whiplash inducing experience: I’d never personally handled that much money in my life and in a matter of weeks it came and went. Our usual expenses became much more tightly managed with those loan payments every month. We’ve streamlined and budgeted and still almost every penny is spoken for each paycheck. It’s a satisfactory but not very reassuring state.
Here’s the thing – we’re good with money. Really! I put 10% of each paycheck into savings without exception, I pay into my 401k and have made smart choices in managing it, we take care of our property for reselling when it becomes necessary, and we’re not extravagant. J. and I both operate under the frugality now, security later mentality; we believe in delayed gratification. But money and its management have gotten a lot more complex over the last few years and frankly I now understand why my parents (who were not wealthy but were very comfortable when I was growing up) were always talking about it and making financial adjustments and budgets. It doesn’t matter how good you are with it, I think money is terrifying, especially when you don’t make much.
And I don’t. Part of the reason I feel it’s the right time for me to try and move on is because I don’t think I’m paid enough – which feels weird to write. I spent the first couple years of my job just thankful to have it, but I’ve watched duties and responsibilities add up without review of what those jobs are actually worth and it’s been frustrating. The university doesn’t do merit based wage increases and the opportunities for raises are almost nonexistent. My boss actually told me at my last annual review a month or so ago that if I were staying they probably would have had HR come in and complete an inquiry to see if my salary should be raised. Which is nice to hear, but would have been nicer a year ago when my duties were upped significantly after Hennessy quit. I know that I’ll probably start whatever job I take next at a much lower rate than what I currently have (which, I promise, is saying something), but I’ll be willing if I have the option of merit based raises, especially since I expect to start at a bottom rung wherever I get a foot in the door and am willing to work hard to move up.
I graduated just before the financial meltdown, I got a job literally just as Lehman Brothers collapsed and when faced with the pretty terrifying prospect of joining my friends and associates in parents’ basements or collecting unemployment, I chose safety and stayed where I was. Probably longer than I should have, if I’m honest. Nowadays I’m ready for a bit more risk.
A few financial boons have eased the nervousness somewhat as we plan our escape and next stage. Dad found an old bond in my name that I can collect on (after completing the task of tracking down who holds it now since the companies and ownership have transferred quite a bit, especially since the Recession hit). That baby is going straight towards loans and savings! J. picks up odd jobs where he can and assisted writing an article for a business magazine which brought in some extra income. We’re not starving – if I’m objective and rational we are a long ways off from it.
But. If the last four years have taught me anything, watching my grandparents’ retirement vanish practically overnight with the financial collapse, feeling my financial obligations grown disproportionately to my income, working on the MP and seeing how hard hit some professions in particular have been by the new financial reality…it’s that I know exactly how quickly monetary security can go away. I think I’ve become just a little more paranoid.
Weigh in, minions, and be honest! Have financial concerns taken on a different hue to you because of external forces? What have the past couple of years looked like for the Minion Coterie? Do money and financial planning cause you stress, even when you’re good at it? Am I unnecessarily paranoid – or is this worry common? Talk to me, I’m really interested in a broad perspective here.
PS – As a further effort to cut expenses I just made my last want-based purchase for the entirety of 2013. Hold me to it, minions, if I breathe a word about shopping in anything but hypothetical terms before Christmas, strike me down!
“I am not convinced that one ever knows quite enough to come down with a full condemnation.”
- Julian Fellowes, Snobs
I’ve had a surprising amount of recent encounters with people that ended with, “I didn’t think you’d be into that,” or some such variation (although for heaven’s sake, nothing sinister or scandalous!). Even friends and coworkers with whom I’ve spent cumulative years in close proximity. And it got me thinking about how readily all of us form ideas about even our close friends and how even lifelong mates can surprise us. So here’s a few facts to add some nuance:
I really like science fiction. Don’t let the pearls fool you. I admit I’m not entirely up on the canon or all the great authors, but I genuinely enjoy the genre – for the same reason, as it happens, that I enjoy history. Human nature and the human condition interest me. History shows me that humanity has behaved in roughly the same way stretching back millennia, scifi shows me that as far as we can project we’ll be behaving the same ways millennia in the future. Far from discouraging I find that a pleasant thought since I tend to view mankind as a sort of tenacious struggle, always upward.
My first recorded professional ambition was to be the first person to see a giant squid in the wild.
I have terrible handwriting. I have boxes of notebooks kept through middle and high school, piles of scribbles and sketches, and my desk at work is a well organized but tightly packed mass of agendas, notes, and schedules – all handwritten. I still prefer a small leather bound planner to an electronic calendar. I write by hand all the time, and yet for all the practice my penmanship is dreadful.
I prefer salty and savory to sweet almost uniformly.
One of my personal disappointments is that I have a great relationship with my siblings but I don’t know them extremely well. I moved out when my sister was six and she turns sixteen this year, and for the better part of those ten years we’ve lived on separate continent or on the opposite sides of one. That’s ten years of inside jokes and stories that I simply am not privy to and only catch up on during holidays.
I know I have vivid dreams because I catch glimpses of them when I wake up, but I almost never can remember them.
Some girls have the knack for always looking finished and put together. I always feel seconds away from terminal dishevelment and somehow no amount of effort seems to tame the flyaways. I pretend not to care but I’m really self conscious about it and covet the easy polish of some women.
I love reading new books but my secret love is to reread favorites over and over again. J. teases me about how I’ll read some novels a dozen times a year, but there are a select few I never get sick of.
I am a religious person often deeply at odds with my faith. It’s sometimes a rough balancing act, but I think it makes me a more thoughtful person and more deliberate about life. Which is what I think healthy religion is supposed to do, frankly, so in spite of the vexations, I’m okay with the struggle.
So, that’s me. Minions roll call to the front, please, and tell me something about you that I probably don’t know.