Third Charm

This year has been an emotional roller coaster for me. I’ve been searching for a job in a new city.

My current job isn’t awful. The benefits are amazing and the crew I work with is an incredible group of people. However, I feel that I’ve outgrown my job duties and I’m no longer learning and improving.

It’s hard to leave the comfort and security of what I have, but I need to find something else to continue my personal growth.

This stage in my life is coming to a close and it’s time to find a new path.

So I’ve sent out the resumes and dressed up for the interviews. I even had one solid offer and another unofficial offer that was becoming serious. Both times, I walked back out the door after realizing it wasn’t the right fit. And that’s a painful thing to do.

It’s not easy to walk away from an opportunity even when it’s the wrong opportunity. But I’ve accepted wrong jobs in the past and paid for them dearly. I’m not going to make that mistake again. At least not willingly. Employers want their employees to stick around and I want to enjoy the job enough to do just that.

I’m ready to move forward. I’m finding that I want different things from life than I wanted five years ago. Or even two years ago. Somehow, everything has changed and nothing has changed.

I’m searching for opportunity, but I’m also morphing and becoming more solid in myself. Though some people might throw me away, I know I’m more. I am worthy and strong. And even if they can’t see it, I hold value. And I won’t give up.

Someday, this will all be nothing more than memory and I’ll be happy I took the risk.

I’ve heard it said that the less you stretch your comfort zone, the more it begins to shrink. That’s a scary prospect.

Risk makes us feel alive. Many times, I’ve been rewarded for my boldness with wonderful life experiences.

Maybe the third time really will be a charm.

3483453975_075c824fc9

Photo credit: Vicente Alfonso / Foter / CC BY-NC

Advertisements

Pride and Patience

Twelve years. I’m not sure I should admit this out loud. It has been twelve years since I started writing my current book series. And I’m still working on it.

Most professionals would tell me to drop it and start fresh with a new story. If it isn’t right yet, it may never be. I beg to differ (and this is not perfectionism speaking). I could start fresh with a new story, but that’s really what I’ve done through all my drafts. Each time I started, it was a new story. And since I’ve been persistent, it has matured along the way.

Soon, I’ll start a query letter for a book agent and then move on to my next book while I wait. I’m finally ready to see if it can fly. And if not, nothing was lost because I fine-tuned my craft. Those twelve years were my Master of Fine Arts without the tuition fees. My next book will come along faster. I’m sure of that.

We live in a culture that severely lacks this kind of patience. Yes, I know, sometimes you just need to throw in the towel and move on. But sometimes, you need to stick with it. It takes a bit of wisdom and perspective to know which path to take.

2448490111_215e91bdf3_z

I have been forced am learning to be patient. I’ve waited for change for years now. I’d like to go in a new direction, both in career and location. I want to settle into a new house soon. But I’ve been unable to do those things. And it’s been so frustrating.

I’m beginning to see the not-so-harsh reality. I’ve learned from my stay here. I’m stronger in myself and have more confidence in my skills. I can handle more than I used to. I needed to go through all of these challenges to become who I am now. And that takes time. And sometimes time tries your patience.

Just when I’m on the brink of giving up, someone always throws me a bone. When I met my now-husband, I’d given up on the idea of marriage. I was ready to travel the world and let the wind blow me where it would–just not into a man’s arms. Today, I’m happy I took a chance and let him in.

I was who I needed to be at the time we met. A few years earlier, we wouldn’t have liked each other. Both of us agree on that. Time can mold us into better people if we let it.

I have new hope for my future. I just need to set aside my pride and realize that this is just one job. One place on a map. One stage in my life. Better will come. I just have to be patient.

Photo credit: WasabiDoobie / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Working for the Weekend

Perhaps it’s just my age. Maybe I feel a little jaded from the bad luck I’ve had trying to build a career. Either way, I see things much clearer than I once did. There’s a very twisted mentality towards work here in America.

There are some in society who believe that you aren’t working if you aren’t bleeding. They believe that we must work ourselves in a hole with no breaks, no crying, no distractions, and most importantly, no enjoyment (This is work after all).

I know work is a part of life, but that doesn’t mean it should consume our lives. And it’s okay to laugh and enjoy it. I’ve worked for too many companies where laughter is forbidden. But studies prove that this “crack the whip” mentality at work is ineffective compared to the simplicity of letting employees take a break or have some enjoyment in their work.

Check out this study about taking regular breaks at work. Or for less jargon, read this article from The New York Times that references it. This study says that people who take regular breaks are actually more efficient in their work. Without breaks, we become stressed out and less effective while we work.

There are also countless articles like this one that talk about the small amount of vacation days that Americans actually use. We end up sick, stressed, and overworked despite the vacation time that we are given. Don’t even get me started on how far behind we are in the amount of vacation days Americans are given compared to other developed countries.

August was such a crazy time at my job. My boss has been on a three-month leave, so I’m doing half of her job in addition to my full-time job during our busiest time of year. Unfortunately, the lady doing the other half of my boss’ job has the “crack the whip” mentality. There were others that agreed with her, so I was outvoted in taking any sort of break.

We were paid to eat lunch, so we were expected to cram our food and get back to it immediately. I would rather have clocked out and been allowed to catch my breath for just a few minutes. And those legal 15 minute breaks that are supposed to be included in your workday here in America? I haven’t worked a job yet that included them (in my 15 years in the workforce). It isn’t about to start now.

At the end of the terrible storm that was August, we had more corrections than I’ve ever had to deal with. So many mistakes were made. Most of those mistakes could have been prevented if we weren’t so overworked and frantic. Most were simply a matter of paying attention, but we were too tired to catch it. We spent a significant amount of overtime dealing with these mistakes in the aftermath. It cost us our sanity and our employer the overtime.

Had we been given the breaks we should have been given (both legally and ethically), much of this could have been avoided. I wouldn’t have had to dedicate my entire month to work. I came home, showered, and was too tired to do anything, even the things I enjoy. I went to bed early every night because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Every morning, I would cringe and sigh as I lay in bed. My life had been consumed by work without my permission.

Now, I’m not against working hard and I’m not saying we should all be lazy. But if you work hard, you should be allowed to play hard. Better balance in our workplace could help both employees and employers. If everyone wins, why do we resist?

I know a LOT of Americans who deny themselves breaks and buy into this mentality. They are shamed otherwise. They’re told that breaks are a sign of laziness. To work hard is to never stop. They are told that hard-workers don’t need breaks. That we can do it all. The way our society has painted “hard work” is slave labor. It’s wrong. I don’t know why we are so keen to destroy ourselves or let someone else destroy us. I’d rather thrive.

Working hard doesn’t mean all those things that “Corporate America” has burned into our brains. We can work smarter instead of longer. And smarter means we all win. Breaks are not evil. Laughter is acceptable at work. We can work AND enjoy it. That will make us better, not worse employees.

My millennial generation has watched companies promise great things to their employees (like pensions, improved wages, etc) and not follow-through. I distrust my employer and the government. Neither will follow-through. The government isn’t going to take care of me in retirement. And when I reach a certain age, my employer may eagerly trade me in for a newer (i.e. younger and cheaper) model. It has happened to people I know.

This whole situation has showed me the bright side of entrepreneurship. I feel braver now. And though starting my own business is a scary concept (my husband and I are still rolling this idea around), it’s starting to seem more inviting. I don’t want to reach retirement just in time to die. I want to have a high quality of life. And I hope work can be a part of that. Too many people have worn out their health from employers who demand that they work as slaves. Instead of enjoying their retirement, they are sick and frail by the time they get there. I’d rather have less money and more health.

Take a well-earned break today. And make a better tomorrow for yourself. One that you deserve.

It would help all of us if we stopped working for the weekend and starting enjoying all aspects of our lives, work included.

Happy Labor Day!

Not Quite There

Photo credit: derekskey / Foter / CC BY

My dreams once felt within my grasp. But there are times they float a little farther from me. But like a balloon on a string, they never go too far. Some days I feel like letting go of the string. But I can’t. This string is tied to me. In the rash movement of emotion, I can’t undo the knot. And once my mind calms, I realize I don’t want to untie it.

Some days, I sit and wish my lost hope would return. Then I feel a gentle tug. The dream is still there and within it lives hope. Never too far away.

Our eyes see what we want them to see. We can easily overlook the horrible things we see in the street, turning them into an unimportant blur in our memory. We can convince ourselves we are 12 feet tall and invincible or that we stand small as a thimble. If we are invisible, it is because we have made ourselves unnoticeable.

That gentle tug of our dreams isn’t always enough to pull us out of our own self-induced sadness. We’ve told our eyes that it’s dark and we can’t see, despite the lanterns lighting the way. We tell our cold legs that they can’t go on, despite the warm sun on the horizon. How easy it is to fall into that pit of despair when there is less to despair than we want to believe.

Life can be dramatic. Or we can make it so. And that can work in two different ways. We can be enthused and in awe of what’s around us in such a passionate display that people stop and take notice. Or we can convince ourselves that all is lost and there is no way out, even when the doorway is within sight.

The craziest thing about all of it is that we are in control. We have so much more control of our lives than we often believe. But we don’t have to take charge of our fate. We can sit quietly in place and let the world pass us by with all of the good and bad it may or may not bring. Anyone can live a passive life.

I want to live an adventure.

I want to stop in my tracks and gawk at the wonder surrounding me. I want to appreciate the things that have been put here to be appreciated. I want to see potential where others see misfortune. I want to reach up when I feel like collapsing down.

That comes from within. And if it’s not there now, it can be nurtured back in from wherever you buried it, no matter how long ago. But it takes time and patience. Self-forgiveness can be just as difficult as standing tall during trials.

Today, choose to see the best. See what could be instead of what is lacking.

Love instead of hate.

Be alive!

You will get there someday.

Photo credit: derekskey / Foter / CC BY

Clarity and Chance

Photo credit: garrettc / Foter / CC BY-NC

Clarity. Sometimes when you really want something bad enough you have to be willing to take a chance to get it. And sometimes that chance seems illogical. I’ve been wanting to switch jobs and cities for longer than I’d like to admit. And recently, I’ve had the opportunity to interview for a new position in the city I’d like to live in. There were several catches to it, though. Schedule, longer commute on certain days, etc. But despite that, I was ready to dive in.

There were a lot of good reasons to accept a job offer there. I felt like I would get along with my boss and I liked the culture at this company. Signs pointed to yes. The office manager even told me I was the top candidate. It seemed like I had the position, albeit unofficially.

But the call-back after the interview made me nervous. Now there was a second candidate they were considering. It was very confusing. I just knew that the call-back would be a job offer, not another stage in the process. All of this has been an emotional roller coaster. So much so that my stomach bothered me.

I began to doubt. And on top of these doubts, there were circumstances at work where I would leave my coworkers stranded and without help for a significant amount of time by leaving now. Guilt weighed on me.

Everyone told me that I had to do what was best for me. And most of the people I confided in seemed to think that leaving was what was best for me. And for a while, so did I.

I have had a lot of crummy jobs. I’ve been bruised and beaten (metaphorically) by previous employers. I was giving too much of myself to them and in reality, they didn’t care about me. Since then, I’ve grown stronger and more assertive. And up until now, I’ve always taken any job offered to me.

I worried about this job not being the right job in the right time. In the end, I turned down the position. It was bittersweet. My stomach is no longer bothering me, but I can’t deny the disappointment. I’m still hoping for something to change. And I’m doing my best to bring the change out. Perhaps by listening to my instincts, I will find the best fit in the best time.

I don’t truly know if that job was the right job. But I know the timing was off and I feel like it was best to walk away.

It took a lot of careful consideration. For the past few years, I’ve felt that my life has been on hold. I need a new start in a new place. My husband and I want to buy a house, but we don’t want to stay in the city we live in. So buying a house must wait. Career-wise, I’m not making the best money. In fact I’m underpaid for what I do. Thus, other financial goals (and even the thought of kids) must wait. The list goes on and on.

The chance to move on to something new was very tempting. But last time I was overly hasty without considering the consequences of my choice, I ended up trapped in a job that stole my health, sanity, and eventually topped my list of the worst job I’ve ever had. It was awful and I hope I never have to go through anything like that again. Something in my gut told me to run very early on in that job. I could have backed out. But I didn’t listen to my gut. And I paid dearly for it.

For now, I’ll still keep on fighting for change. I think the best change comes with clarity and taking a chance. I’ve taken a chance in walking away from this opportunity, but that leaves me open for something that could be better or better timed. We shall see.

The best decision isn’t always the easiest decision.

Photo credit: garrettc / Foter / CC BY-NC

Kicked Out

When you’re young, there are lots of expectations put on you. Parents expect chores to be done and grades up to standard. Teachers expect good behavior and attentive students. Friends expect you to be there for them and to fit into the group dynamic. And society has its own set of expectations and rules too numerous to list.

As I’m getting older, I’m starting to feel like some of those expectations are lessening. It’s a little easier without the teachers and classmates I used to see everyday. As an adult, I have less friends and my parents have less expectations of me. This transition has been hard on me as a former star student.

I’m weaning myself off of the need for reassurance and praise from the people I know. At first, I felt like the people who cared about me cared no longer. I misinterpreted the lack of usual expectations to lack of love. It was lonely.

My loved ones still have some expectations for me, but perhaps not as many. It was not done out of malice. It was so I could grow and become mature enough to make my own decisions. A kick out of the nest per se.

The reality is that it was a lifting of restriction. And that is freeing. I have been given this gift of freedom. And now, outside of so many expectations, I can do anything I want. As if that’s not slightly frightening. But freedom is not what we expect it to be. Insecurity is parked next to freedom and it likes to travel alongside.

Next to security is comfort, but as nice and cozy as comfort can be, there are dangers to getting too comfortable. Lack of challenge seems to lessen character and comfort can lead to laziness if you’re not careful.

In theory, I’d take the freedom with insecurity. But realistically, that’s easier said than done. Especially when insecurity rears its nasty, pointed head.

I must learn to fly. That’s the only way to feel the free air against my face. One step at a time. Just a little closer to the edge. Past the fear lies my destiny. And I want more than this nest of twigs and dirt.

My Better Half

There’s a saying that your significant other is your better half. I know it’s meant to be a compliment to them, but I’m beginning to realize that it’s really an insult to both of us. I’ve been downgraded by society since I got married. Somehow, I went from being a full, independent person to being viewed as half of a person.

Together, we are not two halves. We are two FULL people now unified by our commitment to each other. I refuse to accept that marriage has downgraded me to half a person.

But not everyone agrees. I lost a lot of friends when I got married. Suddenly, my single friends didn’t think we could hang out or relate. I didn’t change; my marital status did. I’m half a person to them (and now a stranger).

I also feel like I’ve been thrown away by others close to me. They think it doesn’t matter if I don’t have a career, because my husband will take care of me. But I didn’t waste thousands of dollars and four years in college just to throw away any aspiration of having my own career.

Even in the closest relationships, it’s important for both people to have some measure of independence and individual goals. Otherwise you end up co-dependent, which doesn’t allow for a healthy relationship.

I used to think feminists were just crazy ladies imagining inequality, but as I’ve gotten older, I see what they see. After all, I’m living in the gender gap. I’ve been thrown away, even by people who may not have meant to throw me away. Even by people who care about me. They care, but they don’t think I have what it takes to get by in the world on my own.

The better half of me has been disregarded. My better half consists of my skills, talents, drive, etc. Instead of being recognized for the better parts of me, I’m seen as only a woman. No one to take note of.

I practice target archery. Though I’m not the only female archer in my area, there tend to be more men than women. On one of our casual shoots, there was a guy I’d never met before. And I was the only female there.

Before we got started, he told me not to giggle during the shoot. It was a tasteless, sexist joke, but I smiled at him and brushed it off. Then he brought it up again mid-shoot. I still managed to shrug it off again, but afterwards it really bothered me.

He had no intention of taking me serious as an archer, despite the fact that I out-shot my husband at that shoot. This man saw me as some giggling schoolgirl instead of another competitor. I didn’t come there to giggle. I came there to shoot. Just like him and every other archer there. Why should I be considered the fool?

Think of how ridiculous he would sound if he said that to one of the guys. They wouldn’t have tolerated it. And honestly, I shouldn’t have either. I’m tired of being treated as a naive, foolish girl when I am a grown, capable woman. Yes, I compete with the men, because it’s about my skill level, not my gender.

This needs to stop. All these labels need to stop. A person cannot be fully described by one word. They are so much more than that. I am not just a female. He’s not just a gay man. She’s not just a mother. The list goes on.

We are so much more than the label forced upon us.

And that is what the world is truly afraid of.

5905921531_1b842f514a_z

Photo credit: jjay69 / Source / CC BY-NC-SA