Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fear of Writing

I quit my job just over two weeks ago, and while the bustle of Christmas and New Years kept me distracted for a good chunk of it, I'm back at my San Francisco apartment, where the days are inching toward mid-January and reality is quickly setting in. A very different reality, one where I can sleep in, make an elaborate breakfast and have the apartment sparkling before CJ comes in from work.

As for the middle chunk of the day—after the elaborate breakfast and before the tidying up process is imminent—your guess is as good as mine. I've intentionally been slow-playing the job hunt, although my strategy could use some work. The idea of being unemployed and draining my savings puts a lump in my throat, but its because of that fear that I picked a job so frivolously the last time. I choose jobs today the same as I did when I was 18. You'll hire me? That's good enough for me.

This last job was a deserved and needed slap in the face. I can remember being told in college that job interviews should really go two ways but I never quite understood it. If someone is willing to hand me a paycheck every week and provide health insurance, I'll be damned if I'm asking them what more they can do for me.

By my count, I've worked 12 jobs since the age of 14, and for the most part they continue to get better, simply because experience and education have opened up greater opportunities. There are probably few places as incredible as San Francisco when it comes to opportunity and benefits, so to see the kinds of careers my friends and boyfriend fall into has really opened my eyes to how much better it can be, if you push for it. That's the biggest difference between them and me. Asking for it, expecting it, pushing for it. You spend so much of your life at your job, after all. Being selfish and particular about it suddenly doesn't seem so crazy.

The last time I was hunting for a job was only a year ago, and I don't want a track record of bouncing around or becoming bored easily. The job I had prior to that I stuck with for three years and enjoyed. I learned a lot about myself and the career I'd chosen. My reasons for leaving were pretty simple and I'd imagine common: the audience I was writing for was a niche group and I was ready to expand, and I knew I could find better pay elsewhere. Our CEO was reasonable but frugal. So I began looking, and very quickly had two job offers on my plate. One was a startup and a much bigger risk; the salary was a slight jump from what I was making, with potential for growth depending on hitting certain goals. But without much intel into the company's resources and current stats, it was difficult to know just how far-fetched those goals were. Bigger risk.

The second job offered lots of opportunity for travel, a much higher pay rate—and one thing I knew I wanted to check off my bucket list before it was gone entirely. It was a print magazine, and whether it's a dying skill or not, I wanted to know what went into producing a print publication. I wanted to be able to look back and tell people I worked for print once. I understood it. Sure, it's working backwards, but it's a shrinking opportunity that I may never have the chance to do again. So I was all in. The travel was amazing (and instantly turned me into a hotel snob), the pay was comfy, and I quickly moved up to oversee the editorial team. I won't get into all the hairy details, but I'll say for every pro, there were five cons. Some of which I would have noticed had I asked any questions during the interview process. Real questions, not the fluffy stuff you find when googling "interview questions."

I don't regret the experience, I came away with a lot of lessons—more than I would expect to learn in a year. And here I am again, hopefully a bit smarter. At the very least, pickier.

That was a very big tangent—circling back to how I'm spending the majority of my days off. Do you ever sit at work and daydream about being home? About having three-day weekends, or snow days? I feel like every time it rains I stare out my office window thinking, I'd give anything to be at home right now, in comfy clothes, sipping coffee on the couch devouring a book. Or I picture the giant to-do list that never gets done and telling myself, I just need one more day on the weekends and I'd get it all done.

I'm sure there are people out there who, if in my current position, would do all of those things. They'd tackle the honey-do list, catch up on all their reading, and whatever else they never have time for. But for reasons I'm having a hard time identifying, I'm struggling to do anything. I feel as if I burnt up all of my motivation in those first few days. I cleaned, I got rid of two trash bags worth of old food and other things in the cabinets, I went to the craft store and completed all of the crafty things on my to-do list. Actually, making this list is making me feel better, but it's deceptive. Collectively, I've gotten a lot done. But day to day, I'm doing all of the things I promised I wouldn't do while not working. I'm sleeping in. Watching TV—daytime TV. Is there anything more gross than daytime TV? Every time I decide I'm going to go do something, it takes me hours to do it. I don't know exactly what I'm debating or what keeps me from just going, but even when I acknowledge that I'm stalling, I can't push myself to just go.  Eventually I get done what I set out to, but because I left the house at 2 instead of 9, by the time I get back, CJ is on his way home and it's time to make dinner, and ta-daaa, in a day I accomplished one thing, plus dinner.

It's rare moments like this that make me question if I'll ever have the ability to successfully freelance. I've always dreamed that when I have children I'll be successful enough as a writer to make a steady income working from home freelancing on a variety of topics. I've done a good deal of research on freelancing (the majority of which was immediately after graduating) and while it was a bit intimidating, I've met plenty of people who do it. The problem is, to make a real living at it, you need the willpower to push those assignments. You need to be writing and researching as much as you would at a full-time office job.  I tell myself sometimes that the reason I can't focus is because there isn't a dedicated space to do so; that when I have a home and a home office, everything will be different. But I'm thinking that's bullshit and frankly a poor way of thinking about it. There are so many success stories about people with such limited resources, because they want it more. If and when the day comes that I start working out of a home office, my mindset should be, look at what I did from a 400-square-foot dark apartment. Just imagine what I can do now? 

I tell myself constantly that I need to be more motivated, more driven, more disciplined. No one is ever hard on me, including myself, and while that seems like an odd thing to complain about, it's how I got here. I think about the idea of motivation and motivated people constantly and it's like I just sit and wait for it to kick in. The idea of starting a new job and going to back to the usual waiting for the weekend so I can get everything accomplished is just hanging over my head.

January has the potential to be successful even if I head into February still on the job hunt. By the time I've started a new job, these are the things I'd like to say I've accomplished.

  • Run 6 miles (I can never seem to get past 4-5 consecutively)
  • Complete online courses in Photoshop, photography and social media marketing
  • Finish A Gentleman in Moscow 
  • Get everything needed to complete gallery wall (and then hang it all)
  • Find the right destination and book a vacation for later this year 
  • Find and sign up for a writing contest 
  • Blog twice per week 
  • Search for and pursue freelance opportunities 

Yet again, here's to blogging to hold myself accountable.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Well-Timed Comeback

I'm a little bummed I haven't posted since June. I'd say once every other week there's a second that I think, Oh yeah, I need to post, and then in an instant the thought is gone.

Today is November 8. It's election night. And up until about five hours ago, like thousands of other Americans, I didn't think the next presidency was a question. Projections, or at least the projections I've seen, have been nothing but Hillary. Here we are, 10 PM, and only a few states are undetermined as too close to call. Trump for all intents and purposes has it in the bag.

As an American, it's horrifying. I can't imagine putting myself in the shoes of any minority American. To be a Muslim right now... to be a minority right now.

This is by no means a comprehensive look into this election.  I'm ill informed, because I have rarely tuned into these debates. I've kept my mouth shut for the most part because I don't see the point in debating with friends or acquaintances. It doesn't feel educational or helpful. I won't see their side or perspective. That sounds close minded, I know. It is closed minded. The only way I can explain it is, if I had a friend that I found out was a KKK supporter, no, I wouldn't feel the need to give them a moment to explain their stance.  A dramatic comparison, maybe.

The scariest thing is how upset half the country is about to be no matter the outcome. Protest grow more and more violent, I feel like we're waiting for the next violent outburst. And not that protestors need an excuse, but this is a pretty good one anyway, isn't it?

Though I will be back soon, I'd like to look back at this post in the distant future and think, thank god this wasn't as bad as it seemed.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Breaking Up with Friends

This is twice now that I’m blogging from an unconnected notepad to later post—and the gap in time between posts means I’m failing at keeping up the habit. Lots of travel and a title change that boosted my workload significantly, so nearly all habits I’ve been working on are suffering. Less writing, less gym, and I’m even finding that I prefer day dreaming on my commute instead of reading. I partially blame the book I’m reading, but I’m being stubborn about stopping and starting with a new one. 

My fears about the fourth book in the Stieg Larsson series came true: the story line is solid, but I’m disappointed with the writing itself. Dialogs seem so unrealistic, and I’m curious if that means the writing is worse or the translation is worse, or maybe both. I believed it, like the originals, was translated from Swedish to English. 

But I’m halfway done with it and still feel too invested in it the plot to quit. I don’t know if there has ever been a book I started reading willfully that I didn’t finish. I just seems wrong, and I always convince myself its going to get better.  Catcher in the Rye for example, I felt like I was obligated to love, because who doesn’t love it? It’s an American classic, etc. etc. I hated it. I mean I hated it. But even with 40 pages left I was telling myself, it can’t be that awful. There has to be some epic ending that has me understanding everyone else’s love for this goddamned novel. 

I’m distracting myself from what I came to write about.

I had this lightbulb moment over the weekend that was gratifying in a way but at the same time extremely saddening. I was hosting a group high school friends for the weekend for two brides-to-be…both getting married this summer. I always get this pat-on-the-back reaction that its so fantastic we’re all such good friends still; thats such an accomplishment, etc. 

And I guess, what they mean is, good for you guys for working out all the differences that come along with getting older.  For making the time and effort for each other and staying so closely connected. Everyone knows how difficult it can be to stay in touch. (Which is silly—its not hard to pick up a phone or text…hard isn’t the right word, and yet, so few people can keep up with it).  It’s a habit, but if you don’t think of it as one, its a habit no one can enforce. 

C.J. calls one of his best friends on the same day of the week at the same time, without fail. And if his friend—who has two children, a wife, a house, a new job, and very little time to chitchat—doesn’t pick up, C.J. calls the next day. And the next day. And it isn’t annoying or intrusive. It isn’t trying too hard. It’s his way of telling his best friend he’s always going to make the effort. They live across the country from each other and on two different planets (a new father and a single guy don’t have too much in common anymore) but just having a person who you know is committed to staying close and who will listen for as long as you’re willing to talk is really all either of them need to keep that friendship going. 

Anyway, my lightbulb moment was, keeping our friendship alive all this time isn’t an accomplishment—certainly not one we should be applauded for doing. Because we’re keeping something alive that we should put to rest. That’s tough to say. I’ve known most of them for more than twenty years now. They know me—knew me—better than anyone. And I don’t don’t doubt that any of us care for each other any less than we did when we were all living in the same town and tight knit. But being with them for days at a time made me realize we have grown apart, and our friendship isn’t a healthy one. Not to me. 

The way I described it to C.J. is the only way I can really put it: We have two very different definitions of fun. If I go into detail it sounds snotty or that I’m talking down on them somehow, and I don’t want that, so I’ll leave it at that. What’s fun for me isn’t fun for them, and vice versa. And I don’t know if a friend you can’t have fun with is a friend. They’ll always be girls I love. I’ll always have so many memories connected to them. But every recent memory, every experience leaves me stressed, sad and wanting to be alone. 

It’s funny, without them, I don’t have any other real friends that I consider best friends. But I do have friends that know me, that I have fun with, that I trust. Maybe its because there isn’t much history there that it doesn’t feel the same. But if I could choose one or the other on a Friday night, its the group that may have no idea where I went to school or what my hometown was like, but they make me laugh. They don’t argue, ever. 

I told my mom all this when I got back from the weekend, and its funny. Her reaction was almost as if she’d been waiting to hear it.  Granted, most times when I’m home, she hears the brunt of it, so none of it was a shock. But I think looking at it from the outside, she’s been seeing me drift from them over time, where to me it felt a little sudden. 

The part that I’m stuck on is, what now? I don’t need or want to turn this into some dramatic goodbye. For one, there are still a few that I do want to stay good friends with. And there will be plenty of situations that I see them. I’m not trying to burn bridges or create awkward situations. But I want to be able to visit my parents without feeling obligated to see everyone…and that will not go over well. Not the first time anyway. Is there a mild way to put, I’d rather not spend the little time I have at home around all of you? Can I Ross it and say I need a break? Probably not, I see them maybe 3 times a year at most as it is, with the exception of this year, because of all the weddings and the events that come with them.

While I mostly feel sad, and I know I’ll feel sadder when its out in the open, I also feel a bit of relief. I kind of love the idea of going home and having the entire time to spend with my family and CJ’s family instead of running around trying to squeeze in as much as possible. I’m officially old.

Friday, May 27, 2016


I arrived exceptionally early to the airport this evening, due to a combination of Memorial Day weekend traffic paranoia and some TSA understaffing drama, which fortunately were both non-issues, but it gave me a chance to peruse around the bookstore for longer than usual, which I love.

I can typically spend hours reading the backs of books and puttering, although the chance to do so doesn't come up too often. And tonight here it was, but I spent nearly all the time I had contemplating one thing. Steig Larsson's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy is hands down the greatest thing I've ever read. Each individual book on its own and the series together; I've never been so entranced by a story or characters. Lisbeth is the most intoxicating character I've ever come to find in fiction, and I'll admit, I was a little behind when I started reading them, unaware that their beyond-brilliant author was already gone, and there would never be another part of the series.

Again, very behind on all-things Lisbeth, I'd completely missed the news that someone would be picking up (or trying to) where Larsson left off. And here it was, the fourth book in the series, years later. My first thought when I realized what it was was total excitement. And then, so many other things. How gutsy. How dangerous. How potentially disappointing. Writing a novel is complicated enough without writing someone else's novel. One that already has so many complex characters, so many fans, so many plot lines.

So the contemplation, although I knew I would buy it, was, do I dare? If it's a disappointment, will I regret it? Not for the money or the wasted time but, the way a sequel can ruin the original for you when it's done wrong, will this crush my love for these stories?

It's a bit dramatic, yes, and like I said, I knew the second I saw it I would buy it. I couldn't step away knowing there's a next part to the story. And I've done no research yet to find out who the author is. I'm curious if he's spoken publicly about his decision to write it. Did he know Larsson personally? If he did, does that make the decision easier or more complicated? Was he a writer of crime fiction before? A writer before? A lover of this series?

All the confidence in the world couldn't make me continue a book I had that much love for that was started by another person. No matter how much you think you know, you can never get inside the writer's head, dead or alive. You'll never know what was intended for the characters. What additional back-stories the author had that weren't included in their entirety in the stories.

Then there's an entire other issue of tone and language, but who knows, maybe that's easier to mimic.

Boarding the plane, book in hand, expecting the best and the worst. I've never nerded out so hard. He was just so goddamn talented.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Remember boredom?

Something occurred to me today out of seemingly nowhere: I can't remember the last time I was bored. I was walking toward the bus stop that would take me home from another long day of work, and I was thinking about how my to-do list will never be over. Not my work to-do list, not my home to-do list. There are weeks that I make good dents and there are weeks that I lag or that more things than usual get piled on, but even if I had one productive week after another, I can't conceive getting to the bottom of those lists.

There are points in my week that I'm doing nothing, sure. Laying on the couch, hypnotized by the TV. But frankly I feel like the downtime is necessary. If all my rebooting time was strictly to sleep, I'd be miserable. I need some mindless goofing off. Both for me and my relationship with boyfriend, CJ. But at no point does the mindlessness last long enough to come close to bored. At some point something in me turns on that says I've had enough nothing and it's time to do something again.

When I try to think back to the last time I was really bored, the kind of bored that makes you want to fling your head back and grunt, I think of summers as a kid. The days when no friends were free to play, no computer existed to kill the time, and TV could only stave off boredom for so long; I can remember pacing around my house, begging my parents for any form of entertainment. Following my mom up and down the aisles of the grocery store because anything was better than sitting in my room, staring at the toys that just didn't do it for me anymore.

Sitting at the bus stop, wondering if I would ever be that bored again, I thought of two things. One, any parent out there with several kids, multiple jobs and a home to take care of would laugh at my idea of being "too busy" for boredom. I admit, my to do list isn't strenuous, really at home or work.

The second thing was, is there a point when that boredom comes back? We assume that the elderly  are bored, and often that's a reasonable assumption; our grandparents seem so happy to have just a moment of our time to talk about anything. It's also probably very situational. My grandmother, who had a garden to tend to and bingo nights and three annoying grandchildren to entertain always seemed to have something going on. It's not fair to say all elderly are bored just like it's not fair to assume everyone's boredom ends at childhood. People often talk right before a career change or significant change in their personal life that they felt like they were muddling along, bored.  I don't doubt that that could one day happen, but I can honestly say I could never describe any point in my day as muddling along.

I found myself on a flight the other day with no book, no TV, no chance of sleep, and I'd done a satisfying-enough amount of work that I didn't feel the need to pull my computer out. I knew I had hours left, and yet no "what now?" moment came. I loved that I had this excuse to do nothing. To sit, wide awake, looking at nothing in particular, letting my mind wander. It seems there are so few chances to do that these days.

Maybe in a few years from now I'll be at home with a child, ready to pull my hair out of my head after months on end with little adult interaction, cursing at myself for what I'm feeling now: a sense of missing the feeling of boredom. Maybe missing it isn't the right word. I don't know that I ever want to feel bored. Unencumbered, maybe. Weightless. Satisfied. Not bored.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Long live the streak

I have the ultimate test coming up; I'm three quarters of the way through this book on creating and keeping habits and I'm pretty confident I have a good grasp on this (this particular habit being avoiding grains and sugar altogether) and I have a press trip for work this week. It's not just difficult to turn down what you're being served on a work trip; it's rather rude. You're there to experience the area, and that includes their customs and what they're known for. So if you're visiting the bread and beer capital, guess what?

So I don't plan on staying on this awesome cold turkey streak while traveling, because it isn't realistic, but I can still decline eating desserts with every meal, and--here's the toughest part--get up early enough to get a workout in. I've packed a handful of gym clothes on every trip since I was probably 16 and I can count on one hand how many times I've used them while traveling. There's something about a hotel bed after a day of travel that sucks the life and motivation right out of me, but it's another thing I need to become a habit, despite my surroundings.  I'm partially using this blog to hold myself accountable. I doubt I'll be able to update from the road, because the schedule on these trips is nonstop and exhausting, but I will update when I'm home on how well I stuck to my guns. My wannabe habits are in no way habits yet and are therefore super fragile. But I'm so proud (I think impressed is more accurate) with my progress so far that I hate the idea of starting from square one again next week. I'm impressed that these suggestions for implementing change are working as well as they're supposed to. My willpower has been, for as long as I can remember, nonexistent. Suddenly I can talk myself into realizing passing on something isn't the end of the world.

But there will always be press trips. There will always be holidays and vacations. There will always be junk to eat at the office. The entire month of December is a parade of chocolate and sugar.

An arguably more important habit to develop: define a time to blog so that by the time I get around to it, I'm not so exhausted that all I can think about doing is regurgitating this damn book and droning on about eating habits. I must have something more interesting to say...

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Anguish of Beginning

Yep. That's a stupid title. But it got me started. I stared at that empty title box, cursor blinking, for longer than I care to admit. I always hate writing titles. There's nothing more satisfying than writing a fantastic title/headline, and I can say confidently after writing maybe thousands of news headlines at this point, that that is terribly rare. Which is unfortunate, because the title can make or break your story. I think books are judged far more often by their title than their cover art.

Original point being, I gave up on a clever title for the sake of starting. Something about starting, no matter what it is, is stupidly excruciating. Why is that? Most people would probably agree that if they could snap their fingers and be dressed and at the gym, working out would be a breeze. It's the getting dressed and getting there part that prolongs and even prevents us from all being the shredded beach bods we were meant to be.

The book I referred to in the last post about making and breaking habits (titled Better Than Before--which I must say may not be a jaw-dropping title but it's pretty damn perfect at getting to the point of its goal) talks about starting very small; so small that intimidation of a large commitment isn't a factor. That merely starting whatever the project may be somehow takes the daunting factor away. Chipping away at something has never been my style, but I'm not bragging. Waiting so long that I have no choice but to half-ass it, or plainly never starting at all is my style. Impressive, huh?

I've been told for as long as I can remember by teachers and probably my parents that breaking up a large task into small parts prevents it from being overwhelming; makes it digestible, and makes starting quick and painless. But it's rarely felt that simple. I think that's because step 1 is almost always boring. It's preparation, research, set-up. None of the things I want to do. The redlight-free stretch of the Embarcadero along the shoreline of San Francisco is why I run. But that's step 7. If my run started dressed, away from the crowd, body warmed up, beautiful view ahead from the get-go, I'd be motivated much more than I am.

It seems odd to add a habit that's broad as "Just start" to a list of pretty specific habits, but it's really a prefix to all habits. I'm trying so hard not to quote Nike right now. That plus my crap title would make this post suck tremendously, so I'm going to quit. After all, my only goal today was to start.