Career, Personal

The Leap

From an interview with Elle Luna featured on The Great Discontent .

I think that once you quit the job that’s paying the bills, the entire universe comes out to meet you. But it’s only after you quit your job that those people arrive, and that’s the secret that nobody knows. When you’ve made the leap and you’re far from shore, nothing is guaranteed, but we do it together and that’s what makes it worth it.

Read the rest here. There’s a very interesting bit about her applying to nine law schools and getting rejected by all of them. Then she applied to two art schools. When she was accepted to both, she took that as a sign. (Kinda reminds me of my seven failed bar attempts.)

On the beach in Montezuma, I met a guy from Kentucky. I don’t even know how work came up. He was ex-military, had his house in Lexington on the market, and was just hanging out in Costa Rica until it sold. He said that he  and his friend were moving to Los Angeles to work as screenwriters. I told him what I do. And he said, “You should quit your job.” My friend said, “I keep telling her. She won’t listen.”

If only it were that simple. But I can’t shake the idea that I am not the kind of person for whom a safety net will magically appear. That I will leap and land head-first on the concrete below.

Career, Personal

The Script

When I first started this job, I kept my script at my desk, hidden beneath my notepad, and I would read from it as discreetly as possible.

Nearly six years later, the script flows out of my mouth before I can even think about it. Sometimes I rattle it off so quickly, while my mind is elsewhere, that when I come to the end of my speech I forget where I am, what else I’m supposed to be saying. I grapple for the right words to explain to people who don’t really want to hear what I have to say the reasons why they are ineligible for a benefit to which they feel entitled.

I can read the script with my eyes closed. I can recite it in my sleep. Sometimes I think that I’ll still remember it a decade from now, when, God-willing, I’m doing something totally unrelated to this, and that I’ll turn to whoever is around and give my brief speech, introducing myself and explaining the clients’ rights. And when I finish, my partner, my kid, my student, whoever has heard this nonsense will look at me, confused, and ask, “What are you TALKING about?” And I’ll laugh because I don’t have the words to share my experiences here.

When my alarm went off this morning, I cried. I actually woke up at 2:30 am, after a nightmare about having a huge argument with a client outside of the building, and when I glanced at my phone I realized I had five hours of sleep left. But I didn’t, couldn’t, fall back to sleep so I just laid there, listening to the infomercials on TV. I was awake when my alarm finally rang, and the first words out of my mouth were: I don’t want to go.

I’m sick of the fucking script.

Career, Goals

The Hard Questions

Sometimes Buzzfeed is good for something other than amusing (and sometimes bemusing) lists or ingeniously-curated gifs.

From a piece on former tennis pro athlete, James Blake:

His career just never seemed to click into place the way the instructions that came with the package said it was supposed to. And it did really seem like Blake was supposed to have an epic career, given his story. He was born in Yonkers, outside New York City, and as a kid played at — and heard Arthur Ashe speak to — a Harlem junior tennis program that his parents worked with. That’s an auspicious start for a black American tennis player… But despite putting together the best streak of his career in 2006, he never threatened to win a major. Just when it seemed like everything was coming together, something would come apart. You may know the feeling.

The press conference was a heavy thing — a guy seeing a three-decade life project come to a end in a largely empty stadium after midnight. There was a lot to think about: fans coming to terms with an unsatisfying end to Blake’s career, Blake coming to terms with an unsatisfying end to his own career, and (perhaps, if you’re in the mood to brood) fans thinking about the similarities between his life and their own. Thanks for speaking to us, James. Can you tell us what you feel like right now? Can you describe what it’s like to know conclusively that you will never have the thing you wanted most? Can you talk about your forehand, your serve, and the way that every day your life’s possibilities get incrementally narrower? How did your legs feel in the fifth set, and don’t almost all of us have to admit eventually that we aren’t going to be the ones who get lucky?

Read the rest  here.

I’ve been thinking about this article non-stop since I first read it yesterday afternoon.

It’s an uncomfortable thing to consider. We all want to be successful and happy, healthy and loved.

But what happens if, despite your hard work, you never quite reach your potential?

What if you never get what you want?

If you’re James Blake, you acknowledge the career highs. You accept your uncertain future with gracious, open arms.

Maybe one day I’ll learn.

Career, Goals, Personal, Writing, Yoga

This Can’t Be Life

I had a really difficult time dragging myself out of bed today.

It’s been like this for weeks now. It’s not that I wake up late, because I don’t. I’m awake at 6 am every day,  before my second alarm goes off at 6:15.  I stare into the dark and listen to the muffled sound of my television. I sleep with it on because I am afraid of the dark; I am not ashamed to admit this.  The noise of it disturbs my sleep, however, so I lower the volume to just a hair above a whisper.  Then in the morning, I strain to hear the news from underneath my comforter.  I do some pranayama.  If I fall asleep with the phone next to me, I check my e-mail.  I think about what I’ll wear.  I stay in bed until 6:30, when I have to leave at 7, and it takes me at least 45 minutes to shower and get dressed.  Then I rush to get out of the house by 7:05 so I won’t be late to work. Some days, I don’t care if I’m late, and I take my time. Other days, I don’t even want to imagine staying in that building a minute past the end of my shift, so I haul ass to get ready in 25 minutes.  Those are the days like today, when I walk out of my house with my sweater on inside out, or an earring missing, with no snacks and no water.

I’m tired.

A little while ago, I  came across this letter that author Charles Bukowksi wrote to his publisher, John Martin, in which he discusses the idea of a “9 to 5”:

You know the places where I came from. Even the people who try to write about that or make films about it, they don’t get it right. They call it “9 to 5.” It’s never 9 to 5, there’s no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don’t take lunch. Then there’s OVERTIME and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there’s another sucker to take your place.

You know my old saying, “Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.”

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.

He goes on:

I remember once, working as a packer in this lighting fixture company, one of the packers suddenly said: “I’ll never be free!”

One of the bosses was walking by (his name was Morrie) and he let out this delicious cackle of a laugh, enjoying the fact that this fellow was trapped for life.

I recently shared this letter with a co-worker (who has become a good friend).  She believes that she is trapped. She has a 3-year-old daughter to support on her own after the untimely death of her partner.  She has a small business selling homemade baked goods with her two best friends, but it doesn’t net her enough money to leave this job. And she’s been here forever; she has a fully vested pension and a 401k.  “Where am I going?” she asked.  The answer was clear: nowhere.

I said: “When you were 11 and you came here for the first time, is this what you imagined your life as an adult would be?  Because I can tell you for sure, this was a life I never wanted.”

We went to dinner and discussed the possibilities.  Her business will take off and she’ll open a bakery.  I’ll move somewhere warm, finally get my MFA and my book will be published.  I’ll travel around writing and teaching writing and yoga and I’ll be able to speak Spanish instead of just understand it sometimes and I’ll be able to do a perfect Scorpion handstand.

Sounds good, right?

I just know that something has to change.  This can’t be life.  I don’t want to be ugly. I want to be free.

P.S. Since today is Jay-Z’s 43rd birthday, I find it wholly appropriate that the title of this post bears the same name as a song from his fifth album, The Dynasty: Roc La Familia, released in 2000. You can listen to a snippet of it here.


No More Complaining

One of the reasons why I absolutely LOVE Pinterest (follow me at the link!) is that it is fertile ground for the proliferation of the most beautiful art you can imagine– including wanderlust-inducing travel photographs, surreal watercolors, and cool infographics, like this one:

 [Graphic designed by Sarah Tolzmann for Note to Self]

The whole chart is a lovely reminder that we get to create our lives with our own  behaviors.

But what stuck out the most to me was Ms. Roth Eisenberg’s note to quit complaining!

Recently, I’ve found myself complaining…a LOT…about my job.  I’ve been here for over four years.  About a year ago, my department was stripped of a duty that had been a major component of our function here.  Suddenly, we were left with one major task: to conduct conferences with clients who have been found ineligible for the services provided by the agency.  Of all the tasks we were given before, this was the one I liked least.  When I found out about the change, I told my supervisor at the time, with whom I have a fairly close relationship, that I did not know how long I would last doing *only* conferences. He laughed it off.

It’s fair to say, however, that I’ve pretty much reached my breaking point. In the last month, I’ve been cursed at by two different clients. I left work early because of one such incident.  I’ve cried at my desk.  I don’t like to use the word “hate,” but at this point, I pretty much hate my function at this job. I won’t say I hate the job, because I am grateful for the salary it pays. It allows me to travel the world at least twice a year and take Spanish classes and purchase cute tchotchkes for my “house,” and even pay for this yoga teacher training I’m currently taking.  But every day I wake up and I want to cry because I just do NOT want to go into the office and face more clients.  I just don’t.

I’ve been complaining about the j-o-b to anyone who would listen for a while now. And after reading this, it’s clear that I have to make a choice.  Aside from the completion of my yoga teacher training, I need to do two things:

  1. apply to MFA programs already!
  2. look for a new job.

At first I was thinking of not applying to MFA programs this year, but then I realized that it is only fear holding me back– which of course brings me to Step #4: If an opportunity scares you, take it.  So, to make it as simple as possible, I will only apply to three programs, all of them part of the CUNY system. Hunter College, Brooklyn College, and Queens College.

Looking for a new job is a bit tougher.  I have a law degree, but I am not admitted to practice because I have not yet passed the bar (I’ll share more on that later).  The job I have now is a legal one.  I perform the same tasks as the attorneys here because I was previously in an entry-level attorney title, which expired after two years; because I work for the government, they just gave me another civil service title, but I’m still doing the same job.  I’ve basically been “practicing” for the last four years and eight months.  If I’d passed the bar in another state– like Connecticut, where the exam is supposedly easier than New York– then I likely could have waived into the NY bar by now.  In any case, I don’t necessarily know what I’m good at, and I also don’t know what I’m qualified to do!

As I am wont to do, I headed off to the bookstore to do some research. I came away with Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath, and the classic What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles. Amazingly, I took my Strengths Finder online assessment yesterday and the results indicate that I should look for a job in the legal/compliance field, teaching, research, journalism, consulting, or literature.

So that’s my start.  Who knows what will happen next? I just know I won’t be complaining about it.

Note: if the links in the infographic don’t work,  you can find Dan Gilbert’s TED talk “The Surprising Science of Happiness” here and Paul Graham’s essay “Do What You Love” here.