A very happy new year to everyone!
I began this post just after New Year’s day and decided to write a list of my resolutions. You know, those that won’t be kept past Valentine’s Day.
It’s now a few weeks past and I really haven’t kept any of my resolutions. I’m still eating whatever I want, I haven’t seen the inside of a gym since Thanksgiving, and I’m still “socially” smoking. None of this surprises me.
I think we can all agree that our resolutions are just a bullet point list of ways we’d like to better ourselves. We shoot for the superficial things every year. Most of us don’t really need to stress those things to lead happy lives, but we think we can suddenly be shiny new versions of ourselves once the ball drops. Let’s be honest with ourselves: things don’t change much from December to January. A song I listen to often, articulates this perfectly: “Sometimes the same is different, but mostly, it’s the same.”
On that note, I don’t dispute the benefit of resolutions. However, I think we should stick to small scale changes, and maybe just a general idea of what we’d like to achieve this year. Making work less miserable, getting a little healthier, or just laughing more and popping in some comedy DVDs. Because let’s face it, things are hard to change. I don’t have many years behind me and I already know that. Already, I feel as if I can’t drastically change who I am. That’s a sad thought. And I hope it’s misguided. What I know for sure is that if change is possible, it’s difficult. So whatever things we want to improve, we have to start small. The smaller and easier the idea, the lesser chance of its failure. And I don’t know about you, but I’d rather succeed at many small things, than fail at one big thing.
If there is one universal Skeptic trait, I’d bank on it being indecisiveness. When approaching a fork in the road, I break into a cold sweat and take out my handy dandy quarter. I flip the quarter, settling on the winner of 2 out of 3, or 9 out of 10. Then I have an internal debate against the outcome of my coin toss. I’m sure this used to be the result of a neurotic and over-obsessive personality, but lately it seems consequences just weigh that much more.
Example. My current job search is supplemented by a simultaneous, panicky, graduate school search. I think we can all agree that finding a job in this economy is a full time job all on its own. Studying for an advanced degree is also no walk in the park. The choice between the two has become a daunting seesaw, teetering this way and that, all day long. Something will happen, a character in a movie I’m watching whips out a law degree, and I’ll pull up the www.gradschools.com window on my laptop. An hour later I catch a segment on E! and suddenly I’m perusing the job section in Variety.
Like I said, I blame skepticism. And technology. Lately things seem to be changing as quickly as a Twitter update. Making decisions that affect our lives two or more years into the future just doesn’t cut it anymore. I’d like to alternate lifestyles every other week. One week for seeking out corporate success, one week for on-campus intellectual discussion and artistic self-reflection, oh and one week to go to bars and find my significant other.
I see why we need all those dating websites: by the time significant-other-search week rolls around, we’re all too tired and just want to enjoy the Happy Hour specials.
It’s one thing to be employed and read the layoff headlines that are flooding the country; it’s entirely another to be one of the masses. Now I am part of the ranks of daytime TV watchers. It’s been a week and so far I’ve repainted my entire apartment, reorganized my furniture, found my good friend a job (ironic, yes), and spent two hours hiding in the Twilight Saga universe. For someone who has made a recent effort to keep professional achievement at the front line of her life, this is a nonsensical time. For someone who is constantly skeptical of the work world, this is an even worse time.
It’s becoming clearer and clearer: work and life must be separate and self sustaining entities. This is nearly impossible, I know. I recall ranting about work needing to be satisfying and fulfilling, adding to our lives instead of squandering its pleasurable moments. I don’t feel that way today. Today, a job is a job. It is an unfortunate bi-product of the world we live in and the hard financial times we’re facing.
Many of us are in the Next Step phase of our lives. We’re dealing with employment downturn, financial instability, and the New Media revolution. It’s become too easy for these worries to spill over into our personal lives and bring us down. I, for example, find it daunting to even enter job-bulletin websites; to start that grueling search all over. That fear of job instability can be crippling, making procrastinators out of us, suppressors of our responsibilities.
Investing in a new job. Emotionally. Financially. Are we ever ready for this undertaking? Probably not. Maybe a better question is, should we be so invested? Should we really force ourselves to fall in love with out careers, depend emotionally on them, and let the rug be pulled from under us when they are taken away? Or should we fight to separate our personal lives from our jobs as much as possible? Punch in and punch out. I’d love to know what the masses think.
Tomorrow is Halloween, possibly my favorite holiday of the year. It’s the kick-off to my holiday cheer. Yes, this is the one time when my skepticism is suspended. I certainly believe in ghost stories, playboy bunnies, and the timeless power of Jamie Lee Curtis.
Now, much to my dismay, I’m hearing that at a certain age it’s no longer acceptable to dress up in costume. Is there no happiness in the adult world?! I think celebrating Halloween is the therapy many of us need. It hasn’t been an easy year for anyone. The failing economy has put us all through much stress, anxiety, and many of us haven’t really escaped those feelings just yet. We’re coming closer to the new year and our fresh start, but January is still two months away. Halloween is everyone’s chance to pretend, make believe, and reconnect with their childhood. Something about dressing as a pirate or milkmaid makes the reality of this year fall into the background.
And if dressing up to drink with your friends isn’t distraction enough, there’s always the Halloween parade in New York City. There are enough people dressed as penises there to drive away even the most depressing financial worries. Some of us have been forced to grow up quicker than expected this year, so instead of taking away the last bits of fun 2009 has to offer, embrace your inner slutty nurse and dress up for Halloween!
September has come and gone, and I’m not sitting behind a desk and taking notes. This is the first fall in many, many years that I find myself out of the classroom. I was excited to graduate from that stage of life and enter that “real world” I kept hearing about. Working through the summer was an exciting taste of adult life, but now fall is here and it’s time to go back to the classroom to sit, adsorb, and regurgitate the teachings of wiser women - except it isn’t! Naturally, the grass is always greener where your ass isn’t, so my yearning for the smell of new books isn’t a total shock. Neither is my desire to go to work in my pajamas… What is a shock is my desire for knowledge. All of a sudden, my brain feels light and useless! Yesterday I found myself picking up an old textbook for some “light reading”. Is this is just an old habit? I don’t think so!
I’d like to send a wake up call to all entry-level, recently graduated, employees. Just because we’re out of school doesn’t mean we have to surrender to the daily grind. Work is exhausting, life is even more exhausting, but I don’t believe we have to let go of all our curiosity. All these posts keep coming back to the life-work balance we’re all looking for; how to distract ourselves from monotony, how to keep our lives interesting and our experiences new. Something about being in school kept the feeling of excitement and anticipation alive. Graduation tends to feel like we’ve arrived somewhere, somewhere concrete and finite. I have to keep reminding myself that this isn’t true. That what we commute to everyday doesn’t have to overpower our lives (unless we want it to), and that we can still be curious about the world and our ever changing place in it. I may just be trying to prioritize my life, or I may need to go back and hide in the academic world. Perhaps it’s time to revisit that grad school idea…
Technology is meant to better our lives; to deliver fast results, convenience, and to connect us with people we care about. In our life-work-balance discourse, I wholly nominate technology as our saving grace. Smart phones and wireless internet help me to make a smooth transition from the office to the bedroom. Answering my emails on the train ride home leaves me with one less thing to do when I get there. The ability to maintain constant connections via phones and social media has been an exciting aid in reaching out to friends and building relationships. I wonder though, have we become overzealous in our long distance relationships?
From what I hear of the analog days, it seems like people networked within a relatively small radius. You met someone in school, in your neighborhood, in your office building…etc. Now however, long distance relationships seem to be springing up everywhere. We’re not pen pals anymore. With phones, texting, video messaging, Skype, AIM, and a goodie bag of social media websites, we can stay in touch with our distant significant other, have real time conversations, and see each other on our computer screens while we chat. It’s possible that two people living many miles apart will communicate more now than two analog people living on the same block. This sounds great doesn’t it? The only problem is, we’re seeing people less and typing messages to them more. Are these digital relationships realistic, hopeful, and meaningful? I’m a little skeptical…
I had always considered myself a die-hard New Yorker. Though I wasn’t born in the states, this city has raised me and has catered to anything I’d ever desired. This includes, of course, pizza, bagels, nightclubs, and a multi-cultural circle of friends. Living anywhere where delicatessens closed earlier than midnight seemed absurd. This outlook hasn’t changed, and as I’ve begun my attempt at a career, being anywhere but New York is just counterproductive. Still, I keep looking into the future and wondering whether I’ll always be happy here, and whether this urban landscape and fast paced environment will ever finally get to me.
I think it happens to us all; the subway just gets too cramped, the streets get too noisy at night, and the smell of pollution floats a bit too easily on the afternoon air. Sure we have some escapes; central park, my local beach, and dare I say, upstate New York, but I wonder what it’d be like to have all those things in your backyard. Many people choose to relocate for family’s sake; marriage, kids, the works. “Settling down”.
It’s silly that I’m thinking about this now. I’ve only begun living a life that is my own and not guided by class schedules and holiday breaks. Maybe that’s why these thoughts come to mind. Lifestyle is as much defined by your location as it is by your career. But what happens when those two clash? Having a high powered career in communications isn’t exactly synonymous with a quiet life in, say North Carolina (where a friend has recently invited me to come live). More importantly, does abandoning New York mean abandoning the New Yorker that I am? Are we trapped here, loving it and hating it all at once? I suppose I have my twenties to get everything urban out of my system, and let my career be my guide.
Wait a minute…so we just start working and don’t stop until retirement?! There are no extended breaks, no summer vacations? I was right all along! You do have to love what you do. Otherwise, this just seems impossible. My current position has an expiration date, which is frightening because it means my stability will collapse, and by summer’s end I will be forced to sniff out another opportunity. Although, what’s wrong with a short rest stop off the road of employment?
Full-time employment has somehow become synonymous with adulthood. Identities have become shaped around our business suits. Life plans are put on hold because losing the job that might land us our dream job is unthinkable. We begin to live our lives “when I finish this project” or “when I get that raise”. What makes me think that I’ll be any different? Absolutely nothing; herein lays my fear of this professional world I once so longed for.
When I graduated from college, I pretty much hit the ground running. I’ve only just settled into my nine to five, and already my thoughts are racing to the idea of going back to school, back-packing through Europe, or joining the Peace Corp. Why is it that all these things look colorful in my mind, while work looks like an endless black and white road, with no pit stops? What is the secret to life-work-balance and how do I maintain a firm grasp on my unconventional personality in these grey slacks? I’ll let you know when I do.
I had always considered myself relatively well-rounded and tried to dabble in different fields of study, hobbies, what have you. When the time came to choose a major, all my interests made it that much more difficult. Now I’m in sitting in my cubicle, at my first job out of college, pondering my future. It occurs to me that I still haven’t figured out what my “career” will be, or for that matter, what I want it to be.
As I toss the word “career” around in my head, it begins to sound strange and foreign. It is after all just a word. So I wonder, what does it mean to have a career? Is this really my goal in life? Or is this word just that, a word? One that we use to feel like we’ve achieved something important and can now move on with the rest of our bucket list.
The recession may have done me a favor. Layoffs left and right have forced some people to learn a new skill or to branch out into other fields and take on numerous “careers”. Many are no longer bound to nine-to-fives because their nine-to-fives no longer exist. Temping, freelancing, and volunteering have taken the place of many lost jobs, and I’m excited to say that people may be reluctant to return to the not-so-reliable nine-to-five. Perhaps this is the kind of “career” I’ve always been looking for, but didn’t know existed; the multi-career.
One thing I know for sure is that separating work and life is no easy feat. With the way things are going for me personally and for the country as a whole, we may not all have the luxury of boasting one solid job and enjoying the fruits of our labor on the weekends. Perhaps it’s time to let the two fuse together into a lifestyle that allows us to pour ourselves into our work and allowing for a seamless transition between the two. Of course I say this now. Next year I may want to grunt through the work day and never think of it again after 5 o’clock. I don’t know.
By the time I had reached the upper division classes in my undergraduate major, I was on a first name basis with many of my professors, was allowed to express my opinion freely, encouraged to form original and challenging ideas, and was generally treated like an intelligent person. It seems that graduates have to abandon that disposition when they leave college. I assumed that holding a Bachelor’s degree meant that I would continue to be taken seriously and would maintain a level of respect. Life after college takes an unexpected turn… I’m not sure I can handle being at the bottom of the food chain yet again.
I recently attended a networking event during which I was vehemently encouraged to generate conversation with panel members and industry professionals. It’s safe to say that these conversations were forced and uncomfortable. The entire event felt like a factory where the input was creative college students and the output was yet another army of mindless cubicle soldiers. Though we were given sound advice on inter-office behavior, the perfect elevator pitch, and personal presentation, I’m convinced that such advice is the reason that so many professionals are dissatisfied with their jobs. Somewhere between the completion of our studies and the commencement of our careers, the quirks that set us apart from each other are shooed away and replaced by dollar signs and suit jackets. This is, however, not to knock the process of networking or the advice of industry vets, because I was very lucky to be in the same room as them, but I’m beginning to see networking as the answer to the question “if you had a super power, what would it be?”
Perhaps my liberal arts education made too big a skeptic out of me; I have trouble with fake smiles, and my conversations usually leave puddles of sarcasm on the floor. Entering the professional world and mingling with potential employers means controlling the impulses that make me want to say “let’s cut the crap, are you going to hire me or not?” I guess this is the beginning of an entirely new school of thought; the school of networking. I just hope I can stifle my ironic sense of humor for thirty seconds at a time, long enough for that elevator pitch.