L-o-o-o-n-g weekend

I’m flying to Chicago tomorrow, for my first (and likely only) visit before our planned June move.

We have apartment showings lined up, as the goal of the trip is to find an apartment (or at least a floorplan + building combo) that we like and are comfortable living in for a year.

To anyone who knows me (myself included), none of this is normal Katie behavior. I still can’t believe I’m moving to a city where I know no one, with a guy I’ve known for less than a year.

My house should go on the market on Friday. I’ve applied to transfer to a new internal role at work that will allow me to work remotely. I’ve been downsizing my belongings for months. I plan to sell my car. All of these major, major changes, and I feel almost no anxiety about them. I’m a person who’s anxious about everything. It’s new and different for me to be staring into the face of such a massive life change without sheer terror.

I’ve never lived anywhere but my home town, with the exception of 4 years of college, including one semester studying abroad. But I always thought of it then as temporary, and that I’d be heading home when it was finished. Going from Charlottesville to Chicago is probably one of the biggest changes I could make.

Part of me is worried that I’ll get there tomorrow, take one look around at the massive city, and say “nope, I can’t do this.” The other part of me keeps repeating “you can do anything for one year.” That’s probably not the healthiest way to think about moving halfway across the country to be with a partner, and I haven’t voiced that to him. It seems that thinking of it as a temporary life adventure is the best way for me to cope with it, though.

I’ve been wanting to leave Charlottesville for years, and haven’t had the courage to do it. My chance is finally here. Chicago, here we come.

 

Current Dream Jobs

I’ve written before about how I’ve been working (since I finished grad school in 2011) in a field that’s not related to either of my degrees. I have a Bachelor’s in Professional Writing and a Master’s in Higher Education. I have almost 5 years of work experience in project management and business analysis in software development. I’ve never had a job that I’ve enjoyed, or felt that my work allowed me to make a positive difference.

Now that I’m job-hunting in Chicago, I’ve been thinking about how it’s an opportunity to completely start over, professionally speaking.

But here’s the thing: if I could do anything, I honestly don’t know what I would do.

I wanted to be an architect for my entire life. I still have an interest in that, but I don’t have the desire to go back to school for the training that’s required. I also don’t know for sure that it would remain my dream once it was my reality.

Interior design is something I’ve been interested in for almost as long as architecture, and while I think it would make me endlessly happy, I’m not sure I’d have the drive and the eye to be really great at it.

I’ve been thinking for the past year or so about getting into college recruiting for a large company. It’s a blend of the work I’ve done and my Master’s degree, but I don’t have the personality for sales, or the passion required to spend most days giving presentations to college students. I have a friend who works in Employer Relations for a university, and she has a dream job. She gets to visit employers to represent her department and to create job and internship opportunities for her students. I think I would absolutely love that.

From there, I started thinking about general recruiting, which I think I would really enjoy AND be good at. I’ve worked with enough software developers, project managers, and stakeholders to understand what’s really required to do a job well, and I’m a master internet stalker. I think I could find the right candidates for a job, again, I’m just not a huge fan of the “sales” portion that’s required.

I would love to work with animals or do something related to animal welfare. I’d love to have a position with an SPCA or other animal rescue. Not as a vet tech, but potentially in fundraising, outreach, or operations. Non-profit work means a pay cut, so that’s something to consider. I would love to be able to accomplish this dream at some point in my life. Maybe once I’ve retired from an illustrious and profitable career in something else. (Joking.)

Lastly, there’s writing and editing. I’ve become interested lately in doing some freelance projects, but I don’t have a portfolio, and none of my professional experience has allowed me opportunities to write anything marketable. I need to build up a portfolio, whether it be technical writing or much more relatable lifestyle pieces. Within a year, I’d like to have something I’ve written published by an online source.

This list covers the areas I’ve either always wanted to work in, or the ones I’ve been giving serious consideration to lately. In moving to a new city, I’m trying to strike the right chord when applying to jobs. I want to find something I’ll like, but I also want my application to be considered. I don’t enjoy the work I’ve been doing, but it’s the only work I’m qualified for. Do I need to take a major pay cut and apply for entry-level jobs in a field I might be more passionate about? Do I apply for positions I’m not qualified for and hope that my non-related experience is enough to get me considered? It’s a tough balancing act, and I don’t think there are right answers.

2016

It’s the first weekend of a new year, and I’ve got that chronic nostalgic feeling, mixed with the hopefulness that things can and will change.

I only wrote two blog posts in 2015. A lot happened in the past year, I suppose, because life happens, but in a way, many things are still the same. I still struggle with the same things I’ve written about here time and time again (namely, my job and a lack of any real sense of life purpose), but I won’t go into too much detail about all that right now.

I’ve been struggling to come up with new year’s resolutions. Part of me knows that change is an ongoing process that must be continually worked on, and so I hesitate to write down goals and then forget about them until January of next year. The other part is hopeful and wants to share something publicly, check back in often, report on progress, and be held accountable.

Because it’s been floating around in my head for a few days (and because I’ve been attuned to these things for years), here’s a brain dump of my goals. Not necessarily for 2016, but things to focus on because they’re important to me.

  1. Figure out what I want to do next. I read (or heard, or talked to someone — I can’t remember now) that you shouldn’t think about jobs in terms of “what do I want to do with my life?” but rather, “what do I want to do next?” So that’s what I want to do this year. Sub-goal: Don’t accept a new job unless it’s something different than what I do now, and something that I’m reasonably sure that I’ll enjoy.
  2. Leave Charlottesville. This one is self-explanatory. I spent the better part of 2015 making preparations and telling all the people I’m close with that I was finally going to leave my home town. I spent months thinking about a cross-country road trip, planning destinations, purging my belongings, and doing targeted job searches, but then put it on hold. For one particular reason, I’m still here. Maybe I’ll write more about that in the future.
  3. Keep running. I slacked off in a major way for the second part of 2015. Last spring, I PRed my 5k and 10k times during the Ukrop’s 10k and I’d like to do it again. I might even want to run my second half marathon this year.
  4. Eat healthier, respect my body. Pretty straightforward. My sister does a variant of the Paleo diet and I’ve seen how it’s transformed her body. Lean, muscular limbs have always been my goal.
  5. “Run my own race.” I have a history of comparing myself (my choices, my body, my finances, my life experiences, my clothing, etc.) to others, and it’s not healthy and it’s not productive. I just want to remember to run my own race — to do the things that are special or meaningful to me, on my own schedule. Make time for the things that make me happy, without regard to the things other people are doing. I have one life, and it is unique to me.
  6. Cook at home. This goal is simple, but evasive. Mostly because I hate washing dishes.
  7. Write. I love writing and reflecting. Writing forces me to think about things that I otherwise wouldn’t, and publishing my thoughts anonymously on the internet (hopefully) won’t hurt anybody.

So there we have it. A list of things to aspire to, now and in the future. I have some ideas for things I’d like to start blogging about, so I hope to be back here more than twice this year. See you soon, internet!

 

 

I’m 27 and unhappy.

A post. because it’s been a while, and I miss writing.

I’ve been at my current job since the end of March. That’s what my last post was about. I took the job mostly because I wanted the chance to work for my now-boss again, partly because I knew there would be opportunities to transfer internally within this company after about a year, and a very small amount because I wanted a bit of a life challenge (more structure, more using my brain).

The other things I said in that post, unfortunately, are also still true. It isn’t my dream job (I still don’t know what that is). It’s still in software development, but I’m now further removed from actual developers, teams, and interesting technology (I didn’t know I would miss those things, but I do–on good days). I originally said that I would wait a year and then look for something else if I still hated it. That timeline has been dramatically reduced. I knew within the first few weeks that I didn’t like the job, and after a month or so, I knew that it was very different than what was actually pitched to me during the interview process. Pretty soon, I came to realize that my boss had also been somewhat hoodwinked into taking her role, and that she had also grown increasingly unhappy during her time in her job. Fast forward to early August, when she left for a 2-week European vacation and came back with a clear head and reset life goals: she told her boss that she was quitting, even with nothing else lined up, because that’s how unhappy she was. Since then, she’s been able to re-claim her previous role (also internal at the same company), but with more responsibility, higher pay, and several new direct reports. Her last day as my boss is next Friday. I’m very happy for her.

However, this leaves me in a difficult position. I’m 6 months into a job that I hate, newly responsible not only for my own duties but hers as well, and teetering on the verge of handing in my resignation on a daily basis.

My 27th birthday was on Sunday, and in keeping with my sort-of-tradition, I booked a trip. I went to Minneapolis for a few days to explore and (mostly) to get the hell away from Charlottesville. The week off work was the most relaxed I’ve been in a long time. I’ve had trouble sleeping for about a year now (maybe longer?), but every night of my vacation I slept like a rock. I even slept on airplanes, surrounded by total strangers. This is completely unlike me, but in the recent past I’ve come to be a person I don’t always recognize. I like it a lot.

I’m rambling a bit, but I’m trying my best to create an accurate record of my thought process over the past few months, since I don’t post updates here often enough to have it captured.

For the first few months I was at my new job, I daydreamed a lot about quitting and setting off on a cross-country road trip with the intention of choosing a few ‘spotlight’ cities to spend longer periods of time in, in order to gauge whether I could see myself settling there permanently. I’ve lived in Charlottesville for my entire life aside from the 8 semesters I spent at Virginia Tech, and I’m so far beyond burned out on this town that it’s ridiculous. I’ve known for a long time that I’m done here, but I haven’t had the guts to change that fact. I made a list of places I’d want to go, including the cities I thought I wanted to move to, and started looking for remote work opportunities as well as jobs located in each place. That sort of fizzled out, and I don’t remember right now exactly why.

Next up, I thought I’d apply to grad school (again). My life dream for so long was to be an architect, and I was actually accepted to a Master’s program in Architecture in 2010. I thought I’d give it another shot. What’s 3.5 more years of school? I’ve been in the working world and hating every minute of it for 4 years. It seemed like a good possibility. Then I borrowed some GRE prep materials from a friend, never opened a single one, convinced myself that I’m not good enough at math to pursue this, got stressed out by the thought of trying to cobble together application essays and terrified by the thought of asking former professors for recommendation letters, and promptly gave up on that path. Again.

So now, after my week away from the office and a small taste of freedom, I’m back to the road trip dream. I was 100% ready to give my 2 weeks’ notice upon returning to work today. I’ve been trying to find someone to rent out my house, and I’ve started telling people (mostly family) that I’m going to quit my job and finally take this trip. I talked about it with my sister this weekend, and she told me “Katie, you’ve been talking about this for so long that if you don’t do it, I’ll be mad at you. You absolutely deserve this.” It was really nice to hear validation from someone else that I am in fact deeply unhappy with my career path, the lack of any real purpose in my life, and the fact that I am still in my hometown. Another item of note is that my dad, who is the staunchest of believers that you NEVER quit a job without another one lined up first, has been fully in support of my harebrained idea for a few months now. I’ve been confiding in him about my plans for an extended trip + eventual relocation for a long time now, and he has finally come out in full support. “Just do whatever you need to do, and I’ll support you,” he says. The last person I really need to convince is myself.

So now, as soon as I can get my house rented out, I’m going.

I went back to work today and told my boss that I’ll be tendering my resignation soon. I didn’t do it today (although I so wanted to), because I know it would be foolish to run off into the sunset with a mortgage payment, no income, and no itinerary. She gave me a lot of great suggestions about how to set myself up to leave this job on the best terms possible, a list of people I should get in touch with before leaving for remote working opportunities, and a still-growing list of cities I should visit. She’s been nothing but supportive of this travel dream for a while now, but I don’t think she realized until today how serious I am about needing to leave everything behind, and what I’m willing to sacrifice in order to do it.

So as of today (and this could very well change by tomorrow), my dream is to work until the end of November or a bit into December, try my very best to line up some sort of remote work opportunity, get my house rented out, and then hit the road in January after spending the holidays with family. I envision heading south for the winter, slowly making my way across the US, with home being literally wherever I find myself that day. I realize that it sounds insane, and that I might quickly come to hate such a nomadic lifestyle, but after 4 years of hating my various desk jobs, it’s time to try something new.

I hope to be back here more often with updates. I miss using my voice.

Spring Cleaning

I’ve had a major itch lately (and for most of my life) to just do… something. I think I have a chronic nostalgia, but for what? I’ve never been able to figure it out. 26 years now.

I haven’t written here for over a year, mostly because I’m not very interested in blogging anymore. There are a handful of design blogs that I still read daily, but I learned a long time ago that my personal blog was never going to become a hot-spot for traffic. But today I feel like writing.

Spring is finally starting to arrive. Today, at least, it’s 79 degrees and sunny. Just a few weeks ago it was snowing. I’ve learned in the past 14 months or so that I’m not a winter person. When I was younger, I complained endlessly about being hot or sweaty. Now I know that there’s nothing more miserable to me than endless snowfall and shoveling and being homebound due to crappy road conditions or a car that just can’t hack an icy hill. Also several weeks of sub-freezing temperatures. There’s nothing fun about it.

On that note, my car has been dying a slow death for the past several months. I’ve been casually shopping for new ones by browsing online. There are a few contenders, but I haven’t felt ready to pull the trigger until very recently. Three months ago my goal was to find a quality used car for no more than $8,000, and to buy it outright. I was talking with my dad while in the gym a few nights ago, and he said something along the lines of “None of us knows when we’re going to die. It’s important to save for later, yes, but it’s also important to do some living now.” I walked around the lot at a dealership yesterday and now I’m ready to take the plunge on a car payment.  I’m not even sure who I am anymore.

On another personal note, I’ve been single for over 8 months now. I have almost zero interest in dating and I can’t figure out why. I’m 26 – approaching 27 – and I keep having the realization that I’m now nearing the age where there’s a chance that I’ll truly be single forever. The thought of that makes me a little sad. Gynecologically speaking, I’m already past my prime child-bearing years. I have zero maternal instinct and no dreams of future children, so this isn’t something I’m worried about, but I’m approaching 30 and it would be nice to have found that life partner by now. I just have no desire to date. I wish I could just skip all that and land in the part where it’s already comfortable and easy with someone.

Now on to the biggest part: probably the reason I felt like blogging today. I quit my job. Friday is my last day, after 2 years and 4 months there. I have felt trapped in my career ever since I started on it, really, and it finally feels like time to do something new. Unfortunately, I’m not breaking out entirely to pursue a life-long passion or to do something heroic. But I’ve lived with complete mental atrophy for over 2 years now and it’s time for a change.

I’ve been extremely lucky to have a job with more personal freedom than is imaginable: I can go in late, leave early, take well over an hour for lunch, wake up and work from home just because I feel like it whenever I feel like it, and I have unlimited paid vacation time. Those are the things that have been nearly impossible to walk away from. But as I mentioned, I’ve been bored out of my mind 40 hours a week for over 2 years, I have no personal relationships with anyone I work with, and there’s no room for upward mobility in a company of only 25 people. So I’m moving into a new role in a much larger, much more established company starting next Monday. I hope it goes well, but I’m also approaching it realistically.

I’ll be giving up all those time-related luxuries, but I’m hoping I’ll gain new relationships and some new skills. I negotiated for extra vacation time, and my new boss is someone who I have previously worked for and admired. There are pluses, I just have to keep reminding myself of them. I don’t expect this to be my dream job: it’s still the same field and I’m still not passionate about it. But I’m looking at it as an opportunity to do something new for a while. If I hate it after a year, I can find something else. That’s my mindset.

This is a pretty big change. But I’m knowingly taking it on in an effort to get out of the life rut I’ve been in for so long. Even things like being in the office earlier (I’ve settled into a routine of going to work at 9 and being one of the first people there) and having to accrue vacation time are things I’m trying to view as new and exciting challenges, rather than pure annoyances.

So in a nutshell: I’m making some changes, I fully expect them to be difficult at times, but I’m ready for it because I’m choosing it. In a year, I want to know that even if I hated it, at least I tried. That’s what matters.

Move

Today’s A to Z ‘life goal for my 20s’ is a big one: moving to a new city!

Obviously, having just bought my first house, this isn’t on my immediate to-do list.

But the thing is, with the exception of 4 years in college, I’ve lived in Charlottesville since I was born. That’s 25.5 years minus 8 semesters. I go through love/hate phases with Charlottesville, especially during the spring and winter. In the springtime, I remember how beautiful this town is, and how amazing it is to be able to get from the city to the country in about 10 minutes flat. We have wineries galore, and lots of unique events to experience nearly every weekend. In the winter, not as much goes on here, and I get depressed by the cold and the snow and the city’s inability to clean it up properly.

Sometimes I find it comforting that if I’m out somewhere with my dad and/or my grandma, we’re guaranteed to see at least one person that they know. But now that it’s also starting to happen to me, I like it less. There are tons of people still in this town who I went to high school with, but was never close with. I don’t enjoy those run-ins. Sometimes I crave the idea of moving to a new place and starting entirely from scratch — somewhere that no one knows me and there’s zero chance of running into an old acquaintance in the grocery store, or the hair salon, or walking down the downtown mall.

I’m not sure which place makes sense as my next home. During its good times, Charlottesville seems like the perfect fit for me. But I’m sure there are other cities out there that could hold even more possibility. Luckily, I’ve got some time to explore.