Blogtember

Just like I was late in discovering Jenni’s Blog Every Day in May Challenge , I was also late to the party on her new Blogtember challenge. I came across it last night, and I’m going to join in!

Blogtember

Her goal is to get back to the basics of blogging. Writing every day, just for fun. Sounds like a good enough reason to me.

Today’s prompt:

Thursday, September 5: “Pass on some useful advice or information you learned and always remembered.”

I’m going to cheat a little bit and use the same quote I used during the Life Lessons post from the May Challenge…

Probably my all-time favorite quote:

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.”

-George Sheehan

It’s still at the top of my daily to-do list, because I like to see it every day. Sometimes I forget, and I slip into taking a pretty passive role in my own life. But then I remember that it’s me and no one else who decides who I’m meant to be, and only me who can get me there. If I have a goal, I have to have the courage, determination, and will to see it through. I have to be the force that makes things happen in my life; otherwise, I’ll stagnate.

Life’s Too Short

I’ve been thinking lately. (I know, I know. No jokes, please.)

There are 168 hours in a week.

For 40 of those hours, I’m at work. Just under 5 hours a week are commuting to and from work. That’s 26% of my time during the week (assuming that I don’t stay late or get stuck in traffic).

Let’s call it 56 hours dedicated to sleeping, 7 hours for showering/grooming/starting my day.  At least 7 hours are spent on mealtimes. That’s 70 hours for human maintenance tasks, which is another 42% of my time.

And then there are the decidedly-not-glamorous-but-still-necessary things like grocery shopping, doing laundry, running errands, paying bills, preparing meals, washing dishes, cleaning the house, etc. I’ll be extremely generous and call that 5 hours a week.

After all those things, I’m left with 49 hours–or 30% of my week–for my own use. And as everyone knows, it’s never 49 uninterrupted hours. It’s an hour or so here and there, between doing all those other things.

Now, I’m notoriously bad at math, but even I know that these numbers tell a story.

In my case, they tell the story of a girl who’s 3 years out of college and still hasn’t figured out what she wants to do with her life, but has enough unsatisfying job experience to know that it’s definitely not what she’s been doing for the past 2 years. It’s the story of a girl who has 13.5 months until she turns 26 and has to start paying for her own health insurance. It’s the story of a girl who had a crystal-clear realization recently that every day she spends at work is another day of life opportunities she’s missing out on.

These numbers say that I’m unhappy (and wasting my precious life) every day that I set foot in my office, and that the clock is ticking for me to figure out just what it is I’d rather be doing.

I’ve realized that now is the most perfect time I will ever, ever have to quit my job and make the best use I can of these last 13.5 months of free health insurance (thanks, Dad!) + one year’s salary in the bank.

Last week, it hit me: my life is too short and too important to waste doing things I hate.

I’ve spent the ensuing days trying to decide whether I’m brave enough to stop doing those things, and to find new ones that I love. Now’s my time. I’ll never have such a perfect chance again.

simple, yet effective

They always say that if you want to be able to run faster, all you have to do is… run faster.

Duh!

my 'uh, duh!' face

my ‘uh, duh!’ face

After the public shaming that was my May monthly mileage post, I’ve decided to kick it back into high gear with the running! I followed Saturday’s 1.6 miles in the grueling heat with 2.5 easy miles on a treadmill last night, and decided tonight to head back out again! I did a 2 mile tempo* run at my high school’s track, finishing 2 miles in 19:36!

the numbers don't lie

the numbers don’t lie

*to clarify, I subscribe to the notion that a tempo run consists of alternating between comfortably hard and easy paces, over prescribed distances. (in this case, it was fast on the straightaways and slow through the curves of the track.)

This is convincing when contrasted to the fact that my last two timed 2-mile runs were 21:28 and 21:37! And all I had to do was run a little faster!

I read about Devon’s training every day, and the fact that she’s shooting for an 8:58 marathon pace just makes me embarrassed. I prefer the slow and steady approach. (My comfortable pace is about a 10:30 mile). When you run slowly, it doesn’t hurt! But maybe there’s nothing wrong with pushing a little harder and feeling a little pain. That’s how I’m feeling today, at least.

I also got some exciting news today! I’m not quite ready to share, but soon…

Life Lessons

Day 23 of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge is “Things you’ve learned that school won’t teach you.”

BlogEverday

Whew. This is a great topic. I’ve learned more about life since college than I probably did while I was in college.

On personal development…

After I finished undergrad, I had about one month before I started grad school. I went straight into a master’s program in Higher Education. I was only 21 years old, and I started studying college student development. I was still essentially a college student myself. I spent a year learning theories on adolescent development and reading about the effect of college on students. Some of it was interesting in theory, and some of it was interesting because I was still experiencing it in practice. Somehow, reading that it’s now the norm for young adults to have no idea what they want to do with their lives made it okay that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Want to take a gap year? Fine. Change your career 10+ times before retirement? Totally normal. No one ever told me those things. It was nice to know that there are researchers out there who have scientifically proven that my generation (and those who have come after me) are more resistant to growing up than any generation that’s come before. It’s not just me. It’s everyone.

On relationships…

I was also in a relationship from the summer after my sophomore year of college until the spring semester of my grad school year. It lasted 2 years and 9 months, which is a heck of a lot longer than it should have. The emotional wreckage that ensued was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. After that breakup, I learned more about myself through the process of putting myself back together than I think I’ve ever learned. I learned what it takes to make me happy. I learned never to compromise my own happiness for someone else’s. I learned to love someone new. I learned that I could bounce back from anything. That’s a powerful lesson.

On finances…

When I finished my Master’s program, I had about $29,000 in student loan debt to repay. I entered my repayment period in November 2011, and I decided that I wanted to double up on my minimum monthly payment, and have my loans paid off entirely in 5 years. I’ve been paying twice what’s required every month since then, and I’ve got it nearly halfway paid off. It’s nice to log in to my account every month and see how far ahead I am on payments. This month, my reminder states “Your next payment is due May 21, 2015.” Financial responsibility is something my dad has always instilled in me, and I’ve learned to (and been fortunate to be able to) get way ahead on tackling my debt.

I remember reading on Devon’s blog that “Rich people tell their money where to go. Broke people wonder where it went.” (That’s probably a Dave Ramsey quote.) It stuck with me. I’ve learned that you don’t have to be “rich” to be in control of your finances. It’s just a matter of living within your means. “Rich” means something different to everyone. I’m still struggling to figure out exactly what the magic number is for me, but I’ve certainly learned that it’s not quite as big as I once imagined.

On happiness…

This one is huge. The pursuit of happiness is an ongoing adventure in my life. I’ve written a lot recently about struggling with professional and personal decisions. I think I’ve also mentioned that a lot of clarity has come with the epiphany that I don’t have to and will most definitely not be in my current position for much longer. I’ve learned that it’s important for me to separate my work life from my personal life, and to put a lot of care into my life outside of work.

I like to read. I like to travel. I like to drink wine. I like to spend time with P. I like to run. I love animals. I like adventures. I like interior design. I’ve come to really enjoy blogging. For a long time, I didn’t know many of these things, and I certainly didn’t make the effort to pursue them. Lately, I’ve been very specifically focused in on ways to enhance my happiness. And I can tell you: it’s well worth it.

In closing…

Probably my all-time favorite quote:

“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be.”

-George Sheehan

I don’t even remember anymore when I first came across this quote, but I’ve had it displaying on the top of my daily to-do list ever since. It’s never faded in meaning or power for me. When it comes down to it, it’s me and no one else who decides who I’m meant to be, and only me who can get me there. I just have to have the courage, determination, and will to do it. And in the past few years since leaving school, I’ve built up each of those things in droves.

Archive Dive!

Day 21 of the Blog Every Day in May Challenge is “A list of links to your favorite posts in your archives.”

BlogEverday

There aren’t all that many posts in my archives. When I click “Publish” on this one, it will be #92. But I’ve tried to find a few favorites. They all kind of center on a theme: doing what makes me happy with my one and only life.

On Christmas Eve in 2011, I summarized the state of my life and rededicated myself to the effort of blogging in the post a purpose-driven blog.

In November 2012, I left my first “grown-up” job and started my second. I wrote on interviews, and what I’ve learned to summarize my interviewing experience. It also nicely sums up the things I got out of my first real job experience: both good and bad. Also in November, P and I transitioned into a long-distance relationship. That forced me to do a great deal of scrutinizing my life’s choices and reprioritizing the things I want out of life. That’s when I wrote my Manifesto.

In February of this year, I took a few weeks to do some serious thinking. Then, I wrote  about a change I was planning to make, which included a list of the things I wanted (and still want, for the most part) in a future career.

On May 13, 2013, I blogged about the 2013 Charlottesville Design House, for which I volunteered from December through May of this year. In the hopes of getting a few central Virginians to see my post and want to visit the house, I was the very first commenter on YHL the next day. It must have worked: that post earned me 674 pageviews (which more than doubled my total pageviews at the time), AND earned my blog a link from the Design House Facebook page! I doubt that I’ll see traffic like that again any time EVER.

Yesterday, I wrote about some of the things I’m currently struggling with.

It’s funny: it wasn’t until sitting down and reviewing my archives to compile this post that I realize that I’ve actually been cycling in and out of the same problem for two years now. The issues I’m currently struggling with aren’t new. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, and I’m not happy with what I’m currently doing. I want to try something new, but I don’t want to fail, or lose my life’s savings, or wind up lonely in a new place, or anything else that’s decidedly bad. The difference lately is that I’m actually doing something about it. (More on that to come…hopefully!)

goals for the next year / professional aims

Note: This is my last week at my current job, hence all the work-centric posting I’m doing.

I’ve been thinking about what I want in my professional life. I’ll do my best to keep these things in mind as I start my new job and begin to settle in.
Things I’ve learned:
-I never want to work for a company that is completely out of touch with its employees on the ground level again. (If the CEO ever says “we don’t know what we’re doing” during a company quarterly meeting, run.)
-I never want to work for a company that expects excessive overtime and never awards so much as a “thank you” in return.
-I never want to be in a job again where the best part is my teammates. I never want to step back one day and realize that I hate all of the work I do, and couldn’t care less about the company’s mission. (I never want to write “None of my current work is meaningful to me in a personal way” on my annual employee self-assessment again.)
-I never want to work for a company where the executives are like puppeteers–they run the show, they decide who stays and goes, they provide the only information to the CEO, and therefore, they’re running the company as they (inaccurately) see fit.

Things I want:
-I want to continue to work with smart, dedicated and talented people. I want to learn from my coworkers and to feel that I can contribute to bettering them, too.
-I want to balance my professional and personal lives. I never want my worries at work to come home with me. I absolutely never want to be kept up at night worrying about things I did or didn’t do at work the day before.
-I want to enjoy the work I do. I want to work for a company that produces an interesting and meaningful product.

Tips for the next job I accept (provided by my current manager):
-Attempt to negotiate more vacation time upon receiving my job offer.
-Attempt to negotiate higher starting salary by saying “My current company offered me x more dollars a year to stay. Can you match that?”
-If I can’t negotiate a higher salary off the bat, establish that I’d like a performance evaluation after six months, at which point my progress will lead to a discussion about increased pay.

on interviews, and what I’ve learned

I started work at my current company on Thursday, July 21, 2011.

During that time, I applied for upwards of 48 other jobs.  (48 is actually a low estimate. That’s just the number of applications I can find saved on my laptop since April.)

I experienced the following results:
5/9/12 – in-person interview at UVA
5/14/12 – phone interview with Virginia Tech
5/23/12 – in-person interview at Company A here in Charlottesville
6/6/12 – in-person interview at Company B here in Charlottesville; they offered me the job.
6/12/12 – canceled interview #2 with Company A due to pending job offer with Company B; in response, they told me that the second interview was only a formality and that they had been planning to offer it to me. (Oh well; I had qualms about the position–I thought it might be too advanced for my skills, and too far removed from my interests.)
~6/15/12 – turned down the offer with Company B. The work would have been 99% solo; my would-be manager worked in NYC, and I would telecommute.
7/17/12 – phone interview with Company C.
7/26/12 – in-person interview with Company C.
8/10-12 – phone interview with Company D.
8/24/12 – in-person interview with Company D.
9/1/12 – writing sample for Company D.
9/13/12 – in-person interview #2 with Company D; they later followed up to let me know that they had chosen someone else for the position, but asked me to consider being added to the applicant pool for another position they had open. I politely declined.
10/31/12 – in-person interview with Company E; they offered me the job on 11/6
11/1/12 – phone interview with Company F

During my extensive interview experience, I learned a few things. I experienced what I had previously only heard–that during an interview, the candidate is interviewing the interviewers as much as they are interviewing her. I had several interviews for several positions that left me feeling as though the job, the company, or the coworkers weren’t quite the right fit. I had two interviews for jobs that I wanted badly, simply based on the position description, what I knew of the company, and the passion of the interviewer. I had one interview that left me undoubtedly sure that I wouldn’t be having another.

Questions I was asked repeatedly included the following:

  • “What has been your greatest professional accomplishment?”
  • “Can you describe the best and worst supervisors you’ve had?”
  • “What characteristics are most important to you in a workplace?”

I learned that it’s important to go into an interview ready to answer these and other interview go-to questions, but the interviews that I felt best showcased me and my true personality were those for which I didn’t overly prepare. The ones where I stepped back, relaxed, and paid attention to the dynamic between myself and the interviewer were the best. I was better able to represent myself, rather than the petrified, clammy-handed, stomach-in-knots version of me who tends to show up for interviews. It was much easier to go in knowing that I was a good match for the position, and to approach the interview as an opportunity to determine whether I was a good fit for the company’s culture. (These interviews were also the ones where we had more natural conversation, and discussed “real” topics in addition to the traditional interview drivel.)

During my year and four month tenure at my current job, I’ve been promoted through four different official positions. (Five, unofficially.) Those jobs gave me ample doses of stress and anxiety, lots of experience working overtime, and far too much up-close experience with corporate subterfuge, but they have also given me a knack for process improvement, a strong backbone, and a true sense of who exactly I am in the “real world” workplace. I’ve had the good fortune to work with droves of smart, passionate, dedicated people; most of whom were more than willing to teach me how to be better at my job. For the majority of my time there, I was part of an amazing team that was able to accomplish great things–all while understaffed, overworked, and underappreciated. The memories of the great people I worked with and the many things we were able to produce–against all odds–are the ones I want to take with me and remember fondly. I’ll keep the rest, too, but it’ll all be filed under “things to avoid like hell in the future.”