Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Facelift

I'm moving to a new city, and it's about time I gave this blog a new look.

Check out the new features below. Want to share this on Twitter? Facebook?
Was this post was dull? funny? Inspiring?
Let me know what other words I should use to help categorize my posts.
What else would you like to see?

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Love.

In life, there are many things and ways to feel love. While I lived in Spain, I loved sitting among classmates from all over the world learning together in a foreign language. Growing up, I loved that every fall Mom would fill the house with the rich spices and aromas of her homemade applesauce. I love finding the perfect Christmas gift for a loved one in a store after a long, arduous search. I love that next week I'll get to repeat the tradition of a slumber party with my little sister on Christmas eve. I have love for my friends, family, for reading, writing, sports and for San Francisco. But there are some loves that overpower us, and that lead us to change course in our lives. And when you find that love, it's impossible to resist, like a bug fatefully drawn to a bright light.

Writing about love is hard. I've tiptoed around the idea of really divulging what it is I feel, but this blog has transcended from just about the pursuit of a career into one about the pursuit of life, and what it is to be a young woman. And to omit love entirely would be a sin. But it is still hard. Love is so personal. Love is evolving, and love possesses a power that those who are not in love can not understand. And so, I've denied my ramblings and musings on how it feels to have fallen in love, yet it is embedded between the lines of all that I do each day, and all that I write. And so finally, I choke down my pride and expel the decadence I've so been longing to gush about.

I didn't write about love just to smear across my blog the effervescent sensation of happiness that has fizzled through me for the last several months, but to lead into something relevant: I am moving to San Diego because I am in love. Although practicality lands me here, love trumps practicality. Although my sense of security holds me here, love trumps security. And although I've fallen deeply in love with all of San Francisco, his love, it's deeper.

The adventure of life continues with a new chapter unfolding along the shores of San Diego.

"To live... To live will be an awfully big adventure."
- Peter Pan, Hook

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Omens.

The Alchemist was the second of Paolo Cohelo's books I've read this year (the first being The Pilgrimage). While I enjoy the insight Cohelo intertwines within each page, I never find a personal connection to the characters- always his stories jump abruptly, written impersonally so that the characters never call to me as the plot twists. They seem cold, unfamiliar and distant.
Despite the impersonal relationship of Cohelo's characters, I revel in the spiritual lessons he portrays. The Alchemist is far from my favorite book, but the entire story harps on the presence of omens in life to guide us toward finding our own treasure, fulfilling our personal legend. Like many of us, the protagonist, Santiago, desires something more than the stability he's found as a Shepard. Despite the fears of losing everything, Santiago leaves behind the comfort of his established reality for the dream of discovering the treasure he's dreamed of. As he travels through Northern Africa in pursuit of the desired treasure, he is guided by the presence of omens. Void of any suspense or a trace of a climax, Cohelo never left writhing to read on, but he did succeed in inspiring me to inspect my own life for omens.

A few weeks ago I went for a long run along the Embarcadero, in need of some running to clear my head and help me think. As I raced to the edge of a pier, I turned around to admire the city. The Christmas lights had just been strung around the frame of several buildings. I stood there, mesmerized by the glittering lights, illuminating the city where I'd woven my own networks, built friendships and carved out my niche. Faced with a life-changing decision, I stood there and asked for a sign to tell me what to do. I inspected the night sky, searching for a star to glimmer; I listed for a siren to call; I waited to feel the wind swoop behind me and tug at my hair.

But my senses were void of the indications I sought.

I sometimes make poor decisions, but I have stomach that's the first to remind me. Whenever I do something that I know is not right or make a poor choice, a sinking feeling looms in the pit of my stomach. Prior to that night, I had the nervous feeling of the unknown: I didn't know what to do. And I waited on that pier for an omen to guide me, and to signal that I should go one way or the other, but as I stood there, I didn't witness an omen. I turned to head home, chilled by the cool, night air as my sweat began to dry. And when I arrived home and showered, suddenly that sensation of nerves had dissipated and I felt comfortable, and at ease. Though not immediately apparent, it was only after finishing The Alchemist that I knew I had found my omen.

And the choice? That I will reveal a little later...


Thursday, December 9, 2010

P.S. I LOVE this!

Working with a group of young woman is an entirely different world than working with men. At my last job, I was one of five woman in the office, and the only one who wasn't married with children. Since most of the co-workers I engaged with on a daily basis were men, my work relationships and conversations were starkly different from those I share now. Scattered around the conference room, the banter of sports scores and friendly trash talk pinged back and forth among my colleagues at my first job. Now, light conversations about clothing sales, bags and festive holidays parties flutter about the cubicles.

I enjoy a good conversation about great heals as much as I love pay homage to my favorite sports teams (Penn State, Eagles, Phillies) and trashing my most detested (Cowboys, Ohio State, Iowa). And while there are times I miss catching up on the wonderful world of sports with the guys, I welcome the acknowledgement of when I'm sporting a new pair of shoes or an adorable dress...

Since fashion and clothing is an every day topic, no good find or cool tip goes unnoticed, including one co-workers homemade vest. Yes, made from scratch. And though I have no way to gauge her crafting abilities, I'm more than cognizant of my own limits. (I learned my lesson last year when I tried to hand sew together my Smurfette costume for Halloween. Project Runway does entertain, but I'll have to remember to resist any inspiration it might provide...) However, the project for the homemade vest is surprisingly simple, directions found here on the PS I Made This blog.

The PS I Made This blog is unique and fun, but I don't think I'll be putting together any furry heals or square bags any time soon. But the vest (sans fur) might actually a rainy afternoon project I will toy with. Maybe the runway isn't as far out of reach...?

Monday, December 6, 2010

"I'm a shoebox novelist"

After the death of my grandfather, my family structure was shaken. Though we'd operated independently, we were much like a federation of families: each nuclear family managing and enforcing its own legislation though falling under the umbrella of family jurisdiction created and enforced by eldest generation. Each of the four nuclear families shared their own, unique partnership with my grandparents, and though we were spread apart geographically and our interests and passions were diverse, we were all bound by not only blood, but our conjoined dependency of the wisdom and central grounds fortified by Grandma and Grandpa.

Death sometimes creates blessings: I joined together with all of my cousins, ages 19 to 32, for the first time since I was 11 years old. Though each of us had a varied treasured memory or image of our grandfather, all of us were equally shattered by his sudden departure. After we all once again crossed the United States to return to our respective homes in New Jersey, New York, Michigan, California, Hawaii, Pennsylvania and Ohio- the memory of our grandfather tethered us all together, more closely than ever before.

In addition to bonding with my cousins, seeing second cousins, uncles, great aunts, and the like for the first time in years, I found myself finally making the concerted effort to connect with my Grandma and learn more about her childhood.

I called her after work today to see how she was doing. Woefully she managed to carry a chipper conversation, though often lamenting that she still found herself waiting for his call- to say he was just running late and would be home soon.

As we talked about her childhood, the aspirations she'd held, I realized how very much of her is in me. Excluding the past 15 years, she'd diligently kept a diary where she recorded"the important" joys and concerns of her years with hope of one day using the stacks of notebooks toward inspiration of writing her own book. After the death of her mother many years ago, she'd been tasked with the responsibility of sorting through her childhood home and the piles of clutter within it. In the attic, she'd found a collection of old letters her mother had stored since her maiden years. Exhausted with the overwhelming amount of invaluable items congesting all the rooms, my grandma chucked the letters and decided she'd also spare her own family the trouble of ever debating over what to do with her personal diaries, and later shredded the pages of memories, feelings and ideas that had accumulated with her years...

Though I'm disappointed that the most valuable relics I could ever hope to inherit were destroyed for fear they'd be viewed as clutter and junk, I revel in the realization that my dreams of becoming a writer and getting published are in my blood. My grandma had even fancied herself a "shoebox novelist", too bashful to pursue a publisher, and instead collected handfuls of stories always started and never finished. Though I never felt I totally took my grandparents for granted, I don't believe I ever really took advantage of their history, their own dreams and how much of them is in me.

While it's hard to accept that I won't have the opportunity to really indulge in my grandfather's stories, I've ever more determined and excited to spend additional time and place phone calls to my grandma. Though spawned from unfortunate circumstances, my relationship with my cousins and grandma have both been strengthened.

As the comfort of the reality of your childhood is dissolved, sometimes, even in the bleakest of moments and within the darkest of shadows, sunlight and blessings creep in through unexpected ways.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cacophonic Faces, Euphoric Songs

This morning I caught my reflection in the elevator doors and immediately began to scrutinize my hair and make up. While I do consider myself a confident person, very rarely does anyone look at themselves and feel a sense of admiration and enjoyment. We inspect ourselves, finding our greatest flaws: a blemish or freckle, an age spot or wrinkle, an eye smaller than its partner...

I find it strange that we constantly berate ourselves for our physical imperfections, yet somehow we are all blessed with the ability to sustain and appreciate our own singing, regardless of how out of tune. How curious that we fail to recognize our own beauty, yet our ears deceive us to believe that our attempts at harmony are euphoric. I do wonder the rationale behind instilling in each of us this unbalanced assessment of our appearance and musical talents...

Could the fault lie with the wiring of our inner workings or perhaps the culprit is society?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fe Fi Fo Fum

As a little children, my grandfather would slowly stomp down the grand staircase of his old 1920's home bellowing, "FE FI FO FUM, I SMELL THE BLOOD OF AN ALTDOERFFER SON" as my brother and I would crouch beneath the billards table of the room adjoining the kitchen. As he slowly moved through rooms, nearing our hide out, his voice would grow and we'd try to suppress our snickers of anxiety until finally he'd reach the table and snatch us from below, greeting us with hugs and kisses. The routine continued for years, and consequently my dad's parents became known as "Grandma and Grandpa Fe-fi-fo-fum" (as if our 11-letter, German last name wasn't enough of a mouthful).

Friday I awoke to learn that my grandpa had gone into cardiac arrest and passed away. Though death is inevitable, and witnessed him age and his energy wane as he neared 85 years old, his passing was not expected. My mother had warned me during my last visit home that I might not have too much time remaining with my grandpa, however I dismissed the premonition when his laugh erupted over lunch despite the state of his weakened lungs. As I hugged him goodbye after lunch, a few hours prior to my return flight to California, I had no idea that it'd be the last.

Death does a funny thing. It makes you reflect on all the memories you shared with that person. The little moments that get tossed away with the tide of time until finally unearthed when deeply contemplated. Memories such as a smile, a laugh, or like my grandpa's dedication to family. As my family grew and dispersed throughout the country, occasions where he could gather us all together in one room to share a meal grew rarer and rarer. And though we will continue to populate various regions throughout the country and world, he will once again be able to be with each of us, though now, only in spirit.



Rest in peace, Grandpa. You will so be missed.

(Photo by my cousin, Drew Altdoerffer)





Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Twtterpated?

I love technology, and I love social media, so it does seem ironic that I have refused to even check out Twitter. I dismissed the site as another way for celebrities to permeate the world with banter about what they order at Starbucks or for their publicist to promulgate needless information about publicity stunts... (I know, I sound incredibly cynical.) I was aware that there were more influential and powerful figures that used Twitter to update and release information, however I still prefer the comforts of "old fashioned" outlets- online and TV when a newspaper is out of reach.

But last week, I struck a deal with a Twitter employee: I would sign up for Twitter and actively use the site in exchange for his purchase of a YAO Gala ticket. While perhaps it appears that prostituting out my patronage to Twitter (a free service) while he foots a $45 ticket to our fundraiser is an unfair exchange, I do want to point out that he did win the raffle that night and walked away with more than $100 of wine just for purchasing his ticket.

In any case, per the agreement made, I am now indulging in the strange world of abbreviated news and information. Come the conclusion of this accord, will I feel a wash of guilt and remorse for committing such an exchange, or will I have become entirely Twitterpated?

To learn more about Opportunity International, try clicking here. Or, while we're on the topic, check out my chapter on Twitter. First impressions of the site is that it could be come an addiction, however three rejections for updating my profile is creating some aversion.

Fishing and Anarchy

"Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after." -Henry David Thoreau




If only we could take some of our high school courses again as young adults. I think I would have had a greater appreciation for Thoreau, and possibly have retained more information from the American Lit course during my sophomore year of high school. (While I do remember discussing Thoreau's hermitage at Walden pond, Poe's litany of poems, my despise for the unending metaphors contained in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, my most distinct memory is my teacher's strange obsession with a poem discussing the beauty of a woman's forearm... information that in no way positively pigmented my education.)

However, I do remember Thoreau's reputation as being a nonconformist, escaping the pressures and monotony of mainstream life. Though occasionally viewed as an anarchist for his resistance to the institution of power in the United States, Thoreau's criticism of the government simply showcases the desire for improvement innate to the innovators of all society since the dawn of time.
"I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government"
-Henry David Thoreau
Feeling a persistent sense of discontentment and the desire to forge forward in new directions can often seem like ungrateful restlessness, but those who have striven constantly for more are those that we best remember as the great innovators of time. No great change or evolution has occurred without something, or someone daring to break the mold.

While I don't fashion myself the person that will change the world, I do, in regards to my own life, feel a sense of Thoreau's nature in my blood. I ask for, not at once no stability, but at once better stability.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Voice From the Futures (squared)


While I am once again contemplating and meddling with my future, I came across this response to my article from the Wall Street Journal: (If you have not yet read my article, here is the link)


After getting my article published, I did frequently check back to the site to read subsequent postings and what other guest writers had contributed, but today was the first time I had come across the response
directed to me. I was shocked that I'd missed this, and embarrassed that I had yet to reply. Though it did not offer an immediate or absolute answer, the advice was tactful, tangible and encouraging.

After reading her article, I joined the others that had commented before me saying,
I really appreciate this article in response to mine from August. It’s been a year and a half since I graduated college, and never once have I given up on my dreams. It definitely gets frustrating as the months elapse and still I have yet to find the job that makes my heart sing. Yet, this challenge and the unending oscillations in opportunities and rejections have fueled me to continue to write in my personal blog to share the experience with others. And though I’d much rather have the dream job, at the least the hunt has inspired me to write even more. It is refreshing to hear real, tangible advice instead of the suggestion to find contentment with the status quo. I appreciate the encouragement and feasible suggestions in your piece. Thank you!
Dreams are a funny thing. We can't explain them, and often we hide them to conceal our embarrassment should we never fulfill them. My boyfriend had gifted me a copy of Finding Forrester, a movie about an elusive author that adopts a teenage boy with a gift for writing. At the end of the movie, after the mentoring has concluded, Jamal, his student receives this letter from the author:

Dear Jamal:

Someone I once knew wrote that we walk away from our dreams afraid that we may fail, or worse yet, afraid we may succeed. While I knew so very early on that you would realise your dreams I never imagined I would once again realise my own.

{{Seasons change, young man. }}
While I waited until the winter of my life to see what I've seen this past year there is no doubt I would have waited too long, had it not been for you.
Seasons change. And much like the hard, arduous winter of the North East that seemed to drag on and never end, sometimes finding patience and a warm coat (or a volunteer opportunity) help us get by until the reprieve of summer. Because eventually, one day, seasons will change.






Friday, November 19, 2010

There May Be a Storm 'a-Brewin

A few months ago, I had read an article about creating and upholding a quality blog in an issue of Writer’s Digest. The article emphasized the importance of retaining a thematic consistency in the content and a manageable frequency of postings. Warned the article, a blog that spans from politic advocacy to food interests to house hunting with too little frequency to build interest or too many postings to keep up with was a recipe for disaster. At the time when I read the article, I was stilled immersed in aggressive networking and my quest for a job, relaying my tales of success, leads and my bountiful failures in posts and just a dash of side tangents (an act permissible when done in moderation, according to WD).

Once I had closed in on t
he new job, I wondered how I would continue the theme of forging the path of my desired career now that I’d checked off the first box in my course of action. I wasn’t aspiring to return to the despair of a demoralizing job just for the sake of keeping in tune with the running theme of my blog posts, but I worried that maybe the few readers I had garnered would trail off as my adventures of the hunt came to an end. And even though most of my blog visitors are personal friends of family members that I surreptitiously entice to check it out my blog, having a few readers that occasionally leave feedback or spend some time on my site just makes me happy. (And according to Writer’s Digest, though I beg to differ, my personal blog qualifies me as a true, living, breathing writer.)

{{deep sigh}}

I’ve toyed around with topics to continue on with: my non-profit volunteer work, my budding post-college athletic career, things to do in San Francisco, my love life… but I’m not sure I want to focus in on any of those things. (And I’m wary to ever publicize anything about my boyfriend, though he is wonderful, for fear that I’ll transform this blog from the voice of a young woman to a watered-down Sex and the City or worse, a Nicholas Sparks novel knock-off.) But sometimes, even the things that you never expect to alter and dictate dreams or plans move in with sweeping currents and a fanciful under toe that cradles you and pulls you in a completely different direction…

And that I suppose is the beauty of being an adult: as a child, you are only subject the decisions and actions others m
ake. As an adult, you get to engage in which way to steer the boat when a storm approaches. And I guess, with a storm brewing on the horizon, I’ll soon be taking the wheel and decided whether to turn right, or turn left and such decisions will manage the direction of this blog.



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Strolling to Remember

Monday (the 8th) was my first day at the new job and I could hardly wait for my alarm to ring to announce the commencement of a new work week. It was the first time I'd felt excited to get to work since I graduated college (and it wasn't just because I could wear blue jeans to the office). With exuberant energy, I found myself ready for work about an hour ahead of schedule. Too antsy to watch CNN for the remaining time, I grabbed my jacket and headed on foot to work.

Though voted one of, if not the most, walkable of US cities, getting anywhere on foot in this city requires some strategic planning. The modern "grid style" urban planning is corrupted by sudden escalations and curvaceous bay shores causing sudden stops, turns and abrupt transitions to one-way streets. When walking, a reasonably flat path suddenly arches up, transforming a morning stroll into unexpected cardio exercise.

Monday I mentally mapped the lightest walking route, though it upped my walk time from 30 minutes to about 45. The long stroll with the morning sun gleaming off the freshly swept sidewalks and the bustle of school children rushing off to meet the bell reminded me a lot of my morning walks to the university in Spain.

Although Seville is not a booming metropolis like Barcelona or Madrid, Seville proper is an expansive city sprawl. (As any good European Catholic city, all building is outward rather than upward to prevent any roof from towering above the steeple of the Catholic church.) In January, when I first arrived, I'd awake freezing cold each morning. The chill of the night lingering on the tile floors and walls with no central heat to chase it away. I'd lean over my night stand to click on the space heater and wait for a few moments until I sensed the warm air begin to fill the room. I'd change into my robe, tip-toe into the kitchen where I'd ignite the hot water.

Showers in Spain are not the luxury we have here: hot water is expensive, and while lathering up my hair or shaving, I was always instructed to shut off the water to properly ration the month's hot water supply. With the constant oscillation between shivers in the cool air and the comfort of warm water pelting against my body, my shower time rarely surpassed four or five minutes.

After showering, I'd return to my room to change where my space heater had adequately warmed my room enough that I wouldn't catch a cold while I dressed. In record speed, I'd be ready and out the door to enjoy my 40 minute walk to the university.

Mornings were a beautiful collection of the modern Spanish population: armies of young children parading their way to school. Old couples sauntering down the sidewalks in unison, linked together at the elbow. Gypsies adorned the high-trafficked corners with hand made jewels and pipes. Shop owners scrubbed the sidewalks to remove the grime and residue of the night and shouted, "¡Tío, hasta luego!" as a familiar face passed them by. The sidewalks were as alive and bustling as the streets, crammed with buses, cars and motocicletas.

Though I generally scuffled off to the university in a huff, the typical American always in a hurry, there were the mornings where I'd deliberately leave early to force myself to pause to admire the tranquility and simplicity of the morning commute- on foot.

Thinking back now to my days in Spain, my memories are only faint . Small memories lost amid a blizzard of experiences. My six month stint in Seville isn't clouded by many regrets except for one: I never wrote it about it. Little moments and cultural revelations that didn't overpower that radar, yet nonetheless were crucial to my growth and experience abroad have been lost in transition.

And now, though insignificant as it might seem, my walk through San Francisco on a busy Monday morning is worth writing about. Perhaps not the most exciting, but at least so that in 15 years I can more vividly remember.

Happily Ever After

In stories, once the protagonist's objective is fulfilled and enemies vanquished, the back cover immediately follows. In Cinderella, once she finally escaped from indentured servitude under her evil stepmother and disappeared into the horizon with Prince Charming, the story ends. Though I have yet to see or read the final installment in the Harry Potter series, I can reasonably suspect that after a series of perilous battles and suspense, Harry will inevitably avenge his parent's death. Aside from some pathetic attempts at poor sequels, most stories find a happy ending and close the story. As viewers or readers, we accept this conclusion and feel content to know that it all worked out.

In childhood, most chapters of life offer the same concise beginning, middle and end that we enjoy in our books and movies. The freedom of summer adventures comes to a close with school buses lining up to transport kids back to the classroom. School years begin with a mild review of previous knowledge, ramp up with a crammed exam schedule- the climactic moment of the story- and conclude with graduations and diplomas.

But not all stories offer the comfort of an absolute and tidy ending: when did I become an adult? Was it when I turned 18? When I graduated college? Moved out? Is it when I get married? Was it when I pared through my belongings and packed away the books and Barbies I'd left abandoned for months? Was it when I went to college?

And defining beginnings, middles and ends in the real world only gets more convoluted.

My initial plight was to rescue myself from my corporate job when I felt like I clocked hours spinning in circles, yet never building for the future I desired. After traveling for months down a bleak and winding path of interviews and networking, I shook hands with my new employer and gave notice to my former. After my last day, I celebrated with friends over an expensive bottle of wine I’d held on to specifically for that occasion.

...and I worked happily ever after.

But my story doesn't end there. Unlike Anne Hathaway in the Devil Wears Prada, my story doesn't end at a job offer after a tornado of a first position. And now that I have new job, I have to wonder whether this will be a brand new story, a cheesy spin off or nearly identical sequel.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mile Marker 1

One of the themes that distinguishes youth from the blasphemous "real world" is the presence commencement and termination of epochs with temporary reprieves in between. Growing up, school years begin in late August, come to a close in June and offer a summer vacation to refresh and reload for the imminent next step. Though at times the ailments of growing up and the strain of a heavy workload can appear arduous, the time line is always absolute and a temporary recess breaks us from the monotony of routine.

Not so in the real world.

Sometimes the real world feels a lot like signing up for a long distance run, yet having no idea what the path will be, the pace nor the markers. Not being able to estimate and create goals along the way becomes daunting and the ambiguity seems overwhelming.

Yet tomorrow I will close the chapter on my first job out of college and relish in the solace of putting behind me the distaste and scorn I've endured daily when my alarm would interrupt my dreams. Though this job in no way meets my career ambitions or develops the skills I aspire to eventually specialize in, I do recognize that there have been some benefits. Tomorrow feels like the day after finals in the AP Bio class I elected to take my junior year of high school, believing that I'd find myself passionate about cells yet quickly realizing that I'd rather do be confined to a solitary cell for an hour in lieu of taking notes about any science...

However after I completed the AP Bio class, I emerged with a better grade than I'd have estimated based on my interest. And knowing that I'd overcome the hurdle of battling complete disinterest and still managing to perform filled me with a sense of pride.

The sentiment, as my final hours approach with my first employer, are equal: true that it was not the first step in my desired career, and even though it was a concerted effort to engage, I did it; and I received high remarks upon my exit.

Though obviously mile-markers don't lead the path in the real world, I'm appreciative to have passed my first, though it felt as though I've already trekked a few marathons.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fall in the Sky

Pennsylvania has it's vivid and lush Fall foliage, a burst of color before the thick green pigments give way to lurid grays. During my first Fall in San Francisco, I found myself pining for the smell of crisp autumn air, the whisper of summer in the air as it faded away into cool, dark winter. I missed the signs of Fall I'd always known: bursts of red, oranges and yellows shimmering through wooded hills and fields. Fall didn't seem like Fall without having to dig out thick sweaters and the crackle of a fire churning in my living room.

This year I spent Halloween weekend in San Diego and happened to have my camera handy when I was struck by quite possibly the most beautiful sunset I've ever witnessed. Though coastal California doesn't have fiery Fall shades painted in the tress, they were strewed across the evening sky as the sun slipped away behind the foreground of the Pacific Ocean.

I was so captivated by the cascade of colors cradled between the neutral blue-gray tones of the ocean and lingering clouds, that I felt a bit like Brendan Fraser's uber-sensitive character in the 2000 movie, Bedazzled:



At first the loss of obvious seasonal changes made life seem a bit surreal. Summer bled into Fall, Fall to Winter, Winter to Spring... Weather in San Francisco is more distinct week-by-week rather than season by season. Without the indications of each season, the reality that it truly was summer or fall seem irrelevant. I'll never fully overcome the loss of the cyclical beauty ever-changing seasons that dictated my life back East, but with art like this filling the canvas of the sky along the coast, I think I'll cope.


The Stress of Quitting

I seem to be making a habit out of making my flights recently. While I certainly tend to operate at peak performance when subjected to a heightened level of stress, the added drama of arriving at security exactly 12 minutes before departure isn’t the M.O. I really strive for. Fortunately I was able to gallop in my stilettos with overstuffed carry on bags dripping from my shoulder to the gate just as the airline announced final boarding and struggled to eek out an accurate pronunciation of my intimidating German last name.

And added stress on top of the extracurricular non-profit week I’ve scooped up this month, and the stress of quitting, sprinting through the airport in my business casual was not what I needed. Yes, quitting has been stressful.


Although I’ve put in my two weeks notice, and it seems as though I should be gracefully tying up loose ends and prancing about the office in an effervescent, careless glee, I’ve actually found myself putting in even more hours than usual and skipping lunch entirely in efforts to get out of the office before seven. I’m determined to turn over a clean and organized account database, driven to preserve my legacy with the same fervor as The Crucible’s John Proctor, “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life!” The pursuit of preserving my name and the image I’ve worked to establish has propelled me to make my final two weeks a productive purgatory.


Perhaps it is masochist, but I’ve even begun to feel nostalgic for the empty-feeling that haunted me over the past 16 months. The same feeling that would drive me to rush home, bang against my keys until I’d produce the semblance of an organized, sane blog post.


When I wrote my last blog entry about quitting, I almost had a worry that by closing out my enduring saga of getting a job that actually made want to spring out of bed the way college had I would have run out of things to write. Certainly I’ve sprinkled ounces of unrelated topics amid my entries mourning the missing passion from my professional day-to-day, but the invariable theme has been “wah wah wah: I want a new job.” With that contest checked off the to-do list, what will I write about now?


The beauty of keeping a personal blog rather than an actual freelance job assignment is that there truly is no restriction to what direction my words blow or sway. And the original intent of this blog was quickly dissipated when I realized that inviting homeless men to a sit down dinner intimidated more than I’d wanted to admit. So now that I can “mission accomplished”, I’ve created a crux where I’ll have to reinvent this blog site. (Unless I want to continue to pine away for yet another new job- which hopefully won’t happen for at least another year or two, and should that be the case, I might have an internal altercation with myself.) I’ve considered opening up this blog to get a little political (a liberal exposé that might cost me the subscription of my parents) or even gush about being in love…


Hopefully inspiration finds me as I amble on in my new endeavors, and hopefully I awake to feel the rush of wind at my back rather than the overwhelming dread of diving into a ocean to tread water.



Saturday, October 23, 2010

Happiness

I have fallen off in keeping up with my surmounting nightstand book list. I have a complex where I feel personally obligated to finish a book once I’ve started it, which often results in long stretches of time where I neglect reading entirely to avoid the chore of returning to a book that has long since lost of interest. I got into a rut with Eat. Pray. Love. Once Gilbert left Italy, the book’s excitement and zeal dropped off for me. However, after assigning myself mandatory ten pages per day, I slowly crawled to the back cover. During my final descent, I did regain my appreciation for Gilbert's words and stumbled across some quotes I found powerful and magnetic, especially this one:
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it." - Eat. Pray. Love. (260)
The only thing holding me back while I make my decision of whether or not to leave my job is money. Leaving my job will shatter my attempts at accruing travel money for a long and lavish adventure and also that stability of a growing nest egg.

While money is the means, it is certainly not the ends. My nights and weekends of freedom weren't enough (and often weren't entirely free) to subsidize the disappointment and litany of grievances I suffered from while continuing to work at a job that failed to inspire me. I do enjoy having a little more of cushion to fly to San Diego once a month, and collecting an array of garments to flood my closet and drawers; but no matter how cute my new Michael Kors' heals are, they just don't offer the same satisfaction as landing a job that calls to my passions.





Quitting.

Aside from resigning from the middle school band, I’ve never quit anything. (Unless of course you count break ups- I’ve done plenty of those.) When I decided to move on from my company, even though it had been a long awaited parting, I felt a wash of guilt and remorse. I debated how to tell my boss. Do I lie and say an opportunity just sprung up? Do I tell him how unhappy I’ve been? Do I make it long-winded, or short and sweet? And most importantly: WHEN? There is a philosophy behind firing people that suggests that Fridays are best to terminate employees. Does the same tact apply in telling your boss you’re leaving?

Quitting my job was a lot of like finally pulling the plug on a stagnant relationship. My company treated me well and tried to make me feel special and valued, but as I elaborated to my boss the reason behind my departure, I just didn’t love my job. I found myself trying to comfort him that he and my soon-to-be-ex-employer had done nothing wrong. It just wasn’t for me. I couldn’t believe I was essentially feeding my boss the cliché, “It’s not you. It’s me” line. I even bought him a beer and tried to make him laugh, divulging some harmless office pranks and secrets he’d missed out on. As he swallowed down the last of his beer and we moved toward the door where we’d part ways, an awkward tension arose: do we shake hands? Wave? Hug? Does he flip me the bird?

In the end, we reconciled my resignation in an amicable way and shed no blood over the news. (He even admitted he suspected I’d pursue a different route soon.) As elated as I was to put in my two weeks and move on to something I’m passionate about, it was deflating to know I’d let someone down.

A friend of mine once gave me some great advice when I expressed remorse over leaving my job:

“It’s business. Your company keeps you for as long as you fulfill their needs. You only stay with your company for as long as they fulfill yours.”

Opportunity Seat

When I first moved to San Francisco, I scrambled to affordably furnish my new apartment through postings on Craig’s List. Since I was solely funding the furnishing of my entire apartment and finances were tight, I had to be excessively frugal in making my purchases. I’ve always had expensive taste, so securing an amorous marriage between taste and affordability was a severe negotiation. But, after a few days I finally found a Pottery Barn love seat in good shape right in my price range. While picking up my new seating, I noticed tennis rackets tossed over the previous owner’s roommate’s bed. After some prying, I learned that her roommate, like me, was an avid tennis player. Having a running total of zero friends in my new home, I boldly asked for his contact information and sent him a Facebook message asking to get together to play tennis, a convenient façade that concealed my true message that read, “Hi, can you please be my friend?”

Flash forward to a couple months ago when I first moved into the Commune, I posted many of my old items on Craig’s List for purchase. When a fellow east coast transplant came to retrieve the same Pottery Barn love seat, I riddled her with questions about her relocation and job. Turns out, Charlotte’s company was in a hiring frenzy and she had been abruptly relocated, explaining why she was now doing the same mad dash to furnish her apartment I had done a year prior. I had several friends en route to my place for a dinner party, and she also was in a rush, so our conversation was brief.

A few days went by from when I helped shove the loveseat into the back hatch of her car, when I started to wonder if perhaps Charlotte’s company would be something that interested me. I harvested through old emails and found her company’s name imbedded in her signature. After checking out the Web site, I was enticed, and sent a message to her asking if they were still hiring and if I could pass along my resume. (True message: “Hi, will you please hire me?”)

Turns out, they did hire me and I put in my two week’s notice yesterday. While I appreciate the value of networking events, I think everyone should invest in a little Craig’s List shopping. From my original purchase, I also collected a friend/tennis partner and a new job.



Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tossing in the Towel?

This recession sucks. I’ve watched as slowly the dreams of many recent college graduates have been corroded from concurrent rejection across the board, and the passion of my friends has reduced to a vapid memory. I’m not immune to this affliction; I’ve become pensive in envisioning my future where before I imagined my future in a blithe and dreamy fashion.

I recently learned that a childhood friend of mine that had always dreamed of working in broadcast journalism has decided to forego the world of TV news and is pursuing a more tangible career in education. While this is the only specific, isolated example I can think of, it is disheartening. Not that education is by any means a deplorable field, but when a dream falls apart, where does all that hope go? And with one more throwing in the towel, I wonder if my time will come? Will I also soon succumb to the realization that my stable job will have to suffice and my dreams will take home on a dusty shelf within the museum of youthful dreams?

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

The Clash might have been singing about love, but when debating the next step in my life, the refrain of this song resounds inside my head. Growing up, I craved freedom and scorned the entrapment of youth that relinquished my power to choose and decide. I saw the adult world as an epiphany and berth of climatic exaltation of liberation; what I missed was how provisional that freedom actually is.

I’ve been actively pursuing new employment opportunities for six months. I have had some offers, but nothing to foster the career I strive for. All the while during my pursuit, there has been the draw of indulging in a short term escape from the menial tasks I churn away at each day and fulfilling my dreams of trekking through South America and reporting back the experiences. However, I am not enough of a free spirit to pack my things and ship off without contemplating the plan for my return, my finances and the benefits for my career…and so the debate wages on:

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO?

If I stay, I can continue to hunt for a new job while refining the façade of a successful adult in my current role: building a 401K, growing my savings account, moving up within my current company, stability, etc. I can continue to carry out all the precepts of success yet not in any way feeding my soul or succumbing to my dreams. If I go, I risk losing all stability, but finally satisfying that faction of my heart, mind and soul that yearns to break out and do something against the grain. That part of me that craves adventure over stability and originality over conformity is melting as I seep deeper and deeper into pragmatic adulthood.

IF I GO THERE WILL BE TROUBLE

AND IF I STAY IT WILL BE DOUBLE

And thus is my predicament: perhaps in 15 years I will have the finances to take a longer stint to travel and explore, but my personal obligations might conflict and prevent me from going. As of now, most arrows, save for the piggy bank, point to GO. But money talks, and my piggy bank has a lot to say.

Oye.

ESTA INDECISIÓN ME MOLESTA.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

No Gifted Children?

Last week, I patiently awaited the arrival of a customer for a lunch meeting at an outdoor cafe on a rare hot day in San Francisco. In between pretending to examine the menu or swirl around the slowly dissolving ice cubes in my water glass, I strained my ear to spy on the conversation at the adjacent table. A man, dining with a female colleague raved about a genius book he had just finished reading that argued that there was no such thing as a gifted child. He cited that Tiger Woods simply had practiced more hours than most children expose themselves to. Mozart was born to a fabulous music teacher. The prodigious advancements made by any youth, he summarized, was due to erroneous factors that were not due to their natural gifts or talents.

Although there is certainly merit to the fact that excessive practice and a masterful instructor at a young age will aid in producing highly skilled student, the credit can't be all due to external factors. Regardless of the efforts of any teacher, or the hours clocked on the putting green, without a superior affinity for the sport or for composition, no incredulous notoriety or success will ensue.

During all four summers in college I taught youth tennis. I watched as some recreational players with a gift for the sport took down juniors years older weathered with tournament experience, years of polished, private instruction and hours of practice sessions on the courts. Even though the seasoned players were accruing the hours and learning from well-trained teaching pros, they found themselves trumped by novice players that for some reason easily mastered the wit, skills and power of the sport in a fraction of the time.

Although I feel incredibly egotistical to tout my own gift of writing, I do remember always having a sense of linguistic prowess and precision over my fellow classmates. I wasn't the top student, but when it came to free writing, I'd melt away into the pages as I scribbled away, words lining up and falling into place like snowflakes coating bare, winter lawns: it came naturally, gently, and my words would flow in a pristine cadence. I found comfort in the practice of writing, recording fiction stories or recording my feelings was a personal sanctuary for me. I don't believe myself to be a prodigy by any means, but I do count myself among the ranks of other aspiring writers gifted with a talent for words.

The premise that no one is special and no one is gifted is pessimistic and deflating. It certainly takes additional resources to successfully mold a prodigy, but at the core and heart of the elements necessary is one: being gifted.

Trapped in the Confines of Outside

It must be true that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. As I continue my pursuit for a new job, I’ve restricted my hunt to office jobs in lieu of the outside sales position I currently have. My friends that spend their days cooped up in cubicles, constantly under the eye of their superiors, envy my liberty to schedule my own day or work in from home some mornings/early afternoons. While the draw of outside sales is certainly independence, my role isn’t quit as glamorous as it is made out to be. I spend a large portion of my day shuttling back and forth between customer meetings and prospecting visits during the day, trying to reserve the last couple hours of the day to follow up on action items and catch up on the stacks of emails and paperwork. Sure, there are many afternoons where I get back home around 4, slump on my couch in sweatpants with CNN on in the background and fire away at emails- a more comfortable set up than sitting rigid in the office with my feet stuffed into a pair of black stilettos; but having, in essence, a home office means that work is always with you.


I don’t mind working late, putting in extra hours and going the extra mile, but the feeling that I am always working when I get constant customer emails and calls after hours or on the weekends, it’s hard to feel like the work day ever ends. Call it a character flaw, but I feel guilty not doing all that is asked of me quickly. So even if it is a Sunday afternoon, and I’m shouting at the TV when my team isn’t performing, I feel an obligation to check my work phone to see if there are any emails I need to attend to immediately. And when I neglect to respond, I'm wrought with the stress of not immediately acting.


I crave that glorious sense of separation of church and state: Work (state) in the office and church (personal life) is everything else. In college, I completed all my studies and work on campus: in between classes or at the library until late at night. Sometimes I’d be at the library drilling away at a presentation, or refining the formatting on a project until two or three AM, but the moment I stepped out of the library doors and hopped onto my bike, I was “off the clock”. I’d completed my work and was retreating to my sanctuary of a late night snack and some Food Network reruns.


I know I’m not alone in daydreaming about what it’s like on the “other side”, and my envious longing to retreat to an office every morning sounds a bit masochist to those clawing their way out of the cubicle jungle each day, but I can’t help but fantasize about the camaraderie of an office. In Disney’s Aladdin, Jasmine and Aladdin, when lamenting of their inverse realities, say in unison, “Sometimes you just feel so trapped.” Those in the office, when I’m striving to land, feel trapped by the walls. Me, I’m trapped by my bellicose cell phone and the sense that if I’m at home, I am technically still at work.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Qué será será



What ever will be, will be.
The future is not ours to see.
Qué será, será.

I loved this song when I was a little girl. My family owned a radio station for three generations, so we hosted an extensive collection of various vinyl records from years past. I used to pillage through the stacks of records, dig through the cedar closet for a dress up gown and twirl around my basement to the static of the song as the record player ambled along. Though I often would audition a new record or two, I'd always return to the romantic cadence of this one.

I have always wanted to plan out and know the future. I like to feel a sense of preparation, and to anticipate the forthcoming events. Allowing things to evolve as fate should have them, and accept that I might not be able to predict the course of events provokes a feeling of vulnerability. But as my nineteen year old sister reminded me, "You can plan a pretty picnic, but you can't predict the weather."

Two weeks ago, I sat next to a French ex-patriot on a routine flight to San Diego. After the initial indulgence of casual niceties, we breached the PC divide between casual small talk and we began to drill deep into the core of our political beliefs, our dreams and philosophies on life. Thierry trumped me by about 30-40 years, so his outlook on life carried years of tethered experience. Though I found Thierry to be undeniably fascinating, there was one line that shook me inside and reverberated through me:

Life isn't always champagne. Sometimes it is just flat wine.
I have had some glamorous, sparkling moments in my life where I fizzled and popped inside with excitement. Parts of my life, especially my professional life, have been nothing more than cheap, flat wine. The little girl that used to spin around in vintage gowns and in my cousins hand-me-down tap dance costumes envisioned a life bursting with bubbles and fizzy moments. Even though I wish every moment could be seen through the golden glint of exploding champagne bubbles, I'm learning that finding those special moments in between the flat wine ones makes those minutes or hours even more special.

I'd love to know what will happen next-
will there be rainbows day after day?
will I be pretty?
will I be rich?

but I guess I have to wait to see if I'll swim in champagne, or perhaps tread water for some time more in flat wine.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

No Left Turn

After I was published in the Wall Street Journal Blog, several readers commented on my laments about becoming an adult and the strife in landing the role I wanted. A few commented that my efforts to attract a unfamiliar recruiter/employer through emailed resumes and cover letters was a flawed attempt; the reader continued that it's through networking that interested candidates can get their foot in the door, not through flooding inboxes. When I saw the comment, I wasn't surprised. I knew that the zillions of cover letters and resumes I'd tailored for countless jobs more than likely were never even opened, but I kept falling back on the comfortable excuses that I'm new to San Francisco; I'm not from here; I don't know anyone. Well, then the answer was simple: I needed to meet someone.

When I first moved to San Francisco, I had to build my social circle from scratch. I didn't have a single friend that lived in the city. I waited to happen across friends, clinging to the few connections I had made early on through alumni associations and work, yet still feeling like I needed to meet more people to satisfy my extrovert tendencies. Finally I forced myself to pull my nose out of books and join some sports teams: soccer, softball and flag football. I didn't know the other players on the team and was a "free agent" responder to Craig's List Want Ads for extra players. Not only did joining the sports teams fill up my calendar with healthy activities, but I met some of my now closest friends and made this city transform from a "current location" to home. So when it came to getting my career settled, why wasn't I doing the same thing?

I decided to take action: I joined the local chapter of Public Relations Society of America. Tonight was my first PRSA event, hosted across the bay in Oakland. It's not too often I spend my evenings in Oakland, and even rarer that I dare to brave rush hour traffic across the Bay Bridge. Despite the draw of taking an evening to finally have time to jog across Crissy Field and prepare for my weekend trip, I opted to forge through the stampede of cars escaping across the bridge to the sunshine of the East Bay.

Upon arrival I realized I was much younger than all of the other professionals: JACK POT. The best thing about being the lone young buck in a networking event is that you stick out. Not only that, but with age comes more experience, more connections and a higher likelihood that they want to help. I ordered a small glass of Chardonnay and began my circling around the room hunting for a wandering eye that I could pray on to strike up a conversation. At the end of the night, I'd grabbed a few cards and left with more hope and inspiration than I'd felt in a long time. I couldn't fight the smile on my face and even felt tempted to dance along with the drunk homeless man bouncing along to his own silent music.

I know I'd previously written that I felt there were blatant signs proving that change was eminent, but two months later, I still haven't secured a plan that speaks to my ambitions. Yet tonight, as I pulled out of the parking garage, satisfied and exuberant with the connections made at the networking event I saw this sign:


Perhaps I'll still be working this same job next month, and the following and the following... maybe nothing will fall into place in the immediate future; however, I finally stopped waiting to make the left turn. I stopped complacently allowing myself to accept the rules of the road. I stopped looking for shortcuts. Tonight, for the truly first time, I started making the turns that will take me to where I want to be.