Saturday, October 23, 2010


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.


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:


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.



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.



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.