Saturday, March 31, 2012

Winning the Big One

Ever since the lottery started encroaching on $300 million last week, I was steadfast in refusing to buy in. My reasoning was two-fold:
  • I didn’t believe I had any chance of winning
  • I didn’t want to win that much money
But as winners were yet to be drawn, the total grew and the excitement everywhere was undeniable. And so, I caved and decided to join history. Yesterday, I joined many of my co-workers in pulling together fives and tens to improve our chances of winning. As we walked to purchase our 325 tickets on behalf of the entire office, we joked how empty the entire office would be come Monday when we had all become overnight millionaires. (But, surprisingly, we did not win.)

Of course winning an unfathomable sum of money would be incredible. To never have to worry about making rent, no tussling over a car insurance payment, being able to take that dream trip and work only for your passions… But I don’t really want my life to be that easy.

With co-workers buying tickets on Friday

There’s something romantic about the challenge and the feeling of wanting something so badly and working toward it. If scheduling a trip to Europe becomes as simple as scheduling a date with friends, what value does it hold? My six months in Spain will forever be some of my most treasured memories because of the unique experiences I held there.

Here is what I would do if I had won:
  • Donate money toward public education
  • Donate money to Opportunity International
  • Toss a large chunk into a bank account to let it collect interest
  • Take a year to travel through South America and write
  • Master French
  • Keep working
On another separate but related tangent, I’m incredibly irked by the number of Americans willing to throw down a few to a few thousand dollars toward a chance to win big, yet how many are unwilling to do the same to support the social program (i.e. education) or pay their rightfully owed taxes.

And now that the several winners have been announced, let’s hope the split winnings not only improve their lives but also that of many others.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Winding Road for 20-somethings

A couple weeks ago, I joined my boyfriend’s family for a rainy weekend in Carmel to celebrate his mom’s birthday (two photos below). While out to lunch with his mom and sister, I expressed that I found my 20s to be incredibly more confusing than my college and teen years.

So far, my young adult years have felt much like trying to hack through an overgrown forest. While I might be improving at the method of dicing through thick vines and brush, I'm still not sure if I'm always going the right way, but it's almost even more frightening to contemplate turning around. Even now, finally in my career of choice and building up, I’m still torn on whether or not I’m spending my youth wisely.

Many career experts smartly advise 20-somethings to save diligently, store away cash in 401Ks and travel when your nest egg is stabilized. On the other hand, there are the countless blogs and articles written by former corporate execs or employees that have gone rogue and chosen a nomadic life or travel and freedom. Each one shares the pains of mourning the loss of their youth, spent pent up in a cubicle, churning along just to get ahead.

I have to admit, the appeal of growing my savings account is equaled by the appeal of filling my passport. It's hard to know which I should pursue more now, and which I put off for my 30s.

I know, I know… a rubric or road map for life just doesn’t exist. Life isn’t like school where answers are right or wrong. But I do want to end up somewhere, and I worry that without a define path, I’ll end up nowhere. Yet if I only barrel forward with my head down, I’ll wake up at 30 and wonder where my 20s went.

 “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” 
– Lewis Carroll

Our cottage in Carmel for the weekend!

View out from Mission Ranch

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Women Can Be Cannibalistic

Recently, a friend of mine came to me expressing frustration for another woman in her office. The second party consistently writes blistering emails that condemn teammates, shirks responsibility to evade culpability and casts blame - but only against female colleagues. 

For my friend, an honest and supportive team player, the behavior is disheartening, frustrating and tiring. As she described the situation, it reminded me of a quote my boyfriend's mom once shared explaining women - 

"There are two kinds of women: those that are for you, and those that are against you."

For years I struggled to understand why certain close friends would suddenly whisper behind my back if I earned recognition yet keep close if they had bested me; why I was hacked off from the party list and offered a lame excuse from a 'best' friendor why a bully in elementary school contrived to turn me into a 'playground pariah' seemingly on a whim. I always held on to the hope that juvenile jealousies and taunting would cease once I was an adult, but, alas, today I still encounter women like this at work and in my personal life.

I wish I could claim that I've never muttered a mean word about another woman. Of that I am guilty. Yet I wouldn't hardly classify myself as an 'against you' woman. I do genuinely feel excited about my friends' success and feel honored when asked to help another woman in career or personal pursuits. 

There are, however, some women who habitually strive to put others down and claw at other women who earn success. For years I thought it would fade as we all matured, but it wasn't until my boyfriend's mom share the aforementioned quote that it finally clicked: some women will always try to tear down others to try to bring themselves up.

Photo credit: U.K. Daily News and appearing
in  February 2011 Technorati article
Competitive job environments seem to amplify the existence of the 'against you' type women. I once worked with an 'against you' type who began her attack my first day on the job. Despite the fact that we were not in any form of competition, she contorted all interactions into a head-to-head competition and rejected any input or feedback from me or others she felt were her 'competition.' Maintaining tact in these engagements grew increasingly difficult, and our relationship was highly strained. It was with great relief when she was no longer a colleague.

I do want to point out that a stern and demanding woman is not an 'against you' type. For a sensitive soul, it might at times feel like an attack, but it's quite the opposite: a woman that challenges others is a woman striving to help the others succeed.

Of course there also are men who lurk behind the scenes attempting to maliciously destroy another's career, but petty personal attacks and conniving against each other seems more prevalent among the 'fairer sex.' For whatever reason, 'against you' women indulge in cannibalistic tendencies, attempting to kill and feed on other women's success.

Analysts and experts discuss the presence of a "glass ceiling" in the workforce. I wonder, would it be so thick if women didn't try to push each other out of the way to reach it?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Your Best Self: Home or at Work?

Last month I read an article that said the ability to make and keep plans as a young professional vs. a college student is among key differences between the two stages of life. Conflicts with work, stress and exhaustion infringe on the ability to make the weekly game night or catch up over dinner.

Not only does work life conflict with plans with friends, but often times it also influences relationships with loved ones.

While in the office, we behave ‘professional’ for the sake of our job, employing tact in all circumstances regardless of stress or frustration. Being 'professional' allows no room for for those that struggle to accept criticism, defensiveness, the overly emotional, etc. So while at work, we cast aside any personal angst, put our heads down and smile through the stress. 

However, once home, the release of stress doesn’t always emerge so tactfully and can strain relationships. Like a tea kettle, we allow the stress to continue to build within us until finally we hit the breaking point and succumb to a fiery rage or break down into a puddle of tears.

We are so adept at taking work home – literally and figuratively – yet still struggle to apply that same tact to the relationships that matter most. To some degree I wonder, why do we save our best selves for the office, but then also, why does it seem impossible to be our best selves always?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood

Late Saturday night, after a few beers, glasses of wines and some champagne, my boyfriend and I, his sister and her new fiance dabbled in some couples trivia pulled from the Do You Know Your Groom and Do You Know Your Bride set. Both books pose questions testing couples on knowledge of their counterpart's fears, loves and habits. I was proud of how accurately my boyfriend and I were able to answer about each other, though one of his answers for me surprised me:

The question - What is she most afraid of?
His answer - Growing old.

I don't remember the full range of options listed, but at first I contested, saying that wasn't my greatest fear. Yet he quickly reminded me of how hard I sob at movies that touch on growing up, find myself stressed with the idea of getting another year older and frequently fret about not having enough time to do everything. Perhaps it is true.

Yesterday, songwriter Robert Sherman passed away. As I listened to the report on NPR this morning highlighting his roster of work, including Disney's The Jungle Book, Winnie the Pooh and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I began to mist up thinking about how much I'd love those songs as a kid. 

When the theme song to Winnie the Pooh played, my lip trembled and I flashed back to memories of slipping into my parent's room late at night, tugging at my mom's nightgown and saying I couldn't sleep. Reluctantly, she'd pull herself from bed, tote me downstairs and put in our VHS tape of Winnie the Pooh. Though it was the same tape, it never ceased to entertain me and slowly lull me to sleep. 

I don't know if I'm afraid of growing old as much as I am afraid of losing the time to dream and achieve. As a kid, I always dreamed of the future, and I think it's that warm feeling of hope that's deeply woven in childhood that I worry about losing. I still want to belong to that hopeful crowd that gets to answer the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

I'm getting close to my 25th birthday - the age I'd arbitrarily assigned to "officially" being an adult. I have faint laugh lines forming around my eyes and a slight line on my forehead from my habit of furrowing my brow. I don't want to erase any lines - I just don't want to stop dreaming.

Winnie The Pooh by Disney on Grooveshark

Monday, March 5, 2012

The House that Built Me

The House that Built Me (Acoustic Version) by Miranda Lambert on Grooveshark

I just booked a flight home for a full week in July. I'm overwhelmed with excitement to have a full seven days in my hometown. At my parent's house. In my childhood room. In my bed. Save for two trips at Christmas, this is the first time in four years that I'll be home for more than a couple of nights.

My enthusiasm for being home in the quiet rolling hills of Lancaster County is ironic. As a teenager, I lamented the place, dismissed the tranquil lifestyle and of the comforts of childhood and pined away for adventure in California. 

For every broken heart or tortured teenage moment, California always seemed like the answer. I was enchanted with the idea of going far away where no one knew my name. And now, there's no more intoxicating thought than that of returning to the place where everyone knows your name

Moving far away is an exciting adventure and just seems so romantic. It's a challenge to discover yourself in a new corner of the world, build a life and settle in. And while I love life in San Francisco and am flattered that it's accepted me in its sprawl of chic architecture, fashion, literature and history, in this moment, I can't imagine a better trip than one back home.

(It's not just my nostalgia that makes Lancaster wonderful - It was recently ranked No. 1 Mid-size city in Gallop Healthways' Well-being Index.)

Gallop Healthways Well-being Index - Lancaster, Penn. 

"You leave home. You move on, and you do the best you can."