Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Time on my hands

If anyone had asked me when I was younger about the best time to retire, I would have said preferably 55, but 60 at the latest. I had visions of travelling to exotic places, lounging around on pristine beaches, learning obscure languages and taking painting lessons. Since I have never been inspired to do any of those things at any point in my life, I am not sure why I thought I would like to do them when I no longer had to work. Be that as it may, a couple of years ago, my work week hours were shortened from 40 to 25, not by my own choice, but by the person for whom I work. I resisted getting another job, imagining all of the fun things I could do in those extra hours of free time each week.  Here was my chance to semi retire, to still be in the workforce and yet be able to put those exciting plans into place. In addition to all the activities with which I would fill my days, I would also do all of my weekend errands during the week, in the mornings so as to avoid crowds, thereby saving tons of time. Best of both worlds, right? Imagine my surprise when I realized a few interesting things about being semi retired.

1. A shortened work week means a smaller pay check (big Duh! here).
2. Vacations, exotic or not, cost money (another Duh!) which I no longer have in abundance.
3. Yes, I have 15 hours of free time in the mornings during which to run errands, but really, how many errands do I have to run? I doubt I have 15 hours worth of errands a month let alone each week. And quite apart from the abundant errand running time, I found that:
4. There appear to be just as many people running around on weekdays as there are on the weekends! Who knew going to Target on a Wednesday morning at 10 would take just as long as going there at the same time on Saturday?
5. I don't want to take lessons of any kind whether it be small engine repair, painting or origami. I'm just not a lesson taker.  I also am not interested in taking classes or attending lectures. I did enough of that in college to last a lifetime.
6. Although I have enjoyed being able to go to late morning breakfasts with friends during the week, I can no longer go to lunch. I miss going to lunch. There are a lot more choices at lunch and it serves as a nice little break in the work day. (If you sense a little whine here, you would not be incorrect) Ladies Who Lunch sounds so deliciously decadent. Babes Who Breakfast, not so much.
7. Did I mention a smaller pay check?

What I am most proud of during this enforced down time is that I did not fall into the habit of sleeping in. Sadly I cannot take credit for that as my dog is an early riser and very demanding with regards to his morning walks. He likes to have his pre-breakfast walk at around 6:30, 7 at the very latest, and then only if he has stayed up late the night before. So, apart from the myriad errands that required running, what did I do this last 2 years with all of my involuntary free time?  My house is no cleaner, nor is it better organized. I cannot claim to have spent the time on self improvement or giving back to my community or inventing a wonderfully inexpensive widget that will revolutionize the world.  Instead I read books. Lots and lots of books. Oh, yes, and I started writing this little blog...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

On leaving a job you no longer like

All of us who have held jobs outside the home have at one time or another had doubts about that job. When you first begin a job, I think it is normal to have a can-I-do-this flutter of nerves. If you are starting with a new company, maybe you wonder who among the people you see inhabiting the cubicles around you will become your friends and who will remain just co-workers or even (unfortunately) your enemies. It's an important question considering you may be spending 8+ hours a day with them. But the most important consideration of all, is your future boss.  Will you like her, respect her, envy her, despise her, pity her? Will her attitude toward you and her management style not be an issue or will they begin to grate on your nerves until you want to find a good place for a primal scream?  I suppose most of you reading this and certainly those of you who really know me, can see where this is going.  But before you roll your eyes at what could digress into a rant, I have a story to tell you. A fable, if you will, about listening to your doubts as you interview for a new job.

Once Upon a Time, 15 years ago in the Land of Washington State, a woman replied to an online advertisement for a job that sounded like it was right up her alley. (Now days people say "in your wheelhouse" but I have never cared for that saying although I am not sure why.) She wasn't looking for a new job, she had one that, while not perfect, was pretty good.  But she saw the online ad and emailed her resume to the potential employer, then was pleased when she got a call setting up an interview.  Ok, I am going to stop saying "she" and admit that the story is about me. (Surprising, I know!) I drove over an hour to the interview, understanding that I would have to move when I took the job.  It never occurred to me that I wouldn't be offered the job. I had almost 10 years of experience in the field and was supremely confident of my ability to solicit the job offer. The interview went as they are wont to go, the prospective boss asking pertinent and sometimes obscure questions, while I answered in a reassuring manner and touted my past jobs and how I was sure I would be an asset to her business.  I wasn't distressed by her parting comment about how she needed to talk to one other person before she made her decision.  I knew and she knew she would be calling me by the next day and that when she did, I would accept.  After all, I had gone there to get the job, not be interviewed. And that, my friends, is where I made a huge mistake. I was too focused on the goal, the job offer, and completely missed some warning signs. Don't worry, this story doesn't end with her being a serial killer, just a fairly self centered micromanager with little or no respect for employees for whom I have little liking and even less respect than she has for me. Over the past years, I have looked back on that interview and some of the stories she told about herself and some of the remarks she made about what she expected from an employee, and have realized, I should never have taken that job.

I tried to quit 3 or 4 times within the first couple of years and each time I caved under pressure and the rewards she offered if I would stay.  As my daughter put it, I was distracted by the sparkly things. So yes, I realize I have no one to blame but myself for now being in a job that I have come to dislike working for a person who fails to support me. I have exhausted friends and family with stories and complaints but am proud to say I have finally reached the point where all the incentive in the world will not keep me in this job. And that, to me, is very sad.  I have always been an optimist, preferring to believe that things will surely get better, or at least not any worse, and I have more than my share of stubbornness (by golly, I will make this work!). But sometimes even an optimist has to admit defeat.

There are several reasons to keep this job; the ability to work remotely from home, the expense of moving to an area where jobs are more plentiful and therefore pay better, the uncertainty that I can (at my age) secure a job making close to the same amount of money, the cost of having a work wardrobe when for years I have only had to have a very causal one, gas money, drive time...and only one reason to quit. Happiness. I have the right to be happy, at home, with friends and at work.  I am fully aware that many people work their entire lives never liking what they do or who they do it for.  But I think 15 years doing it is probably 14 years too many. 

I admit I am a little bit scared of what will happen in the next several months, but a little bit excited, too.  Thomas Edison once said, "We will have no better conditions in the future if we are satisfied with those we have at present."  It is scary at any age to make drastic changes, but at this point in my life I believe it will be infinitely scarier not to.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Skate keys and scabby knees

Anyone who has lived in snowy/icy areas knows that falling is a fact of life.  No matter how careful you are, eventually you will fall.  I have been pretty lucky in that regard.  Over the many years of living in Montana I have only fallen a handful of times, and have never really hurt anything other than my pride, but because I have only a few falls to my credit, I vividly recall each and every one of them.  The most startling one was right on my front porch.  I had just moved in to a townhouse and it was extremely cold late one night when my sweet but elderly springer spaniel, Cricket, needed out one last time. I let her out the front door, closing it quickly to keep the cold out and the warmth in, but when I opened it again, she was gone.  I leaned out to see where she might be, only to find her on the next porch over looking up at the door no doubt wondering why it was shut.  I took a step out onto the porch and, since she was deaf, waved my arm at her.  She continued to stare up hopefully at the other doorknob, waiting for it to turn.  Finally I stepped out to the edge of the porch to catch her eye and bam! down I sat onto the first step.  Happy to see me, my dog trotted over, gave me doggie kisses, then, since apparently I was not going anywhere, sat down on the porch by me and looked around. If she wondered why we were sitting in the freezing cold on the icy porch, she never said anything...just continued to sit by me and stare out at the night.  Until recently, that was my worst fall...as I said nothing really damaged except my pride and my dog promised she'd never tell.

So it came as a huge surprise when a couple of weeks ago I fell while walking my dog in the early hours of the morning.  Striding along with him as he trotted, happy as only a dog can be to be out in the just barely dawn light, I hit the one patch of ice on the otherwise dry sidewalk and went down mid-stride on one knee, the other leg stretched out before me. Well, I thought, I've never done that before! As I dragged myself upright I was surprised at how much falling on my knee hurt. As a result of the fall, I had two big scrapes on my knee, which over the next few days became two big scabby areas. Which made me think...when was the last time I had scabby knees?  Certainly not as an adult, or even a teenager, but as a child...oh yes, there were plenty of scabs.

I was born in 1952 and by the time 1960 came around I had more scabs on my knees than I can recall. In fact, it wasn't unusual for me to have fresh scabs over almost-falling-off ones. Anyone who also grew up in that time knows immediately what they were from...roller skating!  We kids of the 50s were skating fiends! We wore white and black or all white saddle shoes that had a nice thick ridge around the sole so that our skates could clamp on nice and tight. We wore our skate key around our necks on a string so that after we skated over to our friend's house we could remove the skates...although I had one friend whose mom actually let us skate thru the house!  On her hardwood floors!! We skated everywhere...to friend's houses, to the neighborhood store, to the park...everywhere we went, we went on skates. And we didn't confine ourselves to the sidewalks.  Oh, no, we skated right down the middle of the blacktopped streets.  Sometimes we would get pulled along the street by someone riding a bike as we held onto a rope tied to the seat post, laughing hysterically at the speed.  Every so often my mom would let me keep my skates on while she ran errands.  She would park the car far away from the entrance so that I could skate around the car while she would run into the bank or the dry cleaners. Up until I was about 11, we lived a couple of blocks from a junior high school, which we would head to whenever we could to skate on the nice, flat concrete walkways. And yes, just like skateboarders later on, we were routinely chased away by the janitors.

Yes, we skated everywhere....and we fell...a lot! We girls never wore jeans, only shorts or our school dresses (if our moms didn't catch us first and make us change). I can vividly remember sneaking into the house to try to put a bandaid on a freshly scraped knee before my mom could hear me and grab the Mercurochrome. I really, really hated having my knees painted red! By the way, that red colored antiseptic is no longer sold in the US due to its mercury content!! Yikes! The boys wore jeans so while they fell just as often, their knees took much less of a beating. The knees of their jeans, however, tore often, which our moms fixed by ironing on big denim patches. My mom ironed patches on my brother's jeans before he ever wore them, so his patches were always the same color as the jeans themselves. She was clever that way.

So, I am familiar with scabby knees. But what I found out over the last couple of weeks is that falling and banging up your knees as a kid in no way feels the same when you do it as an adult.  I am quite sure that if these scrapes and subsequent scabs were as painful when I was younger, I would have immediately turned in my skate key.  Of course as my son pointed out, there is a lot more force behind a fall of mine these days and I am lucky I didn't break a kneecap. He's helpful that way.
These aren't my skates, but they could be, right down to the dirty used-to-be-white string on the skate key. My skates were taken apart and used to build a truly unmanageable skate board...but that's a different story.