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.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Is it Christmas without a tree?

This year, for the first time in forever, I did not put up a Christmas tree.  It made sense not to. I was going to spend the week before and after Christmas with my daughter and son in law in Austin, TX and a tree just didn't make sense.  This doesn't sound like a big deal, but to me it was huge!  I have always had a tree, sometimes as many as 4...one in the living room, one in my office, a small one in the bedroom and a tiny one in the dining room. And now, this year...no tree?  Gasp! Not only do I put up a tree every year, but I decorate each and every room in the house with Christmas cheer.  Last year, I had so much cheer in my small apartment that after one day, I had to take about half of it down.  But a tree...isn't that required?  I'll let you in on a secret....no, it is not.  And, brace yourself, I didn't miss it one little bit.

My daughter puts her tree up before Thanksgiving, yes, you read that correctly, before Thanksgiving. She loves Christmas and has an 8ft, prelit, artificial tree that is simply stunning.  She decorates it with an eclectic mix of ornaments from her childhood, ones she added as an adult and others she and her husband have bought together, topped off by a gorgeous golden star.  I waited for tree envy to set it, but there was never a quiver. 

I have friends who choose not to have trees of their own for various reasons.  Some enjoy the trees at their children's or grandchildren's houses, some have trees at their offices, and one just plain doesn't like decorated trees.  Does that make their Christmas celebrations any less meaningful or fun or cheerful?  No, it does not. Not having a tree doesn't make you Scrooge or the Grinch. In fact, not having a tree can be surprisingly liberating.

Here in no particular order are some benefits to not having a Christmas tree.
  1. No chasing your cat out of or your dog out from under the tree. I have no idea why, but every year my dog thinks I have put up a tree solely so that he will have a nice place to nap. And speaking of dogs:
  2. No panicked dash when you see him eyeing the tree and starting to lift his leg.
  3. No dead needles in your carpet, your slippers, your food!
  4. No leaping out of bed in the middle of the night to see what that crash was, only to discover your tree has fallen over because it was too heavy to turn around and you ended up putting ornaments only on the parts you could reach and none on the back which leads to:
  5. No trying to anchor it to the wall with dental floss and a thumbtack.
  6. No having to remember to add water, and no spilling water when you do remember.
  7. No frozen trek thru the woods looking for the prefect tree...ok, that part I do miss.
  8. No trying to get the tree home only to discover you don't have any twine to tie it to the roof of your car.
  9. No picking out the perfect tree only to be amazed that a 9 foot tree doesn't fit into your house.
  10. No sap on your hands.
  11. No feeling awful because your friend is horribly allergic to pine and spends the evening sneezing.
  12. No frustrating search thru 10 strings of lights trying to find the one bulb that is burned out and therefore causing your entire tree to go dark.
  13. If you have an artificial tree, no sore fingers from straightening out bent branches (how do they tie themselves up in knots?) and then trying to cram the metal rods into the obviously smaller notches.
  14. No panicking when you don't have anything suitable for the top of the tree because you stepped on it last year and forgot to replace it and you end up at Target at midnight sorting thru neon colored angels and multicolored stars because you can't sleep if the tree isn't completely finished.
But the best reason not to put up a tree?  Because you don't have to if you don't want to. If you want to, that's great.  Enjoy the heck out of that tree in all its green lighted glory.  But if you don't want a tree, don't beat yourself up and don't apologize for not having one. There is plenty more to do at Christmas that doesn't require a tree...like playing Trivial Pursuit with your way too smart daughter even though you know you will come in dead last, or watching sappy Christmas movies you have seen so many times you can recite entire passages from, or drinking egg nog and listening to Josh Groban's Christmas album for the 10th time in a row because you just love the way he sings in Latin. None of which require a tree. 

I had a wonderful Christmas season this year and hope you did, too.  With or without a tree.