Category Archives: Work

the roaring 20s

I realized today that I’ll have been at my current job for one year as of next month. I still remember the exact date I started because it was a date I was so excited and anxious about, and for that reason I think it’ll always be etched in my mind. My previous job was not at all what I expected my first post-grad job to be like: it was a tiny, family-owned publishing company that paid absolute shit and offered no benefits to speak of (not even sick days!). When I chose my major in college (Publishing, with a minor in French), I knew I would struggle to find work, but I had no idea how difficult a challenge I’d be up to. It seemed natural to choose a degree in something I had always excelled in, but what happens when what you’re good at doesn’t pay? I didn’t pursue a degree in business or marketing because I didn’t think I had it in me. I didn’t want to “sell out.” But it soon became very apparent to me that if I wanted to work a job that allowed me to make ends meet, something had to give.

In some respects, I really lucked out. I moved home with my parents in May after graduation and found a job by the end of July. It was a difficult three months full of identity crises and financial woes, but it was cake compared to some of my peers’ struggles. I was offered my first post-grad job on my birthday, no less, and started the following Monday. I was thrilled! But it didn’t take long to become fully disenchanted with the job. The morale was incredibly low. My department in particular had a revolving door. And let’s not forget that what I’d envisioned for my post-grad life was glamorous, downtown Chicago city-living, but instead I had no choice but to stay with my parents. I could barely even save on what I was paid. Needless to say, the afterhours jobhunt started almost immediately. With no experience to speak of, again I faced potential employer scrutiny. Everybody wanted to know why I was so eager to leave a job I’d just started. You can’t be very forthcoming in these admissions. Badmouthing current and past employers is not sensible.

It took me eight months to find my current job. March 7 was the starting date that was agreed upon. I then had to face the most difficult thing I’ve had to do so far in my adult life: quit. I’m bad at quitting. I feel nervous and guilty and it’s impossible to sleep the night before. Walking into your boss’s office with a resignation letter is horrifically awkward. But it had to be done. The grass was surely greener on the other side.

Now a year has gone by and I can’t believe it. It feels like just yesterday I was the new kid, and in so many ways, my eight months at my previous position feels worlds longer than the past year in my current one. Ever since I noticed the date and realized my one-year anniversary is coming up, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting. Where am I now in my life? Where did I think I’d be? What have I accomplished? What did I say I’d accomplish but didn’t follow through with? I’m realizing how routine my life has become: the time is slipping by faster because so much of it is spent commuting. My commute is double what it used to be. Just the sheer hours I spend in the car each week makes everything seem to flash by at such a faster speed.

It’s kind of trite and New Years-y, but I’m going to put into list form this past year’s accomplishments and milestones. Just for old time’s sake!

  • I found a job that pays a steep 46% more than my first post-grad job (this is in no way indicative of current financial success–it’s much more a discourse on how poorly I was previously paid)
  • I took a fantastic road trip to Denver and saw the Rocky Mountains for the first time–totally life-changing
  • I started volunteering for a local animal rescue organization (the same one that one of my two cats came from)
  • I successfully moved out of the nest (aka my parents’ house) and now live a financially-independent life
  • I bought a (digital) piano!
  • I have almost successfully completed two 7-week yoga classes
  • I adopted a vegan lifestyle (I still have my training wheels on but the progress has been in leaps and bounds!)

And now for the things that fell by the wayside…

  • I decided to go back to school for an MBA but nothing has come of that
  • I told myself I’d work out at my office’s FREE gym 3 times a week but that lasted less than a month
  • I’m unhappy at my current job but haven’t done anything to better my situation or find something more fulfilling

It’s hard to believe how fast time flies even when you’re not having fun. I didn’t think this would be my life when I’m knocking on 24’s door. But, it is. One day I’m going to wake up and I’ll be old. It’s time to start making the best of these roaring 20s!

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damn, it feels good to be a gansta

Last night I settled in with the boyfriend to watch Office Space, which seems to be (newly??) available on Netflix instant watch. I hadn’t seen the movie since actually “entering” the professional workforce in 2010, so there’s no surprise that Peter’s office hell hit really close to home. I don’t have a great work life and that is one of the main triggers for the negativity that’s been plaguing me for the past several months. I actually couldn’t wait to graduate college and begin my life–but then I graduated with a pretty functionless degree in English (specialization: publishing studies) and an even more useless minor in French. Mix into this cocktail the failing American economy and you may see why my job prospects were initially limiting. A high school boyfriend actually warned me that if I pursued this track, I’d amount to nothing but a “miserable pencil-pusher.” That was 7 years ago and look where I am. Self-fulfilling prophecy, perhaps?

Once upon a time (about this time last year), my only goal was to quit my job and “move up” to a job that paid better. I looked and looked and looked. I interviewed at a couple of places. I got a taste of what I wanted, and then blammo! I moved up. Well, maybe not “up,” per se. But I moved. I was happy to move on to a legitimate organization (see: not the corrupt family-owned company I had been working for) but it didn’t take long for corporate life to embrace me in a loving stranglehold. Misery set in. Weight gain began. The commute started to grate on my last nerve. Living with my parents for a time to get a firm financial footing was exhausting. So then, with a little bit more money but an ever-present hole in my soul, the next step was to move out. I did that, and that brought happiness for a time. No one to answer to anymore. No one to eat the food I bought. My cats, who had traded me in for my parents who were home more frequently while I lived with them, with no other option, started to cuddle with me. Life was good.

But then the hole in my soul grew. One of my closest friends moved away. Work got increasingly more stressful. Things continued to suck and I wondered, what now? Is this the life I’m destined to live? Wake up before 6:00 am each day to commute an hour, sit in a dimly-lit cubicle for 8 hours, commute another hour, arrive home depressed, drink a couple of beers, and head to bed before 9:00 pm out of sheer exhaustion, defeat, and boredom?

No. Enter the intervention. Only, no one intervened but me. I decided that I need to start trying harder to be better, better at everything, better at trying to feel fulfilled.

Most people don’t like their jobs. Most people don’t get along with their bosses. Most people feel underpaid and under-appreciated. But should these negative work feelings spill so completely into my personal life? You have to learn to leave work at work. You have to not sweat the small stuff. And perhaps most cathartic of all, you have to learn to laugh. As one of the crazies vented and nearly worked herself into heart-attack mode in the cube next door, I calmly smiled to myself and thought, that could’ve been me…but it’s not.

Today a series of annoyances occurred in my work-life that would normally render me irate and complain-y. But today, I did not come home to complain to my boyfriend. I didn’t come to vent here about my ignorant coworkers. I came here to say that I saw life with new eyes. And also to present a question: if I try hard to not let my work-life affect me as emotionally as it has been, does this make me a bad employee? Does this cement me as a perpetual pencil-pusher in a dead-end job? I’m not sure. I want to care, and I do care, but I found that I cared too much and my mental health was suffering. My challenge for this week is to find a happy medium: stand out as the excellent employee I know I can be while taking this corporate nonsense with a happy little grain of salt.

Ready, set, go!

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