Saturday, July 3, 2010

pssst...I'm over here!

Hello my few faithful readers, it's time to let you know that my relationship with Blogger has come to an end. WordPress is the best (certainly not the newest) thing these days, and I've been quietly blogging with them for some time.
You may notice things look a little different, but not too much. Won't you join me over there?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Backward Nostalgia

My family and I were supposed to take an epic European adventure to Croatia this summer, touring Dubrovnik, Zagreb, the countryside and the impossibly picturesque Dalmatian Coast. We began discussing it in December 2008 - there were plans of kitschy family t-shirts and everything! Instead, I'll be spending the summer in a stale, air-conditioned office making key tracking databases. 
What's it called when you have an aching nostalgia for a place you've never even been to? That's what I've got. And it hurts.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

You choose...you lose?

It's graduation season yet again which means thousands upon thousands of newly degree-enhanced young people are bursting out of their Ivory Towers in bloodythirsty search for gainful employment. Despite their best attempts at optimism, they are well aware of the abysmal job climate that, while a small improvement from last year, will leave either they or their friends unemployed and even more likely, underemployed. Amid the scores of paralyzing statistics, horror stories of triple degree-holders holed up at Starbucks, and mixed messages from educators and parents alike, our nation's newest graduates are caught somewhere between paying their dues and simply getting short-changed. And as a result, some are refusing to take the sorts of jobs that lie outside their fields of interest and have no forseeable opportunities for advancing into a desired career, in order to hold out for something that will. 
It's difficult to take these statements at face value - but after all, isn't the purpose of higher education to promote personal and professional advancement and worker specialization? If it was 1998, I hardly think we would scoff at this idea of new grads turning down a job bagging groceries. But, it is 2010, when apparently any old job is, by default, a good job. Even those in which your skills, education, and background are underutilized or even irrelevant, even those in which you are overworked and underpaid due to severe downsizings and reorganizations. Well, the mantra seems to be, at least you have a job.
The New York Times shared a running commentary on the topic earlier this week, with psychologists, sociologists, economists, and journalists from across the country weighing in. Considering the poor economic situation, they asked, should new graduates take the jobs they may have rejected a few years back? The consensus, if you could even call it one, was that it depends. Some noted that for those fortunate enough to have  the financial support of parents, it may prove beneficial to forgo the barista job and take on unpaid work in their fields in order to gain more valuable work experience; but this of course, presents a serious disadvantage for those graduates who cannot rely on their family and will need to find paid work sooner, not later. Thus, those who don't have the luxury of saying 'no' to a job may find themselves behind their more affluent peers in terms of related work experience even just months after receiving their diplomas, a situation one expert accurately described as a 'national emergency'.
It's easy to brush off this privileged form of fastidiousness as another example of Generation Y entitlement: those selfish slackers who want the job without putting in the work to get there. But it's not the "working their way up" part that these young people are trying to avoid, because the jobs in actual question are not anywhere near their professional field of interest. Often, there is no 'up' to work toward, at least, not one that would lead into an area for which their education was intended. There is actually something to be said about choosing your first - and second - jobs out of college wisely. Katherine Newman, a sociologist at Princeton, notes, "Where you start has serious consequences for where you end up, which is one reason — besides blind optimism — why some young (and not so young) people might not jump at the first thing offered." 
For all my graduating peers and my friends, of who I am an especially fierce believer in, be courageous in the decisions you'll be making now and hold fast to your optimism, however blind it may seem. It's been my experience that the world always looks better through rose-colored glasses, anyway. 

Monday, May 31, 2010

making lemonade

When Erik Proulx lost his job last fall, along with hundreds of thousands of other Americans, he was devastated. Then, he made a movie, and he called it "Lemonade". Ok, so things didn't happen that quickly, or in exactly that order. Proulx used his newly inherited free time to think about the course of his career thus far, and to re-think where he wanted it to go from that point on. He learned that being laid off wasn't the curse it was made out to be; in fact, it was one of the best things that could have happened to him because he ended up discovering his real passion for documentary filmmaking.

Despite the sticky sweet saccharine message, this story is true - not only for Erik Proulx and the dozens of people he interviews in the film. But for countless others who in the last two years have found themselves with no job and almost unlimited amounts of free time - many, for the first time in their adult lives. Imagine what all that free time would feel like at first: hopeless, daunting. But once the initial shock wears off, imagine the sense of opportunity, empowerment, and excitement that would set in with the realization that you could literally do whatever you want.

This film, my blog, thousands of other blogs, books, news articles, and speaker series are all part of what I see as a turning tide for the American worker. It's a real acknowledgment that thirty years on the corporate track (or any single track) can rob you of your creativity, even of your self; and that a sustained pause is good, even necessary - no matter if it's forced or voluntary. It's an acceptance that although we can't control everything, we can thrive simply by controlling our selves, and the way we approach our chaotic, unbridled world. It's a shift in where we place our trust - not in ambiguous organizations and agencies and systems; but in ourselves, our own intelligences, talents and capacities; in our communities and networks of other like-minded people. It's a self-sustaining method of working and producing that is constantly evolving, and incessantly inspiring.

I think the greatest part of this newfangled approach to employment is the accompanying realization that you don't even have to wait until you get handed the lemons to make lemonade. You can make it anytime you want, if you're thirsty enough. If you're patient enough.  And if you don't have the right tools or live in the right climate to grow a lemon tree - you can always find someone who does. Offer an resource of your own in return for their plot of land.
Well, I've gotta run. My seeds need to be watered.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

the carrie bradshaw complex

It's perhaps only fitting that I follow up the post on Superwomen with a post on the venerable Carrie Bradshaw, a fictional character that has been alive and well to scores of women - and increasingly girls - for about fifteen years.
Now before I begin and to set the record straight: I'm going to see the second movie tonight with my gal pals and Cosmos in tow; so I'll preface the coming critique by saying that I'm totally a fan and a follower of all things SJP and Michael Patrick King come out with. But I am just a little irked (ok more than a little) by the movie's take on what was once a semi-believeable story of four working gals figuring out life, love, and fashion in the big city. Now it's become a story of four gals (still supposedly working) figuring out marriage, motherhood, and push-up bras in...Abu Dhabi?? In the words of Ms. Bradshaw herself, "I can't help but wonder"...what happened to Carrie Bradshaw?
I'm not sure at what point the character took on a larger than herself life outside of the show, but it's probably around the time that I began watching the re-runs on TBS. As it has with me, The show has caught on among young women who were practically babies during the time it first came out. I always thought that its continued popularity was a testament to the show's relevance: the topics it addressed had not yet been figured out, they still mattered. And with the exception of a few misguided attempts, the show's fashion had been so forward that it didn't look funny or outdated even five years after its original airdate.

Back in 1997, Carrie Bradshaw was a modern-day Cinderella with the shoes and clothes to match, only she needed no Prince to do the rescuing because she had made herself into what she was. Women looked up to her and aspired to fashion their own careers and closets after her's. Fast-forward to today: the Carrie Bradshaw of my generation has long hair extensions, cleavage up to her chin, and a seemingly bottomless pocketbook (does she work anymore?) that she flaunts on a camel in four and a half inch heels and dresses with glittery diamond details. I can't help but feel let down that this is the image of Carrie and women empowerment that my generation is getting: a faux sense of girl power through buying power. Case in point: the movie is releasing its own sparkly bottle of Skyy Vodka (which I'll admit, I was interested in finding) and probably a hundred other products to coincide with the release. Though I wasn't around to witness it in its original state, I miss the Carrie Bradshaw who sometimes wore lipliner that was too dark and sat in her tiny apartment smoking cigarettes and typing the contents of her next column. Somehow that Carrie seemed a lot more empowered, or at least, more real, than this stylized caricature of Carrie.

So why am I going on and on about this - why does it matter? For young women my age, and for women even older, Carrie Bradshaw is iconic. And for young aspiring writers like myself, she is an even more dominating force. Think of every fashion and lifestyle blog, the Whitney Ports and Lauren Conrads of television, the scores of 20-somethings who move to New York City every year. Her influence is everywhere, to the point where it's become problematic. I once read a job posting for an online bridal magazine looking for copywriters. In the heading, in bold-
faced caps, it read, "Carrie Bradshaw Wannabes do not apply". Sadly, I
can't help but think this is true, both of the Wannabes and of Carrie herself, whose real life applicability has become as ridiculous as her jewel-encrusted headpieces and midriff-baring tops (even if she does look great in them, she is 40+ years old. Can we just accept that?) She has crossed over into pure fantastical territory; a symbol no more of the modern-day woman but of a Queen fixed to unattainable proportions. But, I'll still go to the movie tonight for the over-the-top fashion, to see what happens (Aidan! Liza! Miley!), and for the warm nostalgia it brings to my group of friends of the first time we watched the seasons, of the outrageous bedroom scenarios, and of a gal named Carrie just trying to make her way in the big city.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


(art via Anthony Lister)

Everyday I wonder: How do they do it - the superwomen of the world? Not even the world - but this city, that town, that house? How do they work and create and tend to and care for and manage and lead and write, so successfully and so poignantly? I never aspired to be someone who quote-unquote 'does it all'. As a student, the term "go-getter" practically gave me an anxiety attack. And now, finding myself in circles composed of some fearlessly go-getting women (intimidating, awesome), it can be difficult to realize my own adequacies and talents in the towering face of their's. But anytime I start feeling this way, I [usually] just give myself a quick slap or splash of cold water to the face to wake myself up. If anything, being exposed to these women makes me lucky. Because I'm getting dozens of free templates on how to go about building a career and life that I will love, with bit and parts from them mingling with pieces of my own design. I think so much of our anxieties for our future job, career, life or whatever, stems from the illogical belief that we will have to come up with it entirely on our own, that these ideas and decisions and motivators sprout from an individual, original source. When in fact, our lives are assembled mosaic-style with direction and inspiration pulled from a myriad of people and places.
Most days, when I'm in my clear, right mind, I am consciously affiliating myself with superwomen - of all kinds. And this has provided me a healthy dose of inspiration that's encouraged me to start go-getting, although what I'm going and getting is still ambiguous. .
What is completely clear to me, however, is a dual sense of personal responsibility and achievement. And contentment. Empowerment. 
Everyday I wake up: overwhelmed by the possibility of the day and what I can/will do. 
This image of superwoman sums it all up for me: her lines are undefined, a little blurred around the edges, and the shapes and colors overlap in a way that leaves room for interpretation and invites input. That's an image of Superwoman I can live with.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

the new (feel good) dailies

Oh my. These days and nights fly by too furiously. To-do's get stacked up, one after the other, night after night, just like the dishes on my kitchen counter. We are busy, busy, busy. It's nothing new.
Lately I've been struck by inspiration from a hundred different directions, which makes the days feel even shorter, even more frantic as I try to harness and collect and propel these ideas and actions into their appropriate channels.
But today, I stumbled on this blog which so simply manages to shed insight, humor, and guidance on these complex, up-and-down, hectic lives of our's - all through daily thank you's. I may not have time for much physical exercise, and I'm definitely maxed out on mental exertion by nightfall, but this daily exercise in gratitude is one I can happily stand behind. I really can't think of a better way to end - and begin - each day.

See this amazing blog here.