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.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

the anti-gen Y

I just read this post on Bitch magazine's blog that raises some interesting and serious qualms against the terms Generation Y and Millenials (terms I often use here) and their actual meanings vs. their purported meanings. The author rightly identifies these terms as having little to no sociological or demographic value - as they tend to leave out vast numbers of non-white, non-middle-class 18-26-year-olds; but instead, she recognizes these terms and their associated (near implicit for some) meanings as being entirely contrived for marketing or economic purposes. So what? Well the problem is that these terms are largely unchallenged and undergoing mass appropriation and replication, utilized by one specific, yet powerful group of this generational class - the one with the most access to technology, the one with the most college degrees, the one with the broadest networks of profitable social capital. As it so often seems to be, the term is driven and powered by the exact group that it is representative of, however incomplete that representation may be.
Why do we only ever hear about student debt load and the plight of college grads who are moving back to the safe haven of Mom and Dad's suburban oasis? What about those who never made it to college in the first place? Who don't have the option to lean on their families, because these families are every bit as financially strapped (if not more so) than they are? What about young adults who, by virtue of culture, religion or upbringing, have different values or a different relationship to technology than those which defines the Millennial archetype? 
 These are all valid concerns and I can easily recognize my compliance with the problem as someone with a close familiarity to racial and cultural homogeneity (less somewhat with class). The most troublesome in my eyes is that last question regarding technology. I often read about how the Internet has become a tool to level the playing-field for the modern worker, and its potential to enact a near democratization of job markets, with the idea that age, gender, race, and especially geography no longer act as strong factors for hiring and recruitment, just as long as someone has aptly demonstrated the required skills. Of course, this leaves out one other important category: class. So it seems the tremendous scope of technology/social media and its inherent potential for creating economic opportunities, fostering collaboration and network-building, establishing an online presence and personal brand will be completely futile in terms of democratizing the playing fields if it is not actually accessible or transmutable to the anti-Gen Y - that group of young adults who did not grow up with computers or laptops and may never 'catch up' to its generational counterparts who did, whether because of economic circumstances or other tangential circumstances.
For me, this all points to the need for being explicit in my use of such terms, and resist the urge to fall into the myth of Gen Y homogeneity; while encouraging the promulgation of a more sociologically sound definition that can be made more useful to generational analysis and forecasting.

Monday, May 10, 2010

(belated) mother's day happy's

Happy Mother's Day (a day late, but would you expect anything different from me?) to my mama. Thanks for my dark eyebrows and my tiny ears. Thanks for my big feet and lovely penmanship. Thanks for my goofy humor and my quietude. Thank you for my steady composure and subtle strength. Thank you for my gracefulness and ability to keep my chin up, even in murky water.

Thank you for being you, so that I could become me.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

free pass

Oooh I do love me these Wednesday mornings. It's like drawing one of those Monopoly cards that tells you to pass Go and collect $200. I get a free pass through midweek. Delicious.

Ils sont tres magnifiques, les mercredi. See? I love them so much I want to talk in gramatically-incorrect French to them.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

faking it

Which of these bathing beauties do you think is faking it? (Answer: All of them)

When I was thirteen, I imagined myself as a sophisticated, put-together, well-spoken sixteen-year-old. When I was sixteen, not quite as sophisticated or put-together as I'd hoped, I envisioned the twenty-year-old me: stylishly brazen, with a bright red pocketbook and nails and toes painted to match. At twenty, my hair still frizzed on top, toothpaste still crusted in the corner of my mouth, and I almost never had an umbrella when I needed one. But, I just knew at twenty-three, I would finally have stopped leaving the house five minutes late, with mismatched socks and unhemmed pants that I tripped on and ripped as a consequence. 
I'm twenty-three. And still... 
On the days I manage to wash my hair, its ends are sticking out like a confused compass pointer by noon. My toenails seem to grow at the pace of a super-weed, and I am continuously losing all three sets of my nail-clippers. I rarely have a pen on me when someone asks for one, and if I do, it's stenciled with the name of a company like "Enemas R Us".  I'm messy, unorganized, distracted, fumbling; and the days wherein through some miracle, I actually have an air of somebody who has got it together, there can only be one explanation. I'm faking it.
And I know I’m not the only one doing this. A recent conversation between myself and the other interns at the company which shall not be named – a company that prides itself on being the most stylish accessory for the quintessential urban-girl-about-town - affirmed my long-held suspicions. I found that we were all faking something: our technical know-how, our fashion sensibilities, our ability to juggle multiple jobs or internships, our mastery of local trends and hot spots. None of us cared too much for writing pieces on cupcakes, or thigh-tightening techniques; but we were all willing to, even if it meant faking something in the process. The collective sigh that was released upon admitting this was indicative that women are far too good at keeping this a secret. Because the most refreshing part was that we could all actually admit it to each other, and that alone, somehow made the pretending part less shameful. In fact, it erased the shame entirely. 
I know the image that we’re working to project via the company and our little articles is fantasy and entirely unrealistic. No woman can possibly have it all together as flawlessly and effortlessly as magazines, tv shows, and movies depict. And if it looks as though she does, it only mean she has mastered the art of faking it. And if she's a master, I'd do well to get to talking to her. 
I often write, on this blog and in real life, about being authentic in your work, being honest in your communications with yourself and others. But when it comes to this, I've got no problem putting on an act. Why is that? Well for one, we all do it in one way or another. If not at work, then in a relationship, or elsewhere. We are always working to make ourselves seem slightly better; more intelligent, more productive, more exciting that we actually are. 
It’s fun to imagine ourselves as having it all together, even if we never will. Pretending for a night that we are as well-dressed, perfectly-heeled, and immaculately-coiffed as a Glamour-girl is something like the grown-up version of dress-up. So while I could sit around lamenting the fact that at age twenty-three, I still can't get my hair to fall just right - and it probably never will; I am perfectly content to get by with faking it. 

Friday, April 30, 2010

the words

"Dont bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly."
---Franz Kafka

This one's gotta stew for a while; but it's gonna be delicious once it does.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

oh very young

Jonah Lehrer wrote today on the interesting phenomenon of creative peaks across individual life spans, centuries, and entire scientific/creative fields. He descibes the quantum mechanics revolution during the early 20th Century which flourished because of, and with the talent of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed scientists who were far exceeding the achievements of their older counterparts:
After a few years in the academy, however, Simonton says that "creators start to repeat themselves, so that it becomes more of the same-old, same-old." They have become insiders, invested in Newtonian mechanics; that is what they know and that is what they believe in. It's only the impetuous youth, those marginal figures without tenure or grants of their own, who properly appreciate the anomalies of the subatomic.
This got me to thinking of the theory's applicability, on a far lesser scale, to the modern workplace and how young people in their first and second jobs, despite what many would argue, might be considered prime agents for organizational innovation, creative production, and even leadership. As a result of their "outsider status", brand-new workers have an advantageous view, the ability to recognize inefficiencies and opportunities for change in areas where a seasoned professional might still be practicing "business as usual". The same ideas were shared by Rosetta Thurman in her discussion on generational change in the nonprofit sector. Her suggestion to the Baby-Boomers on how to handle the overwhelming emergence of Gen Y to the scene: Let them lead.

This seems to be an idea that's talked about often, but put into practice only very rarely. But I see so many around me eager to get their hands dirty, to move things around and stir the pot, if only because we see how stagnant it is. Where older generations might help out is by taking notice of the younger generation's ignorance to worn-out models and systems, and rather than deeming it a liability, see it as a positive and provide the learned guidance that will encourage the innovation we're already primed to produce.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

(Un?)healthy obsessions

It was the grand re-opening of one of Seattle's oldest and finest booksellers last weekend. The roommates and I made two treks down, once to enjoy the free food and block party celebration and again a few days later to actually peruse the stacks. The place smelled of rich, chocolaty cedar and fresh, untouched pages. It was deliciously intoxicating, and it's safe to say I got drunk off the smells. A half hour later, the stack of books I was carrying had reached the tip of my nose.
Call it springtime ambition - but more like blind ambition. I don't have the time to immerse myself in all these books - especially those plenteous works by Sontag and Wallace. Neither do I really have the money to spend. But I just couldn't say no to their firm, smooth covers, their inky pages with fibers like fine-grained sand. And now, I'm knee-deep in the sand, five of them to be exact.
Well, I tell myself, there's no hurry. They're not going anywhere now.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Spring and all

Time is a green orchard (William Carlos Williams) And I'm working to tend to, keep, and bring up a bounty that will last me until the winter. 

If only there weren't fields full of distraction all around; wildflowers to pick and string together and decorate myself with, berries to smell and eat, dragonflies and bees and little brown mice to listen to. 

But without all these, the orchard could never grow - would never be so magnificent, intoxicating, or inspiring. And I would never be able to reap its kind rewards in full.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The best laid schemes o' Mice and Men

(I doubt this mouse had plans to catch the Froggy Express, but she's taking it anyway. Click for credit).

Since entering this great big blogging community (still can't quite get myself to call it the "blogosphere"), I've come across a lot of bloggers who seem to have their lives micro-managed and hyper-programmed to the point where they can tell you what project they'll be working on, on October 16, 2012 - and also, what they'll be having for lunch that day. I've met these sorts of people in real life as well: they are the people who set out their next day clothes the night before, and pack their lunches a week in advance. When I was younger, my mom tried valiantly to encourage this same habit in me. She failed. My argument was (and perhaps not so articulately put at age 8), How will I ever know what I feel like wearing until the day I'm going to be wearing it? Maybe I wouldn't know until right before I put something on, or even, only after. But of course, my other argument was that I wanted to spend those extra 10 minutes watching Nick at Nite. Both solid arguments, even today.

The same mentality carries me along now. It seems that most major plans I've made  - which college to attend, which career to pursue - end up changing significantly, either of my own accord or by some extenuating and impossible-to-ignore circumstances. If I had been too hung up on the "plans" I had made for my life at age 17, as a senior in high school, I would have likely missed out on many of the events, people, and places now woven into the very fabric that defines me. And there are just things you can't possibly know about yourself - what you want and what you value - until you're right there in the thick of things. It's not as if people aren't aware of this - but still we fall susceptible to the charms of planning (and as Robert Burns famously identified, it's a condition that apparently plagues humans and rodents).

That's why I love Alyson's recent post on dumping the five-year career plan, and instead working on defining a life mission. This phrase may sound more daunting at first but it really just means identifying what's important to you, what you want to accomplish in your life and work: plotting points and connecting dots as you go along; the shape only revealing itself in time. This of course requires an open mind be kept to allow the many ideas, individuals, and moments we encounter to affect and maybe even alter the mission. Oftentimes, people who itemize their future lives like they would their taxes set themselves us for failure and serious disappointment; while also running the risk of losing out on amazing opportunities that may not have been part of 'the plan'.

It's not as if planning isn't useful. It can be great in providing a starting point (which we all need), but it shouldn't be the only thing guiding us. We can't possibly be sure that the career we're planning on having in five years will actually take shape, or even that we'll want it five years from now.

The way I see it: we are not linearly-minded, but nuanced and change-oriented. My views on life, work, happiness, and preferred lunch spots will be changing quarterly if not weekly, so I avoid setting goals that won't let me follow multiple paths or think dynamically. Instead, I embrace a framework that is intrinsically complicated and messy. Not only because when we become so goal-obsessed we forget about whats around us in the here and now, not only because our goals and our methods for achieving them will eventually change, but because we are not infallible. It is in our DNA to fault and stop and pause and retract and rewind and skip forward... no matter how many machines we build or devices we employ to keep us on track, we just are not meant to be.

So I propose this: why don't we just admit to it - and then head out for cocktails? Because that's the kind of plan I have no problem making!

Monday, April 19, 2010

How to be an explorer...

I forgot where I originally found this, but I know it comes from this book.

Some early Monday morning motivation, mixed with a homemade cafe au lait and toast, stirred in with two hours of leisurely 'work', while the rest of the world sleeps, makes a recipe for a great start to the week. Now for a remedy for my pesky cough...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Some Sunday night ramblings on getting old and losing your sight (and not the eye kind)

Fighting off the tail-end of this stubborn cold while struggling to manage a demanding full-time job and 25-hour/week intensive internship, myself and my brain are not in their most coherent forms; hence my cautious warnings if this post does in fact turn into a sunshine-and-Sudafed-induced rant of hysterical heights. However, important things have been happening and there is a need to flush them out, here, so that I may be held personally accountable for all the opinions and proposed solutions I adhere to them.

The most important thing that's happened in my little tiny life this week was the change in duration of my current work appointment. What had begun as a 2-month temporary stint has now been extended to last a full 12 months. Now, my admission to this next part may ruffle some feathers, but I'm saying it anyway: because  the second that sheet of paper was slid across the table to me, and I saw in bold, black letters my projected end-date, my stomach dropped so fast I think it may been ended up in a pool at my feet. The idea that I would technically, for all intents and purposes, be at that job, in that office, with those people for that long felt terrifying. While a far cry from a prison sentence, in that moment, it may as well have been because I saw all my whimsical plans, the ones that had been getting me through the first month of this job - new professional opportunities with organizations I actually liked, job fulfillment, travel - float away on a grey storm cloud.

Something else happened that caused me to take sufficient pause and write this wreck of a blog post. Today I realized it was April 18th. As in beyond mid-April. As in almost May, which would mean that this "new" year that's no longer so new is in fact a third of the way done. That was scary.

Then I realized that this year - and time in general - had been literally slipping through my fingers, which led me to the subsequent realization that I was experiencing one of those quintessential adult dilemmas: the where does the time go? dilemma. And that realization brought me to the next and final realization of the day: I am an adult. And, yes, that too was scary.

But both of these events/realizations can be traced back to the same idea: that is, of becoming an adult and the subsequent fears that are triggered by that idea. I think it's a little different for everyone, this aversion to growing old. For me, it's the fear of first being stuck somewhere in a job/relationship/life that you like well enough to begin with; and then getting stuck there, like getting stuck in quicksand - only it's not quick, it's sluggish and slow so as to keep you benevolently unaware of the fact that you're becoming stuck. Until suddenly you realize it: You are stuck in a spot miles from where you thought you'd be, and you can't even remember how you got there in the first place because you are so far past the point of return, and it's all so ironic and maddening; how you had become so content, so comfortable with the very surroundings that were pulling you gradually, deliberately down.

Maybe this is the fear that is driving me to change my hair color every three months, or why I frenetically imagine myself at a new job just three weeks into starting one, or why I've lived in a different city every year for the last five years. Maybe it's the inherent restlessness of being 23 - not old enough for the big commitments, not young enough for the impressed structure of school or parents; or maybe it's a trait programmed into my DNA, like impunctuality. Whatever it is, I'm old enough to know that it just won't do to ignore these fears, that instead they might be used for constructive purposes: to imagine, plan for, and create a life that doesn't make me want to run away, a life in which staying in one place won't mean being stuck in one place. For now, my job is just another stop on my way. As long as I've got dreams to remember, that's quite alright.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Slow down, you're moving too fast

(Pausing for a moment in the City of Sin. Photo de moi)

When life is going particularly great, and our personal, professional, and social needs are all being met (maybe even exceeded), the tendency to keep it all going instinctively kicks in. Often, we will even tend to speed up the pace at which we're moving, as if out of some unfounded (yet certainly dangerous) fear of losing it if we're snoozing during it. I say 'unfounded fear' with a tinge of hesitancy, because I realize there are times and professions out there that require fast-paced progression for success; yet, I'm talking about the whole grand picture: a career, a social life and family, and fulfilling personal time.

This hyperactive mentality has been fed to us daily for generations, and subsequently, our culture feeds into the mentality. The ingrained, and all-too-pervasive nature of the message can be said to have created a society of mindless drones who pass through life on a high-speed conveyor belt, stopping only when they are forced off or fall. But that's too easy a criticism. Because after all, aren't we responsible too? Who creates each tool and gadget designed solely to maximize our productivity, to make efficient our time, so that the fast lane can become even faster and we can short-cut/compartmentalize/schedule and otherwise sell ourselves short when it comes to actually and fully enjoying the life we are living. 

But I am not here to talk about that clich├ęd, and oft-dramatized scenario. Because in my opinion, the solution to that is pretty simple. The real problem is when life is moving along at break-neck speed, and rather than being annoyingly obnoxious or morally degrading, the near entirety of it is chock-full of worthwhile, fulfilling, and otherwise enjoyable little goodies. When this is the case, let me tell you, the very last thing you want to do is slow down , even when your body begs you morning, noon, and night; and your brain attempts to reason with your proud defiance.

Of course, at some point; not listening will cause you to lose. And you'll be stuck inside not working, not playing, not anything but nose-blowing for a lot longer than you would have if you would have taken one night or one half-day off. But if you're smart, your reasons for slowing down will be motivated by more than just a fear of getting sick. You'll actually take time to sit and reflect and absorb the day; because your mind, your body, life, and yes, your productivity will benefit from it. Because my life is so jam-packed with good stuff, I need to time to sort through everything, to connect the dots of events and places and people. To focus, and extract meaning; fit it into the larger, over-arching model for living and working that I will follow tomorrow, and the day after, and the next year after. It's not laziness, it's smart. And it's sustainable. 

Shouldn't this be the goal we are striving for - clarity, focus, enjoyment out of life and work - rather than double-bookings and 60 hour work weeks? Leo Babauta wisely puts it this way:

If our goal is to create, to produce amazing things, to go for quality over quantity, then rushing is not the most effective way to work. Slowing down and focusing is always more effective.
Rushing produces errors. It’s distracting to flit from one thing to the next, with our attention never one one thing long enough to give it any thought or create anything of worth. Hurrying produces too much noise to be able to find the quiet the mind needs for true creativity and profound thinking.
So yes, moving quickly will get more done. But it won’t get the right things done.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Be careful what you wish for..

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise."                                               
 -- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Well folks, I got it all - and then I got crazy busy. So much so, that I don't even have time for things like closing the bathroom door or changing into pajamas before bed!

There are certainly two opposing ideas in my mind right now, but somehow I've maintained most of my functioning abilities. My man Scott is pumping up my mental fortitude, via this quote, and while I'd never be so melodramatic as to say anything is hopeless, I am determined to make things better than they currently are. I'm swirling, twirling, and whirling in every direction this week, and I know I'd better find a way to ground myself quickly before my house lands in the middle of Oz - on top of a witch - surrounded by Munchkins.

See what I mean about going crazy?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Rules for 'Having It All'

Who doesn't want to be able to have their cake and eat it too? Wouldn't it be silly not to? Click for photo credit.

In case you haven't heard me mention this before, I belong to Generation Y. By definition alone, this means I own an ipod, am a social media whiz, and possess a diluted sense of entitlement toward everything, including a fabulous career straight out of college. In reality, I only recently discovered my capacity for ipod-mastery, and I've somehow managed to steer clear from that holy grail of all social media: Twitter. Now as for the entitlement bit, well let's talk about that one.

Currently, my brain is waging a battle between two professional choices that more or less pit entitlement against accepting the situation. Choice No. 1 (i.e. entitlement) has me proposing an adapted work model and schedule to a brand new employer in order to follow a secondary fulfilling and fabulous, yet unpaid, opportunity (or FFU opp, for brevity's sake). Choice No. 2 (i.e. accepting the situation, as is) would be to forget about the additional FFU opportunity and just stick to the 8-5 model that was agreed upon initially, thus missing out on an incredible chance to gain valuable experience in a field of interest. I acknowledged the possibility for a Choice No. 3 which would be to forego my main employment gig to pursue solely the FFU gig, and work out the issue of income later. But I'd rather not resort to that, and if you read my entry on my current financial state, you'll probably agree that Choice No. 3 is not really a choice for me. So I have two choices. While I am positive about what I want, I'm not so clear on the rules: how far I'm allowed to negotiate, as a brand spankin-new employee, a wide-eyed and bushy-tailed young worker. On one hand, aren't workers granted the right to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment? Because no matter what people may say in their interviews, we're all in it for ourselves, to improve and gain a certain skill set, to advance in a certain field, to reach our professional goals. The FFU opportunity is absolutely a step toward my goals, so why shouldn't I be allowed to pursue it, and to negotiate for a work arrangement that can accommodate it?

On the other hand, am I just being selfish - one of those despicable Gen Y archetypes who hop from job to job on a whim, with seemingly no regard for their employers they leave in the dust; who think they are entitled to have it all: their full-time, well-paying job AND and the career equivalent of a side of delicious mashed potatoes - even if it means adjustments will be forced on the organization's part? With a grossly overflowing pool of candidates flooding the job market, part of me think I'm just plain stupid to consider a proposal like this.

So...Do I have to choose one over the other? Or is it possible to have both? Do I have to play only with the cards I've been dealt? Or am I allowed to bring in my own set?

What this boils down to is a question on rules and what we are allowed - or not allowed - to do/to ask/to present our employers. Everyone I've consulted on the matter can't seem to identify what the rules for this situation are. But I'll admit, even if there were rules, I probably would be inclined to not follow them anyway. In this tenuous, razor-edged competitive job market, where you can go from hired to fired in a matter of hours, and jobless to employed just as quickly, I would even argue that the rules - whatever they were - are fast becoming obsolete. The question at hand is no longer about how loyal you are to your company, what matters instead is whether or not you are able to do your job - and do it better than (almost) anyone else. And once you look at it that way, the notion of entitlement - being able to pursue the maximum amount of opportunities available to you, and to negotiate for them yourself - sounds a lot less selfish. Its actually smart.
Obviously, my decision cannot only benefit me while costing the organization, and this will be factored into whatever case I present to the boss. But I've decided I can live with the worst-case scenario of Choice No. 1, especially if failure is really the best negotiating tool, as Rebecca Thorman suggests.

I certainly don't have a whole lot to lose. Come to think of it, that might just be the reason behind Gen Y's brazen insistence on having it all.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Try your wings

Amidst my loftiest aspirations and plans for achieving cross-longitudinal, multi-tiered success - there is doubt. The minute I reach a goal or the chance to prove myself, I will probably freeze. Luckily, its usually just a temporary chill and not a full-out case of frost-bite in which I'm forced to cut off something - an activity, a habit, my arm. But still, the moment is daunting and sometimes, paralyzing. 

I've just entered one of those situations where I feel like I've bitten into a huge piece of steak, immediately followed by a spoonful of mashed potatoes, not to be outdone by a goopy glob of chocolate lava cake (who's hungry now?). And I'm worried it may have been just a bit too much. Of course, in the case of food, I tend to follow the mantra that too much is never enough, so this analogy doesn't really apply.

The thing is, my doubt is entirely pre-emptive.
This time, I think I'll try out my wings before I convince myself I'll fall. And keep in mind that falling is never really bad.  

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Out with the old, in with the "to do"

" Leave time, leave space, to grow. Now...not tomorrow."

                         -Og Mandino

I'll never be one of those people with clutter-free tabletops, and I like it that way. Sure, I could stand to keep things a bit tidier, but I like to think that if my little home was a picture from the poor-man's Martha Stewart Living, I wouldn't be able to perform the immensely satisfying weekend-long clean-a-thon known as SPRING CLEANING! (Nice rationalization, huh?) That's what this weekend has been, and though it wasn't a complete overhaul it did shake up some dust and free some space. AND I even made some money selling the items in my closet that had won the contest for biggest dust-bunny collector. Success!

Of course, some of the greatest satisfaction that comes from cleaning is the mental space that gets cleared out in the process. Throwing out material objects, whatever they signify or don't signify, allows me to part with the stuff in my head. My home feels fresh again and new; I feel refreshed and renewed.

This mental version of spring cleaning has spurred a renewal in my motivation toward professional pursuits, and just in time. I've got a couple handfuls of part time jobs (to supplement my income) to apply to this week and am feeling excited about all of them. My to-do list is lengthy and ambitious once again, my day planner filling up with contact meetings.  I am finally getting a handle on my finances (long overdue). I have emptied out the physical and mental space for all this to happen, and it feels really nice.

We don't need the start of a new year to feel re-freshed, to start anew with our goals and plans and to be focused in them. Sometimes all it takes is a Saturday. And some dust rags.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Last Days

Today is a hectic day. It's the last day I will be working at my job, and the last day that our office will be open at this location. We've got bins and boxes rivaling an airport security check line; opening a door is near impossible as is walking a straight line. The place is chaotic. While the change for me is not so signficant; for many of my co-workers who have spent ten or twenty years in this same office, today marks a huge transition. There's a distinct 'last-day-of-school' feeling floating throughout the whole building - and adding to this throwback feeling, a good old-fashioned pizza party! People you had previously acknowledged with a simple "Hello" are now sharing their histories and asking about your's. It always amazes me how these interactions tend to occur at the very last minute. Why does it take an ending to encourage these beginnings? Tired and trite as it sounds, there is really something to be said about treating each day as though it were your last. Who knows what kinds of relationships might be forged, what types of collaborations and ideas spurred...

The whole last-day syndrome also led me to recall a time in my life when I could not imagine a more terrible occurannce than an ending. Of anything! A tv show would air its finale and I'd be beside myself, the Spice Girls broke up and I composed a veritable thesis on my mourning. The last day of summer vacation was unbearable, as was the last day of school ironically. Basically, I never wanted anything to end. I was terrified of change, which was why the majority of high school was a pretty tough time for me. Obviously now, I can chalk up most of this to plain old growing pains - as much a part of childhood as Sesame Street bedsheets. But the funny thing was that I thought I would always have this painful aversion to change, that I would end up missing out on opportunities because I was too afraid of their inevitable end.

Now (thankfully), change is no longer the four-letter word I once imagined it to be. And indeed it has five. Now, I seek change. I welcome newness. Of experiences and people. Of places and events. And its not just because the new is inherently exciting and fresh - because sometimes its scary. Its not just because growth occurs in the situations most foreign to you - because you can also find ways to grow within the context of the familiar.

I guess I have learned to embrace change in the same way I've learned to embrace life - for all its fluctuations and circuitous movement. Nothing is static. There's both comfort and caution in the notion that what is here today may not be tomorrow. It is a relief to know that the bad will not stay forever, a harrowing reminder to enjoy the good that will eventually pass. Today, I walked home a little more slowly, looked at each person I passed longer, listened to the city's wild symphony more closely. Soon, it will have changed. I will have changed.

My new job begins on Tuesday: proof that our courses can change at a mile a minute. And for once, I'm loving every second.

P.S. How do you like the new space? For a girl with no clue about HTML/CSS/or whatever else you call it, it feels pretty good. Still working out some kinks, though. There is no fairy godmother of blogs, it seems.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How I became a money pit without even knowing it

My reaction exactly, Tom Hanks!

Finance is one of my least favorite subjects in the world - to talk about, write about, read out, or think about. Basically, I could go the rest of my adult life never uttering or hearing another utter a syllable that relates in any way to money. But unfortunately, when I say "finance" here, I'm also referring to my own finances. I've known that this ignorance-is-bliss approach to my cash stash makes a true recipe for personal ruin, if not macro-level, national disasters (Financial meltdown of '08). So after some nudging, in the form of unexpected bills, I've forced myself to take a cold hard look at the reality. And its not pretty, friends.

Alright, I'm exaggerating a little. Its not that bad. I'm not going to be belting out "Hard Knock Life" on street corners for pennies anytime soon. I will, however, be belting out "Hard Knock Life" on street corners for fun, so get ready Seattle! But.. its definitely time that I begin to really assess my spending habits, and re-think my relationship to money.

I am, after all, an adult. Gulp.

You might think that this last sentence conceals a deeply embedded fear of growing up, that my disregard to spending marks a subconscious desire to remain forever young. But its really much more complicated than that. When offered money by family members, I typically turn it down. I've preferred to be financially independent for as long as I've had the means (aka, a job). In that sense, I've actually welcomed the financial responsibilities accumulating after college. Yet these responsibilities of mine were only sort of there, in the same way that you'll tell people you're doing one thing and believe you're doing that same thing. But your actions - and in this case, transactions show otherwise. There was a discrepancy between the responsibilities I claimed to want, and the way I was holding myself accountable for them. Essentially, I made a financial agreement with myself that was far too broad, lenient, and carried out sans intention. In the past month, my friends heard me repeatedly aspire to save more and spend less; yet an hour after my fifth grand proclomation that month, I'd be lounging comfortably in a booth sipping a G&T with my gals! Or, I would come up with a "budget", probably something written on a napkin at lunch and then tossed into my purse where it would sit for days. And though those numbers would remain in my consciousness faintly, they weren't present enough for me to refrain from that fateful shopping trip to Whole Foods. 

Wait, now I'm actually feeling nostalgic at the memory of the past few months, because - and I have to be honest - I lived like a modern day, middle class, urban princess! And you know what? It was incredible! The past couple months of my life have been one huge celebration of everything: my friends' accomplishments, my friends' birthdays, my friendships, my accomplishments, my non-accomplishments, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays...you get the picture, right? If I do a mental re-cap, I was actually living the kind of life I'd always imagined I'd be living at 23. A life that was full of adventure and challenges (trapeze and mountain climbing), great food and drink (both home-cooked and eaten-out), culture (live music, art, theatre). And I got to share it all with some of the best friends in existence. 

I realize that changes are necessary and I'm fully prepared to make them. I'm looking forward to meeting a realistic and smart budget, thanks to this neato site (it even texts you the second you go over your alloted spending). I'm looking forward to saving. I have lived incredibly over the past few months, and its time to start paying for it. Yes, literally and figuratively. And while it was ugly for a few days to take a good hard look at things, it was necessary. I'm learning. I'll find new ways to have my fun that won't require swiping the plastic. And I'm not going to wallow about my new strict budget, or bemoan the loss of my beloved nightcaps at Flowers. 

Because I am an adult now, and I guess that's just what adults are supposed to do. Hey, look, I didn't even gulp that time! 

Monday, March 8, 2010

Just Like a Woman

Kathryn Bigelow accepting her Oscar for Best Director - Click for picture credit

It's International Women's Day today (which I had never heard of until last night when I looked at my day planner, probably because its not an official holiday in the U.S.) and so, how fitting it is that on a day dedicated to celebrating the social, political, economic, and artistic achievements of women around the globe; here in the U.S., we just witnessed a woman take home a Best Directing Oscar for the very first time. Obviously, this achievement pales in signficance to those with truly resounding, large-scale impacts elsewhere, but I believe Kathryn Bigelow's win last night is far from frivolous. Its easy to get get excited when someone becomes the first to do something and even to promote and advocate for it just for novelty's sake. But I think there's so much more to this occasion than just the ability to say this marks 'a first'.

Watching the three and half hour long telecast, the prevalence of gender divisions within the film/media industry - like so many others - was more than obvious. The nominees in categories such as best screenplay, editing, sound mixing, special effects, cinemotography were predominantly male; while women's presence was visible only in the costume and makeup categories. And of course, women were most visible in the audience as beautiful, luminous, sparkling actresses. Not that there's anything wrong with being beautiful and sparkling - but it was an all-too-rare and inspiring moment to see a woman honored not for her work in front of the camera, but behind it. And yet, her movie itself was far removed from any of the politics inherent in the subject matter, a decision that allowed this story to unfold simply, beautifully, powerfully. This was not just a fantastic film by a woman director, this was a fanastic film, period.

Watching Ms. Bigelow accept her award, I couldn't help but think of how this moment had the potential to erase or at least make less visible those limitations and divisions found in the Kodak Theatre and beyond; how more women in film might  be encouraged (rather than turned away) to make movies which are not about love, fashion, and/or how to be fashionable while finding love. The significance of the moment has implications for women even beyond those in film; for the women whose stories might be shared as a result of outstanding female filmmakers like Kathryn Bigelow, and for the millions of women who might be impacted in an invariable number of ways by these films, no longer relegated to small-scale, independent, and limited distributions.

Because as we can see, the U.S. has been less than active in promoting gender equality via policy; seemingly miniature milestones like this, and their ensuing patterns are then increasingly vital. Living in a large, progressive city and working alongside an abundance of influential, talented women, my reality is often deceptive. But its not hard to see there is still a long way to go to attain equal status in the everyday spaces we occupy. While we can look at women's earnings and work/leisure ratios in comparison to men, in fact, it seems the largest and most impactful inequalities are the ones so ingrained, so commonplace, that identifying or describing them is near impossible without looking outside of our immediate scope. To be sure, the work of women and men committed to these causes is relentless and ongoing, 365 days a year. However, this one dedicated day to applaud and examine their accomplishments thus far has some useful qualities, namely, to encourage discussions on where future efforts might be directed. It is time for women's voices to be given equal weight in the spaces we inhabit, locally and globally. Whether the changes that occur are tangible or symbolic is not so important. And while I was thrilled to celebrate last night's first, I'm looking forward to the fifths, the tenths, and the twentieths.

Update: NYTimes article on the impact of Bigelow's win, and what her refusal to be an explicitly "female-director" means: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/14/movies/14dargis.html?ref=global-home

Friday, March 5, 2010

just a poem


Photo credit: ME via flickr

Just a poem for today, to welcome March, and the weekend, and the new spring with the widest of embraces. There's just no better way to describe this feeling or this day or this season, and no better way to honor what has been lost, or left behind over the winter's course. No better way to come out of the season's perpetual shade than by thanking the trees which lend it.



There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basket maker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

-Jane Kenyon

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On irony, and the importance of being earnest

I am so proud to include my first literary reference in my blog! My English degree is all Jennifer Lopez: 
Nearly six months ago, I was tiredly searching for a job and felt like I had exhausted all potential contacts, all avenues for revenue-gains, all cover letter templates, and worst of all, myself. My countless applications yielded little responses, and even less interviews. Those interviews yielded no offers, and well, you can see the pattern there.. And then, on one unassuming Monday afternoon, I got a call from the temp agency I had interviewed with a month earlier, to begin a job the next morning at 8 am. Fifteen hours later, I was planted in front of a computer screen and phone, answering job-seekers questions about their applications and resumes. It could not have been more ironic if it were in that Alanis Morrisette song (which, can we please talk about how someone should have proofread those lyrics because sister can't tell irony from just plain bad luck). Yet I quickly learned how perfecly the stars had been aligned in my favor, because this job was providing me with a birds' eye view of the hiring practices and structural layout at a major organization, one that I had been trying to break into for months. My mouth was foaming in those first few days at the expanse of information that was literally at my eager fingertips. If they only knew who they hired to put in this chair, I kept thinking to myself. Of course, my scope was more narrow in the larger scheme of things - the organization's size, and state-affiliation make it a not so average example; but still, this was a temp job that would prove tremendously valuable considering the short amount of time it has lasted.

Most importantly: I've gained some badly-needed perspective. On the job market, on the ins and outs of hiring, on the politics of office relations, on the incompetencies of massive institutions. Not to mention the technical incompetencies of waaay too many people out there. For instance, did you know there are professionally employed people in this country who do not have the technical capacity to copy and paste? Well there are, and I hope that I talked to all of them in the past six months, otherwise America's computer literacy is in worse shape than I ever thought possible. But all joking aside, this has been the part of the job I found to be the most enjoyable. I will generously estimate that I have spoken to thousands of candidates in this time, many unemployed, many desperately, desperately needing work. They have run the gamut of all spectrums, in profession, economic class, and ethnicity. I've spoken to custodians from Ethiopia and millionaire CEOs in China. They all wanted a job, and they all wanted me to help. Many of these conversations played out politely, generically. But many were wrought with anger, frustration, sadness as their various situations were described. And while there have been times that I've been thankful for the phone receiver that divides me and the caller, or given myself a headache from rolling my eyes too far back into my head; on the whole, I've actually been touched by these conversations in which people share so much of themselves. Their openness inspired my own honesty, and I hope its safe to admit that sometimes, I gave more help than was "officially" allowed. I never accepted bribes - bizarre, but there were offers - or gave out information that would give a candidate an unfair advantage, but I always gave my most earnest and sincere responses, no matter how many times I had to give them. And this approach wasn't only applied to clients (as those are the rules of customer service, after all), but to supervisors and co-workers as well. My ability to be sincere in my interactions and direct in my requests from them, ultimately, leads me into my next job. 

Earnestness in the workplace is something to strive for always. For all its power, it is undervalued and underused. Imagine if we all communicated with eachother with the utmost honesty; if we felt we were allowed to say what we mean to say at our jobs, within the codes of civility, of course.

So now, for old-times sake, I will reflect on a few additional take-away lessons as I prepare to depart this "little job that would":

-A back-slash can mean different key-strokes for different folks:You say  \  I say  / . Its best to describe this as "the symbol that shares a key with the question mark" just to err on the side of safety.

-If someone comes into the office thinking they've been shot, kindly offer them a seat but do not engage in prolonged eye contact even when they begin to talk about hot-button topics like gay marriage or Lindsay Lohan.

-Lastly, when someone smiles at you, smile back. When someone says 'thank you', thank them as well. It is these moments that brighten a dull day, and its only the least we can do. The very, very least.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"Y" is for "YUCKIES"..?

The Times' Ben Schott features this recently coined acronym in his vocab blog today; thereby infuriating hundreds of thousands of young people around the world. Or maybe just me. To let him off the hook, Scott wasn't the one who came up with the term, which stands for "Young Unwitting Costly Kids"; and in fact, no one seems to be taking credit for this sweet little nickname which manages to both insult and deflate the morale of its 20-something namesakes. Schott pulls the word from an article written by a self-proclaimed YUCKIE herself (pushing 30, I hardly feel she can call herself a 'kid' but that's a whole 'nother story) who goes into the boggy statistics behind the word. To sum it up, Gen Y is eating up their parents' 401K savings accounts, regular savings accounts, vacation cruise, and emergency savings accounts - as if their lives depended on it. Because with unemployment hovering around 50% for this age bracket, their lives, or at least their livelihood, indeed do depend on it. And they're eating up a lot more than just money, as scores of them head for greener pastures - and stocked cupboards - in their parents' homes. These are apparently called the 'boomerang' kids, but make no mistake, as the article mentions a half million 35-44 year olds moved back in with Mom & Dad in the UK last year. But no worries, the parents do get to join in on the fun of having a new generational nickname! Now dubbed the "baby-gloomers", they face growing financial uncertainty and with that, a less rosy picture of retirement as a result of their adult children's postponed professional incomes.

You know what I want to say to that? Boo-hoo. Thankfully, the author quickly changes her tune midway through the article and adopts the same tough love approach. I've got a mountain full of gratitude for my parents and the various types of support they've given me without question, but we cannot expect to feel sympathy for the set of Americans who embarked on their adult paths during an era of low-cost higher education, and unparalleled economic prosperity and growth; when one could realistically expect to retire at age 65, sell their house for more than they paid, and drive their motor home around the country without guilt of carbon emissions. Yes, in case you were uncertain, that was feigned romanticism. But the reason we shouldn't feel sorry is because that will only make us feel guilty and we all know what a mess that can lead to.

Times are tough right now. But I don't believe in feeling guilty for being where we are (or where we aren't) or sorry for anyone, not even my generation whose professional development and subsequent lifetime earning potential will take a dramatic nosedive in comparison to previous generations, including those 'baby gloom and doomers'. I'll even go one step further to say that I'm glad this change is taking place. Because although job security and guaranteed pension sounds great, these things also meant you were expected to stay in one place for the majority of your working life. At one company. At one job - or maybe a couple if you count promotions and such. We've seen enough dramatizations, both real-life and staged, of the mid-century businessman to realize that this formula has a serious tendency of producing depressed, creatively stifled and claustrophobic individuals (in movies, always with drinking problems). This outdated  model also meant that the company had ultimate control over the direction of one's career, or at least, more control than they have now.  I'm happy about the predictions that show our generation will be changing jobs something like every 18 months, and shifting through sectors and careers at a pace of about every 5-7 years. Doesn't this just mean more opportunities for growth, for success? For innovation to occur more rapidly? For people to have greater autonomy over decisions regarding work and the way they fit work into their lives? I wish more people would begin to embrace the change, rather than lamenting the loss of 'securities' which were tenuous to begin with. And so what? You're 27 and living with your parents, or you're 58 and you've got a 30-year old in your basement.  Imagine the types of cross-generational intelligence that could be fostered within these new models, and the benefits it could bring to our towns and communities. The picture may not be the rosiest one, but it sure isn't black. 

I'm hoping for the quick demise of this insulting and inaccurate term. We are young, and certainly costly, but we are far from unwitting. My impression is that we're fighting to overcome the challenges we're facing, through hard work, acute awareness, and passion that fuels it all. So...that would make: H.W.A.A.P.? Alright, we'll work on that too.