Job Honeymoons

I was sitting in my second review meeting a few weeks back and one of the board members I just met turned to me and asked how it was all going. Of course my answer was positive and excited and enthusiastic. He looked me right in the eye and said “ah, so the honeymoon isn’t over yet!” He explained how soon I would stop my enthusiastic climb and start to slump. The slump could last months, according to him, but the trick was to persevere through it, and it would level off. Then it would be okay.

Part of me disagreed vehemently (in my mind and silently of course) I don’t want to slump, and if I do, I will never ‘level off’. That means I am stagnant and I want to always be growing! Well, its good in theory at least…

I’ve reached the end of the honeymoon now, and I actually find myself yearning for that level period. Looking back on what he said its not so much about the physical actions of doing the job and love of work, its about emotions and relationships. That leveling off, I hope, means the extremes will mellow and that comfortableness will help me have more confidence in myself and my work. I still want to always improve, but coming home either bouncing with joy or in floods of tears is draining–I hope to settle for contentment.

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Ngawi baby seals

Thanksgiving came and went, an overall success of a small group of friends filled to the gills with food. Since then we have had turkey and stuffing burritos for every lunch and Turkey soup twice. The fridge is still quite full, but I love the left overs.

On Saturday Chris got the urge to “get out of dodge”. Those are his words and I’m never quite sure what they mean. Well–okay–they mean he wants to get in the car and drive for a minimum of an hour one way to do something. So he looked it up, and we packed a picnic. We went to the Ngawi baby seal area with a view of the light house as well.

The first spot we tried was a little too close to this mama sized seal, who was camouflaged so we moved.

They played and splashed while we ate.

Dessert was tasty

There were quite a few people there, but nothing compared to the crowd that would have gathered in other parts of the world on a perfectly beautiful Saturday.

The lighthouse was a bit far for us to visit this time.

I was reminded of visiting the lighthouse out on Vashon island with my Aunt and cousins. We saw a baby seal then too. But Chris got in trouble for walking too close to it and taking a picture. That would ‘traumatize’ it apparently. No one said that here as everyone snapped pictures from as close as they dared. Sometimes people are just busy bodies, and the seals don’t care. Other times humans catch and kill or torture seals and they should be in trouble. Here, the seals out numbered the humans. They probably should have caught us and returned the favor.

Just to give you an idea of the area:

If you haven’t, everyone needs to go to New Zealand at least once. If Lord of the Rings/Hobbit doesn’t convince you, perhaps baby seals will.

Who can be your Hero? Baby…

Ages ago, when I was in High School, our English class was assigned a project of developing our philosophy of life. I should have realized then that I was a bit of a pessimist and lover-of-failure. Well, its only taken this long to admit it now.

I poured my heart and soul into the assignment. My philosophy revolved around the word and conception of what a ‘hero’ is. And I used the term loosely. The premise was this: we all want to be heroes, the center of our own story of life and to a degree this is true and attainable. But, a hero by definition is someone who is lifted above everyone else and is viewed prominently in the eyes of others. So, in reality, only a few people can ‘make it’ and in order for them to ‘make it’ everyone else has to be under their feet.

I didn’t get a great grade on it–but I thought I had articulated it fairly well for my age. The thing is, the idea never left me. My desire to be a hero–not like superman, nor some celebrity but someone greater, and better and bigger than the masses remained. But here it is: I am average. I am normal. I am ordinary. And I am slowly accepting this. It doesn’t stop me from dreaming, but rather offers me a practical reason for the rejection so often faced in life. Most have to be rejected because only one person can get a single job position.

But it goes further than that as well. They say (in rash generalizations) that in the west everyone wants to differentiate themselves, be better, be greater. In essence a culture supporting the hero model: to be unique is to be necessary. In the east (again in rash generalizations) it is the ability to fit in, help the greater good by being the small, but necessary tool. Not unique, but necessary. Feel free to disagree. So what does that mean for me? A westerner raised in the east? It means I vacillate between the two ideals. I want to find the place I belong, fit in, and don’t stand out but sometimes I want to burn out bright and brilliant and have people look at me and say “wow, how special, different and someone worth copying.”

It is the tension between these two values, I think, that rages in all of us no matter where we were raised. But it takes more than a battle for heroics to get there. In Ancient times it depended on birth–Achilles wasn’t great because he worked really hard and trained himself to the limits. It was because his mommy was a goddess. This holds true a bit still today, but thankfully less so. We can also qualify our specific ‘heroic’ deeds so that I can be the hero of blogging, singing, poetry writing or social marketing. That leaves room for many more heroes. So what is the difference between success and being a hero? Perhaps that is why I didn’t get such an amazing grade. Hero is such a childish word. Success is mature.

We can’t all be heroes. So what am I going to do about it? What will you do about it?

 

Do what you love, but make sure you get paid

Most people have been profoundly inspired by Steve Job’s insights way back in 2005 about doing what you love. I have 2 basic, rambling thoughts on this as they regard my own unemployment and period of worry:

First, he declares that he was lucky to find what he loved early in life. Starting young is a nice option for those of you that know yourselves. I thought I knew myself. That academia and the life of the mind was for me. I would read and write all morning, and I would share with keen students in the afternoons, and when possible I would commune with other scholars in a romantic exchange of ideas. This wasn’t how it was. I had a supervisor once, when I in passing to make conversation, ask her about her latest research declare to me “I can’t tell you, lest someone else find out.” Sharing must be done carefully and documented so it cannot be stolen I guess.

I thought loving it, and hard work, finishing a PhD would be enough. But when I got there, I still liked the reading and the writing, but there was student bashing, peer attacks and all manner of problems. No place is perfect. And to top it off, it was a system that was crumbling with lack of jobs and lack of pay. It wasn’t the subject I loved (although I did) it was the actions. The reading, writing, sharing, improving and publishing into the world. So I left what I thought I had been lucky enough to find when I was young.

But now, I’m not that young, not that lucky, and I have to try and dream with my wings cut. I’m doing it, but slowly.

The second point is about loving work in general. See, the way academia can get people to stay is the love. Its not work if you love it, so you should do it for free. Perhaps you remember a while back when this article came out. If your job is what you love does that cheapen it make you have to do it for free or else? The need for a living wage is a thing.

Well, I’m in the middle of reading Amanda Palmer’s new book The Art of Asking and you need to ask for help, whatever the situation really and artists have to demand pay especially in this age where music and words are free. But it is the ‘no’ that is scary. “Please take a chance on me,” I’ll say, “You have no skills, so…no” they reply. I know the popular phrase is: “No one owes you a living” but I’ll never get anything if I don’t ask. Perhaps it is a bit of a stretch.

I won’t find what I love sitting here writing–well, unless the answer is writing. Some jobs are boring, but that isn’t the same as hating it. You can love the paycheck so much that it doesn’t matter so long as you still have a life in the background.

This brings me back, again, to who am I? Am I my job? Why do we as a society put so much emphasis on how we earn money. The thing that we do from 9 to 5 (or longer if you are unlucky) that takes us away from home, family, friends, and other hobbies? Why would we define ourselves by that? I heard once that it has all been downhill since the Agricultural Revolution. We went from gathering what food we needed for the day, hunting, or gathering perhaps a few trinkets, and then mostly chilling, to toiling daily in a field and it got worse with each advancement. More work, less life.

My good friend said, only the rich say money doesn’t matter, because they’ve never been without it. Thats why we define ourselves by our jobs. Our worth is our paycheck. That means my worth at the moment is a big fat zero. I don’t need pity though, because right now, my problem is that I have too much life and free time. Is this truly living? Or am I a parasite? I don’t know what I love doing that will get me paid. I don’t know even what I’m good at.

So I typed into Google a few days ago ‘Unemployment blogs’ and other such depressing variations but I didn’t find much by way of inspiration from it, or further wallowing as the case may be. But I’m starting not to care. I want more than a paycheck, a day-killer, and a sense of place within society. I want to be okay. And I’m getting there.