Category Archives: Guest Posts

A Career of One’s Own: From Boston to Ukraine to Somewhere Entirely Different

Keith

Keith

One of my passions is learning about other peoples’ journeys. A friend of mine and fellow BU alum, Keith (who blogs at Espose) has had an interesting career journey that he’s shared in the piece below. This is especially relevant for 20 somethings in search of a career or for anyone who likes a good read. Enjoy!

My plan after graduating from college in 2011 was simple. I’d do two years of Peace Corps in Ukraine, get a Master’s in Nonprofit Management afterwards, dive into the nonprofit world, and then one day run my own organization.

Three years later that plan is shredded. I work in an office that frustrates me always and at times drives me completely insane, and my professional life is directionless. It’s not a unique story amongst 20-somethings and my trajectory is by no means representative of everyone. But a common thread for many of us is getting what we wanted, realizing it’s not what we expected, and then not knowing where to turn.

For me, the first seeds of doubt were planted before I even got to Ukraine. Before I left, I worked for a bicycle tour company and loved the energy of the rapidly expanding small business. This contrasted sharply with the inefficient, glacial-paced, red-tape atmosphere that overshadowed my work with Peace Corps Ukraine, Ukrainian NGOs, and at the school where I taught English. In particular, working at my school was the most perplexing challenge of my service. On paper it was the ideal job, but secondary factors made it miserable. These included interpersonal conflicts with the cliquey staff and my mostly apathetic colleagues, structural challenges like the draconian administration and ever-changing schedule, and the more ambiguous but ever present hopeless vibe that pervaded the school and the economically-depressed, post-Soviet town. I was constantly stressed, even when working completely independently or outside of work altogether.

I returned to the States with a reversed sense of priorities — I didn’t know what I wanted, but I sure knew that I didn’t want to work for the government, in NGOs, or as a teacher. I moved back to Boston and found a job temping through August at an office at Boston University. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen into a familiar trap — I love my work with the students, but this office, its employees, and my daily tasks rival a Dilbert comic in absurdity. Living in Boston, I do have the advantages of the city and a network of friends, so for a while I simply tried to separate life and work. But eventually I reached a point where a “good” day was when I mentally blacked-out for half of my waking hours five days a week.

The Monday before 4th of July, I had a terrible day at work. None of the events were exceptionally heinous individually, but collectively they gave me one big wake-up call and the much needed epiphany that I don’t have to deal with any of this. Even though I’m still unhappy at work I feel empowered to take ownership of my professional life instead of letting the clock tick down to the end of August.

Going forward, I’m going to try to have a more balanced approach. I’ve traded in my clear-cut lists of “wants” and “don’t-wants,” for flexible tiers of preference weighted much more towards intangibles like people, mentorship, and office culture. I’m now very aware that choosing a job is also choosing a lifestyle; that jobs largely determine personal schedules, how and when people spend their time, and living purely for the evenings and weekends leaves people disengaged from whole swaths of their lives. I’m also trying to appreciate the benefits of uncertainty. Being directionless is often anxiety-producing, particularly after pouring over endless job postings with still no idea of what I’m really looking for, while most people around me carry down their well-defined career paths. But every once in a while I stumble across a bundle of possibilities I had never considered or even known of, and I’m completely free to pursue it. There’s nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

I still can’t say I have a plan, but I do have a perspective. And though less concrete, it’s more than what I had three years ago.

What are your thoughts on a career journey? Do people ever really like their jobs? Leave feedback in the comments and to hear more from Keith, check out his blog at espose.wordpress.com.

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Improv Is Not What You Think It Is [Guest Post]

I have a secret to share with you. It’s been hidden for long enough but now it’s time for it to burst into the spotlight, in full view of the entire world, President Obama, and any non-earth intelligent life: I am an improviser, as in, I do improv.

Yes, this is where I stand on a stage with some other brave souls and create something out of what appears to be nothing. It’s not as hard as it looks. In fact, it’s much harder, and the trick is that you can’t think about what you’re doing. Not even a little bit.

The thing is, improv is not what you think it is. Whatever you think you know about improv is probably wrong. That’s how it was for me, at least. But since my days of improv ignorance, I’ve come into the light – my improv troupe True Medusa has helped with that enlightenment process. They are pretty amazing.

Are you intrigued? Do you want to know more? Do you want to know how wrong you are about improv? I dare you to read my blog post on the brand-new True Medusa blog, lovingly titled “Improv is Not What You Think It Is.” 

Take a read, take a look, and let me know what you think. Read now.

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I regret teaching my dog to lick my face

And for today, a great guest post from Thoughtsy of Thoughts Appear as she shares with us something that she immediately regretted doing. After reading this story, even though it is short, I felt very real pain for everyone involved, except the dog.

I immediately regret teaching my dog to lick my face

Never teach your dog “kisses.” Ever. Just stick to the basics, like “sit” and “stay.” Maybe even “shake” just to be polite.

Our new puppy, a cute little bundle of fur named Ozzy, loves to put everything in his mouth. Including my face.

To teach him that licking is ok but biting is not, I started saying, “kisses” and offering up my chin for the slobbery sacrifice.

Now Ozzy gives kisses on command as well as whenever he’s in someone’s lap. Most importantly, he never nips anymore.

On a ride home from the vet, instead of something going in Ozzy’s mouth, something came out. Puke. In the car.

While my boyfriend cleaned up, Ozzy and I went inside for some cuddling.

With his tail attempting to wag, Ozzy trotted over and collapsed into my lap, and we cuddled.

Thoughtsy: Poor puppy. Come here, Ozzy!

Boyfriend: Is he okay?

Thoughtsy: Yeah. He just needed some hugs and kisses.

As his panting, puky breath wafted up to my nose, I gagged. And Ozzy’s slobbery tongue licked not only my chin, but the inside of
my mouth.

Thoughtsy: The puppy just made it to first base!

Boyfriend: Let’s just make sure he doesn’t get to second….

Ozzy practicing 2nd and 3rd base maneuvers on his toy.

I immediately regretted teaching Ozzy to lick my face at the word “kisses.”

I also regretted not buying more mouthwash the last time I was at the store.

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I Immediately Regret Doing This: Draggin’ Aspen

The blogosphere is full of weirdos, cat-gentlemen, and Craig’s List posters. In the milieu of what can be a terrifying and terrifyingly unfunny land, there is an oasis, a sweet haven of laughter and quality humor writing that is called The Byronic Man.

I asked the proprietor of this quality weblog to guest post for Snotting Black, another hilarious and altogether exceptional humor blog, on the topic of “I immediately regret doing this.” He came through in spades and sweat. Read on. And then go to his blog. And then come back to mine. Then get a sandwich.

I’ve certainly been there before. As in sleepy, not exerted.

Draggin’ Aspen

I ran in a half-marathon a couple weeks ago, called the Haulin’ Aspen (Get it?  It’s a pun!).  I enjoy running and have done one half-marathon before, but would not ordinarily have considered running in this one because it is notorious for being one of the toughest trail races in the area.  Very dirty.  Lots of hills.  Sharp switchbacks, some of which are very narrow and on jagged rock.  A rollicking good time, right?  But a friend suggested is a kind of group activity, so, hey, I figured, why not.  We’d tough our way through this thing together.  Toast our awesomeness with a beer afterward.  So I signed up.

Short version: I wound up being the only one who actually signed up for the race.  Call this Bad Omen/Regret Milestone #1.

That morning turned out to be the hottest day this summer.  It was hot before we even started running, and a number of people stood around muttering, “I thought we’d get at least a little time before we were actually too hot.”  Bad omen/Regret Milestone #2.

I had run the course a couple times before, which was helpful, and made me in to a prophet of wisdom and faith beforehand as we milled around the starting line.  “You’ve seen the course?” two women asked.  “Is it as bad as they say?”  “Yea,” I replied, “Verily, it is true that there is about two and a half miles of straight uphill in full sun, but thou must have faith that an aid station waits at the end with Gatorade and gel packs.”

Side note: those gel packs they give runners – if you’ve ever seen those – why are they all like ‘chocolate cream’ and ‘apple cinnamon’?  Who the hell’s jogging along in the heat and thinking, “Man, a big piece of grocery store pie would really hit the spot right now”?

Then we started running and immediately closed in to a narrow, dusty path.  Vision obscured.  Dirt inhaled.  Sun pounding.

It was pretty immediately clear: I’d made a mistake.  This would not be the last time I’d have this thought.  The heat was brutal, the dirt was thick (there would come a moment where I’d blow my nose and dirt would come out.  Not brown mucus – dirt).

There were definite stretches where things were looking up… until they looked up for that two and a half miles in full sun on the hottest day in the summer.  We can call that the Turning Point from “Regret Milestone” to “Mother F***er…”

The kicker of this race is that trails aren’t quite long enough, so you get so close to the end that you could hit the people crossing the finish line with a rock (which was tempting), and it’s directly in front of you… and you take a sharp right to run another mile and a half.  Now that’s just mean.

I finished, so I suppose there’s that.  I’ve done one before, and on that one when I hit the 12-mile mark I kicked into gear for that last mile.  Hoo-ah, and all that.  This one when I hit the 12-mile mark I was puttering, thinking of activities I might take up besides running, and trying to remember the signs of heat stroke.  I was not alone.  We looked like that moment in the horror movie when the protagonist looks out the window and sees the zombies shambling down the street.

But I made it.  I didn’t even check my time, I just stumbled around looking for fluid – water, beer, vinegar, mustard, whatever.  I did have a beer, but there was no toasting of personal awesomeness, only the desperate need for fluid and carbohydrates and, hopefully, death.

I’m proud of myself for getting through it… but I keep waiting to think, “Ah, I’m glad I did it.”  And… I’m still waiting…

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