Tag Archives: career

Classic Odysseus, Returning Home to the Bed of My Youth

imageAfter a flight from La Guardia with two screaming babies, a connecting flight from Dallas Fort Worth to Oklahoma City, a short drive from the airport to my sister’s house, another short drive to a restaurant for a heavy meal, yet another short drive to my other sister’s house for a slice of pie, and then one last short drive to my parent’s house, I’m finally home. Kind of.

I’m in the house I grew up in for six years while going to middle school and high school just down the road in Edmond, OK.

My sisters live in Oklahoma City now and as we were driving through I saw all manner of exciting things: Great Gravy Diner, a Pho place, three thrift shops, a drive-thru Thai place, a Moroccan restaurant, and a strange building with a gold dome. Most of the buildings look a little run down and they’re spread out and each have their own parking lot, but there’s a definite “vibe” here. There’s definitely stuff going on.

When I was growing up in Edmond (suburb of OKC), I was a dumb teenager. I didn’t think OKC was “cool,” or that there could possibly be anything interesting to do. Granted, I had little money and couldn’t drink alcohol so many of the best parts of the city were closed off to me.

Now, however, this place is teeming with excitement. Even the 24-hour vape place seems fascinating. I don’t know if OKC has gotten cooler, or if I’ve gotten more curious, but now it seems impossible to me that I didn’t think growing up here was the best cultural gift anyone’s ever been given. It’s like I don’t even know my hometown because I thought it was so lame growing up that I didn’t bother to explore it.

It’s also interesting being in this house again, sleeping in what used to be my brother’s room which was stricktly off limits to sisters lest his brooding be interrupted. It’s just me and my parents now and it’s like,,,well… looks like the kids are growing up, stumbling and staggering off in different directions and hoping we’re not making decisions that will haunt us. Only time will tell.

Until then, I still have a home here, until it’s no longer my home and my parents move or I live somewhere else for a million years and come back and realize I’ve forgotten where all the light switches are. Funny how in school they teach you a lot of stuff but don’t really prepare you for anything that difficult. Except for the tests, which they create. It’s effed up, man.

But anyways, here’s to making a hometown new again. *clink*

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Everything I Need to Know about Life, I Learned from the Overnight Megabus Trip from Washington D.C. to Boston

Megabus

Megabus

1. Happiness is a choice. You can either spend your 8 hours wallowing in self pity and regret, or spend your 8 hours thinking about coffee and the possibilities of the future.

2. Get work done and don’t procrastinate. Because you never know when you’ll be able to blog, wash your face or brush your teeth again.

3. Every moment can hold something special. The journey is not the destination, but it’s not nothing either, so take advantage of those miles in the middle of nowhere.

4. Don’t give up. Just after you’ve tried every possible sleep position, you just might stumble upon the one that will allow you to rest longer than thirty minutes.

5. People make life incredible. Nothing beats seeing the smiling face of a friend in the wee hours of the morning in a city you love after 8 hours of purgatory.

6. Assume nothing. The person behind you may have terrible taste in music, but they might be going through a hard time in life and need the crappy music to get them through. You don’t know.

7. Baggage sucks. The less you have, the better. That goes for personal baggage as well as possessions.

8. Other people exist besides yourself. The bus was not made for you and your needs. There are other people with different life stories, different clothes, different allergies and literature tastes, and their way of life is just as valid as yours.

9. People are people everywhere. This one goes without explaining.

10. Smile. Your smile will open more doors and give you more free donuts than your fist.

11. Think. Preparing ahead of time and thinking about the repurcussions of your decisions can lead to better, more effective outcomes. For example, bringing a pillow would make sleeping easier and the next day less exhaustion-filled.

12. Think positive. Since you’re already thinking, you might as well make it positive. Stress causes your brain to ferment, and too often you spend it worrying about things you can’t control, like what you’re going to eat for breakfast at South Street Diner.

13. Call Mom when you get in. She really cares about you and wants to make sure your trip went safely.

14. Sleep more. You probably need more sleep than you’re getting and especially more sleep than you’ll ever get on the overnight bus.

15. Bring warm clothing.

16. Infinity is everywhere. It is in the lengthening hours of the bus trip, it’s in the distance between your legs and the back of the seat in front of you, and it’s in the distance between you and a golden time in your past that you can never return to.

17. Love others.

18. Beauty is everywhere. It’s in the way rain hits the windows, in the color of a German’s hair and in the rich brown of a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.

19. Care. Care about other people, about yourself, about the bus and the cities that you’re passing through. Care about the quality of work you produce and about the state of the nation and the world. Care even though it’s risky, even though it might hurt, even though it takes energy. Care.

20. Remember that life is heartbreakingly beautiful for reasons you will never quite understand, and that your great privilege and duty is to chase this beauty for as far as you can go, until your Megabus reaches its final destination and not a second sooner.

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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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Somewhere Right Now, A Millennial Is Freaking Out About Life

millennial dinosaur is afraid of things she can't control millennial dinosaur is afraid of things she can't control

millennial dinosaur is afraid of things she can’t control

I was in Nashville for a reunion with some of my best friends from college for the 4th of July weekend. In the three years since we’ve graduated, we’ve all gone and gotten jobs or done Americorps or the Peace Corps or something along those lines, and now we’re trying to figure out what the heck to do with our lives and also what we’ve already done.

Sometimes I feel terrified that I’m doing everything wrong. Graduating from college was like being forced through the birth canal and leaving a tender home for a world of concrete and screaming and people slapping you to make sure you’re alive.

I miss classes and learning for the sake of learning. I miss my friends and being within a 2 mile walk of 80% of the people I care about. I miss grades and how easy it was to measure success. Sure it was all hell sometimes, but mostly it was awesome.

Not college has been different than college. In the “real world,” learning is not valued just for the sake of learning. My friends are spread out and busy. Community is difficult to build and what the heck is going on with dating nowadays? In some ways I want to write Boston University an angry letter saying “WTF? Why didn’t you prepare me for this?”

On the other hand, my real world education has been incredibly valuable. I’ve learned the value of a dollar (which is almost nothing), and how difficult but important it is to continue to invest in relationships as part of building a life worth living. I’m probably doing most things incorrectly, but so is everyone else and that’s a reassuring thought.

One of the best parts of not college has been the relationships I’ve maintained and the joy of seeing old friends. As I live more life, friendships grow richer as we experience tragedies and great joys together, and as life becomes less about us and how we stack up against arbitrary standards, and more about the kind of legacy we’re building with the people we love.

Because in the end that’s the most valuable thing we have. College couldn’t teach me about the other hard lessons in life, but I did get to build some incredible friendships. My dream is to continue growing that spiderweb of love for the next one hundred years.

I don’t know if I’m making the right career decisions, and I don’t know if my life will look like what I want it to look like in 20 years. I do know that friends are awesome, so I’m going to start there with the rest of my life and ask questions later.

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30 Ways to Measure My Life, and Maybe Yours Too

You might be familiar with the poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot. If not, you should read it here or listen to me read it here (yes, this happened.) It’s a beautiful poem, and one that might make you think. This is an excerpt I particularly like:

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.

On a related note, I recently started taking calcium every day in the form of a chocolate chew. I take one every morning, after I drink my coffee so my mouth is warm and it makes the chocolate flavor taste better. Every day a chew, every day a wrapper – a little trace of my life. It got me thinking – what else could I measure my life in? What are the other little traces? So you can read them below, and some are measurable and some are less so. As an added challenge, I drew some of these things.

I have measured out my life with:

  1. Calcium chew wrappers calcium_chew_wrappers
  2. Empty coffee cups 
  3. Used strands of floss
  4. Birthday cards
  5. LinkedIn connections
  6. Pounds gained and lost over the past yearsscale
  7. GPA
  8. Salary
  9. Facebook friends and tagsfacebook_friend
  10. Words written
  11. Email drafts
  12. Journal entries
  13. Ink stains on the bed
  14. Kitkat wrappers found in bed.
  15. Boarding passes
  16. Ticket stubs
  17. Number of pimples popped pimple
  18. Number of emails answered
  19. Protein bar wrappers 
  20. Burned matches
  21. Takeaway boxes
  22. Onion peelsonion_peel
  23. Shopping bags
  24. High fives
  25. Hugs
  26. LaughsIt's laughter, though it looks like vomit
  27. Belly laughs
  28. The kind of laugh where you laugh so hard you cry
  29. Minutes spent living. 
  30. Minutes spent like, actually living. 
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