Surviving the Job Hunt… with Writing

Not being employed sucks.

Even as a full-time student, I have a sinking feeling that I’m not contributing to the world, and that I’m wasting all of my money and mental energy on crap.

Here’s what my average day looks like:

  1. I spend a majority of my time applying to jobs (seriously, at least 4 job applications per day – which doesn’t sound like a lot until you realize that each company has a different application system and often requires a lot of duplicated work and filtering and proofreading and adjusting your resume…).
  2. Then after a few hours of that, I get up so I don’t get blood clots in my legs and die.
  3. I clean the house a bit, pick up some groceries
  4. … and finally sit back down and contemplate my worth while I attempt to read extremely dense academic material on the fate of humanity amidst technological change, or otherwise, the fate of technology amidst societal changes.
  5. Then, if I’m lucky, I have a class to trudge off to at around 6PM. If I’m not, I continue reading awful academic theory until I go to bed.

It eats away at your soul after a while.

My freelance business is slow, with some potential clients, but we’re still at the consultation stage for now.

My blog isn’t set to begin until New Years Day, but I’m slowly creating a content plan for it. (Reeeeeeeally slowly. Don’t judge me.)

What to do when with a burgeoning brain of crazy ideas and a sad, empty soul? You write a book!

That’s correct. November is around the corner and I am participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)  in an attempt to reinvigorate my imagination and remember how much I love to write.

Perhaps adding on additional obligations isn’t the best way to cope with the mind-numbing stress of uncertainty, but I think I need anything but mind-numbing at this point, and a deviation from my focus on “uncertainty” will probably be healthy for me.

If you want to follow my progress, check out my participant profile on the NaNoWriMo site, which will list my word count as I progress. If I’m successful, I may actually try to get the book published. If not, I will have at least begun a novel. Can’t say it’s a bad deal.

So begins (continues?) my quest to discover who I am and what I love, while companies judge me from afar!

PS – For the writers out there, in case you were wondering: I am most certainly a “pants-er.”

What Surfing Has Taught Me About Dealing with Life

When I was 16, I picked up a surfboard for the first time in my life. (Coincidentally, I learned in the very place I’d find myself several years later, happily engaged. But we’re not there yet.) It was much larger than I’d expected, and took a lot of effort to move it across a beach. The wind was less than helpful, resisting all of my my 114lb might. Nonetheless, I took a lesson, and after about 4+ hours of swimming vigorously against waves and currents, falling off the board, and tumbling beneath swells, I ended my day having ridden a grand total of two waves.

This wasn’t the last time I picked up a board. A few years later, I vacationed with my mother again, but this time in Costa Rica. We stayed in a little surf town called Playa Tamarindo. I rented a longboard again for the day, hoping I just might catch a wave in another country. The swells were considerably larger than in Hawaii, where I learned. About 5-10 feet larger. But nonetheless, amateur me couldn’t tell the difference. I attempted and attempted, riding a grand total of one wave, and almost drowning. (For perspective, I was captain of the varsity swim team at the time, and a certified lifeguard. Ironic, eh?)

Why am I talking about this? Because when looking for a great metaphor about life, there was very little guesswork involved thanks to living in Hawaii. Surfing has taught me a lot about how your experiences can shape your behavior, and how your behavior can shape your experiences. The trick is accepting that both of these will happen.

So! Without further ado, here are five amateur surfing tips that apply to dealing with life:

1. When the wave is most certainly going to come down on top of your head, don’t fight it. Dive deep.

It’s easy to get terrified when something is going to go wrong. Sometimes you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time, and sometimes you’ve put yourself in a situation you can’t escape from. The best you can do is dive deep and let it all wash over you. Accept that you can’t change the world around you, but you can adapt and learn. You have to simply own the situation and don’t let it own you.

2. Swim over the top of swells if you can. Don’t let the little things hamper you. You’ll get caught in them if you wallow in the shallows. Spend your energy instead on getting where you need to be.

There is nothing more annoying than wasting energy on things that aren’t worth your time. If it doesn’t help you get to where you need to be, it’s wasting your time. Learn when to distinguish the petty from the important, and leave those that don’t support, or help you, behind.

3. Mind your hubris. The ocean is powerful and can drown you. Know that you are not invincible, and to ask for help. Even the experts can struggle. It’s okay.

Sometimes you get caught in a riptide, and it’s really bad. You don’t think you can get out of this one, and you can’t breathe. You’re not a bad person because of it. You simply need help. You are only human. And the ocean–and life–is big enough to ruin even the strongest of us. It’s okay. Don’t drown in your shame. We need to look out for each other.

4. You can find your wave, but the wave will never bother finding you. The best wave is the one that isn’t that obvious. Take your chance on the swells that feel right.

You can wait your entire life to find the perfect opportunity, and it will never come. Maybe if you’re the luckiest person in the universe, but let’s be pessimists for a moment here. Most of the time, you’re going to look for the best you can get, and running with it. I promise that waiting will leave you really, really bored.

The best opportunities, though, tend to be less obvious. You’re never really sure of them, and to be honest, you can’t really make up your mind until the last second. But no one else will see what you see, and maybe you’ll feel like an imbecile chasing it for dear life. But in the end, the real losers are the ones who never took a chance. In the end, success is a decision you make, not a result.

5. Once you catch your wave, ride it with abandon. But don’t be upset about swimming back out if you fall. Surfing is not an end state. It is a process.

Finally, you have done something and you are goddamn successful! You are blazing past everyone, and you are living the dream. But like all dreams, they eventually end. Either by time elapsing, or by a mishap and sometimes a wipe out. It’s easy to be ashamed that you’re starting from the beginning, working twice as hard to get back to where you once were. But that’s the thing about surfing and life. It’s not really an endgame at all. Getting through it all is a process, and always will be. Success is a decision to see opportunities in that process rather than drown in the mishaps; to pursue when you can, and accept when you can’t. All of it is an exercise in trusting yourself to do the right thing when you need to. And once you’ve done that, all you have left to do is ride the wave home.


Not to say I’m an expert at any of this “life” stuff, (and certainly not an expert at surfing by any means… I’m literally just a beginner, and by no means a “surfer”) but this perspective has helped me deal with the fact that life is bigger than me, and that I have little control over it. That fact is exactly why life isn’t ever going to be boring or predictable. Whether or not it will be enjoyable, though, is entirely up to me.

I think the odds of that are far greater than my odds of actually catching a wave.

And those odds are alright by me.

The Act of Becoming.

This is my first post under this new blog title. You may remember my last blog, but I’ve since decided to leave it, moving onto the next phase of my life.

Let’s cut to the chase: I’m quitting my job and moving to Hawaii to pursue my MBA and to live with my fiancé.

It was not an easy decision. There were many nights I would be in tears over the ordeal, wondering if it was really the right choice. Would I be jeopardizing my career? Is it really necessary to do this now? Can I wait a couple years? Pah! Love should never be the deciding vote, CAREER ALL THE WAY.

Honestly, growing up surrounded by the fiercest women–and I say this in both the coy, modern way as well as in the scary way–has raised my expectations of myself. For better and for worse. I cannot see myself being a housewife, and I truly couldn’t ever see myself moving for a loved one. THEY would have to move for ME. (In retrospect, this was an extremely selfish way to look at life, but worked to the satisfaction of my family.)

In the hustle for the prize of a successful career, it’s easy to focus on the short term.

What can I do to be good, now?

How do I become a manager, now?

How do I stand out from my peers, now?

What is immediately in my power to create a situation where I am benefiting, right now?

And if I were to follow that logic, focused purely on my career, objectively, the right decision would be to stay with arguably the best technology company in the world, and what I am doing is the absolute worst thing I could do.

That may be objective, but it is not realistic. Often times, we give so much credit to the pursuit of career success that when something as intangible as “love” comes into play, it’s easy to play it off as folly. Which, objectively, makes sense. After all, there is no logic in love.

This is how I thought, until I took a moment, lying awake around midnight in the comfort of a sleepy town’s silence, and confined to my own thoughts. I did the usual exercise we’re all taught to do as young adults — picture what life will be like in 5 years. As long as I can remember, this vision has been a singular one, involving no other person but myself. I would only focus on my job and on my physical state of health, to the point that the only thing that mattered was “Would I be healthy… enough to work and be happy with myself? Okay.” What resulted was this vision of me that lived to work, and worked to work. I would sleep to work, eat to work, and do everything to work. It was a lonely 5 year plan, but it was one I wanted nonetheless because working hard = success!

That was precisely the problem. This vision was neither specific, nor holistic. I ran into the same roadblock that I’d run into for years — I worked to lead, but lead what? I also would pass off my personal life as uninteresting and unimportant. I had been taking the only part of me that WASN’T shaped by physiological need or by a corporate identity, and shoving in the corner.

I was honestly struggling with a weird existential crisis – do I live as a feminist bitch dominating the corporate world with no other concerns but myself? Into my 30’s? Heck, 40’s? Or do I do something crazy? Do I take a leap and try to dive headfirst into my life?

I remembered this saying, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

When I finally pictured this holistic vision of the future, I thought about the bigger, important things – family, home, love.

Would I be with my fiancé? Where is he in the picture?

Is he still thousands of miles away because I was too reluctant to quit my job? The Army will never be able to move him where I am with any certainty.

What kind of job am I working? Is it one that can move with me and still fulfill my dreams?

Twenty eight is about the time to have kids… Do I even want kids? If I do, how late am I planning on having them? Probably not long after that? Will I be in the situation necessary to plan for a child?

What is my TEN year plan? To run a business that I can take with me wherever I go? So I don’t have to quit a job?

Is that something I have to wait ten years for? Can I do it now? What can I do, NOW, that will get me where I want to be in ten years, family, work, and home included?

Picturing all of this made the decision easy. This was a subjective vision, but am I doing anything objectively to meet this vision? Is there something I can objectively do better to get there? Where are my investments in time and sacrifice really going? If I were to fail at all of this, would I be failing doing the thing I want to do the most? Would I be failing at the time and place I want to fail? What is the single thing that will support me if I ever lost everything?

Love.

(Hear me out.)

When we consider what fills our lives other than work, there are a million things around us – leaves on trees, oxygen, sunlight, mountains casting shadows on large fields; there are birds, fish, oceans, entire cultures to experience and learn from. There are people other than us, believe it or not! There are lovers, parents, family, friends. There is a world and a universe around us, and if we don’t admire them with wonder, hold those we love close to us, treat others with kindness as we envision a life not just about us, but around us, life becomes more full, less lonely. Our surroundings come to life with the vibrancy they already had but we were too head-down and focused to appreciate… and to love.

To completely deny love as a fundamental part of your life, as fundamental as breathing… why, that is folly.

Many will have an opinion on this. And in this case, “The people who mind don’t matter, and the people who matter don’t mind,” doesn’t necessarily apply. The people who care about me and have seen me grow from toddler to consultant have sincere concerns that what I’m doing is not like me. And it’s true, it’s not at all like me.

But if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.

My vision is complete, and there is nothing more that I want than to chase it with the fervor, persistence, and optimistic defiance that I’ve learned so well. This is the first real decision I’ve made for myself, without the real desire to impress others or make people proud. This is a decision that made me realize that a feminist can still desire a family, and that a feminist can be whoever she wants to be. That is the true essence of feminism — to allow women to follow their bliss, whatever that bliss might be. I could not be more confident that this is my bliss, and damn it, I will carpe the hell out of this diem.

All of this thinking and maturing… it’s messy as hell, but when the dust settles, there is a certain clarity that shakes you when you find it. This, my friends, is the act of becoming.

For once, I can say with certainty, that I’m beginning the rest of my life.