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Breaking: You CAN Learn From TV

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“Commercial again?!” I shouted at my television. “What did she do!?” I nearly flung my bowl of soup on the ceiling I was so excited. My fiancé, surprised at my out-of-character reaction, laughed and sat aback widening his eyes so as to say, “Daaaaamn girl!” I collected myself, my soup and what was left of my sanity, and returned to my Monday night post-work couch lounging.

What can I say, I love The Biggest Loser. I was pretty late to the game, which is great because now I have season after season of ready to watch reality just waiting for me to hit play on my Hulu Plus. Yes, there are plenty of ways that we can pick it apart, in that weight loss doesn’t happen for normal people in a vacuum like that, perhaps let them call their kids once in a while, whatever. Overall I like the mega-show.

What I like about it is learning about a very serious condition and seeing real results of progress. How these individuals became morbidly obese range from abuse, depression, and eating disorders, but are often combinations of those and more. I like seeing them get better and work through their issues.

I also like how they know what their goal is and work their asses off to get to it. They certainly would love to win the “quarterrrr of a miiiiiillion dollars” as Allison Sweeny says so Days-of-Our-Lives dramatically. But the real goal is to get better and lose weight. To get healthy. Many of them have serious life threatening conditions, or one is right around the corner, and in this show Jello, Jenny-O Turkey, and the other pretty crappy sponsors are actually putting their money into a decent cause.

For the contestants, it’s plain and obvious they need help. They need to make a change with regard to their physical wellbeing in order to live healthier lives and avoid a premature death.

What about the rest of us? Shifting from physical wellbeing to psychological or emotional, how can we measure how well we are doing? Almost fortunately, when your body is sick and overweight, you can see it and so can everyone else. It’s clear what you need to do.

But when it comes to our inside-our-brain lives, when do we know that we need help? That we need to make a change to get back on track to live healthier, happier lives? Where is the stress-o-meter that clearly conveys to you and the world, “Woah there, Skip. It’s time to take a vacation and calm the fuck down for a week.”

Unfortunately we are left to our own abilities of discernment. What sucks about that is we are likely the worst judges at figuring out when enough is enough and we need to take a little break and work on ourselves. While I certainly mean this in a professional sense, I mean it in just about every other emotional & psychological sense as well.

It’s very challenging in our current American environment to listen to what your psyche is telling you it needs. It’s a busy world out there. Messages about work hard, play hard swirl around us; put in your 40+ hour week, then you deserve to party your weekend away because you deserve to have fun!  Or, I think my favorite one I read recently is, “Don’t listen to your heart, listen to God.” Really? Don’t listen to the inner cries of your soul? There’s no possible way THAT could be listening to God?

All around us there are reasons, easy escapes, even religious commands to silence your inner voice and run to the distractions that circle us. And it is those very distractions that could perhaps be strangling the passions and loves that we left long ago when we let our dreams die and went to college instead.

I was listening to a radio show yesterday as I was, albeit begrudgingly, driving to work on an early Monday morning. It was all about self-employment, my favorite topic, and the host quoted Jon Acuff. It went something like, “Finding your dream job is less about discovering what you love, but about recovering a love you forgot.”

How nice that it rhymes. But he’s right! In the daily grind, the struggle we all have to toil the earth, it is less about the quest of finding that brand new talent that you never imagined you were great at. Rather, it’s that little thing that you loved to do as a kid, ran to in order to survive high school, or did in your free time when the baby was asleep. And when we ignore those things that truly make us happy in the name of being normal, a working professional, or a social butterfly, we can be hurting ourselves and not even know it.

We don’t really know when our psyche is sick, but we know when we are sick and tired. We don’t know which day we will crack, but we see it on the news all the time as we read stories of people who finally do. Every single day is critical in my opinion, every breath we take is precious. Why do we allow ourselves to ignore our inner selves and the real desires we have to fully live?

I tell you, the people who lose 200+ pounds really seem to understand the value of a full life. They can SEE how their lives have been transformed once they start making decisions to be their best selves. I think we need to have the same urgency to get and stay healthy. Our goal may not be a fat stack of cash sponsored by Extra Sugar Free gum, but living the life you were meant to live seems seems like as good a prize as any.

Sick of Your Job? Don’t Quit Just Yet

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I have a lot of friends who are in the midst of career crises, and I have always been one to try and help with that. In my early 20’s I had a boyfriend who had a hard time holding down a job, and 3 times I found work for him. Yes he lost all 3 and no that didn’t annoy me at all…

I get emails from LinkedIn, Monster, SDSU, and all kinds of other organizations who tell me what jobs are available, and I don’t let one pass me without forwarding it to a job seeker I know. Often I am asked if my company is hiring because someone is unhappy with their current position.

I get it. Work sucks. I have an uncle who used to tell me, “Find something you love to do and you’ll never work a day in your life.” As dear as that sounds, I think for most of us it’s kind of crap. No matter how much you love your job, there will be days that you love your bed much more. But as a professional and a being who prefers food and a roof to leaves and newspaper, you have to get your ass up. You need to work, it’s good for you, and the sooner you face that the better off you’ll be.

I think we all get that, and I’ll operate with the assumption that we agree up to that point. Now on to what we do. I don’t know about you but I had about 9 existential crises in my 20’s. My entrance essay to undergrad was a heartfelt plea to let me in so that I could become a teacher. I think the actual reasons I wanted to was for the 3 months off in the summer and to get to write a on a white board every day.

Then I realized that America doesn’t care about education so I’d never make much money as a teacher, and white boards aren’t all that great, so I became interested in mass media studies. I thought that I wanted to be a producer at a television station. I wanted to be the one coming up with the topics that people see on TV rather than the Jerry Springer/Real Housewives/Honey Boo Boo smut that comprises current programming.

Well for my senior internship I worked at a local TV station and had a pretty bad experience – this particular group was more cut throat than your average crew, and on top of that they too don’t make squat for cash. Then at one point I was asked if I wanted to audition for a weather person….I asked “Why me?” given that I had no meteorology training nor expressed any interest. They laughed and said because I was cute and that’s where I should go. I, and my fully functioning brain, moved on to the next.

And so my “career” evolved that way, hopping from job to job in hopes of finding my one true love. I was chasing the sort of hokey dream my uncle spoke about, but grasping that perhaps he could be right. In the 3 years between college and grad school, I held more than 8 different jobs, and none of them were really very close to what I wanted to do.

Apparently I’m not the only one whose employment history looks this way. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,  US worker’s median tenure in their current job is 4.4 years, thus effectively killing the days of 20+ year careers and gold watches at retirement.

It’s worse for my generation, as 91% of millennials expect to stay at a job less than three years as “job hopping is the new normal”.

Now is this necessarily a bad thing? I don’t think so when you are first starting out. While I had a lot of different jobs and my resume could be 6 pages long, I learned a lot along the way. But now that I’m a little older in the ripe old age of 29, it’s important to be much more wise when considering jumping ship.

You see, a lot of times when we are mad at our boss, irritated with low pay, tired of the hours or annoyed with our colleagues, it’s easy to dream that just about anywhere else will be better than here. “If I don’t have to sit through ONE MORE of these moronic meetings then I’ll die happy,” we think in the conference room stirring our coffee.

OK fine. You are ready to jump with the faith of a grasshopper. What’s going to be next? You’re going to accept $1.50 more an hour, have to relearn a new position, and start all over. Fantastic! But what often happens is the next job is eerily similar to the last. You still have a boss to answer to, pay still ain’t that great, hours are the same, and now instead of sitting next to a guy who smells like smoke, you sit next to a girl who chews her gum with her mouth open.

My point is, a lot of times we are hopping jobs, but they are mostly lateral moves. We are destroying our resumes because we are the generation of instant gratification who were told that the world is our oyster. Be who you want to be, do what you want to do, if you settle for anything less then you are living a life half lived!

You mean if I’m not at my dream job right now I’m not fully living my life?? Shit, that’s a lot of pressure! And it’s ridiculous and we all just need to calm down for a minute. The truth is, yes, you can be all you want to be and your professional dreams can come true, but to get there it is going to take some serious planning. And I don’t mean a weekend Monster.com, picking something that mildly engages your interest, and poof, your dream job will fall into your lap. I mean it’s going to take some creativity and some serious soul searching, rather than swimming down the river with everyone else on to the next job at American-Work-Shmoes.Com.

I think is a good example of someone to look up to is Richard Branson. At least I do because he’s living my dream. You may not agree with me, but professionally I think he has it figured out. Are all of his ventures successful? Nope. But as a serial entrepreneur, he’s on to the next and ostensibly keeps a hopeful attitude. “Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.”

What I admire and am after is that Sir Branson seems to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. He is the captain of his ship and in fact the captain of his own airline. I’ve personally never met the guy so I can’t speak with much authority on his character, but he seems to have a positive attitude, a love for life and the dedication to have fun at work. “A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts,” says he.

“But I can never become a Richard Branson! I don’t have a billion dollars to start my basket weaving enterprise!” You don’t have to be this guy or share my dream, that’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is to think BIGGER.

If your next career move isn’t a huge one, then don’t do it. If you are an entry level sales person and you are moving to another cold calling position, then why change? Again, you are busting up your resume and looking less desirable to employers because of a short, fragmented work history.

Stay put in one job and do not quit until you are quitting for your dream job – THAT is the real goal. Sometimes you have to work a job to finance your future job, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Rather than spending your time hating your current job, find something you like about it, because you won’t be there forever anyway.  Don’t waste the free moments online looking for another job that will only mildly pacify you and for a short time. Spend your time honing in on your real talents and strengths, so that your next career move is your big break.

For me, my dream job is to have my own book deal, or something like that, and I am my own CEO. Anything short of that, I’m not interested in. I have a boss, I don’t need to quit and find a new one. Not everyday is perfect, but my free time isn’t wasted looking for another job that is still not my ultimate goal. My free time is focused on my ultimate dream – to work for me. So until that opportunity happens, I’m going to stay put, give this job everything I have, and have some fun while I’m at it.

Being Honest: This is Why I Write

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One of my favorite Dr Seuss quotes is, “Be who you are and say what you mean [feel], because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

I tell you, while this fellow wrote children’s books and poetry, I find his words just as inspirational as Tony Robbins’ and as comforting as chocolate chip cookies. This one in particular is a healthy reminder that people are going to say things to you and sometimes it’s going to be painful, but you can’t stop saying what you mean. I know, I really reached deep for that one.

Yet I point out this quote today because lately, I’ve been letting it all get to me. An important individual at work is pretty ferocious with attacking words these days, and I’m growing weary (hence the slow down in posts lately). Additionally I’ve mentioned in a previous blog some of the struggles I’ve had in wedding planning and realizing that I’m just not going to make everyone happy. Which is kind of a bummer.

But most of all, I’ve been learning a lot from you, the readers of this blog. I want to thank you. While I realize this is a relatively small audience in the grand scope of public writing, it matters to me what people think and I care about your opinions and thank you for sharing them.

With all that, I’m learning why occasionally Conan O’Brien or Jay Leno will talk about a celebrity’s latest Twitter outburst after they’ve been heckled, put down or argued with one too many times. It’s challenging to put yourself completely out there and then realize that not everyone is going to like what you have to say. What?!

To just about everything I’ve written so far, no matter how benign I thought it was, it’s been met with opposition in some sense. I am a novice in this whole public writing thing, but I have learned quickly that voicing an opinion means putting a target on your forehead. I am asking directly for comment and to be totally honest, it’s thrown me on my back a few times.

I wonder…is that what progress looks like?

I think so, but only if I can get back up and keep going. One of my grad school professors once said that “Rhetorical criticism is society’s homework.” And to simplify what that means is – pay attention and think about it! Why did Wendy Davis stand for 11 hours? Is it helpful to society that Justin Timberlake’s new video is a boob-fest? What’s going on in Syria and should we intercede? Why would someone eat 69 hot dogs on the 4th of July?

Then comment on it. Say something about it. I have opinions on all of those items, and trust me I’ll get to them.

My point is, what I’m trying to accomplish on this blog is to get you to think critically about what’s happening around you. You deserve a raise, why won’t you ask your boss for one? Are you intimidated or are there social constraints that are causing this stymie? Why are you (or your partner) changing your (her) last name after your wedding? Isn’t there some kind of importance to a female’s family name too? Or why can’t you ever be taken seriously in a meeting with people 20 years older than you, even though you’ve proven that you can keep up with similar work?

I spend a lot of time thinking about these things and about a bzillion more. I’ve counted once, and I actually got to a bzillion and one. So I use this blog to talk it out, and hopefully get some constructive feedback that will help us all understand our world a little better.

That said, I realize that there are things I have said, and am going to say, that are offensive. I’m not out to offend but if it’s going to bring more understanding or alternative thinking, then so be it. I can’t be intimidated.

(yes, this is just as much a pep talk for me as it is for you)

I have had a lot of people in my life who have genuinely tried to control my life, my mouth, and my body. I realize that sounds like an exaggeration but it’s absolutely true and I won’t let it happen anymore. One time when I told my Dad I wanted to be a doctor, he said, “Why can’t you do something more lady-like? Like be a nurse?” Another time, my slim 13-year-old self reached for a candy bar and my older brother grabbed it and put it on my skinny thigh and said, “You might as well just put it right here. Pretty girls don’t eat candy bars.”

You’ll see that I have a lot of opinions with regard to gender equality. Another thing to note is that I was born in Texas in a mostly white community. One time the black boy in my class wrote me a love letter and I showed it to a family member who said, “I don’t ever want to see you talk to that boy. White girls don’t talk to n——.”

Therefore, I have a lot of opinions in favor of racial equality. I have stories with regard to religious oppression, political nonsense, and animal rights too. And if I am paying attention, would it be right to stay silent so as not to rock the proverbial boat? Should I have just gone along with what I was told to do? I say no, and my words are my most powerful asset and therefore I will use them to try and make this society a better place.

I realize that some of you will not like what I have to say, but my point today is that I want to express that it’s coming from a good place. I try to keep it light with humor, but even that can bring further offense. Yet at least I’m out here trying, and I encourage you to do the same.

While I’ve ranted a little about how I’ve been affected by some of the responses, please don’t misunderstand me and think I don’t want to hear it. I encourage your feedback no matter how sharp (or friendly!) it is. We all have a voice, and my point here is to get those of us who are traditionally silent to stand up and really be who you are and say what you mean.

After all, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” (Dr. Seuss)

The Secret to Lifting your Mood No Matter What

Kasia and I getting our sing on

It’s been a stressful few weeks.  Work has been crazy busy. I’m stressed about my first ever marathon on Sunday and praying I don’t do anything like trip and fall off the 163 bridge. I’ve also decided to put my whole self out there and truly live my dreams –  but with that comes the risk of failure…a stressful assertion indeed. Then you can add the average life stresses like sibling quarrels, bills and landlords. Frankly, I’m tired.

So I was driving to work yesterday and I was trying to decide what to listen to. I’ve lately been listening to a lot of talk radio and inspirational speakers. I have a pretty solid rotation of NPR, Dave Ramsey and Tony Robbins going, who normally cheer me right up. But that morning I was all….”Sh. Stop talking.”  I just wasn’t in the mood.

Fussy and a bit annoyed to be driving to work anyway, I plugged in my iPhone and started scrolling through the music. I drive a piece of shit car, so I use a cassette tape adapter that plugs in my MP3…that being said the sound quality is about as good as tin foil being stuck in your ears.

But I came across some music I hadn’t listened to for a while. I hit play, turned it up and to my surprise the little speakers-that-could actually reached the decibel level I was looking for without sounding like the aforementioned tin foil ear. And that’s when my inner Tina Turner let the air around me have it.

It was just the song I needed to hear – semi-pointless, included electric guitars, some yelling, a bit powerful, and gave me the platform to simply belt it. Loudly as I drove 75 mph on the 5, I sang:

“I’m tired, so tired.

I’m tired of having sex (So tired)

I’m spread, so thin

I don’t know who I am…

 

I’m beat, beet red,

ashamed of what I said (What I said)

I’m sorry, here I go

I know I’m a sinner

but I can’t say no (Say no)”

(Weezer, Pinkerton, 1996)

I’m not tired of sex, but I was tired that day, that’s for sure. I made the choices to be where I am and I’m not sorry, but I need to vary my outlets for releasing the pressure once in a while. And turning up a song I listened to in high school brought me back to those formative years of reckless freedom, unsure where I would wind up or what I would do. That whole Pinkerton album can do this.

So what I am saying to you is – sing! It is the one trick that I always forget about, but once I rediscover it, my world is healed.  I am by no means a great vocalist, but I do come equipped with a voice. And that’s why the best place for me to sing with all my soul is in the car. There is nothing like it in the world to turn up the volume, and give that song everything you have.

Now there is a risk…people might see you. I think that is one of the benefits! Don’t be afraid to be that person. First of all, being concerned with what strangers who zoom by on the freeway think of you is a problem, and overcoming it can bring a new sense of freedom. Self expression doesn’t need to happen in a vacuum.

I’m not the only one who believes in singing. In fact, there are real health benefits to it. Some of these include boosting immunity, alleviating stress, lung benefits and breathing easier. Fantastic, right?!

There is a caveat – you can’t just sing with your throat. You have to, in order to get these benefits of release I’m talking about, sing with everything you have so that the air comes from your belly. Your diaphragm should be moving up and down as you take in and release air. Open your mouth wide and enunciate.  There’s likely no other time in the day that your lungs will fill with so much air as taking in those deep breaths and releasing those exhales. That’s why smoking and yoga have been found to calm people – it’s not the carcinogens or the downward facing dog, but it’s breathing deeply. Singing provides the same benefit, and is in my opinion, more fun.

So friends, I challenge you today. Sing! You may have already arrived at your destination for the day, but you will likely be traveling somewhere else at some point today or this weekend. Find time to sing in your car. Turn on a song you haven’t heard for a while but you know all the lyrics to and makes you feel good. It certainly picked up my week, and gave me the momentum I needed that day. And today is an easy day to get your sing on, it’s Friday, so here’s the perfect song to get you started.

Powering Through…Even When You Don’t Wanna

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Getting traction going for anything is absolutely impressive. I realize it’s unbecoming to pat oneself on the back, but why don’t you go ahead and do that right now. You got up today. You made it to work. Or you finished school and you get a minute to relax before you join the ranks of real world bosses and bills. Or your kid was crying and you were up at some ungodly hour only sea monsters should be awake for.

But you did it! You’ve accomplished something already today. And I think we need to spend more time celebrating our victories.

A teeny tiny victory in my humble little life is right around the corner. Hopefully. I have spent the last several months training for my first ever marathon, and this Sunday I’ve surrendered myself to go ahead and make that 26.2-mile trek.  I was never a long distance runner, but I was a sprinter and I played soccer. Cake, right?

NOPE. Long distance running is an entirely different game than sprinting. Getting started is the worst part. You have all of the 15-mile Saturday run ahead of you. Then after about 2 miles you get into a groove.  You’re jamming, feeling great, but then around mile 6…owie! Your body decides this is far enough, aches, it’s thirsty, and starts with the complaining.

“Can we stop pleeeease?” cry the knees. But you take a swig of water, tell your griping body to shush, power through and get into a groove again. And it ebbs and flows like that, in and out of grooves, each more difficult than the last all 10, 15, 20 miles.  It doesn’t matter because you can’t stop – that’s not an option. You paid $120 dollars to run this damn race and you are going to get your money’s worth. You will have that medal, you will hang it in your living room, you will show it every person that walks into your house, and they will like it.

Life is exactly the same way, except we don’t always get medals for our accomplishments. We do however get in and out of grooves. Think about whenever you have set your mind to accomplish something. You’ve submitted yourself to writing regularly in a blog as well as a side manuscript <ahem>, it’s going well, but that’s when the proverbial “knees” decide to kick in. Your car starts acting up, your dog needs to go to the vet, half of your friends are having career or relationship crises and you want to help. You need to stop for “water” and it’s difficult to get the traction going again.

I swear there are angels up above that watch over and guide us. Then next to them are their freckled step-cousins who never grew past 4’ feet tall. They are sneaky little buggers, armed with an arsenal of distractions to throw at us just for their entertainment. You may have had the biggest breakthrough at work and your boss just gave you an accolade in front of everyone, but that’s when your tire goes flat in the middle of the freeway and the officer who shows up to help serves you a ticket for having tinted windows.

Like I said before, when you are training for a marathon, those crazy long runs are a persistent ebb and flow of strength and weakness. It is a mental challenge as much as a physical challenge. Now, all of that is just in reference to flat land – when things are going fine and your car is running smoothly and all your friends are getting along.

But then, up ahead, you see Torrey Pines. For San Diegans you know what I mean, but for those who don’t, Torrey Pines is a state park in between Del Mar and La Jolla up on a bluff. And by “up” I mean high enough to reach those angels and slap them for throwing shit at you all the time. Now to get to that bluff there is a hill.

Did I say hill? I meant massive hill. And by massive hill, I mean the gods of the earth combined all of the steepest and longest hills in all of San Diego county and tied them together for this incline. I ran this blasted hill once in my training and am proud to say I did it, but it was a bastard and I am really not sure I ever want to do it again.

But hey. I did it!  Now, there is the second largest hill – in my opinion, don’t quote me on that – right by my house that I am required to run up anytime I go train. It’s called Lomas Santa Fe, which in Spanish means “God Hates You.” (Don’t quote me on that either.) Every time I approach that hill it is a mental and physical feat to work myself up to make that climb. I don’t get up it fast and it always burns with so much lactic acid that I’m certain my sweat turns to acid rain.

But hey. I do it! I always remember something when I see a hill that one of my running buddies told me in the beginning of our training. He knows damn well how much I hate hills (can you tell by now?), and he reminds me when we’re running, “For every uphill, there’s always a downhill.”

Sweet, right? Well, he is also charming enough to also mention on the down hills, “Oh don’t worry, we’ll be paying for this downhill with an uphill soon enough.”

Dammit.

But such is life. Getting traction going to make it the long distance is fucking difficult on it’s own. That’s without the hills. But you know that there are always hills and you don’t have a choice but to climb them if you want to get to where you set out to go.

I struggle with motivation in every capacity of my life, some days more than others. But somewhere along the way I either bully or sweet-talk myself into continuing the climb. Today I have to do that and work a little harder, as it’s been a difficult couple weeks and I just feel like lying down and eating a burrito in bed.

But not today – I got up. I’m going to do this. I’m going to run a marathon on Sunday and it scares the hell out of me. People have died doing that!  Or my writing…what if it’s not interesting or I don’t ever get anywhere with it? People have died from depressive failure!

Welp, I’m going to have to find out if either kills me. I’ve worked too hard to get here. Likewise, you’ve worked too hard to get where you are. We can’t give up now.  It’s time to power to the top of the hill so that we can get to that glorious downhill, knowing we deserve every ounce of success – because we earned it.

I’m a Barista, But I Want To Be a Ninja

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This weekend I found myself in several situations where I didn’t know every single person in the room/backyard/boat.  As is normative social decorum, I engaged in get-to-know-you small talk.

“Where are you from?”

“Seattle.”

“Oh, I hear it’s nice there. I’ve never been.”  (No one in California has been to Seattle.)

“Yeah, it rains a lot, but the music’s great.”

There is also…

“Where did you go to school?”

“UW and SDSU.”

“What’s UW?”

“The University of Washington.”

“Oh…well SDSU! Go Aztecs!”

Seriously California. There are other states up north you know. Stupid…surf…culture…anyway, those are two conversations I am always having. The third is of course:

“What do you do?”

“I work at a start-up internet company.”

“Oh cool! What is it?”

“We do online reputation management. We’ve only been around for 2 years, and no you haven’t heard of us.”

“How exciting! What do you do there?”

“I do training and development. But it’s a start-up, so I do a lot more than that.”

I think I’ve narrowed it down pretty well and I try to keep it to that. My job is pretty challenging to explain, and I don’t like to go on and on about it, because then I’m the girl talking a lot about herself, and that’s just weird in the small talk get-to-know-you convos.  However, people seem to find what I do interesting.

Does that mean I’ve “made it?” When I first got the job offer a month after I graduated, I was stoked. I’ve been there for a year now and I must say, it is rewarding.  Working at a small company has a lot of great perks, but there is one thing that makes it just like every single job I’ve ever had – I’m working for someone else’s dream.

I was in Trader Joe’s two weeks ago and the ringer-upper guy asked me what I do.  I told him the standard, “I work at a start-up internet company,” answer, and surprisingly he responded, “Oh wow! Your own?”

Sadly I admitted, “No.”

That really got me thinking. Joe there, not knowing one thing about me, had enough faith in me to think that I could possibly be an entrepreneur. That I am so dedicated to my ideas and have enough drive and determination to get an idea off of the ground and start my own company.

After that experience, I’ve really been thinking about this whole, “what do you do,” thing.  I’ve always been the type to resist being put in the box of my profession.  When I worked as a barista for a billion years in every coffee shop in the greater Seattle region, I never really thought of that as my “identity.” I mean sure, I kind of liked it. I was in my teens and early 20’s and it was around the time The Barista was sort of a cool thing to be. So me and my tattoos, dark-rimmed glasses and poetry books would make coffee and use big words to prove I that I was doing this gig just to get through college. “Nope, just making coffee, this is not who I am…but yes you can compliment how well I can make a latte.”

Damn a latte sounds good right now…

Anyway, now that I really think about it, I have never taken a job I would have been ashamed to tell other people about. I worked at a TV station, casting agency, newspaper, university, you can pretty much name any sort of profession that doesn’t happen under a bridge and I’ve done it. And while I genuinely liked each of those jobs to some extent, every single time I always had this bit of a divider like, “This is just what I DO, but it’s not who I AM.” I figured work life would always be that way.

Then I stumbled upon a thought.  When you meet any of your friends who are really doing what they want to do, they are excitedly proud to tell you that what they do is who they are.

“I’m a musician.”

“I’m a photographer.”

“I’m a firefighter.”

“I’m a basketball player.” (OK fine, none of my friends are basketball players)

“I’m a lawyer.”

“I’m an author.”

That last one has a little sting to it, because that’s the one that I want. While I have a pretty rad job, it’s not what I dreamed I would be doing as baby Joni. I was the kid who learned how to read well before any of my peers, and quickly began writing the second I found a sharpened pencil. All throughout school my teachers told me about my “gift,” and I shrugged it off hoping the other kids didn’t hear how big of a nerd I was.

“Ssshhhh!!” I thought, as I tried to drown that talent with cooler ones like sports or music. Those decisions to seek flashier, more lucrative professions, and not be the writer my 2nd grade teacher saw, brought me here. My belief that writing was a silly hobby, and work was adult career life, is to blame. And now when someone asks me what I do, my answer is still not quite what I’m looking for. Jon Acuff, a young writer who is starting to see some success, brings up a good point:

“We end up thinking that we can really have two different versions of ourselves, ‘work me’ and ‘life me.’ …When you think about it, the ‘it’s just a job’ belief is crazy. Imagine telling a friend, ‘I have to go somewhere five days a week, dedicate the majority of my waking hours to it, let it control my vacation and travel plans…but I don’t consider it part of my life.” (Acuff, 2011, p. 230-231)

By the way, this excerpt is from a book called Quitter and I do not recommend brining this book to work, and then getting caught by your boss reading it…that was not a fun week.

Anyway, he is right. We are one, whole person. And I think that this is the big career crisis that my generation faces. We are blessed more than any other generation to have the means to see beyond the “if I don’t work my family will starve to death or wind up eating rocks,” crisis that has plagued most of human existence.  We are the most coddled generation, whose parents have the ability to help us if we fall.  We have always been encouraged to chase our dreams, never give up, and be all you can be.

And I think that’s why so many of us are so bummed out by our jobs. I think I can safely say that most of my friends live for the weekend, and I can’t really exclude myself from that conversation.  As much as I enjoy my work sometimes, I hate Mondays and love Fridays.

The problem with that is, I clearly have a problem with work if I’m saddened by the very thought of 5 whole days of it ahead of me.  Or am thrilled with the thought of 2 whole days that I don’t have to go there.

So that leads me to believe that I in fact haven’t made it yet. Mom told me to be what I wanted to be, and I’m not being it yet, and that bums me out every Monday. When Trader Joe asks me what I do, I want to answer confidently, “I’m an author.”  He will then answer, “Oh! What do you write?” And so on and so forth.

How cool would that be?!?!

For now, I have a pretty good answer. But there’s still a “but” in it. “I work at a startup company in training and development, but I want to be an author.” I’ll bet there’s a lot of you out there that have the same predicament.

So play a game with me. How would you fill in those blanks?  “I’m a ______, but I want to be a ________.”  I have a feeling getting to the second blank is a reality you can make happen.  What are you doing to get there?

As for me, I’m reading like a crazy person, working hard at a job I like (notice, not love), and planning for the next step by saving skrilla and writing early in the morning and late at night. I’m doing it because the opportunity is there if I want it, if I’m willing to fight for it. No one is going to hand me a book deal just because I think I have talent. I’m not going to be walking in the park one day and a man in a beret will shout from across the courtyard, “Hey you! Hey you there! You are clearly a beautiful writer and belong on the New York Times Bestseller list! Come with me and I will make you a star!”  But if that does happen I’ll let you know which park.

We are a generation that has been encouraged to dream, and we easily get depressed when we feel we haven’t “made it” to remarkable fame, wealth, whatever it is that you want. But the opportunity for artists of all kinds is available. Tradesmen/women can get into a technical college when they are willing to do the work. Entrepreneurs have a chance to make that purse-for-cats idea a reality if they try.

The only thing separating us from that, sometimes, is our dichotomous “work me” and “life me” identity crisis.  We tell ourselves that our “life me” can never be our “work me,” so sometimes it can be hard to make the blanks of who we really want to be happen.

But I encourage you to try.  I mean, I really want to see a cat carrying a purse one day, so I’m hoping you’ll go ahead and step it up to make that happen.