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.

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Why We Should Eat Elephants

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In moving forward in any large, giant endeavor, I’d say the hardest thing to do is avoid becoming overwhelmed. I mean, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. But sometimes you take a step back and look at that elephant in dismay and realize…that fucker is huge!

I took a step back a week ago and saw 3 elephants in front of me. My dream of becoming a self-employed writer, paying off student loans/saving to buy a house, and planning a wedding/getting married. Those 3 monsters are sitting in front of me, and I’ve decided to eat them all at the same time. Taking a look at all of them, I was left debilitated and overwhelmed. What do you do when you feel like you have taken on too much?

I go online shopping. And that’s the worst, as it effectively makes sure that none of those things make any progress. But it wasn’t my fault! It was the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, who can get work done when that is going on?! And football season is coming, I had to stock up on some gear!

Ok fine, I lose. I’ve wasted a week and didn’t do anything productive because I got scared and overwhelmed, which is frankly embarrassing. But there’s nothing to be scared of, I’m the one that decided to do these things. Plus they are all super awesome, why would I hold myself back? Well no more, I’m hungry and I’m going to eat these elephants. It’s a weird analogy especially because I’m a vegetarian, but it works for me alright?

Dumb analogies aside, I can put a stamp on today and be proud of it. I sat down and wrote something. Which is a practice I, WE, need to do everyday. Just a little progress every single day and we will make our goals happen, and our dreams realities.

I’ll be back to take another bite tomorrow.

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.

Take Out Credit Card Debt? Check!

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It’s the best kind of Friday, Pay Day. Who doesn’t love kicking off the weekend with a little extra paper in their pocket? Today however is a very special Friday. This morning at 6:03, I made the final payment on my last credit card, and I am completely debt free!!

Well…except for my student loans. And that’s the giant animal that I taking out next, but I am going to take this moment to celebrate my independence from plastic. WOO!

Now I realize it’s a little tacky discussing money, but I figure if Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey can do it publicly, well shit, so can I. I do my best not to discuss my journey with debt reduction with friends while out shopping or out on the town, so allow me to take this moment and put out there the challenge I’ve overcome and why I’m so damn happy today.

I wouldn’t call the neighborhood I grew up in the “Upper Eastside” of the Northwest. But it actually is called the Eastside, and was a fairly affluent ‘hood where most of my friends lived in, what I thought, were giant houses. I did not. I’ll never forget how weird I thought it was that when we wanted to, say, go to the drug store to get candy or go to the movies. They’d just ask their parents for money and ta-daaaaaa, a $20 dollar bill would magically appear in their hand. Amazing!

Never ever did I have such a luxury. For example, back to school shopping every year was kind of a nightmare, as my friends would have bags and bags from the cool shops like Nordstrom or Abercrombie, and I’d be stuck with Sears or Marshalls. They’d want to compare clothes in excitement, and I’d pretend I had soccer practice or something to spare myself the embarrassment of showing my non-name brand and 1/5th quantity of clothes than they had.

I therefore realized the value of money pretty early, and decided I wanted to go find some. I’d sell lemonade, mow lawns, wash cars. I even made crafts and would go door-to-door selling them. When I was 14 I got my first job at the library and thought I was rolling in cash making $7.75 an hour. I saved most of what I made, but used some to keep up with my wealthier friends.

In high school it felt like I was the only one who had a job. I worked at a little coffee shop less than a mile from my high school, but it was actually pretty fun. I didn’t really care I was one of the few working. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I invited my friends to stop by and it ended up being a hang out for a lot of people. Glass half full!

So fine, there were a few occasions I wished it were easier. But I’d quickly make myself get over it because there was nothing else I could do about it. I remember some of the girls would say things like, “I never shop in the sale section,” or “Ugh, I don’t want to work, I’ll just marry a rich guy.”

I think that’s how I became who I am. I’d hear shit like that and immediately retaliate. ”Fuck THAT,” I thought to myself. There’s no way in hell I’m selling myself as a bride or depending on anyone else for my security. And the sales rack is awesome because I get more stuff with my cash! I just never understood people like that.

I went to college and there was one point where I had 3 jobs. I busted my ASS to get out of there debt free, but in my senior year I decided it would be good for my resume to do an internship at the local TV station, so I did that instead. I wound up with a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Washington with only $13,000 in student loans. I was pretty happy with that.

Wellll that was 2007 and when the economy went to hell. I did everything I could to find “the career,” but it was a challenge to say the least. In a 3-year period I worked at a casting agency (internship), magazine (internship), newspaper (they actually gave me money), an online e-zine ($20 an article), a bank, and at Nordstrom. Most of those were overlapping, and I was exhausted. I felt like I was getting nowhere and needed to do something else.

I realized how much I love school and being frustrated with the working world, I decided to get my Master’s degree. I also was very tired of Seattle and wanted to move somewhere with a little less than 9 months of rain fall, so it was the perfect opportunity to go, learn, and change my life around.

Did I tell you I got married somewhere in there? Ah yes, I was married and my husband was laid off from his job. Party on Wayne! So we really weren’t doing well financially at all. We had two mortgages, low income, and stress. But he was down with moving to San Diego if I had an opportunity. So when I got in to the university of my choice, we took off with hope for work and a fresh start.

Now, he was working in retail since he was laid off, but was interested in a career change. In order to get the experience for his new career path, he took a “job” that paid zero base and only commission. That’s a nice way of saying he earned almost no money. Given our situation, I qualified for a lot of student loans. Our bright idea? Take out as much as possible, and we’ll live off that and pay it off when we’re making more money. It was essentially student loans for both of us to get our careers in order.

All of our credit cards began to climb quickly, and we were living off my massive student loans and credit cards. It’s not an understatement to say things were mighty tight.

Well then life hit even harder and due to many factors outside of cash flow, we split up in 2011. While he wound up with most of the credit card debt, I was still saddled with $10,000 of it, a car where I owed $13,000, and all $50,000 of the student loans. Now on my own and newly divorced, let’s just say I was unhappy about my financial situation and frustrated to have put myself there. Before my marriage I was good with money, but somehow my spending habits clearly got out of control during those years with my partner. Maybe I was making up for all the years prior of being practical? I don’t know but I completely own up to my own part in spending, and damn…what a mess.

Well I graduated from school again in 2012, and was on the job hunt again. Needless to say it was a little scary given my last round in the job market. But I fortunately landed a good job, and am relieved to say it’s a steady one that pays alright. So there I was looking at $73,000 of debt, 28 years old, and not really sure where to start.

I can’t tell you how scary it was that first day I went to a financial planning class called Financial Peace University. I was pretty much dragged to it by my boyfriend, who has never had any real debt in his life. In addition, it is a class that is run by a church, and I’ve had some pretty bad experiences with churches…so I was downright mortified.

But that day, the baldy on the TV made a lot of sense to me. It helped that he was funny and spoke my practical language. It helped that I was sitting in a room with people who were open about their financial situations. I realized I was pretty normal and my situation wasn’t as dire as I thought. That day, I cut up 3 credit cards and vowed to pay that shit off forever.

That was October something of last year. I rolled up my sleeves and started my debt snowball immediately. I sold the giant piece of junk, I mean car, that I owed $13,000 on and bought myself somewhat of a beater, a 2000 Altima, for $2,900 cash. And every month since October, I dug deep to get those credit cards under control.

At last, I write to you today, and my heart feels a lighter. I don’t make a car payment. Everything I bought with those credit cards is really MINE now. No more do I have to log in to Toyota, Bank of America, Nordstrom, BECU, to make a payment. And I won’t ever again.

The hardest part of all this? It’s not easy saying no. When your friends are going to dinner, going to concerts, going on vacation, going out to the bars or clubs, I am often saying no. Is that fun? No. (See, I’m getting good at saying no!) But I’m busting my ass because I have bigger goals than all that.

I want to have a legacy and build real wealth for my future family. I want to buy a house. I want to have that family. I want to pay for my kid’s college tuition and I want to retire some day. I live in California and my family is in Washington and Texas. I have this dream where I will have a big house with lots of rooms for everyone to come and stay with me for as long as they like. A little paradise they can come to and relax.

And in order to get there, it takes some discipline and some wise planning. Sexy right? Not really. Our culture is fascinated by rich celebrities who sit on their ass and roll in money due to their last name. But that’s not reality and that’s not going to happen for most of us. I’ve come to the realization that success is something that I WILL attain. And it’s up to me. Discipline and hard work does pay off, and today is a huge milestone proving it’s true.

I’m not a big Bible nut but there is some good stuff in there. And one verse I am keeping my eye on in this journey is:

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.”

Proverbs 22:6-8

I refuse to be a slave anymore. I now have control, a goal, and some success. So I am going to take today and celebrate. But student loans, you had better be afraid. You’re up next.

The One Thing That May Be Holding You Back

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“Ding Ding Dong Dong Ding Ding D-ZZZ!!” That’s the “Bell Tower” alarm from my iPhone in the morning, and me promptly shutting that thing up. This is how I begin every weekday, and the routine repeats itself about 4 times every morning.

Why is it soooo hard to get out of bed? Some mornings after hitting the shut-the-fuck-up button I will just lie on my back and think about that question. I never have many problems getting up on the weekends or when I’m on vacation? Why is it so hard on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday? Friday I don’t seem to have quite the same trouble.

Well one reason in my particular case is that I am setting my alarm for 4:50am when I don’t really have to be up until 7:00am. Crazy right? Why would I get up before I have to? I ask myself that question just about every morning too. But actually, it’s not really that nuts.

When I can get up and work on a project for myself before I give my day to my employer, those are my very best days. I’ve discovered that when I can get up at 5:00am-ish, devote an hour or two to writing or whatever other project I have going on, I am less frustrated that I am spending 9-10 hours at the office on someone else’s agenda. I’ve already made time for myself and have made progress in my own life. I’ve taken care of myself and I’m therefore more available to give to others.

But no matter what, it is a struggle to get and keep the ball rolling. To stay motivated. To get up even though you are sleepy but you know how good it’s going to feel to have accomplished something towards your own self-fulfillment. Then why is it a challenge when you know how happy you’ll be?

I’ve discovered a possible answer. “Many of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.” And thus begins the powerful book I’ve been fortunate to get my hands on called The War of Art. It is a witty, straight-to-the-point, kick-in-the-ass book that I’m fairly certain was written just for me.

“The following is a list, in no particular order, of those activities that most commonly elicit Resistance:

1. The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art…

2. The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or otherwise.

3. Any diet or health regimen.

4. Any program of spiritual advancement.

5. Any activity whose aim is tighter abdominals…”

What writer Steven Pressfield does so well in this book is points to a reason why we can’t get out of bed. Why we are so afraid of sitting down to write, paint, start that business. Why we are so terrified of failure. Why we are so terrified of success. It’s a reason that makes perfect sense to me, as with every page I turn, this monster that hates success gets more developed and becomes something that I can point to.

And like any good war strategy, when you can define and understand the enemy, you can defeat it.

Is it spiritual mumbo-jumbo? I think not. I have been around the church circuit a few times in my day, and while there may be such thing as demons and spiritual warfare, I don’t think that’s what we are talking about here. I don’t think you have to subscribe to any kind of religious doctrine to elicit Resistance, but rather, it’s a common plague that affects not only myself, but the people around me.

I am starting to understand why I see wonderful, talented people around me absolutely wasting their time and not pursuing the greatness in them. I am not talking about people who are perfectly happy doing what they are doing – those are the people we want to be. I am talking about people who have said to me, “Joni, I want to change my life.” Instead, they are staying at a job they are way too over qualified for, staying at a job they hate, out drinking every free moment away, talking about going to school but just won’t take that first step, complaining about a rut in life but not doing anything to change it. While I am understanding, it still kills me!

And I want to help. I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but this plea is not only for me to win that battle with the Bell Tower alarm. This plea is for you to get up and win your battle over Resistance too. Life is way too short to let your dreams stay in your head.

So what I do when I’m lacking inspiration is I look to those who are doing what I want to do. I have several friends that have overcome Resistance and I love them for it. I want to be like them. For example, while I complain about my boss’ antics sometimes, that guy is out there making his dreams happen, running 2 businesses and having fun while at it.

I’m “friends” with an acquaintance on Facebook who is, I’d say by any margin of measurement, a successful photographer. Before I decided to get up and win too, I was very jealous of her amazing life. She’s photographed people from Clint Eastwood to Courtney Love, and seems to have so much fun photographing everyday people even more. She’ll give herself a break every now and then and go to Costa Rica and enjoy a yoga retreat. She truly seems to get up everyday and enjoy what she’s doing.

Sure I’m sounding a bit creeper right now knowing what this chick is up to and don’t really know her that well, but I’m going to take inspiration wherever I can find it. Because my battle with Resistance is pretty tough right now as I am very distracted. Then when things start going well and new opportunities present themselves, I get overwhelmed and recoil, apparently in fear of either success or failure. I’ll instead give in to the TV, laziness, or partying carelessly.

But every day is a new day. Have you been avoiding taking that first step towards starting your own business? Do you want to lose weight, promise you’ll start tomorrow, but tomorrow never seems to come? Are you a silent artist who knows you have talent, but haven’t picked up your guitar, camera, paintbrush, or pencil?

“Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives.” I encourage you to take even the tiniest step today and do something toward your goal. If it’s choosing the low-cal dressing at one meal, writing down a to-do list, calculating how much it would cost to do that trip around the world, researching what new job you’d like to have. Just do something.

As for me, today I won my battle. I got my ass up and made it to the most challenging place to get to – my desk to write.  “All that counts is that, for this day, for this session, I have overcome Resistance.”

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.

Switching Gears by Taking Back What’s Rightfully Ours – Monday

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I don’t know about the rest of you, but no matter what is going on in my world, it is the biggest challenge of my week to peel myself out of bed on Monday morning. It’s not that I hate my job, because I don’t, there’s just something about switching gears from life unplannned, to a scheduled regimen of when to be in the office, when to take lunch, when to go home, etc.

Regimens are easy once we are in them – it’s just getting them started. Think about how easy it is to go to the gym when you are used to going, but when you haven’t for a while, getting to that first workout is the hardest task on earth.

And every single week, the majority of the American labor force makes this gear shift every week from weekend to work week. To help me with my gear shifts, I’ve been testing what exactly makes me happy on the weekends and trying to apply those things as much as possible to the work weeks – especially to Mondays. Dammit I don’t want to have a case of the Mondays every single week for the rest of my working life, and I’m on a mission for all of us.

Considering this mission, I was putting on my makeup this morning composing an ode to my beloved coffee, when this song came on my Spotify station. The lyrics that struck me so hard that I literally poked my eye with my mascara wand were the following:

“I stand here in front of you today all because of an idea
I could be who I wanted if I could see my potential
And I know that one day I’mma be him…
See, I observed Escher
I love Basquiat
I watched Keith Haring
You see I studied art
The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot
I will not be a statistic, just let me be
No child left behind, that’s the American scheme
I make my living off of words
And do what I love for work
And got around 980 on my SATs
Take that system
What did you expect
Generation of kids choosing love over a desk
Put those hours in and look at what you get
Nothing that you can hold but everything that it is…

Cause the moment is now, can’t get it back from the grave
Part of the show
It all fades away
Lights go to black
Band leaves the stage
You wanted an encore but there’s no encore today
Cause the moment is now
Can’t get it back from the grave”

I put the majority of the lyrics here because I think it’s more powerful in context, but these words keep ringing in my head this morning,

“The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot.”

Macklemore studied art. And he is 100% right to study those who have succeeded in something that you want to do. I have zero desire to become a rapper, and if you know what I look like and how awkward my general mannerisms are, you’d really find that hilarious. But I think observing and learning from what he has accomplished could help me in my craft(s). Which is easy for me to do, given that he too is a Seattle native and I love to see fellow Seattlites succeed.

In doing so, I’ve noticed a pattern in his music. He has his demons and he works every day to fight against them. I do too – they are different but they are there, fighting with everything they have to stop me from composing. To stop me from believing. To throw me on my back every time my dream starts to get a little momentum.

And what I love about Macklemore is he is a fierce fighter who is winning his battle, and inspires me to be more. Give more, write more, fight more.

He is pushing forward, and encourages me to as well. His regimen is ongoing, it doesn’t start or end on Monday. For me, the battle of Monday and the switching of gears is one of my demons, when it really doesn’t have to be. I shouldn’t switch gears at all! I don’t have to take the weekdays off to live my dreams. Succumb to the monotony of an office working world. Sure, I could easily feel like a number, a drone, a desk jockey – but I’m not. I’m creative, artistic and passionate, and while I drive to work on Monday mornings just like millions of other Americans, there’s something different about me. Because even in my Mondays, I search for inspiration to compose art, and keep my heart open to my dream.

And I think you can too. I think we all have that inner person who taps out during the work week, who really should never have to sit out at all. That true being that we really want to be. Whose talents, if realized, could propel us to joy and success we can’t even imagine.

So for this Monday, I put on my prettiest dress, even bothered to curl my hair, because this isn’t just any Monday. Today is the beginning of something big. I know this because I’m going to make it happen. Great painters became great because they paint a lot. And I will become great because I write a lot. Even, and especially, on Monday.