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.

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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.”

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

Scott-Cheering

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.

Schoooool’s OUT. for. SUMMER!

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I always have that song stuck in my head this time of year. “Schoooool’s out…for…SUMMER!” sings Alice Cooper to me whether I’m brushing my teeth or writing marketing copy. If I let myself daydream, I can see images of the kids from, “Dazed and Confused,” tearing out of their classrooms in freedom and a fat Ben Affleck running around trying to beat up that freshman kid that got away.

The reason this happens to me is it’s graduation season. That predictable time every year where your Facebook blows up with complaints about finals, and Instagram fills with photos depicting proud scholars at either study sessions or graduation parties.  CNN, Fox News and NBC will regularly run stories calculating the likelihood of these weary academics landing actual jobs. More talk about “the economy” will fuel over-makeuped newscasters, as they express concerns that Bachelor’s and Master’s alike may very well go back to barista-ing in the coffee shop concocting double tall, nonfat, extra hot, sugar free vanilla lattes.

Most of us on the other side look back fondly as well as with relief. “Ah, I remember that moment, I had the whole world in front of me.” “Damn, I’m glad that shit is over.” “Sssssssuckers!!” I’ve marched my last pomp and circumstance, but I still get that hopeful anticipation of summer that I had every year since joining the ranks of formal education.

I think we all do. That’s something we all have in common, that dream of what we would/will do when we graduate[d].  I recall in my final semesters of school often frequenting Lestat’s, a cliché coffee shop filled with mismatching antique furniture and hipsters with overgrown mustaches in an artsy district of town.  I’d plop myself down on the largest available of the mismatching furniture and surrender myself to long afternoons of composing, editing, crying over, yet another 30 page research paper.

I vowed to myself as I’d gazed over at the girl on the nearby couch with a giant scarf plucking away at her tiny guitar…? ….Mandolin? Ukulele…no…what the hell was that thing…?  Sorry, I just never figured out what that small stringed instrument was.  Anyway, I vowed to myself every time Scarfy and I sat in the overstuffed furniture that once I graduated I would come to coffee shops and just write what I wanted.

Or I would pick my guitar back up and maybe jam with Scarfy, strike up a scarf-a-riffic friendship wherein we would talk about birds and plan to hitchhike around Europe.  Maybe we’d meet some guys who also liked scarves and stringed instruments, and we would eventually be all the talk of art district coffee houses.  Eventually VH1 would do a documentary on our remarkably humble beginnings that eventually lead to folksy stardom, and our patented guit-mando-lele would make us a fortune.

But what really happened was that I graduated, spent the first month job hunting, tanning, and Happy Houring. I told myself I needed a break from writing and any kind of high-level thinking, and the most time I would spend in any kind of book was the mimosa menu at brunch. I fortunately landed a steady position at a start-up company, and have been quite busy with that ever since.

It’s a gift and a curse having gainful employment.  I don’t have the worries I had in that month between graduation and my first day of grown-up work…I know now that I can pay for those brunch mimosas.  But it’s a bit of a curse lacking the flexibility of time. As I type this I glance at the clock, buying myself a few more minutes before I absolutely have to start getting ready for the day, and sometimes my thoughts drift to…”Now when is that first meeting? Wait, do I have any meetings today? What am I going to make for lunch…”

Work takes a lot out of you, and often it takes away our zeal and time to be creative. I know that’s what happened to me for the last year. Typically when I make it to Friday after a hard week (and that’s every week), I’m all, “YEEEAAAHH!!!! The weekend is HERE!” The delirious joy I get when the Seattle college station I stream KEXP plays “the Friday song” on my drive in to work follows me throughout the day as I fantasize of the adventures I’ll have that weekend. There’s always something to do, a distraction to indulge in.  I live by the damn beach, and those waves just beckon me to them…once I get close enough the sand turns into quicksand, forcing me to stop, set out my beach towel and just lay down.

Then Saturday is gone. Sunday arrives and most of it is consumed with dread that the very next day is Monday and ruh-roh, that means back to the refinery.

But let’s go all the way back to the young college hopeful in the overstuffed antique chair. Is this they way she would appreciate me spending my time?  She was so trapped, burdened with deadlines and stressed out professors. She would often say, “I can’t WAIT until I have a 9 to 5er! When I’m done for the day, I’ll be done. Then I’ll have every late afternoon all to myself to do whatever I want. And the weekends will have no call to homework! It will truly be freedom and I’ll really be able to get all my projects done.”

I dreamed of returning to those overstuffed chairs with no due date or assignment. And at the time of this writing, I have let exactly 12 months pass since my last visit to that glorious little hole, spending my weekends instead focused on “resting” from my work week or dreading the work week ahead.

So in homage to that burdened young hopeful that was me this time last year, I will finally do it.  I’ll return to some kitschy coffee shop this weekend. I’ll just sit there and sip my coffee. Maybe I’ll bring a book, my computer, or a guit-mando-lele.

And when I gaze over at a stressed out academic, whose eyes are bagged from pulling frequent all-nighters and hands are shaking from caffeine overdose, I’ll smile and take a deep breath. One, because I don’t have a single fucking final to be worried about. And two, that I’ll have finally made it to the peaceful side of the coffee shop.

So here we are at Friday! Congratulations to all of you who are graduating this year, whether it’s high school or some level of university, it’s a huge accomplishment. And for those of you who finished your scholastic march in years past, enjoy your weekend. But let’s make this weekend count so that when Monday comes, we know that we invested time in not only relaxing, but taking those steps we dreamed of when we were still in school. After all, there’s still the whole summer ahead, and every weekend is practice to make it a good one.