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Transition March 16, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Job Search.
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3 comments

There is nothing like getting that call: “We would like to offer you the position of…” It is like sweet music to the ears, tasting the finest Bordeaux, watching a sunset over the ocean, the sound of a beautiful woman saying “yes.” I have longed for those words for close to two years, and last Monday, it happened. I will be in my dream position, doing what I was trained and educated to do, working with wonderful people inside and outside the organization. It is perfect.

But there is no time to celebrate. I never planned for the chaos that happens after those words. There are things to do and it has been a whirlwind of activity since that call. First of all, I have my foot in two offices at once. I am basically wrapping up projects and cleaning out my desk in one and studying, preparing, observing and participating in another. I am the kind of person who likes to be as informed and prepared as possible when I enter a new position – yes, type A all the way. That would be fine if that were all I needed to do but holy Moses, that is just the tip of the iceberg!

I am moving to the community where I will be working. This is taking a fully engaged effort on my part. Here is the list of things to do:

  1. Find apartment
  2. Shop for household items
  3. Shop for furniture (a bed!)
  4. Find truck to move stuff
  5. Find new bank
  6. Get in to see dentist and doctor (so I don’t have to take time off right away)
  7. Shop for more professional clothing (this is an administrative position)
  8. Pack, pack, pack
  9. Pack some more
  10. Move stuff in truck
  11. Unpack, unpack
  12. Unpack some more
  13. Set up living spaces
  14. Connect utilities/cable/internet (gotta have my internet)
  15. Settle in (optional since I will basically be living at work anyway)

These are just the main bullet points. There is so much that has to be done in order to accomplish each one. But I am happy to announce that the first thing on the list is completed. I found an apartment!  After a week of looking, it happened. When I saw the location, before I even went into the apartment, I got excited. It borders a city park complete with gazebo, pavilion and a statue of a WWI soldier. Even better news is that on the other side of the park, there is an Irish bar! I was always told to step into a local establishment to see what the natives were like before you decide to settle there. So I did and had the time of my life! These people knew how to sit at a bar and have fun and I made friends with them quickly.

As soon as I walked into the apartment I knew this was going to be my new home. It is all newly renovated with very spacious front rooms, three bedrooms and an incredible kitchen. I love to cook so this is huge for me. I began envisioning great parties, get-togethers, cooking for people, having friends and family overnight. It is only 2 miles from my office and it will be an easy commute.

Find apartment – check.  Now on to #2

*Update!  I just heard from the owner. It looks like I move in on Saturday. Better find that truck!

My new apartment!

and a bannister to slide down!

Dining room facing the front room

The Kitchen

The front master bedroom (out of three)

The Park

The Irish Bar

Roll With The Changes March 12, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Job Search, Unemployment.
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2 comments

Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful, it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident, it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better – King Whitney Jr.

Reach for your Blue Sky Objective

Being paralyzed by fear of change for many years, you reach a breaking point that throws you into radical chaos. Once the dust settles, you sit down with pen and paper and construct a strategic plan. The plan consists of “Blue Sky” objectives that, at the time, seem completely out of reach. Regardless, you reverse engineer from those objectives and strategized step ladder goals and strategies in an attempt to proactively bring you to a life better suited to your core values and persona. The critical path is determined by identifying core events and use of a time-specific Gantt chart. The goals are achieved one by one. The low hanging fruit is gathered. Everything is in place for achievement of the objective and then… an external variable is thrown into the mix. Trying not to fall off course too far, you begin crisis management and re-structure some tactics to place yourself in a holding pattern. Time goes by and resources dwindle. There is more crisis management to stay off the breaking point for just a little longer so that you can optimize as much opportunity as you can.

And then it happens. There you are, staring change in the face. Not just any change, but change that you yourself designed – change that will bring you over the threshold and place you squarely into your blue-sky objective. It is uncanny how the opportunity before you fits your goal statement. All the work you have done for the past five years is about to come to fruition.

But you blink. There is a moment of hesitation. You forgot to account for a variable in your plan. The core reason that this whole journey began in the first place – you are afraid of change. It paralyses you. Luckily you are given time to absorb the tremendous opportunity ahead of you and the enormity of value it brings. You also realize that the stop-gap tactics you had to engage in to extend the original time line have given you essential tools and experience that enabled you to get to this point. They always say, “Everything happens for a reason.” In this case, it is so true.

Your feasibility study finds nothing but a win-win situation and the initial hesitation is purely just unjustified fear of change. You remember that this is change that you designed, change that you desired, change that is now a reality.

Yes!You are ready now. With a smile on your face and warmth in your soul, you confidently stand and say, “yes.”

The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become – Charles Du Bos

What strange thing is going to happen to me today? February 5, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Dating, Friendship, Relationship, Unemployment.
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2 comments

Some of my graduate colleagues and I in Cincinatti

There was a time in my recent past that I would wake up in the morning and think to myself, “what strange thing is going to happen to me today?” I was in what I call my “transition period” at the time. I had left a good paying secure job for a chance to better myself with an opportunity that I could not say no to – a free education in the form of a graduate assistantship for a prestigious graduate degree. I was living in a small studio apartment by myself and totally immersed in engaging, exciting work with 30 other students on a day-to-day basis. We were a close family. We ate together, we worked together, we drank, danced, laughed, cried, obsessed and even slept together (overnight study sessions – that’s my story and I am stinking to it 😉 ) When people experience an intense part of their lives together, they become very close. Those ties are never broken and I will always consider them my brothers and sisters. Thank God for Facebook since we are now scattered around the globe.

I know. I got off track there but the fact is that I was experiencing an incredible time full of friendship, opportunity, hope and promise.  I miss waking up in the morning and thinking, “what strange thing is going to happen to me today?” It just doesn’t happen anymore.

Today was different.

We would gather after class at a local brew pub

I already knew it was going to be an unusual day. I had a very important meeting this morning and the anticipation brought back that feeling of opportunity, hope, and promise.  With it was also the waking thought of, “what strange thing is going to happen to me today?” – and something strange did happen…

So I am driving to my meeting and my phone vibrates. It is a text from a number I don’t recognize…

“Hi! It’s just me. How is it going? Is the wacko still screwing with you? You ok? Well, let me know.”

Just me?  Who is just me?  When I was in my transition period, I was also in a relationship. It was intense and horrible at the same time. It was a toxic relationship and I was blind to the effects of it and the damage that it eventually did to me. This toxic lover would always start a voicemail or text with “hi, it’s me” and for a minute I stopped breathing thinking that this text was from her. But in this case, the wacko would be her so this text didn’t make sense.

I text back…

“Who is this?”

“Don’t be silly, u know who it is! U r the one that keeps calling me. U think u would forget after these years and all u did to me. I didn’t look u up.”

I am now thinking, ‘oh my God, it is her! What does she want? Wait a minute! I have not been calling her. I have not called this B&%#h in well over a year. This can’t be her.’

I text again…

“I am sorry, none of this sounds familiar. I think you have the wrong person.”

She simultaneously returns…

“Gerry, look at the pic I sent you. You’ll like it ;-)”

Whew!  It is not my previous toxic lover!  I am not Gerry. Wait!  Now I wish I was Gerry. I wouldn’t mind seeing that pic!

She obviously gets my last text and responds…

“Gerald Sr. and Judy you r still nosy fuckers. Why not just put your adult son’s phone down!”

Ok, now that I know I am not Gerry, this is getting very interesting.

She sends a second text…

“And while you r at it tell him not to call me or bother me anymore too! I’ve got my fiancé and my 3 girls and life and don’t need him fucking shit up for me!”

Ouch!  Here is a woman who is trying to respond to some previous lover and she is engaged to be married with three kids? What a tangled web we weave!  Yes, this is getting very interesting indeed.  Now, I could take this conversation into the land of impropriety and irresponsibility pretty quickly but I have had my share of that in my life, so I decide to go the route of the gentleman…

“That is all fine and good but I am not Gerry, Gerry Sr. or Judy. Sorry, I hope things work out for you.”

She comes back with…

“Whatever. He called me from this number. That’s how I got it in the first place and I called it too and Gerry left me a voicemail. So whatever, Teresa”

Well, at least I know her name now. This implies that she now has some doubt about whom she is texting and that I am gaining her trust. I will continue in that manner. After all, I know her. My toxic lover of the past was very similar to her.

“Hi Teresa, this number is 607 244 XY02. I have had this number for many years now. I am not sure how that is possible. Sorry to disappoint you. I hope things go well for you”

She now realizes her mistake…

“Sorry, but someone was screwing with me and it’s YX02, not u. I apologize – Teresa”

“No problem, sorry for your troubles, we all have them. “

We were like family

It was a full day of living in the feeling I had when I was a full-time student working with people I love, learning exciting things and engaged in collaborative work – a day of opportunity, hope and promise. Even with the huge relationship mistake I made during that time I truly miss that feeling. Even though I feel for Teresa and her situation, however warped it may be, she completed my day today; Something strange did happen to me today as well.

Thank you Teresa.

What’s in Your Wallet? January 15, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Family, Job Search, Life, Unemployment.
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15 comments

They say you can tell a lot about a man by what he carries around in his wallet. I see the truth in that statement simply because with a wallet, a man has to be very selective in what goes in it, and stays in it. None of us enjoy a wallet in our back pocket. Since I lost a ton of weight, my ass no longer has that fat cushion. Sitting on a chair with a wallet in my pants is like a stone in my shoe – painful. These days my wallet goes in my jacket pocket or brief case. Whatever the reason, a man keeps his wallet lean just because it is generally, and literally a “pain in the ass.” The contents of his wallet must have purpose. There must be monetary value, functional value, historical value, or emotional value. Either that or he just forgot to take the crap out, and even that will say something about the man.

So here is my charge for the evening. I am sitting here with my wallet in my hand. What I am going to do is go through it and report what I find. Here we go…

…Opening wallet now…

Money

Let’s go for the obvious first. I have exactly $20 in cash in here – one 10, one 5, and 5 ones. That is a lot less than what I carried around with me before working on a career change. Semi-employment, which I know is much more than what many have these days, has made my wallet thinner but the reasoning goes much deeper. At one point in my life, I could not wait to buy the latest in technology, toys, gizmos, possessions. Buying made me happy – for a day or two. Then I returned to my miserable state until the next newfangled widget was purchased. Now my money is in my wallet for a different purpose. I don’t buy stuff anymore. I buy time. Whether it is drinking a beer together, a game of pool, seeing a movie, or a cup of coffee, time with friends is what makes me happy now. I make sure I always have enough just in case I have an opportunity to meet up with someone.

Cards

I seem to have an overabundance of business-like cards in here. I am going to take a closer look. Most of them are coffee discount cards, all from separate coffee houses I frequent. When you buy a cup of coffee, the barista stamps the card for you. When your card is full with stamps, you get a free cup. My favorite place is Stella’s, a small dark elongated café where students from both Ithaca College and Cornell hang to work on projects, collaborate on papers, engage in academic discussion or just gather for some down time. I am a product of this culture and it is here where I feel the most at home.

Plastic

Wow, I see to have a bunch of these stashed in various slots. 4 credit/debit cards (I have been spreading the dept around these days. That way it doesn’t seem so bad.) 2 clothing store credit cards (I need professional clothes to go on professional interviews so that I can continue to get rejection letters.) 3 grocery store cards (I don’t think they let you buy food anymore unless you have one of these!) finally, an AAA card. This is one thing I will never go without anymore. I have been in several situations where a tow was needed and the cost sunk me. So far, being a member has been a good ROI.

Membership Cards

I have three in my wallet. They are professional organizations in which my membership has lapsed. I can no longer afford to be a member. I am not sure why I keep carrying them in my wallet. It could be because I have hope that I might be an active member again at some point. More than likely it has more to  do with denial tactics.

License and Registration

Standard issue for a wallet, no surprises there. The only problem is that my license still has the picture of me from when I was fat. It doesn’t even look like me anymore.

ID Card

Even though I make very little money, I am very proud to be working where I am working. I love the work, I love the mission, and I love the people. I am proud to have my work ID card in my wallet. It even has a more recent picture of me on it!

????

What is this?  It is a 3×5 card folded in half. Old and ragged, there are several dog eared corners and frayed edges. Written in bold faded marker on one side is written, “SHUT UP – 1 hr.” I remember this! A long time ago, for one of my birthdays, my oldest daughter gave me a series of index cards as coupons. Similar to the coffee cards, the idea was to redeem them back to her in exchange for the service printed on them. Some were quite unique. She was and still is quite unique.  She is an in-your-face kind of kid – always passionate for whatever she does, always excited to learn something new, always driven to do her very best. When she was little it was no different. The coupon cards offered take-it-down-a-notch behaviors such as: “Let you talk first – 30 minutes,” “Eat with my utensils – one meal,” “Sit in my room alone – 2 hours.” The card from my wallet is one of those. Apparently she would “shut up” for one hour if I redeemed this card.  I wonder what she would do if I gave it to her now after all of these years? My bet is that it would make her talk more. The card would trigger her into a vivid discourse of her childhood; the days of tutus and Easy Bake ovens, the days of Little Mermaid and Polly Pockets. Talking about those times would be fine with me. Now that would be priceless.

Put that in your wallet.

Is it Time to Make Banana Bread? January 13, 2010

Posted by jassnight in Change, Dating, Job Search, Love, Relationship.
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8 comments

You look at those last few bananas and think, “Should I make banana bread out of those today, or should I wait? Maybe someone will eat them today.”  How long to you wait before you make banana bread?  How far do you let the bananas go before giving in? Do you wait just ‘one more day’ in hopes that someone will still eat them? But what if you wait so long that they aren’t even good for bread anymore? What happens then? They just have to be thrown out and then all is lost. So when do you make that decision? When does the oven get turned on?

We all have hopes and dreams – fresh bananas that we just bought. They are so green. There is so much optimism there. We make the right moves. Do all the right things. Our bunch is set on the table in a cool dry place – preferably propped on the kitchen table where they are displayed well and noticed more often. It feels so great when one is taken, sampled, tasted. Maybe it was that interview for the dream job. Possibly a new romantic interest. A phone call from a prospective client. A banana is taken, but for some reason, you just can’t get anyone to take the whole bunch. They just sit there and turn darker and darker. How long do you wait before you make banana bread and settle for what you have?

Is that a banana in your pocket?

Don’t ever underestimate the power of self-promotion. Sure there are many apples and oranges out there but how many bananas are just like yours? You have unique qualities. It is important to identify them and then display them. It may be great interpersonal communication skills. Possibly you are a talented writer. Maybe you have a flare for creativity. Whatever it is, know it and show it. Some people advocate splitting the bunch up. In this way, the ripening process slows down and you have more time. Get that resume out there! Network! Diversify your job search engines. If it is a romantic connection you seek, networking is just as important. You know people who know people. Mix and mingle. However, unlike posting your resume on job sites, I do not advocate the use of online dating services. They are just meat markets and really do not cater to fruits and vegetables. In any circumstance, your bananas are rich in vitamins and sweet to the taste. They are a nutritious value for the price and somebody is looking for them. All you have to do is display them properly and in a variety of venues.

Ripen first before eating

Many people want to look at their bananas and eat them too. If they are eaten too early, they don’t have the rich taste that people are really looking for. You have time. Aiming for that dream job? Maybe you have to return to school for new training and skills. You might have to work in a position that will give you more experience for a while. Establishing a good friendship with a person before any romantic interests develop is important.  All of this can take time but will make your bananas look better and taste better in the long run.

Yes! We have no bananas

What happens if no one is hungry for bananas today? This is certainly a commonality in today’s economic environment. There is simply no demand for bananas. This is also a cause for how few are actually actively looking for a new relationship as well. With so many financial difficulties, family issues, career bumps – people are putting their bananas in the refrigerator in hopes of preserving them until there is a demand again. This is the absolute worst thing to do. Everyone knows that hiding bananas in a cold dark place will make them rot even quicker. Something about the gas they produce makes them turn brown or worse, never develop the rich sweet taste that is so desired.

What is in your oven?

What is wrong with making bread? Is it settling when you reassess your goals or maybe tweak that dream? Reinventing yourself to fit the current situation is not always about settling or giving up. Maybe it is adaptation. Maybe it is taking what you own and transferring it into a more marketable package. After all, variety is the spice of life. I am not saying that if you can’t sell your bananas that you have to make banana bread. There are so many other possibilities. How about a banana cream pie for those who are sweet and compassionate? Banana muffins are a good choice for those who are more structured and analytical. A banana split may be a good opportunity for someone who is balanced in creativity and critical thinking.

Don’t wait until your bananas go bad. If someone moves your cheese, it is time to coordinate your dish to match what is on the table. And if you do make that banana bread, just add nuts please. Everyone needs a laugh now and then.

For unique banana bread that will surely be eaten, try this recipe

The job hunt dating game December 28, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Dating, Job Search, Love, Relationship.
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1 comment so far

As of November 2009, the unemployment rate is 9.4%. Even with the announcement that the recession has ended, the nation continues to bleed an average of 188 thousand jobs a month.

These hardcore facts translate into extreme competition for those looking for employment. Recently the average amount of job interviews a job hunter went on before landing a job is 17. That is up from 9 interviews before the recession.

There will always be the financial horrors associated with being unemployed. The worries range from house payments to putting food on the table. That alone makes for a stressful job search. However, there is an additional characteristic that compounds job hunting even more – the emotional aspect.

Emotionally, job searching is much like dating. Think about how this all works.  You write letters of ‘interest’ to a prospective employer, much like posting your bio on an Internet dating service.  You then wait to see if there is interest. There isn’t much emotional energy expended at this stage but when you get that call asking you to interview, the anticipation rises. The interview is much like a date. You exchange information, maybe talk about some personal things, you exchange business cards and then say, “Goodbye, I hope to hear from you soon.”  Then the waiting begins – more anticipation, more anxiety. You wonder if she liked you enough to give you a callback for another interview. Maybe she didn’t like you as much as you liked her and thus you may not get a call.  Or, like the dreaded Dear John letter, you may even get the rejection e-mail, or a phone call wishing you luck on your job search, however, “We have hired someone more fitting to our needs at this time.”

If you have been unemployed for a long time, much like being single for a long time, it is hard to resist saying yes to any job. All you want to do is pimp yourself out to the first taker. There are so many things wrong with doing this, much like pimping yourself sexually. The very least being that you will end up with a job you are not interested in. The very most accepting a job you just are not qualified for (under qualified or over qualified.) This will only necessitate an early separation and a continued search. Much like the stigma of a divorced single dater, this doesn’t look very positive on your resume. Even worse, after being told you are over or under qualified for this position, it is, “Too bad you weren’t around 6 months ago, we had a position open that you would have been perfect for.” Just like dating, sometimes you fall in love with someone who is not ready for a relationship. Or worse yet, found someone just before you showed up on the scene. Bad Timing.

There is another related scenario as well. You may go to an interview for an appropriate position and see that you just could not live with the organization. It could be that the position is way too overwhelming. Maybe the people you meet vaguely remind you of the TV show, “The Office.” Possibly, what was discussed in the interview is nothing like the posted job description. Much like a first date that reveals personal inconsistencies from online discussions or dating site postings, you tuck tail out of there and hope you never hear from them again. Of course, just like a Dear John letter, it is ethical to call or send an e-mail withdrawing from the candidate pool. I have been in this situation twice. Both were a case of false advertisement. The job descriptions were not really what the actual job was. I wrote a polite e-mail thanking them for their time, however I just didn’t see, “us moving on with this relationship.”

Who knows? You may just get that call that asks you for another appointment. Yes! – another date!  The relationship moves on. There is more discussion. You get to know the organization a little better. They get to know you deeper. You hit it off. There is another round of “goodbyes’ and “we will be in touches” and then … more waiting. What happens next?  Another call? No call? “They must like me, they called back, right?” At this stage there is some jealousy involved. “Are they romancing other candidates?” “Who are they seeing today?” “Can’t they see I am the right person for them?” You may have a deeper connection to the organization at this time. “I thought they liked me. I really like them.” Then, like dating, there is the anticipation of the third call. We all know that in today’s dating world, the third date is the date when you will quite possibly sleep with him/her. This translates into a job offer in the job hunt dating game. The third call comes. There is another meeting set up. You think, “This is it!”  You wear clean underwear. You get a haircut. You wear your best suit. You may in fact hear those magical words, “We would like to offer you the position.”  However, you must always be aware that it may just be another phase in the job search dating game. Some organizations like to get to know you better before going to bed with you. In this case, more waiting, more anxiety, more emotions.

With today’s economic environment, it is a very difficult time to be playing the job search dating game. The emotional roller coaster of all of this is exactly the same as dating.  With several rejections, self-esteem suffers to the point that it impedes your performance on the next job interview. You may even start thinking about dropping out of the job search dating game all together. You become depressed. You wonder if you will ever be wanted or needed again. Keep in mind that it is not always about you. More than likely, you were more than qualified for the position. More than likely, the person who they chose over you was an internal candidate (costing them less than hiring externally) or someone they had intended to hire all along. It could also be a case of reevaluating the need of the position in respect to the cost. Many positions are closed without filling them. Also keep in mind that the pool of candidates for many positions has tripled in today’s market. The competition is stiff and you have to be creative in finding ways to stand out among the others. Like dating, you will never know what qualities they are looking for. Because of this, it is important to just be yourself and display the qualities that you feel are your best. The worst thing you could do is pretend to be the person you think they want. Remember you are looking for a long-term commitment here. Not a one night stand.

Like dating, you need to remain positive. Stay in the game. More than likely, like finding the perfect love, you will find that perfect position when you least expect it. It will be true love and when you love what you do, the money will follow.

A letter to my father December 15, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Change, Job Search, Life, Love, Relationship.
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Dear Dad,

My Father

I know it has been a while. You died 11 years ago – May 10, 1988 – Mother’s Day. I remember it clearly. I held your hand. I told you it was ok. You can let go now. You took your last breath as I said goodbye.

I think of you often in these times – my time of change. I often wonder what you think of all of this. I know what you would have said when I left a secure career to accept a graduate assistantship. I am sure you would have told me it was folly on my part to even think I could change careers at my age. We would have argued I am sure. But Dad, I was dying. I was beating my head against the wall trying to maintain an engaging and effective program with no financial or administrative backing. More and more I found myself alone in a worthy cause within an unworthy institution. It became damaging to my soul and body and it was killing me.

I know it hasn’t worked out for me yet Dad. You would probably tell me, “I told you so” at this point. But look what I am doing. I am in a functional institution working with people equally committed to the vision and mission. I am challenged and engaged. I feel like I am making a difference in the outcome. Ok, yes I am not making any money and I am in serious financial stress, living in a back room, watching my pennies, worried about my children’s happiness and welfare. But Dad, I can’t wait to get up in the mornings! I love to go to work. I can’t wait to engage with intelligent, professional people. I now feel like I make a difference.

The best part is that I have learned so much about myself and my new field by going back to school, earning a new degree and working in a new environment. It will carry me dad. I am not done but only starting. I have tremendous potential and all I have to do is wait until someone gives me a chance to prove myself. I know I can do this and I know I can do this well. You watch, you will be proud of me Dad. Just give me some time.

My new career path is one thing Dad. I really feel I am making headway on that. Personally, I don’t know. I am a mess Dad. Here is where I need your help the most. I have been burned. I have been used. I have been lied to. I have been cheated on. It seems almost like I am being punished. Oh I know I am not lily white in all of this either. You had your problems with relationships too. It must be the curse of our line. What is it with us? Why can’t we get it right? I do think that your problems and my problems are different in this matter. Regardless, it would be helpful to me to be able to compare notes with you. It seems so easy for people. What is it with me? Is it a trust issue? Is it an issue of not being able to open my heart to anyone after having it ripped to pieces so many times? I am scared Dad. Maybe I am someone who is just meant to be alone. Maybe this suits me.

I am now on the edge Dad. There is a major opportunity before me. It is right in front of me Dad. I am scared, excited, horrified and thrilled all at the same time. Change, whether good or bad, is always scary. However, if there is one thing I have learned in the past five years it is to embrace change and let it take you. Only in this can new worlds appear. I am going for this Dad. I am heading straight into it with full steam. It will give me extreme challenges that will test me and allow me to grow.

I hope you are watching. I hope you are paying attention Dad. I am going to make you proud. You will see me for who I am, not for what other people think I should be. I am slowly breaking free of chains.

I am gradually becoming…. Me

Your Son

Keep swimming, you never know where the tide will bring you December 6, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Change, Job Search, Life, Love, Relationship.
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15 comments

Proceed with cautionWhen a person gets caught in a riptide, the natural reaction is to try to swim directly against it to get back to shore. At first it seems like the easiest, most logical way to save himself. Fear is a powerful force and in the face of death, the mind reacts instinctively to find what it thinks is the easiest solution to get to safety. Unfortunately, swimming against the current it is the worst thing a person can do. Eventually the swimmer becomes exhausted and drowning is inevitable.

The ending of a marriage or long-term relationship, the death of a loved one, job loss, diagnosis of a disease, mid-life crisis – good or bad, change is scary and people tend to react instinctively. When people are thrust into change, whether it by external circumstances or self inflicted, there is fear, anxiety, depression, and aggression. A person instinctively makes quick reactions to deal with the struggle. They fight the tide and thrash about to the point of exhaustion. It can take the form of hiding in drugs or alcohol. It can be quick fix tactics such as shady business deals or gambling. It can be short-term ego boosters like a one-night stand or a quick marriage. The tactics are as endless as they are destructive. At this point they see no other way. They just keep trying to swim against the current.

All a person needs to do to survive a riptide is to let it carry him out until it no longer has a grip on him. At that point the maneuver is to swim parallel to the shore to gain distance from the original danger and find another avenue to return to safety.

To be able to let change carry you away from comfort and familiarity is numbing and difficult to do. It takes courage. Letting go of what we know to enter a world of uncertainty takes strength. However, this is the best way to see new opportunities. Only then can change be assessed and evaluated to plan for its management and eventual solution. When the waters clear, fresh viewpoints can be seen.

Once the swimmer is away from the danger, they can then turn in toward shore and begin their trek back to the beach. This may not be a direct course since other riptides can be encountered and a return to the open sea will be necessary before another attempt can be made. However, the swimmer now sees that this is the right course of action and it is only a matter of timing and placement before he is successful in his return.

With new viewpoints and pro-active ventures, change can now facilitate a gentle move back to normalcy. This can take the form of further education to learn a new skill, a move to a new community, a new relationship based on trust, friendship, and love, a fresh commitment to health and fitness, a new and challenging career. Other strategies may involve timing. Sometimes the best solution is to wait it out and find the right moment to begin the swim back. Moving too early may throw you right back out to sea. Moving too late can be a missed opportunity. There will still be false starts and abrupt stops. There will be missed opportunities and there will be distractions that lead down the wrong path. Regardless, the strategies and attempts are now proactive and each failure can be learned from. Failures are a way of testing the waters.

Once the swimmer discovers the right path back to shore, the successful swim is made. They find themselves standing safely on shore. However, by swimming parallel to the shore to find the best path back, they have landed on a completely different section of the beach. A much better place from where they started.

With persistence, strength, patience, and growth, a person in change will find solution. However, in most cases, they land in a completely different world from where they came from. Their experience has brought them to new surroundings and new possibilities. They have come to a land better suited to the person they have become for in the time of challenge and struggle comes growth and wisdom. Not only will they have substance to carry them through the next darkness but they will have the gift of deeper understanding to share with others who cross their paths on the way to their own new world.

I know and love so many people in change today. I know they are struggling and are dealing with pain.  I want them to always, always remember…

Keep swimming, you never know where the tide will bring you.

“In order to discover new lands, one must be willing to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” – anonymous

On the outside looking in December 3, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Health, Holiday, Job Search, Life, Love.
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2 comments

He was faced with death at an impressionable age.   His sister committed suicide last year. He found her body covered in blood as it drained out of her wrists. It became difficult to follow the mainstream after that. With no guidance or grounding to morn in a healthy way, drugs and alcohol are used to temper the agony.  Rehab and counseling can only do so much.

She is on her own now. Her husband of 20 years died last year. His pension died with him and now it is only social security. The mortgage is due. The heat is off. The electricity is next. She misses him terribly.

She is a single mom with three beautiful children. Between caring for her children and working two jobs back to back (overlapping three days with two shifts,) she is lucky to have one Friday night every two weeks to call her own.  She worries endlessly about having the resources to keep her family fed, clothed, dry and warm. She calls it a good day when her car is still in the driveway and has not been repossessed. She is dealing with a relentless ex-husband who is constantly dragging her into court to shirk his responsibilities to his children and to generally make her life miserable because he can afford to and she can’t.  She has dealt with two bouts of cancer and fears every upcoming appointment and what it may find. She is tired, stressed, overworked and living day to day, dollar to dollar.

He is dependent on drugs to be able to cope with life. His fears and anxieties are about life in general. He can no longer work. He lives on social security alone. His loving parents are long gone, the rest of his family has abandoned him. He lives in an upstairs apartment but incapable of caring for his immediate space. He sleeps most of the time. He has lost faith in love, connection, and life. He is trapped in an internal struggle with his own soul.

She is in a loveless marriage. With three young children there is nowhere else to be. She has no means to support herself and her children without him. He has her trapped and he knows it. There is verbal and sexual abuse. There is an allowance issued. The odometer is checked every week. The phone bill is monitored. She is a prisoner only for her children.

She has lost family and friends. It seems like everything she loves dies. She lives in the pain that it may be her fault. She is afraid to love again. She is lonely. She is alone.

He was laid off last year. Unemployment is ending soon and there are no opportunities in sight. He is too old and too broke to go back to school to learn new skills. His children have families of their own and are having problems themselves. The bills are piling up. He no longer owns a car. He is about to lose his home.

Merry Christmas

The Finish November 27, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Change, Job Search, running.
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Finish Strong

Wineglass Finish/Boston Qualifier 2008

The most difficult part of any race for me is when I see the finish line in the distance. For some reason, knowing I am that close after such a punishing pace only raises the anxiety. What if I come short? What if I don’t have what it takes to make my goal? Has the training been good enough to bring me there? Do I have enough experience?

I turn the corner and see it. Through the haze, through the masses of people screaming at me, “You are almost there!  You can do it! Don’t give up now!” I see it… and it scares the hell out of me.

I have been here several times before – very close to my goal. I can see it. I can taste it. It is invigorating to think I have come this far and all of a sudden the finish line is just in front of me. But I have been here before, and I have come up short.

I have done everything correctly. I trained hard and long. I planned and ran the race perfectly. I endured the pain through all the miles. Now I see it and I know I just have to hang on for a few more minutes and I will have my PR. All I have to do now is cross the finish line. Do I have enough? Will this be the finish that I have been waiting for?

Years and years of preparation, pain, study, more pain, miscues. Yes, I have been this close before only to come short of my goal. In this kind of race they only give out a first place ribbon. Finishing second or third only postpones the pain until the next opportunity, if there even is another opportunity.

My anxiety rises, my focus waivers. Seeing the finish line does this to me. To be this close yet so far away crushes me when I know this is where I need to be the strongest. “Push through the pain! You can do this asshole,” I scream at myself. “Don’t fuck this up, it is right there in front of you. Take it!”

I am again very close to my end. I have done everything right despite the pain involved. I went back to school. I finished top of my class with a 4.0 GPA. I took every opportunity afforded me. I have prepared for just this moment. I have been at this point before and faltered. Now I have another chance – another opportunity to cross that finish line. I must finish strong this time. There is no room for error. This one has to end perfectly.

I am almost there. The finish banner comes into focus. My chest is about to burst. My legs are numb. Every ounce of energy I carried is now gone. I am running solely on adrenalin. Time slows down. I see the crowds screaming but I no longer hear them. I am gasping for anything that will enter my mouth and nose. I am seconds away. I am so close now… so close…