Saturday, March 22, 2014

Damage Control

Yesterday, I was given some life advice in the form of a philosophy, and it has been on my mind ever since.

"All of life is damage control".'

My first reaction was to tell the person who said this to me that it was depressing. What do you mean, all our lives are is controlling potential damage?  If that is the case, why strive for anything?  If there is no dream to be attained, and we are really destined to spend our lives containing one flare up after another, then what's the point?

Not being very philosophical myself (I really try to live in the here and now), I had to think about this statement for quite a while before it made any sense to me, at which time I realized that it is actually incredibly true.

Truth: we are all going to get old. As we do, our bodies will begin to deteriorate. We will inevitably develop health problems.  Ultimately you could put it under the category of "we're all gonna die". However, so many humans spend huge parts of their lives eating healthy, researching their choices, exercising, building muscle, and taking care of their bodies. Damage control! Sure, the sad part of life is that we are all going to get old, but all those other things can put our bodies in a position to make it easier and less painful.

Another truth: everyone has to live their own life. We are all responsible for, at the very least, making sure we get ourselves up every day, clothe and feed ourselves, and provide for any other need that may occur.  We know we have to do all these things, so why not find someone to help us and make it enjoyable along the way?  Ta-da, the hunt for the significant other.  Sure, we all dream of finding the perfect person for us, the one who makes us so blissfully happy that we truly believe we are living a fairy tale.  And some find it, and that's wonderful.  However, one of the truths behind the striving to find a great partner is, again, damage control.  Everyone has to meet certain needs, and those who choose to have children are responsible for even more needs.  Having someone to help you (both literally and emotionally) can control the "damage"- making it easier to handle everyday obstacles.

A third truth: we are all consumers. Everything costs money.  So, we go to school, maybe get a degree, and find a job where we can make some.  There are people that love their jobs.  Sometimes, I have considered myself one of them.  But a paycheck is more damage control.  It costs money to put a roof over your head, food in your stomach and clothes on your body.  All a higher paying job (what most of us aspire to) is, really, is a way to afford to control the damage of LIFE. Clothes wear out, roofs deteriorate, food prices go up (or, like many, you get scared of what they are putting in your food so you spend the extra to try and be healthy - see first truth). Striving for a better job is just a way to keep the damage down, too.

I believe that if you think about this, you can probably come up with several instances in life that fit this model.  And I am not saying that all of life is a series of reactions to things, but rather that we prepare ourselves to control the impending "damage".

Well, now that I have gone and gotten all philosophical on you so early on a Saturday morning, it's time to go do something rash, in the here and now.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Using My Degree

As of late, I have had a lot of people comment things like, "you're so smart!" or "you should be a lawyer or something, you're so good with words".  More than once over the last seven years, a coworker has asked me what exactly I am doing working the job that I do.

I hate admitting this, but I used to be ashamed of my education.  I never flat out lied about my college degree, but I have omitted it on my resume once or twice. The term "overqualified "comes to mind. All those stories that you hear about how employers only wants to hire people that they think won't leave. The stigma about working a job that's requires a lesser education level than you possess is that you will eventually find something that uses your degree, and inevitably pays better, and move on to that instead.  The job market today is as such that employers have the luxury of handpicking exactly who they want for a position, because for every job advertised, more and more qualified people apply.  I was of the opinion that being overeducated was just as bad as being under educated when it came to the line of work that I had chosen.  Supervisors, men in particular, have been intimidated by my bachelors degree and my somewhat advanced vocabulary.  The realization that a lot of employers want to just hire a "grunt" to do manual labor and outdoor work made me angry, and also made me alter certain things about my job applications. For instance, I created an email address that did not list my first name, just my first two initials, "C.E.", as I have thought that I would have a better chance of getting my applications read if they did not immediately know that they came from a female. The omission of my degree on my email applications and resume was an even bigger step – "dumbing myself down" for the sake of being hired.

However, at the ripe old age of nearly 29,  I have begun to realize that my degree is not "useless", as I used to claim. Expensive, yes, and seemingly wasteful to have spent four years and a lot of my money (and even more of other people's money) on an education that I don't "use". I use the term "use" in quotations because it is meant to mean I do not need it for job qualifications - only once in seven years have I held a position that's required a bachelors degree, and that lasted a mere four months.

For most of the last seven years, I have worked jobs that were primarily manual labor, lawn care, snow removal, garden maintenance, etc.  In these positions, I have solved problems, created schedules, organized myself and others, used my artistic skills for design, and wrote some really impressive cover letters (and some even more impressive letters of resignation).  In more than one position, I have been required to create my own job description.  I have been complimented on my abstract thinking, my ability to create simple and inexpensive solutions, and my written communication skills.

I owe all of these positive things to my education.  Four years spent completing a liberal arts education may have left me with a degree that most people look at and say "huh?", but it has left me with an advantage over others in my field, even if my positions have not reflected that in title (or in wages, usually).

So, I have resolved to fly my college degree like a banner over all that I do.  I did it. I stuck with something for four years, paid enough attention to gain some really valuable skills, and read a lot of excellent books.  I have heard from a lot of recent liberal arts grads about the frustrations of not being able to find work that they are qualified for (i.e. jobs that require a degree).  I have come to realize it doesn't matter if you "use" your diploma for work- you will always use your education for something.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Life Rules, 2014

Since I have made it one of my goals in my 29th year (which, my mom insists, is actually my 30th year) to update my blog more often, here is January's post.

 So far in 2014, I have made a list of things to accomplish in 2014, instead of making resolutions. And now, in light of my impending 30th birthday ("impending" means 15 months away), I am creating my "rules to live by when you're almost 30".

 1) Money is not everything. It can certainly buy things that can make you happy, but often the unhappiness you feel in most of your waking hours for the soul-less work you do for that money can make you just as unhappy.

 2) If you are still single, that means no one (and I mean NO ONE) that you dated in your 20's deserves to make it to another one of your decades. Do not bring them back from the relationship grave. Regression is a waste of precious years.

 3) Your family is important. And fun, it turns out. May take some of us longer to determine this, but they're probably the easiest people for you to relate to, the only ones who will always care what's going on, and they're stuck with you. Treat them right, keep in touch, and don't skip family events because they're boring. You work a boring 40 hr a week job, but you still go, because it has monetary reward. Family has a reward too- love and loyalty.

 4) If someone says they "hate drama", it means they make drama. I have found this to be a 100%, always true, proven-through-science law. Avoid them.

 5) Your mother was, and is, usually right. Remember, she has been through this life thing before. When MY mother was my age, she had two kids and a marriage about to be on the rocks. She is qualified to dispense life judgements. From thinking your high school boyfriend was absolutely wrong, to reminding you that a bad job is not the end of the world, she's right. Even if you think she isn't.

 6) Stop eating garbage all the time. If you're my age, the surprise! You've probably noticed that losing weight is near impossible, but gaining weight just takes one week of skipping the gym with 3 nights of dining out. It doesn't get better- studies show that women over 40 have to exercise, on average, an hour per day just to maintain their current weight. That doesn't even begin to touch on the health issues. That said...

 7) Do not deny yourself ice cream. Ever.

 8) Weather appropriate clothing is a life essential. Remember those idiots in college that you used to see walking to the bar in 10 degree weather, wearing platforms and a mini skirt? Were you ever one of those idiots (hands up)? It goes both ways. I just spent 4+ months in Florida. You don't need riding boots and a scarf when it's 75. Stop being dumb and put your flip flops on.

 9) Embrace your weirdness. I will tell you, I have been so much happier since I decided to let my freak flag fly, so to speak. I always wanted a pixie cut - oh, wait, men prefer women with long hair? Screw 'em. I love Star Wars, board games, and sewing. I swear I would rather sew a quilt than go to the mall with unlimited funds. I watch backyard improvement shows and geek out. I wear tshirts every single day because I like them and like how I look in them. Repeat: I do not care if you think I am weird, because I know I am awesome. Now, where did I put that Harry Potter book?

 10) Grudges are a waste of your energy. You are not hurting the person you are mad at as much as you are hurting yourself. The energy wasted trying to remember why you are really, really mad at someone can be spent in any number of better ways. Let it go. I am not one of those "forgive and forget" types, but being the bigger person always makes you feel better.