Saturday, July 4, 2015

Catching Up

It was a simple coffee, one of the standards of my social life, scheduled at a time and place that worked with work, for a duration that allowed for kid commitments and job commitments, that was not for job exploration or unemployment comparison. This little coffee was simply for the purpose of catching up.

What is there to catch up? Well, when you live a life like mine, there is almost always a feeling of never being caught up. Yet, aside from the day-to-day race, there is a several decade career behind me, so when I reconnect with someone who has been a part of that, "catching up" can become a major undertaking.

Over large cups of tea, and wonderfully anonymous in a sea of tourists, we "caught up" for hours--about former co-workers each of us had seen, over the state of the industry (both the one that we shared and the rest of what's out there), and about how our own lives have gone on since we worked together and since we last had coffee. I emerged, two hours later, not only with new perspective on my own life, but with renewed thoughts of people I'd seen daily for years, but not at all in the past few years. Perhaps my day-to-day race was still very much in progress, but I suddenly felt "caught up" in a million ways.

We spend a lot of time each day racing to feel caught up. Sometimes, it takes not just running faster, but a little looking back, and a little looking around, and even a little stopping for coffee in order to feel really "caught up." We can choose to run as fast as we like, but catching up in other ways can sometimes be the smartest step we take in our daily race.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Good Tired, And Bad

My muscles are sometimes tired at the end of a day when I've worked out, but it's worth it because of the energy I feel in between. 

My eyes are sometimes tired after a long day of editing, but it's worth it because of the sense of accomplishment I feel as I'm creating. 

My feet are sometimes tired after a day of deciding that walking, even if it's a few miles, is better than a subway or bus, but it's worth it because of the time I don't spend waiting, and the money that I save, and the strengthening of my legs.

My voice is sometimes tired after a long day of directing, but it's worth it because I have communicated, and collaborated, and made something better.

My brain is sometimes tired after I've written and rewritten a long series of cover letters, but it's worth it because it is a step toward getting me in, getting me out there, and sometimes just "getting" me. 

My spirit is sometimes tired after a day of believing things that aren't true, or waiting for things that don't come to pass, or putting my faith in the wrong things, but it's worth it because...because... 

There's nothing wrong with a little bit of tired, as long as it comes from real work, or real exercise--physical, mental, or otherwise. But when our tired comes from waiting, or hesitating, or things we can't control, then tired is really just tired. And weary is, well, weary. And that is rarely ever worth it.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

It Still Matters

Just when you think you must be way too far removed from where you started for that to make any difference, you realize it still matters.

Just when it seems that the kind words or the covering for or the little bit of mentoring or friendship are forgotten, you are reminded that they still matter.

Just when you begin to believe that all the things you learned aren't relevant anymore, you face situations that make it clear that those things still matter.

Just when you think your words are obsolete and your work ethic is something no one appreciates any more, you discover that both still matter.

Just when you're close to writing off your past because you think you have to in order to look to your future, you find out that your past still matters.

Just when you're ready to give up on doing what feels right, you see that what feels right still matters.

Just when you begin to believe that "who you know" can't possibly help you, because who even remembers you, you hear from someone who reminds you that "who you know" still matters.

Just when you're convinced that you can't possibly write another pithy cover letter that goes into the abyss, you receive email confirmation that your pithy (or powerhouse or witty) words still matter.

Just when you stop walking forward because it feels as though your steps get you nowhere, you hear a voice from behind you, or in front of you, or beside you whispering "it still matters."

It still matters.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Make Your Own

It is Day 2 of yet another "make your own" week. I used to view "am I working or am I not" weeks as decidedly NOT "make my own." I used to feel trapped by the uncertainty, unsettled by the lack of income, boxed in by the waiting. It's not that I don't feel all those things anymore. I'm not sure that those things ever go away. But when you're a freelancer, if those feelings don't motivate your work searches, they often just wear you down, and whether you're working or not, worn down is not a good way to be.

How does a "make your own" day look? Kind of like a freelance day, it can look a little different each time. Perhaps it starts with a few goals--some tasks to accomplish, or a view of how you'd like the day to end. It might include taking steps to minimize future "make your own" days (i.e., job searching and networking), but it doesn't include just that. A "make your own" day acknowledges that there is no work, but takes advantage of the situation rather than bemoaning it.

Many years ago, I went to one of those "paint your own" pottery shops. As I stared at the white plate, I had a moment of terror as I tried to imagine how it would look when I was done painting. "Make your own" days are kind of like that. Unlike "go to work" days, they are a white plate, a blank canvas, waiting for the colors and designs you choose to make. Will the result be just the confusion of a day without work? Or will it be something beautiful, because you chose to make it your very own?

As freelancers, we will always have "no work" days. That is virtually unavoidable. But we can choose whether to see our "no work" days as simply that, or as "make your own" days. "Make your own" takes a little more vision. It takes the belief that we really can turn that white plate into something beautiful. So that when we go back to working, we actually have something to show for the days when we weren't.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Different Eyes

Today, several decades after my own college graduation, I took my daughter to explore my alma mater. It was a day trip--easy, blessed by good weather, and part of an exploratory process that has taken, and will continue to take, us all over.

I was determined to be just the driver--simply the person who got her there, and accompanied her on the tour and to the information session, not the person filling her head with stories of "when I was in college." After all, my experience was many years ago. She is coming from a different childhood, looking for different things, living in a different time. (Let's just say that while I was excited to take one of the earliest Mac computers--floppy disks and all--to college for typing my papers, she was excited to see that there was visitor Wifi all over the campus.)

As we strolled through the grounds, I tried to reconnect with my own walks there during four years so long ago. I remembered certain buildings and pathways. I had flashes of moments when the place was my whole life. I remembered meals and certain accomplishments. And yet, I actually had no memory of ever entering some of the buildings we saw or even considering some of the questions she asked.

Would I choose it again? Maybe. Just as she is different from me, I suppose that I too am quite different from the me who was taking these tours all those years ago. What we see on one day can look very different than what we see on another, and each thing we do or experience allows us to see the next thing with different eyes.

Today, I took my daughter to explore my alma mater. It was fun for me to see it through different eyes--both hers, and mine all these years later. We may have only one pair of eyes, but when we are able to glance just a little differently, or to borrow someone else's pair, just for a moment, it is kind of amazing what we can see. A little forward, a little back. And almost always, more than what we ever saw on our own.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Led To Believe

We are led to believe that hard work is enough, but sometimes, it's just not.

We are led to believe that loyalty is important, but sometimes, we don't know to whom we should be loyal.

We are led to believe that we are in control of our own destiny, but sometimes, it feels as though the control is somewhere else.

We are led to believe that we can have it all, but sometimes, "all" feels like just "some of all" or "all of some."

We can work hard because we want to, whether it will be enough or not.

We can be careful with our loyalty, but still stand up for the things and people we believe in.

We can come closer to being in control of our own destiny if we are willing to take control.

We may not be able to have it all, but we can try to focus on having what is most important.

We can be led to believe, or we can make choices about what to believe. Because there's nothing wrong with a little lead--as long as we are going the way we want--and need--to go.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ten Dollar Bag

Every so often, there is a tag sale with a gimmick--"buy one, get one free," "free stuff for kids"--you name it. Today, we happened upon one at which for ten dollars, you could fill a bag. The bag was not huge, but with careful placement, we managed to fit eighteen items in our bag, meaning that for less than sixty cents per item, we came home with a bag of newly found treasures.

Now, for people used to putting down just a few dollars at a time at such sales, the thought of a ten-dollar bag can be met with a moment of "Should we?" Clearly, when you do the math, the result is far better than fifty-cent odds and ends. Yet, it takes a leap of faith to go for the ten dollar bag. Will the return be worthy of the investment?

What we discovered, of course, once home, was that, as with many of the investments we make in life, the leap was well worth it. For ten dollars, we now had close to twenty new items, most of which were worth far more than the amount we had paid. As we filled our bag, we didn't quite know. But the reality is, when you "fill your bag" throughout life, you don't always know. You make your investment, big or small, of money, or of time, or of talent, and you hope that your choices have been good ones. Whether it's a ten dollar bag, or a much pricier risk, sometimes we just can't know until we fill up our bag. And sometimes, taking the risk can give us some of the best finds of our lives.