Monday, August 31, 2015

If I Were A...

If salads were brownies, then we'd all be healthy.

If setting up work were like setting up a coffee date, then we'd all be working.

If getting up early were like sleeping in, then we'd all have lots of hours in our days.

If being new somewhere were just like being where we'd always been, then we'd never be afraid of change.

If lending a hand were just like getting help when we need it, then there would be a lot more people supporting a lot more people.

If believing were as easy as doubting, then we'd have a lot more faith in how things would turn out.

If trusting were as simple as being suspicious of, then we'd believe in what we see.

If leaping were as natural as watching from a distance, then we'd all take more risks.

If starting something new were simply an adventure and not a risk, then we'd all reinvent ourselves daily.

If reinvention were just an adventure and not a necessity, then we'd all embrace the change.

If salads were brownies, then we'd all be very, very healthy.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Both Sides Now

We stock up on new school supplies, fingering the fuzzy, but impractical, pencil cases and marveling at the colors of pens and markers. And we are excited, because with the new things come new beginnings. Yet, as we unpack our bags and take off the tags, we realize that the new beginnings come with new responsibilities and the end of endless free hours.

I open the mailbox to find a paycheck, excited to see such an envelope in the mail after what feels like a long time. Yet, as I open the envelope and prepare to take it to the bank and watch it disappear into the payment of bills, I realize that the paycheck comes with new commitments and the new scarcity of time that is my own and trips we meant to take.

I put my daughter on a train, and I am excited that she has things to do and people to do them with and the ability to function independently. Yet, as the train pulls away, I realize that I am alone, with a certain amount of independence myself, but in that moment, without anyone to talk to.

It appears that just about everything we do comes with two sides--we wouldn't be buying school supplies if school were not upon us, yet it's nearly impossible to have school without at least a little bit of trepidation about the schedules and emotions that will come with it. I wouldn't have a paycheck without work, yet it's nearly impossible to have work without giving up at least a little bit of family and personal time. And kids become independent--as we'd like them to--yet it can feel nearly impossible to adjust our view as we watch it happen. But if we don't embrace--or at least accept--both sides, it's hard to have one. So we fight fear, and we try to celebrate change, and we accept what we have to give up. Because in order to have one side, sometimes you just have to have both.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Something That Matters

Once upon a time, in a time that seems like a hundred years ago, I was pondering what to do with my education. I don't remember thinking about making a lot of money (until I saw what an apartment would cost each month). I wasn't looking to take more classes (though the familiarity of continuing on an academic track was tempting). I didn't want to go abroad and save the world--I wasn't equipped to save much of anyone. And yet, I wanted to do something that mattered.

Something that mattered--what exactly did that mean? Before I actually figured that out, I had landed--I couldn't, and still can't, believe it--a job at One Life to Live. I could interpret "something that mattered" as getting coffee for tired producers or giving scripts to actors or being part of a production telling stories that could, once in a while, educate viewers about an issue or disease. Mostly, I was just glad to have a job that was kind of a dream come true, and a workplace where people seemed to like me.

What I have learned since then is that "something that matters" can come into your life in many different ways. You don't have to be curing a disease (though I thank goodness for those who do) to be doing something that matters. Perhaps you are educating people, or entertaining them, or simply making their lives a little easier. Or maybe you are just giving enough of yourself to make a difference in the lives of people you work with. We can all do something that matters, whether our work is building, or healing, or editing television. All these years later, I'm still finding ways.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Bridges of New York City

I have traveled across a lot of bridges in New York City. After all, you can't really go from Manhattan to other boroughs without crossing some water, so a bridge or a tunnel or a boat (or, of course, a subway over a bridge or through a tunnel) is kind of a given.

Yet, I am neither knowledgeable enough about or invested enough in New York's bridges to write a blog post about them. Rather, this post is about the other bridges we cross in our lives. For while we face each experience as an event unto itself, when we step back, it turns out that almost everything we do is actually a bridge between where we've been and where we're going. And sometimes, seeing the bridges as just that--ways to get from Point A to Point B--makes us much more comfortable with the movement and change that we face every day.

When we start a new experience, we go in thinking it will be a long-term one. Now, maybe that is the long-time soap employee in me speaking, but I do think we all want things that last, and the security that comes with those things. These days, jobs don't necessarily last. Circumstances change, responsibilities shift. Yet, if we look carefully, we can see that each job, whether short-term or long, comes with a set of tools for building a bridge. Each experience teaches us skills that help us travel to the next one, and provides the bridge we need to move forward. We don't always know exactly where these bridges we build will take us, but just like the bridges of New York, they allow us the kind of exploration that can even be worth the toll.

Change isn't easy, and unknown journeys can be frightening. But if we build and traverse our bridges wisely, we may end up in some destinations we never thought were possible.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

But I Want It Yesterday!

I want things done when I want them done. Which sometimes means I want them done yesterday. Which sometimes means I tell a child multiple times to take a shower or read a book, or sometimes means I toss and turn over all the things undone.

The funny thing is, often when I take a step back, I see that things do get done, just in their own time. Tooth brushing may not happen when I demand it, but it happens before bed. Reading may not happen on my schedule, but it happens before the deadline, or before the library due date, or in some other way, on time. Likewise, in my own life, change sometimes happens not when I am pushing for it, but when my back is turned for a second.

We want to be in control. We want to know that we can make things how we want them, that we can be the masters of our time, of our careers, and of our households. And while sometimes it takes jumping in and effecting change, sometimes it just takes being patient enough to let change happen on its own, and trusting that what we want or need will happen in time--before the due date, before the deadline, before our tipping point.

I will probably still want things when I want them, which will still often be yesterday. But I'd like to think that once in a while, I will step back and just let things fall as they may. Who knows? I might be pleasantly surprised with how it all turns out--maybe not yesterday, but in plenty of time.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Pictures and The Words

I've been editing a lot of short video packages--on news, on health, on entertainment, on business. I like the way that I can match the photos and videos to the words. It brings to life something that starts out as just a series of well-crafted sentences.

I've also been doing a lot of texting. It is an easy way for me to keep in touch with my kids and others when life is getting crazy. Often, it's just messages like "I'm on the bus" or "I'm home," which I appreciate. But every once in a while, there's a photo--of a happy face, or a place visited, or a baked good being created. Suddenly, in a tiny little thought bubble on my screen, I am transported to another place. I am where I am, but for just a moment, I am able to be somewhere else, sharing in the moment that I am missing. A picture is a powerful thing.

As an editor, I am grateful when the pictures, moving or still, match up with the story. As a person, and as a parent, I am immensely grateful when the pictures provide a window into events I have to miss, into the lives of people I don't see nearly enough, into the life that is happening outside my little edit room and beyond my narrow view. The pictures may make me sad not to be there, but they also make me happy that I can still be a part of something from a distance.

I may not be able to be everywhere every minute, but give me a picture or a video (or even an emoticon or two!), and at least in some way, I'm right there.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Perfect Match

I recently recommended someone for a job. It seemed like a perfect match, and I was thrilled to be able to do something for someone whose work I appreciated and respected. It turned out, however, that while my "recommendee" appreciated my efforts, she didn't feel up to what the job would require. I contacted the person to whom I'd made the recommendation, and we all moved on.

You might think that this is a cautionary tale about recommendations. Actually, it is a story about understanding. In the moment when my friend told me how she felt, I was faced both with sorrow that I wouldn't be able to help her get a job, and with an uncanny understanding of what she was thinking. Over the past few years, any number of people have suggested paths to me and recommended contacts for me, and even thrown my name in the ring for jobs. Yet, from time to time, as grateful as I have been, I have wondered "Could I do that work?" They have recommended me because they have faith in me as a person or as a co-worker. Yet, being a good person or doing a great job in certain circumstances doesn't always mean your talent will come through in every circumstance.

So, no, this is not a cautionary tale about recommending people. That kind of networking is invaluable, and has given me some of the best opportunities of my career. Rather, this is a reminder that we don't have to be great at everything to be great. We don't have to be ready to adapt to any job, just because we are good at many. And while we should be careful about underestimating our own abilities, we should also speak up about what we can do and what we want to do. And we should respect our friends and colleagues when they do the same.

I will keep playing job matchmaker--it's just a little way for me to make a difference, as people have made a difference for me. It may just be with a new understanding. Because a perfect match is a tricky thing for any of us to find.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Glass Too Full, Or One Too Empty?

Once again, there are too many events in too many different places to fit into too few days, which has made us stressed, and overwhelmed, and guilt-ridden about all the things we can't do and all the things we choose to do. Yet, it has occurred to me that there's a different way to think about this---

We could live our lives doing not very much, attempting not very much, planning and scheduling not very much, and therefore, rarely having the stress of double-booking and over-extending, and trying to fit too much to do into too little time. Would we be happier doing not very much? Would we have a better life making no plans, trying no new things, seeing no hard-to-see people? Would we be better off pulling away from things, rather than running toward them, sticking with the known, rather than exploring the unknown, filling just parts of our days, so as not to end up with days that are over-full?

The difficulty and stress of having to juggle activities and events may make us want to pull back, but when I think about it this way, I tend to think, "bring it on"--the new experiences, the exciting things ventured, the people and places explored and enjoyed. Isn't it better to fill our days and figure out how to juggle a little than to meander through empty days because we were afraid of having to manage the juggling? Give me that glass too full--I'll enjoy drinking it in.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Keeping Those Plates Spinning

As I paused from the work plate that has been spinning all week, and fielded a long list of questions and requests from my kids, I was reminded how hard it is to keep all the plates spinning at the same time. As we throw ourselves into making one thing a success, we can't help but slow down on the others. Yet, as I put some of the slowed down plates back in motion, I also realized that even the best plate spinners among us put on a much better show when we have a few extra hands, a few extra minds, a few extra hours.

When my kids were younger, there were babysitters and other parents who helped keep the plates spinning. These days, we often have to find the "extra" on our own, whether it's siblings helping siblings, neighbors keeping an eye out, or simply us getting a little more creative. The plates keep spinning, sometimes a little faster, sometimes a little slower. And most of the time, we can keep them from smashing to the ground. It's just a question of how we use our hands and our minds and our resources. And how determined we are, even as circumstances change, to keep the plates spinning.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Little Steps

When I look back over these last few years, it seems as though my life has changed in very big ways--the regularity of work and of a daily sitter have come and gone, the routine of a household where people know what will happen daily has vanished. Some of the change has happened in big strokes--changing of schools, acquisition of new activities--but as I look back, I realize that most of the big changes have actually happened in little steps. A resume sent that resulted in a day of work, then two, then a bunch, my kids staying home alone while I ran a short errand, then a longer one, then was out most of the day. A skill explored out of curiosity, developed to get something done, and absorbed for real because it was suddenly a necessity.

While we tend to focus on the big things, like milestones and occasions, most of what happens in our lives happens in little steps, almost when we are not even paying attention. We take the little steps because they feel right, or necessary, in the moment, and before we know it, the little steps have become an actual journey, on a path we didn't even quite realize we were taking.

I suppose that the good thing about little steps is that we can manage them. They let us test the path before we commit to a longer walk than we can handle. And if we review them every so often, we can evaluate our path before we are too far along it to turn back. So I will continue to take the little steps. Because it feels as though I still have a long way to go.

Friday, August 21, 2015

What We Wish For

From time to time, my eldest child wishes for an older sibling. It is an impossibility, and she knows it, but what you know and what you wish for can be two very different things.

As I find myself wishing for the comfort and security that comes with long-term work, I am suddenly beginning to understand how she feels. I can't make long-term work overnight any more than I can deliver her an older sibling. Short of one of my previous workplaces being recreated (a virtually impossible scenario), I have to go through the first steps--the aim to please, don't know what to expect, prove yourself stages--that come with anyplace new. Like my daughter, I simply can't have what would have had to have been created long ago.

So, just as my eldest manages with her younger siblings and finds older influences and companions elsewhere, I manage the challenges of new work and find new ways to feel comfortable and secure. We may not be able to have everything we wish for, but we both have learned to adapt to what is.

And sometimes, the ability to make what you have into perhaps not what you wished for, but what you can live with, is the greatest comfort and security of all.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Working Nights

When you are a parent, in some ways, you're working all the time. Whether it's prepping breakfasts and stuffing backpacks in the morning, playing games and overseeing homework in the afternoon, or reading bedtime stories and hugging away bad dreams at night, or all the other tasks in between, you are on call, in some way, twenty-four hours a day. Add a job to some of those hours, and you can find yourself stretched thin.

Somehow, for years, I have handled the balance. There have been late studio days and early morning rehearsals. Once in a while, there has been travel. Yet, all the while, there have still been breakfasts and bedtime stories, with some play in between.

This week, I began working nights--not whole nights, but enough of the night to make bedtime stories impossible. Enough of the night to make early morning routines difficult and afternoon games either tough because I'm tired, or non-existent, because I'm off to work. The balance that I have handled for years has shifted. The work of parenthood as I have known it is being called upon to change.

As I have made my way through these post-soap years, there has been a kind of constant redefinition. Where will I go next, and how will I manage it? Who will I be, and how will I reconcile the new me with the old?

I can't say whether working nights will be a new normal, or simply a step on a path that just keeps twisting. Kind of like parenthood, following a new path forces us to accept some unknowns, and to adjust to the unexpected. For now, I'm just trying to find ways to replace bedtime stories and early mornings with all the attention and quality time I can possibly give. And hopefully, that will, for now, get us all through the nights.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

How Do You Know?

How do you know if the the direction you're going is right?

How do you know if the time you're spending is worth it?

How do you know if you're facing the right way?

How do you know if you're listening to the right advice?

How do you know if you're hearing the right sounds?

How do you know if you're saying the right words?

How do you know if you're accomplishing what you need to accomplish?

How do you know if you'll know when to stop?

How do you know if you'll know when to go?

How do you know when "feels right" means "is right"?

How do you know when "feels wrong" is more about fear than about right?

How do you know? Most of the time, you really don't. You just guess, I guess...

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Life and Ping Pong

I am getting better at ping pong. It is not exactly a marketable skill, and yet...

Keeping your eye on the ball, literally or figuratively, is a good idea in lots of situations.

Being able to focus not just on the big things, but on the small, seemingly lightweight, ones, can be very useful.

No matter how powerful you are, if you're not aiming for the designated target area, you're likely to be off the mark.

Sometimes, simple endurance is as important as fancy footwork.

Often, it's less about being able to lift more and more about being able to keep what you've lifted in the air.

Quick reaction can be just as valuable as powerful contact.

Sometimes, it's simply about being in the game.

Often, we are so intent upon gathering marketable skills that we forget about the ones we learn by just involving ourselves in the world around us. It's unlikely that I will be called upon to play ping pong or be judged in the work world on my ability to do so. But the skills I've picked up with every ping and pong will go with me as I approach many of the other tasks I try to do.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Front Burner

I sometimes wish I could just have the same job all the time. That I could go to the ice cream store, or the bank, or wherever it was I worked, knowing when I'd have to be there, and what I'd be doing. No mystery, no excitement, no guessing game, no worry. Just something expected, routine.

It occurred to me today that this perfect world that I just described is what we used to call on soaps "back burner." While some characters might be "front burner"--involved in lots of story, with their actors needing to learn lots of lines and work lots of hours and lots of days, others, those in "back burner" storylines, might appear much less often, would likely have fewer lines to master, and perhaps have less required of them. The thing is, as a soap actor, you always wanted to be front burner, not back. Front burner was generally more interesting, and ultimately, offered much more job security. Front burner kept you on your toes and involved with the production team. Front burner brought you more attention. Front burner was the goal.

So, as I see myself wish I could melt into the woodwork of a regular job, or settle into the relative regularity of managing my children from home, I wonder, does the constant uncertainty and change mean that I am, in fact, front burner in a way I couldn't otherwise be? Does jumping around, even if it feels unbelievably insecure, mean that I have "made it" to front-burner status?

There are days when I feel as though I would happily languish on the back burner, no new challenges, no more places to prove myself. But keeping things "front burner" reminds me that I'm still in the game. There may be no real security anywhere, but I am carving out my spot by braving the front burner, by taking on the roles that are a little bit different, a little bit trickier, a little bit scary. Will my story be good? I don't know. All I can say is that, as with many front burner stories, it will be an interesting one to watch.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

If I'd

I see pictures posted, and events described, and I can't help but wonder what would have been...

...if I were still at ABC

...if I'd left New York when ABC was over

...if I'd followed a path where I stumbled, rather than switched paths when I stumbled

...if I'd kept in touch better

...if I'd focused more on family and less on work

...if I'd focused more on work and less on family

...if I'd jumped ship sooner

...if I'd hung on longer

...if I'd taken less

...if I'd held out for more

...if I'd played things safer

...if I'd taken more risks

...if I'd...

We rarely get to know how things would have been different "if." The best we can do is anticipate a little, guess a lot, and make the best of the paths we take. What if...? We just have to wait and find out.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Drawing Board

Tonight, my daughter performed in the ending performance at the camp where she has been a counselor. We have been pondering her costume for most of the last two weeks. There was a dress--but it didn't fit. There was another dress--but it wasn't nearly the right shape or really the right color. There was a skirt--but no top. There was a top--but without enough "zing."

But then there was a household fabric for the color, and party decorations for the "zing." And all put together, her costume looked just right--and was manageable for transporting and for putting on.

While I was excited to see my daughter all dressed up and performing, that's not really what this post is about. At each step in the costume process, we hit a wall. We couldn't find, or spend the money on, what we needed. We felt overwhelmed by the thought, and out of our league with the task. But as the task didn't go away, we didn't go away either.

Almost every day, we are faced with tasks that are beyond our skill set, beyond our level of creativity, beyond our budget. We could choose to stop there, to say, "sorry, I can't." But if we keep at it, believing that we can get beyond our limitations, we often find that we are more creative than we thought, more resourceful than we thought, and maybe more successful than we thought.

We could have stopped with an "almost okay," "close as we can come" costume for my daughter's performance. But we went back to the drawing board, over and over, and we came out with a product that made us both proud and helped make her shine in the show.

Sometimes it takes going back to the drawing board--being willing to question, and try again, until we really get what we want. And isn't it better to get what we really want?

Friday, August 14, 2015

You Were Saying?

If you burn your bridges, you may end up stranded on your own island--or someone else's.

If you count your chickens, you may end up counting on some of the worst--and leaving out some of the best--possibilities.

If you put one foot in front of the other, you may not end up where you intended, but you'll at least be going somewhere.

If you watch the pot (or computer screen) of life too carefully, it will never boil.

If you give an inch, perhaps you'll be the one to get the mile.

If you make a stitch in your life in time, you may save a lot more than nine.

If you keep rolling, you are unlikely to gather moss--or to become surrounded by all sorts of things that don't help you.

If you are in motion, there's a pretty good chance you'll stay in motion.

While we can't live by sayings alone, some of them can be pretty appropriate to life's changing situations. We don't have to sew, or cook, or even know anything about plants or livestock--we just need to step far enough back from what we're doing--not just to reduce it to a pithy saying, but to see it just a little bit better.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

On The Path

I wanted to do everything, but I accomplished something.

I wanted to satisfy everyone, but I satisfied someone.

I wanted to be everywhere, but I landed somewhere.

I wanted to know the answers every time, but I was able to answer the questions only sometimes.

I came, I saw, I conquered, and then I ran, I closed my eyes, I took a nap.

I beat the system, and then I surrendered to the system.

I believed, and then I couldn't believe.

We are rarely on a straight and level path. The challenge is to return after we run away, to believe after we lose faith, to make at least something sometime, even when we can't accomplish everything all the time. It's rocky, and it's crooked, but we just have to stay on the path...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Thank Goodness For Twisted Pitching

Tonight, I had the opportunity to participate in a pitching program--pitching not baseballs, but ideas. I have "pitched" a number of ideas over the years, most with little success. But tonight was different. Tonight, I was not pitching my own ideas. Rather, I was pitching ideas assigned to me, and I was pitching them as part of a team made up primarily of people I had never met before. It was challenging, and scary, and immensely satisfying. For, while I didn't come out with an idea sold or a deal done, I emerged with multiple realizations. I learned that I can think on my feet a whole lot better than I thought. I went from being terrified to be our group spokesperson to frantically scribbling out our pitch and presenting it reasonably successfully (even fielding a few questions!). I discovered the value of pitching with a team (something I have rarely done). There are many more resources available when it's a bunch of heads with a bunch of backgrounds, rather than just you and your own ideas in your own living room. And I learned that co-immersion in an idea or a task is probably one of the best versions of networking possible. I came away from the event both more confident about my own skills and more aware of and excited about the skills and expertise of the people around me. The evening was a reminder that collaboration--straightforward, baggage-free collaboration--can be one of the most powerful forces for connection and for getting things done.
We work hard every day to involve ourselves in things that we believe will be useful for us. Then, every so often, we happen into situations that turn out to be the most useful of all. I guess we don't always know, as we pitch our way through life, exactly how each game will turn out. So we just have to keep pitching...

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Moving On Is The New Letting Go

Though I knew for months before it ended that my time at ABC's One Life to Live would be over, though I had an eternity to process and to plan and to grieve if I needed, I found that the effects of the ending hit later than expected and lasted longer than expected. Sometimes, I suppose, it's not about the preparation. It's about all sorts of things that we can't see or put our finger on or give a name.

These days, I "let go" a lot easier. It may be that nothing lasts as long as my time at ABC did. It may be that I don't form those kinds of connections any more--after all, I grew up there, and while we may grow for a long time, we really only "grow up"once. Or perhaps it is just a little self-protection kicking in, in the face of things that can change so quickly. It's hard to move on when we expend too much energy letting go.

So, these days, I still invest a lot of myself, but in a different way. I work, and I embrace new challenges, but with the knowledge that things could change tomorrow. I attach, a little, but not so much that the inevitable moving on will feel like tearing away. I believe, but not so much as to risk being blindsided. Letting go is different than it was, because it happens too often to be the same.

I could mourn the change, but I choose to see it as a different kind of "growing up." There's nothing wrong with giving a great deal of ourselves to the jobs we do, but in a world where those jobs can change in an instant, we must also hold on to enough of ourselves to have the strength to move on. Letting go doesn't mean we work or care any less. It simply means we value ourselves just a little more.

I will never repeat the experience I had at One Life to Live. It was a moment--okay, a whole bunch of moments--in time, wrapped up with a life full of changes. I can only hope for new experiences that challenge my spirit and open my eyes, and when the time comes, allow me to let go--and move on.

Monday, August 10, 2015

You Can't and I Can

Having watched my son get stronger at baseball all season, I am eager to keep his skill level up, which sometimes means I am the catching partner. Okay, it almost never means that I am the catching partner, as he could blast a hole through me with the strength of his throw. Today, however, I was it. He didn't start out so happy--I wasn't necessarily holding the glove right or catching the ball right or throwing it back right. Yet, from where I was standing, I not only maintained the stamina to keep up, I threw far (and ran far to retrieve what I didn't catch). I fielded grounders and pop-ups and line drives, perhaps not with the most beautiful form, but with reasonable success. In the face of his "you can't," I had the realization that actually, I can.

Every day (more often in life than in a pickup baseball practice), we are faced with "you can't." It can happen so often that we may begin to assume that, in fact, we can't--can't learn the lingo, can't look the part, can't do the job. Yet, if we go into these situations as I did today's baseball, with a fairly open mind and a mostly positive attitude, we sometimes find that "you can't" falls apart pretty quickly in the face of "I can." It doesn't mean that we will be the best at everything we try (my son won't get his best baseball practice catching with me). But it does mean that we can walk into new situations and handle them. It does mean that we can challenge the interviewers and managers and people controlling the paths. In the face of "you can't," we can stand up for ourselves, and as we're delivering our perfect pitch, declare "I can." Because a lot more often than we think, we really can.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

It Won't Kill You

It won't kill you to sit still when you want to, even if there are things that need doing.

It won't kill you to pay a quarter more for milk sometimes so that you don't have to walk to the cheaper store.

It won't kill you to offer advice, offer a ride, offer chocolate, when a friend needs some help.

It won't kill you to take a break, take a second shower, take a nap.

It won't kill you to let your children just be children sometimes, particularly when you think back to your own childhood and realize you turned out okay.

It won't kill you to eat bread, or cheese, or an ice cream sundae, as long as it's not all day, every day.

It won't kill you to break from routine--it might actually make you stronger.

It won't kill you to accept routine--it might actually help you get things done.

It won't kill you to be in a different room than your smartphone. If it's really important, whoever it is will call or text again.

It won't kill you to give time, give credit, give moral support.

It won't kill you to step out of your comfort zone--sometimes, it takes a little discomfort to make the big discoveries.

Most of the time, we're really not nearly as fragile as we think. It just takes a few steps forward to realize that we can survive the little things--and often the not so little ones as well.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Like The First Day of School

As I left home for an interview, my son said that I looked like a kid on the first day of school. I had to admit he was right. Wearing bright new clothes, and with an excited, but slightly apprehensive, look on my face, I must have looked just like a school kid.

I suppose that looking for work is not so different from starting a new school year. In both cases, you have a load of experience under your belt. You've done the work before, yet this time is a little different--similar enough so that you'll be able to handle it, but different enough that you're unsure. In both cases, you are going to a new place (or at least a different part of the same place). You are meeting new people, some in the same position as you, others far above you. Will they like you? Will you like them? You dress your best, to look older or younger or hipper or more serious. You travel equipped with a bag full of what you know you'll need and all the things you figure you might need. And despite all of your careful preparation--doing the reading, dressing the part, bringing your materials--you can't help but have a bit of a pit in your stomach as you head to the bus or the train or whatever will get you to your first day.

When I left home, I looked like a kid on the first day of school, and a few hours later, I returned, having survived meeting new people, conveying what I knew, and navigating a new space with new expectations. There will be many "first day of school" experiences--I suppose that even when we are far past school, we continue to face days that are brand new, and not just in September. Armed with our "first day outfit," a little preparation, and an excited (even if slightly queasy) smile, we can handle it. And each time we step out the door, we stand to learn just a little bit more.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Due Dates

Having reached that point in the summer when a whole city has presumably decided to do the summer reading, we got a notice from the library that the summer reading book we'd borrowed (yay us for having checked it out early on!) would be due back, no renewal possible. So if it wasn't finished now, we'd have to buy the book or scour libraries all over--a daunting task. And by golly, by 4:30pm, the book was finished and returned.

Now, I suppose that by paying a few days worth of fines, we could have extended that deadline. But the due date provided just the amount of motivation needed to get the job done.

The whole experience has kind of made me wish that the public library could put due dates on a few other things in my life. For, while I may not have a school child's penchant for procrastination (well, maybe sometimes I do), one of the most challenging things about both underemployment and job searching is the complete lack of any due date. We can work toward something each day, but one day tends to blend into another. We can set goals, but we have little external oversight about our reaching those goals. We can apply to jobs posted today, but we can also get caught up in a process that lasts for many days.

Clearly, the due dates of life can be slightly more challenging than the due date of a library book. But either way, when we have a due date, we have more of a direction. When we have a due date, we can often focus better, work better, accomplish better.

In life, especially underemployed life, it is up to us to set, and live by, the due dates. It's not easy. But when we can hold ourselves accountable, as would the librarian behind the desk, we may find that our reading, and a whole lot more, has a better chance of being completed, without fines, and on time.

Thursday, August 6, 2015


I watch my daughter be completely absorbed in Pac-man. The world disappears as her little yellow video character gobbles up dots as fast as her hands can move. She plays with complete abandon.

I watch my son as he plays Minecraft, for a time completely absorbed in its block-ish world. He too plays with sheer abandon.

As I watch them, I find myself wishing I could do something--anything--with such abandon. For me, however, that abandon comes packaged with the feeling that I am abandoning my responsibilities, abandoning the family members and other people who need me. I may marvel at how they can lose themselves to these or other pursuits, even just briefly, but it is rarely a trip I can take myself.

And then I realize that while I may never really be able to abandon my responsibilities, there actually are moments and days when I step away just a bit. When I let myself enjoy a weekend, when I allow myself to sleep a little longer or eat a little more--perhaps this is my version of "abandon." When I break into song, or compose a blog post while standing at a bus stop, that is my version of "abandon."

We can't always have a child's freedom to step away, but when we embrace the experiences that come our way, we can feel a bit of that child-like abandon. And sometimes, allowing for a little abandon doesn't make us abandon our responsibilities at all. It simply returns us more able to face those responsibilities. And face the creepers or the ghosts or whatever it is that tries to block our path.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Job Well Done

When you are at a job, the job is clear. There are goals to accomplish, deadlines to meet. When you are between jobs, your "job" is far less clear...

Is a job well done sending as many resumes and emails as possible, or actually getting a response?

Is a job well done accomplishing personal business, or accomplishing job search business?

Is a job well done doing for your kids while you are with them, or having them do for themselves so that you can do what you need to?

Is a job well done sleeping late because you need the rest, or waking up early because you need the time?

Is a job well done learning something new, or remembering something old?

Is a job well done about the money you make, or about the feelings you feel?

Is a job well done about getting the best job, or about finding the best balance?

Is a job well done making your kids feel secure, or helping them become independent?

Is a job well done success at the end of a day, or just steps taken toward another day?

Clearly, a job well done is not always a one-day task...

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


I rarely missed a birthday or a school event. I took days off to be there for the big stuff, and went in late sometimes so I wouldn't miss the little stuff. I was working many hours, but I worked hard to be not working when it counted.

Underemployment doesn't schedule itself around birthdays and events, so these days, I may be there for the big stuff, but I am also there for the really little stuff--not so much the occasions, but the minutes and days in between. The hours of "what should we do today?" summer vacation, the mornings of "what's for breakfast?" and the late afternoons of too little coffee to keep up. The conversations not just about the earth-shattering, but about the mundane as well. Underemployment may not put you in the middle of every important event, but it most certainly puts you in the middle of the daily events of life, the events you missed, or left to the babysitter, while you worked toward the occasions. Underemployment allows--forces--you to get through those mornings and afternoons, which are not always easy. But it also puts you at the scene of the everyday triumphs and tribulations. I may not have been home for every first step or new word all those years ago, but I am present for today's new discoveries. And when I'm not busy bemoaning underemployment or working to change it, I can actually appreciate the older "first steps" that I am getting to see.

I don't wish underemployment on anyone. I may have missed things in my days of working continuously, but the security and stability of that situation--and my commitment to making it work--was something I really miss. But for now, I am trying to see the bit of good in underemployment--some quality moments spent, a money lesson taught, my attention given when it was needed. Underemployment doesn't schedule itself around your occasions or your needs, but it can create an opening for you to be there. And for what I hope will be just a few moments in time, I am holding on to that opening, and to the chances it is giving me.

Monday, August 3, 2015

I'm Listening

The alarm is ringing so that I can start my day on time, and I'm listening.

The birds are announcing the new day, and when the air conditioning doesn't drown them out, I'm listening.

The weather report is screaming both "go out" and "stay in," and I'm listening.

The brownies in my fridge are talking to me--I swear!--and I'm listening.

Twenty-something years of work are trying to remind me that I'm good, and I'm trying to listen.

Twenty-something years worth of former colleagues remind me that I can make a difference, and I sometimes remember to listen.

The voice of social media shouts that to be heard, you have to speak up, so I'm listening (and speaking).

Doors will open more often if you knock, so I'm knocking more often, and listening for that slowly turning doorknob.

Learning will happen more often if you keep your mind, eyes, and ears open, so I'm listening (and looking and learning).

I may be needed when I least expect it, so I'm listening for the call.

I may be called when I assume I'm no longer needed, so I'm listening for the unexpected.

Life may sound different than I thought that it would, so I'm listening...

Sunday, August 2, 2015


Today, I found myself in a conversation about the increasing number of short-term jobs out there, and the stress of having to land a new job over and over. Funny thing is, we weren't talking about television production. It turns out that one of the biggest challenges of my work life is mirrored everywhere. No longer does getting a job mean being secure for any sort of long haul. No longer does getting a job mean getting a break from being the best self-marketing expert out there. As my conversation partner put it, in order to survive in this new work world, you need to be able to go out there over and over saying that you are the best and smartest person for the job and that it would be silly for an employer to hire anyone else.

Now, there's nothing wrong with being able to market yourself. It is, in fact, probably one of the most important skills a person in any field can have. But when an employment model favors that skill so strongly over the skills needed to accomplish the tasks of a particular field, it makes me wonder. When you have to spend far more time getting a job than you may actually spend having that job, it makes me question a system that values salesmanship over real quality of work.

Today's conversation made me feel lucky for the long-term jobs I've had. It made me feel both relieved that I am far from alone, and angry that so many other people are spending more days trying to sell themselves than being able to add value by working in their fields. I may not be able to change a system, but I just have to wonder--when does being good become good enough? When does it stop being about selling yourself, and start being about working at what you love or do well? I can't fix the system, but I can wonder, and write about it...

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Eyes Wide...

I am an early riser, eager to get things done before the day escapes. I figure that's just how you have to be if you are to see opportunities and be able to act on them. Eyes wide open, and you'll see what's out there, right?

Sometimes, however, it is hard to keep looking. Sometimes, it just feels better to shut your eyes to all of it, to put aside where you could be and just settle in where you are, to stop trying to look far ahead and simply focus on right here.

Eyes wide open allow you to see where you could be, but also force you to see how far away that is. Eyes wide open let in the light of a new path, but also reveal that you may not have the skills to navigate that path. Eyes wide open let you see what you want to see, but also force you to see the things you might not want to see.

So perhaps there are days when eyes are better used for just a glance here or there, rather than a wide open search. Perhaps there are days when the narrower view is enough to handle. There will be days when our eyes will need to be wide open. But sometimes, it's not so terrible to let our view be just a little bit smaller.