Monday, January 18, 2016

Coffee & Blogs No. 24

Welcome to the first links round up of our lovely new year! My 2016 has started a bit tumultuously, with big decisions to make about my children's schooling, our parenting, and our future home. Ben and I have been having way too many serious talks and following it up with lighthearted episodes of Making a Murder. (I cannot begin to express my rage here. I know we are all mad at the Manitowoc law enforcement, but my personal exhaustion extends to the schools, the media, the community in general. Heartbreaking.) At any rate, I am ready for videos of cats learning how to knit, or something along those lines.  Hopefully some of these links will brighten your weekend!

I like selfies, but don't consider myself so invested that I needed this article with tips from a model about how to take great ones. I "read it anyway, for science" or whatever and I actually use the tips all the time now.

The "inner good girl" and how not speaking up can be damaging to the point of literal physical danger. We need to practice saying what we think and feel. We need to start in the classroom by encouraging children to speak their mind. I love that this article includes steps for drawing on power and feigning a sense of confidence.


Susan Miller does eerily specific horoscopes. I have been following moon cycles and learning more about Tarot cards for awhile, but my January horoscope lined up so much with already planned events that I was kind of blown away. Check yours out!

I wanted to do a list of tiny things you can do to get a fresh start feeling without making any big commitment resolutions, but then I realized that Sarah already had. Seriously love 2, 3, and 10. My favorite way to feel AMAZINGLY FRESH with little effort? Clean out my wallet and purse.

Gala Darling is one of my favorite sites to follow, and I was really pumped for her Radical Self Love January Instagram challenge. The prompts are lovely (and carefully explained to give each one more purpose) and when I was following along at the beginning of the month, I was meeting new people and having a ton of fun.

Ready to feel some rage? This piece on the history of teaching and the way it has traditionally viewed as "women's work" (not a compliment) hit close to home. Especially this:  "Historically, women were thought to be suited to teaching because they “in [their] own hearts, love, hope and patience, have first kept school.” In other words, women were seen as born nurturers, naturally inclined to keep their students and the good of the school as their first priority. Therein lies the crux of the issue: the fact that women are expected to do this job out of love or biology. The work is seen as “fulfilling” for us; satisfaction the only reward we should need. This mentality still informs how we think about teachers in the present." 

Kind of old news at this point, but casting is complete for the new Harry Potter play that will be going up in London, and a black woman was cast as Hermione. My absolute favorite fanart about the trio depicts Hermione as black and Harry as Indian, so I am super excited about this.

I'm also excited about this HUGE list of new YA titles hitting the shelves this spring. I've been able to read some of these before their release dates (total humblebrag, def one of the highlights of my year), and I am truly pumped for what's to come.

More things you should read: books for after you've heard Hamilton, life lessons from Ms. Marvel (Muslim teenager super hero you should know and love), picture books on the theme of color.

For fun, I took this personality test and then overanalyzed myself for an hour because I am an ENFP-T and that's how I roll. 

I'm currently reading: Sex Criminals No. 1 (a comic about a librarian who can freeze time when she climaxes- I WANTED TO LIKE THIS SO BAD but I'm enjoying it less than I thought I would), Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate, and Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (#beyourownbookclub!)

I'm currently watching: Making a Murder (ew), New Girl Season 4, Buffy Season 7, Gilmore Girls Season 1

I'm currently exhausted. Send coffee and confidence my way. Adulting is hard. Much love to all of you!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Sarah Is Her Own Lady: Celebrating a Career Switch

Over the next few months, I'll be running a series about women who have embraced their own-ness by operating outside of the norm, namely by choosing not to have children, choosing to move far away from their support systems, or choosing to make a major career switch. There are many ways to be your own lady; here's to celebrating your path!

Sarah is a dear friend from high school and I remember her as one of those infectiously sweet and funny people that everyone always wanted to be around. Through the magic of Facebook, we've recently reconnected, and she was kind enough to answer some questions about how she came to switch careers.

1. Tell us a little about yourself (where do you live, what do you, what is your family like, how do you enjoy spending your time?)
  • I live in South Boston in a 1100 square foot condo with my husband and my 6 month old baby. We love our rooftop deck and spend summer nights drinking on the roof. We currently have an exersaucer and playmat in the living room, a jumperoo in the kitchen, and a doorway jumper in our entryway. It's a tight squeeze but we like it.
  • I met my husband in law school and he still practices in Newton. I am the Store Manager of a women's clothing store in Braintree, MA. It's a recent store switch. I used to work downtown Boston as an Assistant Manager in a bigger store. 
  • My immediate family is an army of three. Mike, my husband, Lila, my 6 month old baby, and I are completely infatuated with each other. My husband and I are becoming more successful at work and are trying hard to balance our increasingly heavy workloads with our new role as parents. Some weeks we balance it better than other. We feel a tremendous amount of financial pressure, due to large part to our outrageously large law school loans.
  • We spend our time at restaurants in the Seaport (Boston), watching or going to movies, getting our news through the Daily Show, and taking the baby to the park or beach nearby.
2. Tell us about your career history: what jobs have you held? What jobs were involved in what you consider to be your biggest switch?
  • As a young adult, I always had jobs that involved caretaking, service, or teaching: babysitting, receptionist at a mental health clinic, teaching theater to kids, working with homeless youth. 
  • I ended up applying to law school after college in large part because I didn't know where I was going to live or how to pay for an apartment after college (my family home wasn't an option) and because I had a professor who encouraged me to go to law school.
  • After law school, I was hired as a clerk for the Juvenile and Probate Court where I would work under a Judge, but the recession hit in 2008 and my position was eliminated and my offer revoked. I stayed on with the sole practitioner I interned with during law school. 
  • As a practicing attorney at that law office, I mostly worked in what I call "sad law." The cases I spent the most time on were wrongful death and murder defense cases. Dealing with death day in and out is draining on the soul.
  • I was getting paid hourly even though I worked full-time with no benefits and it wasn't a living wage, so I got a part-time job nights and weekends at a retail store as a sales associate.
3. What was the process like during your job switch? How did it effect you emotionally? Physically?
  • I ended up working about 15 hours a week as a sales associate and within 3-4 months, I was promoted to a part-time manager position.  For a year and a half, I worked 60-70 hours a week between the two jobs. 
  • I found myself loving my part-time "extra" job and hating my full-time "real" job. It was an insane amount of work doing both, but I couldn't get myself to quit the retail job. One month I realized I had worked 21 days in a row between the two jobs but I still didn't leave. I loved the fast pace, the team I was helping build and train, the social atmosphere with clients and associates, and the fun of being around fashion.
  • In 2010, my mother was dying of a brain tumor. One day at my law job, I got a call from her in-home hospice nurse. The call lasted 2 minutes tops. In it, she informed me that she thought my mother had less than 2 weeks to live and that I should make arrangements to stay close to her. When I got off the phone, the attorney I worked for told me that "he really wished I wouldn't take personal calls at work." After that conversation, I quit my law job.
  • I called my retail job to let them know what was happening with my mother. They took me off the management schedule immediately and told me that I should spend time with my family. They said I did not need to check back in with them, that they would take care of everything. They just said to call them when I felt ready to return to work.
  • After my mother passed, I returned to the retail job into a full-time position that had opened up. I planned to try it out and likely return to a law job at some point when the market was better. I loved the full-time position and felt like it was be an insane choice to go back to a field I hated when I had found one that felt like it was tailor-made for me. 
4. Do you feel you lost anything during this switch? What did you gain?
  • In some circles, I lost a sense of prestige. My husband went to a top-tier private prep school for high school and we attend a lot of their alumni events and reunions. When I first attended with him and said I was an attorney, I felt welcomed and like I fit in. When I switched to saying I was a retail manager, I felt like people judged me. I felt like they thought it was more of a blue-collar job than a professional one.
  • In another sense, I lost my investment. I have almost $190,000 in student loans from law school for a degree that I'm not currently using. It is a crushing debt that I deal with on a daily basis. I am paid far more as a Store Manager than I ever earned as an attorney, but I am still living paycheck to paycheck and putting a decent amount of my expenses on credit cards. I think law school taught me to be more analytical, which I certainly use in my job now, but that's a high price to pay. I also met my husband in law school and while he is certainly worth $190,000 to me, that's a hell of a price to pay for a first date.
  • What I gained is priceless: I love going to work every day. What people don't realize is that as an attorney, I had very little control or autonomy. I felt intellectually bored. The work was repetitious and formulaic. As a manager, I'm running a multi-million dollar business and a staff of twenty plus people. I finally get to use the best of what I have to offer: my strengths as a leader, a teacher, a motivator. I work for a company that respects work-life balance, is more than 90% women, and that I'm proud to be a part of. 
5. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to make a career switch?
  • Take StrengthsFinder! It's a Gallup assessment that identifies each person's top five talents. It can be anything from Communication to Adaptability. Then, it suggests different careers that are a great match for those talents. I know hands down that I would never have gone to law school if I had taken this assessment earlier in my life. I think it should be required for all college students before they declare a major!
  • Life is too short to be miserable at work. We are at work a majority of our waking hours. I have friends who still say to me (SEVEN years after graduating law school) "I hate being a lawyer, you're so lucky you got out!" They say it like it's a choice they couldn't possibly make for themselves, which baffles me.  
Thank you for inspiring others to follow their passions and play to their strengths! Any questions for Sarah? Any career changes brewing in your heart?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Word of the Year 2016: Finish

I love the week leading up and the month following a new year. It's a dreamer's paradise. SO many I'm-going-tos with zero harsh realities busting bubbles. That's for February.  I also love the best-of lists that recap the previous year. I've read about the best books, best movies, best pictures, biggest highlights, most important news stories. I adore every second of it. 

I went back and looked at my own 2015 and realized that I really lived the life last year. For the most part, it was a constant party (especially during the months of September and October, when I was literally celebrated for huge chunks of time) and I spent a lot of time doing exactly what I wanted to do. I traveled alone. I devoted hours and hours to myself and my hobbies. The amount of pleasurable adult time I was granted kind of blows my mind- I can't believe I was able to pull that off with a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old. I was selfish. It was good.

But it's not sustainable for a life. I'm considering 2015 The Year I Celebrated Adulting (turning 30) By Acting Like A Teenager. As a result of that, 2016 has become The Year I Buckle Down.

Naming this year turns my stomach,

I don't want to buckle down. I have had a taste of a life that I should have been pursuing much earlier, and I am frankly hooked. I got married young and started my career young and did not spend enough time reading until dawn, drinking on the beach, writing stories for the fun of it, and going to themed events as I should have. I spent a lot of 2015 turning to Ben and saying, "What the hell did I do with my hours of free time before I had kids?!" The honest answer is I ate a lot of junk food, smoked cigarettes on our crappy back porch, and struggled with depression. So I'm glad I'm finally hitting my stride, even if it's a little late.

Despite my whining, I'm ready to Adult a little harder this year, because there is work to be done. I used a lot of logic to pick my word of the year, but honestly what got me started was realizing that two of the TV shows I obsessed over this year are languishing, unfinished, in my Netflix queue (I have one season left of Buffy and two seasons left of Doctor Who). I have stopped SO many important conversations with my friends because they don't want to spoil the Slayer's final battle. I will finish the shows I start.

Other things need to be finished, too. Ben and I just spent some time with a realtor friend and we are going to put our house on the market. (Another sentence that turns my stomach. Teeth clench emoji goes here) We've tried this before, but things are looking more hopeful this time. Also, my kids have grown out of their crib-sized mattresses and new beds don't fit in their room, so we don't really have a choice! Our biggest job in getting the house market ready is to GET RID OF STUFF, and my biggest challenge is sorting through things without spending 3 hours rereading my college notes from Child Psychology. I have inexplicably saved them, and about 1000 other stacks of paper/old greeting cards/ticket stubs. I'm going to have to be focused to get through this process, and focus is not my forte. I will finish getting this house ready to sell, and fast.

Lastly, I have some medical issues that need to be addressed. Blood work that hasn't been done since the last time I really focused on my health (when it was a goal for 2013), an issue with my foot that I keep ignoring (which I know is the worst possible reaction), decisions about my birth control which actually become much larger family planning decisions which bring us back to the whole house issue.

I buried my head in the sand about all of this for all of 2015. It was more fun to follow authors on Twitter and put nips in my iced coffee.

In 2016, I will finish. I will be more decisive and focused, even if it means talking to a doctor about the bigger reasons behind why I can't seem to focus. I will pour a little more of myself into my family, and let myself get into deeper conversations about where and how we will live without hiding behind my phone. I will honor my children and husband by talking frankly about my health with a doctor. I will finally finish Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

What are you tackling this year? (If you like pop culture at all, the predictions/resolutions episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour was particularly satisfying to me.) Happy 2016, lovelies.