Ché's Guide

The Fire That Woke Me: Moving On

the fire

 

I learned a lot from my neighbor Joe dying in a house fire last December. Running to my mom’s house through the police barricades and firemen, watching the black smoke pouring from the house attached to hers and from out of her attic, and seeing on the pavement the lifeless body of my neighbor, his bare leg sticking out from beneath the white sheet that covered him, was one of the worst moments I’ve ever experienced. I immediately started sobbing this strange, animalistic cry that I’ve never made before and pray I’ll never make again. It was the collection of our fears, all the worst case scenarios, realized in real time.

After he was admitted to the hospital, I spent the weekend chain smoking and drinking, unable to erase the image of him that was seared into my mind. After he died, I couldn’t go to my mom’s house. His burnt home was directly beside hers. His truck was still in his driveway. There were boards against the door I used to watch him walk through and ladders in the garden he once cared about. Metal springs, all that were left of his mattress, sat morbidly twisted in his backyard. I could not be near that place, and I don’t know how my family stood it. His blackened bedroom window faced my sister’s. She still keeps her blinds closed.

I couldn’t stop looking back at that morning; the horrible panicked phone call from my mom, the longest car ride of my life, the feeling of terrified panic that clogs your throat.

Yet it’s been nearly two months, and everyone is okay. His home is being rebuilt, his family has returned to wherever they came from, and his truck is finally gone. Joe won’t ever be forgotten but we moved on. I don’t know how; something was lost to us! A relationship perished in the worst way imaginable. There is unfinished business and zero resolution here!  But we didn’t have a choice. We had to return to work, pay our bills, feed our stomachs, and see our friends. Moving on wasn’t an option, it was required.

This is the first time in my adult life that I think I’ve finally accepted that we really don’t get peace and resolve every day. We are not guaranteed closure, or fairness, or a chance at the last word. In fact, we rarely deserve those things. But what we do get are 24 hours to move on, shake off and do better.

I’m reminded of a salary negotiation that went really terribly and how I spent months smoldering over a pay rate that I couldn’t change. There was nothing left for me to do, yet I lived in that conversation for way too long. I didn’t move on and it was as unhealthy as sitting in Joe’s ashed bedroom would have been. What I should have done, and have done since, is learn from my mistake and then get over it.

The habit of living in the past, of putting new words in our mouths for past arguments, imagining conversations going differently or thinking of relationships preserved, is really toxic. It’s an expensive habit that yields no results and costs you whatever time you actually have. Yes, I wish I could have somehow saved Joe and my mom wishes she noticed the fire before it had raged so hotly… but I couldn’t and she didn’t. That’s all there is too it, and the longer we stayed in that day the worse off we were.

Learning from the past is obviously a requirement for every adult that wishes to be successful, but it is also just as important to get over it. If there is one thing I’ve taken from the day that left me so shaken, it’s this; Life sucks, and then you move on. Take from it what you can, and then leave it where it belongs – behind you. There is no use in clogging up your present with yesterday’s darkness.

Sail on, Joe. You are preserved as a good memory, and the darkness is lost. Rest easy, our friend.

Entry Level

Entry Level Woes: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

work_blues

Eventually everyone finds themselves wanting to look for a new job. Now that the economy is getting back on its feet, 2013 is predicted to be the year of “I Quit”. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean hiring managers will pay any attention to you.

According to HR Resource Executive Online, less than half of employers feel new graduates are ready for the workforce. Of course the grads don’t agree, resulting in a severe gap between what entry level wannabe’s think they’re offering versus what employers fear they’ll get. This delusion of office grandeur doesn’t end when you get a job, either. According to anonymous, it takes a long time before fresh faced grads realize they aren’t God’s gift to the workforce. Anonymous writes,

I was confident throughout the interview process, and on my first day didn’t even break a sweat. When I went in to work and found myself setting up computers and taking the minutes during other peoples’ meetings, I thought my employer was under utilizing my enormous skill set. It wasn’t until a month in when I really started to figure out my position that I realized I had no idea what I was doing! 1 million questions and 2 years later, I only now am starting to really feel like I get it.

My point is this – if new grads are 100% sure they are going to blow their workplace away, only to realize two years later that they were nothing more than empty heads and big egos, how can we be so sure that our confidence on flying the coop is any different?

One way to know if you’re truly ready to move on, whether your entry level or not, is to perform a self-audit. Remaining brutally honest with yourself, and evaluating your true intentions, can save you from making rash decisions or finding yourself on the receiving end of an unemployment check.

The “Am I Ready to Leave My Job?” Checklist

[ ] I’ve Outgrown my Position:

If you’ve outgrown your position, you should find a new one. But, have you truly outgrown your title or are you just frustrated/weary/sad over your current responsibilities? Assess these two options carefully, because frustration over fetching coffee or fixing the printer may leave you thinking your employer doesn’t appreciate you, when in reality you’re simply paying your dues. You don’t become CEO in a few days, or even a few years, and if you aren’t willing to eat a few shit sandwiches, you won’t know how to appreciate the Filet Mignon waiting for you at the top. You’ve only truly outgrown your position if you find you aren’t learning anything (because your employer has taught you all there is to learn… which I already don’t believe), your employer tells you that you’ve outgrown your position (yes, this has happened to me), or if you find yourself naturally taking on more responsibility and work because that of your current title no longer fills up your 40-hour work week. If you are working hard, willing to sacrifice and not just desiring a fatter paycheck, then yes, maybe you have outgrown your position.

[ ] I’ve Worked at my Current Organization for > 1.5 Years:

I often hear employees say that no one should leave a job before their 1 year anniversary. I challenge that no one should even begin looking before their 1.5 year anniversary. Time flies and careers are long. Unless your job had only 1 task, and that task was incredibly easy to master, future employers may find it hard to believe you are really ready to take on new challenges after a single year of employment. Plus, leaving a job after 1 year or less makes you look like a job jumper, and employers from previous generations hate job jumpers. If you’re willing to leave your current employer so quickly, why wouldn’t you do the same to your next organization? Employers want longevity out of their employees, and are more likely to invest in a stable candidate than one that seems to need a new title every 12 months.

[ ] I’ve Been Consistently Unhappy for Months:

If you are working on a really difficult project that requires late nights and weekend shifts, your misery is understandable, but not a reason to leave. Creating traction in your career does often require long hours and more dedication than senior level workers. You are proving yourself, and at times that means being a little rundown. However, if you dread going in everyday and feel miserably during your workweek, your emotions may be a sign that you’ve outgrown your position. Good employees who are underutilized will often become unhappy. If you feel you are idling, and there’s no way to move forward with your current employer, you may be ready to move on.

[ ] I Have New Aspirations:

One of the greatest benefits of being entry level, in my opinion, comes from the opportunity to change your mind. Your first ever post-collegiate title does not have to be your last (and I pray it isn’t), and working in an office environment or particular industry may allow you to realize more of your talents and further your passion. If you find that you would be more satisfied if your career moved vertically, or that a complete 180 is called for, go for it. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind, and hopefully your current position has added to your skill set in a way that allows you to successfully pursue your new interests. But of course, wait a year and a half, then go.

Uncategorized

Dieting, Of Course

I’m sweating profusely right now from my third consecutive cup of coffee, watching Sister Wives: Secrets Revealed, and trying to figure out what I’m going to do tonight that doesn’t consist of eating or drinking. What do people do on a Friday night when they’re trying to lose weight?

After Hurricane Sandy, my gym closed for two weeks and I took that as a sign to stop working out for two months. Then came Thanksgiving, a trip to Vegas, Christmas and 2 1/2 weeks away from work, and poof!- here I am, squeezing into every pair of jeans I own. Vanity aside, I feel out of shape, so I finally drug myself back to the gym, started counting calories, and became the cliché post-New Year’s woman. That’s fine with me, I’ve already lost a pound, but nothing reveals your personal flaws as sharply as attempting change. Here’s what I’ve learned in the last four days:

#1: I want variety!

1,300 calories a day isn’t an easy transition, and my options are limited, but I’ll never be able to live solely on salad and chicken. I don’t understand women who have these very strict diets and don’t allow themselves pasta, or taco night, or a margarita once in a while. A life without Alfredo sauce is not worth living.

#2: I need a food diary!

The only way to keep myself from overeating is to write down everything I put in my mouth. I have a sophisticated spreadsheet and a food blog. It’s sick, and I’m ashamed at my lack of personal accountability, but if I don’t visually see the calories adding up, I’ll just keep eating crackers and Gouda until my couch collapses from under me.

#3: I’m an addict!

I don’t smoke and I’m not drinking, and I’m not watching 5 Netflix documentaries in a row either. To fill this void I’m drinking coffee, and obsessing over work out plans and pounding water. Maybe my new habits seem healthier, but they are just as unhealthy if I don’t control them. I obsess over things (you should see me on a Reddit binge) and I need to curb it. A little goes a long way, and I’m only just realizing this.

#4: I’m getting old!

After a year of wearing 4-inch heels to work every day, my feet hurt and my knee is stiff, which isn’t ideal for a wannabe runner. I need to wear much lower heels to work and start taking better care of myself before arthritis and bunions cripple me.

Now please excuse me while I eat something. I think my overly critical self-realizations are a sign of starvation induced insecurity.