Category Archives: Work

Almost 35

35My first ‘career’ job was as a state lawyer. I started in early 2008 and it was the most eye-opening experience of my life. I had gotten through college and law school, but after my final university graduation in 2006 I basically froze up. I had no idea how to succeed outside of an academic setting, basically having taken the easiest routes possible through all seven years of higher education. I probably should have trusted myself a little more considering I managed to make law school easy, but for most of my life self-confidence and trust never really existed. Continue reading

The Interview Series: Full Heart, Empty Mind

IMG_20150220_170714My first impression of her was of a young, energetic, highly intelligent young woman exuding ambition, replete with a tailored tweed suit. I was told she hailed from a political family in the Midwest, and as a third year law student, was more serious about the cases as an intern than almost any of the attorneys in the office. In the intervening five years since we met she had finished law school, become a licensed attorney and state assistant attorney general, gotten married, had her first child and moved across the country. I was intrigued by her experience as a stay-at-home mom after such a hard-charging set of career years. I knew she had left behind a sterling reputation as an outstanding lawyer and respected colleague, and speculation about her political ambitions was often discussed. We talked one night after she’d put her eight month-old son down, and she gave me a look into her dramatically different new life as a mom, making observations and assertions about her experience that seemed to fly in the face of current conventional parenting wisdom.

The mommy world is like an alternate universe, where other moms seem only to talk about kids, she began. Adult interaction has been limited since her son was born, and joining support and educational groups for new mothers has helped her feel more comfortable in her new role. Even so, she senses she’s forgotten how to interact with adults and listening to other women talk about kids eighteen hours a day isn’t helping. “I wish for these grand, complex discussions with adults and I’m on the floor knocking over blocks instead.” Continue reading

The Interview Series: Reflections Of A Woman At 40

IMG_20150220_170714“Being forty, I wish I was living a life people envied. I’m not there and truly wish I was,” she began, as we settled into her living room couch to talk about her life in the first year of a new decade. She seemed to be alluding to her circumstances, the freedom that comes with being unmarried and childless. She cited Jennifer Lopez, a woman in her forties who is in fabulous shape, arguably looking better than ever, single and holding on to fame. “When I hit forty, I gained weight. It was like my womanly curves hit at forty.” She described a whole new crop of stress and change she’s begun to experience ever since her birthday–finding work and relationships draining, she naps (and she’s always hated naps); she’s at her highest weight with no motivation to make changes; she experienced her first bout of seasonal depression this winter; everything seems more expensive, creating barriers to the life she wants. And what life might that be? Continue reading

Overheard In A Consignment Boutique

ovhrdconsignIt was a wet, dreary Friday afternoon, and I wandered into the boutique after stopping for a post-work cup of froyo with some colleagues. I grabbed a few dresses off the racks to try on, just killing time, really. I was the only customer in the store, and as I disrobed, I heard one of the shopgirls say to the owner, “Did I tell you he got fired from the school finally? But it wasn’t for what he did to me. It was because he wasn’t doing his job.” Suddenly, I was no longer killing time, I was listening closely to my next voyeurism piece taking shape. I listened quietly behind the dressing curtain, grateful for its thin, sound-permeable quality as the young woman continued, “…and he totally texted me today, after all that, still trying to get with me.” Continue reading

Ribs

ribsMy first full-blown trial in an actual courtroom was the result of a two-month-old baby boy, Mr. T, who suffered from a pair of broken ribs on each side of his tiny, little torso. Broken ribs in an infant are surprisingly difficult to detect, even with today’s x-ray and other bone-scanning technology. Essentially, the ribs are so small and soft that it is nearly impossible to see the telltale hairline cracks that you would otherwise find in fractures of the longer bones of the legs or arms. Or in the ribs of an adult, I guess. Continue reading

Final Hangover

hangoverI took tiny bites of the salty, fiery veggie pho spiked with Sriracha and lime juice, normally my go-to hangover cure for its stomach-settling and head-clearing powers. My head hung low over the bowl as I struggled to look presentable, appear sharp and interested in the informational interview in which I was engaged. I was four paychecks away from unemployment, a terrifying prospect given the utter instability of my personal life. Deeply in credit card debt, new marriage scraping the rocks, interpersonal dramas playing out every other day, emotionally enmeshed with a long-distance boyfriend, drinking spiraling out of control, I had gone to this networking interview to try and save myself from total crisis. I seemed unable to reduce or stop my alcohol use, to clear the confusion and panic from my mind, to not act on my almost constant outrageous and high-risk impulses. I wanted so much to engage in pleasurable activities that I ignored the risks or consequences. My life was blowing up in my face, my behavior hurting, offending and scaring my friends. I was a runaway train, pedal to the metal, going right off the rails. Continue reading

The Initiative (Starve The Negative Until It Dies) Pt. 2

initiative 2(Continued from Tuesday)

The Initiative was going to work this time, I decided. The organization was small, the mission statement clear (and don’t get me started on the drama and trauma caused by lack of a clear mission statement in the workplace), and the work worth doing, the cause worth believing in. I looked around the table and told my colleagues, “together, we represent thirty-five percent of the office. If we want to make changes, we have the numbers to support them.” We all looked at each other, realizing suddenly that we did indeed represent a rather critical mass, and in that moment I felt a flicker of hope that maybe things could be different. I asked the group if we could agree that we had defined the problems at work down to the tiniest nuance, and that process had become its own problem. Yes. I asked the group if they wanted to try an experiment with me to see if we could influence others in the office with the hope of changing the culture. Yes. I laid out my simple plan: keep it positive, don’t feed the negative, keep it on the level. Continue reading

The Initiative (Starve The Negative Until It Dies)

initiativeA friend asked how we can “upend this perpetual-negativity-as-social-glue phenomena” in response to my “Sexy Negative” post, where I explored that very trend. I realized I owe an answer to that, and perhaps a how-to guide to go along with it. In fact, it feels more like a karmic debt I must pay, since I’ve perpetuated negativity to the point of poisoning whole group cultures (at work, at school, in friend circles, god I’ve been gross). I resolved, in that New Years way, that when I moved to Phoenix I wouldn’t take my bad attitude with me, and I haven’t. For me, it’s easier to live with a sense of optimism, gratitude and positivity in a sunny climate. But I digress. I want to tell you about The Initiative, a surreptitious, exploratory movement I started at a job where the office culture was putrid with negativity, paranoia, gossip and mistrust. The Initiative was an experiment in social learning, specifically the power of modeling certain behaviors in an attempt to shift the culture. Continue reading

It’s Not A War, It’s Inclusion

inclusionThe concept that there’s a war on Christmas frustrates me. The indignant assertions abound: that it’s ok to say Merry Christmas to all people, and that the December holiday season needs to be branded as the Christmas season, and public and government property should rightly be festooned with Christmas trees and creches. It seems the justifications are that the U.S. is a Christian nation, that Christmas is the foremost December holiday, that Christian tradition takes the mantle over public life. Personally, I can’t understand the celebration of one religious group’s holiday requiring the exclusion of all other traditions. For what purpose? My perspective of what I’m going to call the holiday season (a period that ranges from the third week in November through January 1st) is that it’s a time we challenge ourselves to open our hearts, to reach out, be inclusive, give generously and think of those less fortunate. Goodwill towards all, don’t be a dick, treat others with beautiful kindness. And of course, mindless consumerism. In fact, my almost physical inability to say Merry Christmas has its roots in my many years working retail during the holidays. Continue reading

Yeah, I’ve Got a Problem With Authority, So?

authorityI can scarcely remember a time in my life when I wasn’t involved in challenging the authority figures in my life one way or another. My mom likes to tell a story from when I was very young, probably about two or three, when I wouldn’t stop walking directly in front of her, causing her to stumble and trip. We were walking in the fields behind our house in pastoral Middlebury, Vermont, down to a small pond. Though I can’t remember, I’m sure I was getting under her feet with the express purpose of tripping her, likely with a literal display of toppling authority in mind. She relates that she became so frustrated after telling me multiple times to stop that she pushed me down into the soft tall grass. Apparently I got up and we finished our walk without incident. Being underfoot as a toddler was the first of many, many confrontations with authority figures I’ve had over the course of my life. The lesson has never been learned, which leads me to believe I will always be looking for a weakness in my superiors to exploit. Sigh. Continue reading