Jerel Says, ‘Go West, Young Man, Go West’; Grit

Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.

-Horace Greeley

Horace Greeley was an American author and newspaper editor during the mid 1800s. Go WestGreeley greatly supported the idea of westward expansion and, after President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, which gave settlers willing to move West large plots of public land provided they stayed for at least five years, encouraged Civil War veterans to take advantage of it. Like most Americans in the 19th century, Greeley believed in Manifest Destiny, that it was the mission and purpose of Americans to expand and settle across all of North America. He believed that Americans had the intrinsic qualities of fortitude, resolve, and grit necessary to thrive in the west, and that those willing could find fertile farmland to help ease the growing problems of poverty and unemployment troubling the big cities on the Eastern coast. He said other things about people from the East coast, but they can’t always be right, right?

I went West this week in search of destiny, too. Sort of. I actually went North. And then BrattleboroEast. Like, way way North and then a good bit of East. To Vermont, which isn’t exactly Oklahoma. But then from Vermont I traveled to New Hampshire! Which, admittedly, when you look at it from a geographical point of view, is also East. So for some unknown reason for quite a long time and long distance, I was going the wrong way. My friends can attest that my sense of geography has never been the strongest. But for once the sidetracking and the backtracking didn’t frustrate me. I wasn’t upset or angry. In fact, I have to say that those two hours I spent going West today were some of the best two hours of driving I’ve ever experienced. I spent a happy, awe-inspiring two hours on Vermont’s scenic, sprawling, beautiful Route 9 West.

Merrimack

After a good night’s rest, I was on the road bright and early, heading out at 7am this morning. I wouldn’t have to be at my first stop until 9am, so I had plenty of time as I set out. One thing you have to realize way up north here in Vermont and New Hampshire is that there isn’t much room for things. These were some of the earliest and first Rally.gifsettled areas of the colonial times, so many of the old roads still stand. What might have been fine for smaller horse drawn carriages has over time resulted in long stretches of single lane highways winding through forests and up and down mountains. In fact most of my driving this morning was almost exclusively on mountain roads, with varying stretches of either long gradual inclines and declines and sharp, steep climbs and drops. Just driving the roads themselves was fantastic.  It’s times like these I miss my old car. A six-cylinder sedan with squirrely front wheel drive would have been aggressive and reckless on these winding paths. Instead I had my Subaru Forester, a safe and responsible grippy four-wheel drive. Yeah, unfortunately, no matter how much I tried, I never felt unsafe or like I had to wrestle my car to grip the road. Too bad. These roads are also heavily unmonitored, as there’s no room for a cop car to hide, and since Interstates are so much more convenient and spacious, they’re practically empty. I was living out my rally car dreams, racing as fast as I could go. Route 9W is a beautiful and unpredictable road. You’re constantly winding left and right, never seeing more than two turns ahead of or behind you. At some points there are even hairpin turns. As you’re carving your way through the mountains of Vermont you are treated to high towering Winding Roadbridges, low roads running right by the  river, and literal cliffside paths keeping you no more than a few feet from the edge. As a road, Route 9 West is to me one of the absolute best to drive in America in terms of quality of pavement (even with the harsh weather and seasons of the Northeast, these rarely used roads don’t see much wear and tear from tires, heavy trucks, or salt), design (long, graceful, elegant curves, sharp banks, a variety of incline, and with bridges, cliffs, and rivers a great mix of driving elements), and overall pleasure to drive (no car traffic at all, no stop signs or lights, and with a speed limit of 50, it’s already pretty generous). For car enthusiasts, your so-called ‘gear heads’ or ‘petrol heads’, I would already recommend Vermont Route 9 West solely for the road itself.

But there’s so much more! Oh, is there just so much more. It had rained the night before, and there was still a slight mist in the air when I left this morning. The roads were stillFoggy Road.gif dry and not at all slick, but the entire forest, and it seemed like I was driving through an endless expanse of forest, had that glistening shining fresh mist quality. The woods seemed alive and as you went further and further up the mountain, a beautiful gray fog started to blanket certain spots. Just a few isolated areas where it felt like you were literally driving through clouds. The fog hung suspended, frozen in mid air, wisps of smoke so vivid they were like white fingers reaching out in the middle of the road. As it was cooler in the shade of the trees and with the rain still on the branches I drove with my windows down, enjoying the fresh mountain air and that smell of forest spring rain. Whereas I normally Mountain Pass.gifentertain myself on long drives with cheesy dance music and songs I sing *cough*screamandbutcher* to, on this drive I listened to the soft steady roll of my tires on damp road. I saw, either from above on bridges or right beside me at potentially hazardously low sections of highway, wide and mighty and expansive rivers twist and turn and grow and shrink until they were just streams and brooks and I could see the jagged rocks of the river bed. At certain scenic overlooks you could just view over the edge of the road more and more mountain peaks and endless forest. It was sight and smell and sound like you wouldn’t believe. Rolling blankets of mist and fog, sunshine peeking through pockets of trees, running waters, smooth pavement, the smell of rain on leaves. I was half expecting to drive right into the forest in Princess Mononoke or My Neighbor Totoro.

And here’s the most surprising part of this beautiful and thrilling road. Up in the mountains, lost in the mist and fog, surrounded by trees, you’re not alone. I mentioned before that there are a few gorgeous scenic overlooks. Well they’re all connected on what I have to believe are some fairly popular and well known hiking trails. With nary a Mountain Hike.gifsingle driver to be found, I must have encountered a good handful of hikers. Some were walking along the road, others were paused at the various overlooks, still it was nice to see other people enjoying this beautiful area, albeit they have their way and I prefer mine. I’ll admit at a few overlooks I was tempted to stop and take a moment to take it all in and snap a few photos. But I did have a final destination to get to. These would not be the meanderings of a drive for pleasure. (Which is very different from a drive of pleasure, mind you.) Still you felt a little connection with these people as you passed them, knowing that of everything in the world, you are at the very least similar in your appreciation of that moment, that setting, that experience. And I also happened to need gas, and stopped at a little gas station right on the edge of the road, still a good ways away from reconnecting to any major highways or interstates. You know those gas stations. Local, friendly, and this one in particular was run by the very lovely Davenport family. I got to spend some time speaking with one of the owners, a young woman actually. I was surprised when she came out to meet me as I was starting to pump my gas. I’m not used to full service stations outside of New Jersey and yet there she was, not only filling my car but wiping the windshield and checking the oil. I swear that forest really is magic, because she must have stepped out of the 1950s. She laughed at my confusion and said that a lot of people who stop by from way way way out of town are surprised to find a full service station. I was already out of the car and wanted to stretch my legs anyways, so we chatted for a bit. And then she looked at me and asked ‘are you from the Philippines by any chance?’

Well, yes, yes I am. Now how in the middle of Narnia did you figure that out.

Turns out, her grandfather was in the military, and was stationed in the Philippines in the 1910s. She grew up reading the letters her grandfather sent to her father about the beautiful islands and the extremely rural lands and natives. She believes her grandfather was stationed in Iloilo, which would make sense as it was an economic and military Old Stationcenter for the Spanish and the United States. She told me how fascinated she was by the descriptions and how she’d grown up always wanting to visit and see for herself the places her grandfather had been to and wrote to her father about. I told her to train herself by sitting in a tiny chair for twenty three hours. But that it would be totally worth it, and that she’d be spoiled for choice in terms of islands and exoticness. It was just a nice surprise to have that thread of a story to grasp at so far from well, anywhere really. But as I pulled out of the gas station it was fun to think here is a family run business that’s been there forever, run by third generation, dreaming about the Philippines and the history and legacy of a family. Route 9 West just kept giving and giving.

As most of you know, I have to travel a lot for my job. Most of it is usually by car. Sometimes I get lucky, and I get a break from ‘highway hypnosis’ with these ventures into smaller roads. Sometimes I get to see more than just barrier walls and metal signs. But never for as long as I had on this road, and never with such an impact. There’s something really beautiful and magical about Route 9 West in Vermont. It’s more than just a fun road to drive. Or a beautiful place to look at. If you’re like me, you’re going to quickly realize that there is more than just a journey to be had here. There are stories. And if you’re not like me and still want to go, I’ll drive you.

Jerel says, ‘Go West, young man, go West’.

Day 306: The Man and the Lone Traveler; ‘Pursue’

Today is my last (physical) day in the office, and then two personal days to complete the week (and the paycheck, hahah). This was waiting for me when I got in this morning.

Last Day

I do love the people I work with. They’ve got a great dark sense of humor. This is the team I work parallel to; they do the real main support and me and the rest of my team, we’re just the front lines, the ones who go out to the stores, so we get all the glory. It’s a shame really, wish I could give them a bigger shout out for all they do. I like the people I work with. (For, well, that’s a different story.)

So Friday I leave for Canada on my own, and aside from two nights where I will be meeting up with some old friends and a group walking food tour of Old Montreal, I will primarily be doing everything on my own. I’m very used to being a single traveler nowadays, though honestly I never thought I wanted to be one, or thought I would be. There are still so many trips I wish I could take with a special someone. I’ve done Vegas with friends, Vegas with family, but never Vegas with, you know, her. Or Aruba. I’m pretty sure that one I’ll specially reserve still though. No point going there by yourself.

The first couple times you do it, the first few nights there can sometimes be this tug of Solivagantwar between wanting to go out and just staying in your room where it’s safe and comfortable. The first few nights with this job when I was traveling to stores I’d just order insane amounts of Chinese delivery or pizza. Then I started slowly and gradually going out. First to chain restaurants, simple places where lone business travelers could find company by proxy in the shared chaos. And then to the more quiet, independent, noticeable places where a single diner could actually stick out.

There are definitely a few pros to traveling on your own. It gives you an unparalleled feeling of power and agency. There is nothing you’re doing that you don’t want to do. For the obsessive-compulsive planner (such as myself) it’s so much easier to have your entire trip planned out two, or even three weeks out, down to the day and time (which I have). For the free spirit, there’s no other accommodation or negotiation to answer the call of every whim. It also forces you to be more engaged and focused on your destination. When it is just you and a blank slate trip in a brand new city, you really have to create your own story. There is no safety blanket, no other who you can abdicate power and authority to. You are your own destiny’s author. So guess who’s fault it is if you have a terrible trip. I’ve put my ear closer to the ground than ever before and really had to find what it was I wanted to find, what I wanted to get out of every trip, every opportunity. I think it makes me a more responsible, aware, and excited traveler.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am in no way trying to convince people solo travel is better than accompanied travel. I’m not even trying to compare the two. What I am trying to do is convince those people who have always been on the fence about taking that trip and whose only sole reason for not going is because they don’t have someone to go with, to go. No one has to be convinced more than once about going on a trip with people. Everyone speaks of the joy of traveling with company. But solo travel shouldn’t be something intimidating, or hell, only for seasoned travelers. Newbies, rookie travelers, and the uninitiated should find the comfort and confidence to do it too.

I think the biggest, and sometimes funniest, obstacle to traveling alone is the constant need to contextualize yourself to curious minds. The person checking you in will ask you if you need one key or two, expecting you to say your travel partner is just late arriving. Eating AloneAlmost every pre-booked excursion or activity you try to go on will default to two adults. You’ll never have to worry about reservations at restaurants, though I would please encourage you to avoid the comfort of sitting at the bar and actually own the experience of dining by yourself at a table. Your waiter will do a double-take and try to figure out if they need to pour water into the second glass in front of you. I used to like to mess with people when this happened. At resorts when I was traveling as an agent to do a site inspection or familiarization trip, I would weave sob stories of being an abandoned groom whose bride-to-be left him at the altar, but the honeymoon deposit was non-refundable. At restaurants I would eagerly sit upright and tell my waiter I was there for a blind date who would inevitably never show up. I think it’s interesting that for as much as people don’t want to travel alone, they don’t want to think others would either. Hahah.

I’m too excited and too eager to take this trip to have to sit by the wayside and wait for someone to go with. There are enough adventures out there for a solo traveler to pursue that can fill one’s life with stories and interest while you move ever closer to finding the person you’ll travel with for the rest of your life. You have to remember that this is the time that they are out there making stories and experiences to share with you as well. Don’t be the one to bring nothing to the table. For anyone who might be hesitant or unsure of solo travel, take it from someone who’s spent the past two years now doing it, it can open up a whole new world. Maybe in the future I’ll do a solo traveler guide, but really, all you need is the drive. So if I could sell you the emotions and the motivation, I would.

Day 306

Man: 273 Loneliness: 33

Day 294: The Man and the Amicable Split; ‘Knackered’

UPDATE ON THE WHOLE JOB THING.

Finally told my boss. Waited because a) still wanted to be able to go to Punta Cana and b) some office friends wanted to watch my boss’s reaction and see if she’d cry or lash out.

On the a) front, I’m still going. In fact, one of the first things she mentioned after I told her I was leaving was trying to make sure I would still be able to go. Yes that’s right, I’m leaving and she wanted me to go on this trip.

I mean…I made the presentation and no one else knows the material and also no one is available to travel but…let a guy feel special.

So that means next week is Punta Cana, the week after is my last (and I’ll take two personal days to end it even sooner), and the week after is Montreal and Quebec! Have to start planning that. Definitely doing it by rail. There is no form of transport more romantic. I actually have an old high school friend who lives in Montreal with her husband, and I haven’t seen them since the wedding like, three years ago, so this’ll be nice to see them again. And oh my god. The food. Montreal is doing some truly incredible things with its talented pool of young chefs.

So the conversation itself was very…strange. My manager took the sudden news of my departure surprisingly well. Actually…she sort of…counter-offered. But not really. She let me know that she applied for raises for the three of us in the department and that it might be accepted starting July, and the number was very promising (more than the offer from the other company). And she was surprisingly candid about not wanting to lose me and wishing I might consider based on the proposed pay. Leave it to Mother to talk some sense though. She wanted me to update her as soon as the conversation was done. I told her ‘counter offer is more than job offer, but it’s a proposed raise and for all three of us’. Her response was ‘oh so you’re not special. Nah, leave them’. I am full on leaning towards that, but just for the heck of it, I’ll give it the weekend to ponder and email my manager my decision.

It’s a strange feeling having almost both feet now already out the door. It’s nice to know it won’t swing shut on me at least and that there’s a nice slow gentle closing.

Now tonight I have to visit my martial arts school of the past three or so years and tell them I’m leaving them as well. I found a new school that actually focuses on one particular style, and it’s one I’ve always wanted to learn. I’ve felt absolutely knackered already with the stress of one departure but I guess I’m just a glutton for punishment. If I had a girlfriend maybe I’d break up with her today too. Oh god.

Tonight it’s video games and late night food with my brother to recover. And dreams of Punta Cana and Canada.

Day 294

Man: 261 Loneliness: 33

Day 291: The Man and the Work Uniform Update; ‘Gray’

Just wanted to let you all know on this gray day (at least in the northeast US) that I am still alive.

Sorry for the lack of updates.

I didn’t want to say anything until I knew for sure one way or the other, but basically over the past month I’ve been secretly looking for a new job, and this past week I had some pretty serious, promising interviews.

The stress and guilty feeling of hiding my plans of departure from coworkers and making sure my boss didn’t find out and fire me prematurely were kind of getting to me and after the most recent interview my heart has been in my throat. There was a part of me that wanted to hope, but another part that was almost certain it wouldn’t work out and I would be disappointed.

Well, today I can tell you for a firm fact that I’ve just accepted a job offer!

It’s the same type of role, a field trainer with 50% on the road responsibilities, but the pay is a tiny bit better, the geographical area is smaller, and the 50% not on the road will be from the comfort of home.

I also feel like I’ve freed myself of the toxic environment of my boss, though I do think I’ll miss some of my coworkers.

I feel so guilty though. I’m working on a presentation I’m supposed to present at a conference in Punta Cana. They already paid for my tickets and my room. All-inclusive, the Hard Rock. We’re talking like, 9 restaurants, 12 bars, and the largest casino in the Dominican Republic y’all.

I don’t know if they’re gonna still let me go, considering it’s this Monday to Friday (imagine the first of my last two weeks is basically a vacation to the DR!). Hahah. What I do know is I asked my new job to start me in three weeks so I can give myself a week off and take that trip to Canada I’ve always wanted to take.

Anyways, I’m ecstatic. And aside from my family, you are all the first to find out.

Cheers. And now that that stressful episode is over, back to our regularly scheduled programming!

Day 291

Man: 258 Loneliness: 33

Day 256: The Man and the Icy Spring; ‘Minimal’

As you may have known from the news, your calendar, but almost certainly not by looking outside, yesterday was the official first day of Spring over on the northern hemisphere. Some of you might have bravely tried to celebrate by throwing an outdoor picnic in defiance of the actual weather. Maybe you started your Spring cleaning. Perhaps you were just generally filled with an unreasonable amount of optimism, hope, and enthusiasm because somewhere underneath your three foot pile of snow, there is a flower ready to bloom.

I made ice.

SquidwardIc

More specifically, I made 40 buckets x 5 gallons each worth of ice. That’s 200 gallons of ice. I’m not even sure you measure ice in gallons. Once it’s a solid I guess you’re supposed to do weight?

Allow me to explain. If you grew up anywhere in the PA/NJ/DE area, you’ve probably heard of Rita’s Italian Ice. And as the business has continued to grow, your chances of visiting, or at least seeing them with their trademark red and white awning, spread to pretty much all of the east coast US, parts of central and north US, and hell, even the Philippines has a couple now too. My family actually owns and operates three Rita’s Italian Ice franchises here in northern New Jersey. After my parents both lost their jobs, they pooled our family’s money together and we bought our first two stores having never tried or even heard of Rita’s beforehand. None of us had prior food industry or business ownership experience either. We bought the first two five years ago, the third three years ago, and ever since from the months of March to October, we are Rita’s HQ. Our guestroom becomes filled with promotional marketing posters, cases of bottled water, and teeth shattering bulk tons of sugar and flavor syrup. Step too hard on the floor and you’ll hear all of the sprinkles (or jimmies if you’re from Boston) shaking in the bags upon bags we order for our ice cream toppings. For eight months out of the year I never have to worry about where I’ll get my next ice cream, milkshake, sundae, misto, or ice fix. Perks of being part-owner you know.

Get Rita's.jpg

The grandest and most marketably philanthropic gesture of Rita’s Italian Ice is that every First Day of Spring (what we in the ‘biz call the F.D.O.S.) every Rita’s store (I assume around the world as well) gives out free ice to celebrate the start of Rita’s season. Let me tell you this has been a tradition from way way way back before we bought the stores and no other entity has a grip on the First Day of Spring like Rita’s does. That is our holiday. Our jam. Our claim to fame. Dairy Queen can try to copy us, but pretty much all up and down the East coast, FDOS is Rita’s territory.

As you can imagine, with so much tradition behind it and a huge following, plus the always-enticing appeal of you know, ‘free’, the First Day of Spring can become pretty hectic at a Rita’s. We were grossly and sorely unprepared for our first FDOS. We only had two stores so my mother and father were at the one, and my brother and I were at the other. We had our standard eight different flavors of freshly made Rita’s italian ice (very different from a shaved ice mind you) and figured it’d be just like any other day.

FDOS.png

HOLY HELL.

We opened at noon. From opening to closing at 9, the line was never any less than 50 people deep. We had regular employees as well but still, we were running and jumping and scooping ice. My brother was in the back at the ice machine making bucket after bucket and we couldn’t make it faster than people were coming to eat it. To work at a Rita’s you need to be able to scoop and sling ice like nobody’s business. It’s a completely unique product with a very unique texture and character so it’s a signature skill of a Rita’s Treat Team member. When I was running and managing our third store on my own, I would train and time our Team members. If you couldn’t fill a regular sized cup in less than 6 seconds, you were out. On the FDOS, you need to be able to do it in 3. By the end of the day your hands are sticky from all the melted ice and sugar and they’re dyed all sorts of bright colors because of the flavors. Bright blue cotton candy. Brilliant orange colored mango flavored ice. The deep staining red of cherry or Swedish Fish. Green apple. Green obviously. It’s all over you. You try to fight it the first couple times you get splattered but by the end you look like you finished the diabetic version of a color run.

Color Run.gif

Ever since then I’d like to say we’ve learned, perhaps even perfected the system, to ensure a successful and relatively easy FDOS with minimal setbacks. And yet…you just cannot ever really tell. Yesterday there was still a good four or five inches of snow on the ground and the warmest it ever got was 47 Fahrenheit. Here’s my store’s front at 11:45, fifteen minutes before opening.

Rita's Butler

Obviously now that we have three stores we are more spread apart. I used to run this location and so I have the most experience here so I was left alone to deal with everything until our first Treat Team member came in at 4. Most of our employees are high schoolers. Here’s what was waiting for me at 11:59, a minute before we opened.

Rita's FDOS.jpg

And from then on until closing it did not let up. I had 20 buckets of italian ice already on reserve made over the weekend and still last night I had to make ten more. Sugar and flavor base were flying all over the place. When we all finally finished I had to shake myself like a dog to get all the dust and powder off me.

You know what though…it was still a pretty fun day. I like the rush and the adrenaline and trying to rise up to the challenge of 30 people waiting for their free treat. And as much as Rita’s really is a unique product, the FDOS is a unique experience. One only Rita’s members can really attest to. We tell our members, especially if we hire them in the summer for extra help, you’re not really a part of the team until you’ve survived your first FDOS. Even now with my own career and path, I always take a personal day to help out my family. This business is my parents’ nest egg. We are trying to make sure the stores can generate enough for my parents to save and comfortably rely on later on. It puts food on our table, clothes on our backs, and a roof over our heads. At the end of the night, after we clean the stores and wipe down all the sticky sugary counters and count up the money we made, we all meet up at the local diner and share a celebratory, recuperative meal and share stories of the good, the bad, and the ugly. I didn’t get home until midnight last night, and after washing off all the dye and lotioning up enough to make Buffalo Bill uncomfortable (the constant submerging in water and sugar will dry your skin like nobody’s business) I didn’t get to bed until 3am. I’m exhausted and my legs are so tired from standing and running and moving and lifting those heavy ice buckets all day. I’m half-paying attention to my work and really just hoping to book a conference room and nap. But I would never not be there for the First Day of Spring. I’d never not throw myself into the ring for my family and more importantly, with my family. I’m never going to remember or share stories about the work I had to do for myself the day after. But I will always remember the late dinners my family and I shared on the First Day of Spring.

Day 256

Man: 223 Loneliness: 33

Day 249: The Man and the Snow Day

For the record, I’m not dead. I’m just immersed in about two feet of snow. A surprise nor’easter hit the northeast US and my snow blower broke about three feet from my front door.

WhatBlizzard.gif

I can’t help but think I asked for this. I think I might have done my snow dance a bit too much. I mean, I’m still enjoying the work from home, and knowing how miserable my coworkers, and especially my boss who hates the cold, must be. One man’s misery is another man’s pleasure after all.

SnowDive

Anyways we’re supposed to get even more overnight into tomorrow. The first day of Spring is this Monday and we’re supposed to get two straight days of snow. So you know…that’s a thing to consider. Anyways, if you’re in warmer places, I don’t necessarily envy you since I love the snow and the cold. And if you’re anywhere near the northeast US, remember, this is what makes us tougher than everyone else. Hahah.

SnowFight.gif

Day 249

Man: 216 Loneliness: 33

 

Day 243: The Man and the Working for Love; ‘Nervous’

So a couple days ago I wrote about how nervous I was to approach my boss about trying to seek a promotion or new position somewhere in our company. In that post I wrote about the relationship between employer and employee and how different it was from say, when my parents were working for companies and even more so from when their parents were working. It got me thinking to the time around three months ago when I was coming in late to work, generally disinterested and unmotivated, and my boss pulled me into the same room I used to speak with her to ask me if I still ‘loved it here’. And between those two experiences I started to think about work and how it relates to relationships and love and I wanted to share some of my thoughts.

I think it’s very interesting that the question of ‘love’ has any sort of bearing or relevance Spongbob Workwhen it comes to work. You know this blog really started from a place of love. Of missing love, wanting love, and seeking love but firstly, of working to define what it is to ‘love’ and what we want when we say we want ‘love’. And when my boss asked me that question I was so taken aback and so insulted that she could have the audacity to relate such an important and integral aspect of the human experience to something as paltry and pedantic as my 9 to 5. Love my job?! I don’t have to love my job! I have to do it, do it damn well, and leave it at the end of the day. That’s my work and that’s about as much responsibility and affection as I can stomach or muster for this.

I would never, ever, agree to the idea that one should ‘love’ what they do. I know full well that the reality of life is that there are many people who are in jobs they don’t love, but they do it for the ones they do. All work is noble, but certainly not lovable. This is not some mind-blowing revelation, nor is it anything to be sad about. When my father first arrived in the US he was a gas station attendant. My mother was a phone salesman for a rug company. I look at my friends and I know for a fact that they all almost immediately ‘turn off’ at 5. Sometimes earlier. Hell, I’ve been known to sneak out of the office at 2 or 3 in the afternoon if I know no one needs me or is looking for me. But just because we aren’t in love with what we do doesn’t mean we are any sadder or that our lives are any less complete. For the most part, we are in successful, consistent, and reliable gainful employment that allows us to save for our future, enjoy our present, and share with the ones we love. There is nothing to be disappointed in being able to do all that just because we aren’t skipping and singing to work every morning. So no, I don’t love what I do, but I’m not discouraged by that fact and I’m not sad for it. This shouldn’t be a necessity to do good in whatever it is that we do.

But, I have come to realize that, just like in everything else, having love for your work can certainly be an asset and an improvement. Love is a motivation and an inspiration. Some of the greatest and most successful innovations in any industry have either come from a Elf Workvery deep-rooted sense of professionalism and business acumen or from a place of pure love for the work or the product. In the long run one could even argue that you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, one from the other. Employees who feel love in their work are often more motivated, more enthusiastic, and yes more loyal. There is always room for love in the workplace, for the workplace, as an effective business asset. But I would be wary to ever put any credence or value in the oft-quoted and very untrue expression ‘if you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life’. This is a lie, best buried in the graveyard of Instagram cliches. Love is work. To maintain, to grow, to find, and to keep. So if you are fortunate enough to do what you love or love what you do, you’ll know that it takes just as much if not more work, but you will find it personally and professionally satisfying.

When love becomes part of the supposed compensation, this can also be a problem. When I was a teacher, I often heard from other teachers and family and friends that ‘we [teachers] don’t do it for the money, we do it for love’.

Pardon my French, but FUCK that.

Doing something strictly for ‘love’ makes you two things. Dumb and poor. There’s no reason why, if you provide a valuable service, you shouldn’t also expect an equally valuable form of FOB Check.gifcompensation. This sentimental argument has been used to keep some professions down and make them feel bad for trying to change their status. There’s no denying that there is a higher sense of purpose and calling for those who decide to pursue education. It is a grueling, often times thankless occupation, but it is a pillar of society to create and improve future generations. Teachers are some of the most valuable and selfless members of our community. As such, we find it so easy to take advantage of their giving natures. We question their expertise, undermine their authority, and when it’s time to start ‘trimming the fat’ so to speak, we are quick to put them on the block first. Simultaneously, teachers have so embedded into themselves this sense of selfless sacrifice that they feel uncomfortable or awkward asking for more. They can, and often times do, sacrifice their financial security and prosperity because they believe the love they have, for their profession, their students, their subject, is more important. But you can’t eat love, now can you? So many want to convince us that doing what we love and loving what we do is so essential, but at the same time these same people want to take advantage of the love we do have for our work to undercut our compensation. Listen, maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to love what I do. And maybe one day I’ll do something for the love of it. But definitely this day, one day, and for every day in the future, I will need to be compensated.

I think if we talk a bit now about the relationship we have with our jobs and our employers, we can see why ‘love’ became such a hot topic to begin with. I believe there was a time when the relationship between employer and employee was actually very much akin to the relationship of two lovers. There was a time when being ‘married to the job’ was true in more than one sense. It used to be a person could come into the same place of work every day for their entire life and know that a) their job was secure b) their pay was fair and c) their future was being provided for. My father hung his hat on the same hook for over Temple Grandintwenty years. Back then I think companies took a much more honest and caring approach to their employees. You didn’t think about hopping from one company to another. Compensation, opportunity, and security could all be found right where you were. You used to get gold pens and watches on work anniversaries, and a retirement was like losing a family member. 9 to 5 is 8 hours of your day. That’s 1/3. Five times a week, 50 weeks a year (minus vacation of course), that’s 2000 hours or 1/4 of your year. When you spend upwards of twenty or thirty years in the same place, you start to build actual relationships. And you might as well, because you’re going to be here a while. So much of our work culture and language are interchangeable with family and married life. Being ‘married to the job’. Having a ‘work wife’ or ‘work husband’. Meeting your significant other through work was much more common. Granted, so was meeting the person you’d eventually have an affair with but, hey, it all comes with the territory. The point was, you could realistically spend a good portion of your life in this one place. Work was like a second family or a first wife (or husband, whatever). In this marriage-relationship you knew that the two parties were equally responsible but for different things. You cared for the company, and it in turn cared for you. Work for reward. Security for loyalty. For a very long time the relationship between employee and employer was one akin to marriage.

I don’t see that nowadays. I see a complete and utter lack of concern or interest from employers to employees. There is a deep-rooted sense of ingratitude on both ends I think, that causes both parties to distrust each other and so relations deteriorate. Employees still Lucy Workwant very much of the same thing. Security, good pay, benefits. The major difference now is that with much more job mobility and flexibility, when an employee realizes he or she isn’t getting these needs met, we have more freedom to get up and leave. So retention goes down. Loyalty goes down. In turn, companies start to mistrust their employees and invest less value in them. We’ve turned companies into stepping stones and companies have in turn turned us into interchangeable parts. I don’t know of a single person in my generation who has worked in the same company for longer than three years. And don’t get me wrong, I fully realize I am part of this problem. I too am currently looking for a new and better position and yes, I am not opposed to the idea of leaving this company. I just recently hit two years and I’m looking around and seeing how many faces are different and whose faces are the same and I fear I am not smart enough to leave yet and I don’t want to be the last rat off a sinking ship.

I think companies are trying real hard to throw the wool over our eyes too. Yes, my company has a bar and free drinks every first Friday of the month. We have barbecues and outdoor parties in spring and summer. I did a slip ‘n slide for Christmas. There’s this rampant atmosphere of party and free perks. But I never asked for beers and a beanbag chair. I wanted to be able to work my way up and know my efforts would be recognized and rewarded with further responsibilities and therefore compensation. Companies nowadays are very good at enticing you to get into the door. But they don’t know how to keep us there. It’s all flash and pomp and circumstance but no real substance. At a certain point, companies stopped taking care of us and we stopped taking care of companies. I don’t know which came first but at this point it doesn’t really matter because I see no signs of any sort of improvements or changes to this. It’s hard to love or feel love in a relationship when you know both parties stopped trying a long time ago.

Day 243

Man: 210 Loneliness: 33

 

Day 238: The Man and the Signs of Bad Fortune?; ‘Desire’

God I really wish I had better news today. But it’s gotten so bad it’s almost to the point of comical. Or I’m delirious.

So taking some of your advice, I didn’t wear my Power Rangers shirt today. Even though it was a new shirt and it had the original MegaZord on it and it looks so cool. I dressed smartly and professionally, with a sweater over a long sleeve button up. It was my favorite outfit back when I was a teacher. Woke up early, had a good breakfast (egg salad sandwich, because you know, no meat Fridays are gonna be a thing for a while), and got to work with six minutes to spare.

And then I turn on my computer. And see the email.

She’s still out sick. My boss decided not to come in again.

Not only that, but one coworker has ‘caught’ the same illness and the other is in Staten Island. Which means I came in to basically having to run the whole show by myself. Could’ve taken my time. Could’ve stopped by some place and gotten myself a coffee. And unlike the past couple days where, like any good worker would do, I just left whenever I desired, I know I have to stay today because of Flash Friday and the bar. I feel like I’ve been held hostage by my hopes and dreams.

It’s not too-too bad. I’ve been watching YouTube videos, catching up on shows on-demand, and since it’s Flash Friday I can walk around the building and count on every department having put out some sort of spread. Hahah. I’m terrible as a ship without a rudder though, because I will absolutely take advantage of the situation.

It’s alright though, because Monday I’ll come in early (again) and look my best (again), maybe I’ll even wear the company tie with my uniform, and I’ll talk to her. She’ll have had the weekend to rest, recuperate, and I’m sure she’ll be in a better mood.

Right? Right? Right?!

Well…

Then IT happened.

I’ve been closely monitoring all of our support pages and doing a pretty damn good job answering the requests as soon as they pop up. I mean we’re talking milliseconds of delay. But one happened to slip by me. A consultant wanting to know if we had Spanish versions of our forms to give to clients who did not speak English. Okay, no big deal, we don’t and it isn’t our responsibility, but I see my BOSS has already answered much to the same effect. No, sorry, not company policy, etc.

Consultant wants to know what our ‘work around’ is for this.

Okay well to be honest we don’t have one, and I do feel like it shouldn’t be our responsibility to have to accommodate in this way. In a lot of ways our consultants are their own businesses and need to take on their own responsibility by either insisting that clients come in person or offer to translate over the phone. As a child of immigrants, I know they taught themselves how to assimilate and recognized of their own volition the necessity of knowing the native language in order to succeed and work. I believe anyone with the desire can do the same.

But you know, I’d say it diplomatically. My very fiery tempered and short-fused boss said something to the effect of ‘get a translator or buck up’.

I’m watching this with my jaw on the floor because this exchange is getting out of hand. And anyone who knows my boss would have stopped right here and we’d all just go on our merry way.

But no, this crazy woman from some random store in the country who only works part-time and doesn’t know when or where to shut up has to get a word in edgewise along the lines of ‘oh well I think that was very offensive and I think you should take that down because if someone out of this company saw this you would be in much more trouble than you can handle’.

Oh. My. God. Her hair is probably on fire right now. I’m going to be stuck in this chair for the rest of my life.

The ENTIRE exchange has since been taken down with no record of it existing (except for the screenshot I saved because, well, this was hilarious). But there is no way she’s in a pleasant mood right now and I have no idea what the weekend is going to do. Thanks a lot DEBORAH. What kind of crazy amount of damage control am I going to have to do. And I swear to god if my boss’s son loses his hockey game this weekend it’s all over. I have to take a heavy interest in this woman’s personal life now because who knows what mood I’ll be dealing with when I go ‘hey I want to improve my life’. She’s probably wringing her hands together right now over a cauldron plotting revenge.

So like, what am I supposed to take away from all this?! Four days of trying to talk to her, four days of missed chances because she’s sick. And on the last day there is this crazy Workplace exchange/meltdown. Am I fortuitous that I didn’t try to ask her today before she got completely derailed, or is this further sign of avoiding this conversation? What in the world is happening right now?! I will have to tread very, very, very lightly on Monday. Oh my god. I don’t even know when the next good opportunity is. I can’t tell if I dodged a bullet or got loaded into a cannon.

I’m going to drown my sorrows in drinks at work, and then I’m going to hang out with a friend and her strange group of friends and watch Logan. And if they quit on me early, I’ll go out and just keep it going by myself. This has been a strange week.

Day 238

Man: 205 Loneliness: 33

Day 237: The Man and the Signs of Change; ‘Doubt’

Yesterday was kind of a giant word dump so I’ll make this short and sweet. Thanks to everyone who stuck it out til the end of my rant yesterday. Hahah.

Maybe it’s the spring weather here but I’m beginning to get a bit itchy for change. Could be allergies though. But I doubt it.

In its most basic form, this blog, this yearlong journey, has always been at its core, about change. Changing my attitude, changing my perspective, changing who I am. And now I’m starting to look towards other aspects of my life that have been constant and wondering if it’s time to change them too.

I haven’t been to my martial arts school in a month. I can’t quite place when it happened kung fubut this thought started to creep over me that if I were to reflect on my growth in the school, while I may know the forms and the stances and the poses, I’m not much of a better martial artist. The school is centered more around martial arts as a means of wellness. Which is all well and good. There are multiple studies proving the beneficial effects of tai chi and other martial arts in terms of longevity, flexibility, stress, and even digestion and circulation. But I don’t want to deny the nature and origin of martial arts. That is, to be able to fight. Not to pick a fight, but to defend oneself and others. I’ve been looking at schools in the nearby area and I’ve found a few that are a bit more towards that focus without sacrificing the awareness, meditation, and reflective nature as well. It’s a bit of yin and yang really. I’m starting to feel this need to shift.

Of course, I’ve been thinking more often about my friends and the time I spend with them and the things we do. I’m beginning to compile a list of the things I want to do or see or experience in spring and I’m already seeing a good number of them that my friends will friend needprobably not go for. I don’t feel like pressuring them into something they don’t want to do, I can’t make them change. As much as I want to shake the thirst for life and adventure into them, I have to respect and acknowledge that they are secure in themselves and that they are who they are. Some I can very well do on my own, and might even prefer it because at least I know I’ll enjoy and won’t be distracted. Others, I really wish I had some people to go with. So maybe in two weeks when I make another four-week planner, I’ll start putting in time to meet with some other local groups of similar interests or use apps like meetup to find people.

Mainly though, I’ve been thinking about my current job. The activity and demand has significantly decreased as of late, and an idle mind is the devil’s playground after all. I don’t think my free time has led me to evil thoughts or anything but I have been getting pretty lazy and lackadaisical. There’s a part of me that’s wondering if it’s time to request a change of position, but I know I need something that would pay much better too. My one year in this new position isn’t actually up until May, so I thought maybe I should wait until then. But I’ve been hearing rumblings that the system changes we did here are being done in our Canadian branches and they only have one person doing what three of us do here. I am, without trying to sound arrogant, the most experienced and knowledgeable member of our team. My boss constantly comes to me for clarification or assistance, and last week I met with my boss and our Canadian counterpart along with Canada’s president of operations to show them and explain to them how the systems work and what to show and tell our consultants. I’m wondering if there is an opportunity here. But this would be the biggest change of all. If the money and the job were good…would I be willing to really put myself on the line like that? I’d be leaving my friends, leaving the martial arts school, leaving my home, and starting truly anew. But it’s Canada and like, I loooove Canada.

The past two days, I’ve come to work extra early, worn my sharpest, cleanest, and best fitting uniforms, planning on talking to my boss. She’s been out both days sick. Tomorrow is the first Friday of the month, which means casual wear and we open the bar (I’m the company bartender, yes we have a company bar in the lounge). Is that really going to be the best day to talk about some major potential promotion? Should I still pursue it tomorrow or wait? Is this all a sign telling me not to?! I don’t know. But I’m open to suggestions. There’s a part of me that’s wondering if this is supposed to be my new path. I happen to know there are like, waay more Asians in Canada since it’s so much easier to get to, and the martial arts schools are bountiful. So you know, that too. Thoughts about asking heavy questions in jeans and a Power Rangers shirt?

Day 237

Man: 204 Loneliness: 33

 

 

Day 195: The Man and the Uncertain Balance; ‘Overworked’

Here’s a question for you:

Would you rather be overworked or under-utilized?

Let’s define these two for clarity and purpose.

Overworked would mean that you are inImage result for sheldon paper gif a situation where you are kept busy but doing
menial tasks. Your day is constantly occupied and engaged, but what you are doing is well below your potential. It’s grunt work. There’s very little time for idleness and because of this you find your days go by quickly.


Under-utilized
would mean that you have found your purpose, recognize yoImage result for overworked gifur strengths, and are tasked with its work. But, either because of supply or demand, you find yourself with plenty of idle time. Maybe you are on a large team, and are lower on the rotation so you are called on less. Or perhaps you are so specialized that the demand is not high enough. When the work comes though it’s all-encompassing and engrossing.

Obviously the ideal situation would be to find a happy medium. A place where you are doing satisfying work and doing it throughout the day. But a lot of times it just doesn’t happen. We miss that sweet spot and find ourselves on either side of the balance board.

I’m sitting here at my desk writing this, realizing that I have so much free time on my hands, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I do like knowing that every day I am in the office and not on the road training, I have as much time as I may need to plan and create each day’s post. I am at my most consistent when I am grounded. But my boss sits literally across the floor from me, and she must wonder why I am always so busy typing, and yet no emails are going out! Often times with a team of three two of us are at HQ and one is on the road. It’s hard to resist the temptation of idle chatter, but again, I wonder what impression it makes when my boss hears us talking about food or movies or how a truck spilled red Skittles (and only red Skittles) all over the Dodge county highway last night. (This is a true story, btw. And a true conversation.)

When I’m on the road I don’t get much time to write because my day is filled with work and purpose. I then get the luxury of retiring to a quiet empty hotel room and get to write until the late late hours of night. When I’m at HQ I try to fight the idleness by taking walks, or writing, or reading, but I can’t do with too much leisure because inevitably my boss will notice, and then suddenly I am tasked with some ridiculously inane thing like ‘make a PowerPoint presentation that no one will ever actually see, read, or present on how to do x y or z’. And even then I suppose it’s better than us making solid eye contact and watching as the slow realization of ‘why do I pay this man’ crawl across her face. I am under-utilized where I am, and overworked to punish. Hahah.

If we can’t find our perfect spot, which is better to be in then? Do you idle your day away waiting for the moment to shine, or do you engross yourself in other things and ignore the lack of purpose? Is it about waiting for the right opportunity or grabbing every one?

I think the further implications on this one speak for itself. In love, in work, in life. Do we die from waiting or from drowning? I don’t think there’s any one better than the other. It’s a deeply personal question, about what it is that becomes most important to you. To have the right one, or to have any at all. There’s no neat resolution to this. No eureka moment that could promise to tell me or you which ultimately is more worth it. I think it just has to be a part of everyday life, the struggle, the purpose, the journey.

Day 195

Man: 164 Loneliness: 31