Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New Year, New Place, New Goals

I moved this past weekend, which was possibly the least painful move I've ever done. Still, there's nothing like navigating icy steps, arms full of a bow and arrow, wine glasses, and a hula hoop to make you take stock of your life.

Anyways, I'm still getting settled, but feel good about this new apartment - with more closet space than I know what to do with (that's a lie, I finally have room for all my clothes), good lighting, and a big front porch with a swing.

It's nice starting off the new year, with a new place to live.  And even though I did goal setting back at the end of December, I've clarified a bit more what I want out of this year, and thus will spend the next 11 months focusing on the following:

1. Working really hard. I love to work. I have for years. It makes me feel productive, it gives me a structure to my schedule, it allows me to be my best self. I also now, have the fortune of having a job I love, one that scares me so much I feel nauseous sometimes, so I know I'm doing something right. I also know if there's one thing I learned in the past year, it's that it's always less scary on the other side. Also, this job I love so dearly is helping to start a business in a developing country... so, there's lots to do. I am not worried about work-life balance (which I think is a myth anyways) right now. Right now, I want to work my butt off.

2. Running in cool places. After completing 3 marathons in the city of brotherly love, I have decided to expand my racing horizons. I am not a very fast runner, so a race is a great way to see a city. It's also a great reason to go somewhere I've never been yet. That being said, I've registered for the Montreal Marathon in September, and am trying to talk all the runners I know into coming with me. So far, I've got 1 other commitment, but it's early yet.  Chris and I are also looking at a wine country half marathon in May, and I'll be on the lookout for some fun races throughout the summer.

3. Making new friends and meaningful connections. Ok, this one is kind of always a focus, because really, what else matters more than human connection? But for the past couple of weeks, I have been saying yes to last minute brunches, clothing swaps, 6 am yoga classes, late night best-friend real-talks, gallery crawls, and hanging out for a beer after work with new friends. And it's so much better than staying home watching Netflix. Spending time alone is good. Giving yourself time for reflection, and relaxation is important. Spending time in situations where you're meeting new people, and making those new connections is really important too.

4. Looking cute while doing it. One of the few things I have control over in my life right now is my physical appearance. And, now that I have all this closet space, I should have no trouble seeing all of my clothes. I really like clothing, and fashion, and have every intention of reflecting that on a daily basis. You don't have to wait for some special occasion to look awesome. Look great on a Wednesday.

So there you have it. 2012 was all about ripping my life apart and 2013 is all about settling back into it. Work, running, relationships, fashion. This is what's important.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Conversations with Coworkers

While working on a proposal...

Me: "I'm making some of this up."
Coworker: "That's ok. That's what we do."

At the restaurant, as the dinner rush ended and things slowed down...

Coworker: "When we die, we are dead."
Me: ::thinking this was the start of an existential conversation, pause for a second before answering:: "well, yes."
Coworker: ::shrugs:: and goes to refill water, as I realize the "dead" she was referring to was about the restaurant, and not our impending mortality.

While at a networking event...

Coworker: ::after being asked where his favorite place in the world is to run answers:: "Haiti." ::then turns to me and whispers:: "I've actually haven't gone for a run in Haiti yet."
Me: "That's ok, I have."
Coworker: "I know, I just borrowed your life experience."
Me: "It's cool, we share most everything else."

While enjoying shift-beers after a dinner shift. Discussing break ups with a coworker who more recently than me returned to single status...

Coworker: "So, are you like looking to date now?"
Me: ::sigh:: "I mean, I'm not miserable anymore, but the thought of a first date just seems, well, completely exhausting. I might stay in my post-break up cocoon a little longer."
Coworker: ::raises glass:: "Well, here's to not being miserable!"
Me: ::laughs:: "Absolutely. Cheers to not crying on the bathroom floor!"
(It's all about celebrating small victories.)

While at happy hour...

Me: "I had to fill out something that asked for a local emergency contact person, and I listed you, just so you know. I know you'd be great in an emergency, and take care of it, and get in touch with all the right people."
Coworker: "Yea I would! I'd answer my phone, and be there. You were right to list me."
Me: "Now it's official, we've crossed that line into family."

Having good jobs is great, having good people to work with is even better. Pretty grateful for the people I get to spend most of my time around.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Slinging Hotdogs

Since I decided to become a garbage woman in Haiti, little about my professional life surprises me anymore. However, when I returned to the world of restaurant service after 5 years in order to make some cash so that I can continue pursuing garbage, I was surprised to rediscover that I love waitressing.

I'm working at the new Franktuary location on Butler street in Lawrenceville, and it is a blast. Here's why:

There is a severe lack of crazy people working there. This is extremely rare for restaurants. Everyone is nice and respectful and helpful and fun. Also, they're interesting. On the rare occasions we find ourselves with time to chat I've found myself discussing community development in Pittsburgh, waste management projects in Ghana, and neurology of caterpillars in metamorphosis. Fascinating.

It's fast-paced, and doesn't follow you home. I know myself well enough to know that staying busy keeps me organized, productive, and happy. Too much unstructured free time, and I'll spend too much time alone in my own head, and get mopey. This is perfect, because its busy and distracting work that doesn't take away mental energy from Thread. When my shift is done, I leave, that's it.

It's Pittsburgh. So I see people I know every time I work. Which, can be both a blessing and a curse, but mostly is fun to get to see people I haven't for a while.

It's cash. I manage my finances better when I operate in cash. I budget better, save more, something about the physicality of it makes it work better for me. I know there are a thousand budgeting tools and apps out there, but I like dealing in cash.

It's a work out. Standing and running around for hours and carrying trays. If I don't get a run in on a day I work, I don't have to feel too bad about it, because I'm not spending that time sitting around doing desk work.

There are aspects of starting a business that are undesirable. I'm grateful that this solution to needing a part time job isn't one of them.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Pursuit of Happiness

In the past couple of years there has been a lot of philosophizing of happiness, as evidenced by the hundreds of books, blog posts, and articles written on how to find, maintain, and exude happiness.

Happiness is all fine and good, but apparently not what we should be spending our time chasing. I read a fascinating article this morning on how pursuing happiness, actually leads to unhappiness, and how instead it is a meaningful and interesting life we should be in pursuit of. I was so captivated, that I kept reading quotes from it out-loud, distracting my co-workers, because I needed to talk about it with someone right away, which ended up leading a great inter-office discussion.

Like this one, "To the European, it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to 'be happy'. But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to 'be happy.'"

How many times have you found yourself being told to 'be happy'? Probably lots. But that shouldn't be the goal. We should be encouraging each other to go find a meaningful reason to live.

Statistically speaking, our American culture is miserable. We're one of the most depressed, anxious, medicated, and unhealthy countries on the planet. We're afraid of everything, and measure our success in material consumption, which is occurring at a rate that will literally be the end of the world.

The problem is that happiness in and of itself is easy. And boring.

Meaning is hard. And stressful. And requires you to give more than you take. The result of a life lived with meaning however, is a sense of calm and moments of euphoria that make happiness pale in comparison.

Maybe this is more of a semantics game than anything else. I don't think that happiness is a four-letter word, or that it shouldn't factor into how you design your life, but there is obviously danger in making it the end goal, and not a by-product of the genuine search for a meaning you can dedicate yourself wholeheartedly to.

Being happy isn't good enough. Your life deserves something bigger.