Tuesday, July 29, 2014

If You Want To Go Far...

There's an African proverb that states: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

This returned to my mind recently as I've been stumbling through the start of my Navy career. Coming in as an officer with no prior military experience has felt like being a toddler all over again. It's a strange combination of not knowing even the basic things, like when to salute, yet you are already wearing the uniform and a rank so you're stumbling around trying on things for size like "Sirs" and "Ma'ams" and feeling half like an impostor and half ridiculously excited for this whole new world you've entered.

Thankfully, I've started forging friendships with some other brand new Ensigns and the number of times we've had to ask each other "do you know how to do this?..." is comical.
 (And the things we've had to learn the hard way alone is even more comical. Like the first time I was ever saluted. I was driving onto a base in gym clothes and the guard saluted me, freaking me out to the point that I finally half-threw up my hand somewhere in the vicinity of my face, averted my eyes, and drove away hiding my embarrassed laughter. This, friends, is not proper protocol. Or another time, when one of the other new guys thought he was supposed to iron the creases out of his brand new dress uniform and spent the night before inspection  cursing and pressing those stubborn lines until they were gone. Then he found out they were supposed to be there and in fact he was now out of regulation. #LifeLessons.)

One of those other newbies is a gigantic former athlete. To look at him, you'd think he has nothing to be worried about. He looks intimidating and comes from an impressive background. Yet I can't tell you the number of times he's told me he needed a "cry break." He was joking...but only sort of. He and I recently went through basically the equivalent of college orientation into the Navy reserves and as we stopped by each station in our building, getting weighed and stamped and signed and instructed, we both looked like lost bewildered cattle being shuffled through the barn. He told me he needed a drink at one point...it was during alcohol abuse training...

So yes, I'm very grateful to have others to go through this confusion with. And it's not that people weren't being nice to us, they absolutely were. In fact, I had an enlisted sailor patiently rebuild my entire medical record because for some reason it hadn't been transferred correctly. I sat there fishing out documents dating back to kindergarten as he painstakingly entered everything into one of the many systems that now control my military life. It took forty-five minutes. The Hoops and Yoyo Panic Button sitting on his desk was hit twice during my appointment. He eventually enlisted two other people to help with the mess (one of which saw me in the hallway later and whimpered "not again! not again!" as I approached. Yep. Starting off on the right foot, I am!).
Ironically, when I was finally done with Medical, I walked out to my car and saw this:

I somehow had cut my finger during the whole ordeal. Hope that doesn't need to be added to my record, that sailor will kill me... ) 

So long story short, I'm grateful that so many people in the Navy have been willing to "go together" with me even if I was dragging them down at the time. And even when I'm the one helping someone else - sure it may take a little more time to share what I already know, but by collectively gathering the bits and pieces of knowledge we each have, we'll likely both get further. And more than that, I feel like we get further in general life fulfillment by helping each other. I had this realization recently too.

About a week ago, I was feeling a little overwhelmed and as if I wasn't really adding value to any of the different parts of my life at the time because I was too busy just trying to keep my head above water. Then, out of the blue, an old friend introduced me via email to a lady who was interested in joining the Navy. I knew this day would come (since the way I got through my application process was by talking to everyone who would pick up the phone and give me advice) but I didn't expect it so soon! Finally, I felt like I knew something again. I started downloading everything I could think of about the process I went through. Every time she replied, she was full of gratitude and excitement, echoing back the emotions I felt less than a year ago when I first decided to apply. It made my day. And it made me realize that maybe that's one of the big points in life. To just help show others the way. On days when I second-guess my skills, I know I can at least share what I've experienced and help illuminate someone else's path. And that's often more fulfilling than just moving "up" quickly. It's moving along in life feeling connected and excited by those other humans around you. It's getting more out of life than just efficiency - it's getting us all further.

Thank you to all the various people, some of which I've never met in person, who have "gone" with me.

My Commissioning Ceremony. And a room full of people who have gone with me in some way. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Year Later and Life is Still Gunning for Me

I'm feeling a tiny bit overwhelmed at the moment adjusting to a brand project at work while simultaneously adjusting to my brand new part-time life in the Navy Reserve, so I apologize but I couldn't pull myself together to write a new post this week. Instead, I'm reposting what I posted exactly one year ago -- since it's pretty fitting for how run-over I'm feeling by Life these days. (also, the "part-time thing" I cryptically mentioned below -- was about me joining the Navy. And I did say yes to the crazy cross-country relay. And I did get that new work project I was trying to find.... Funny to see what a difference one year made. I'm still exhausted, but in new ways...And we're gunna call that progress....)


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Now, Life is Living You

During my Japan adventures earlier this year (recounted HERE), I remember riding in a taxi past a sign that I barely caught but the phrase on it stayed with me from then on:

Honestly, I likely took it wrong and I felt like it was a good thing, like it was telling me as the reader that I've somehow beaten Life at its own game and my life had now become so exciting that "Life" is now aspiring to live me.

After briefly researching what others thought of it, however, it more likely means something bad-

-like life is running me over.

Which, at times, definitely feels like the case in my life at least. And it's not like I'm trying to win some prize at being the busiest person in the world (because we all know that prize belongs to Ryan Seacrest), it's more that - again, as explained HERE - I just do what feels "normal" to me. And normal for me is about 100 miles an hour (just kidding, Virginia State Troopers! I don't do that...anymore..) But sometimes, it does take it's toll.

Take: This Week

Besides my normal full-time job, I'm also in the middle of the following:

-finishing up the last few weeks of my Master's program (where one class is fairly normal, and the other is taught by a man who just recently informed us that he helped overthrow an Asian government in the 80's...)

-putting out "feelers" in my company for my next project, which requires me to participate in the equivalent of Online Dating for career opportunities. "Hi! We don't know each other, but I have admirable qualities and love long walks on the beach. Would you like to talk on the telephone or perhaps grab casual coffee with me sometime and discuss why you should date hire me onto your client service team?" (and then I add a fake resume and a photo from 10 years ago where I'm 3 dress sizes smaller than I am...)

-researching and applying for a potential new "part-time" thing that I'll disclose later if it pans out. (because I secretly am trying to give Ryan Seacrest a run for his money. And days don't just fill themselves up....)

-beginning the process to become a public relations rep for the Red Cross during local disasters. (Do not underestimate my sick powers of masochistically taking on too much responsibility, oh ye of reasonable decision-making!)

-giving dating advice (Yes, it makes me laugh too) to one friend; blogging advice to another; media relations to another; and I've pulled together marketing language on the fly for various random (URGENT, dang it!) requests from colleagues back at my company that has nothing to do with my normal client project.

AND -- you ready for this?

-considering an invitation to join a cross-country relay race that I'd need a week of time off and Bruce Jenner's old legs to complete.

And that was all before the weekend.

Now it's Saturday, and you know what I'm planning for this evening?

Hitting up three events in D.C. Which, in itself, it's probably ambitious but you know me too well to think that's the only challenge.

The events require wardrobe changes.

And shuttling back and forth between only two locations.

That's right, I've somehow managed to be involved with a birthday event at one place, a rooftop party at another, and a cocktail attire fundraiser back at the first place.

There are about 796 million venues in this city, give or take, and I've managed to require a visit to the same one twice in one night.

And let's talk about outfits for a second.

My first event: BBQ fare at a concert on the lawn of the National Building Museum. Outside. In 67% humidity. I mean, let's go ahead and just apply mascara directly to my cheeks and blush to my jaw bone because that's how it's all gunna slide down anyway.

Second event? Rooftop party at a different location where I need to put on a good impression because it will include a lot of new people who I may want to date and write blog posts about become friends with.

Third? You guessed it, back to the National Building Museum. This time, inside. At a formal event.

Did you catch that my first two events are outside and will leave me smelling like Honey Boo Boo's life?

This will be interesting.

This is my life. Or, the life that Life is living through me as a joke.

But I still like to look at that quote as a little of both sentiments. At times, the life I've chosen does run me over.

But I hope it's nonetheless a life that Life would appreciate.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Punctuation Problems

I was hanging out with friends the other day and one of the male members of the group had spent part of the weekend making out with  flirting with a random girl who I'm sure he'll never see again. When she left, I watched him get her number -- even though I'm sure he'll never see her again.

I, being the no-filter, verbal diarrhea, overly honest-er that I am, was immediately like "why bother exchanging numbers?"

To which half my friends practically clutched their chests and were all "you have to do that. It's the norm."

Here's where I again feel the need to compare dating rules to everything else. I don't want to walk through a farmers market, see strawberries, and tell the seller "I hate strawberries, but go ahead and put them in a bag for me anyway. I might come back for them, you never know!" That's wasting both of your time. You don't want the strawberries -- just move along! Why must we feel the need to soften the blow with deception?

To me, the whole "give me your number" thing may give the other person false hope. It's like putting a comma where it should be a period. As a professional communicator, clearly I had to report this! I started arguing with my friends.

My basic argument was this: had our friend just been like, High five, that was fun! and walked away from that girl, it would have at least been genuine. That would be putting the appropriate punctuation on their "relationship" -- a period. As in, that's the end. Good game.

Whereas to me, the whole obligatory number exchange is like putting a disingenuous comma on the relationship. I'm getting your number...maybe there's more to this sentence... you'll never know until I don't come back for you, strawberries!

It sends mixed messages.

And I feel like it discounts the emotional stability of the other person. Like "they can't handle the fact that I'm not into this, so let me make sure to leave it open ended." And I can understand using words to soften the blow a little. Like, "Ok, this was fun!" (even if it wasn't really), but to take the time to put someone's number in your phone? That just seems superfluous. Plus, as I've explained before, I already have a super random assortment of numbers in my phone, so I don't need to add "that guy I'll never see again" just to save face.

I fought vehemently with my friends on this. The comma is wrong! I was finally able to sway some of them to my opinion, and the rest of us agreed to disagree. (And thankfully, we're all still friends. You know, even though they are wrong.)

Then, a couple weekends ago, I met a man and we had coffee together. Per usual, I had reservations about him but was trying desperately to have an open mind because we all know I basically have reservations about everyone (...because I have good reason to - as seen here. And here. ...aaaand here...and....)Then, it felt like he kept bragging on himself. And seemed a little stiff. And repeatedly looked me up and down while we spoke. But- Open Mind! Maybe I'm judging him too harshly. So I started to go get more coffee - and that's when he stopped me and said he actually had some things he needed to do and asked if we could just end our little date then.

Well alright then, I don't need to try to talk myself into him any longer, he's clearly not into this either.

AND THEN -you guessed it - he asked for my number.

WHY. Why is this necessary? You don't need to act like you might come back for the strawberries. If the strawberries are boring you, go find bananas! (alright, this strawberry analogy may not be working anymore but you get the gist...). I don't need my feelings spared by you feigning intention of calling me later. What I need is for you to step aside so I can continue toward the thing that I'm most interested in here - that second cup of coffee.

And yes, sure, I suppose it's easier to go through this cultural norm of feigning interest in calling the other person. People do it in all sorts of situations. "Hey buddy, let's do lunch. I'll call you..." (disingenuous comma).  "Great interview, we just need to look at a few other candidates and then we'll call you..." (disingenuous comma). It's what you do, apparently. But I don't know...in a world where there are so many questions about what the other person is thinking, maybe we don't need cultural norms.

Maybe we just need better punctuation.

(Caveat: Since writing this, Coffee Man did actually use my number to contact me so perhaps he was genuinely using a comma. So I now reserve the right to delete this entire post should I change my mind about him and we fall madly in love. Of course he'll need to stop looking me up and down as we talk for that to happen, but at least maybe the guy knows how to use proper punctuation....)

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Gearhead Trapped in a Skirt Suit

I'm posting a throw-back this week since I've been discussing cars with my friends lately. I drive a retro-looking Mustang and I love it. It's fast, it's cute, and part of me just has to buck convention and everyone else in D.C. seems to drive BMWs or Audis, so dang it - I'm sticking to the Ford muscle car in protest.

Sure, it doesn't look as "mature," or "professional" as something that blends in, but I've never been good at trying to blend in - as evidenced by my choice of a first car: A 1967 Camaro.

Below is from a post I originally wrote in 2011 about that car. Let your inner teenage boy out and enjoy.

The Commode
I realized that I haven’t written about my first car, the Most Awesome Car In The World – a 1967 Chevy Camaro.

Fact you should know: I may be a 30-something female, but part of me is a 12 year-old redneck boy. And while I do love a good spa day or fantastic heels, I also enjoy things like four-wheeling, playing in mud…and muscle cars.

And I was trying to think if I have any good stories to tell about my time with The Commode. (My cousin nicknamed it that for no apparent reason except for the fact that we lived in Tennessee and lots of things have nicknames for no apparent reason. In fact, I know several people, some are relatives, who I don’t actually know their real names. It’s a thing we do. Don’t judge.)

And there were definitely fun quirks about that car, like even though it was a ’67, it had a remote controlled CD player.


Do you even know what that is?? That is like the FIRST CELL PHONE EVER. It was actually just a car phone, meaning it can't leave the car because the equipment for it is in a bag, attached to the cigarette lighter. Before everyone and their child had a cell phone, I had a phone IN MY CAR people. I was the bomb. Not really, because I was only allowed to use it if I got lost on Tennessee backroads (which I did) or ran out of gas….which I did, and that is what I’ll tell you about in a second.

But a couple quick separate stories first. So, the redneck boy in me liked to race other boys in their cars. So I have different stories from doing that, like when my friend Mark took off beside me in his truck, which had a tool box in the bed that you open up in separate places using latches on either side. I start to race him and in the process somehow those latches released themselves and I remember seeing his tool box open up like a pair of wings behind the cab of his truck, forcing him to stop. It made my pom-pom twirling teenage girl side giggle. (And made my car-loving redneck boy side feel smug, because I won the race, default or not.)

Or I’d see my friend James in my rear-view mirror in his 454 (for you non-redneck boys: that is a Fast. Truck.), while driving my neighbor to school, and I’d slam my pedal down on the floor, scaring my neighbor senseless because he had not seen James coming up behind us and probably thought I was having a stroke.

And slamming my pedal to the floor wasn’t always such a great idea, as I embarrassingly learned while attempting to race yet another boy in the parking lot at the public pool. I started from a dead stop and I slammed the pedal all the way down…

which flooded the engine.

So I have to restart my car and I become the girl who “greenhorned an automatic.” (Because greenhorning is a term sometimes used for people who can’t drive manual transmissions, they just kill the engine while trying to get the car moving. Except my car was not manual: I just apparently couldn’t drive at all.)

And I mentioned that the car had funny inconsistencies like being old, yet having a CD player and air conditioning. And it also had power steering, which my dad added because manual steering is hard to turn with. And if you have a lot of turns, it can make a girl sweat on the way to high school - and HELLO! I can't be all sweaty when I arrive at school, DAD! (see, I do have a strong Teenage Girl side as well.) So he got power steering installed, but not without its own quirks. So the funny little thing about that was that if you turned the steering wheel too far:

It cut the engine.

Not that I know that from experience or anything…

The car also had quirks like the headlight dimmer was a button on the floor you had to hit with your foot, and the gear shift didn’t have any writing on it to tell you what gear you were in, or if you were in Drive or Reverse, so you pretty much just had to feel those things in your soul.

And after I drove it for awhile, the gauges started acting up. And one day, the whole car started acting a little strange - sluggish, jolting a little. And I wondered if I needed to get gas so I pulled into a gas station. But then I look at my gauges and think “I can’t really tell if I need gas because I don’t trust the gauge – and since my car is acting weird, what if I turn it off and can’t get it started again??”

So I don’t turn off the ignition, I pull right back out of the gas station and onto the main street towards home, which is uphill-

And my car promptly dies in front of everyone. 

From lack of gas.

On a hill, a few feet from a gas station I just pulled out of. 

So, in the end, the stories I have of my first car are pretty much like all my other stories: they end with someone looking at me amused, shaking their head in disbelief.

(But sweet maria, I loved that car. She looked exactly like this:)