Friday, March 20, 2015

Give One Picture That Describes Your Story...

I attended a team offsite event for work this week and to help us all get to know each other better, we were asked to bring in one photo that describes our "story." I ended up bringing in this:
Big Wheel bike 
Because around the time I was 3 or 4 years old, I made my parents amused and proud when I was riding my Big Wheel down the street in my original home state of Washington and I chose to turn around in the driveway in front of a retirement home. Well, one elderly woman was sitting outside and did not like that I was doing that so she kept trying to make me stop. But I didn't stop, because I knew I wasn't doing anything wrong and that lady didn't own the driveway, and I wasn't hurting anyone. And I had to turn around somewhere because hello! Parents don't just let you keep riding your Big Wheel until you reach Oregon! Anyway, my parents lovingly tell stories like that as examples of the fact that I've always been a little headstrong, not afraid to challenge authority when appropriate, and not afraid to stand up for myself and do things my way. 
Anyway, I ended up using that one image as an abstract way to explain that those traits carried into my adult life, blah blah blah, but a lot of other people chose the literal  route and simply made collages of their lives.
Yes, I suppose I could've done that instead of basically conveying to everyone that I was born a hot-head. Whoops.
So some of their collages showed the different jobs they had held before joining the career that we are now all in together -- government consulting. And some of their past roles included working in state politics, working overseas, etc. and it made me smile to myself thinking about what my collage would've included had I gone that route. 
Below is a post I wrote years ago describing some of my former jobs. I think it's probably just as well that I stuck with the Big Wheel....

What a Way to Make a Living
(Originally posted July 2011)

I apparently have an entrepreneurial heart because I started wondering how to make money about the time I, I don't know, started breathing.

I sold cookies and Kool-aid at my mom's yard sales in the summer. I sold Friendship Bracelets to other children who were too lazy to make their own. (I grew up in the middle of Orchards, I had a lot of time on my hands to braid thread...)

When I was 12, I worked (underage) as a quasi-maid at my parents' motel. I also got on staff at another hotel as a babysitter. Because apparently some rich people like to dump their kids off on perfect strangers who haven't reached puberty yet while they go out on the town.

The first gig I got was taking care of a toddler and an infant. The infant was sick. I'd never babysat before.

I never worked at that place again.

When I was 13, my family moved to Tennessee where I continued my streak of random income-earning:

I worked as a Hostess at Shoney's.

I worked as a Dairy Queen server AT A TRUCK STOP.

I worked in a Rent-To-Own furniture store.

That one, I have tons of stories from. If you aren't familiar with the typical clientele of that sort of place, let me describe some of ours:

-we had actual Pimps
-we had drug dealers
-we had one lady with a tattoo on her forehead of a number that my God-fearing self can't even type here
-and others who I've now blocked out in my memory

We'd repo furniture and it'd come back with roaches. I made collection-calls. I drove the Box Truck. And I was the only female working there, so if the customers and environment weren't enough, you should meet my bosses!

One of them called me "Woman!" and also used the term "Broad" and whenever anyone asked where anything was in the office, the answer was:

"If it was up your *butt you'd know!"
*butt wasn't actually the word they preferred.

This is why I'm not really fazed by "difficult personalities" in D.C....

After that, I started working...

...on an assembly line!

You thought I was going to say something boring, didn't you?

In my college town was a plant that made Foam Packaging for everything from hospital beds, to BMW parts.

They paid above minimum wage and let you stare off into space while mechanically going through the same motion for hours. I was sold.

That place was fun. There were some other guys (guys! Always guys! I'm starting to see why I get along better with men in the workplace...) from my school who also worked there. And they took more advantage of the place then I did and used to bounce around in the back warehouse on the hospital bedding we'd just put together. And take naps.

Meanwhile, me and my conscience worked steadily away at a variety of brain-cell killing tasks.

Literally brain-cell killing. At one station we melted Styrofoam with hair dryers to get items to stick together. Pretty sure that is not the most healthy thing to smell for hours. But it explains a lot about me now....

At another station, we had to stand up large foam mats and spray glue on them, air-brush style. The great part was, (besides using the glue gun) you were back up against an identical station sothat person's glue would inevitably over-spray --

onto your hair.

I never had a dramatic incident but I do remember the sensation of glue spray coming over the top of the divider wall. And I probably was thinking "somehow this isn't how I pictured college life..."

After we sprayed them, we had to wrestle with these heavy gel pads that went on one foam mat, then we had to slap a second foam mat on top of that - forming part of a bed.

Once again, I feel bad for the end user of something I created...

After college, I moved to D.C. where before I was hired full time, I served as an intern for 3 months, making no money. So then I resorted to scavenging free food at events whenever possible and at one point found out about a catering job I could do to make some money. They bus you out to the event (not in the best part of town) and you make sure the buffet stays full. But the best part?

It was for Redskins Games.

So while I had to slave over steaming hot trays of food for other people - I also got to watch pro-football for free. I only did it once, but it was pretty fun. And it was ironic to have people dismiss you as "just the server" but be getting paid, then get up, put on my Big Girl Suit and walk right into the White House complex -- and work for free.

And even after the White House hired me full-time, you never seem to have enough money in this town. So I've supplemented my income through the years with everything from part-time work at Golds Gym to getting paid to sing harmony in a cover band, to selling merchandise on a music tour, living in a bus with a bluegrass band (as I mentioned here).

So right now I just have the two careers (consulting and the U.S. Navy Reserve) but maybe it's time to find a new random gig again. Anyone need a weekend travel writer?....

Saturday, March 14, 2015

New Walls

I still intend to eventually write a post on my adventures in the United Arab Emirates, but you guys -- life is trying to mow me down again and I just can't keep up with everything. On top of everything else, I've added physical therapy to the mix which involves daily activities like isolating butt muscles in order to keep my knees from going out of socket ...you know, the usual life stuff (more on that in another post...). So I haven't had the time or energy to write so I'm leaving you with an old post. And since I'm in a season lately where I feel like I might be coming up on some new adventures, the post below seemed to fit nicely.  

The Downward Spiral into Oblivion

(originally posted in 2013)
About a year ago, me, my friend Gina, and The Other Goldfish Poodle were all sitting around in a quaint little restaurant in West Virginia, when the topic of conversation shifted to - turning 30.

What proceeded out of my and Rod's mouths was nothing short of frantic vitriol being spat into Gina's face about how she should just stay in her 20's if at all possible because once you cross that threshold (and here's where one of my favorite Rod quotes is uttered) you enter a "downward spiral into oblivion."

Here's the thing. Rod and I LOVED our 20's. Being Goldfish Poodles, everything was so shiny and new and exciting. And everything felt like an accomplishment. Mom, I got a job! Mom, I have my own apartment! Mom, I decided not to eat the inside part of Oreo cookies for breakfast each day even though I totally can. 

I started worrying that nothing I did would ever be seen as an accomplishment again, because I assumed that once you are in your 30's, people just expected everything. Of course you should have degrees. Of course you should've been promoted by now. Of course you should be able to keep a house plant alive....

Rod had similar fears. He felt like his major accomplishments all revolved directly around age. He won honors and held leadership positions for things that you age out of. He was always the youngest to do this or that, so he too feared that his best days were left in his 20's. Our best days were still somewhere using plastic crates as furniture and wearing Forever 21 outfits to the office. (Ok maybe that was just me. ...and maybe I still occasionally shop at Forever 21...but you get the point.)

And before you start judging us: yes, he and I both knew we were being uber dramatic and First World Problem-y.  But it was fun to commiserate and there really was some tiny level of apprehension around our 30s. (Tiny level of apprehension meaning - I literally woke up panicking in the middle of the night more than once during my 29th year. I should switch to decaf and get a life, I know, I know.)

Oh! oh! And the other thing! For females, I feel like this whole getting older thing is even more pressure-filled because we have those baby-producing expiration dates and all that. And we are bombarded with stories of men who only want "younger models" etc. I just felt like my "value" for marriage was decreasing like a car. A really fun sporty car that splashed through mud, but still. And yes, I know I could've just settled down with someone in order to check off the whole Marriage box if I really wanted to, but I physically can't stay with someone just to check a box. I actually really need to love the dude. UGH. ANNOYING.

Anyway, Gina is laughing in our faces by this point while Rod and I are nearly making stoic suicide pacts over our chicken salad. At some point, Gina suggests that maybe Rod and I are climbing ladders of "success" based on wrong assumptions. That maybe we haven't reached the top of the ladders of our potentials, like we feared, but that we actually just need to find a new wall to lean the ladder on.

Ok, I explained that really poorly so if anyone reading this has a psychology degree, maybe you can help elaborate.

Regardless, it helped. Sort of. Rod and I pondered the possibility of New Walls and in the end, he ended up making a very personal/potentially career altering announcement in a very public forum, and me?


Well, I'm on my way to joining, anyway.(!!!!) A couple things need to take place first, but I was selected for something in the Navy Reserve.

And yes, I'm absolutely going to yell "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!" every time I put on the uniform. I know that movie was about Marines, but yelling "MY EGO IS WRITING CHECKS MY BODY CAN'T CASH!" is not as rewarding...

So -YES! That is the thing I've been keeping from you (...and also my mother). The thing I went after like a spider monkey. The thing that had me running around the Pentagon frantically.

It's such a long story as to how I arrived at this goal, but I'm just thanking the Lord for the journey because it's been amazing on many different levels. I'm sure I'll have more to share (just imagine the embarrassing possibilities awaiting me in a world filled with physical fitness tests, uniforms, and weaponry...). But you know why I was selected? Because I had years of experience behind me.

AKA -- I likely wouldn't have had the slightest chance at this if I were still a fresh little 22 year old. Take that, Past Dana! With your wrinkle-free face!

So, OK, fine. Maybe there are a lot more things to be done even after your 20's. Maybe there are higher walls that I didn't even realize existed when everything seemed so new and shiny and I still felt cute and naive enough to get away with anything.

I'm now trying to look at 30's more the way Olivia Wilde talked about them in Glamour (yes, I just quoted a Hollywood actress and referenced a fashion magazine. I may be joining the U.S. Military, but I am not turning in my Superficial Girl card, child please.) - "Saturn has now orbited the sun once since you've been alive; make this next go-round whatever you want it to be. Consider your baggage (bad boyfriends, job setbacks, body issues) lost by the airline of life, leaving you empty-handed at your new destination with only one choice: Go shopping."

I think I'll do just that, Olivia. Uniform shopping. (...and maybe some new stilletos...)