Friday, August 31, 2012

[Unemployed Life]: The Truth Comes Out Eventually

While I know I've mentioned it a few times before, I don't really talk too much about being unemployed on this blog.  If you trace your way through the archives, I'm sure you'll find the word unemployed said in passing on more than one occasion, but you won't find the full story behind that word.  I started this version of this blog months after I quit my previous job, so many of you probably don't even know the story behind the full story.  I think I've been quiet about it for a few reasons: embarrassment, and a desire not to pollute this blog with negativity.

But here's the thing: I'm not really all that embarrassed, and this experience has been almost anything but a negative one.

So I've decided to break my semi-silence and be as honest as I can about this whole unemployment biz.

I guess that starts with giving you the full story.

Three years ago, I graduated from law school with a JD I didn't really want to use, an upcoming bar exam that I didn't really want to take, and no idea where I really wanted to go from there.  I took the bar, didn't pass, and spiraled into my quarterlife crisis.

Nate and I had just gotten our own apartment and adopted the cutest dog on planet earth, and the expenses were rolling in while I was rolling in uncertainty.  I began looking for work and applying for anything I could find in the immediate area.  That was my first mistake.  Eventually, three months into freaking-the-fuck-out, I got an interview at a nonprofit that would hire me to do a job I was completely overqualified for and pay me a fraction of what my JD is actually worth.  Despite feelings of unease and reservation, I took the job.  That was my second mistake -- not trusting my gut/guide/inner-smarty-pants.

I spent a year and a half there (my third and final mistake), working for someone who, while a great visionary man, wasn't the best at managing a staff.  I was good at what I did, I didn't shirk my responsibilities, and I always kept a positive and professional attitude in the office.  But I was also overworked, under-compensated, held to near-impossible expectations and just plain old unhappy.  I'd cry before work in the morning.  I'd try to figure out ways to contract non-fatal diseases so I could get out of work trips.  I'd take my work home, on vacation, and out to dinner with me.  I was unable to separate it, to compartmentalize this now-toxic part of my life.  So much of this was, I now realize, on me and not the job or my boss.  But it still needed to change.

My self-esteem was shot.  My mood was in the dumps.  My relationship with Nate began to suffer.  I was anxiety-ridden.  I felt like there was no way out.  I knew this feeling.  I'd been there -- for other reasons -- before.  I was depressed.

So I got out. 

I cried when I told my boss I was quitting.  The conflicting emotions -- guilt, relief, terror, uncertainty -- it was all too much.  After all, I was giving up a steady paycheck in the middle of a recession -- who knew when I would get hired again?  Nate and I had talked, and my quitting meant we needed to leave the apartment we loved and move in with his mother.  We just couldn't afford our place on one salary.  So while I knew I was making the right choice for me, for my health and hopefully for some future career I couldn't yet see -- I felt like I was failing him.

But once we were resettled, once things quieted down and I was far enough away from the bad choices I had made once upon a time...things began looking up.  And when I say they looked up, I mean they looked WAY UP.

I took an internship at an organization that worked in one of my passion areas (it was unpaid, which just goes to show you how much I wanted it).  I started taking some long, hard looks at my health.  I re-prioritized my relationship with Nate.  I made new friends that are so freaking supportive of my dreams that I wonder how I got by without them.  I learned that there are places out there that really do respect the work/life balance.  I began recognizing other passion areas, and taking steps to explore them, you know, just to see.  I found my back-bone, my hard limits and my desire to just be happy.

For now, I take work opportunities -- as a project manager, as a legal researcher, as a writing/editing consultant -- as they come, and on a case-by-case basis.  Being with a partner who supports me both financially and emotionally gives me the luxury of doing this, of holding out and searching long and hard for the type of work that will light me up.  It gives me the luxury of looking at opportunities and asking: Does this work have anything to do with my Big Dreams?  How will it effect other areas of my life?  Will it build skills that I need to work toward my Big Dreams?  If not, then do I need the money enough to settle? 

So when I say that unemployment is not embarrassing, and when I say that it hasn't been all that negative of an experience, that isn't to say that it hasn't been a struggle.  It has.  It is.  All growing experiences are a struggle.

I'm going to continue sharing this particular growing experience with you as part of a new series on this blog called, Unemployed Life.  It'll be the good, the bad and the practical of my attempts at finding work that fits into my life while still managing to live my life in a positive way.

No more hiding.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

[Girl♥Health]: How "Food, Inc." Changed My Life

Last summer, Nate and I went on a road trip from Lexington, Kentucky up to Boston, Massachusetts.  While there were many amazing, beautiful stops along the way (Whitesburg, KY; The Blue Ridge Parkway; Shenandoah Valley; The Inn Boonsboro; Philly; NYC; the North End; etc.), the one that comes to mind today is the two days we spent in Cape Cod.  While there, we stayed at the Bluefish Bed & Breakfast (which I can't recommend enough) where, upon entering our room, we saw that the Innkeepers had kindly left a copy of Food, Inc. for us to watch if we were so inclined.

That was one of the things that made me fall in love with this place to begin with.  I mean, that's a pretty strong statement, right?  Having Food, Inc. be the only DVD in your room?  I adore this place.

Anyway, I was not so inclined at first.  I'd somehow managed to avoid watching this movie since it first came out in an all-out effort to maintain my comfortable, enabling dietary habits.  I thought (correctly) that if I really knew what was going on behind my food, I'd have to make some serious and difficult changes.  Because animal rights is a sticking point for me.  Animal welfare is pretty non-negotiable.  So, if I didn't know, than I didn't need to change, right?

But then Nate wanted to read a book on our first night in Cape Cod.  And I had just finished my book.  And Food, Inc. was the only DVD in our room.  So I thought, what the hell?  I popped it in.

And spent the next hour and a half crying.

Since then, I've been in a continual state of turmoil.  We've changed our buying practices so that we now buy all pasture-raised, grass-fed/finished and organic beef or pork, free-range and organic chicken and eggs, and we buy less meat altogether (because the ethical stuff ain't cheap).  When we do buy, we try to stay local and make sure the animals were as humanely and naturally raised as we can get.

But that hasn't eased much of my guilt.  I still picture cows in CAFO's getting plowed over, or pigs getting squished before slaughter, or baby chicks...okay, I'm not even gonna talk about the baby chicks.  This is the shit I think about before biting into that burger, people.  It's sick.

However, I also know my current limitations.  I know what my willpower can and cannot do in a fell swoop.  I know my history and my cravings and the excuses I'll give myself.  I know I'm weak.  Food, in so many, many areas of my life, has always been my weakness.

So I'm starting small.

In addition to the more descent buying practices highlighted above, I've also decided to go lacto-ovo pescatarian (eats fish, dairy and eggs, but not meat) three days a week.

Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays = no meat.  

And this is me, one week in, saying it's going well.  Actually, it's really not as hard as I thought it was going to be.  In my head, I thought cutting meat out was going to signal the end of the world.  WHERE'S MY BEEF?!, I would scream as I starved, withered and eventually died.  Stupid.  It's so much easier.  We eat a lot of roasted veggies and pastas and egg salad sandwiches (because I can never stop eating egg salad sandwiches...though this has now got me thinking about the egg industry...).  Because our garden has been producing like it's preparing for the next famine, we have boatloads of tomatoes and basil that I can mix with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, throw on some toast, and call it a day.  And the zucchini, oh, the zucchini.  We've started leaving some on our doorstep hoping passersby will abscond with them.

In terms of how this non-meat diet three days a week thing has been making me feel, I can't say I've noticed a huge difference.  I have noticed that I now crave meat at times when I don't think I used to actively crave it.  I'm hoping this is just my body adjusting.  And maybe I've noticed feeling a little...lighter.  Whether that's physically or morally is anyone's guess at this point.

But it looks like vegetarianism hasn't killed me.  Success!

Another big dietary change lately has been that I've begun keeping a food and exercise diary.  And while the exercise diary is sadly, sadly empty at this juncture (because my back is out YET AGAIN), it's been great seeing not only what I've been eating, but the emotions behind it.  If you'd like to begin keeping your own food journal (highly suggested), I'd suggest using this template from Nicole Antoinette.  She's fantastic.  It's fantastic.  Go forth and eat well.

So that's the update on the food front.  Less meat.  Better meat when it's on the menu.  Food and exercise journal.  Back is out.  Food, Inc. changed my life.

[Photo source:]

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Keeping the Camelot Dream Alive

I wasn't aware of this, but it's apparently only a little known secret that, for all of high school and the start of freshman year of college, I wanted to be and worked toward being a journalist.  Back before I got brainwashed into going to law school (joke), I had dreams that ranged from working at The New York Times to writing puff pieces for women's magazines.  The things that would now give me pause when considering this profession -- the crazy up-all-night hours, the absurd deadlines, the necessity of networking and cold-calling and interviews -- were the things that originally appealed to me.  I wanted to be in the thick of it, you know?  I wanted to write the news, in whatever form it took.

So when I started watching HBO's The Newsroom, it took less than a nanosecond for me to love it.

If you were to ask me at 17 what kind of news I wanted to report, this would be it (minus the whole broadcast part.  I wanted to do print.).  I wouldn't have been able to tell you that in so many words, of course, because after all, I was 17 -- what did I know of politics or the media machine or the fourth pillar?  But if I did know, News Night 2.0 would have been it.  Real news, less bullshit.  Less concerned with bias and more concerned with providing all the facts.  Does that make me idealistic?  Sure.  Does that mean I'm a sucker for those fantastic and impassioned lets-rally-all-ye-troops speeches a character gives from atop their soapbox at the end of each episode?  You bet your ass.

But that's okay, isn't it?  Isn't it a good thing to want to improve the way our news is presented?  Isn't it good to want to make it more honest?  Particularly this year, don't we want a more informed electorate instead of one that agrees with everything Fox News (or its liberal equivalent) says?

Yes.  Emphatically yes.

My one gripe about the show right now is that the political agenda of the creators is perhaps a bit too obvious.  While The Newsroom readily and accurately critiques and points out the idiocies of one political party, it fails to do that to the other.  Which, contrary to the entire premise of the show, isn't presenting all the facts, just the facts that line up with your views.

But that aside, what's really not to love?  Witty, Gilmore-Girl-rapid-fire dialogue, sharp commentary on the greed and powers at play behind the media, love stories (raise your hand if you keep referring to Jim and Maggie and JimandPam.  Just me?), a chance to reflect on the biggest news stories over the past 2 years, Dev Patel, Sam Waterston and Jeff Daniels?  Come on.

Come.  On.

The first season of The Newsroom just wrapped on Sunday night.  There are 10 episodes.  Find them and watch them.  Let me know if you want company.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Please Don't Feed the Gringos


Thoughts on our trip to Baja...

Do You Speak My Language?
Here's a fact: I look Mexican.  

I do, and that's cool.  It's due to a mixture of my Portuguese, Native Hawaiian and Filipino heritage, and has made for many interesting interactions since I moved to California.  Once, for example, while in a gift shop at Discovery Kingdom, the cashier started speaking to me in Spanish.  When I apologized and said I didn't speak any Spanish (not even a little.  Not even the embarrassing amount of Spanish most normal people speak.), he started yelling at me for not knowing and respecting my Mexican culture.

That was fun.

So, last month when Nate suggested we take a trip to see his friend in San Diego, then head on down to Baja for a few days, I worried a little (Lie.  A lot.) about the language barrier.  While there, worry turned into a full-blown culture crisis.

Who was I to come to Mexico and not speak Spanish?  Does that make me one of those snotty American tourists who feel like the entire world over should speak English just because I do?  Does it show disrespect to Mexican people?  What do I do when someone addresses me and not Nate (who does speak Spanish, but doesn't look at all Mexican)?  Does this mean we have to stay in all-tourist areas -- where Americans are catered to -- rather than getting to know the "real" Baja?

So many questions!

And while it turns out that many/most people in Baja are bilingual (and therefore totally show me up), we were also lucky enough that our friends (one of which was from Tijuana) were able to field most questions directed at me -- like, What would you like to eat, Miss?  Can you please get out of the middle of the walkway?  No, that is not the way to the bathroom!  Still, not speaking the language and dealing with feelings of first world privilege and guilt ended up having a big impact on me.  I began avoiding eye contact with everyone.  I, who may just well be the most sickeningly polite person you know, began looking down at my feet instead of saying Thank you!, or This food is delicious!, or Yes, please hold the chiles!

My takeaway?  Learn a second language, dammit! 

Uno Mas Taco, Por Favor (see what I did there?)
My second takeaway from Baja is that the food is delicious and I thankfully have a stomach of steel.  Nate, unfortunately, did not fare as well and was sick for a week after we returned to the states.

Our plan, food-wise, was to sort of do Baja the way Anthony Bourdain did, and add in some extra stops along the way.  So here are some places to check out if you're heading down south:
  • Mercado Hidalgo, Tijuana (right after you cross the border): Really cool market with lots of yummy fruits, veggies, tejuino (fermented corn drink), and household goodies.
  • Dandy del Sur, Tijuana (near Revolucion Ave.): One of the bars Bourdain went to; a quiet, cool place to get a drink.
  • Mariscos Chavez, Tijuana: A food cart that served me that delicious fish taco pictured above.
  • Mariscos, Playas (on Avenida Del Pacifico, near The Wall): Get a seat on the balcony overlooking the beach and order a seafood coctel.  Die happy.
  • Tacos de Frances, Playas: Good late-night al pastor taco spot.
  • L.A. Cetto Winery, Valle de Guadalupe: Free wine tour.  Pretty setting.  In Baja's wine country.
  • Hussong's Cantina, Ensenada: Do yourself a favor and don't go to Papas y Beer.  Go here instead.  There are peanut shells on the floor and live music.  There's also a Pink Floyd cover band on some nights.
  • La Guerrerense, Ensenada: Famous and seemingly delicious to everyone who ate it.  I didn't partake because these seafood tostadas are SPICY.  Another Boudain stop.
We also had the best tortas I've even eaten, but I have no way of directing you to them other than to tell you the shop was in Tijuana, next to a liquor store.  I'm sorry.

So Close and Yet, So Far Away
Though I've lived in California for about six years now, this summer was the first time I'd ever visited Mexico.  While in college in Washington state (and still now when I visit), my friends and I regularly made the trek up to Vancouver, BC for shopping, that one time for the Olympics, and most often because we're craving all-you-can-eat sushi.  But going south of the border?  Nope.

I'd like to say it's because of the distance, but that's not it.  After all, you can stand on the outskirts of San Diego and actually see Tijuana.  It's that close.  And, okay, maybe it's eight hours from where I physically live in California, but that didn't really factor in either.  The truth is that the thought of going made me nervous.  The thought of crossing the border -- that border in particular -- gave me so much anxiety it's just stupid.  I don't know why.  I'm an American citizen.  I don't traffic drugs, weapons or women.  I really had nothing to be afraid of.  

So, maybe I was apprehensive because crossing the border, seeing how our nation has so completely barricaded ourselves in (lest the terrifying invasion of Mexican immigrants happen!  Gasp!), would force me to acknowledge my privileged place in the world, and my shame at the extents to which my country will go to keep that place.  Because let's face the facts here: That wall?  You know the one I'm talking about.  It's absolutely ridiculous.  It's racist and cruel and obvious and shortsighted.  And reading the things that people have written on the posts of that wall made me -- as an American -- feel like the biggest hypocritical asshole in the known world.

Or maybe I was apprehensive because being in Tijuana would point out to me how wrong I've been about the city itself.  Because in my head, Tijuana was a John Wayne western.  In my head, Tijuana was a gang fight on the cusp of getting really bad.  In my head, Tijuana was what they still show us on the news.  But in reality, it's just a city like any other.  It's one that's struggling to come back from years of narco-terrorism, drug wars and the American recession.  It's one that's reclaiming its identity and seems to be in a constant state of reconstruction.

I'm excited to see what it turns itself into.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A PSA For You College Kids

Please note the Buster Posey bobble-head.  Go Giants!

Last week, things got a little out of sorts in my house.  I started -- for no apparent reason -- to feel cluttered.  Everywhere I looked, there was just tons of stuff.  Clothes I never used, files I never opened, papers I never looked at and books I never read.

It all had to go.

So then, (two days later) I'm sitting in a completely de-cluttered environment, staring at bags upon bags of crap I have to take to Goodwill, and I realize that most of this stuff is textbooks.

I have hundreds (thousands?) of dollars worth of textbooks that I'm just going to GIVE AWAY.

As someone who is at the mercy of contractual/consultant-based work, you can see why this might make me crazy.  Here I am, sitting on tons of money spent on things I will never use again, while I'm having trouble scraping together money to pay my bills.

Anyway, this got me thinking about college and law school, and how poor I was then, but how I didn't bat an eyelash at buying these back-breaking textbooks.  Wouldn't it have made more sense to rent those books like we rent movies?  Wouldn't I have saved tons of money?  Wouldn't I have enjoyed returning my Property Law textbook at the end of the semester and never having to look at it again ever in my life? (the nice folks who asked me to talk about their service), where were you when I needed you?!

So, here is a public service announcement for all your college-goers: Rent your textbooks!  It makes so much more sense, right?  Go online, search for book, rent said book for however long you need it, save about 40-90% on the cost, highlight all over the book, and ship it back for free when you're done with it.  I've used it on more than one occasion -- once the agony of paying for books I'll never read again became too much to bear -- and it was all smooth sailing and pretty straight forward for me.

In the end, here is what you won't be doing three (or seven) years later: Running around your house like a madwoman throwing away everything in sight because your mountain of textbooks has driven you insane.

Learn from my mistakes.  And good luck this semester.

[Full disclosure: My opinions on this blog are always my actual opinions.  But sometimes, because a girls gotta pay her bills, I do accept money or monetary goods in exchange for writing about a service or product I use and love, or that I'd like to use and love given the chance.  This is one of those times. Don't hate.]

Thursday, August 23, 2012

There One Where I Picked Fruit, Ate Oysters, Swam in River Canyons and Saw Some Big-Ass Trees

When the summer began, Nate and I made a sort of unofficial vow to not spend it doing nothing.  There have just been too many summers already spent staying indoors, him playing video games, me reading a book in bed.  And while those are totally legit things to do when 1) you're on vacation (read: him), or 2) you're unemployed (read: me), we always ended those three months feeling like we'd let it pass us by.

So, our promise to each other and ourselves: Get the hell outside this summer.

And so we did.

Our first adventure of the summer was camping in the forests just north of Tahoe.  That was a blur of beautiful mountain lakes, star-gazing while floating in warm springs, and trying not to get eaten by a couple million vicious, vicious mosquitoes.  The best time.

Then we decided at some point to go fruit picking.  A few of our friends are foodies who work in restaurants, or for celebrity chefs, or who have awesome food blogs, so getting the best and freshest of whatever we're putting in our mouths is high on the priority list.  And I'm pretty sure there's nothing better than eating a peach cobbler three hours after you picked said peach off the branch.  Best part?  Most farms charge you by the pound (say, $1.50 for each pound of cherries you pick), but don't necessarily charge you for the amount of fruit you're wolfing down as you walk through the orchards.  And some farms have ducks that like to take pictures.

Our third stop was along the blustery Northern California coast where this ocean-side-camping-pro realized not all beaches are created equal.  Here's the thing about the coast up here in our neck of the woods: that shit is cold.  Like, face- and ass-numbing cold.  But there are also fresh mussels and oysters.  So you accept the trade off, grab a few beers, and rally.

Finally, a few weeks ago we decided we wanted to see some giants.  So of course we headed down to King's Canyon and Sequoia National Park for more camping (or glamping, which is what we call it when we're being honest with ourselves).  While this was sort of a live-and-learn trip (a bit of drama, some inclement weather, a few bears), there's still so little that beats being in the Sierra Nevada's.  There's this image I have in my mind -- and I feel so stupid for not having my camera on me at the time -- of sitting along the river, watching it bend a few yards down, the sky sort of boiling over with clouds and flashes of lightening, and these huge peaks that rim the canyon we're at the bottom of.  One of those breathtaking moments, you know?  And the trees...holy cow the trees are HUGE.

At this point, I'm fairly certain that if you asked me to plan a Northern California adventure for you, I could almost guarantee you'd have the time of your life.  Just sayin.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Wild Geese

I've been thinking of poetry lately, and the fact that I don't write it anymore.  I'm not even sure I know how to write it, or that I've been particularly inspired to write it.  But I know that something in me misses poetry and the reading of it.  When I mentioned this to a friend yesterday, she shared with me the following poem.  It struck me as so beautiful, so inspiring, and so comforting that I wanted to share it with everyone I possibly could.

So here you go, world.

Wild Geese
By Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
       love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Explain Something to Me...

A little over half an hour ago, a Chevron refinery in the next city over blew up.  It freaking BLEW UP.  They're telling us to close our doors and windows, shut off ventilation systems and try not to breathe in outside air.

So someone explain to me how we -- as people, as human beings, as a species that shares the world we live in -- can go on ruining our planet and ourselves as if this isn't killing everything.  We drill.  We frack.  We cut down forests and burn.  We kill for sport.  We overfish.  We don't recycle.  We guzzle gas.  We heat up our planet and flood entire land masses.  We act as if we're invicible.

And when we have proof that we're not?  We just ignore it.

It's time for change, people.  Wake up.

[Photo via the Richmond Confidential]
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...