payday

We have a slightly different payday today. I’ve agreed to keep the identity of today’s volunteer a secret. I’ve also told him he could skip some of the payday questions to help maintain his anonymity. I like this guy, so I’m granting his request JUST THIS ONCE. But don’t get used to it, Anonymous. I make the rules around here.

Since I can’t talk too much about him specifically, I’ll talk about my relationship with him. Anonymous is a good friend. He’s someone I know I can talk to about practically anything and count on for a thoughtful, patient response, never lacking in blunt honesty. He will tell me when I’m being an idiot, when I need to get over myself, or when I’ve done something really admirable or impressive. He gets it. And whatever ‘it’ is, we like to laugh at it together.

He also happens to be very funny, incredibly smart, and never ceases to surprise me. I met him through improv and I’ve known him for what seems like forever.

His responses to *some* of the payday questions are here:

4.) Did you go to college and if so, what did you study?
I attended a 4-year liberal arts college. I majored in Spanish because I studied abroad in Madrid my junior year and returned with a buttload of Spanish credits. Since I was desperate to leave that school and podunk-college town, I hustled my final year, taking 18 hours and finishing in four years. I then earned a Master’s degree in journalism.
 
5.) If you could have any job in the whole entire world, assuming you’d instantly, miraculously possess the the training, opportunities, and expertise to excel at it, what would you do?
I would be a hybrid comedy writer-reporter-performer-producer. I would be an electrician. An interior designer, a plumber, an architect, a graffiti artist, a carpenter.

6.) If you didn’t have to earn a living – money was no object, but you had to be productive for 8 hours a day, what would you do?
Studio or concert photographer. Movie director. Video editor. Chef.
 
7.) What are your hobbies and interests?
I spend a lot of time studying and performing improv comedy. A few years ago I took a pottery class simply because I wanted to give it a try. It was fun, and I learned how to throw a pot. But after about four months, I was kinda done with it. It felt like I had taken up a hobby just to take up a hobby. My heart wasn’t really in it. When I went full throttle into improv in 2006, it felt right. And I’ve pretty much been at it ever since.
 
8.) How do you spend your free time?
Improv, and hanging out at the bar. I’ve long understood that socializing with friends is the greatest stress relief there is. I go skiing every winter. I watch the idiot box, too. But thanks to the DVR, everything I watch is truly appointment television. I don’t watch commercials anymore. And I try to isolate my viewing to comedy and Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel and History Channel. And I limit my reality-TV programming to Bravo. Survivor has snuck through, though.

9.) What do/did your parents or guardians do to earn livings?
My mother started out as a nurse, which is how she met my father. By the time she had her third kid, me, she became a realtor. My father is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon.
 
10.) What was the conversation or climate surrounding work and work ethic in your home when you were growing up?
My parents are the archetypal immigrants who came to the U.S. for life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and of course, fortune. There was never a time when they weren’t working. My father is 70 and still practicing. He spent four years in medical school, another four years in general-surgery training and then eight more years in plastic-surgery training. Regarding my mother, she built a real-estate empire from scratch. When I was a kid, she would drag me around on her errands, which was usually to collect rent, but also made my brother and me paint the properties, dig up tree stumps, plant bushes, tear down rotten-wood fences — you name it. She taught me how to balance a checkbook when I was 9, taught me how to do laundry when I was 13, and taught me how to double-thread a needle to sew on a button when I was 16. She couldn’t drive for shit, but she could parallel park masterfully. I’m glad to say all three kids inherited that skill. But whenever I committed an act of wastefulness, her one admonishment that always made me feel guilty was this: “We work hard to earn our money.” Somehow, that always seemed to stick for me.

11.) How does your family feel about how you earn a living today?
I know they’re glad I got my degree. They still worry about me because I didn’t become a doctor. My parents always believed that the only career choice was that of a physician. I’ve spent most of my life trying to convince them otherwise.

12.) Do you have siblings and if so, what do they do for a living? Do you have a personal reaction to what they do, like maybe you’re envious or inspired?
I have an older brother who is a pediatric emergency surgeon and an older sister who is an obstetrician-gynecologist. I do, and always have, admired them immensely. I’m not envious or necessarily inspired by their occupations, though I’m sure if I were to visit them in their respective operating theaters, I’d be in awe. Same goes for my dad. I’ve never once watched him operate. I have watched him wash his hands at the kitchen sink. Seriously, if you know any surgeons, watch them wash their hands — it’s an impressive display of thoroughness and efficiency.
 
13.) Generally, what time do you go to sleep? What time do you wake up?
I’m a night owl. I don’t fall asleep until well after 2AM. I wake up as early as 7AM sometimes, but I am unable to exit my bed until 9AM on a good day and 10AM on a bad day. On the weekends, I sleep until noon on a bad day, 2PM on a good day.
 
14.) Do you want to leave your current job for something different? If so, can you imagine yourself doing this? If so, will you do it?
Yes. Everybody does. I want to be the one who doesn’t want to leave his job. But I know that I’ll have to create that job.

15.) What is more important to you in a job? a big paycheck or personal fulfillment.
Personal fulfillment.

16.) Do you think your idea of personal success has changed since you were 10 years old? 18 years old?
I never really thought about personal success at those ages beyond the idea of being wealthy. I’ve had the good fortune to work for several truly great men and women. When I left one of my jobs, I gave my boss a book, which I inscribed (approx.): “Until I achieve the patience, humility and integrity that you possess, I will not consider myself truly successful.”

17.) When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A doctor. I grew up with three other boys in my neighborhood who were the sons of a cardiologist, another plastic surgeon and a radiologist. In high school, my friends used to pretend to encourage me as if they were my parents: “You’ll be successful at whatever you choose to do! As long as you’re a doctor!”

a little research

The top searches people type into Google that refer them to this blog are usually things like:

follow my bliss
yoga teacher training
bikram yoga
leaving desk job
how do I leave my desk job

Today I saw two new ones that I’d never seen before:

how do I follow my bliss

(and my personal favorite ever) should i follow my heart and travel with my boyfriend or follow my head and finish college now

Not only do I love that this young lady (I presume) is asking herself this question to begin with, but I also love that she logged onto her computer and typed the whole thing into a search engine. It seems unlikely that Google will have a direct answer for her, but I can still appreciate her desire to do some research on the subject at large.

today i don’t wanna

Some mornings, I come in to the desk job and I don’t mind it. I’m not thrilled with the idea of sitting here all day, but okay, sure, I’ll play along.

Today, for whatever confluence of reasons – not enough sleep, haven’t had my coffee yet, sore from the gym yesterday – I sat down at my desk, opened my email inbox, began to print things out, update this and that, file this here, make a note to do that later and then I stopped. And my heart just sank.

Today, I don’t wanna. Today, I’m not into it. Today, I’m sad, mad, resentful, tired, laughing at how ridiculous it all seems. Today, I wish I was meeting a weight loss client for a long walk around the park, because even though it’s chilly out, it’s also very sunny. I wish I was taking a yoga class or working on some book I’m writing in the afternoon. I wish I was making healthy stir fry for dinner and then going into the city to do comedy shows at night time. Today, I really don’t feel like being part of this desk job system.

laundry list

a list on my bedroom mirror

a list on my bedroom mirror

So.

When I was 21, my life was in a state of disrepair.

After spending most of my college career in a manner of depression, after gaining over 100 pounds in several years, after dropping out of college just before my senior year, after punching my then-boyfriend in the mouth, after subsequently being kicked out of the apartment I was sharing with friends, my life was an absolute disaster.

For all intents and purposes, I was an obese, homeless, jobless, college drop-out.

The details of it all are vast and the full story tends to be long. So I’ll skip to the point.

After I got kicked out of that apartment, lost several friends, quit speaking to the boyfriend I’d punched and finally assessed my painful situation, I felt very lost. I cried constantly, hard. I have never cried so much in my whole life. The tears came every day for a long time. I was scared, alone, very overweight, and sad. It was as if I’d experienced the death of someone close to me – I was definitely in mourning. It was my rock bottom.

I was a straight A’s and B’s student in high school. I enjoyed a position on the high honor roll, loved my friends, and was very invested in my various extra-curricular activities. But now I felt worlds away from all that, like I’d ruined everything.

It was summer time. Feeling badly that I didn’t have anywhere to stay, a friend graciously let me crash on his living room floor for a few days. His apartment had a lot of roaches. And mice. And he kept the air conditioner in his bedroom. With the door closed. And it was hot. And the futon mattress was lumpy. And the roaches. Still, I was eternally grateful to him for his generosity.

Not to be cliché, but I cried myself to sleep those first few nights after being kicked out. I was in so much emotional pain – I can’t even remember or access those feelings today. It might have been self-inflicted, but it still hurt a lot. As I cried one night, I remember thinking, this is not going to accomplish anything. All the tears in the world are not going to change this situation. I still cried.

I woke up the next morning, not having been eaten alive by giant roaches, much to my genuine surprise. I remembered all the crying I’d done the night before. And I thought to myself, The things I have to do in order to change this situation for myself seem insurmountable. I can’t even type up a resume or lose 5 pounds. How am I supposed to reshape my entire way of being from the inside out?

But I also knew it just had to start somewhere. I decided it wasn’t impossible to change myself. It just wasn’t likely. But if I was going to even attempt to solve anything at all, I had to start somewhere. So I made a list. It said:

  • Lose weight
  • Get out of debt
  • Get a job
  • Get an apartment
  • Graduate college

A dauntingly tall order, for sure. I was absolutely terrified just looking at what I’d written, but it was at least a finite list. And what to do with a list but try to complete its tasks.

Fast forward to the present. Without being too ceremonious about the whole thing, I’m proud to say that I eventually crossed each one of those off my list. It took a good chunk of time and was not an easy process. Maybe we’ll talk more about that journey someday. For now, let’s leave it with my telling you that I spent five years in therapy, worked three, sometimes four jobs at once while going to school full time, developed a close relationship with the gym, and I still count my Weight Watchers points to this day.

I have always been a list maker. It’s mostly because I have a pretty shoddy memory. As a kid, my mom would ask me to do a simple task, like pick my crap up off the stairs or put away the dishes. And I wouldn’t do it. And she’d come back into the TV room (where I was likely torturing the cat, drawing, or obsessively and uselessly copying down 1-800 numbers from TV commercials – you know, just in case), demanding to know why I hadn’t done this ONE SIMPLE THING SHE ASKED ME TO DO. I always felt awful about not having done it. And it wasn’t because I didn’t want to help her out, or because I wanted to be defiant. It was usually just because I’d genuinely forgotten that she’d even asked. I got in trouble a lot as a kid, at home, at school, on a count of my forgetfulness.

So now I make lists. Otherwise I will probably forget. I will busy thinking about other stuff or daydreaming and I will probably forget. So I make lists. I write them and rewrite them as things get accomplished or as my priorities change. At any given moment, I’m mostly likely keeping four to six active lists.

I keep a “day to day” list of stuff I need to do – pay bills, send thank you notes, etc. I keep a broader “if and when I have time” list – buy new running shoes, check my credit score online (again). I keep a larger “ideally, someday” list – buy glass storage containers for the kitchen, volunteer, visit my grandparents. I keep a list that says where I’ve allotted the money that’s currently in my checking account. And another list of what I might do with extra money, should it find its way into my life – savings, credit card payment, travel. And, like any good used-to-be-fat girl, I always keep a list of what I’ve eaten in a day.

Wow, it sounds crazy when I write it all out like that. It’s not. By the way, they don’t have names, these lists. I just made up those titles right now. Jeez.

Okay, so maybe it is a little crazy. But it’s obviously a structure under which I thrive. I mean, I lost 115 pounds and got myself out a huge messy mess of an early twenti-hood. All with my little lists. (And a good therapist.)

This has been the winding-scenic-route way of telling you that my journey to leave my desk job is, naturally, powered by my lists. It’s how I do.

Of course, there’s the list that started it all. And there have been several iterations of that list since then. I’ve gotten a little bit more specific in some instances, making big picture lists – an idea for a book I could write, a shop I could open, a service I could provide. And I’ve gotten more realistic in some instances, listing jobs I could stand to have if I need a transition gig after I leave the desk job. Last month, I made a list of things I want, like new running shoes, a cast iron skillet, an extended winter break in a warm climate, and a job I enjoy.

This month, I made a more detailed list, informed by some recent discoveries. It’s the list I’m currently working off of in order to help me leave the desk job. It will change and morph as I go – through the very nature of having the list at all, I’ll learn which of its items are key and which aren’t as important as I thought. It reads:

  • get more blog readers (aww…)
  • save money! – create an account specifically for job escape
  • ******* ******* ****** (this one’s a secret!)
  • research fitness and nutrition certifications
  • take more yoga classes
  • finish my ‘vision board’ (yup. i’m doin it.)

I originally wrote the list in my notebook, but I also drew up a larger copy and stuck it in the corner of the mirror in my bedroom. Osmosis or whatever. We’ll see!

dream a little dream

Over the weekend, I had a dream that I got laid off.

In the dream, things were up in the air in my office, because everyone was worried about the economy. And then I got called into a big, fancy room where a nice woman told me that I was being let go.

My eyes welled up with tears and I became very nervous. And I then I said, “Am I being punished for something, or just fired because you need to save money?” And she smiled at me and said, “We just need to save money,” which made me feel very relieved.

And then, I got excited. I was so excited I couldn’t contain myself. I’d be getting a severance package – nothing huge, but enough to set me up for a few months. And I’d be FREE! I had to hide my glee as I went back to my desk to collect my things. I didn’t want to appear too eager to get the hell out of there forever.

When I woke up I was understandably disappointed that it’d been a dream.

Naturally, being laid off is probably not roses for most people. I’m sure a lot of people who’ve lost their jobs recently have found ways to turn the negative into a positive, but I’m sure a lot more of those people are feeling really scared about the future. And no, I don’t want to be laid off, necessarily. As I’ve discussed, I do recognize the necessity of my job right now. I also recognize that it’s a blessing to be employed at all. So I don’t really want to be laid off, but I wouldn’t mind a guilt-free pass to leave my job along with a wad of free money clutched in my little paws.

There’s more.

Lo and behold, I came into work this morning and – no joke – almost got laid off! Mom, relax. I still have a job and everything is fine. Here’s what happened:

The office manager told me to shut her door – uh oh. I sat down and she told me that since they’d let one of the attorneys go last week, which was a precautionary measure they took to conserve funds, they thought she should let go of an assistant as well. She told them, No, she wasn’t going to do that. So they told her she needed to figure out another option for conserving a big chunk of cash.

Since one of the attorneys I assist is the attorney they fired last week, I would have, naturally, been the assistant they’d have fired. But instead of letting me go, they’re going to move me from my desk in the back of the office up to the reception desk. So, I’m going to be the receptionist while I continue to assist the other attorney with whom I’ve been working. They’ve been planning to hire a permanent receptionist, but now they’ll just combine my current job with the receptionist position. My salary won’t change, my duties and my seat in the office will.

At first, I wanted to cry out, “Wait, just lay me off! Please! And give me your best severance package while you’re at it! Or, how about I work part time?”

I was *this* close, I thought.

But the move up to reception, as unflattering as it might sound, is actually going to be a good thing. I’ve worked the reception desk at this office before. And its perks are not to be denied. It’s quiet up there – no annoying coworkers circling my desk; I won’t have to pick up the slack for other assistants as much as I do now; and! best of all! I will have a lot more time and opportunity, since the reception computer can’t be seen by anyone else, to do my own thing – study for my fitness certifications, blog, research, etc. It’s a change of pace and scenery, which is never a bad thing.

It all might change again in a few more months. The office manager thinks this will be a temporary solution – that they’ll eventually hire a real receptionist, whereupon I’d return to my old job. She was very sweet about the whole thing.

So that’s the desk job update. I can’t help but think this might be a tiny karmic reward, a wish semi-granted. I’m not financially able quit this job right now, but my biggest complaint about it, relative to my quest to leave it, is how much of my time and energy it takes up. As I wrote to a friend recently, “It’s more than a full time job to try to have a full time job AND make choices about how to change my whole life AND do comedy AND go to the gym AND practice my yoga AND love my boyfriend AND sometimes have nice looking finger nails or a clean apartment!” I’ve been having trouble finding the mental space to focus on my own priorities because I just have too much going on each day. It’s entirely possible that this change in my day to day reality will make that a tiny bit easier.

guest book

I am thrilled to announce a new feature on follow my bliss called guest book. Every once in a while, I’ll ask a guest to generously share their story with us, in their own words.

I’m hoping we’ll collect a variety of accounts from people who can relate to the themes of this journey. It’s for learning.

Without further ado, I present this week’s guest book:

photo by Caitie McCabe
photo by Caitie McCabe

The lovely young woman second from the left is named Blue. Blue is our first guest book contributor! Here she is with her old improv team Vacation Island, the group that, she says, kept her laughing all year long last year. She told me that this photo makes her really happy. I love that. 

I met Blue at The PIT, where we both do comedy stuff. She’s a very sweet, very talented lady. She’s also drop dead hilarious.

Blue reached out to me a few weeks ago, after happening upon follow my bliss, and told me that she was really inspired to read what I’ve been exploring, since she’s kind of on her own ‘bliss’ journey. We’ve had several really great chats over the last few weeks about our priorities and awarenesses. I was so glad when she agreed to write a guest post about her recent experiences.

Please welcome our guest, Blue.

Last fall I had an interesting problem. That problem was: I had no problem. My life was full of amazing friends, a regular improv gig with a troupe I loved (long live Vacation Island), a steady job I enjoyed, and I even had a cozy little apartment to call my own. But I was unhappy. It was an interesting feeling, because I have often had periods of unhappiness in the city, but I could usually attach that feeling to a boy/career/social problem. For the first time in a while, my life was pretty steady, and in that steadiness I felt incredibly uneasy. When things were so good, why did I feel so bad? (Cut to Carrie Bradshaw typing on her laptop.)

Thus began the search. My friend Anna, a student at Pacific College, introduced me to acupuncture and I began going weekly.  Acupuncture is so interesting because it can assist in healing almost any ailment. Cramps? Check. Back pain? Check. Emotional pain? Check. It’s a much better pain reliever than Aleve or Ibuprofen (or Jameson on the rocks) in that it actually gets to the root of the problem. My acupuncture appointments were a place I could go to get some relief from that down-in-the-dumps feeling. Turns out, speaking with an acupuncturist was my first step towards self-awareness. At each appointment we’d start with her asking how I felt this past week physically, emotionally, and mentally. I hadn’t really thought about it before. I started to realize all the small things that I had just gotten used to feeling. In the words of my friend Anna, “It doesn’t have to be that way.” It was nice to be so proactive about my day-to-day living. What would I like to work on today? Oooh… maybe those headaches I keep getting. Or how about the tummy aches that hit me in the middle of my shift at work! Or, could we work on my overthinking? (Yes–Acupuncture can help us overanalyzers too! Looking at you, fellow Virgos.) While speaking about my past week, it finally dawned on me that my lifestyle played a big part in how I was feeling. I’m depressed? OH! Maybe because I drink so many depressants! My stomach hurts? Maybe that’s because pizza is my dinner three times a week. It was a seemingly obvious and yet empowering realization.

I began to make some lifestyle changes, like thoughtfully drinking, not just numbly having four beers at Mustang Sally’s because it was a Wednesday. I cut dairy out of my diet. I made sleep a priority. I began studying up on food and the best kind of food for my body. And, I started to feel… better. Just paying such close attention to my physical health began to affect my mental and emotional health as well.

The next step was scary. I had always wanted to take a yoga class but was so scared to be a beginner and to be in that horrid “bad-at-something” phase. But l’m no stranger to Fear, and have learned to just acknowledge the feeling and do what I truly want to do anyway. And, as usual, I was rewarded for moving forward and not being held back by that big scary monster Fear. I found that my whole week was improved by just going to one yoga class. Yet another useful tool to put in my happiness box. After taking another deep breath, I walked into a bikram yoga class with my friend Abigoliah. Here, I discovered the practice that really fit me. This yoga challenges me in just about every way I need to be challenged right now. I leave the class knowing I am stronger physically, mentally, and spiritually. Some days are more difficult than others, and it’s definitely not fun, per se. But as one of the teachers said, we are so lucky to be able to practice yoga. And it’s so true. What an amazing gift and luxury it is to be able to take time out of the day to focus only on personal growth.

Then there’s my work with Dion Flynn. Dion is one of those people who radiates light. When I first met him, I could tell that he just gets something. I wanted to get something too! One of the activities he has you do is to create a big map using pictures that inspire you from magazines. He said that over time, different pictures may start to mean something more to you. Mine is filled with comedians, islands, music, travel… And there’s one picture of a girl in a bubble bath–her leg is in the air and she’s looking at her toes with a big smile on her face. I love this picture because it’s such a vision of self-care. This girl LOVES baths! They bring her joy! I bet she takes a bath every day. This picture has become the one to stand out so much more to me than the others–more than Amy Poehler or Bob Dylan or the guy surfing in the Greek Islands. I have realized that at this time in my life, self-care has become my number one priority. And I am finding that as I tune in to my inner needs first, everything else is falling into place.

The beauty of this is that it all started with a deep, confusing sadness. But if I had felt completely content I would not have discovered anything. The simple act of admitting to myself how I was feeling spurred change in huge ways. I’m now becoming more clear about who I am and what I want in my life. I took my happiness into my own hands instead of just waiting or hoping for it to happen to me.

The other day Mika, a manager at work, asked me, “Are you taller? Or is it just the happiness?” I hadn’t shared any of this with her! I was so excited that my inner work was beginning to shine through. I’m discovering that the secret to my personal happiness lies in the daily pursuit of it. As I continue to pursue happiness, I am finding my own bliss, and my joy for life is expanding.

Thank you, Blue, for your brave insights and for taking the time to share with all of us what you’ve been learning. It’s not always easy to put stuff like this out into the world. I love what she wrote – it has encouraged and motivated me to keep exploring different ways to care for myself.

Blue and I are trying to find time to take a yoga class together – I’ve never tried bikram yoga before and I really want to, and she might come to a restorative class with me at Om someday. I’m also now interested in giving acupuncture a whirl. Of course, I’ll make sure to chronicle it all for you guys.

Thanks again to Blue. You can catch her with her new improv group, Punch, performing at 9pm at The PIT on Wednesdays.

various things

I don’t know what to write about today, y’all. I have an exciting guest blog I could post* (!) or I could probably come up with more desk job related anecdotes. But I feel like I haven’t done a nice healthy personal check-in for a few days. I told Kev I didn’t know what to write about today and he said, “Write about that!” Fair.

It’s rainy today. I don’t feel terribly emotionally impacted by it, but my day has a dullness to it just the same.

I haven’t done much in the way of advancing this journey of mine in the last couple days. But I think the in between is just as important as the forward motion.

I have an improv show at The PIT tonight with my super funny team, The Baldwins. I’m looking forward to it. I have felt a little unsure about my work on the ol’ improv stage lately, but another show is another chance to give it a whirl.

I wonder if my joy for improv is akin to my joy for yoga. They are both things that take some serious skill to master. They also demand many years of study, practice, and failure in order to achieve ‘success.’ More accurately, they are each practices which require you to fail so that you might learn that success cannot exist without failure, and that those two forces can sometimes be the same thing. They are also both practices in which the journey is the destination – if you’ll excuse the cliché.

I suppose that’s true for most things in life – the journey is the destination.

My little cousin, who is maybe 24 or 25? and lives in Kansas with her husband and their sweet puppy, Claire, has sent me a few validating emails recently, encouraging me to trust this journey I’m on, assuring me that it’s the right thing. We grew up together and she’s one of the most intuitive, bright, and loving people I know. She also knows me really well. (She’ll be starring in her own payday segment soon!)

So, it’s been really nice to get this kind of feedback from her, and from my mother, my boyfriend, and other generous and kind friends who’ve sought me out to congratulate me on taking the first few steps to leave my desk job, or to let me know that they admire my efforts in sharing the process here, in front of anyone who wants to watch.

In the last few weeks, since beginning this blog and the subsequent quest to leave the desk job (or perhaps it’s the other way around), a handful of great people have reached out to me to tell me their own stories, dreams and goals, or to encourage me in mine. It’s amazing the things people are willing to share when they know it will be openly received. And being an information hog who loves to know the most minute details about everyone she meets, I delight in learning more about the people in my life. It’s been very unifying and inspiring. And it also reminds me how unique and varied we all are, except that we all want to be happy.

This post is riddled with clichés.

I put up a picture of my boyfriend, Kevin, and me in our pajamas because it makes me happy. He’s a good guy. If you don’t know him, you should. He’ll be very nice to you. It’s one of his strengths.

*There’s a guest blog post coming. I’m excited about it. You should be too. She (that’s a hint!) is a brilliant young lady and has some interesting things to say about finding her bliss.

payday

This is my family. My grandparents, my aunt, my uncles, and my mom. She’s the cute one in the front in the short-sleeved top. My mom and I have always had a close, if not complicated relationship. We haven’t always liked each other, necessarily. (Me, 14 years old, running up the stairs to my bedroom screaming “I HATE YOU!” comes to mind.) But we’ve always been close, since it was just the two of us.

My parents divorced when I was very young and my mom, a then single mother who was a teenager when I was born, set out to make our lives as normal as possible. I think she succeeded with flying colors, although I’m sure she’d argue with that point with me. Her greatest weakness is not understanding how wise, capable, and courageous she is.

Now a high school guidance counselor, she taught English for 20+ years, and was a favorite, favorite teacher of almost every one I knew in high school. This, for a 14-18 year old, is the equivalent of human torture. The majority of my friends probably hung out with me to get to her. (My uncle and my stepdad also taught at my high school. So.)

She’s young (in her forties still!), fun, funny, she makes great chili and she loves animals. What more could one ask for in a mom.

Her answers to the payday questions were fascinating to me:

1. How do you earn a paycheck?
I earn a paycheck by spending my day with adolescents in their quest for identity and in their mission to outwit authority. 

2. Do you enjoy what you do to earn a paycheck?
BY GOD YES, I enjoy it.

3. How did you get the job?
I believe I got the job because I am not a whiner and I have this absurdly intense work ethic, in addition to genuinely liking teens and intuitively knowing what makes them tick.

4. Did you go to college and if so, what did you study?
Yep, college. Degreed in English Lit and Education. Masters in Multicultural Ed. and Human Services/Counseling.

5. If you could have any job in the whole entire world, assuming you’d instantly, miraculously possess the the training, opportunities, and expertise to excel at it, what would you do?
Exactly this…and training horses.

6. If you didn’t have to earn a living – money was no object, but you had to be productive for 8 hours a day, what would you do? Creating a high risk, high effort program for young teens in order to  introduce the most at risk kids to alternate risk-taking experiences that do not involve drugs and alcohol BEFORE they get involved with drugs and alcohol. I would travel, set up the programs, hire young, exciting folk to work with the kids and then continue to oversee the  work.

7. What are your hobbies and interests?
Exercise, reading, animals, travel, exotic culture, warm climates,  people, music, sleep.

8. How do you spend your free time?
See number 7 and add ‘with my family.’

9. What do/did your parents or guardians do to earn livings?
Dad-educator, farmer, shoe salesmen, referee. Mom-values teacher in the home, therefore she did not “earn a living”

10. What was the conversation or climate surrounding work and work ethic in your home when you were growing up?
“Work hard.” “Pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” “You can do anything / suffer anything for blank amount of time – whether 10 minutes or 10 years.” We all watched my mom and dad work tirelessly to make our lives better. From dad having 2-3 jobs in addition to teaching, to all of us renovating a house that was crumbling when they bought it, to dad raising cows and working  a soybean farm (again, in addition to teaching full-time), to my mom’s daily volunteer work, we witnessed and experienced  the joy of a good day’s labor.

11. How does your family feel about how you earn a living today?
Not really sure what this question means. Parents take it in stride in that I do earn a living and that is what was expected. I think they are comfortable with my safe/secure choice of how I earn my living. I assume my daughter is happy with my choice in that we were able to have summers for some travel, although since she attended the high school where I taught, that caused some teen angst combined with some sense of power/position in the high school due to “notoriety.” My husband loves that I love my job.

12. Do you have siblings and if so, what do they do for a living? Do you have a personal reaction to what they do, like maybe you’re envious or inspired?
Ironically or maybe dysfunctionally we are a family of educators. No jealousies, only inspiration in hearing their challenges and triumphs.

13. Generally, what time do you go to sleep? What time do you wake up?
Sleep – 9pm. Awake – 6am, but on weekends I awake around 8am.

14. Do you want to leave your current job for something different? If so, can you imagine yourself doing this? If so, will you do it?
No, I do not want to leave my current job.  Only considering retirement to a warm climate soon and will then continue to work with adolescents.

15. What is more important to you in a job? a big paycheck or personal fulfillment.
PERSONAL FULFILLMENT ( and of course the pay is a bonus).

16. Do you think your idea of personal success has changed since you were 10 years old? 18 years old?
Hmmm, “personal success” not sure I ever considered the concept at age 10 or even 18 since I was the youngest of 4 stellar humans and I chose the path of least resistance. By 18 I was pregnant and so my definition became getting sober and raising my daughter. I was successful just living up to my responsibilities. Personal success now? Staying true to my beliefs and to my convictions, living a life of value and selflessness, helping others, setting and achieving goals from exercise to career. BEING HONEST.

17. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a chiropractor upon high school graduation, but after getting pregnant at 18, my mother pretty much decided I needed to be a teacher so I would have the same schedule as my daughter and be able to single-parent better.