what I’m leaving behind

Only FIVE MORE DAYS at this law firm job! I can’t wait to get out of here.

I’ve been at this job for six months, perhaps the shortest amount of time I’ve ever spent in any permanent position. (Except for the few weeks in 2007 during which I was an executive assistant to the red-faced Napoleonic owner of a very wealthy construction company who closed his door each day and figuratively castrated all the grown men he could fit inside his office, but I’ve tucked that month away into the dark recesses of my mind only to be revisited when I finally write my book entitled “Crazy People: New York City Bosses and Why You Might Be Better Off Looking Into Unemployment or Developing a Street Drug Addiction”).

I can’t decide if my stint here has felt longer or shorter than the six months it’s been, so I’ll just say it feels like it’s been exactly six months. It’s no secret that I haven’t loved this job. That’s not why I’m moving over to my new position at the PIT (yay! can’t wait!) – I would have been interested in the PIT job regardless, but I’m still ready to get outta here.

I’ve spent these six months wondering if I’m just a broken employee – someone who never grew the right kind of spine to quietly tolerate a paycheck job that she’s not particularly into, since I seem to have such a hard time keeping my mouth shut when I don’t like where I’m working. I marvel at some of my friends who have paycheck jobs, don’t really care for those jobs, but continue to power through everyday without complaint.

Well, I’m not quite so valiant. I’ve mostly bitched and moaned since day one at this place. At age 30 I certainly wish I was more mature, but I guess I’m not. It’s a personal reality I’ve accepted.

I’m excited about a lot of things related to this transition.  One small but very lovely aspect of my new job is that I won’t be an assistant any more. As much as I’m still happily pursuing comedy, acting and writing, I’ve had a little voice in the back of my mind since I turned 30 that’s been saying, “If this acting stuff doesn’t work out, what “career” will you have to fall back on? Assistantship? You’re gonna be a 40-year-old assistant some day? LOSER!”

And even though I know that kind of negative chatter isn’t good for much, and even though I’m also well aware that to have any kind of stable career at age 40 or any other age is a wonderful thing, I’m pleased to finally have an answer for the judgmental part of my brain who likes to pose those rude, cynical questions. “I’m NOT going to be an assistant any more, you cruel, jealous bitch.” That’s what I’ll say to that bitch. And maybe I’ll add, “I also had a giant cookie this weekend. AND I ATE THE WHOLE THING. What do you think of me now?” She’s gonna be so pissed.

Anyway, all this is to say that I feel lucky to have such professional good fortune right now. I’m grateful to get to leave behind what I’m leaving behind, to get to move on to something I’m really looking forward to, and to have a whole week off in between to get pedicures and eat chocolates (or giant cookies!).

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i recommend

I recommend getting together with a group of like-minded women once a month for the sole purpose of supporting each other’s career goals.

Now you know.

I owe a sincere thank you to my friend, M, who came up with the idea to do just that and then asked me to be a part of it. Now we have a monthly brunch gathering with a small group of creative, hard-working New York ladies.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect out of this experience, since the goal was to gather women from all different fields and industries.

We have a photographer, a couple career and life coaches, a former actor, a birth instructor, someone who blogs about food, someone who wants to get her PhD in something fascinating, someone who owns a business with her husband, someone whose husband occasionally works for her, women with careers you’ve never heard of and careers you’ve envied and careers with impressive resumes. And I’m there too. 😉

In my free time, I mostly hang out with people in the entertainment industry. My best friends are comedians, actors, writers and filmmakers. My boyfriend is a talented director (and actor and editor and producer and and). My best friend is a Shakespeare director and teacher.

While these ladies, although some of them participate in my industry and understand it just as well as they understand their own, all come from very different career paths. But after only two brunches, I’ve gotten a ton of out of coming together with them. They each have their own struggles and challenges and their own unique perspectives to share about everybody else’s stuff.

Sounds pretty feminine, right? It is. We listen and share and have positive body language and drink mimosas and it’s about as girly as it gets. I’m grateful to be a part of it.

Who doesn’t need a dose of that once a month?

For me personally, I’m excited about what lies ahead in my career. Nothing’s perfect, but I’m learning to enjoy and make the most out of the process. I fully expect that optimism to take a nose-dive soon enough, as it always does for me, but that’s part of the fun, right?

talent. luck. discipline.

The hardest part about the career game I’m playing right now – the one where I have this day job that doesn’t exactly do it for me so that I can support the dream career I’m working toward in the meantime – is the waiting.

Sometimes I feel like I’m over here treading water from 9-5 while I figure out the rest of it. And sometimes I wonder how long that’s gonna take.

I know it’s different every time I post – I like the day job, I hate the day job, I can live with it, it’s really healthy for me, I want to kill myself. And as inconsistent as that might be for you who are witnessing this journey, it feels just as inconsistent for me. I really do hate the job one day and feel grateful for it the next. It supports me financially and affords me the opportunity to keep pursuing my goals, but not without a serious drain on my mental and emotional state.

I guess that’s called a catch 22.

Lorne Michaels’ was recently on “Master Class” on the OWN Network (yes!) and he said something that has since been running through my mind. He said that the three things required to make it in this comedy world are talent, luck and discipline. And then he added that even when you have all three you’re not guaranteed to succeed, but you have to have all three to even have the option.

Heartwarming and terrifying all at once. Of course there are exceptions to his rule, but he’s right. Talent and luck are obvious, and anyone I know personally who has been successful as an actor, writer, comedian, etc. worked very hard to get there.

Lying in bed last night, a list of my own popped into my mind. Not necessarily a list of things one needs in order to be successful, but traits that I personally need to keep cultivating to stay sane.

Patience, trust, optimism and discipline.

Maybe not it’s not the humblest move to selectively edit wisdom from the guy who created Saturday Night Live, but you won’t tell him, right?

The thing is, sometimes I wonder WHAT THE EFF I’m doing. I’m 30 years old and I’m still playing dress up, playing make-it-up, putting on little performances, little skitties, writing stories and giggling with my friends. I never grew out of it. And I want to make a CAREER out of that? Because I am who, again? Someone special? Or just another one of the people in the sea that is this industry, fighting to earn a paycheck.

But on the flipside (and drawing from that necessary optimism), I remind myself that there are jobs to be had in this industry, I’ve watched so many of my peers move to the next level, I get to do what I love almost every night of the week, and most importantly, nothing is more exhilarating to me than performing and writing.

Last Friday night, we did an HST show with only half the team because the other half was out of town. We play each other’s parts all the time but I was nervous about one particular sketch. I’d never done it before and it’s kind of intense. But I did it. It went well, people laughed and enjoyed themselves, and felt like a million bucks afterward. It reminded me how capable I am, and that I need to trust myself more often. It also made me feel like I’d just run a mile or eaten a really incredible meal.

I felt filled up. What other information do I really need.

So, I’ll pray for patience, trust, optimism and discipline…and the wisdom to defer to Lorne Michaels’ list too.

how trusting unexpected inspiration changed my life

This cat paw close-up isn’t necessarily related to anything I’m about to say, but how cute is it??

Anyway, I wanted to share with y’all my latest article on Spring. Their theme this month is “inspiration.” Since the first piece I wrote on the topic was…inspired…by my decision to quit my job and pursue what makes me happier, I’ve figured I’d post the whole piece here too.

Incidentally, my next article about inspiration will go live on Spring this Thursday. Pretty sure I’m gonna write about Steven Slater. You’ve heard about this guy by now (or you live in a cave). He’s the JetBlue flight attendant who got bonked on the head by a piece of luggage right after being cussed out by a passenger and decided he’d had more than enough. Dude got on the loudspeaker, gave the entire plane a piece of his mind, grabbed a brew, inflated the big yellow escape hatch and slid down to his freedom! I love it. I’ll link to that article when it’s up.

In the meantime, here’s my latest piece:

How Trusting Unexpected Inspiration Changed My Life
(originally posted on Spring: Inspiration in Bloom)

Inspiration is anything that encourages, motivates and challenges you to take the next step. Whether the next step is in your career, your relationship, as an artist, a mother, a friend, inspiration is anything that genuinely makes you feel. What you do with it is up to you.

When I set out to quit my desk job as an assistant at a law firm a year and a half ago, I had no idea what I was going to do next. I knew I didn’t want to work in a corporate office anymore. I knew I hated waking up early just to commute an hour into the city to help someone else fulfill their professional goals and ambitions. I’d studied (and loved) acting in college, I liked to write, I liked to go for jogs, I liked animals, I wore clothes, I ate food – but I had no idea how to translate any of that into my Next Career. Nothing jumped out at me. I wasn’t, as it were, inspired. Continue reading

spring in july

If you’ve yet to check out Spring, the site I’ve been contributing to lately, get on over there!

It’s a lovely corner of the web created by four successful, passionate women – entrepreneurs and bloggers in their own right – who’ve come together with a singular focus on mind: To inspire you to “design a life you love.”

Obviously, I like that.

Throughout the month of July (which is coming to such a swift and sudden close, I almost can’t believe it!), I wrote four pieces on the theme of Self Care:

Self-Love Advice from a Former Fat Girl

3 Reasons to Skip the Gym

A Lesser Person Couldn’t

Without Condition

I’ll be back contributing to Spring in August on the subject of, what else, inspiration! If there are any specific topics you’d like me to explore or any questions you’d like me to ponder in my August articles, shoot me an email: jenifercurran@gmail.com.

how to quit your job – 5 steps

If you want to quit your job, you are like a staggering number of people in America today. CBS News recently reported that only 45% of US workers find their jobs satisfying. And that’s lowest rate ever recorded in the 22 years they’ve been studying the issue.

If you aren’t happy at your job, why not take the plunge? Yes, there are risks. Yes, it can be scary. But quitting your job to pursue something that makes you happier and more fulfilled is never riskier and scarier than the alternative: remaining stuck a mindless cycle of dreading every day and complaining over a tub of ice cream or a bottle of wine every night.

I quit my job and lived to tell the tale. I worked as a grouchy office assistant for many boring years and it made me want to commit mass murder. I was the ugliest version of myself when I worked at that job. I was dismissive, short-tempered, difficult and I loved rolling my eyes behind people’s backs. (Okay, I still do that.)

Now, 7 months after quitting, I’m happier and more hopeful than I’ve been in years. I might even be a little smarter too. I’m not an expert, I’m just someone who’s been through it and come out thriving on the other side.

The list I’m about to share might seem simple. That’s on purpose. No matter what we may have been led to believe by maybe our parents, our culture, or our bank accounts, quitting your job is simple.

Scary? Risky? Non-traditional? Maybe.

Rocket science? Absolutely not.

Here’s how I did it:

1. Decide WHY. I knew I felt unhappy at my job, but I had to determine exactly why, or I wouldn’t know what I was aiming to fix.

Start by asking yourself why you don’t like the work you do. Is it the people? The atmosphere? The work itself? Is it you? Are you making the situation worse than it is?

Be honest and specific. Make sure you truly know why you want to quit.

2. Decide WHAT. What next? New office? Home office? New career entirely? New city? Decide what you want out of your new lifestyle. If you already know what you want to do – great! You’re well on your way.

For some people, deciding what’s next is the hardest part. Just remember, it doesn’t have to happen right away. Spend some time paying attention to details about yourself that you might not always consider. Like, do you like walking to work? Do you mind commuting? Do you want to work with people, or by yourself? Ask friends and family to tell you where they think your strengths lie. There’s information in those details. Take the time to figure it out.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do next when I set out to quit. I knew I wanted to work for myself, have more control over my own schedule, feel creative, productive and active. It took me about a year to mold that into a career direction. Once I quit my job, I ended up opening an online bakery, becoming a freelance writer and focusing more on my comedy career. And I’m still growing and changing all the time.

3. Decide WHEN. Give yourself a goal date. This helped me tremendously. When I was 27 years old I promised myself that I would quit my desk job by the time I turned 29. When that date rolled around a year and a half later, I briefly considered NOT quitting yet – maybe I could save more money, maybe it wasn’t the right time?

Ultimately, though, I knew I owed it to myself meet the deadline I’d set. When I really thought about it, a new reality was already within reach…so why not go for it? It was the right move. It got me out of a job that I could have stayed in my whole life.

What will it take to get to the next step? Classes? Networking with a new group of people? Delving deeper into a hobby to discover how you might be paid to do what you love? Determine what smaller steps you’ll need to take between now and then. Then set a deadline and commit to it.

4. Save money. From the moment you decide you want to quit your job – in fact, even if it’s just an inkling in the back of your mind – start saving money. Check out my article “10 ways to save for a desk job escape,” which I wrote a few weeks before I quit. Cut corners when you can and trust that you are building an essential nest egg to help fuel your journey outta the doldrums.

My savings was account one of the best things I did for myself. I was able to pull in new income shortly after my desk job ended, but I needed that savings to float me through a few tough months later on and to make ends meet along the way. I was really amazed at how far it took me.

5. Commit to yourself. This is the most important piece of advice I can give you. If you want to quit your job, only your commitment to doing so will make it possible. People who decide to change their lives actively change them, they don’t sit around waiting for it to happen. Lay the traps, write the plans, shake off the fear, bide your time – yes. But after that time is up, take action. There will definitely be days when it feels like a big mistake, the wrong decision, the path of most resistance. On those days, return to the WHY and the WHAT to strengthen your resolve.

You’ll never know what can be if you don’t follow your bliss. Go for it.

failure and living well

I was flipping through the May 2010 issue of Oprah Magazine last night (Yes, I read it. No, I’m not embarrassed about that.) And I came across this article all about failure and living well, written by Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote “Eat, Pray, Love” and “Committed.”

The whole piece is a great, quick read that I think every woman should read. Click here for the full article.

Here’s an excerpt:

By all rights, every one of these clever, inventive women should be radiant with self-satisfaction. Instead, they twitch with near-constant doubt, somehow worrying that they are failing at life…(And) all of them worry that they need to lose 10 pounds.

It’s terribly frustrating for me to witness this endless second-guessing. The problem is, I do it, too. Despite having written five books, I worry that I have not written the right kinds of books, or that perhaps I have dedicated too much of my life to writing, and have therefore neglected other aspects of my being. (Like, I could really stand to lose 10 pounds.)

So here’s what I want to know: Can we lighten up a little?

As we head into this next decade, can we draft a joint resolution to drop the crazy-making expectation that we must all be perfect friends and perfect mothers and perfect workers and perfect lovers with perfect bodies who dedicate ourselves to charity and grow our own organic vegetables, at the same time that we run corporations and stand on our heads while playing the guitar with our feet?

I loved this article – again, I recommend reading the whole thing – and I couldn’t agree with her more.

Try, just for a minute, to believe that everything you do and have right now is already exactly perfect. That your life today is as good as it’s ever going to get – that you will never exercise more than you do today, never be more organized, never use up your groceries any more efficiently, never fight with your spouse more constructively – the way you are today is how you will be forever.

Sure, it sounds boring and stifling. Because we are humans who thrive off growth and change. But isn’t there part of it that seems like a little bit of a relief?

We put so much pressure on ourselves to CONSTANTLY be improving, growing, changing, losing weight, gaining friends, making career advancements, having our laundry done, keeping the bathroom clean and fitting into our skinny jeans that the idea of turning off that motor for an afternoon (or a lifetime) has its merits.

I’m not saying we should stop striving. Striving is part of what it means to be a woman in today’s culture.

I’m saying we should be a whole lot nicer to ourselves about the whole game.

new blog theme!

AHHH!!

I just changed the “theme” (Mom, that means the way the page looks) of my blog! I know it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but I’ve had that old theme, the darker one with the blue background and small print, for a LONG time. Since I started follow my bliss a year and a half ago.

I’m nervous to alter it – so funny. So that means I have to do it, right? Follow the fear!

I told you a few days ago that some changes will hopefully becoming to this blog soon. To be completely honest, I’m still formulating exactly what those changes will be, what I want to write about, what kind space I want to create here for us to share.

So this new theme isn’t permanent, but let’s see how it feels for a while, until the next big change happens. And bear with me while I work out some kinks…like that giant Fanny & Jane logo over there on the right. I’ll fix that soon. FIXED!

Pink. I like pink. This will be fun.

what’s to come

After a successful first month as a writer for Gather.com, I was so excited when they recently told me they’re happy with my work and asked me to help pilot a new Home & Garden program on their site! Yay!

Right now, I write Food/Seasonal stories, and I also write Women’s Lifestyle stuff. I haven’t ever written a ton about home decor, design, or outdoor stuff – there are many more capable home designers out there than I am – but when Gather asked me to help pilot the program, I knew I could certainly give it a whirl. The “keywords” relating to Home & Garden articles hit on a variety of topics, from “apartment design ideas” to “dinner party menu ideas” to “vegetable gardening for beginners,” and all imaginable topics in between. So I’m really excited (and honored) to have the opportunity to learn more about that stuff, try out some ideas myself, and write articles about all of it.

The experience, overall, of writing for Gather these last few months has been a good one. (And no, I am in no way compensated for saying any of this, it’s just my personal opinion and experience.) I am so lucky to have found this gig, because my bank account really needed the extra supplementary income. And I didn’t realize it at the time, but my creative brain really needed the new energy. I have been a writer since I was a kid – something I’ve talked about many times on this blog – and it’s no surprise that I turned to writing this blog to help boost myself up and out of my Corporate Job Rut a year and a half ago. I’m someone who processes things through writing about them.

So having the chance to write for a living is something I’ve always dreamed I’d get to do, something I’ve often (wrongly) doubted I’d ever have a chance to do, and something I’m very grateful to have found. It’s also provided me some mental space and clarity with Fanny & Jane, and an opportunity to let the bakery grow and change at its own pace – which feels more comfortable to me than forcing it to fit into whatever mold or direction I hope it will.

I’m feeling very content lately, but also very antsy. It reminds me of being a little kid – when you want to fast forward your life to find who you will be and how things will look when you’re an adult. I am dreaming of business trips around the country, weeks spent on location shooting something, traveling for research. I’m dreaming of vacations to interesting places – all the photos I’ll take and cuisines I’ll try.

(Speaking of different cuisines, my dear friend Marina just got back from a business trip to South Korea, of all places. She’s literally a celebrity there now, if you can believe it. She starred in a feature film a while back that just opened a film festival over there last month. She had to buy a fancy gown, was flown in to attend press conferences, walk the red carpet, and schmooze with the fans. She took it all in stride and came back with amazing stories to tell. I’m so proud of her – just had to share that.)

The point is, I’m dreaming of what is possible and what’s to come.

In that vein, you’re probably going to see some changes coming soon to follow my bliss. My personal experience will still be the central thread of this site. After all, sharing my story is why I started this blog to begin with, why it’s grown, and it will be a key piece of how it continues. But there’re a lot of other things I’d love to write about and explore too.

I’m not sure exactly what that will mean or how things will end up, but I’ve been having some meetings about where to take this site and where my creative impulses lie, and I’m so excited about what’s possible. That’s all I’ll say for now, so let’s just see what happens!

It’s a gloomy, cloudy, windy Mother’s Day here in NYC. I slept for 13 hours last night, after two days of lotsa work with Harvard Sailing Team (which was, as always, fun, exciting and exhausting), but now I’m feeling sluggish and a little under the weather. So I’m going to take this day to relax, rest, and snuggle in with the cats. And maybe I’ll make some notes and do some daydreaming about what’s to come!

The photos in this post, by the way, are a handful of older, random photos I’ve taken in the last couple years.

(p.s. One more thing – speaking of what’s to come, my web friend Kathleen, has recently made over her blog and I love her new site! Check it out. Yay, Kath!)