but you don’t have to wear pants!

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When someone asks me about my job, and I tell them what I do, generally, one of two things happens:

Thing 1: That someone utters some version of : “You work from home? Oh wow, that must be nice!”

–or–

Thing 2: That someone quickly regrets asking, evidenced by eyes glazing over and a nod that is half “uh-huh” and half desperate for me to stop trying to explain.

As a result of the latter reaction, I’ve revised my explanation, and I only elaborate when my brief synopsis is met with a follow-up question. As a result of the first reaction, I usually get a little angry. This wasn’t always my reaction, though. Over time, the glorious opportunity to work from home has worn on me.  If you also happen to be an overachiever trapped in a procrastinator’s body who works from home, you may be able to relate.

but you don't have to wear pants_12.3

Working from home sounds amazing, in theory. It may actually be a dream situation for many. The longer I do it, however, the more the challenges begin to overshadow the benefits.  Here are just a few examples of how theoretically awesome aspects of working from home have become problematic for me:

The Flexible Schedule. You can make your own schedule, with flexible hours. Awesome. Oh, wait…If there are no set hours for work, you have to hold yourself accountable to a schedule? Deadlines don’t disappear? You may slide down the slippery slope of working pretty much constantly, which for me means not very efficiently, or putting work off for just about anything else? Like laundry! Laundry’s so awesome!

You don’t have to wear pants. You can wear anything you please. In fact, clothing is entirely optional. Oh, wait…You mean if you don’t have to get dressed or shower, you won’t? Are you saying that sometimes days will go by between showers? That you may eventually find yourself feeling like putting “real” clothes on is THE. HARDEST. THING. EVER.

You can work anywhere.  You can stay on the couch with that laptop. You can set up a cozy little dedicated office space all your own. You don’t have to leave the house! You’re so lucky. Oh, wait…So you don’t leave the house? And you could set up a dedicated office space but you haven’t managed to tackle this obstacle successfully in the four years you’ve been doing your job? And spending all day every day alone in your house is slowly driving you crazy, isolating you from human beings, and even your dog might be sick of you?

What was once a super-exciting list of possibility related to an exclusively remote position has mutated into a list of reasons I have lost much of my ability to function like an actual grown up. My list of struggles gets extra long if you include the really good stuff– like the fact that I am technically a self-employed freelance contractor. No salary. No benefits. No predictable pay schedule. When I accidentally started doing this job during graduate school, I never thought that I would daydream of a salary paid at regular intervals, secretly wish that my taxes were being automatically deducted from my paychecks, or begin to romanticize retirement savings and other employee benefits. You live and you learn, I suppose.

I am thankful to be gainfully employed, believe me. I remind myself daily that things could be so much worse. I could be unemployed, uneducated, and far more broke. I have found success in working from coffee shops and at the kitchen tables of other friends who work from home. My dog requires exercise, so that, combined with a personal love of fitness (that includes running anywhere but on a treadmill) has forced me to leave the house (and occasionally shower). I know for certain that I could probably figure out a way to make my job work for a while longer, or even forever. It would be and ideal position when Rob and I get married and have babies. People stay in careers they hate for their entire lives, right? Not me, y’all. Not me.

Why not me? That’s easy: Unhappy does not look good on me (and I try not to make plans based on hypothetical children). These could be some of the reasons that I am always starting over. I may even have several more careers in my lifetime. Since becoming painfully aware that my current job just is not meant for me in the long term, or perhaps that I am not meant for it, I am working on making a change rather than only complaining while changing nothing. I’ve identified what it is that I want to do, perhaps for the first time in my life. If you haven’t already heard (read), I’m working towards becoming a registered nurse. The first steps towards making positive changes took overcoming some fears: because fear is a liar, and I’d like a do-over.

For now, my future holds prerequisite classes at the local community college, logging as many volunteer hours as possible at the hospital, applications, recommendations, official transcripts, and (fingers crossed) a spring 2016 matriculation into an accelerated bachelor of nursing program.

The present? Yoga pants. Dirty hair. Lots of hermit-like behavior.

And laundry.

(Just kidding. I did all the laundry yesterday.)

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oh. come. on.

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oh, come on! 11.25

I’ve heard that saying:

“We plan, God laughs.”

This little phrase (which I discovered is a Yiddish proverb when I googled it to see if it started out “We plan” or “Man plans” and found both) rings true for me quite often. This is most likely because, in many arenas, I can be a planning-obsessed control freak. But, for the most part, I am okay when my plans go a little berserk– part of the fun of living is enjoying the surprises. I usually feel like the twists and turns take me just where I belong. Usually. After this past week and weekend, though, I may have coined my own phrase:

“I make plans to go back to school, which costs roughly what’s in my savings account.

My car breaks. My car gets fixed not quite fixed. There is no laughing.”

(which is too long for a catch phrase or a proverb, possibly)

Rather than relive the horror in freshly pressed words, I’ll share the letter I wrote to the auto repair shop (that shall remain nameless, for now) after I received their “How Did We Do?” email in my inbox. The good parts are highlighted.


 

On Saturday, 22 November, I brought my car (a 2001 Subaru Outback) into the Peter’s Creek location in Winston-Salem. I had a check engine light on, and a code readout from Advanced Auto. Since the engine computer code (P0303 Cylinder #3 misfire) has many possible causes, I agreed to have Powertrain Diagnostics run on my car to determine the underlying issue.

 I was contacted by John* with the results. He informed me what my car needed based on the diagnostics (from which I never saw a readout report). The issues were fairly regular maintenance on a car with 130K+ miles on it: air and fuel decarbonizing wash (of the “super special premium” variety), replacing spark plugs, spark plug wires, and valve cover gaskets.  I made sure to let everyone know I was not in a hurry, and could wait until Monday for the work to be done. After initial diagnostics, my car was in the possession of the shop for roughly 3 hours (called me with results at 13:34 and I received notice my car was ready at 15:56). I was quoted $656 and change. When I picked up my car, I paid $641.58 (after a $15 coupon) for fairly standard maintenance. More than half of this bill ($368.10) was for labor. (I understand that mechanics should be compensated for their specialized knowledge and am not necessarily upset with the cost, so hear me out).

After spending this money, imagine my surprise as I am driving my newly “repaired” car (complete with new spark plugs and wires!) to High Point and it begins to hesitate, shudder rather violently, and suck power (dash lights dimming) while moving between 35 and 40 mph and while idling at a full stop. Then, the check engine light begins to flash, and once I’d made it to a place I could safely pull over, the check engine light is illuminated permanently again. 

In a nutshell: THE EXACT THINGS I’D JUST HAD “FIXED” ALL CAME BACK WITHIN 20 MINUTES OF PICKING UP MY CAR AND SPENDING ALMOST $650.00 FOR REPAIRS.

This is unacceptable. The shop was closed before I could call back and find out what was going on. I felt unsafe and uncomfortable driving my car. Sunday morning, I was able to contact my father, who walked me through the work done on the car based on my invoice, and had me double check the work. After checking the wire connections at the coil and then examining the connections of the spark plugs, I was able to determine that one of my “new spark plugs” was not properly replaced and had shaken loose (the boot was a good quarter of an inch from flush). After connecting the plug properly, my car handled well again, without any of the symptoms it had displayed the night before, and before I brought it in. After a test drive at city and highway speeds, it seems fine. Now that the car has been driven, started and turned off several times, the check engine light has gone off.

 I am unsettled at the fact that I had to double check the work, for which I paid $368 in labor alone, done on my car. 

 I will be contacting the shop directly as well. Thank you for your time.

*name changed to protect this very nice man’s identity. He was not the mechanic who did the work on my car.

 


My call to the shop resulted in some resolution: vouchers for several free oil changes, a check and re-check of all of the work performed on my car, and an apology. I never saw a work order or the supporting documentation diagnostics. I wasn’t given any refund for the services rendered. Since it wasn’t a problem with my car that they’d completely missed, I felt a little better. I only wish I’d waited to talk to my dad (who was at work when I consented to the services) before I’d agreed to have anything called a “Super Special Premium” anything done to my car. My parents always told me, if you have money saved, something will break (usually an appliance). I sometimes hate when they are right.

 

In retrospect, perhaps I was too nice to the gentlemen at the shop. But, I think everyone has a bad day and I shall not hold a grudge since I’ve had several good experiences here in the past. (Also, I’d like to think that someday my being too nice might come back to haunt me in the form of good karma?) I guess what’s left is this lesson: Let my Dad do all the work I need done on my car, ever. Forever. Dad never leaves things loose (since I’m his kid and all) and his labor costs are much more reasonable.  This lesson, oddly, can be translated in Yiddish, to:

“We plan, God laughs.”

(Now, back to finding/saving/potentially crowd-sourcing a little money for school.)

 

Tell me about annoying things that have happened to you lately (please!).

fear is a liar, and i’d like a do-over.

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I confess: I’ve always really liked school. I even tried teaching it once. I’ve collected a few degrees, and like I mentioned when I told you how I am always starting over, I often think of going back to school as a way to, well, start over. In 2007 I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology. After doing lots of what now seems like nothing, and an experiment with teaching (Teach for America is a topic for another post!), I went back to school in 2010, earning  a master’s degree in cell and molecular biology in 2012. It is now 2014 (just in case you recently woke up from a coma) and I want to go to nursing school.

None of this information, taken alone, is problematic. (I know, I know, woe is me, I got a great education, right?) The sum of the parts, though, that has proven challenging. When I consider what I have already done and then consider what I’m thinking about doing, this is what swirls around in my head the most:

  1. Debt. I am still paying for those first two degrees, along with the credit card debt I acquired as a stupid teenager… and in my early 20s.
  2. Qualifications. Any prerequisite courses for nursing school that I took, and earned excellent grades in, I took as an undergraduate between 2003 and 2007. That puts most of them beyond a statute of limitations (meaning I have to take ’em again!). This also conveniently reminds me how old I am, which brings me to…
  3. Timing. Feeling like it is “too late” to “start over”. This is likely due, at least in part, to the fact that I will be 30 years old on February 6, 2015.

I have agonized over these points for so long now, I would be hard pressed to identify the first time I thought about earning a nursing degree. Chances are those prerequisites would still be valid if I’d made that move back then. In fact, if I’d sucked it up then, I would likely be a nurse already, and not writing this blog from my couch in my gym clothes. What happened between now and whenever I first ignored the things I wanted to do? Fear.

fear is a liar

I have been so afraid of falling down, of taking a risk, of all the “what ifs”, that I’m not sure I ever even legitimately researched what earning a nursing degree would take, where to start, and how to pay for it. I landed in a puddle of excuses and nearly drowned in them. In fact, I probably nearly drowned in more ways than one (so much crying has happened in the past year of my life I’m surprised my boyfriend hasn’t had me committed). As it turns out, fear can take over even a smart, rational person’s thinking and eventually, make it feel as though you have no control over your very own life. I was feeling very much out of control.

Coming from a place of fear, it always seemed clear to me that I’d “screwed up” and wasted precious time making all kinds of choices that haven’t entirely fulfilled me. But after a moment of clarity, an odd hour or two of bravery, a lot of googling, more crying, and just the right amount of support and encouragement  from my family and friends, I decided to dive in. Now that I’ve decided, it feels damn good. It suddenly feels like the winding path I’ve chosen has been precisely what it took to bring me to this place, this present, my right now. What I do with where I am is up to me. The control is mine again. And, as my beautiful and wise sister tells me:

“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”

See you on the other side.