Curiouser & Curiouser

Life’s short. Get curious.

Keeping the Dream Alive January 8, 2011

Filed under: adulthood,happiness,life,thoughts,work — curiouserx2 @ 5:08 am
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So….. I had an interview today. And it’s awful, truly awful because: I REALLY WANT THIS.

Goals are fantastic, as are dreams. But wanting things really, really badly? That’s a double edged sword, mes amis. On the one side, having a great drive and passion toward something gives you courage and pushes you to be your best in order to attain that something you want. On the other, you have to be prepared for the worst (i.e. not attaining it). Not getting the “Snack Bar Attendant” position at your local country club is easily laughed off. Not getting something you really want can scratch even the thickest skin.

You might recall a certain girl who had a certain tryst with a certain online reviewing community (cough, cough… Yelp!… cough) about a year ago. You also might recall how she rose through the ranks from out-of-town underdog to 4th-interview finalist for a community manager position in Raleigh. What you won’t recall, however (because I breezed right over this part), was that same girl getting some very bad news on Christmas Eve and crying into her parents’ guest room pillows because she didn’t want them to know how destroyed she was. (And if you’re new here and don’t know what in god’s name I’m talking about, here’s a refresher: https://curiouserx2.wordpress.com/2009/12.)

This time I’m doing my best to take a different approach to things, or at least to get myself in a slightly more shatterproof mindset. If nothing else, I’m starting to get a much better handle now on a professional direction for myself. This position (which will remain nameless… sorry) bears a striking resemblance to Yelp’s community manager. Between these two I’m drawing the lines and connecting the dots, and they’re creating an image of “My Dream Job.” It’s one thing to know what you’re good at (I write, I take great photos, I dig meeting new people, I dig people in general, I love fashion, I like to work out, I love good food…) and quite another to figure out how all of these piece of you can be amalgamated into a career. A good place to start is keeping a mental list of all the times you REALLY WANTED SOMETHING. Or even the times you got remotely excited about an opportunity. Or, for that matter, to make a list of the companies you love and respect and to start looking into how your unique blend of talents might be put to good use to further their missions. Maybe you’ll have to go out on a limb. Maybe there’s a move in your future. Maybe you need to do something that scares you a little.

Maybe (and I’m stealing this idea, but I *love* it) , you should do one thing that scares you every day.

I did my thing today. Did you?

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Job Markets in Neverland November 5, 2010

Filed under: adulthood,happiness,life,photography,thoughts,work — curiouserx2 @ 5:18 pm
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Last night, while driving home from work, it occurred to me that I am still not a full-blown “grownup” and in all likelihood, I never will be.

Exhibit A: I happen to know from experience that pinot gris pairs well with Chex cereal (but only the cinnammon kind – accept no substitutions).

Exhibit B: I left for work yesterday wearing a black dress, heather grey tights and (wait for it…) galoshes emblazoned with smiley-faced blue whales (and it took quite some self-coaxing to change into my black ballet flats when I got there).

Exhibit C: I still take playing dress-up quite seriously (see here)

Not that I necessarily find this to be a flaw. On the contrary, plenty of people have found ways to capitalize on their refusal to grow up: comic book writers, video game creators, Betsey Johnson, Amanda Palmer, Tony Hawk … Peter Pan.

So it’s possible, but I haven’t exactly got the hang of it yet – which makes me slightly envious of those who have some sort of built-in shut-off device for all of their “childish” leanings. Their desires to explore and adventure and create and play were shut down at a crucial time by some innate “Override,” allowing them to smoothly transition into an office, a company car, a nice salary with benefits and football and beer on the weekends and not too many questions asked. (Or the other type – the rocket scientist or mathematician who’s greatest love translated into a cozy career).

Well someone forgot to install my switch, so it’s up to me now to use my remnant love of bubbles, dirt and sparkly things as an asset rather than a handicap.

It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in this quest. I found out last night that my Fedex delivery guy moonlights as an upright bass player in one hell of a jazz trio. One of my bartenders not-so-secretly dreams of making a living off her designer hair flare and I recently had my hair done by a local stylist who’s not so far from making it as a bigtime hair and makeup artist. One friend of mine even quit her lame customer service job to start a handmade decor business and, after a slow and scary start, is making it work. I’m sure that all of us have, at one point or another, been told to get serious or at the very least to focus our efforts on getting a “real job,” to relegate our “hobbies” to the weekends.

Our talents may be considered fluff to some, but blended with a lot of hard work, innovation and drive, I think any of them can be transformed into successful careers. So here’s to discovering the perfect combination of creative genius and business savvy and here’s a big, fat raspberry for all the naysayers.

Cheers!

 

Well That Was Fun… October 25, 2010

I return to you, dear readers, on the eve of my leaving yet another job. I know you’re asking yourselves why I only seem to be interested in blogging when I’m on the verge or in the midst of unemployment, but I swear it’s purely coincidence. To be completely candid with you, I’ve missed you. It’s not that I don’t get a good dose of writing every day when I update my 365. That’s nice and all, but there’s much more to life than photography (understatement of the year) and I don’t think any of that’s been getting properly addressed.

Par example: My ever-lengthening list of  “Jobs I’ve Quit Despite the Shite Economy.” Just thrown another shrimp on the barbie, giving my notice at the tapas bar I’ve been managing. It seems it’s not just particular restaurants (although the hibachi definitely took the prize for unhealthiest workplace ever), but the entire industry that I’m not particularly in line or in love with. And yes, I’d worked my way through the ranks very quickly in this latest endeavor and I’d finally paddled hard enough to get my chin up above the poverty line, but in the end I found myself working harder than ever, earning less than ever, and forever feeling like a fish out of water. To say I’m not the most polished person in the world is to put it kindly. The reality of it was I didn’t have enough money to dress the part, and it was becoming too difficult to act like I liked every one of my my guests and loved being there.

Especially the nightclub. Watching people with more money than you (whether they earned it or not) blow said money and act like complete assclowns to the same, mind-numbingly awful 40 songs (it’s amazing how slightly altering the order fools people into thinking they’re having a different experience each week…), cleaning up after them when they dribble red wine all over the women’s restroom (or worse), helping them find the lost camel jacket (worth more than my entire wardrobe) that they left on the dance floor, getting the really wasted ones into cabs at the night’s end whether they like it or not (or, in one case, getting shoved aside by a grown man who insisted he was fine even as he stumbled to his car), returning their wallets – complete with credit cards and $700 in cash – to them when they return in their limo later and graciously accepting the $15 reward they offer you for doing so (wow. thanks.), and eventually crawling into bed (literally – because have you ever worn heels for 10 hours straight??) at 3 or 4 a.m. with your ears ringing loud enough to make it hard to sleep.

Awesome.

Who wouldn’t want this job?

Strangely enough, there are people who aspire to such things. I am, conclusively, not one of them. And, as if I needed another reason to quit, the night schedule had me missing out on far to much life. Having a schedule quite the opposite of Jeff’s had us literally missing each other. He’d be up and off to teach just shortly after I’d gone to bed, and I’d come home long after he’d hit the sack. Even my days off didn’t align. While it’s totally sweet to be able to run your errands or hit the gym or find parking at the beach while the rest of the world is working, the cost is resigning yourself to doing all of these things alone. Lesson learned: I don’t need as much “Me Time” as I once thought I did.

So what will I do? A very good question. I’ve got a few applications in at the university already and I’ll be taking some Windex to my resume and sending it out. Wilmington’s not exactly the Land of Opportunity, but if I gleaned anything from my managing job, it was the art of networking. It is a small town – and you can cry about it, or you can use it. I’ve met enough people now that (god willing) when word gets out that I’m leaving, I can at least get some advice or leads on where to start.

If nothing else, I plan to use the time off to work on 1201. I’m starting to do pro-level work now (granted, there’s a vast spectrum of “Pro” photography out there and I’m still hanging out in the middle somewhere with plenty of room for improvement), and if I’m going to ask for payment for my work, the business had better look like a business. Obviously, I can’t sink a lot of money into it right now, but the website needs a little spit shine and I’m in desperate need of a good business card (and thanks to work, I know a guy who knows a guy).

I realize that I’m in the same boat (it’s got to be like an ark or a cruise ship by now) as so many other people my age, creative people, intelligent people, extremely capable people who are stuck finding a way to make a living doing what they’re best at. Plenty ahead of us have figured it out. Maybe we’re late bloomers, or maybe the shuffle board and Mai Tais are keeping us on that cruise ship a little to long. As for me, the game’s over and I just got cut off, so I’m jumping ship and swimming to shore with every hope that land is close.

And not inhabited by cannibals.

(And –  just because – a little something from My New Favorite Web Comic: Hyperbole and a Half )

 

I Don’t Know Why You Say Goodbye April 26, 2010

Grown up version of playing in the sandbox??

Day 100 of 365

Hello again, mes amis!!

Were you starting to think I’d abandoned you?

Never fear, I’m still here, still making it and things have actually been looking up. Steadily. So let’s keep our fingers crossed that I can maintain this forward motion sans stalling out any time in the foreseeable future. I’ve been working like a  maniac, both at the restaurant where I’m moving up slowly through the ranks taking on increasing responsibilities daily it seems, and on my 365 project (it appears some of you have been keeping an eye on my Flickr photostream to the right there – thanks for checking in!).

I can’t think of any other creative outlet that so perfectly encompasses the way I try to live my life. This project gives me all the excuse I need to be adventurous, creative and, yes, often ridiculous, every single day (that, and every bit of camera shyness I once had was obliterated sometime around Day 26. Bonus?).

I’ve just passed Day 100 of this project, and already, less than a third of the way through, I’ve become so much more familiar and comfortable with my camera, with my post production software and with the art itself. The first time I opened Lightroom on my computer, I had a minor meltdown. I’m a creative type with an aversion to technical guides or owner manuals of any type. But I realized my creativity would drown in a pool of cheap gear if I didn’t give it the boost it needed in post, so I broke down and read up a little and spent many hours playing with all of Lightroom’s tools.  So my confidence grows, my imagination gets a pretty tough workout, and I definitely put my problem solving skills to the test. How DOES one fake a home studio when you don’t own a single professional grade light? The answer, so far, includes everything from hording every lamp in the house in the bedroom, shooting in the bathtub (or closet), using bowls, mirrors and poster board as reflectors, and the occasional single bare bulb in a dark room.

Most importantly, though, I feel a deep satisfaction in what I do with a good deal of my free time. Not a minute of my life feels wasted, and there’s a massive body of work (100 images deep as of today!) to show for it. Should you be so curious: http://www.flickr.com/1201photography/sets/72157623087853539/

Hope you’re all finding your own ways to explore your world. Here’s to all of us staying afloat and staying curious!

 

On the Irksome Nature of 3-D Posters February 27, 2010

Filed under: happiness,life,thoughts — curiouserx2 @ 7:05 pm
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So I’m the poorest I’ve been in a very long time – so what? I’m not sunk yet, and somehow I just keep floating. And if I try very hard, I can remember when times were even worse. Times when I washed my clothes in the bathtub for lack of laundromat quarters, times when I cut my own hair and sold my CD’s and clothes (and almost my plasma – I finally got up the courage to try it and the clinic was closed that day. I took that as a sign). Days on end of eating the same three things in varying order (oatmeal, pasta, and $1.99 frozen entrees). I’ve not been reduced to any of that yet, so it can’t be all that bad, can it?

The restaurant has opened (softly, not grandly – they’re waiting a week or two to get the kinks out), but the money’s not rolling in just yet. So I’m biding my time and biting my nails, putting my faith in a fantastic concept and putting off certain bills as long as possible.

And how to not only avoid misery, but actually maintain a certain level of happiness? Joy, even?? How about kung-fu breaks in the office with Jeff, playing hide and seek with the cats (or fetch – Pip could put any retriever to shame), taking endless pictures and trying my damnedest to make them vibrant, to capture a certain joie de vivre. How about jumping on the bed and getting outdoors as the weather turns and actively seeking out the beautiful things in life that come to us absolutely free of charge the moment we arrive in this world?

For starters, anyway.

I was not always this way. You need look only a few years back into my life to discover a girl so jaded and dark and inwardly gloomy and borderline macabre you wouldn’t recognize her as me. I couldn’t pinpoint an exact moment of revelation, an event that spun me around, gave me a soft pat on the back and sent me on my way back to optimism. Instead, I think change came in the amalgamation of certain people that entered my life, certain others who departed and a conscious decision to see things in a different light. And the minute you decide you want to see the world as beautiful and full of possibilities again, it’s like someone whips a dark cloth off of it, the magician’s reveal! Turns out it was there all along.

This is not to say I never backslide. It’s like viewing one of those 3-D posters in the mall. I used to have a really hard time seeing them as well. I’d try to relax my gaze, to stare through the poster, to screw up my eyes – all to no avail. Then one day, flipping through a coffee table book a friend owned, three dolphins suddenly burst forth from the page. The reveal! Still – every time I come across these, I have to put forth some effort to make the image appear.

I don’t know if times of strife make it difficult to put in the necessary effort, or if we work against ourselves, giving in to the desire to wallow. Self-pity seems to be a natural human temptation in hard times, and also a horribly counterproductive trap. The way I see it, it’s okay to feel frustration, anger, fear and even sadness – to feel it, recognize it, understand it.  And then overcome it. Too often we let ourselves stop at the  feeling part. And you can feel yourself right into a black hole if you’re not careful.

Such a random post today! Apologies, but I’ve had quite a bit on my mind today and for the past couple of weeks and I’ve just sort of unloaded it all, created a bit of a dumping ground on the page today.

Chin up, everyone. Relax the eyes, soften the gaze – it’s all right in front of you.

 

Here We Go Again… January 22, 2010

Filed under: adulthood,happiness,life,photography,thoughts — curiouserx2 @ 10:06 pm
The days off aren't hurting either...

365-7 (Self-portrait while driving)

Not getting my “dream job” and quitting the hibachi has done strange and wondrous things to my life. The rapidfire sequence of these two events combined with the arrival of a beautiful piece of camera has set the gears of my mind reeling in such a random, new and intriguing direction that I can’t help but feel the most motivated and energized I’ve felt in a long time.

And frankly, I think it’s thrown Jeff for a bit of a loop, but I’ve already apologized and told him to bear with me.

Suddenly my life has been consumed by the camera, Lightroom and Flickr. By books on professional digital photography, post-production software, starting your own business. By logos and business cards, blogs and web sites. In short, I want something more than I’ve wanted something in a long time. More, quite possibly, than I wanted the job with Yelp (and if this all pans out, I’ll be thanking a certain regional manager for passing on me).

As I’ve tended in the past to throw myself into many a field of interest, I fully expected my parents, Jeff, hell – everyone I know, to be a little dubious my new foray. Surprisingly, though, my mom seemed unfazed, Jeff (after the initial shock) is on board – as much as a full-time grad student can be – and supportive and my sister’s volunteered (after some coercion) to be my next model (my portfolios admittedly thin and the next couple of months will mostly be spent fattening that puppy up).

Meanwhile, there’s a lot riding on this new job at the tapas bar. It has to be my bread and butter through all this (not only supporting me, but creating some capital as well), and I have no idea how lucrative it’s going to be.

In the meantime, though, it’s full steam ahead. Suppose I got tired of watching other people make a living doing something I told myself I loved but could never make a living at. You never know if you don’t try, and while I do plenty of wondering about what my life would be like if I’d taken the safe route, safe just never was for me. I’d like to go out someday knowing I spent my life doing what I loved.

 

How Not to be a Rockstar September 14, 2009

9631_536941278496_28501299_31826005_6709213_n…  Jeff’s proposed title of the compelling bestseller he proposes I write. Not a bad idea, really, for a girl who spent a good 6 years pursuing a career in music, only to realize the pursuit had made her into something she was not. Into someone she did not envy or admire. And thus, she walked away from it all.

Not to say I was anywhere close to infamy. But those years did produce some pretty great stories of experiences both hysterical and terrible, both bittersweet and just plain bitter. SO maybe this is the new direction of my masters thesis… for the grad program I haven’t been accepted to yet…. because I’m still working on the application…. and because I can’t decided if it’s the right thing to do.

Which brings me to my next point.

Today is one of those thankfully rare days when, never mind all the a##-busting and name-taking you’ve been doing, you feel like you’re just not doing enough with your life. In fact, you can’t figure out what exactly you are doing, and why any of it hasn’t gotten you somewhere beyond serving shrimp teriyaki to college kids.

((Oh- great story – today, an elderly woman of questionable sanity walks in and tells the hostess that a friend recommended our sushi restaurant to her. For seafood. She is also allergic to shellfish. So when we settle on the seafood tempura, with only red snapper and salmon, I think it might just work out. I even bring her ketchup in lieu of cocktail sauce (Cocktail sauce. In an Asian restaurant. Seriously?). She looks pleased, but when I glance over a while later, she’s calling me over. “Honey… I’m sorry, but I just don’t taste any fee-ish in theya anywaya,” she says. She has eaten all the salmon, but the red snapper is there untouched. “I know it’s hard to see it with the batter, but these are the white fish,” I explain, pointing out all the fish she hasn’t eaten. “Well, I know forah fact they’s onions theya,” she says, pointing to the one white thing on her plate that, true, is not fish. Soon, I convince her to open up one of the “potatoes” so that she’ll see it is, in fact fish. She puts a small piece in her mouth. “Well that don’t taste like no fee-ish I evah had; try it,” she adds, actually offering me a piece of fish. I tell her that’s really okay, that I believe that she is unsatisfied with the fish and will see what I can do. I’m able to comp half of the price of her meal, tell her so, hand her the bill and get back to my other tables. Moments later, the hostess comes walks over and tells me the woman is at the front desk trying to get her bill decreased. I take a huge breath, trying to summon whatever patience I might have left. And to not drop my tray and run screaming for the hills. (Did I mention there is NO MANAGER ON DUTY??) Once again, I try to explain to her that we’ve already given her a huge discount on her meal. Somehow (and I’m a little foggy on the details here; I may have blacked out in order to save my head from exploding), I get her to pay 7 of the $7.51 she owed me. Victory? I’m still not sure.))

Clearly, my life is not glamorous.

But I don’t need it to be. The years in which I sought musical stardom (in one form or another) were some of my most exciting but undeniably my loneliest as well. I’ve traded it all in order to be true to myself, and was rewarded by meeting a most amazing partner. Together we traveled to a more happy latitude, and finally I live by the sea.

It’s like working on a puzzle, and your down to your last few missing pieces. But as soon as you find one that fits, you realize another has gone missing, and this continues until you feel like you’ll never get the damn thing together.

But if history repeats itself (and clearly it does) I know the feeling of being completely overwhelmed will only last so long, that tomorrow I’ll wake up with a renewed sense of purpose and optimism. Happens every time.

‘Til then I’m summoning my patience, not running for the hills.