Refuse to be Passive

Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

Coming Down With Something

In Uncategorized on November 25, 2012 at 11:40 am

I’m not hungry. I feel like it’s twenty degrees hotter in my apartment than it really is. I have a headache. My muscles are stiff and sore. I must be getting sick. I hate feeling sick on Sundays, particularly when you don’t feel like you’re sick enough to skip church, but you’re definitely sick enough to not get much out of church. Beyond that, I question whether forcing myself to go to church is a good idea, or if I’ll spread whatever it is I have to those around me.

Today is really not a good day to be sick– church in the morning, post-church lunch, an afternoon of games, and the children’s Christmas pageant in the evening. I’ll feel guilty if I don’t go to any of these, and I do want to go. But I can’t simply choose to do one or two things and not the others. If I can justify one, then I should be able to do them all, right? I’ve always heard that you’re only contagious within the first three or four days of being sick. I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, then isn’t it the right decision to stay away from the general public?

Part of me wonders if I didn’t bring this upon myself with too many late nights. Since finishing my last job I’ve been taking a week of vacation time, and it’s amazing how quickly my schedule has gone out the window. I need to get back on track. Being sick doesn’t help with that, even if it’s not a super sick, but is a I might be coming down with something sick.

I need to get back to doing quality stuff with my time, not just wasting my time on historical fiction books and the internet. I can do that tomorrow maybe, assuming that I get better and not worse. As for now, I don’t know what to do. Church starts in twenty minutes. I was hoping to chat with the pastor today about starting a Young Adults ministry. Maybe that will have to wait for another week– no two– next Sunday I’m in Banff. Hmm…the timing of this just seems really poor.

Horrible Me

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Some days I feel like a horrible person. I judge quickly, and have a tongue that lashes out venomous words. I am too polite to say these words in front of the individual to which they are related; I save them up, storing them until I can find another who shares my frame of mind, then I retell my tales of injury and woe. These tales are inevitably followed by a good verbal whipping directed at the fool or bristled individual who has made me feel I am less than acceptable. I leave the conversation feeling justified for the words I have let flow. After all, if an individual can be so insidious and nasty to a fellow human being, do they not deserve the gossip and berating I dole out behind their backs? I am the worst of sinners.

Voltaire said many wise words, and on happiness he said, “I have chosen to be happy, because it is good for my health.” Smart man, smart words. And yet, I often opt to ignore the sage advice. Another quote I’ve heard– although I don’t know its source– is, “Don’t expect to see positive changes in your life when you surround yourself by negative people.” On the whole I would say that I surround myself with generally positive people, which makes me scared that I am the negative one, dragging others down.

Beyond my tendency to stray into the negative, I also have a tendency to justify. Rather than following the advice of Ghandi, who said, “Be the change you wish to see,” I tend to simply complain when it seems something isn’t fair, give up on a good work when the going gets tough, and in general will blame my lack of change on factors that surround me. Rather than doing what I should and recognizing that the only want stopping me from positive change is me, I latch on to other things and use useless excuses such as, “It’s just too hard.” What kind of an excuse is that? The only person who can make you change is you. The only person who cam make me change is me. I can let others influence me, be it positive or negative, but at the end of the day, the one who makes the decision is me.

I don’t have to be a horrible person. I don’t have to make horrible choices or speak horrible words or think horrible thoughts. I don’t have to talk about others behind their backs because they’ve hurt me or I think they’re fools. No. What ever happened to grace? What ever happened to mercy? What ever happened to turning the other cheek? I’ve fallen into a bad pattens, and now I have to get up and move on. Hopefully those around me will remember that the only time it’s alright to look down your nose at someone is when you’re helping them up. Actually, that’s a good thing for me to remember as well.

Beauty in the Mundane

In Uncategorized on November 6, 2012 at 8:56 am

There’s a certain mentality in many twenty-somethings today that the way to live life is to live broad. Go places, do things, never stop. While I haven’t been as drastic as some in this approach to life, I must confess that in my years since high school, I’ve lived a good number of places—Hamilton, Toronto, Niagara Region, Edmonton, Jasper. And while in some of these areas I moved residences on a yearly basis. I was not grounded. I was a drifter, a vagabond. I always had some direction in which I was heading, moving towards some new experience. I must confess that after eight years of living this way, I’m getting tired. I’m tired of having no roots, of constantly having to re-make myself, to build new social circles, to have to develop new, real friendships when I don’t know how long It will be until I move on again.

I was reading A Place Like Any Other: Sabbath Blessings by Molly Wolf this morning. The book is a series of essays, and I was reading the one from which the book takes its title. In it the author reflects on the town she lives in, commenting that it’s nothing special she says its, “a little scruffy, a little unfocused, mildly apologetic.” I know the type of town she speaks of. I’ve lived near them and witnessed the overweight women in jogging suits working at the grocery store and the “always-for-sale-no-takers” ramshackle hotel that Wolf describes in this essay.

We tend to think that a life worth living should be attractive, “gloss, smoothness, fresh paint”  and “comfortably cocooned in your car…listening to music, sipping good coffee.” We stray away from those who would invade our personal bubbles and pop this vision we’ve created for ourselves. We avoid those who make the world seem drab.

Wolf goes on to point out that we never feel at home in this world because we don’t allow ourselves to be. We want the smooth and polished, we turn our backs on history, grab on to the latest fad, and then wonder why we aren’t satisfied. But if we allow ourselves to stay in one place, to experience life in the joys and struggles, taking it for what it is and seeing the love of God In it, then we will know what life is. Then we will feel at home.

“Love’s not in grandeur and holy-heroism; it’s in the dailiness of things, in the slightly agonizing give-and-take of trying to do the best we can by each other.” It’s the struggles and the ordinariness of life, Wolf argues, where God’s beauty can be seen. “God’s beauty is not our beuty.” From there, the author breaks down all the things she had previously seen as smudged, now in the beauty of God. Her ramshackle town transforms into a place of hope, love, and a secret peace.

As I read her words, I felt a question formed in my mind. Have I been being selfish by my constant moving? The roots she talks of, the beauty she sees in her town, the fact that the citizens there are all God’s souls,  is this something that I’ve allowed myself to become blinded to? Am I chasing after a more attractive life, thinking that it will bring me fulfillment? Do I need to refocus on those around me, put down roots, and invest in the people there, acknowledging that we are all God’s souls? God is not a God of grandure and fame. God, it the king of everything. God is the God of the ordinary. He created all things, both the grand and majestic, as well as the drab and forgotten. He loves them all. Our culture has made fame and comfort our gods. But the true God doesn’t follow the trends, he stands for something more. Now I have a choice to make, after all, man cannot serve two masters. And if you think you don’t have a master, don’t kid yourself. Take a look at your life. What do your treasure most? Congratulations, you’ve found your master.

But really, here is the true question of this post, “Go broad or go deep?” Staying in one place means committing to the ordinary. But first, that means acknowledging that the ordinary has some merit in it, and that life there too can have meaning.

 

On Writing From Home

In Uncategorized on November 4, 2012 at 9:08 pm

You’ve heard of the pub crawl, but have you heard of the coffee shop crawl? That’s what I’m doing this morning. I started at Cafe Mondo with a Almond Chai Latte. Once I was finished with that I thought about getting a coffee to keep me going as I typed, but discarded that idea, knowing that their coffee was swill. So, now I’m sitting in The Other Paw Bakery and Cafe, sipping on their Timour Organic coffee form Bean Around The World. Not swill, but still nice and cheap– two bucks a cup with free refills. Note: the coffee at The Other Paw may be decent, but the coffee at the original Bear’s Paw really needs some work. Don’t drink it if you have the option.

Why the coffee shop hop, you may ask? Well, I told myself that I’d write this morning. I have a month’s worth of blog posts stored in my head, just waiting to be typed up, but whenever I sit down to blog at home I get distracted. I start saying things like, “I want a snack,” or “ The living room should really be vacuumed,” or “When was the last time I watered the plants?” From there, my writing mood is shot. But once I get into a coffee shop, power up my laptop, and get a steaming cup of black goodness sitting besides me, the words begin to flow. I have no other purpose in being in that coffee shop than to drink coffee and write blog posts. And even the snacking aspect of things isn’t a temptation because I’ve gone vegan and there’s practically nothing as your average coffee shop that even approaches vegan.

This makes me wonder, how is it that some people can work and write from home? Maybe the case can be made for having a home office, where you close the door, inspiration flows, and words come forth. But I also know of people who live in a small home and do all their writing at the kitchen table. How? They must be more focused than I am, because I just cannot bring myself to do that.

My roommate has been on holidays in California for a month, and before she left I had always said that having a roommate was too much of distraction to write in the common-area. After all, she usually has the TV on, and that can be wildly distracting. But even with her gone, my writing stints were few and far between, and even then only when I forced myself to take the time to sit down and write. It certainly wasn’t something that I wanted to do, rather something I felt I had to do.

So for now, I’ll type away at my laptop, sipping my lukewarm coffee, gazing out at the mountains rising up across the valley. If there’s not inspiration to be had there, I might just be a lost cause.

 

Are you a writer? Do you work from home? What keeps you focused?

How To Quit Your Job Without Burning Bridges

In Uncategorized on November 4, 2012 at 9:07 pm

A month and a half ago I started a new job. I wasn’t there more than two weeks when I knew it was a mistake. The job offered me was not the job I originally applied for. The pay was less, and the position was one that I thought I could stick out over the winter, but wasn’t exactly working towards my career aspirations. I took the job because, despite lower pay, it still paid better than most jobs in town, and my boss seemed desperate to hire someone after a summer of no staff and a huge workload. She needed someone to help her catch-up. Looking back on it, we both made a mistake. Hiring because you’re desperate is always a bad idea. Taking a job because you think it’ll work for now and you need a job, is also a bad idea.

So a couple of weeks ago I started fretting. I wasn’t happy at work, and while I felt like I was executing my tasks efficiently and effectively, I felt like my boss was never happy with me.

When my boss announced that she would be meeting with each staff member one-on-one in the next couple of days, I started to get antsy and nervous. My boss had been away on and off over the time I’d been at the job, and I felt like whenever she was around, I was being looked down on, and as such, I didn’t perform as well as I could have. I’d been trying for two weeks to come up with a way to get out of my current employment situation without burning bridges. After all, I live in a small town, with limited winter employment options, meaning that burnt bridges are a very bad thing.

When my boss finally did sit me down, she asked me for an update of what I’d been up to the past week while she’d been gone, which I dutifully gave to her. From there, she said, “So, you’ve been here just over a month. How do you feel about the job?” This was one of those moments where two roads diverge and you get to choose only one. Did I lie through my teeth and tell her that I was enjoying working there, or did I tell her the truth, that I didn’t think I was a good match for the office culture and that I thought there were others who might enjoy the job more and therefore produce greater positive effects in the office? Well, I never opt for a blatant lie, and so I opted for the only other option available. I told her that I didn’t think I was a good office fit and that someone else might be better in the position. I also told her that I appreciated what my office did as a not-for-profit, and as such, I thought they deserved someone in the position who could really pour their heart and soul into an administrative position. I also reminded her gently that it was not the position that I had originally applied for and that perhaps we were hasty in both the offering and acceptance of the position because we both had personal motivations in filling the position.

She thanked me for being honest, and then, in that spirit of honesty told me that she agreed with my assessment and went on to state a few of her thoughts around my job performance and the potential reasons that I possibly wasn’t fitting into the position. Most of them were accurate, and she even recognized that I had never applied for an administrative position, and while I had the skills, it wasn’t where I wanted to be.

We ended off the conversation agreeing that I would work through the end of the next pay period, that she would tweak my job description over the next month so that we could finish catching up on paperwork and the to-do list that had been growing longer and longer over the summer months. We both wished each other well in future endeavors, and ended the conversation on a positive note.

As I walked out of that meeting, I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I wanted to skip. I had to keep my face happy, but serious, instead of letting out the silly grin that was trying to emerge.

So what lessons did I learn from that experience?

  1. If you aren’t certain about taking a job, don’t. Ask for more time to consider the position.

  2. When family and friends tell you its a bad fit and that you’ll be miserable, believe them. They know and love you more than anyone else.

  3. If you’ve taken a job that is a bad fit, or any other form of mistake, don’t just walk into your bosses office, say, “I quit.” and storm out. Burning bridges doesn’t help anyone.

  4. Odds are, if you’re unhappy in your job, it is showing in your performance. Your boss has probably noticed that something is off.

  5. If takes a lot of hours to do hiring and training. Be kind and quit sooner rather than later so they can find a person who will be a better fit for the organization.

  6. Be gracious. Think about what you’re going to say before you quit. Remember to thank your employer for their faith in you and the opportunity to work with them. Then tell them why you’re quitting. Remember not to be depreciating of yourself or the organization. Neither of you are actually bad, you’re just not right for each other. Try to be diplomatic. Then try to sort out an appropriate end date.

  7. Next time, be more discerning. Learn from experience.

 

Quitting your job can be a stressful experience. Remember to stay calm and not let your emotions run away with you. If you have an employer like mine, the pain will be minimal and you’ll leave with a calm feeling of happiness. Take an evening to revel. Then, hit the pavement running. While you’re still feeling positive about your choice, start your job search. That feeling of euphoria will hold you as you sift through the listings and write a plethora of cover letters.