Monday, April 1, 2019

having it all figured out

On the third-to-last-day of 2018, I made a list of things I was Looking Forward To in 2019. And since I graduated in December, one of the things I put on this list was “Getting to work on dream jobs - aka I graduated so Here We Go.”

It’s April 1. I am not employed.

Since May 2018, I had been working at my favorite coffee shop as a barista. I have loved the coffee shop - I love my coworkers, I love pulling espresso shots and steaming milk, I love the methodical, therapeutic work of preparing food - slicing tomatoes and mixing waffle batter. I love our regular customers, and chatting with the guy who delivers the milk on Tuesdays and Fridays. I love stopping by even when I’m not scheduled to have a latte, catch the news, and feel a little known when people ask how my cats are doing.

Despite this love, I was pretty sure being a barista was not my dream job. I was also pretty sure electrical engineering (where my degree is) was not my dream job. I am mildly convinced my dream job is teaching algebra to high school students, but I did not get a degree for that (a different story). I figured that I would get a job using my engineering degree, and it would be a harmless way to make money and work on something challenging while I thought about how to become gainfully employed elsewhere.

In January, I applied for a position with a large defense contractor. I had an interview. I did paperwork. I wrote a vision statement for myself about why I was seeking the job and why I would keep it for two years, to develop personal grit and a gold star on my fledgling resume. I got a generous offer, and I accepted it, and I did more paperwork.

I showed up for the first day and did all the first-day things: I had a picture taken for a badge, and sat and waited while the badge was printed. I made small talk with the other new hires. I got a computer, and sat and waited for the tech guy to set up said computer. I sat at a desk and read pages and pages about the technical system I would be working with. I called the company help desk to get my email address changed from my maiden name (which they had from an internship two years ago) to my married name.

At the end of the day, I nodded to my fellow new-hire with whom I shared a cubicle, picked up my bag and my coat, and walked out to the parking lot. Like a working adult. I got in my car, and took a deep breath.

And I started crying.*

Why was I crying? The job was perfect for a newly minted electrical engineer. It involved challenging technical work in an important industry, with an excellent paycheck to boot. An excellent paycheck. Connections. Technical conferences. Every other Friday off. Benefits. A community of like-minded high achievers. An excellent paycheck. A harmless gateway to bigger and better.

But I knew, more or less exactly, why I was crying. Two years ago, I took an internship with a different company, but in the same building, on an extraordinarily similar project.

I hated it.

Defense contractors do good work. I’m thankful for them and the support they provide to our military and their contribution to our national safety.

I hated being in a cubicle without a window for 9 hours a day. I didn’t like the work. There’s no better way to say that. I thought taking on a full time job would be enough to shift in commitment to just do it, but I hated it enough that -

I emailed my manager that night and told him I wouldn’t be coming back the next day. I did the “it’s not you, it’s me,” via email to a large, successful corporation. On day one.**

I cried a lot the next day, too. But I didn’t have any regret - about the quitting, if not the taking the job in the first place. And the next week, the first thing I wrote in my planner was, “You don’t have to have it all figured out this week,” and I flipped to the next week and gracefully wrote, “You don’t have to have it all figured out this week either.”

That one day was February 25. And it’s April 1, which I guess is only a month later, but surprise, I don’t have it figured out yet. I’m doing a little baking on the side at my little coffee shop. I’m reading (a lot). I’m working on a day-to-day creative project. I’m so so grateful for a husband who is going to work. I’m daydreaming and brainstorming and hoping and praying.

Because it turns out that I don’t have a dream job just yet. But it’s okay. You don’t have to have it all figured out this week.

*Sobbing. As a note, driving while sobbing feels extraordinarily dangerous. I want to say that being so emotional keeps one alert, but that’s driving while angry. Driving while vigorously and hopelessly upset means that you can hardly see past your tears and you can’t hear past your wordless cries, and you really aren’t sure how fast you’re going. At the end of the trip, you may be endlessly thankful you know the way home from anywhere in your hometown without thinking.

**Interestingly, I had done this before, now that I think about it. In 7th grade, my crush asked me out at the lunch table and I guess I nodded, and that night he told all the boys at Boy Scouts - which included my brother, and my dad - and I was so horrified when Dad came home and recited the event that I gave the crush a handwritten note the next day that said, effectively, “jk, nevermind, this was a terrible idea.”

Monday, December 31, 2018

What's Saving My Life 2018 Edition

I'm not sure where this practice got its start, but a few of my favorite bloggers occasionally produce a list of "what's saving my life right now." Items on the list can be anywhere from the deep to the mundane - your new favorite cup of coffee or a particularly touching devotional. I picked up the habit of writing out a short list of life-savers throughout the last bit of 2018 and wanted to share some of them with you! What's saving your life right now?

1. Turning my garage into an art studio

Okay, so we still parked the car in the garage, but the periphery contained a dresser full of art supplies and there was art nailed to the wall for most of the semester. This was my haven for working on my senior capstone this semester, but it also turned into a place for dance parties, podcast listening and soul reflection. Amen.

2. Podcasts

Podcasts fill blank space on car rides, long runs, and household chores. Sometimes I fall out of the mood for them, but most of the time, they are my consistently helpful companions. Several podcasts have been really important to me this year - notably, Emily P Freeman's The Next Right Thing - but a new discovery that has flipped over a corner of my world is The Liturgists. Proceed with caution.

3. She Reads Truth


Recently, we've been in an indefinite season of not going to Sunday church. That can make it hard to engage with the bible on a daily and weekly basis, but I've found the She Reads Truth books extraordinarily helpful for getting into the word every day. This past fall, I worked through the Sermon on the Mount, as well as the book of Hebrews. The books are pretty pricey, so I don't see this being a long-term solution, but for now it works fairly well. The books are well designed, contain all the scripture for each day, and usually include space for reflection and thought-provoking study questions.

4. A physical planner


I don't think it's much of a stretch to say one of the main reasons I made it through my last semester of college is because of my current planner. I'm using a blank notebook that is half bullet-journal and half modeled after Elise Joy's Get To Work Book. I love the format of her planners, but love the freedom of having a blank notebook if I need to adapt to what I've got going on.

5. my mother

Yes, my mother. She was on the lists more than once, actually. I discovered in the last couple of years (okay all of them, all right?) just how much this woman loves me (she is so over hearing it. she is reading this and rolling her eyes) and I've been loving lunch dates, evening hang outs, and other adventures with my momma. Here's a hint: ask your [mother/aunt/grandmother/other encouraging female role model] good questions. This has been a joy to me and also a live saver to hear that I have never been struggling alone.

6. Just one shot of espresso

Most medium espresso based drinks come with two shots of espresso. As it turns out, my body is rather caffeine intolerant and so it can make me anxious and jittery. I've found that just one shot in the same size drink can be the perfect amount to give me the coffee I enjoy without sacrificing a morning or afternoon of mental and physical peace. I've also learned that sometimes, I just don't need coffee. And so we go.

7. Reading


So many good books! I'm excited to keep reading in 2019, but I am also stoked to apply what I've learned from my top books this year to some of real life. My top reads included Deep Work, Chasing Slow, Educated, and Grit. They were so good, and they'll have a real impact on how I see the world and continue into my professional and personal work.

8. Eating seasonally

The fact of the matter is that it is simply easier to convince yourself to cook and eat real meals in the winter if spaghetti squash, pot roast, and tomato soup are on the menu. Hence, we've eaten spaghetti squash every week in the last couple months, and the Caesar salad I am currently munching is one weird exception.

9. Having a Christmas sinking fund

This is just a fancy phrase for saying that every month this year, we put aside a little money for Christmas shopping. So, when November rolled around, paying for Christmas gifts was not one of the things we had to be worried about. Gift giving is one of my favorite things and I know it's a blessing just to be able to give presents, but it's an extra bonus to take the stress out of spending money in the fall since we already have it set aside.

10. Graduating!

It took me a semester longer than I expected and my alma mater is not what I thought it would be, but I am so glad I stuck it out to get the degree. I have yet to have it pay off career-wise (only because it's been 3 weeks and the real job hunt starts in January), but after reading Grit and speaking to relatives and professionals, there's something to be said for completing a personal goal that takes longer than a year.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

What I'm Looking Forward to in 2019

It's not better than goal-setting, but it is different and generally less stressful. It's been really good to sit and think about what's coming up next year! I hope it encourages you to think about what you might be looking forward to in 2019.

1. My sister's wedding!

Okay, so it's my sister-in-law, but she is a beautiful human and I would happily have her as my sister sister. She's getting married in early February, and I'm excited to get to see her and hang out for a weekend, see her hometown and meet her people, as I've never been there, and stand by her as she ties the knot.

2. Getting to work on the dream job(s)

I graduated in December, so I've spent a lot of time in 2018 thinking about what I want to do for a living. The ideas have bounced around a lot, but I've got a trajectory I'm going to try out starting with getting the job I am degreed for (electrical engineering something) in 2019. I've also got some bigger dreams I might talk about a little later, but I'm excited to take some first steps in the new year.

3. Paying off debt (!!!) & saving for big things

Barring unforeseen acts of God, my husband and I will be paying off our student loans this year. This year! I'm not comparing or saying we really sacrificed - we didn't have all that much to start out with, which was just lucky, really, but we've poured a lot into getting our debt paid off this past year and are excited to be done with debt forever (unless we get a house, maybe).  Plus, once we're done with debt, we can start saving for more exciting things! (#newcar?)

4. Finding somewhere to give time & energy

I'm hoping to get into serving somewhere in the community. This is a goal I've had for literally years but never had the schedule to make it consistent - and if there's one thing I want my in-person giving to be, it's consistent. With a standard work schedule, I'm hoping to spend my afternoons helping out. I'm looking to tutor in the community - there's a couple programs downtown I would love to get involved with.

5. Running like a madman

I'm signed up to run a 50 mile race (!!) in April 2019, so I'm adding a lot more miles to the running log lately, and even more as 2019 begins. I'm not sure exactly why I decided to get back into ultrarunning, which I swore off after my one-and-only 50k a year ago, but here we are, and I am loving my mid-distance runs right now.

Friday, November 30, 2018

tiny art show (pt ii)

what follows is the second excerpt from my Honors Capstone project, which discusses the origin, inspiration, and process of my art show, 9 Semesters.

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The show began as a flurry of inspiration written in a notebook. I had lots of ideas and words to describe them, some vague images in my mind (almost none of which made it into the final artwork). I wrote them down, tore out the page, chopped it up into individual ideas and glued them, kindergarten-style, into a different notebook with space for embellishment. I added sticky notes, sketches, and questions that debated possible materials, forms, colors.

If this sounds at all exciting or impressive, I need to reassure you of my timidity and mild embarrassment in bringing this collection of scraps to my former drawing instructor to ask her to be the director of my project. To her extraordinary credit, she never said a single word to encourage my imposter syndrome. She had excellent suggestions to kick me in the right direction, handed me lists of materials and supplies that would be helpful, and told me to email when I had something show her or any questions.

I went home and ordered paint, bristol paper, brushes, watercolors, tools online. I went to the hardware store and brought home cheap plywood from the culled lumber section to doodle on. I dug my supples back out from drawing class - the pencils, erasers, my beloved vine charcoal - a bold but generally forgiving medium. And I went to work. And I got stuck. And I went back to work. And I got stuck or distracted.

It went like this in several rounds: I would plug away at a piece that I had a good final vision for, or I would wait until I was tired enough to create something without caring about what it really looked like, so that I could actually make something interesting. I would take it to Roxie and she would point out better materials or different directions the piece could go. I would go two and a half weeks without talking to Roxie and she would email me. What a saint.

Eventually the collection as it is came to be. But how much doubt we often have in our own abilities to bring a project to completion! Even in the last few weeks, I have been paralyzed at the thought of bringing my meager offering into the gallery, panicking that I need just one more piece, to fill the space, and having nothing in my creative storehouse. Here we are anyway.

*             *             *

9 Semesters is on display this week, Dec 2-7, 2018 in the Union Grove Gallery at UAH (the tiny white church building between Morton Hall and the CTC). There will be a reception Wed, Dec 5, 5-7pm. For viewing outside that time, contact me.

Monday, November 19, 2018

tiny art show (pt i)

What follows is an excerpt from my Honors Capstone project, which I'm going to give in parts here. It's an art show on campus; but I'm also required to do a write up. I think it's supposed to be more formal than this, but part of the whole point of doing art is that I'm done with trying to be technical or formal in my collegiate education. Also, it came about in a story. So, I'm going to tell the story.

*            *            *

Art is a way for me to express what I have a hard time expressing otherwise. I love to write; but it is difficult to find appropriate ways to share raw emotion and truth in words. Art is at once a veil and a conduit for what I want to tell the world.

Given the requirement of an Honors Capstone project, most engineers add to their senior design project. At present, I have little interest in engineering, and less interest in adding to an already full project, although I now know it wouldn't have been difficult. It was an interesting technical project and we didn't fully explore the technicalities.

What excites and intrigues me is making things. Engineering can be art, to be sure, and art can be engineering. They can both be technical, functional, require skill, calculation and precision. A good part of my art tends towards the visceral, an element only seen in glimpses and shadows of finished engineering projects.

The short story is that culture and my wise family told me I should finish my degree, but I wanted to do it my own way because I am tired of engineering classes, so here I am. A tiny art show. The slightly longer version follows.

*          *           *

9 Semesters, an Honors Capstone art show, will be in the Union Grove Gallery at the University of Alabama in Huntsville from December 2-7, 2018. Watch this space for details about hours and an opening reception.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

more of the internet should know

more of the internet should know that chicken can change your life.

for me it might be a little bit of an overstatement, but listening to the Lazy Genius and in turn listening to her friends, Tsh Oxenreider and Emily P Freeman, and in turn all of their friends and cohosts, has certainly changed my life for the better. 

why does it change your life? it's one pan. it takes a bit to cook, but it doesn't take time to prepare - chop, salt, oven. you can put whatever vegetables your heart desires. you can make it fancy, you can have it on tuesday. it smells delicious. 


Friday, October 12, 2018

souls and chocolate cake. discuss.

Our souls were not made for fame and our bodies were not made for productivity. They were made for relationship.


I've had this idea bouncing around in my head for awhile about doing a Socrates in the City sort of event, but having it in my dining room over tea and chocolate cake.

Is it pretentious, or would we actually learn something? Would the hostess (yours truly) lose her sweet mind because apparently having people in her house is The Most Stressful Thing ever, or would there just be good conversation and the question, "When can we do this again?" without it being simply a pleasantry?

Our souls were not made for fame and our bodies were not made for productivity. They were made for relationship.