Asking for an Asskicking (A Belated New Year’s Post)

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(Cupcakes c/o our friend Alexis at our house on New Year’s Eve)

I am really good at word games like Scrabble, Word with Friends, Scramble with Friends, Boggle, etc.* You get the idea. I don’t say this to brag (I mean, for real, who would be impressed by someone bragging about that? That’s like saying you’re really good at checkers). It’s just something that I’m known for among friends and family. While I don’t win every game, I’ve beat plenty of people enough that they just flat out refuse to play with me anymore (as well as warn others who may challenge me).

Have I possessed some sort of innate, exceptional aptitude for looking at a random group of letters and making words out of them since before I could hold a Scrabble tile? As amazing/weird as it would be to be some sort of Scrabble prodigy, I’m afraid not. While I’ll say that I was always pretty good at it, it’s something that I got really good at with lots and lots of practice.

Back in 2007, I worked a job as the contracts manager at a travel club. I had a dungeon-like office space that I shared with the office manager, Carmen (who eventually became one of my dearest friends) and we had a lot of downtime. Carmen liked to challenge me to bouts of Literati on Yahoo! Games and Lexulous on Facebook (bringing it back, y’all) in between timeshare presentations. She was really good. She knew that sometimes making the highest scoring word wasn’t the most important play; sometimes you needed to strategically block your opponents from high-scoring tiles. She had memorized  the list of acceptable of two-letter words and Q-without-U words, whereas I knew nothing of these potential ringers. She repeatedly kicked my ass. Over and over and over. For months on end. And where some people would have thrown up their hands, deciding that getting their ass kicked repeatedly was not fun and quit playing the game, I became more and more determined to beat her. We worked together, 40 hours a week, for a year and a half and eventually, I did beat her. In fact, I was beating her fairly consistently (she was still beating me most of the time, though). So I became the sad person Scrabble boss you see before you today.

I wrote all that to say, as we are just at the beginning of a new year, I intend to approach 2013 the exact same way. I have realized that I’ve been able to take on a lot of amazing opportunities due to luck and being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people and my brilliant personality. I’ll admit that my life is pretty great right now and when you’re comfortable, it can be so easy to just be content with what you have and coast. But I really want to challenge myself and put my ass out there to be kicked more often, both in the professional and personal areas of my life – because in many instances, that’s the only way I’m going to get better, faster, stronger. So here’s to 2013 kicking my ass. I can’t wait to see what I can accomplish.

* Oddly enough, I’m terrible at Letterpress.

Shots Fired

On top of the many other sweet perks from my job, I get to meet and work with a lot of smart, talented, generous people from the Austin tech community. It is really inspiring how everyone helps each other out and supports one another. Last week, one of our factory-mates volunteered to do free headshots for anybody on the floor who wanted them, to use however we like! How awesome is that? Here’s how mine turned out:

It’s too bad about my face but at least my hair looks good (although, I will be getting a cut in a couple weeks). Big thanks to Danny Hotea!

When I Grow Up

The question of what I want to do when I grow up has been looming large in my life lately. A forum that I frequent just had a discussion about quarter-life crises this morning. I had a job interview last week that asked me what my dream job was. A couple weeks ago, I took a psychology test that is supposed to overlap your skills, interests and aptitudes and suggest areas of development. As my 27th birthday approaches (June 22, for those keeping score and/or watching my Amazon wish list), I think I can’t help but feel a little anxious over here. Aren’t I supposed to know by now? Why haven’t I figured everything out? How is grownup formed?
I’ve written about it here on the blog before but I’ve had a lot of false starts in life. I’ve enrolled and dropped out and put college on pause so many times at this point, I’ve lost count. It wasn’t always like this. When I was younger, I was labeled “gifted” (just barely… I scored one point below the required score to get into the GATS program but my mom lobbied on my behalf for me to be admitted). I got good grades, my teachers were constantly impressed with my work and abilities, pretty much anything I set my mind to I did well in. The adults around me talked up my smarts and talents so much that I bought into my own hype. I was definitely going places! I was special! I survived the confidence-crushing years of middle school and high school by telling myself that by the time I got to college, I’d really have a chance to shine. But by the time I reached college, I crashed and burned spectacularly (because school had come so easy to me and I had been able to coast through K-12, I never really learned proper study skills, which, as it turns out, are pretty important on a collegiate academic level). My GPA and my confidence have never fully recovered. Despite discouragement from everyone from my mother to my boyfriend to my therapist, I will invariably compare my life and accomplishments to those of my peers in the same age group and wonder why I haven’t made it “there” yet.*

I’ve gone on to do okay for myself, mostly, regardless of my lack of degree, I was able to obtain a lot of experience on my wits and Brilliant Personality™(they’ll get you farther than you think, regardless of the economy, in my experience). Right now I’m holding down two jobs which is a lot of work but allows me to live pretty comfortably. But I’m still searching for what I like to call the Sweet Spot. It’s that overlap between what you’re good at, what you enjoy and what you can feasibly get paid a living wage to do. And I’m still figuring all that out! I know that I am satisfied by helping and educating people and empowering them to help themselves. I like and am good with writing, animals and kids. I enjoy good design and feminism and social justice, although I don’t have any particular skills in those areas. I’m a fast typist, am good at and can sometimes even enjoy “mindless” tasks data entry and filing. Is there a Sweet Spot for all of that? For that wide spectrum of interests and skills, probably not. But you know what? I think that’s okay.

This article I found (via LifeHacker) last week hit the nail on the head for me: “‘Do What You Love’ is Bad Advice.” I don’t necessarily agree with the sentiment that doing what you love is always a bad idea (if you can are going to or currently doing it, you go, Glen Coco). But I realized I see the premise of the article is something that I see everyday, all around me – people living happy, productive lives even though they’re not doing the most glamorous work or getting paid for their passions. The most prominent examples in my life are my mom and my stepdad, both of whom use their day jobs to supplement their side businesses that they truly enjoy (personal organizing/wedding planning and photography, respectively).

Only a handful of people are lucky enough to have a career that overlaps with all three criteria and fulfills all their needs. Not everyone is going to be the skills, education, ability or access to obtain and do well in their dream job (at least not without overcoming some hurdles). So we find other ways to fill the holes – we volunteer, we take on side jobs in our desired field or we simply allot as much free time as we can to our hobbies and passions, even if they don’t pay the bills. It’s like your personal relationships – you can’t expect one person in your life to give you everything you need emotionally, physically and socially, that’s why we’re closer with some family members more than others, why we cultivate different friend groups. Why should I expect the same from a job? And the more I think about it, the more I don’t want a job that I’m so into, it consumes most of my time, passion and energy. I want a job that I don’t have to bring home with me** or drains me to a point that I barely have anything left for my friends and family. Basically I want to work for a living, not the other way around.

All that said, it would still be nice to know sooner rather than later what I’m supposed to be when I grow up. I haven’t given up figuring it out but I am now making a promise to myself to try not to stress out about not being “there” as much. Maybe like… once a month instead of once a week, to start.

* DO NOT RECOMMEND: This accomplishes nothing, this is a terrible idea, I know it’s a terrible idea as I do it and yet I CAN’T STOP MYSELF KEEP DOING IT because I am clearly a masochist.


** I know that’s sometimes a given, depending on the job but if I have to, at least not too much.