On Walking Away

I used to love drama.

Not the awesome spoken word kind, or plays about people kind, or even the crazy Greek ones that had weirder sex than Game of Thrones. No, I used to love hearing all the scoop, all the kerfuffle, all the flibbertigibbet. I was the undercover scandalmonger, who would just happen to be around when the most chaotic people would appear, obviously full of angst about someone else. “You can talk to me about it,” I’d say, “you can get it out.” And I wouldn’t just drink it all up. I would gulp it. I would gorge myself on it.

This only got bigger and stronger with my increasing online presence after college. The Internet is a lot like an adorable card and gift shop. You can walk around forever and ever and keep finding things to pick up and marvel at. Comments sections of news articles about things I already didn’t agree with were the best. Lists of all the things guys find wrong with women? Sign me up. Articles about how awful things I love are? Yes, please!

And I always found these things through my best friends, the people who think like me, the people who go, “This is so messed up” and “Am I crazy to think that this person doing this is not okay?” so that I could join the loud, cheerful choir of “Yes! That is the worst! It’s all awful and we are such better people for not agreeing with that garbage!” Because who doesn’t want to have that with their friends?

At some point, though, I realized that I wasn’t actually enjoying this feeling. I would start getting angrier, and I would seethe and look for any place to release all the fire I thought was building up in my stomach. I got into angry fights with people I had never met, and I would rip them apart. And despite the fact that, sure, most of the causes were pretty justified, I found that a few truths were becoming clear:

  • Many of these things were either outside my control or distant to my circle of experience.
  • A lot of it was pointless anger and frustration.
  • There wasn’t anything I was doing about whatever I was feeling not good about.
  • Most importantly, when I came back to the screeds later, I really didn’t like the person I was seeing online.

This step back also brought a lot of other things on the Internet into focus. I saw how often I just complained and griped. I saw how I would rant about these things that seemed like nothing a few days later. Mountains, molehills, anthills. It became very clear to me how negative I was, and I really didn’t like that. I also realized it wasn’t just on the Internet, that this was affecting the Real Life Me. I had started hiding away when I was angry instead of confronting people close to me. I would seethe and snarl in private, backstab, hurt under a cover of darkness. I had been for a while but now I knew that I was not being a good person. That is something that still haunts me.

So the first thing I did was decide that I was going to stop being utterly negative, both online in social media and in life. I started to recognize when I was repeatedly complaining without taking action. On Facebook and Twitter, instead of posting about how bad my day was, I’d share a cute video that made me smile. Instead of talking about how much something sucked, I would bring up something that I really enjoyed. I used the Internet as a force of good – literally, good things, good news, good times. I felt a lot better.

Recently, it’s become much more apparent that there is a part of the web that is what I call a Hateful Shame Machine. A lot of people use it as not a vehicle for their anger but more like a remote-controlled car they can run into people’s lives. They capitalize on the safety of distance and anonymity to respond in a way that doesn’t directly impact them and hurts the subject of their disdain. But, like with a remote-controlled car, they think what they are doing is only annoying at most and couldn’t actually do any lasting damage.

Have you ever imagined what could happen to a single person being struck by a hundred remote-controlled cars? A thousand? A million?

I’m not saying that it isn’t okay to be mad or to react to something unjust. But once you realize that what you’re doing is not only making you feel toxic but is raising a red flag in your subconscious that says, “This really isn’t good, is it?” it’s time to take a step back. Are you making a difference, or are you just adding to the screaming? Are you being the person online that you are in your heart, or are you wearing a mask? Are you treating everyone the way you would to their face, or are you exploiting the fact that you can attack them without attaching yourself to it?

Most importantly, though, you can stop. You can change. Get some distance. Unplug. Go do something by yourself and clear your head. Forgive yourself. Say you’re sorry, if it isn’t too late. Understand that you deserve love and comfort and every human is cracked and flawed. And if you are the victim, these things all apply to you, tenfold.

I dare you to walk away. It’s never too late.

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How to Have a Day Job/House/Life/Everything in 3 Lessons

Hi. Hello. Yes, yes, we’re here. We’re alive. We are in THE HOUSE. I’m sorry you all were left under radio silence for a while. Getting the technologies to coexist in the titanium dome that is obviously hiding in the attic has proven difficult.

How are you?

Owning a house – I almost wrote possessing, but that didn’t exactly feel right – is unlike anything I could have thought it to be. The first time something went wrong, I stormed up to my husband and asked, “We should call them back and tell them that we didn’t sign up for this shit!”

“Tell who what?”

“Everyone! Everyone else should fix this! I don’t want to fix this! Do you?”

And that was when my husband walked away. Not really, but he told me that there was no one to fix it. We had to fix it. Or call a plumber, electrician, carpenter, or handyman to fix it while we pay them. And I knew that. I just didn’t want to.

Lesson 1: There’s no one to place blame on, or ask to take up the burden. You only have yourself to rely on.

We were scrambling with the last of the detritus and flim-flam of our old residence. We had just barely gotten everything out the last day, in the last hour. Suddenly, faced with the closed, locked door, I started choking.

“Are you okay?”

“This is it,” I said. “This is it. Like…it’s happening right now.”

He headed down the stairs, and slowly I followed. There was no last big hurrah, no ridiculous Polaroid. Nothing. Except the ting of a key at the bottom of the mailbox and salty, stingy tears from the driver’s seat.

Lesson 2: Make the memories while the thing is happening. They will hold on longer than last hurrahs.

I’m sitting in the eating nook adjacent to the kitchen. It has been cleared of most boxes, and I can look out over the table to the rats that are playing in the cage against the window. I can watch as little birds eat the neighbor’s wild grapes.

In the corner of my eye is a black and white animal. Despite our keeping the gate closed to the back yard, the checkered Maine Coon is utterly undeterred. It pauses momentarily, giving the metal obstruction barely more than a measured look, before squeezing under it. It doesn’t even run. It saunters to the next gate and is gone.

Lesson 3: Life is full of wonder. Just wait. You’ll see.

Poetry: Always Helps

My husband and I bought a house.

It’s something I’ve heard other people say in passing. “We just bought a house.” “We’re moving into our new house.” “They’re trying to buy a house.” And to me, it always seemed like something that people did, like buying a phone or groceries or even a car.

Y’all. I had no idea what I was getting into.

It’s moving day and I’m sitting in the stairwell of our apartment while men load my life into a truck. It’s all sounds of things going and coming, against a backdrop of birds and rain.

So I wrote a poem on my writing site you all might like. I love you, and I’ll be back soon.

https://bohemianonrye.com/2015/06/27/twister-sister/

Twister Sister

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The thing about being an adult
Is when it’s time to change,
You are equal parts the tornado and the farm
You are Aunt Em and Uncle Henry
You’ll be Dorothy when she wakes up amongst
Tiny men, bubbles, striped socks
But for now
You are in the storm cellar
Black and white and panic all over
You are a force of destruction
And fear

You won’t realize what has been taken
And what you have torn apart
Until the end of it all
When the witches and wizards
Are a dream
And you are both clicking your heels
And waiting for your dear ones to wake up.

There is no home like now.

5 lessons nobody tells you when you leave college

I wish someone had told me these things.

1. Not everyone gets a tax refund. Sometimes you actually have to pay the government! How messed up is that?!

2. You should buy a house. But it’s hard, and you have to have a buttload of money first.

3. Nobody is going to make doctor’s appointments for you. And there’s a good chance the doctor’s office isn’t going to be in walking distance of your door.

4. The world favors the lark, not the owl. As such, it takes substantial work to maintain a night lifestyle and still fulfill a lot of adult responsibilities.

5. Just assume you’re not going to get the hang of it all during your twenties. And then one day things will start slowly settling into place…for a while, anyway. It’s best to just keep truckin,’ and don’t over analyze things.

Everybody’s Free (To Freak Out in Their Twenties)

One of my favorite things to listen to when I was high school was “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen).” Not only did I find the voice of Lee Perry extremely soothing, and not only did it sample music from Romeo + Juliet, which I thought was the pinnacle of artistic cinema, BUT even at that young age I found myself nodding and going, “Yeah, man, you get it.”

I listened to it before I sat down to write this post. I realized that even though I liked to think at that age that I was an “old soul” who had life, love, and the world figured out…I understood the lines of that song about as much as I understood things like feminism and Ethiopian food. In an extremely distant, contextual way. Which is to say…not at all.

Why is it that right around that age – and for the next ten years – there is a chronic, infectious case of control freakatitis? Even if you were a perfectly chill teenager (haha, yeah, okay, I know) it’s like as soon as you get out on your own, you immediately hit this second, major puberty. Only this time, instead of facial hair and boobs, you get persistent anxiety and crippling inferiority!

So, in the style of Baz Luhrmann’s EF(TWS), I am going to give you my advice in 5 minutes. Everything I can write, the timer is on, I shall dispense that advice…now.

Bad jobs build character. When you get out of college, there is a good chance you may have to take a job that is not your dream (but never stop trying), that is not what you envisioned in yesteryear, and you will deal with it for a while. Maybe it will get better. Maybe not. But you’ll have the story. The experience.

Know your rights. Never let anybody tell you that you have to give more than your best. Don’t allow people – employers, friends, lovers – decide your schedule. You are your own time wizard.

Take care of your body. Floss. Take advantage of your health insurance, vision, whatever you have. Spend every penny of it. Make it count.

Never stop. Even in the face of failure and defeat and even when it feels like you are talking into an empty room, eventually people will find you. It takes years to build a fanbase/platform/forum/voice – your own personal voice – and if you just stop talking because you think nobody is listening, you’re just going to flatline.

Somewhere between sleepless nights and restful days is nirvana.

Reclaim every second of your free time. At the end of the day, when you leave that office, leave all the mess of the last 9 hours there. Envision it as a torch, and when you clock out, that torch goes in a bucket of water. It’s gone. Don’t let any of those bastards eat into your life when you’re not getting paid for it.

Get hobbies. Try everything at least once. Twice if it’s fun.

Make friends. In the office, on the street, on the way to work. Get used to talking to people. Leave your phone at home, and if you have it, call someone. Make that connection, even if it’s really really hard and not fun.

There you go. In closing, your twenties are going to be really confusing. They won’t always be as fun as they should be, and only half as much as they deserve, because it’s going to feel like you don’t have things figured out the way you thought you would. That is okay. You are okay. Relax. Meditate. Give yourself 60 seconds to get really worked up and then go read a book. Take a walk. Pet a puppy.

But trust me on the hobbies.

If you enjoyed this post and want to find out more ways to live life while getting a pay check, you should sign up for my newsletter, How to Have a Day Job.

The Name of the Game is…Just That!

I am very proud of my most recent newsletter about how to gamify your day job. And I decided, because I love you all so much, I’m going to share it here.

Want more? If you’re not on the How to Have a Day Job list and you’d like to be, click here and fix that!

rolldiceHow to Have a Day Job
On how to make the daily grind more fun, or taking a lesson from a killer puppet doll

One of my favorite Vines of all time is one that was aired on an episode of the raunchy Internet video television show, “Tosh.O.” It featured a man being menaced by a version of Jigsaw from the Saw franchise, who asked in a gravelly voice, “Would you like to play a game?”

“What game?”

“Raise this baby.”

As Jigsaw handed over the infant, the man looked properly aghast and screamed in horror. “That ain’t no game, that’s life!”

And it was really funny, but then it got me thinking: who made the decision that life couldn’t be a game? That our serious roles couldn’t just be a little more fun?

Luckily, I’m not the only one who feels that way. Gamification is on the rise. The basic definition of this is when one uses the idea or design of play in applications outside of games. So whether it’s with Fitbit, task-oriented apps like HabitRPG or making your own personal character sheet with game stats on it with Chris Hardwick, people are looking for ways to ease up on taking everything seriously.

Day jobs should be no different!

So here we go. 5 ways to make your day job more like a game and less like…well, work.

1. Bond, James Bond — How about a day as someone else? I like to pretend now and then that I am a completely different person when I go to work. Although there are certain limitations to this — you can’t really afford to take on the persona of, say, Batman, but how about Bruce Wayne? Make believe that you just have to get through the day and afterward, you’ll be off to fight crime. Or perhaps you would be Sandra Bullock from The Net, and your gateway into cyberspace has to be unlocked through a series of spreadsheets. Have fun with it!

2. Set the record straight — Of course, getting a lot done during the day is going to make people you work for happy, but what about you? Why should you care? Challenge yourself to raise your productivity by even a little bit by keeping a scorecard and giving yourself different levels of rewards. You might even keep a jar on your desk and every time you fall short, you have to put some change in. When you finally succeed at whatever task you’ve given yourself, you can use the money for a treat. Everyone loves treats.

3. Mortal combat! — Making your job more fun doesn’t mean just playing with yourself. Challenge a coworker, if you have a good rapport with one, and see who can reach a certain goal sooner. Or, if that’s not really the type of place you work, pick someone who has a particular trait that you want to take on. Maybe there’s a team lead that’s always quick to make a joke in a bad situation, and you suck at being funny. Observe them carefully and start practicing the skill. Imagine yourself becoming better, excelling beyond that person’s status (even if it’s just in your head).

4. Make my day — Choose random people to do good deeds for. Watch them scramble around trying to figure out who did this nice thing for them. I love sneaking around and doing stuff for people. I sometimes combine this with #1, and pretend that I’m the most charitable ninja ever.

5. Take it outside — Play doesn’t just have to happen at your desk. Give yourself a challenge on your commute or during your breaks and lunches. Go outside and try to find types of wildlife around your building. Take a different route home and stop somewhere you’ve never been before. Take a drive during lunch and people-watch at a local neighborhood.

Being an adult means getting to decide how to take control of your life and make it more awesome! Get out there and play!

30 by 30: Part 6

30 Things I’m Glad I Know Before I Turn 30: Part 6

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26. Being nice.

It’s the trick to getting through anything, whether it’s international travel, getting caught in a bad spot or calling customer service. I am happy to say that I am really freaking nice and I know how to not be an asshole. Hooray!

27. How to form a habit.

If I want to do something different, I know now how to adopt a change to a behavior. That used to be really hard for me. I used to just say, “Nope, I could never do that.” But it’s all in the baby steps.

28. The definition of marriage.

Life thus far with my husband has been awesome, and it’s because at some point in our relationship, we decided that we just weren’t going to listen to anyone about how to do things. Just because other people are married doesn’t mean that it’s the same in every other couple. I’ve learned how and when to break the rules, and in what cases to say, “That’s awesome you think that, but we’re doing this our way.”

29. How to get the most out of a bad situation.

Smile. Laugh. Take notes. Put the story out there asap.

30. Where adventure is.

Everywhere. Every day. If you’re willing to look for it.

Here’s to another amazing 30+ years!

30 by 30: Part 5

30 Things I’m Glad I Know Before I Turn 30: Part 5

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21. Public speaking.

Not only do I actually excel at this, I look forward to it! I love going over things with people, presenting materials, reading, whatever. It gives me a rush!

22. Persevering self awareness and self perception.

I know who I am and how I fit into the world. I am a snowflake, a butterfly, a grain of sand. I am a speck in the universe. I am stardust. It’s okay.

23. To always say yes.

Like in improv, life is a lot more interesting when you go, “Oh, wow, that doesn’t sound like anything I’ve done before so I’m going with…yes! Of course I’ll try it!” But then I also know…

24. When to say no.

Just because someone else thinks they know what I should be doing with my time doesn’t mean I’m going to agree. You think I should get rid of x, y or z in my home? You think I shouldn’t be wearing what when? Haha. No.

25. How to cook.

I buy no prefab meals from the grocery store anymore. And you know what? That feels good.

30 by 30: Part 4

30 Things I’m Glad I Know Before I Turn 30: Part 4

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16. What to do in an emergency.

I can stay surprisingly calm in these situations nowadays.

17. How to defend myself.

And not just physically. My armor is solid in every way it can be. I know who I am. Nobody can tear me down, whether it’s with words or fists.

18. How to cut myself a break.

I have spent a large part of my life acting as my worst critic, parent and stern teacher. It took a long time for me to say, “You know what, you did your best. Go take a nap already.”

19. Appropriate communication.

I used to be unable to handle confrontation. The idea of stepping up to someone and sharing my feelings in a direct manner pretty much guaranteed a panic attack. Now, after being a part of not only a day job but also a marriage, I’m pretty on top of being able to know when and how to talk about something.

20. How to handle my money.

I don’t sweat where money for something is coming from. I am comfortable with how I choose to spend my cash and I’m responsible about bills and financial commitments. I’m walking into my birthday with no credit card debt. How about them apples?