My Goals for 2015

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t do ‘resolutions’ for the year, I set goals. Resolutions are too restrictive for me. The word ‘resolution’ implies that you are going to do or not do something all the time. Then, when you inevitably stumble trying to keep a resolution, it’s too easy to say ‘I failed to do x’ and go back to your old ways.

Goals, on the other hand, are something you work toward achieving. If you stumble – eat that cheeseburger, forget to post a blog on a particular day – you haven’t broken your goal, you’ve simply taken a slight detour on the way to achieving it.

I spent the first week of this New Year taking a long, hard look at the events of the last year and the lessons I’ve learned from them. They weren’t pretty lessons. My father’s illnesses taught me that I need to pay attention – a lot more attention – to my own health. I found that, in a crisis, you learn more about your family members than you wanted to learn, especially what they really think of you. Stress makes people just blurt out their actual feelings. Add in my work situation, the behavior of some coworkers, and I realized that, now more than ever, I want something else out of life than what I’ve gotten. Actually, I realized that I deserve a lot more out of life than I have right now. And so I’ve set some pretty ambitious goals for 2015, listed from least to biggest.

Goal Number 5 — Lose weight and get back in shape.

This goal will, I believe, be the easiest to meet this year. You see, I finally got a physical and discovered why my previous attempts all ended in failure. It wasn’t the food I was eating, or the frequency of exercise I was getting. No, it all came down to a tiny little gland in my throat.

My thyroid isn’t working.

The thyroid, for those who don’t know, is a one inch or so gland in your neck. For such a small thing it’s very important, because it produces the hormones that control your body’s metabolism and the functioning of your heart, digestive system, muscles and, oh yeah, your brain. Thyroid problems can lead to serious health issues or even death. My poor thyroid gland is trying its best, but it’s no longer capable of producing anywhere near enough hormones to keep my body running correctly.

Looking back over the last two years, I had every textbook symptom, from weight gain to exhaustion, brittle nails to mental fogginess. They started slow and sporadic and cascaded into a constant storm. I just never put the pieces together, blaming my weight gain and exhaustion on my massive workload or the stress of my father’s illnesses and the family dramas. Fortunately, this problem is easy to correct – I take an inexpensive hormone-replacement pill each day.

But that also means I no longer have any reason for not meeting this goal. My metabolism is humming along fairly normally, and better yet, Planet Fitness opened up a location five minutes from my house. That’s a measly five minute drive to reach a 24-hour, 365-day gym with all the bicycles, treadmills and weight machines I could want, not to mention a friendly staff to nag me into getting fit.

Oddly enough, I’m happy just thinking about the going to the gym. It’s great to have the energy to work out!

Goal Number 4 — The craft cabinet of doom.

I love to knit, make jewelry, occasionally sew and paint with oils. However, the last few years I’ve had no time in which to indulge myself. That did not stop me from stocking up on supplies, though, and as a result, the poor armoire in which I store those supplies is stuffed to bursting with yarn, fabric, beads and tubes of paint.

So this year, I will finish out those projects. I will knit – lots and lots of sweaters, scarves, hats, gloves, there’s a two-page list! I’m also going to bite the bullet and finish knitting a set of Avengers dolls. I’ve found some lovely decorative pillows on Pinterest which I plan to make, and the remaining fabric will go to cover magazine files and storage boxes. I’ve already sketched out several designs for necklaces and bracelets to use up all my stone beads, and then, in the summer, I’ll set up an easel outside and finish those abstract paintings I mapped out three years ago. There’s also some mercury glass I need to wrap up for the next set of winter holidays.

The trick to meeting this goal? Not being distracted by all the pretty, shiny, new ideas I find on Pinterest. Seriously, that site should carry a warning that it’s hazardous to your mental health – and your wallet.

Goal Number 3 — Publish a book.

I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (known far and wide as NaNoWriMo or NaNo for short) for a number of years. NaNo is the annual November insanity where 150,000 plus people across the world try to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It takes discipline, inspiration and no small measure of insanity to want to participate. The goal isn’t to end up with a clean, ready for publication book. It’s to write, consistently, dramatically, creatively, and to learn to trust your muse when you’re lead down a different path than the original intent of your story.

NaNo is not just a pointless exercise; it’s produced a lot of published works, including Water for Elephants and The Night Circus.

I’m not claiming to be in that class of novelist. But, as a result of my diligent participation in this annual exercise in masochism, I have three semi-completed books that hit well over that word count, and another two that hit the 30,000 word mark. Despite some interest, I’ve never actually had the time to follow through on publishing them, which involves a large amount of work to add additional scenes, rewrite the draft, edit the language and finally – gulp! – let the book loose into the world.

This year, I’m going to start in on that – on my own, so I can use the time I have as I find it and not be under deadline pressure from someone outside my life. I’m going to pick just one book, and take a fresh look at it. Do a proper outline, expand the plot I’ve already written, add in more characters where needed and do a better job at scene description. Edit it, spellcheck the heck out of it, give it to someone to read and tear apart, and then make the changes he/she suggests. Rinse, repeat, until I get it where I think it’s ready to be read by real people.

And then I’ll self-publish it. Amazon has a lot of self-published authors. I’ve bought some of their books and enjoyed most of them. So why not add one of mine into the mix and see how people like it? If they don’t? Well, I’ll still be able to add ‘published author’ to my list of accomplishments! And if they do like it, then I’ll consider the same treatment for some of the other things I’ve written, or the 19 ideas for books I’ve tucked into my projects list.

Goal Number 4 – A Job, A Career.

Okay. Deep breath here. For the first time, I’m going to honestly state what I want to do with my career.

And that is to look for something new in a job and . . .

Hopefully move to and work in – London.

That’s London, England, not London, Texas or any other state in the Union.

I think I’ve always been in love with Britain. My mom started me off by reading bedtime stories about King Arthur and Robin Hood. To this day, I devour every new book about them, as well as the wonderfully-convoluted Plantagenet family. My personal favorites are Eleanor of Aquitaine – that woman never let anything stop her for long! – and Richard II, who started well and ended so sadly. I’ve practically memorized Shakespeare, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Charles Dickens, and the adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. My library makes sure I read all the latest British mysteries and novels.

My mother also bequeathed to me her love of movies, which only encouraged my addiction. I grew up watching British World War II dramas, Sherlock Holmes mysteries and every movie made from the great classics. If there’s a movie from the 1930’s to the present about England, Scotland, et al, odds are pretty good I’ve either seen it, have it queued up on online or am hunting for an old VHS tape of it.

My earliest memories of television are the same. They revolve around the classic Doctor Who and Masterpiece Theater, All Creatures Great and Small and period costume dramas. I’m pretty sure I was the only girl in my school who planned her schoolwork around Upstairs Downstairs. The only reason I still have cable? BBC America and PBS. Doctor Who, Law and Order UK, Downton Abbey (although I might prefer Upstairs out of nostalgia), so many other wonderful programs as well as my morning fix of BBC News.

For the longest time, I’ve dreamt of, toyed with, talked about the idea of moving to Britain and working there. But I never did anything seriously about it.

Why?

Well, for the sake of honesty, let me just point out that I have no actual long term personal or professional connections to London or to Britain. I was not born in Britain – although I do have a grandmother born in an EU country. I’m an American-trained, American-licensed in-house lawyer with a specialty in corporate operations, taxes, compliance and the internet, as well as a background as a business and HR manager. I have never worked in Britain – although I have some familiarity with its governance, legal and employment systems due to my employers having subsidiaries there.

Nevertheless, I want this. Life is too short to spend it pining for something and then regretting not doing it on your deathbed. I no longer have any ties to staying in the US, and I want to fulfill my dream of working in London. I want the joy of finally living in Britain, exploring all the places I read about and saw on television. I have a list, people, a list from high school, of places connected with the Plantagenet dynasty that I will need a solid year of weekends to see.

And if I don’t like it? Well, I could always come back to the States. But I think, given my adaptability and love of adventures, that I’d do just fine over there.

Now I just have to figure out how to get there. I’m a realist. I may not get a job there right away; maybe I’ll get a job that allows me to travel there frequently. After all, there are immigration laws and licensing laws and financial barriers in the way. The IRS penalizes US citizens who work abroad. But I can still start networking and examining how I can leverage my talents towards my goal, right? And even if I don’t get to London, right off, that process will be good professionally for me.

And that leads to the big goal.

Goal Number 1 – I Come First.

This goal is the most important. It’s me retraining my brain to accept that I should come first.

I was raised in a conservative family, and taught that as a girl I should always put other people and their problems ahead of my concerns. My mom gave up things regularly. My grandmothers did the same. And true to my training, I will cancel personal appointments so I can take on a new project at work or help a friend with a problem.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing – if, that is, I was just changing my haircut or manicure appointment or going to see a movie on another day.

But my ‘year in review’ showed me I don’t just put off little things. I cancel appointments at the garage for car maintenance and repairs. Vacations for which I’ve made reservations and waited all year. Financial things like balancing my checkbook. Even doctors’ appointments to deal with what turned out to be a serious health problem.

And that’s not good. At least, that’s not good for me. For the coworker with the last minute project, or the relative with a personal problem, it’s all good, because their work and worries get solved. Then I’ll scramble to take care of my own problems. Reality check: a lot of times my own problems don’t get handled, or at least, don’t get handled in a timely manner. It’s hard to squeeze more than 110 waking hours into one week.

And perhaps I wouldn’t have even considered changing things, until my father’s illness. When I learned just what certain members my family think of me, my life, and the things in which I am interested. I can sum it up easily enough – ‘what you want to do/currently do is stupid and unimportant, and no one works those kinds of hours so you’re just lying.’

I could be angry with them, or I could realize that they’re not going to change, there’s no use arguing with them, just release them and go on with my life.

I have to take care of myself – no one else is lining up for the task. And that means that I have to make sure my interests and concerns are handled by me in a timely manner. I have a right, just like everyone else, to keep my personal appointments. If people can leave in the middle of a project meeting for their dentist or their child’s school play, well then I can leave for a doctor’s appointment or to get my car repaired.

I’m not saying that I won’t continue giving my usual 100%+ at work. I wouldn’t know how to work any other way.

But it does mean that I’m going to make sure that if I have an appointment, I keep it absent a world-ending problem. And that I pay more attention to my own personal situations.

It’s only fair. To me.

Wow. I think I need to sit down now. That last one – that’s a big one.

Those five goals will consume this year.

Having said all that, we will resume regular postings now about Star Wars and books and things that need digitizing. Enjoy and Happy New Year to All!

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Spring is New Year’s, Take Two

Leave the first quarter behind. Implement your New Year’s plans now, in this second quarter.

Words of wisdom from a radio broadcast. The commentator was talking about businesses, who have, on paper, lost so much time in this new year thanks to our horrendous winter. Her advice was not to dwell on the lost opportunities of the first few months of the year, but rather to take your plans and start afresh, today, April 1st.

That’s good advice for everyone, including those individuals (like me) who have not had much of an opportunity to translate plans from paper to reality.

Our weather in the Philadelphia area has been horrendous this year — the second snowiest winter on record, and unlike previous years, we didn’t get a few large storms of 18+ inches, but a steady, near-constant snowfall. Drop in the ice storms (including one that knocked out power for over a week), road closures thanks to potholes masquerading as car-swallowing craters, frigid temperatures that were more appropriate for the Arctic regions, then stir in business/school/activity cancellations even when there wasn’t a storm, and that adds up to a lot of lost time. Instead of networking through LinkedIn, working out, cleaning house, I spent twice, and sometimes more, time just commuting back and forth to work. Getting to the gym? An impossibility when the roads are coated in half an inch of ice every night. And the power played a little game called ‘let’s see how long I stay on today’, making it a risk to keep electronics like a computer and router up and running.

Combine that with my usual project workload, and it meant I had little time to move on those plans of mine. Then my computer agreed to acquire another company, which left me wondering where I will/might fit into the new group. And I remembered — I was going to pay attention to myself, not put my needs behind everyone else’s desires.

Which brings me back to here, to you and to my plans. Before I wrote this, I went to LinkedIn and updated my profile with my latest accomplishments. I did half an hour of yoga. And I cleaned out some bookshelves. In keeping with my project to declutter, I’m listing a large number of Star Wars hardbacks onto Craigslist. I intend to list something on Craigslist at least three times a week, so my no-longer-needed belongings can go off to a good home elsewhere.

Here comes New Year’s — again.

Wish Upon a Star . . .

In my dream, my coworkers are named Hawkeye, Obi-Wan and Cinderella, and I am a happy employee in the House of the Mouse — otherwise known as The Walt Disney Company.

Today is “Start Making Your Dreams Come True Day.” Your Inner Bitch would like to remind you that no matter how big your dream is, you have to start sometime. Might as well be today.”

That was the June 3rd entry in the ‘Getting in Touch with your Inner Bitch’ daily calendar. I absolutely love this calendar — it reminds me NOT necessarily to be a bitch, but to live my life, to keep my needs and interests in mind when going about my daily activities.

I read this entry at breakfast, and then throughout the day, jotted down my various dreams, no matter how nebulous or unformed they might be in my head. By mid-afternoon, I had a very long list. I have so many dreams — places to visit. Books to write. Events to attend, things to own, projects to accomplish, people to meet. I want to publish a successful book, travel to London, attend Comic-Con — the list goes on for four pages. But just what dream was my top desire?

When I caught myself humming the ‘when you wish upon a star‘ theme for the fourth time in twenty minutes, I realized that, subconsciously, I’d already made my choice. I knew, all along, which dream was at the top of my list.

Disney, as a company, posseses my three favorite things — Avengers, Jedi, and Cinderella. If I could choose any company for which to work, it would be, without a doubt, the House of the Mouse.

Don’t be mistaken — I do love my current job. I like my co-workers, my position’s responsibilites are diverse and professionally challenging, and every day I learn or do something new that stretches my abilities and uncovers a new facet of the law, business, medicine and any number of other subjects. Yes, there are the typical annoyances as well, things you will find at any job — a piece of equipment that refuses to work right, that vendor who just won’t follow your instructions, a project that is taking more time and effort than it should. Overall, though, my job is worth those little irritations.

But my company isn’t Disney. I don’t get to play with superheroes. I’ve never explored the galaxy with the Jedi. I didn’t go to the ball with Cinderella. And if I’m being honest, which is what I want to do in this blog, well, I still want to do those things. I want to work somewhere that I can daily interact with three of my favorite, long-abiding interests. Don’t forget, I collect Jedi action figures, read Marvel comics and still happily watch Cinderella whenever I need to boost my mood and attitude.

In my dreams, I work where I can see the next chapter in Marvel comics history unfolding, watch as a new cycle in the ever-expanding universe of Star Wars is crafted.

And fulfill my little girl’s day dream of living in Cinderella’s castle.

Oh, I don’t have any illusions that Disney is a magical company free of workplace tensions, employee infighting or tangled corporate politics. No company on this planet is completely free of those complications. What is important though, the question any employee should ask about their job, is this:

Are there enough intellecutally-interesting projects, emotionally-satisfying rewards, seriously-fun days to make up for those inconveniences?

For me, being involved in the worlds of Disney — Princesses, Jedi, Avengers, theme parks, movies and television shows, toys, cruises — all the components that make up the Mighty Empire of the Mouse — would, I believe, balance out any downsides to taking a job with Disney.

And, of course, as I thought this through, wrote this blog, I realized that there are a few downsides — err, considerations — that would have to be factored in should I seriously pursue this dream. For one thing, I’d have to decide whether I wanted to serve as an attorney for the Mouse. California is one of the few states that doesn’t have reciprocity in its bar admissions; to practice law there, I’d have to take another bar exam. When I sat for the Pennsylvania exam, I spent six straight weeks doing nothing but studying for 18 hours a day.

Yeah, that’s not likely to happen again. Not with my time constraints, work schedule, and financial responsibilities.

But I could work in other capacities — I’m a compliance officer, a trained auditor, a tax expert with a master’s degree. I handle intellectual property matters, litigation and human resources matters. I am a person who’s proven herself capable of learning, and then doing, just about anything.

And then, of course, I’d also have to move to California. This — ah, consideration — actually isn’t that much of an impediment. Yes, I’d miss my family and friends. But I’m single, unattached, and hey — there’s Skype and airplanes. It wouldn’t be the first time I just picked up and moved.

By now, you may be wondering, just what was the purpose of this post? In short, it allowed me to do a stream-of-consciousness thing. I noodled this post for about three hours, and while my fingers typed, my brain was thinking its way through the idea of maybe, just maybe, pursuing this dream.

Could I work for Diensy?

Should I try to work for DIsney?

In the words of one of the Mouse’s denizens (Yoda), “Do or do not. There is no try.”

So, do I?

Caretaker of the cemetery

Cemetery caretaker — officially, the oddest job I’ve ever held.

One of my tasks for the rest of this year is to pay a lot more attention to my career. There are a lot of steps involved — looking where I am, deciding where I want to go, assembling resources to get there — but a major step is always to do a have/need analysis. What do I have with which to work, and what do I need to get where I want to go? And a large part of the ‘have’ equation involves the skills developed over time.

Which is a long-winded way of saying I sat down and listed every job I’ve ever had, and what I learned to do while on those jobs. I went all the way back to my days as a six-year-old recess monitor, through my high school and college days as a waitress and catering cook, and into my ‘adult’ work life, where I started as a journalist.

In my current incarnation, I’m in-house chief counsel for a corporation. In my journey through corporate land, I’ve held some intellectually interesting positions — regulatory and compliance officer, tax manager, audit specialist, human resources director. I’m experienced in a variety of legal areas like regulatory, tax, contract and intellectual property. And litigation, of course — if you’re a lawyer you can’t escape litigation in one form or another. I am still responsible for some of these areas as counsel at our company.

But on my list two labels stood out — building services manager and cemetery caretaker.

I was part of a new management team at a previous company, and as the last to join the team, I was designated building services manager. How hard could that be, I naively thought? Hard — but also educational. You see, our building started life as a tiny shed at a manufacturing site decades before, and each succeeding decade had seen at least one addition to that shed. When I arrived, the building was a three-story tall, rectangular hodge-podge warren of oddly-shaped offices and tiny spare rooms. And the ‘services’ — the plumbing, heating, air conditioning, wiring and security system — were all at least two decades old.

In the first six months, I dealt with a mid-level wing with freezing cold air conditioning, a bathroom that periodically either flooded or lacked water, and a security system that had decided to drive me crazy with false alarms. I dug in and compiled a list of reputable (and cost-efficient) plumbers, HVAC repairers and electricians. But I also decided that, if I was going to do that job, I should learn how the systems worked. At least that way, I could be certain I wasn’t being overcharged for unneeded repairs.

By the time I left that company, I could rewire the tempermental security panel, fix leaks, kick-start (sometimes literally) stubborn AC units. I also knew enough about plumbing to devoutly hope I never had to face a ruptured septic system again.

But that was not the oddest job I’ve held. That honor goes to the position I took between college graduation and the start of my paralegal studies.

Cemetery caretaker.

You see, after I graduated from college, I looked over the offers to work at various newspapers and discovered — I didn’t really want to be a journalist. Probably would have been better to learn that earlier, but at least I’d honed my writing and research skills. I talked over my options with family, friends, counselors and strangers in the supermarket, and finally decided to become a paralegal as a test step before law school. After all, I explained to my parents, if I became a paralegal and found I hated the law, then I wouldn’t have wasted money on a law degree. I’d have only spent a tiny fraction of money on a four-month paralegal course.

There was only one problem — the course wouldn’t start for another seven months. I’d need a job, and at that point, there was an economic downturn in progress, and the jobs available were being snatched up by people who’d lost employment in the factories.

Our church came to my aid. The pastor needed another person to work as a cemetery caretaker.

Well. That was a rather — unusual — job offer. I can still recall the first question out of my mouth. “I won’t have to dig up any graves, right?” Right. Since I didn’t have a license to operate a backhoe, that wasn’t going to be a problem. No, they needed me to do the mundane things. Rake leaves and grass cuttings. Water the flowers. Clean up headstones. And so, doubtfully, I agreed.

It was a wonderful job. Yes, the work could be hard — raking anything on a cemetery that measures a city-block long and wide is tiring and timeconsuming. The grass was cut every week, and I’d spend an entire day just gathering up the cuttings and trimming around each and every headstone. The leaves fell regardless of season, and I learned to dread heavy rainstorms, which would mean I’d be raking wet, extra heavy piles of leaves.

We won’t even discuss the birds. Just be assured they seemed to hate clean headstones and did their best to ensure they never were clean.

But it was also fascinating work. The entire history of my town was in that cemetery, back to its founding in the 1860’s. By reading the stones, and comparing names and dates and places, I could track workplace disasters in the mines, and periodic uprisings against the mine owners. Entire sections of the cemetery were devouted to victims of a long-forgotten cholera epidemic and the blissfully-ignored Spanish flu. There were people who’d been born in dozens of foreign countries and traveled here in search of a better life, and people who’d been born and spent their entire lives in this one small town.

There was the uncle I never knew I had — my father’s twin, who died as a toddler.

I took a number of skills from that job — perseverance, a skill at raking large areas — and a finely-honed ability to put together two or more seemingly-unrelated facts and come up with a story.

A skill I will be putting to use in this upcoming year. Putting together seemingly-unrelated abilities that I possess, and seeing where they can take me in my career. I discovered, as part of this enormous list of jobs and skills, that I have a lot of interesting skills and talents to offer to others.

Final note: this was supposed to be posted yesterday, but for reasons unknown, my internet connection went haywire. I could see the net. I just couldn’t upload to the net. Working fine now, though. I may need to dig back to those building services skills and beat up on the wiring again.

Resolutions for 2012

Everyone is making (and posting) their New Year’s Resolutions for 2012.  After reading a number of friends’ blogs, it seems my immediate goals are no different than those listed by 95% of the population:

1.  Get a new job (and get my career on track).

2.  Get back in shape.

Easier said than done, when the economy is moving so slow that a tortoise could beat it to the finish line and my current position involves working massive amounts of overtime.  But as I said yesterday, Everything Is Possible.

Since I don’t have the time to make it to a gym on a regular basis, I spent several hours checking out books and websites to create an exercise program I can do in my home.  Fortunately, I like walking, even in the cold, and have plenty of parks in which to wander.  And I now have yoga programs and a series of preps and stretches to do daily. 

As for the job, I spent the remainder of the day revising my resume and setting up accounts on various sites, including LinkedIn and Monster.  The actual listing will be a task for tomorrow.  But after compiling my accomplishments, and revising the list of my responsibilities (because quite a few have been added in the last two+ years), I realize that I have options for my search.  Not just legal, but tax, regulatory compliance, intellectual property, contracts and HR.  I do a LOT at my company. 

I have some decisions to make on possible career tracks, but at least now I have a clearer picture of what I’d like to do.  And where.  But that’s a post for tomorrow.