Thursday, April 18, 2019

Pounding the Pavement Pays Off

“It’s not what you achieve, it’s what you overcome. That’s what defines your career.”

---Carlton Fisk

Ah, a quote from a Red Sox icon, Carlton Fisk. He was always my second favorite player, right after Fred Lynn. I loved watching Lynn bounce himself off the Green Monstah when he made a catch, and from my father’s season ticket seats on the Red Sox dugout, I would wave at both Carlton and Freddy when they came in from the field. One day, Fred waved back at me, and I am pretty sure I swooned. I'm still waiting for Carlton to notice me.

The careers of both of these players were epic and made our team and our city a better place. I’m no athlete, and my career has included precisely zero home runs, diving catches, or stolen bases, but it’s been quite a ride, especially lately. My career path since graduating from college has been similar to the old Family Circus cartoons, where the little kid goes to get something in the house and takes the most circuitous route possible, stopping at every little distraction. 
My father called me “Brenda Starr, girl reporter” because I had red hair and green eyes like the comic strip character, but it wasn’t until I hit my 40s that I actually became a journalist. With the demands of raising my kids and still making sure we can, you know, eat and wear clothes, there have been very few opportunities to earn money that I haven’t explored. Hollywood has yet to call, I can’t sing, or dance and math remains a mystery to me, but I’ve made a decent enough living so far. For the last ten years, it’s been all freelance. Working remotely from home has served me well, but it’s a challenge to stay on task some days. Recently, one freelance gig ended, and another blew up in my face, and it was back to pounding the pavement. Fortunately, I found something, but it’s been yet another “whole new world” for me.

In my early career, I was a Boston commuter. I had Reeboks that matched my big shouldered 80s business suits, a briefcase for my fancy shoes and my not so fancy brown bag budget lunch. I knew the best place to stand to get a seat on the Blue Line, I knew the cheapest bars to go to after work for happy hour, and on my lunch break, I knew where the hottest construction guys were. Knowledge is power, my friends. When the Big Dig was in full swing, I was happy to leave the commute behind and be at home for a while, but I’m back to the Boston trek and boy have things changed.

Subway tokens? They don’t exist anymore. Now it’s Charlie tickets, train passes, and bar codes. I’m a reasonably tech-savvy person, so I got the MBTA app, found the right train and only needed the help of one conductor and two fellow passengers to figure out how to pay for my ride. Which, not for nothing, is way more money than it used to be. City foot traffic is different too. I can navigate a crowd quickly, but I stepped off the train at North Station to walk to the new office and was nearly run over by some slouch capped hipster zipping around the station on a longboard. Seriously, he was a full-sized adult and everything, grow up and walk like the rest of us, hippy freak! OK, he was probably a lovely person, and I saw three more boarders that day, so apparently, it’s a thing.

It wouldn’t be a true Brenda experience if I didn’t have a wardrobe crisis leading up to it. What is appropriate office attire now? It’s definitely not suits and sneakers. It’s like the first day of high school; do you go all “jeans and kicks” cool or do you dress up? I could have asked the person who hired me, but then I’d look like a dope, and I usually try to keep that from happening until I’ve been somewhere for longer than 15 minutes. Worrying about it was a waste of time, that I know of no one at the new gig pointed at my slacks and sweater and laughed at me, so that’s a win.

The new job involves marketing and knowing lots of buzzwords about retail analytics, brand awareness and “verticals,” and it’s quite something to learn new skills and work in a different environment than my home office. Going into the city won’t be required every day, but I’m looking forward to more adventures in the work world. Oh, and the modern office has changed too. No more cube farms. It’s about collaboration areas, quiet pods, and a fully stocked snack kitchen. All that and a paycheck too? I’m a happy girl in this new adventure. I may still need a little technical assistance since I somehow managed to lose the parking ticket for the train station garage and the guy in the office had to come out to my car and lift up the bar so I could exit, but other than that, it’s going pretty well. The bumpy road of the last six months seems to be smoothing out, and I’m ready for the next big thing, bring it on!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

The Flip Side of A Grumpy Girl

"If you never did, you should. These things are fun, and fun is good."

---Dr. Seuss

Typically, once I say something, I stick with it. It's a stubborn Irish thing. I might spew a load of Blarney from here to Galway, but it's my Blarney, so I will own it. Except for last week. Faithful readers (all three of you) will recall that last week, this column was a crankfest of petty gripes and complaints. While there is no denying they were genuine, there is another side to the coin. What about a list of everything that makes me happy? The happy behavior that happens out there, the fun parts of our lives that often get overlooked. Here's the flip side to last week.

     The ocean. OK, that's a little broad, given that 71% of the Earth's surface is covered by oceans, so, to be more specific my local beach. I grew up on a beach that's barely a few houses away. I spent countless hours with my feet in the sand of Preston Beach, getting tossed into the waves by friends, and watching the tide go in and out. It's been both my celebration and my solace, on more than one occasion. It's not just Preston though; it's more about being near water. The salt in the air, the seagulls, and the wind all conspire like a mad orchestra to raise a cacophony of halyards clanging against the masts to soothe the soul. There's some science to it as well, the ionization of air molecules near a beach is different and can change how your mind works. What's better than that?

       My dog. Or, really, almost anyone's dog. Dogs rule. They sit there, all furry and cute, and if you go away, even for a few minutes, they welcome you back like you're a returning hero that has conquered the world. They do what you tell them, most of the time anyway. They don't need college tuition, car insurance, or the latest smartphone. They don't talk back, and they don't roll their eyes at you. Well, perhaps they do, somehow, like that head tilt? When your dog does that, I think they might be saying, "What the heck mom? You for real?" Still, there is nothing better than a sweet canine friend sitting next to you.

      My friends and family. OK, sure, so basic, "friends and family" who doesn't love their friends and family? OK, well, I know a few people who haven't had a lot of luck in that area. There are some who have very few friends and don't talk to most of their family members, and it's unimaginable to me to not have a network of people to count on. If I had to go through the last five years all over again, but without my family and my friends (which, in my case, are the same, friends are the family we choose for ourselves) I would say to hell with it, and go all Thelma and Louise right off a cliff. Only, I'd be alone. See why having friends is better?

    Food. One look at me will prove that there aren't many missed meals in my world. Right now, I'm actively working on looking less like my grandmother (at age 86, in a mumu, with a cigarette and a glass of scotch) and more like an average middle-aged woman who's had a few cookies, but overall hasn't completely given up. Pizza, bacon cheeseburgers, and my favorite French fries are now rare treats instead of a daily dose of heart disease and artery sludge. When I do have them though? OMG, so good. Perhaps we need to walk away from a few things, so when we start up again, there is a greater appreciation? There can be too much of a good thing, and how I know, this is that I've gone on several cruises, with their buffets and their endless dessert tables. I may have gotten on as a passenger, but I was in danger of being offloaded as cargo. It was worth it though, and I'd do it again. We caution ourselves not to tie emotion to food, and that's valid, but sometimes tucking into a plate of fried clams or a juicy burger is an excellent way to turn a bad day around.

Hopefully, I have shaken off my Princess CrankyPants crown and come back to a place of gratitude, with just a small side of attitude. The snark gene is firmly entrenched in my DNA, but there are too many other things in my life to let it rule me. Life is good!