Are You Working In A ‘Shadow Career’?

Have you heard the term ‘shadow career’? I hadn’t until I started reading Ed Pressfield’s book “Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work.” This is how Pressfield explains the idea of a shadow career:

“Sometimes when we’re terrified of embracing our true calling, we’ll pursue a shadow career instead. That shadow career is a metaphor for our real career. It’s shape is similar, it’s contours feel tantalizingly the same. But a shadow career entails no real risk. If we fail at a shadow career, the consequences are meaningless to us”

So I guess a few examples would be:

  • someone who wants to write movies, but instead pursues development of other people’s work
  • someone who wants to run for office and instead is a campaign manager for someone else’s political career

Pressfield says that if you’re in a shadow career, you’re hiding from yourself and can’t fully actualize or be fulfilled. If you have a passion or project you keep denying from yourself because you’re working for a job that eats up all of your time, you’re probably in a shadow career.

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I like this idea of ‘shadow careers’ but I think there’s a fine line between a ‘shadow career’ and a ‘day job’ to pay the rent. I work in the entertainment industry when I know I want to write for TV and film, but I can’t just quit and write all day. Or, is that just what I tell myself to avoid putting in eight hours of writing work? Pressfield might suggest I work for one year, scrimp and save and then take 6 months off to solely write all day. That’s similar to what he did – and how he “turned pro.”A film professor of mine in graduate school gave me similar advice. He said to take a day job and try and write on nights and weekends, but if after 2 years, I hadn’t made significant progress in my writing, I should quit and just focus on writing. But uh…that still doesn’t address the money/how to live issue.

It’s an interesting book. I was originally turned onto Pressfield’s work by fellow writers who love his motivational book “The War of Art.” It’s all about pushing through the resistance of creation to actually get work complete. It’s a pretty fantastic book, and very inspiring to those of us who need a kick in the butt to get writing done. Or anything, really.

So, do you think you could be stuck in a shadow career?

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How to Make Money On the Side in Your Thirties

I’m working at a tradeshow right now while writing this blog post- don’t tell my manager. Actually, you can go right ahead and tell my manager, because I’m writing this on a break.

Sometimes I work on side projects while I’m on a break from another job. I’ve spent many a lunch break reading scripts for my theater company, Mission to (dit)Mars. I’ve finished invoices as well as sent out receipts on my break. And I’ve definitely blogged whenever I can grab a free minute- including on the subways of Japan during my vacation. Because blogging is fun- not work.  But this summer and last summer I spent a lot of time working on a side project from my computer that was fun and made me some money…and I was worried about not having enough time to continue working on it during my usual business travel during the fall and winter. Last year I got sidelined and didn’t work on much of anything extra. I was quite disappointed in myself.

However, this year I’m way more determined to work on side projects whenever I get a free moment. It’s funny that the second I start really getting into working on side projects during any free time I have (even during a full ‘real job’ schedule), I start to see other people doing the same thing. A coworker I’m working with at this show has a real estate business on the side where she buys, manages, and rents out property- and she’s sitting a couple of seats away from me working on that. Another coworker of mine manages liquor sales and is scheduling tastings and demos during her break. I work with someone else who doesn’t go out with us for dinner most days after shows – she’s instead returning emails and scheduling events for her event management job… which she has on the side.

It seems to me that the hardest thing about making money from a side job is having the discipline to give up some of your free time. I hate turning down social time with my coworkers when I’m on the road, because they’re nice respites from work hours. But sometimes the only way to get anything going on the side is to say no to invitations to go out after work. And if I manage my time well enough, I’ll still have time to be social with my colleagues for a few nights. It just takes determination and planning. But I’m inspired by other people I know who are able to turn down social events and get the work done on the projects that really matter to them. These types of people are quietly getting amazing things done all around you while working at a ‘real job’- in fact, maybe you’re one of them.

If you want more information about starting a side business, I love Ramit Sethi’s material on making a business out of something you’re already good at. Once you have a side business started -even a tiny bit of one- it’s all time management from there.

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Ambition in Your Thirties

Do you think your career ambition has declined in your 30s? According to a study by the Families and Work Institute, which this article Why You’re Losing Ambition As You Age elaborated on, workers begin losing their ambition to get promoted or seek out more responsibilities around age 35. The researchers attributed this decline to people having children.

It makes sense – having children is like having a second job. Duh. Your time and energy is devoted to raising this small person (or people).

But what if you don’t get married or have children? Does your career ambition also decline in your mid-30s?

Though I’m not yet 35, I’m pretty close, and while I don’t think my ambition has declined, it has changed. It’s morphed from me seeking external measures of success to me seeking a deep desire to be fulfilled in my work. Since I’m a writer, that means pursuing interesting ideas and projects for stories and working with people who share a similar vision. Making six figures and owning a home is still exciting to me, but I see those things as secondary benefits to doing something in my life that feels uniquely suited to me and that benefits people.

I’ve also seen this shift in many of my 30-something friends. I have friends in corporate jobs who are considering opening up their own businesses, presumably more fulfilling, but initially less lucrative. I also have friends who have decided to only work part-time as they raise their children.

So what do you think? Has your ambition for wealth, power, career success lessened in your 30s?

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30 Women Around the Globe Reflect on Life at 30

International Women’s Day was just last week- March 8th. In honor of that day, Stylist magazine interviewed 30 women, all age 30, from all over the world. Here’s the link to that article: This is what 30 looks like: women across the world share their experiences. 

The women talked about their careers right now, whether they were single, married, or in a relationship, whether or not they had children, whether they were where they thought they’d be at 30, and more.

The biggest thing I noticed about the article was the discrepancy in the experiences and the voices. Every woman was at a different point in their life- some were 30 and worried about being single, some were 30 with 3 kids. Some were 30 and stay at home moms, some were 30 and running their own business. Some were 30 and worried about money. Some were 30 and worried about going outside at night because in their country they might be raped or killed. “Women aren’t safe. I can’t walk the streets for fear of being killed or raped; this is the product of patriarchy in my country.” – Sandra de la Cruz, Lima Peru.

Some were super happy with their lives while single, some super happy while married with kids. Some seemed unsatisfied while single, some seemed unsatisfied married with 3 kids. I feel like reading about all these different experiences for women at 30 really fights the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) issue that I sometimes have. I want to do everything at once. I want to experience life with my own business, and also maybe have a life learning at another company. I want to experience being pregnant and having a child, but also experience being happily married into my fifties and sixties without a child interrupting, and without the life-changing responsibilities of a child.

It’s hard to want everything at once, and to want everyone else’s experiences too. This happens to me sometimes- I’m in a happy vacuum alone, enjoying my time, but then someone will tell me about something they’ve done, and I’ll want to do it too.

The article really brought home how different experiences can all be valid and happy-making, and there’s no one portrait of what a thirty-something’s life should be like. Follow your own happiness and make your own life and you won’t miss out on anything.

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Did You Reach Your Career Goals By 27?

Did you fulfill your career goals or make significant progress in your career by 27? Well, if you did, congrats for you! According to a new study done at the University of Edinburgh, people who accomplished their career goals by 27 (men, in particular) were happier later in their life.

I read about this study in an email newsletter that Laura forwarded to me. The title of the newsletter, written by a prominent career blogger, was: “Travel is terrible for your career.” Laura passed it along to me because she does travel often for her career and she was questioning her choice.

One of the points in the newsletter about why travel is bad for your career was the aforementioned study. When I read this study, linked below, I felt a little frightened and sad inside. I didn’t accomplish my career goals or make significant progress by the time I was 27. I’m a turtle, a late bloomer. Did this mean I was doomed to less happiness than my peers who had accomplished their goals by 27?

Well, I took a deeper dive into this study, and read the linked article (which was quite low on facts and information about the study) and…

This study was born on people born in 1936! OF COURSE people accomplished their career goals earlier – the average life span for both sexes in 1935 was 61.7 years. So yes, your career will start and end earlier.

I felt like the inclusion of the study in this newsletter was alarmist and unfair information meant to scare people. And I realized, there’s a lot of that information aimed at us 30-somethings, especially at women. Whether it’s about fertility, career, health or money, there’s so much pressure to do things fast and by a certain time.

Well, I call bullshit. So don’t get scared when faced with time pressures. For the most part, they’re societally imposed. And definitely don’t take everything you read at face value.

What’s a “Real” Job In Your Thirties?

Continuing along Jane’s career topic from the last post, I have a “what the heck is a “real” job anyway?” story from this weekend.

So I was working in Vegas for the past few days- doing my “real job” of being a self-employed presenter and product specialist at tradeshows, conventions, events and autoshows. For the past three years or so, I’ve thought of this as my ‘real job.’ There are three reasons for this:

  1. I do this job full time.
  2. I enjoy doing this job
  3. I make money from doing this job- in fact, I make just about all of my full time income from this job.

The reason I’ve only considered this my real job prior to the last 3 years, even though I’ve been doing the same thing for more than 9 years, is because I used to consider my real job:

1.PASSIONATE THEATRE DIRECTOR EXTRAORDINAIRE. OCCASIONAL VERY PASSIONATE ACTOR EXTRAORDINAIRE.

I stopped considering theater jobs as my “real job” for one very simple reason:

  1. I don’t make money from doing those jobs.

*At least not close to enough money to support myself and my formerly six figure student loan (now down to an impressive 5 figures! Woot!)

However, while working the convention this weekend, an attendee said to me in a confidential whisper, “so, what’s your ‘real’ job?

I informed him that this was, in fact, my real job. That I do this full time in differing aspects.

He wouldn’t accept my answer. He kept pushing for what my ‘real job’ really was. I attempted to explain to him that I’m building up my current job to do even more in the field of presenting. He wasn’t satisfied. He didn’t believe me. He was sure I was holding back.

I mentioned that I’m entrepreneurial and have multiple side projects, some of which are online. I even attempted to explain some of the side projects. None of this information satisfied him.

Now, at this point, I was looking for an escape route, or at least a way to get back to work and end the conversation.

Finally, I said, “Ok, I direct theater. I’m an actor. I have a theater company”

THIS answer he accepted. “I ‘KNEW IT!” he shouted. “You have a real job after all!”

And after talking my ear off for a few more minutes, and attempting to get my card, he finally went on his merry way, leaving me slightly more annoyed than before he arrived.

I guess some people just have an idea in their head of what a ‘real’ job is.  Being an ‘Actor,’ whether it makes you any money or not, is a ‘job’ that people understand. I always thought acting was the thing people kind of made fun of because a lot of the time ‘actors ‘ end up serving you in restaurants. But I guess the “real job” title of “Actor” is glamorous in it’s own way, even when it’s not.

I could’ve said “pursuing acting left me in abject poverty. Directing theater took up so much of my time that I couldn’t make money working other jobs that actually paid. I made such little money as a theater director that there was no way I could buy a weekly Metrocard, never mind pay my rent from the sad stipends I received. This “real job” that you don’t consider a real job saved my financial life.”

But I feel like he would’ve just said some platitude like, “Keep smiling, kid. Live your dreams. ”

So I simply let him walk away in ignorant bliss. Sometimes it’s just not worth it.

Escaping the Cubicle Life

For about the past two years, I’ve been fortunate enough to be in graduate school for something I love. And I get to do it FULL-TIME.  Yes, I’ve had a part-time job throughout my time at school, and this summer I worked two FT jobs. But overall, my lifestyle has been free of 9-5 office jobs. That means no wasted hours of the day when I’m surfing the internet looking for ways to ‘change my life’ and get out of the situation I’m in.

I was talking to Laura on the phone tonight and I realized just how lucky we both were to have the lifestyles we do. Laura is a brand presenter and gets to travel around the country on behalf of major companies, and like me, we don’t have set schedules. It’s kind of incredible, really. I didn’t realize how grateful I was for this lifestyle until the past few weeks. My time is my own; I can work when I’m personally most productive, not just during the set hours of 9-5pm.

But, for me, unless I can find a way to make this continue, my lifestyle will look a lot different come 2016. I’ll have to find a way to support myself and have health insurance, which most likely means a FT job. Maybe not – maybe I’ll be fortunate enough to get one of the writing fellowships I’m applying for, or maybe I’ll find a few teaching jobs and cobble together a living. That’s the ultimate goal, I think. I’ve realized how much I value working at my own pace and on my schedule.

Apparently so do a lot of other Americans. Did you know that one in five Americans works from home? That’s no shabby figure. The other 80% of us spend about 8.7 hours a day in the office, according to the American Time Use Study (what an amazing name for a study, BTW). That’s a heck of a lot of time! Not only that, but most of us don’t actually work that full 8.7 hours. Many studies have shown that the average person spends 1.5 –  3 hours per day on personal activities at work.

Here’s my thing. I feel like when I work at my pace, in my own way, I get work done efficiently and to the best of my abilities rather than when I’m forced to work set times in a set place. What I’m saying probably resonates with a lot of people out there, and the question becomes – how can we escape the cubicle life?

Well, I’m still working on it. But I think becoming a master of your personal brand and owning your skill set is definitely a start. And saving and investing your money wisely.

Nancy Meyers and Thirtysomethings

I’ve been reading a few interviews with the female film director Nancy Meyers lately, mainly because her new film, The Intern with Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway, has been getting a lot of publicity. She has some very interesting thoughts on being a thirtysomething in today’s world.

If you’ve seen a Nancy Meyers movie (Something’s Gotta Give, It’s Complicated, The Intern, to name a few), chances are you’ve drooled over the lush interiors of her characters’ homes. They’re always so cozy, well-appointed, and warmly lit, that you just want to plop down on one of those beautiful couches with a glass of wine and a thick novel. See below. I mean, WHO wouldn’t want to live in these worlds?

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I aspire to get to a point in my financial life where I can live in a home and environment like these when I’m in my 60s. Apparently, there’s a lot of young women in their 20s and 30s who feel the same way. So much so that a group of women recently had a Nancy Meyers themed bachelorette party – complete with turtlenecks, glasses and roast chicken. In a recent NY Magazine article, Meyers talked about that bachelorette party and why she thinks her work resonates with younger women in our generation:

I think it’s because they see a really super-functioning, confident woman who’s made a life for herself, who bought herself this house. And they’re all starting their careers, and I think they must look ahead and say, “Yeah, I like that for my future.” And she’s a divorced woman, but she’s not an unhappy divorced woman. The women in my movies are not seeking romance. It happens when they’re not looking for it.

I really liked that quote, especially that last part. Romance seems to be a by-product of going after and living the life you want. In the article, Meyers also had some interesting thoughts about thirtysomething men in this day and age. She was talking about the difference between Robert DeNiro’s character in The Intern, a 70-somethign year old man who goes back to intern for Anne Hathaway’s company, and millennial men today. She says:

Well, the difference between this man and the millennials. I’ve seen it in my own life. I see guys in their mid-30s with their little boys, and they’re wearing the exact same outfit. They’ll wear like the same T-shirt, same kind of shorts, same sneakers, and I just remember when men didn’t dress like their 4-year-olds.

When my kids were growing up, they had Take Your Daughter to Work Day. It didn’t cross my mind that there was no Take Your Son to Work Day, because it was expected the men will grow up and go to work. I think my generation, brought up by Oprah Winfrey, really got behind girls in a great way, and I think the boys … the line in the movie is “Well, maybe they didn’t get left behind, but you know, there’s definitely some kind of gap.” I’m not talking about all men, of course. But I don’t think the Peter Pan quality is something women want in their men, that’s for sure.

What do you think? I definitely have noticed that a lot of men have that Peter Pan quality. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing, but I do agree with Meyers in that many women don’t want that in their men. I haven’t seen The Intern yet, but I hope to check it out this weekend.

The more interviews I read with Meyers, the more she’s becoming my role model in this industry.

First Thing in the Morning in Your Thirties

For most of my life, I never really had a morning ritual. Well- I never had a morning ritual that went much beyond putting on my makeup and getting my hair into some sort of acceptable outside-world style.

Then, as I went through my twenties, I started adding new parts to my morning ritual. I got into making green juices in the morning, and then- even better- I got into making green smoothies. I purchased a french press and started making my own coffee every day as well. Lots of liquids. And then I figured out a way to style my hair even quicker than before (by forsaking straightening my crazy waves into heat-damaging oblivion every single day).

Yet even when I had a handle on my morning routine, it always felt like a means to an end. I got nothing super important done in the morning. I usually saved that stuff until the afternoon, when something more pressing usually came up and interrupted it anyway (like lunchtime. Or drinks out. Or a new bunch of emails to return. You know, the important stuff…)

This summer, I hit a wall. I was sick of the days passing me by while some of the most important things I wanted to do daily remained undone. So I started a ‘most important things on my list are the first ones’ habit. And it really started to work.

I’d get up, start some coffee, eat an apple, and meditate (which is very important to me). Then I’d put on my gym clothes and go running or to the gym (also very important). Then I’d come back, make a smoothie, and tackle my to do list or go to work. In this way, I was meditating daily and also getting to the gym before interruptions took over. The first thing in the morning habit really worked. Even though I’m a night owl.

The hardest part has been expanding my morning ritual into other important tasks. It was easy to meditate and run and then get through a to-do list of smaller items like ‘wash dishes. email so-and-so. send invoice.’ It was much harder to meditate and run and   then tackle larger and more important to dos like ‘rewrite resume. practice presentations. watch videos and research new job prospects.’ I was just talking to my friend Janna about this; For whatever reason, the reallly important tasks that could further our lives and careers have been getting pushed by the wayside and out of our days entirely. And this has been happening for a while… kind of sort of like always. Especially on work days where there’s not much time left in the day to tackle tasks other than getting to work.

Our new idea has been to start using the ‘first thing in the morning’ ritual to include these big important tasks right away…and I think it’s best to only focus on one Very Important Task daily.

So to recap, instead of trying to kill a whole to-do list, I’m going to prioritize one big important task a day and only try to do that, starting in the morning. First, I’m still going to start my coffee and have an apple and meditate. Then I’m going to work on the chosen task for an allotted period of time. Only THEN will I tackle the other items.

I think choosing only one large item a day to work on first thing in the morning is helpful. When there’s only one thing to think about, it’s easier to stay focused and not accomplish absolutely zero big important tasks in a day.

What do you think? Do morning rituals help you? How do you accomplish the really big important tasks and not let the days pass you by?

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Knowing the Difference Between Labor Day, Veterans Day and Memorial Day by Your Thirties

Happy Labor Day! Today’s post is a repost from this past Memorial Day, but I thought it was timely. Hope you had some good barbecue and are enjoying every last bit of the summer!

Last year on Labor Day, a friend of mine was wondering whether or not to thank the military. (Short answer- sure, thank the military- but not because of Labor Day. Labor day has nothing to do with the military- it’s about American workers.)

Last Memorial Day, I overheard someone asking the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. This was not a child asking- it was someone in their fifties

So in case you’re not sure of the differences between the holidays, but are too embarrassed to ask, lets clear up the confusion right now, anonymously 😉

Memorial Day: Memorial Day is for honoring and remembering military personnel who died serving their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of battle wounds. The holiday originated right after the Civil War and is always celebrated the last Monday in May because that’s when flowers are blooming to decorate the graves of the dead. Read more about Memorial Day here.

Veterans Day: Veterans Day is a day to thank EVERYONE who’s served in the military, whether in wartime or peacetime. The day is especially to thank living veterans for their service, and to really show that all those who served, and not just those who died, have done their duty. Veterans Day was created after World War I and is always celebrated on November 11. Read more about Veterans Day here

Labor Day: Labor Day is dedicated to the contributions and achievements of American workers. It was created in 1887 by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor. It’s always celebrated the first Monday in September. Read more about Labor Day here.

Hope your fantastic Labor Day weekend carries you into the fall and beyond!

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Is Having a “Respectable” Job In Your Thirties Worth Your Happiness?

Something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is having a ‘respectable’ job in your thirties.

In my twenties, I’ll admit, I hustled for money a lot…I was concentrating on my “real passion” – theater – so I was working a lot of random event jobs in between the Tradeshows I normally worked..also for extra money to support my theater career. I had jobs where I worked outside in the snow and handed out orange juice. I had jobs catering parties where people wouldn’t look at or talk to me. I had jobs at bars where too many people looked at and talked to me. I had jobs dressed as a dinosaur from a video game. There were many crazy moments. And, I’ll admit, there are still crazy moments now.

But there’s something about being in your thirties where the old job hustling doesn’t seem to cut it anymore. It feels very  important to have a “respectable” job. Job titles are cool in your thirties the way everything ‘grown up’ is sort of cool. Somewhere along the line of being in your thirties, you’re supposed to have ‘made it’ careerwise, right?

Well, I definitely don’t miss a lot of the random crazy gigs I had in my twenties, especially the ones that didn’t pay well. And I definitely am way more conscious of how I’m treated by the people I work with- I tolerate a lot less disrespect than I used to. But as for having a particularly ‘respectable’ and grown up job title…well, I don’t know exactly what that means to me. Especially since I’ve always been self-employed and have kind of cobbled my skills together.

I know some people who:

  1. Have an amazing, respectable job title and are pretty happy but make way less money than you’d think.
  2. Who have an amazing, respectable job title and make lots of money, but are way more UNhappy than you’d think.
  3. And of course, there are the people in respectable jobs who make tons of money and are super happy. I guess that = the dream. Damn those guys.

But maybe the thirties career dream actually doesn’t need the respectable title. Maybe all you need is to make good money (or at least enough money) and be really happy. Perhaps in your thirties, you don’t necessarily need that respectable title after all- just make enough money and be happy enough doing it. Then go do other things that make you happy.

So I’m sort of stopping my search for the respectable job title and am focusing the search on jobs that meet my financial needs and make me happy enough. Then I’m off doing other happy-making things.

If you can make good money hustling and are happy doing it, then by all means, hustle.  If you’re happy being a theater actor, and are okay money-wise, then be a theater actor. For goodness sake, if you’re happy and make enough money being a clown at a birthday party, then by all means, keep doing that! Screw the titles and screw explaining yourself! Figure out your own life, make yourself happy, and then of course, keep afloat. Make your own title! As long as you have the money to keep yourself smiling, then go for it. Because aren’t the thirties all about giving zero fucks anyway?

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Are We The “Slash” Generation?

Have you seen the new Toshiba laptop/tablet commercial, where they show a young woman in her 20s who they describe as a “Director/DJ/Designer/Advocate/Entrepreneur” as they show her in her various roles/jobs? The commercial was made  to sell their tablet product, and in it, they say their product is perfect for the “slash” generation. It’s been playing constantly when I watch Hulu, and it drives me nuts.

I had never heard that we’re considered the “slash” generation. Generally, since I’m 33, I don’t feel like a millennial but  demographically, I am considered one (Born in 1982 – 1996). Being part of the “slash” generation means is that your career involves being a hyphenate, as in “writer – director – actor” – that sort of thing.

If you’re interested to read more about this phenomenon, here’s a great NY Times article from last year called “The Lives of Millennial Career Jugglers.” They profile six people who have multiple careers.

Personally, I don’t want to have a multi-hyphenate career. I want to be known as an expert at one thing and have hobbies on the side. Perhaps I can become very good at these hobbies, but I wouldn’t want to consider them a money-making path. Maybe that would somehow taint them.

But while my ideal is to not be a hyphenate, I’ve realized is that it’s become harder and harder to find one job that can completely financially sustain you if you don’t work in a traditional field (corporate company, doctor, lawyer, etc.) I think we have also become desirous to find creativity and personal passion in our work – even if it’s just one of our many “jobs” – such as DJ’ing on the weekends for instance.

Do you have a “slash” career? If you do, would you prefer not to?

Are You Working Too Hard On Your Relationship In Your Thirties?

“Relationships are hard work.”

I hear this a lot. And I think it’s kinda confusing.

Many things are hard work. Sometimes it’s hard work to drag myself out of bed when it’s really early. Or to figure out how to fix a laptop when it’s broken. There’s a good amount of work involved in completing a marathon. Or confronting someone when you’re upset with them. Or asking for a raise. Or building the Golden Gate Bridge.

I guess what I’m saying is that hard work is hard to define.

What constitutes hard work? What amount of work does it take… to build a relationship? Or to build an actual ship? To build the pyramids of Giza?

There’s a lot of different degrees of hard work. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I’ve come up with a theory. I think it’s possible you’re working too hard in your relationship.

Relationships definitely take work. Most things that need to be built take some form of work. But there’s work that fits well with you and is flowing from a place of natural strength, and there’s work that doesn’t quite fit- the work of getting that octagonal peg in that frustrating triangular hole.

Let me explain. Think of the worst possible career you can imagine having. I asked a few people this question, and got some funny answers…I heard everything from embalmer to physics teacher to construction worker. One person even said ‘heart surgeon.’ Now, heart surgeon is a pretty complex and difficult career, and I can’t imagine doing it. It wouldn’t be exciting for me to have someone’s life in my hands like that on most days. I don’t think I’d be very good at being a surgeon because I’d be too anxious. I would dread going into work every day. I’d be downright afraid.

Now, if someone put a gun to my head and said “You HAVE to be a heart surgeon for the rest of your life or I’ll KILL you and everyone you know!!” I’d make the best of it. I’d work hard to make myself into the best doctor I could be. And it would be really, really hard.

However, there are people who very much LIKE being heart surgeons. It’s a competitive field! Those doctors go into the hospital everyday and are happy to work at their chosen career.

And get this- the heart surgeons who love being heart surgeons still have to do WORK….they can’t come into the hospital and go to sleep. They can’t eat Doritos in the corner after opening up a patient’s chest cavity. They can’t say “Eh, I don’t feel like it today. No surgery for you. I’m gonna go watch the Yankee game instead.”

There’s still hard work involved for a happy heart surgeon! But the work’s much easier because it goes with who the surgeon is and the career that fits with his or her personality.

Now, that same happy heart surgeon might feel like they’d have to do a ton more hard work if they were forced into a career as a model.

Do you see what I mean?

So, although it’s totally possible that you’re not doing enough work in the relationship that’s actually the right one for you (are you the happy heart surgeon eating Doritos in the corner while someone’s heart suffers?) it’s also possible that you’re doing way too much work (are you a physics teacher working your darndest to have a career as an embalmer?) Haha, okay, that’s weird, but you get the point.

Perhaps you’re following the good advice that relationships are hard work and so you’re working hard. But are you working too hard on the wrong thing?

It’s not an easy question.

valentinesday

You Are Not Your Job

I’ve been job-hunting this past week, and it’s been causing me a lot of anxiety. There are so many highs and lows to the process; so much to consider. I’ve been really trying to find jobs that feel like “me,” but it’s hard because the work I’m extremely passionate about (film and TV writing) doesn’t operate like most industries. There are no job postings for that type of work. And so I have to find jobs that are somewhat out of my exact field. Usually, I’m okay with that – I thought I had made peace with it.

But today, when I was job hunting, a deep sadness came over me as I was looking at the listings. I felt lonely and disconnected from myself. Have you ever felt that way when looking for a job? I imagine it’s different for a lot of folks – people who have a more specific professional direction in their 30s – like teachers, lawyers, marketing executives, etc. But for those of us who have more nebulous paths, it can be challenging. It’s like you have to have two careers and ‘selves’ at once. Your day-job-money-making self and your other, passionate self. Is there a way to authentically merge the two? Or do you simply have to compartmentalize your ‘day-job’ as one facet of your life?

This afternoon, someone reminded me that I am not my job. And I remembered this quote I once read:

“I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life.’” ~Maya Angelou

So, tomorrow, when I dive into more job-hunting, I will remember I am making a life, and that my job hunt is only one part of that.

The Happiness Boost in Your Mid-Thirties

This is complete conjecture on my part, but I have a feeling that when you enter your mid-thirties, you start to experience a subtle but profound happiness boost. Yes, maybe this is wishful thinking on my part (I’m 33), but my hunch is that it’s more than just wishful thinking. There must be more than just a biological reason that a woman’s sexual prime is in her mid-30s (in full disclosure: this long-held belief about women’s sexual prime has been debated. Some experts point it at 26, others at the early 30s).

My feeling is that as we gain confidence, security and happiness – our sexual energy levels are boosted. But what is it about the mid-thirties that gives us that happy boost? First, let’s define “mid-thirties.” From what I’ve read online, most folks define mid-thirties as between 33-37. During these four years, a lot of your hard work – be it in your career, relationships or self-growth, begins to pay off. You see the fruits of your labor.

I found this amazing blog post at MakeYourOwnDamnDinner.com that I loved! It’s called 10 Reasons Being In Your Mid-Thirties Is Fabulous. You’ve got it give it a read and hear what she has to say. My favorite reason the mid-thirties are fabulous is “The Cycle of Friendship.” She writes:

Number 8 – The Cycle of Friendship:
By 35 you’ve cycled through most of your major life milestones with your friends. Graduation, college, marriage, having kids, and maybe even a divorce. By now you know which friends are in it for the long haul and which friends are not. You realize you don’t need 294 friends…you only the core few who have stuck with you through thick and thin.

– Marie of MakeYourOwnDamnDinner.com

She also references a great quote by Wally Lamb, “Being in your mid-thirties brought benefits, I reminded myself. You begin to appreciate tidiness, smallness, things in their place. This is the shape your life has taken.”

I disagreed with one reason – that you may be done with having kids. But, as the author said herself, this reason may not be true for everyone. I imagine I’ll have kids around 36 (fingers crossed), so I won’t be done by then.

To add my own reasons to list:

  • You don’t spend as much time (if any!) with toxic people who bring you down.
  • You have a clearer sense of what makes you happy in life and you don’t spend time on things that don’t.
  • You have your own home and sense of family (even if it means a group of friends)

What would you add to the list?

Too Old for Graduate School?

When I enrolled at UCLA in Fall 2013 at thirty-two years old, I wasn’t sure how old the majority of my peers would be. Would I be the ‘older one’ or a ‘younger one’? Turns out, I’m on the older side, as most of my classmates are in their 20s. But I’ve been assured that classes prior to mine (class of 2015) had an older median age.

I’ve had friends tell me, “I’m too old to go to graduate school now,” thinking their ship has sailed. But it’s not true – you’re never too old for graduate school. And, according to information collected from the 2000 National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey, the average graduate student is 33 years old. Not only that, but 20% of all graduate students are over the age of 40.

You may worry about the perceived ‘stigma’ of being an older graduate student. But in my mind, yes, you may stand out if you’re an older student but standing out is good. Really. People are curious about you and your background, and many times you’re perceived as being courageous for continuing to go after your goals. One of the most talented recent graduates in my program was a grandmother in her 60s, and she was awesome. She won tons of awards for her writing and one of her TV pilots was actually produced.

When you go to graduate school later in life, you have a better idea of where you’re aiming to go. You don’t get stuck in “academic inertia” as one college professors said when he warned me against applying to school too soon. You also appreciate the sweetness of graduate school life a lot more than would if you were only a few years out of college (That is, if you’re not simultaneously working a full-time job, which is a beast.)

Also, you can benefit form the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit, which in 2014-2015 was about $2,000 per year. However, there are income restrictions and only one member of married couple can benefit from this credit at a time. You can read more about it here.

Education, at any age, is never a waste.

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