Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Leisurely Life

I’ll be honest.  Not having to get up and go to work every day is pretty awesome.  The only real downside is the guilt.  At my age, I should be a productive member of society, and yesterday my biggest accomplishment was painting my toenails.  Even when I’m having a productive day by my standards, I still feel lazy for not having an actual job.  As H. Jackson Brown, Jr. so eloquently put it, “We seldom enjoy leisure we haven’t earned.”

My parents were visiting this past week, and I couldn’t help but envy them.  Not only do they have the freedom to do nothing all day, but after 30+ years as public school teachers, they’ve earned the right to not feel bad about it.  People often say that retirement can be a “difficult transition,” but my parents didn’t seem to have any problem adjusting.  Literally hours after finishing their last day of work, they jumped in the car and moved to a retirement community in Florida, thus fulfilling my dad’s lifelong dream of living on a golf course.  They sold their truck, bought a golf cart, and never looked back.

My mother originally planned to seek part-time employment at the local post office but has since decided that she doesn’t have the time for it, what with water aerobics, Tuesday Scrabblers, and “lunch and a movie” outings with the other wives.  My father wants to attend bartending school but has no interest in working as a bartender; he would use the knowledge for entertaining purposes only.  I thought it was a silly idea, until I realized that my parents have more friends and a busier social schedule than I do.  Every night, it’s something: Western casino night, “Whole Lotta Colada” night, Pirate Cruise night, 2-for-1 happy hour night at the clubhouse.  The other day when I called, they were at a poolside luau, roasting an actual pig.

When they’re not busy partying, they’re training for a mini-triathlon or volunteering at Manatee Park.  So it’s not like they’re without purpose.   My father’s big goal for November is to go see the Rockettes and get his picture taken with them while wearing his tuxedo.

It's nice to see my parents embracing the leisurely life.  I don't think they've ever been happier.  I fully plan on following in their footsteps.  After I’ve earned it, of course...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Battle of the Sexes

My husband and I are both competitive, so naturally we keep track of who is better at what.  For example, I’m better at scuba diving, beer pong, and removing hot toast from the toaster oven.  And he’s better at ice skating, poker, and spinning a pen.  We’ve even gone so far as to compare IQ scores – I lost by a few measly points.  After another thirty years or so, I suppose we’ll tally up the results and declare an overall winner.  Until then, it’s anyone’s game.

Recently, I admitted defeat in the breadwinner category.  With his marginally higher IQ, he was always the favorite to win it.  At least I can say I earned the higher salary for a few glorious months.  It was a year after we started dating, and I received a promotion and a sizeable raise.  At first, he was thrilled for me, until he heard the amount and ran the numbers in his head.  He was careful not to ruin my moment; he immediately took me out for a celebratory dinner, during which he alternated between praising my success and pouting in silence.  In return, I was careful not to rub it in; I only brought it up once, maybe twice a day for the first month or two.

But alas, my breadwinner status was short-lived.  His wages soon surpassed mine, and the gap has been growing ever since.  Not to worry – the Bureau of Labor Statistics insists it’s perfectly normal.  Apparently, only 25.9% of wives earn more than their husbands when both are employed.

Perhaps this is because more women are drawn to artistic pursuits than to, say, math or computer science.  I used to be the counterexample, but I eventually cast aside my math books in favor of creative expression.  This brings up another point.  Perhaps women are more prone to changing their minds, and as a result, spend more time backtracking and less time climbing the corporate ladder.

Anyway, whenever I feel bad about earning less than my husband, I remind myself (and him) that the situation could still change.  And if it does, I will be more than happy to share my success with him.  If I win the Oscar for best original screenplay, I’ll let him hold my purse while I’m on the red carpet!  And if my blog eventually takes off, he can quit his job and be my assistant!  Well, in any case, I’ll always be the better scuba diver.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I'm a Writer. A Real One!

When asked what I do for a living, my answer varies depending on what mood I’m in.  If I’m in a really bad mood, I’ll say, “Nothing of value.”  And if I’m in a really good mood, I’ll say, “I'm multi-talented; I dabble in everything.”  But most of the time, I outright lie and describe my previous position in finance.  I just can’t bring myself to say “unpublished writer.”  I don’t want people to get the wrong idea and assume that I have no writing talent or that I’m a “writer" who doesn’t actually write.

Since I don’t have a good answer to the "What do you do?" question, I try to avoid meeting new people as much as I can.  My anti-social husband couldn’t be happier. 

Unfortunately for him, those days might soon be behind me, because I just signed my first freelance writing contract!  And come October, I should be a published writer.  I don’t want to jinx myself and spill all the details before it actually happens, but feel free to go ahead and praise me.

This means that I’m kind of, sort of, employed.  And the next time someone asks me what I do, I’ll be able to pull out a copy of my published essay and wave it around in their face.  Maybe I should get my $200 paycheck framed and display it in my living room for all to admire!  Of course I could use the $200, since I already spent half of it on a bottle of celebratory champagne.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  The way I look at it, my success should increase exponentially from here on out.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Career Advice from the Big Screen

You can learn a lot by watching movies, even how to deal with a career crisis!  Some of my favorite films feature protagonists who are unhappy with their jobs.  Let’s see what advice they have to offer...

Working Girl (1988)
Steal your boss’s identity and develop a romantic relationship with a big-shot in the industry

Jerry Maguire (1996)
Write a 27-page mission statement detailing everything that is wrong with your industry, and when you're subsequently fired, don’t forget to steal the office goldfish

Office Space (1999)
Try occupational hypnotherapy, embrace insubordination, take your boss’s parking spot, beat up the fax machine, and embezzle $300,000

American Beauty (1999)
Blackmail your boss for $60,000 and blow the money on your dream car, then spend your days smoking pot and flipping burgers

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)
Wear the same Costco-brand sweatpants for a week straight while you wallow in hilarious self-loathing

Role Models (2008)
Engage in destructive behavior while on the job, get arrested, and work through your issues in the world of live-action role playing

(500) Days of Summer (2008)
Go to work hungover, give a long-winded speech about everything that is wrong with your industry, and quit in order to pursue your dream job for which you are completely unqualified

Julie & Julia (2009)
Start a blog and hope for fame and fortune

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jami the Journalist in Jacksonville

People sometimes ask me what I do all day and how I manage to survive without a job to pass the time.  What, have you not heard of Google or Wikipedia?

The other day, I spent the better part of an hour Googling “how to be successful.”   Somehow I ended up reading an academic paper by Pelham, Mirenberg, and Jones entitled “Why Susie Sells Seashells by the Seashore: Implicit Egotism and Major Life Decisions.”  The paper explores the name-letter effect, or the idea that people have positive associations with their own name and are more likely to choose name-resembling spouses, occupations, and places of residence.  For example, since my name is Jami, I’m more likely to marry John, become a journalist, and move to Jacksonville than I am to marry Dave, become a doctor, and move to Detroit.

It sounds kind of silly, but I did marry a guy with a J-name, so I couldn’t help but wonder what occupations I might be subconsciously drawn to...

Jet pilot
Jewel thief
Jehovah's witness
Jesus Camp counselor
Joke writer

Huh.  Well, I suspect jet pilots are discouraged from taking Xanax to combat a fear of flying, so I’ll go ahead and cross that one off.  I can’t be a jockey unless I magically shrink a foot and a half.  And although I do enjoy judging others, I could never compete with Judge Judy – she's more popular than Oprah!  At the moment, I’m leaning toward joke writer in Jamaica.  No, wait, I’ve got it… I’m a job-hopper!  Wow, this explains so much.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Crappy Job #3: Gas Station Attendant

WaitressShoe saleswoman.  Gas station attendant.  Clearly, I was a woman of ambition.

I purposely avoided working for one of those deluxe gas stations that also sold hot dogs, Slurpees, and lottery tickets.  I could only be bothered to sell gas and cigarettes.

My father initially objected to his 18-year-old daughter working the night shift by herself, until he found out that the owner of the gas station was the son of Johnny Unitas, one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time.  Apparently, free oil changes from the offspring of a football legend were worth the risk that his only child would be slain in a robbery.

Despite the obvious risk involved, it was probably the best minimum-wage job I ever had.  Look, the pros almost outweigh the cons!

  • My shift began at 4am and ended at 11am, so work never interfered with anything except for sleep.  At the time, I had a very demanding social schedule, so I needed to be available both day and night for spontaneous get-togethers.
  • There was a lot of downtime.  I would lay my head on the counter and “rest my eyes” until a customer came in.
  • By the end of the summer, I could name at least 40 brands of cigarettes!  Whenever my friends and I played Kings, it was my go-to category.

  • There was no bulletproof glass.  Just me and a cash register.  When I wasn’t sleeping on the job, I was constantly on the lookout for men in ski masks.
  • At the beginning of every shift, I had to count all of the cigarette packs.  It was supposed to deter employee theft.  The next time you’re sleep-deprived, try counting to 400 without losing track.
  • When questioned about my unusual sleep schedule, I would tell people that I worked the night shift.  Little did I know, Night Shift was the name of a strip club in nearby Baltimore.  I got the occasional strange look and had no idea why.  You can imagine my surprise when someone finally asked, “Oh, are you a stripper?”

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Crappy Job #2: Payless

I'm on a mission to decide if all of my prior jobs have been horribly flawed or if I just don't like working.  In a previous post, I reminisced about being a waitress.  Today, I’m tackling the fun-filled summer I spent working in retail.  Payless ShoeSource, to be exact.

Don’t ask me why I wanted to work in a shoe store.  Having inherited my mother’s freakishly large feet, shopping for shoes ranks somewhere between getting a root canal and filing my tax return on the list of things I enjoy.  At the time of my employment, Payless was the only store in a 50-mile radius that carried my size, and the selection was terrible.  Think elderly churchgoer.  I would’ve looked just as stylish had I duct-taped the shoe boxes to my feet.

Interesting Fact of the Day: My high heel is exactly the size of a standard wine bottle.

Anyway, here is my assessment of working at Payless ShoeSource...

  • Using my discount, I was able to save a whopping 75-cents on my oversized high heels.  
  • I managed to amuse myself by channeling Al Bundy from Married with Children.  “I sell shoes.  Envy me.”
  • Big corporations love annoying procedures and unnecessary paperwork.  I had to take a drug test, fill out one of those Briggs-Meyer personality profiles, and undergo formal training, all for the humiliation of working at the local mall.  As a testament to their lengthy screening process, I was offered ecstasy by another sales associate on my first day of work.
  • Participation in the employee suggestive selling competition was mandatory.  I got stuck promoting deodorizing shoe balls to smelly-footed customers and easily secured last place.
  • I had planned to use this opportunity to meet other fabulous women with size 12 feet, but the only regular customer who purchased shoes in my size was a cross-dressing man.
  • I quickly discovered that most adults are too lazy or too dumb to put a shoe back where it belongs.  They prefer to cram it into the wrong box, possibly in a different aisle.  Um, yeah, thanks for making my minimum-wage job more challenging.

    That wine bottle is calling my name.  Next time, I will reflect on my time spent as a gas station attendant.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010

    Quitting with Flair

    Since I’m both bitter and creative, I’ve always been tempted to quit my job in some hilarious way: on a cake, in a Mac alert, or by ripping my shirt open and having “Do What You Love” tattooed across my chest.

    Resigning gracefully requires an incredible amount of willpower, especially when you loathe your superiors.  I once worked for a blatantly sexist guy who ironically carried a purse.  I also worked for a guy who routinely told off his employees, his clients, his waiters, and even his wife’s gynecologist.  And at one point, I worked for my husband, who often implied that his employee was lazy.  But as tempted as I've been to resign a job with a legendary "screw you" statement, I never so much as gave the finger on my way out the door.  My father always told me to "never burn bridges."  I know it’s just a saying, but the world really is a frighteningly small place.  Awkward run-ins are inevitable.

    Case in point:  At age sixteen, I decided to spend the summer working full-time for the government.  Five minutes after I clocked in on the first day, I realized that I had made a terrible mistake.  I wanted to tell my boss that his office smelled weird and that he could take his data entry and shove it, but my parents convinced me it was a bad idea.  I stayed the entire ten weeks, and on my last day of work, I presented my boss with a thank you note attached to a giant bag of Pull-N-Peel Twizzlers.  Six years later, I randomly ended up sitting next to that same guy on a flight back from London.  He immediately remembered the Twizzlers, gave me his business card, and offered to help me with my career in any way he could.

    This story is part of the reason I have yet to quit a job with any style or flair.  It’s a good thing, too, because several of my former bosses have popped up in future situations, including a job interview.  And I run into my husband all the time.

    So if you’re considering quitting your job, I suggest sticking with the traditional resignation letter and venting your frustration in other ways.  Like, say, an anonymous blog!

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Inspiring Friend #2: Julia

    After graduate school, I took a job at a financial consulting company in New York.  Coincidentally, my friend Julia landed an internship with a fashion magazine in the same building.  While I was pricing power plants and analyzing interest rate curves, Julia was attending photo shoots and hanging out in the sample closet.  For three years, I pretty much lived vicariously through her.  During our daily Starbucks runs, she would regale me with her exciting adventures in the fashion industry.  This was before The Devil Wears Prada hit theatres, so it was all very mysterious to me.

    I was jealous of course, but her job was not without its drawbacks.  Starting at the bottom can be a humbling experience.  As a lowly intern, her duties included appearing in the magazine’s Figure Fixers spread as “the girl with the big butt.”

    And it was months before she was allowed to write anything.  When she finally did write her first article – which was read by her father and her grandmother and everyone else she knew – the assigned topic was sex toys.

    Eventually, Julia was writing articles on all sorts of topics, and she blossomed into a full-fledged fashionista.  One day, I even spotted her face on the MSN homepage.  I myself am style-impaired, but I was probably more fashionable just being in her presence.  She would always fill me in on the upcoming apparel and accessories trends.  I was the first to know that skinny jeans were making a comeback (I was horrified).

    After a few years, we both moved on to other jobs, but whenever I step inside a Starbucks, I’m reminded of her inspiring rise from big-butt intern to glamorous fashion writer.  Perhaps there’s still hope for me.  I just need a foot in the door and a few years of hard work and persistence.

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    And the Award for Strong Female Protagonist Goes To...

    I’ve been in a bad mood all afternoon.  It’s dark and rainy, my annoying neighbor has been pounding away on her piano for hours, and the “simple and tasteful” bridesmaid shoes that I ordered online just arrived inexplicably covered in glitter.

    I was in the middle of complaining about how everything sucks when I received some unexpected good news.  My comedy script, BEST WISHES, NICE KNOWING YOU, was named a quarterfinalist in the Cynosure Screenwriting Awards.  Okay, so Cynosure isn't as well-known as the Nicholl Fellowship, but I consider it a great compliment since their mission is to reward scripts with compelling female protagonists – in other words, women who aren’t constantly bursting into tears and who face bigger problems than not having a boyfriend.  My protagonist is an exaggerated version of myself, so naturally she’s a strong and independent woman without any of the annoying, stereotypical traits.  (Oops, I was just whining about my shoe purchase.  That was an aberration, I swear.)

    I think I’ll put on my glittery shoes, grab an umbrella, and go out to celebrate.

    Saturday, September 4, 2010

    Crappy Job #1: Waitress at Big Peckers

    Since I’m currently in Ocean City, Maryland for a bachelorette party, I thought I would dedicate this post to my waitressing career, which began (and ended) right here at Big Pecker's Bar & Grill.

    I decided to work at Big Pecker's because I’d always dreamed of serving up greasy burgers while wearing a super short tennis skirt and a t-shirt with a giant cartoon rooster on it.  Okay, no, I wanted to spend the summer at the beach while saving money for my junior year abroad in London.  I only budgeted about $50 a month for rent, so I shared a lovely pink garden shed with three other girls.  Seriously, here's a picture...

    In addition to waiting on tables, my duties included mandatory karaoke performances by the wait staff; chasing after mullet-sporting rednecks who skipped out on the bill; and squeegeeing the glass around the perimeter of the restaurant in my obscenely short skirt, eliciting car horns from the drunken senior weekers cruising down Coastal Highway.  It was an interesting summer, to say the least.

    After I leave a job, I always assess the pros and cons in the hope that I will choose more wisely next time.  The following is my analysis of waitressing at Big Peckers:

    • I did manage to save an impressive sum of money, which I blew on alcohol and bumming around Europe.
    • It was my easiest job interview to date.  The manager looked me up and down and handed me the infamous tennis skirt.
    • I discovered my talent for carrying extremely heavy trays on my fingertips.
    • I am now an excellent tipper.
    • I think everyone should be yelled at and belittled by an irate customer at least once in their life.  It builds character.

    • I can’t even tell you how many times I was forced to sing Donna Summer’s “We Work Hard for the Money.”  Did I mention I’m a terrible singer?
    • I can no longer eat ranch dressing, after making buckets of it from scratch.  The secret recipe: combine one tub of extra heavy mayonnaise, one giant carton of fatty buttermilk, and a teeny-tiny packet of seasoning.
    • I left the beach paler than when I arrived – the result of working 12-hour shifts, 6 days a week.
    • My fellow students at the London School of Economics had all spent their summers interning at investment banks.  I had to say I worked at a prestigious company called B.P. Incorporated.

    Now I shall have a beer in honor of waiters and waitresses everywhere…  Happy Labor Day weekend!

    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    25 Things I'm Terrible At

    A few weeks ago, I compiled a list of 25 Things I’m Awesome At.  In the process, I thought of hundreds of things I’m not so awesome at.  I didn’t want to overwhelm you with my shortcomings, so I cut it down to 25.

    1.) Dancing
    2.) Walking in high heels
    3.) Looking on the bright side
    4.) Making presentations
    5.) Playing basketball
    6.) Remaining calm on airplanes
    7.) Keeping secrets
    8.) Waking up early
    9.) Touching my toes
    10.) Answering trivia
    11.) Having a sense of style
    12.) Acting my age
    13.) Climbing ropes and/or doing push-ups
    14.) Managing my 401k
    15.) Feigning excitement
    16.) Making small talk
    17.) Handling rejection
    18.) Remembering names
    19.) Being patient
    20.) Singing
    21.) Driving
    22.) Avoiding sunburns
    23.) Making a good first impression
    24.) Using my time wisely
    25.) Getting blog followers