Well, that was unexpected…

I have the first cold of the fall. Which is lame for a few reasons. First, it’s not even cold outside yet. But do you know where it IS like the tundra? My office, specifically my desk, where a vent pours freezing cold air in at all hours. It’s really quite lovely. And so there is this thing flying around the office knocking people off left and right. And we all have the same thing. HEALTHY. Second, I can’t even tell when I began to feel this way because we’re just off of a long weekend where my biff was in town. And when she’s in town, she likes to experience DC in the most culinary way possible. So we eat. And then we feel full.

As a result, all weekend I felt kind of “eh” but I figured it was the Good Stuff Eatery/We the Pizza/Ted’s Bulletin combo on Saturday (yes, we are fat kids, don’t be jealous) that had me feeling that way. If I had all of my spidey-senses up and running, I could’ve bombed this thing with my two-vitamin-C-and-eight-echinacea-pre-day pre-sickness routine. It works. It stops things from getting gross. Alas, here I am with a migraine and three more trainings to host today. How lucky am I?

In other news, my parents are coming to visit for the first time in two and a half years (I know!) and I’m freaking out about planning. I don’t want them to miss anything but I rationally know that I simply cannot fit everything I love about my metro area into five days. That would make for a too-structured trip and no one likes that. You feel like you need a vacation after a vacation like that.

I feel bad that this is one of those posts that has nothing to do with anything but my boring life. Sorry!

Ugh. I left the writing process to go upstairs and in that time had a conversation with a friend of mine. She is a former TFA Corps Member. She taught high school in inner-city Philadelphia. One of her former students was shot in the chest last night but a rival gang member. As my friend tells it, this kid is the smartest kid she has ever met. And now he’s in ICU and the doctor’s are saying he’s stable for now, but not making any promises for the next few days.  The smartest kid she’s ever met and he’s in a gang…which is something I used to not understand. Why would someone join a gang? Here are some of the reasons students have given to my friends as reasons:

–          They’ll hurt me if I don’t join.

–          I don’t have any other family to take care of/protect me.

–          There’s no food at home for me or my siblings (because being in a gang usually means having an income).

Now, I’m not naïve enough to say that ALL kids who join gangs do it for reasons like this, but a fair number of them do. And in these situations, can you blame them? They’ve basically been abandoned and have to fend for themselves. They live in dangerous neighborhoods where gang membership can give you a modicum of safety in certain areas. And so they join and reap the benefits and they’re proud to be a part of something that is seemingly changing their lives for the better.

Last night, someone commented asking me what needed to change in our educational systems and in my response, I listed a few things, but here’s something I didn’t mention. Changing schools in America will only happen after we can change larger societal structures in America. Now, I’m pretty conservative so the usual suggestions about eradicating poverty and establishing a living wage don’t really work the same in my head as they do in others, however, I know that SOMETHING BIG has to happen. Whatever it is, it has to be big enough to convince kids to be as proud of attending and doing well in school as they would be of their membership in a gang. These kids are smart and deserve to be given opportunities to excel. I can’t control what they do with those opportunities, but I know I’d sleep a little better they were afforded a chance at all.

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Whoa there, is this what blogging is supposed to look like?

Welcome to the wonderful world of wordpress. This is going to be sweet. I can just tell. The layout is so clean, the dashboard is so usable, I’m very excited about all of this. I’ll be your host for the duration of your stay here at S.Rod Says. As you may have guessed, I am S.Rod. What I say goes. At least in the confines of my little piece of the Internet. I’ve migrated stuff from Thee Olde Blogge and posted that here, but I only brought what I wanted to/thought might be marginally worth the copying and pasting effort. Peruse at your leisure, newbies.

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Disappointment in the choices of other begot this post

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2010

Family stuff is prompting me to write that post about the women in my family to balance the one about some of the men. My friends usually meet my family (en masse, no one ever meets one or two people) and come away saying something like, “Now I know why you are the way you are.” Those might be my favorite words ever, because goodness, my family is full of cool people, and if I’m like them, I’m a happy girl.

My two grandmothers are both survivors. Being one of the older grandchildren, and the only girl for a really long time, means that I’ve probably gleaned more information than the other kids. I know that leaving Cuba wasn’t something they were particularly excited about. I know that sometimes marriage stifled ambitions for them. I know that even though they’re a little batty now, they still aren’t to be trifled with…because they survived hell to get where they are. But before they survived revolution, raising children in a strange place, sickness, and poverty, they survived being women in a time and culture where they might as well have been possessions. One of them had a horrendous childhood, horrendous like the stuff movies are made of, horrendous in ways that have me tearing up even now as I write this…and somehow she finds happiness in life. One of them thought the idea of allowing her gender to control her actions was monumentally stupid, so she didn’t conform. She did other things. Went to school, joined her brothers in a revolution, eventually found a husband (at the then ridiculous age of 27 or 28). She did things the way she wanted to do them. Their lives were hard, probably with more lows than highs, and yet, they are sources of inspiration for me. Paying off my credit cards sucks, but it sucks less than searching mountains for wounded soldiers. Being unemployed was probably, to date, the lowest low I’ve ever had, and yet, I’ve never had any kind of debilitating illness while raising three kids, so how can I dwell on a crappy 8 months?

On the surface, I’m not much like my mother. She’s better at tact, controlling her emotions, and finding the positive in a situation. But our similarities lie deeper. We’re loving, compassionate, generous, and hard workers. Because of those similarities, we can have impressive fights. Goodness knows we have had impressive fights. Her one desire in life was to have children. She knew she was cut out to be a mom. Usually this is the kind of life goal that has me rolling my eyes, but sometimes someone just knows what they’re perfectly cut out for, and that’s her. If I could be a fraction of the mother she is, I would be a happy woman. There are other things to admire. She’s made a fantastic name for herself in her industry, which she originally fell into while looking for a job that would allow her to be home when we got home from school. She’s a good wife, friend, and person. But I think one of the reasons I’m so careful about wanting kids is because I’ve seen what raising them well looks like, and I don’t want to do it any other way.

My aunts are all different and I’ve gotten different things from each of them. My love of learning, my fashion sense, my superior shopping skills, my bullshit radar, the list goes long. I have a lot of aunts. They’ve all added a little something to this pot of soup, which is probably why I’m so spicy sometimes, oops.

All this to say that generations of people have sacrificed, suffered, and pushed just so I could do better. So that my brothers and cousins could do better. And when I see some of us making terrible life choices, I can hardly stomach it. Because choosing poorly after so many people chose correctly is pure disrespect. If you can’t choose correctly for yourself, then choose for your parents or grandparents. Or for your own kids. If you can’t do that, I’m not even sure I want to know you.

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Maybe I’m just jealous of her ex-boyfriend

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2009

There is a channel we get in my apartment and it’s called something like “Palladia”. It’s all very unclear, but it plays concerts, performances, etc. Sometimes you get super lucky and get to watch Celine Dion smack herself in the chest in Vegas, other times you get Coldplay and their monotone, sleep inducing music, but SOMETIMES…you get the MTV VMAs and get to watch the Kanye and Taylor debacle over again. I got lucky last night, you guys. And now:

Things I Noticed This Time Around That I Missed Due To The Shock:

1. Taylor Lautner is presenting the award to his girlfriend! And at the time, I don’t know how long they’d been dating, but can we say awkward? Also, she hugs him and he almost recoils from her touch, the whole thing makes me want to be anywhere but watching these two interact. After all, she’s all atwitter over her award and he’s nervous that something will happen and she’ll write a song about it and use his name. And in MERE MOMENTS, a crazy man will ruin her speech.

2. Taylor Swift just kind of hands the microphone to Kanye. Were I accepting an award on national television and a crazy man with awful hair and indoor sunglasses approached me for my microphone, I might kick him, I might punch him, but I would not hand over my microphone.

3. Where does Taylor think she is? The Grammys? WHAT IS SHE WEARING? It’s pretty, but these are the VMAs, you don’t wear long, glittering gowns. Look around you, darling. Who styled you? Fire them. There is a time for the gown you are wearing. It is not right now.

In other Taylor news…

Before arriving home yesterday, I was listening to a lot of Carrie Underwood to get in the mood for her Christmas special (shut your mouth). If you’ve ever listened to a lot of Carrie Underwood at once (and I will assume all of you have), you know that she can get kind of heavy after a while and you need something lighter to balance. I chose Taylor, because if ever there was a lighter balance, it is Taylor Swift. Even her “serious” songs are light, or at least they are to me, because I’m not fifteen, in high school, and lusting after seniors. ANYWAY, I love Taylor, but I was listening to “Fifteen” and “You Belong To Me” yesterday and I had some thoughts. What better place to share my thoughts than here…with all of you…

‘Cause when you’re fifteen and somebody tells you they love youYou’re gonna believe them

This is supposed to evoke an “aw, puppy love” response, but let us pause and reflect. Why do you believe them? When I was fifteen, I think I would have believed the sky would be green tomorrow before I believed that some guy loved me. Seriously. It’s high school. I’m not saying it can’t happen, but I’m saying that if you’re gullible to just believe whatever the guy you’re dating is saying to you, you have some personal growing to do.

And your momma’s waiting up and you’re thinking he’s the one

You are FIFTEEN. How late are you out? Why is your mom “waiting up”? Is your dad not waiting up too? Because mine would be, with his shotgun by his side. Because I am FIFTEEN in this story. Did no one else have strict parents who would have laughed if you said, “Sooo, this 18 year old guy picking me up and we’ll be back around 11:30”? I did. And thank goodness for it.

But in your life you’ll do things greater than
Dating the boy on the football team
But I didn’t know it at fifteen

Really, Taylor. You didn’t know that at fifteen? If your biggest ambition in life at fifteen was dating the boy on the football team, I don’t think we can be friends.

Back then I swore I was gonna marry him someday

OMG. Stop. Just stop.

But I realized some bigger dreams of mine

Just in time because…

And Abigail gave everything she had to a boy
Who changed his mind and we both cried

And we all know, once a girl is not a virgin anymore, she has nothing left to give.

GREAT LIFE LESSONS.

Clearly, the song is catchy and I sing along to every word, but geeze. I’m not worried about the effect this has on my own psyche, I’m pretty well-formed in my opinions by now. But is this what has happened to fifteen year old girls? I don’t think so. I know some fifteen year old girls and they are sharper than this tomfoolery. I don’t think I was an atypical teenager. Or am I wrong? Did you girls all think you were in LOVE in high school? I just don’t understand how this song is as relatable as her record sales indicate.

Now, I have two younger brothers. They’re 22 and hilarious. Last year, one of them saw the movie, “He’s Just Not That Into You” and proclaimed that every girl should have to watch it at least five times a year, every year, from the time she is 9 until forever. I thought it was a stupid movie, but in general it tried to portray the idea that if someone likes you, then they will make it happen, if they don’t make it happen, then they probably don’t dig you and your stuff. Clearly, Taylor has never seen this movie, or if she did, she missed the lesson in its entirety. Let us turn our hymnals to the song “You Belong With Me” and see what I mean:

You’re on the phone with your girlfriend,
She’s upset
She’s going off about something that you said
She doesn’t get your humor like I do

I’m in the room, its a typical Tuesday night
I’m listening to the kind of music she doesn’t like
And she’ll never know your story like I do

These first two verses make me think a couple of things. Taylor, how do you know what they’re arguing about? Creepy McCreeperson.

If you could see that I’m the one who understands you
Been here all along so why can’t you see?
You belong with me You belong with me

Taylor. He knows. Or rather, he knows that you like him. Because if you’re writing this song, I can only imagine how you interact with him in person. And boys play a good game of pretending they don’t know, but they do. We’ve all been there, sweetie. You’re friends with someone, you become better friends, and you develop a massive crush on them. It’s normal. And usually, it passes, so resist the urge to write a song and give it a few weeks. It’s what happens when attractive young people are put into situations together. But really, he is your friend. It’s fun to idealize a possible relationship, but how long do you think things will remain like this if you date:

Walkin the streets with you in your worn out jeans
I can’t help thinking this is how it ought to be
Laughing on the park bench thinkin to myself
Hey isn’t this easy?

Oh I remember you driving to my house in the middle of the night
I’m the one who makes you laugh when you know you’re about to cry
I know your favorite songs and you tell me about your dreams
I think I know where you belong. I think I know it’s with me.

Here’s a hint: Things will change. Why? Because we have different expectations for our friends and our significant others (or at least you should). The same behaviors you find quirky and adorable in a friend quickly become things you hate in a SO. There isn’t a guy or girl out there, myself included, who hasn’t looked at a good friend and thought about it, but you don’t actually make it happen. Learn to have a platonic relationship with a boy. There, more personal growth homework for you. Also, why is he about to cry? Are you secretly dating Tim Tebow and Taylor Lautner? Lautner deserves so much better than that.

Hey, Whatcha doing with a girl like that?

We all know what he’s doing with a girl like that, and so do you. Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to.

She wears high heels, I wear sneakers

Take some pointers from her here, please. Thanks.

Standin’ by, waiting at your back door
All this time how could you not know that?

Don’t wait by his back door. You are increasing the level of creepy and no one wants that. You know who else skulked around back doors? Ted Bundy. Not a good role model. At. All.

Interestingly, I still like Taylor Swift. I feel like she has other redeeming qualities and I do genuinely enjoy the music (even if I have to ignore large parts of my belief systems when I listen to it). I toyed with the idea of not posting this, but I went through all the effort of italicizing stuff…I’ll try to post something nicer this week (unlikely).

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Word vomit…and Thanksgiving

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2009

Before too much time passes and Thanksgiving becomes irrelevant, I have some things to share about my weekend. Here is a list of things that may or may not have happened. I really can’t be sure. I can be sure that I had an absolutely fantastic time in Michigan. (I know! MICHIGAN! I didn’t see this one coming, guys!) I know that it was a really great time because I wrote thank you notes yesterday and got stamps. If I were a grown up, I would always do this step super quickly, but, I won’t lie, sometimes it falls by the wayside. Not these thank you notes, no sir.

1. My best friend and I might have done part of the Single Ladies dance at the wedding reception. In unison. With her father behind us as a back up dancer waving his hands back and forth. No, there’s no video, so don’t ask. Mostly, I’m impressed, not with our ability to learn fifteen counts of eight that morning and perform under the influence of an open bar, but with her dad’s ability to Beyonce-it-up with two replacement knees and one replacement hip. You go, Joe!

2. Oh yeah, there was a wedding! There was Thanksgiving, a wedding, and then a night of bars. It’s always good to test yourself and see how many nights you can party and survive. This way you always know where you stand.

3. Ann Arbor is a whore. Apparently, this is what Michigan haters say when they play Michigan in football. I like it. It’s colorful and purposeful.

4. There might have been a bar offering dollar drafts and dollar rail drinks. Instead of sticking with drafts and being smart, I started drinking rail-quality whiskey. I think the undergrad bar we were in transformed me into a 19 year-old who didn’t know how to drink. This may have been the worst decision of 2009. I like to think about the best and worst decisions of the year, and this is, for sure, top five.

5. Someone might have been serenaded while drinking her rail whiskey with classic songs like Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby.” The specific song escapes me, but I feel like it was something off of the Daydream album.

6. Billy Ocean plays in my head on repeat. This has been going on for FIVE DAYS. HELP ME.

Moving on.

Sometimes I have thoughts that I don’t feel like working out into full posts, and so instead I offer you nuggets of wisdom, wit, or crazy. Assign tags as you wish.

1. Everyone is freaking out about 30,000 more troops in Afghanistan. And a lot of the ones freaking out on the news are Republicans. What’s annoying is that were it McCain, no one would be questioning the decision. Obama and I don’t live on many of the same ideological pages, but he’s not an idiot. I also recognize that he has information that most people don’t have. Frankly, politicians have to have really big reasons to do unpopular things. So I would just like for everyone to stop freaking out about this. Not only is there nothing you can do about it, most of you don’t even argue intelligently. And it bothers me.

2. I’ve been tweeting about this a lot, but there’s something about 140 characters that limits my rant in ways I don’t like. It is officially Christmastime now and nowhere is it more obvious than on television commercials, specifically mall jewelry store commercials. In general, when Kay Jewelers (I like to make fun of Kay the most, I don’t know why) commercials come on, I shield my eyes, because really, why are we ruining perfectly good gems like this, but I digress. Part of my hate is that I really like jewelry. In a sick way. In fact, my friends’ boyfriends, fiancées, and husbands all rue the day I influenced the girls’ tastes (ahem – sorry, Mike). Why? Because I see jewelry as a good way to distinguish oneself from the crowd, which means that I tend to not be a fan of commercials hoisting the same five items onto America. But really, back to the point. I’ve begun to imagine ways to make these commercials. Wouldn’t you much prefer to see the two ice skaters skate around, cut to the man with a ring in his pocket, BUT THEN cut to Tanya Harding and her man skulking up the path to the pond combined with a crack beginning to form in the ice, and then a dramatic cut to a black screen? MUCH BETTER than the almost falling, being caught, and then given a ring. Or the guy who is dating the deaf girl and is apologizing for not being able to sign very well yet. I just feel like there is a TON of unexplored comedy in that situation that I would prefer to just watching her get an ugly watch.

3. I’d forgotten about the annual run of weddings and engagements during this time of the year. The girly part of me I don’t talk about much gets jealous, and then the practical side reminds her that I have a hard time committing to dinner plans in two weeks, let alone one person forever (yes, I’m old-fashioned enough to believe in one person forever, SHUT UP). I think mostly I get jealous of the wedding, because I love a good party, but the marriage part doesn’t interest me as much. Can we say, “Signs you shouldn’t get married anytime soon”? Alas, I was reminded yesterday that growing up is something that happens, but I think baby steps. Like keeping a boyfriend for a whole year, instead of losing interest six months in. See, I set goals for myself!

4. I’m working on some party mixes for New Year’s Eve and then a weekend-long party things and I’m curious about what people love to hear and hate to hear at parties like this. So I need your help. I know there are only six of you who read this semi-regularly, but I want your opinions, dammit. So either email me or leave a comment with the following:

Song that makes me want to shake it:

Song that makes me want to attack the next button on the iPod:

Song that makes me want to take a nap:

Song everyone loves that I hate:

Song everyone hates that I love:

Feel free to make up more categories. And a fair warning to you all, if the name Sufjan Stevens appears on this blog in any way other than this reference, I will judge you. I think the name Sufjan is ridiculous. Ridiculous enough to keep me away from his music forever.

5. What other things do you like to happen at New Year’s Eve parties? I have to eat twelve grapes at midnight. It’s a Latin thing. I know some people eat black-eyed peas. That’s a Southern thing. What else have you got?

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What I learned by being the only girl

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2009

I was talking to some guy friends today about having brothers and siblings, in general. It started with me asking them for Christmas gift advice but that spiraled downward very quickly. But as we continued talking, the conversation morphed into how having a sibling of the opposite gender gave you perspective, taught you life lessons, etc. I don’t often think about the what if, it’s a waste of time and energy. I like the here, the now, and the what will be, not could or should, but will. I’m practical that way (and maybe stubborn). And so I took a thought trail that is uncharacteristic of me. I started to think what if I didn’t spend my childhood outnumbered by boys? What lessons would I have missed? What would I not know? The answer is: quite. a. lot.

1. I wouldn’t have my fine appreciation of all things comic book and superhero related. And don’t laugh number one off as not serious. This IS serious. Growing up it was my two brothers, my cousin Eric, who lived next door, and my cousin David, who lived downstairs…and then me. I don’t know if you remember how childhood works, but basically it boils down to this: what the majority wants, the majority gets. Now, I don’t really know if I ever had a desire to watch My Little Pony, I just know I never watched it. Same for Strawberry Shortcake and all that nonsense. I did watch some Care Bears, but so did my brothers, so I don’t have a barometer for how girly Care Bears are. Cartoon time was sacred and you watched the important things only. In our house, the important things were Batman’s Adventures, Superman, Spiderman, James Bond, Jr. X-Men (this was my favorite), Captain Planet, Power Rangers (original season, that’s right), and a host more. As a result, I can talk to you all about Bruce Wayne’s tortured psyche, the properties of adamantium, and how weird the kid who had the “Heart” ring was (you know you thought so too) with surprising expertise. I’m a big fan of the first and second X-men movies (the third had a plot that both the comics and the cartoon would have laughed at), I love Batman movies (except Batman Forever, that was regrettable), and my love for James Bond, Jr. has been replaced with a strong love for James Bond. Now let’s talk about My Little Pony. To be honest, I don’t even know what it’s about, why the show title is in the first person, or why the horses have Technicolor manes, but I know this: watching My Little Pony would have been a childhood experience only. I couldn’t have continued that love in any kind of adult, or public, way for the rest of my life. And I doubt My Little Pony taught the poignant life lessons we find in Batman, for example. Batman teaches us that even when someone is a bad person or has done bad things, killing him, while easy, is not the answer. X-Men is a lesson in being different. Celebrate your differences, embrace them, they’ll make you stronger. Captain Planet showed us that Mother Nature is not to be trifled with lest she come back and end you. So not only did the boys give me a lifelong love…I learned life lessons that Strawberry Shortcake and her freckles don’t know anything about.

2. They’re listening on some level, even if it doesn’t look like they are. For girls, listening is an active thing. Eye contact, head nodding, thoughtful questions. It’s work. I know my friends get annoyed because I’ll be doing three things while they’re talking to me. It’s called multitasking, people! Sorry, got sidetracked. Back to the point, my brothers remember random things. Sure, it’s mostly stuff they glom onto because they know it will annoy me in the future, but that’s beside the point. The point is that the ability to listen and recall are there. This is helpful when dealing with boys now, romantically or otherwise.

“You know I don’t listen!”

“You know I don’t remember that stuff!”

Excuses. Don’t take it. Don’t accept it. Boys try to play dumb and live up to the stereotype society hypes up. I am ON TO YOU, males. No go.

3. I learned how to argue with winning as the goal. Everyone argues. It’s human nature. One person thinks they are more right than another and feels passionately enough to argue. No problem. It happens. But few people treat arguing as an art form. I do. If I don’t see a clear win is possible, it has to be a damn fun argument to keep me in it. You know who can’t recognize when they’ve been beat in an argument? Girls. They repeat themselves over and over again. They don’t adapt their arguments to respond to your rebuttals. They invariably end the conversation with something wimpy like, “I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree,” before they send themselves into pout mode. It drives me crazy. Recognize that you’ve been beaten, that your skills were not up to par, and move on with your life. It doesn’t mean that you agree with me, it just means that you couldn’t articulate yourself clearly or persuasively enough to be declared the victor in this situation. Guys get this. Granted, they don’t like to lose, so pout mode might still happen, but usually they can recognize when they’ve lost the fight. So I avoid arguments with girls. Girls get mean, personal, and then they cry. I HATE IT when they start to CRY. Lose with some dignity!

4. How to pick a battle. You know what’s not worth fighting about? The toilet seat. Put it down. They have to pick it up, so put it down. Don’t fight about it. It’s not a political statement. It’s a piece of a toilet. Fight about real things. When they’re important. If you complain, pick fights, or whine too much, you will be written off as a hysterical woman. It’s not a pretty reality, but it’s true. You can complain about that too, but I’ve already explained what will probably happen.

5. Keeping secrets is your life when you have two nosy little brothers. It’s not even that I did super secret or super interesting things. But brothers will pry and pry until they can get something they can use against you. Diaries and journals? That’s for suckers. Sex tapes? Incriminating photos? Not a chance. No matter how well you hide something, how much you trust the person you told, it WILL get out. Just stay quiet. Keep the secret. Don’t create evidence by documenting it for Pete’s sake. It won’t kill you to keep your mouth shut; in fact, your life will be less stressful.

6. The difference between a semi-automatic and automatic firearm. I don’t have anymore to say here, it’s just one of the things I learned.

7. How to punch someone. Follow through. Power it with your body, not your arm. Plant your feet. And for goodness’ sake, don’t tuck your thumb into your fist or place it across your fingers. Save yourself a broken thumb.

What did you learn from your siblings?

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Hi ho, Hi ho, It’s off to work I go

TUESDAY, AUGUST 11, 2009

When you start a new job, there’s an adjustment period. Aside from getting used to your new responsibilities, figuring out where the damn water fountain is and getting your desk chair to remain in a comfortable position, you have to figure out the office culture. Is this an office where we decorate our desk space with personal style? Are peep toes acceptable, or is it strictly closed toe pumps? Aside from the superficial fitting in, you have to prove you fit in a substantive way.

At my old job, you proved yourself through results. They set an incredibly high bar (that you really were only kind of expected to reach) and you did whatever was necessary to either hit that bar or at least make a good effort to show everyone you’d done everything you could to hit that bar. This is a hugely popular non-profit known for huge increases in everything from year to year. Some people were naturals for the environment and they were golden. If you weren’t a “fit”, you could choose to live your life for the organization (it’s beginning to sound like I’m referring to the Mafia, I’m not, I promise) and try to make up for your shortcomings. What do I mean by that? You can get to work at 9 AM. You can leave at 8 PM. You can eat lunch at your desk every day. You can turn on your laptop once you get home and work until midnight or later. And then you can do it again the next day. You can become accustomed to this and forget that there is a whole world out there where people stop working at 6 PM and don’t have work-issued laptops so they aren’t online everywhere they go. You forget that it’s possible to take time off from work without checking your email. What’s worse is that you expect other people in your life to understand this crazy workstyle you’ve developed. And if they don’t, they often disappear from your life.

I used to think that this was just an organization using energetic, recent college grads to do their bidding in a frenetic way. I mean, the results are undeniable. But now I see that some organizations function like this at all levels, from the lowliest assistant right on up to the president. If that’s truly how you want to live your life, I clearly have no way to prevent you from doing that. Do I have a problem with it? Sure. Because I believe that Americans spend too much time at work. However, you as an adult can work wherever and however long you want.

Let’s be clear about something. Sometimes stuff goes down at work that needs to be handled TODAY. There’s nothing wrong with that. You stay late, you do what needs to be done, and that’s life. But when this is the status quo, it becomes unhealthy.

I had dinner with friends who still work for my old company last week. They all asked me what it was like to “be on the outside” and what it was like to leave. I told them about my new job, about my great new hours, about being rewarded for overtime, and about all the extra things I can do now that I have time to commit to them. I even made a joke that I was working too fast, in a nod to the breakneck pace of my old life, and told them that normal places don’t run around like everything is an emergency. And I told them that it was a nice change of pace.

There is a phrase in the book The Devil Wears Prada, a book whose protagonist I’ve identified with many times in the last year of my life, the “Paranoid Runway Turnaround” and it refers to the behavior of magazine staff who complain about their crazy editor, and then justify her behavior. I’ve always thought the justification comes from two places:

1. CYA – no one ever wants the bad things they said about their boss to get back to them, and

2. Self-justification – Trust me, I’ve lived this, I’m not hating. Mentally, you can only take so much before you begin questioning why you do what you do. The only way I found to deal with this was to assure myself that the nature of the work was such that it put everyone in high stress and sometimes that manifested itself through bad behavior on the part of organizational leadership.

Translation: I lied to myself so I wouldn’t have to face that work ruled my life in every way. Here is where the danger starts. I lied to myself so much that I began to believe other lies being thrown at me. I couldn’t see the truth anymore. I began to believe that I was worthless, that I was bad at my job, that the team would be better off without me. Looking back now, and having been told otherwise by 95% of that team, I can see that what began as self-preservation ended as self-destruction and devolved into deep depression.

–Back to the story: In front of my very eyes, every single person (with one notable exception) at that dinner table did their own version of the Paranoid Runway Turnaround, but this time I was on the outside.

“I just don’t know what I would do with all that extra time, I mean, isn’t there more you could be doing to stay later?”

“You’re working too fast? I wouldn’t like an environment that told me that, I would see myself turning into a slacker who didn’t have a good work ethic.”

“Well, you would like an environment like that. You always had strict work-life boundaries yourself.”

I swear you guys, I wasn’t pissed until the last one. Sure, the others are indirect digs at me and mine, but that last one just angered me. She was right; I wouldn’t let myself work more than 60 hours a week unless there was a project that demanded it of me. I don’t think that the amount of time you spend at work reflects the amount of work you get done and I knew that in my 50 hours, I got more done than others did in 80. So it was at this point in the meal that I realized my friendships with these girls will change in the coming months. They’re still under the influence of management that instills in them this “work at all times, no matter what” and I’ve left that sphere of influence.

After an uncomfortable silence, because I wouldn’t agree with, or really acknowledge, their statements, the conversation picked up and was steered right back to their work. This is their life now, but it’s not mine anymore. I don’t miss it, but I might miss them. The idea of losing them makes me sad, but not sad enough to doubt that I’ve made the absolute correct choice and will be happier for it.

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