Several people have informed me that too much time has passed since I've last written – I'm sorry for that! While I have been using my time for many other things (as always), that is not the reason for my blogging absence. It's been awhile because frankly, I've been having trouble figuring out what to say. In my first One-Week Job blog post, I said this: “I'll be talking about the jobs, of course, but the implications of my involvement in them will transcend the environment I'm in at the time.”
When I used these words a few weeks ago, I meant to convey to You that I wouldn't just be giving you a play-by-play of my work days, but that I would be asking questions that brought my experiences from the workplace into a universal place, one that You could easily access. Moreover, I meant do both things somewhat equally.
You may have noticed that I have given few details about what I was actually doing as a nonprofit worker. That's because I have very little to say about that part of the job, which is neither a great nor a horrible thing. It simply means that there are things to be to be said about why I feel the way I feel. This time around, things'll be much heavier on the question side and less so on the task-oriented side. There is an opportunity for learning. I hope to shed some light on some of that “learning” in the "Question Time" section.
Ah New York. I should've "pulled a Sean and Ian” and stayed for three weeks instead of just one! I don't blame them for doing so, because Anne truly spoiled me with her hospitality. The bulk of my NYC good times were with her and other B&C guests. I'm gonna miss the place, and the people. I have to go back so I can explore more! My last three days of Week #3 were nice.
On Wednesday, I was late to work for the first time. Courtney, the Executive Director of the Jed Foundation, arrived an hour so later into the work day, as he had not been in on Monday or Tuesday for vacation. I was given my third assignment of the week on Tuesday around 3:30pm, and was still working on it. I left at 6pm.
Pizza, where I met a man named Alex. I introduced him to You on Thursday. You can see from the restaurant's website address that it's something special; it was the first pizzeria in the United States. I didn't elaborate on how Alex and I met each other, so here's the story I submitted on a forum I participate in:
i was waiting to eat alone at a pizzeria. Since I wasn't eating with someone, i had to wait longer for an open table. i overheard a server say that "two people are waiting to eat by themselves", and became confused. i then looked over the podium and saw that another man was also waiting to sit alone. i stuck my head around the podium, smiled and asked, "eating alone, huh?" as if i didn't know the answer already. He laughed and said "yeah" in response. Seconds later, as i had hoped, he asked "hey...do You mind sitting together? i don't. We'd probably get a table faster." HOORAY (i'm a little kid?)! i told an employee of the changed plans, we sat together, ate together, shared wisdom with one another, took a picture together, made a video together, and exchanged contact information in an effort to follow up. I can't tell you how pumped this occurrence made me. There's no harm in taking every opportunity to make a new connection, make a new friend.
Cute, I know. :D Meeting and eating with Alex was the best...yes, it was the best part of my time in New York. Something about connecting with a stranger spontaneously energized my spirit. It reinforced my strong belief in the power of stories, in our fundamental likeness as people, and in the too-common and unnecessary nature of fear and deceit.
Simply put, if we would just stop and talk to/listen to someone we've never met before, we might live a little more. We might learn a little somethin'.
I think we spend too much time fearing for and protecting our hearts. We hold back unnecessarily. When we do this, we hurt hurt ourselves AND others. I'm serious.
Wednesday night was a birthday celebration. Joe, Anne's beau, turned ____-years old. I joined Anne and Joe's friends, an eclectic bunch, at a bar that Joe used to work at. They drank, and I watched. We also ate some strawberry tort that Anne made. Yes, in the bar. It was HEAVENLY...I lasted until 12:45am!!!!!!!! My eyelids were quivering, but I did it! I went to bed smiling – A SMALL IMPROVEMENT IS STILL AN IMPROVEMENT. :)
Everyone else went on until the usual 4am.
At the Jed Foundation, Thursday and Friday were much like Monday through Wednesday, including the tardiness bit. On Thursday, I reset my alarm one time too many, and on Friday, the subway decided to be 20 minutes late.
Oh, I forgot about Thursday's meeting! I got to sit in on a meeting with the Jed staff members and two ladies from Slate PR, Lindsay and Shawn. The purpose of the meeting was to brainstorm an advertising campaign for a new website called “Transition Year”, aimed at promoting emotional wellness during the transition from high school to college.
The main concern was reaching out to the parents, since a common trend is that parents will believe in the prevalence of suicide for young adults, but they won't believe the statistics include their own children. Very sad. Many different methods were thrown out, most of which focused on piggybacking on the back-to-school marketing methods of other big corporations such as Target, Container Store, etc.
I was amazed at how good one of the staff members, Dana, was at coming up with social media outlets, and giving feedback on others' suggestions. There were moments where I felt like I was back in my account executive job from Week #1.
Thursday afternoon, I was STILL working on assignment #3. I wasn't joking about the inadequacy of the computer I used all week! Thursday evening, I ate dinner at another New York favorite, called 7a cafe. I ate a vegan black bean burger. I have to admit here that I overlooked the "vegan" part while ordering, so I was surprised when I looked at my burger and couldn't find the beef HAHA....the "black bean" bit won me over. Nevertheless, it was a good meal. I got some writing and reading done at the restaurant too, so that was relieving.
Friday was really quiet because 3 out of the regular 5 staff members were out of the office, including Courtney. I said some lines up that I was late because the subway was. I took it upon myself to use my Starbucks gift card to get a grande black iced tea and a multi-grain bagel while waiting. I may have to graduate from green tea - the black iced tea was great! NOTHING beats a good breakfast, let me tell you!
Still working on assignment #3, I finished around 3:30pm and was allowed to go home early on my last day. My bus was to leave 14.5 hours later, so I decided not to feel guilty about leaving before 6pm. Back at the B&C, Anne pressured me into eating the last slice of leftover Strawberry tort, and then I took it too far and ate some of her rum cake too. Oopsies. You only do the One-Week Job program once!
Friday night being my last in the city, Anne was so sweet to take me out to dinner. Her daughter Janette joined us. We (She) was having trouble deciding between Ethiopian or Indian. We finally decided on Ethiopian, but the place had closed down! Apparently this sort of thing is common: As one business closes down or moves location suddenly, a new business springs up shortly thereafter. We then tried an Italian place, but the wait was two hours. Finally settling on The Mermaid Inn, a seafood restaurant, I tried octopus, calamari, lobster, and swordfish for the first time. Tasty.
As I told my friend Casey:
"Michelle is a picky eater, but she's trying! :)"
I didn't sleep Friday night in order to take advantage of the bus ride...which actually turned out to be a not-so-good idea. I'll explain later. Around 5am, I packed my things, walked out of the B&C, and caught the attention of a taxi driver right away. After all, it was Friday night. The bars had closed only an hour earlier. On the way to Port Authority, I asked the driver a few times if he heard me and really knew the location of where I needed to go. His responses indicated that I was angering him. I could've felt bad for repeating myself, but I didn't care enough. Let's not forget what happened when I got into New York City. You can never be too sure.
What did you dislike about the job? Why?
There were several things that I didn't like about the job, but I was far from miserable. The hardest thing for me was that I felt disconnected from the rest of the staff. I'm not sure I came at the best time, because unfortunately, I wasn't able to talk to Courtney very much. Being the Executive Director, he was my primary contact for the one-week job. When he was in the office, he was trying to catch up on the things he had gotten behind on while away. That made it hard to get some good video and discussion in, and I didn't want to rush anything. I wanted things to be comfortable, natural. There wasn't a time where I felt that was possible.
The job was basically 8-hour-days, all business. Any talk that went on was 90% business-related. Talk was pretty minimal otherwise. This environment wasn't easy for me. It got to a point where I got to be very subdued, where I felt that saying certain things at certain times would be inappropriate. Things were a little too professional for me, and it was more than the fact that I was the only one in casual clothing! I just think I was too out of place last week.
In addition to the small amount of discourse, I didn't like that I was in the same chair for the entire work period. Ironically, I opted to push through the entire day without a break or a very small one, so I could keep the momentum going. In my mind, I had worked so hard to keep going at my desk, I didn't want to ruin it by going out for some fresh air. As a result though, I think I was already in the very early stages of losing my “spark.”
As I may have been uncomfortable in the sense that it wasn't a situation I would be in on a regular basis, my efforts to make the best of it put me in a sort of dangerous comfortability. This "dangerous comfortability" is characterized by a situation in which You tolerate Your existence to a point where You give up and refrain from questioning the alternative. You find your current state forever favorable to anything else.
What did you like about the job? Why?
I loved having something to do at all times. It was a positive change from Week #1 and Week#2. It made me feel busy, and in a way, kept me motivated in the experience. By the day's end, I had physical proof that I had worked throughout the day. I also liked that I got to read about a topic I find so serious in today's world. While I knew most of the information exposed to me throughout the week, I felt happy that I was using my time to read about something I loved.
What lessons did you learn from working as a nonprofit worker?
The people You work with can really determine how positive Your work life is. The Jed Foundation staff was nothing but kind to me, but as I said earlier, I talked to them very little because everything was focused on their own tasks, in their own areas. For me, I think I need not only to like the people I work with, but also to know them on a genuine level. I need to be joking around AND working with my co-workers. I need some times at work where I can hear their stories and get to know them better. I need my work to not feel like work in part because of the people I work with. I don't think I experienced this sensation enough in Week #3.
There's also the lesson in the importance of doing ALL that You do with a sincere effort, whether you like it or don't like it. Fosters good character and resilience.
Would you do this again, as a more-than-one-week job?
I feel so sad to say “no”, but I can't really say “yes.” I would be lying. I would have no problem doing the job if it was the best option at the time, but if I had other options, I would not do this job again.
This job brought up the topic of “being busy” in comparison to “being productive” in my mind. In thinking about my duties throughout Week#3, I was reminded of my time in school. As a teenager, I went to a few highly-competitive schools. We always had many assignments due on the daily, and there was always a competition in discussing who did what and how much. There were several times where I would be up actually studying (and You know I like my sleep), and I would walk around the library to find that some of my friends were up as well.
Even though they kept claiming they were studying for a test 4 weeks or some ridiculous amount of time away, they were Facebook-ing, or even better, drooling at their computer. They were preoccupied with looking busy, or at least having a lot of things that they could say were on their plate. They may not even have realized it, but the evidence was there that to them, the key to success, self-worth, and praise was to be busy, too look busy. Their goal wasn't to be efficient, or truly productive. They were struggling to stay awake and keep their hard-working image alive, when they were probably better off sleeping.
Working with The Foundation, there were times that I was at my desk and I felt the need to tell one of the staff members that I was honestly working, that the computer was just slow. There were times where a staff member would pass behind me and my heart rate would increase. I felt guilty that I was wasting time at my computer, when really I was doing my assignment, and doing it thoroughly. In actuality, I was completely innocent.
Later in week #3, I started listening to my iPod so I could concentrate better, and I felt guilty for that too. I felt pressure to look busy, because being busy is something that others can see. I was at that desk, subject to observation and assessment at any time, within a certain time frame, so there was that pressure to look alive 24/7. Productivity doesn't necessarily operate the same way, and I think it's hard to have confidence in how efficient we are with our time when no one is looking. I prefer when no one looks, though. I want to go for that confidence.
While Job #3 wasn't the most enjoyable one-week experience for me, I still thank the Jed Foundation for welcoming me into their space. In doing that, they showed their support for my journey in self-growth, and for the One-Week Job Program and mission. I thank them for enabling me to find out what I don't like, which is just as important as finding the opposite. Again, remember that this is my personal experience, and I bear no judgment on the Jed Foundation staff. Nor do I bear any judgment on a "desk job" for other people. We are all different. We have different wants, needs, likes, and dislikes. Don't get me wrong here. I'm simply giving you my true heart when I talk to You.
So What About You?
What is the difference between “being busy” and “being productive”? Do You think there is a focus on the former when it comes to the workplace?
I had a great first day of work at Job#4. Can't wait to share some of the details with You!