Job Updates

Last Last Day: Thanks For Tuning In :)

Recap Time. On my final day of One-Week Job, I was a little nervous. When I got to the studio, I couldn't find Niblett. The turnaround between radio shows is very quick; I had become used to only having five minutes to relax in the studio before going on air. However, I had also become used to Niblett running around, using those five minutes to prepare.

At six minutes to 6pm, he was nowhere to be found.

I sat in my chair and waited, pretending to write something on my notepad. I started to wonder what I was to do if 6pm were to hit. Maybe I should go find someone, I thought. Two minutes later, Niblett came through the door, confirming that I had internally overreacted for nothing. He was carrying all of his belongings, and wearing a Candy 95 Polo shirt and a grin.

I was relieved that I wasn't going to have to do the last show alone, but I was curious about the routine changes. During talk breaks, Nibs told me what was up.

A DJ's time isn't always spent in an official studio. Sometimes a DJ does remote broadcasting, which is on-air broadcasting from any place outside a studio. Certain businesses or organizations can request this type of broadcasting, so any event they may be holding can gain more awareness. DJs can also show up to certain events sans broadcasting. As I said in the previous post, DJs are public figures, and while many people hate public figures, many people love them.

And kids, of all people, LOVE public figures, ESPECIALLY DJs.

Earlier that day, Niblett and other Candy DJs went to Grand Station Entertainment, a local bowling and lazer tag place, to eat and bowl with a group of young kids. That was why he came into the studio a little late. I'm not sure what group the children were from, but Niblett made it clear to me that they had to deal with way more than they should be at their age.

It was a rare and special day for the kids, because they got to relax, have some fun, and “be normal” for once. Niblett told me how much fun he had playing with and getting to know each and every one of the kids, and how he felt like he was being meaningful with his time:

They were so excited to meet me and hang out with me. And the feeling was instantly and naturally mutual. I felt like I was doing something real good. I'm so glad you were here for me to talk about this, Michelle. This is the reason I do radio. To be in a position where I can give back in this way. This is the reason.”


Niblett showed me a paper plate that had all the kids' name on it; he planned to give a shout-out to all of them when he got a chance. He rewrote all the names on another sheet of paper so he could make sure everyone was accounted for. The whole thing was so cute to hear and witness. Niblett is a guy with a ton of energy, but the energy he was emitting on my last day was something new. I fed off of it, and we had a smooth show full of laughs and healthy drama.

The entire night went by quickly and normally, as good experiences always seem to. In what seemed like an hour but was really five, my OWJ journey ended. What was next? I had no idea.

I rarely do. :)

Question Time.

What did you dislike about the job?

  1. I wish I had been in a position where I could have contributed more. There wasn't really a lot I could do in terms of clip editing and program organization because I lacked specific skills.
  2. Working in the evenings is a little tricky. You get to sleep in extremely late, but you end up feeling lazy somewhere around 6pm because of the traditional work day ingrained in our minds and bodies. Because I didn't have a lot of other things to do during the day, I would end up searching for things to do to fill my time until my shift began. Also, everyone else ends work when you begin, so it's hard to coordinate schedules and hang out. I think I prefer to work hard during the day (not necessarily all day or at specific times), and play at night. If I have to work at night, I'd want to work extremely late, like 2am. I focus better when others are asleep.
  3. I don't do well with illusions. Everyone in radio/television/film/music knows that there are a LOT of “tricks of the trade.” It's similar to when you have your favorite celebrity and you discover parts of them that you thought were real are completely fabricated. Some people's lives are ruined when they stumble upon these truths. And if you think you know it all, you probably don't. Or you probably don't want to know. Accordingly, there is the “illusion of radio” that simply has to be kept, otherwise the sound is no longer as fresh and entertaining. There is a persona that has to be maintained. It has nothing to do with being “fake,” it's just how things are done. Whatever work I want to do, I want to be able to share the heck out of it with people as much as I can. There are limits to that vision with radio work. Kind of the reason for the repeated pictures. ;) Shh it's a secret.
  4. The routine level is too high. You have to come in at a specific time, and you have to play specific songs, among other things. I think those requirements would incite some ennui in me after some time.
  5. Night radio presents itself in quick and short periods. I'm not a quick thinker – well not THAT quick. Niblett's ability to come up with clever comebacks within 5 seconds on air will never cease to amaze me. The same goes for his ability to edit sound clips of phone calls to air in minutes. That kind of work is something that would stress me out, which is probably the reason for the giggling instead of trying to match wits with Niblett. I like to talk and discuss for longer than a few one wants that at night. :)
  6. I don't want to be in a job where I'm working alone. Niblett usually works the 6pm to 11pm shift all by himself, and I imagine that after a few years, time would start to pass extremely slowly because you have no one else to talk to. I simply need a lot of face-to-face (F2F) interaction if I'm going to be working. With breaks, of course. But I can't give people up altogether. :)

What did you like about the job?

  1. I liked being in a position where I could spread love and I knew that a good amount of people were listening. I'm referencing Niblett's experience with the kids, but I got some stories myself. Being a DJ was just another fun experience for me. I never thought I was a celebrity or anything, or that anyone was actually listening. However, in the end, it was surprising to hear/read how many people were listening to my voice. It was pretty cool to find out.
  2. Being able to give shout-outs on air was awesome. I got to return support to some of the people who helped me get into the One-Week Job Program. It warmed my heart so much to be able to give back in such a small way. It made me think about all the good I could do in the world, and those types of thoughts never get old for me.
  3. I liked interacting with people via the radio station SMS account and phone calls too. I liked being surrounded by opinions. But again, calls and texts wouldn't be enough for me. I'd need some F2F.
  4. I liked being on the air just to be on the air! When I wasn't giggling, I was comfortable with the microphone, and that was both exciting and encouraging. A lot of people would find that type of exposure daunting; I was pleased that I took on the task with relative ease. It's always nice not to suck at something.
  5. To oppose the routine level comment, I do like SOME routine. I said this during week # 6. Pop (music) is priceless and necessary, in my opinion, for its simplicity, contagiousness, and requirement for dancing. Being surrounded by music every minute of work kept my mood up.
  6. Lastly, the thing I liked most about being a Radio DJ was having a co-host. Excuse me – BEING a co-host. Having someone to talk to whenever I wanted. :D I loved talking with Niblett constantly and getting to know about his life, talking about tons of topics. It was like an instant friendship for me. Did I mention I need this sort of thing in my job?

What lessons did you learn from being a radio DJ / Week 8?

  1. "Stay humble, no matter who you are." - Niblett. People will like you more.
  2. No news is good news. The public has opinions, and some people will call your manager to report you for something just because they don't like what you said on the radio. Some people will call your manager to praise you, but it's less likely. Therefore, it's better to not hear anything at all.
  3. Shake it off. For those in the spotlight, you have a responsibility to speak your own thoughts, and to respect others'. Unfortunately and once more, some people are behind and cannot comprehend fundamental civility. These types of people will seem to quadruple if you work in the entertainment industry. Recognize this, and take everything lightly. Heated responses are futile and immature in most cases.
  4. However, don't become heartless or crazy because you keep all your feelings inside. You can have feelings. Balance is key. Do what you need to do.
  5. Someone's probably listening. Or someone will. Speak on. This goes beyond radio waves. Think love and happiness and human connection and things like that.
  6. Be patient. Don't assume things. Ever. There's always more to people, to their stories. Make the commitment to listen, just like they're probably willing to listen to you.

Oh wow. These lessons make it seem as if I went back to the basics of “how to make friends and love people”, the stuff that you learn when you start going to school. "Share" and that stuff. I suppose we all need that refresher course every few years. It is easy to forget patience and love and all that when you hate what you spend most of your time doing. :)

Would you do this as a more-than-one-week job?

Yes, I would, but probably on a morning talk show and less often. Maybe once or twice a week? Five times a week might be too much for me.

A big "THANK YOU!!!!!" to the big boss, Alli, from “Morning Candy with Frito and Alli” for giving the final “okay” for me to work with Candy.

And to Niblett:

If my words from my time with you didn't convey it enough, I respect you a lot. Thank you for letting me steal your thunder a bit. Thank you for refilling my water cup so many times, you're a true gentleman. Thank you for the many votes of confidence. Thank you for being you. I had a "blast" hanging out and just TALKING with you for five days. I definitely consider you a friend, so:


Reflection Time.

The value of voice revealed itself to me a lot during Week #8. I found that the voice I needed to work as a radio DJ was both literal and figurative. In a quick attempt to process my eight weeks, I admitted to myself that my voice matters.

Moreover, I admitted to myself that I never fully believed in my abilities to effect change. I've always been a proponent of every individual's...individuality, doing all that I could to encourage as many people as possible to speak their mind.

But I wasn't practicing what I was preaching. I was spending most of my time helping others, while I was letting myself drown. My esteem was not at the level it should have been, evident in the amount of fear and doubt that was consuming me in my past.

Saying and doing are not the same thing, and with One-Week Job...everything about One-Week Job made all my thoughts, ideas, and hopes a reality. It confirmed that my "power beyond measure."

I'm so very grateful and fortunate for this breakthrough, and I know I may have to be reminded of it when things aren't as easy.

You know...i should be whatever i want. i should say whatever i want. i should do whatever i want. i should live well, and i should live unashamedly. So i will. My voice matters, and someone will listen to me when i speak. Not just hear. Someone already does. That's enough for me "to not just exist, but be alive." Our lives are too short to keep quiet. I'm getting all “Gen Y” here but simply put...

Express Yourself.

Find out what that means. Look for Yourself. Don't be embarrassed or afraid to do so.

And when You're expressing, express excessively. These actions should hurt no one.

And if they do, that's THEIR problem.

Those who mind don't matter.

You know the rest. :D


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Spotlight Stress

Hi. :) It's been awhile - missed You all! I know you're curious, so let me just tell you that overall, i traveled roughly 8619 miles and 139 hours during the first session of the One-Week Job Program! If you do some dividing and...thinking, you'll see that when I say "rough"ly, I mean it, but it's a good estimate.

Dang, I traveled a lot this summer.

Yes, I'm proud of myself. :D But on to more details about my eighth one-week job:

While working in the studio with Niblett for a week, one thing fascinated me a lot, and that was the response from the listeners. At Candy 95, listeners can interact with the radio station in two major ways. First, they can call in. This method is the most common for radio stations, and most people call in to request their favorite song, in hopes that it will play on the radio. Second, listeners can text the radio station with whatever thoughts they have. I personally had never heard of the second method until I worked at Candy, but I don't listen to the radio all the time, so who knows.

Since Bryan-College Station isn't the biggest area, in addition to the fact that I was in the studio the week before the week before classes were to start, things were slower than usual. Calls into the studio were extremely few, and most of the texts we received were from pre-teens who were trying to be rebellious by letting someone know that they were staying up past their bedtime. Very funny stuff. But, regardless of who was contacting the station, the content wasn't always nice. Some people really take things personally!

I mentioned earlier how Niblett and most night-time Radio Djs have only seconds to entertain at a time. Therefore, it makes sense to try to get and keep a listener's attention with outlandish or controversial topics. All the Top 40 DJs I listened to at night were always very opinionated, and I'd find myself waiting a few minutes before turning the radio off, just because I wanted to hear the DJ talk about the responses he/she had received. Mission accomplished for the DJ in that regard! I often had my own viewpoints on whatever matter was being discussed, but I never cared enough to get riled up. I always saw it as entertainment, nothing less.

But during Week #8, things were different. I was no longer listening – I was talking. People were listening to me. I was the one bringing the topics to the table, to the people, and having to hear and read their thoughts about me. If people had something negative to say, I kind of felt as if I was part of the receiving end, even though Niblett was in control, so responses were directed at him. Yes, there were encouraging statements, but some comments were unnecessarily rude. One or two came close to threatening, and being at a studio until 11pm, the wrong person might not be able to handle that sort of thing. Niblett could. Did. Has. Having worked for Candy 95 for about six years, he was unfazed, calling it “part of the job.” He was so cool about it all that I never really felt sorry for him, just appreciated what he did more.

Because it made me think.

It made me think about all the times I've been quick to judge a public figure. As I said earlier, most of the time I love to observe and just listen, but if I'm feeling feisty/hyper/whatever, I'll be quick to judge. I mean, it's easy, and it's my right. You know what I mean. Especially when You're with some friends and everything's all exciting and fun, and you want to keep the high-energy mood going and seem not-boring so You're all like:

Gee, who IS this girl on TV? What a horrible voice. Is that a unibrow?”

Everyone laughs and nods their heads. So true. She's so right.

And so on and so forth. And opinions are fun. Opinions are great. Sometimes we inflate our opinions and sometimes we are who we are. But if that DJ or actress or football player or whoever was sitting in your living room or car with You, would You make the same remarks then? Is it foolish to even think about such a thing, because the person elected to put himself/herself in the "limelight"? In other words, he/she is asking to be judged from every angle because he/she chose that profession, and he/she should just deal with whatever comes his/her way?

Nibs is cool

If ever You meet a public figure and get to know him/her personally, You will find it hard not to think twice about these things. It's not really fun to be judged every time You go to work. Or is it? Maybe some people enjoy it, need it. I don't know.

I had to deal with pressure from the "public" myself, trying to win this One-Week Job opportunity. In asking for votes, I went all out (I seriously did it all), and while I got lots and lots of love, I got lots and lots of hate. I was all proud of myself, going out and asking for help, thinking I was being humble. But some people thought I was selfish and only out for personal gain, so with the endless positivity, I received hate e-mail, tweets, and door slams in the face. I put myself out there, so I got all sorts of things back.

I'm not going to lie, that week of voting was so draining for me that I couldn't stop myself from being negatively affected – even though it was clear that I was loved and supported by the majority. I couldn't shake the feeling that some people really wanted me to lose. Why did I feel this way, and why did I care? Because I'm human. But could I really blame the haters? After all, I had invaded their routine, whatever that involved. They didn't know my whole story, they didn't know any I should just let it go every time, right? I...I don't know.

I thought about all of this all during Week #8, and I had an even more horrifying thought, more than the possibility of [insert name of celebrity I can't stand] hearing me gossip about him/her. I thought:

It's quite possible that I had heard Niblett on the radio myself during my early college years, in a car with good friends, and had made some passing, biting remark about him or whatever he was talking about at the time.

It's possible.

And then I began to feel bad about this hypothetical happening that I wasn't even sure had occurred, because I do that. I was just thinking, innocently. I very well could have done this. And there I was in a studio, with a guy who I may have judged a few years ago, just like so many other listeners, and only after hearing his voice. Until that week, I didn't know his real name, I didn't know his thoughts about life, how many siblings he had, if any. I knew nothing about Niblett until he let me co-host with him, and after that, I concluded that he was a kind and amazingly talented human being.

So WHERE is that line of response/judgment/assessment? Does any of this even matter? Is it our responsibility to think this much about this subject? We're the entertainees – should we be be thinking at all? Even if we're asked our opinion by a “personality”, should we still take the necessary effort to be respectful of his/her viewpoint?

Remember in my first week, when I asked You how often You critically examine the media you're exposed to? Good. Well, at that point, I was speaking more about graphic things - advertisements, logos, not necessarily people. And I was talking about how important it is to do our research and think before we act on what we see in the media, because those things often affect so many aspects of our lives, of our existence.

Public figures and celebrities, on another hand, are different. They're people. Just like us. So maybe we should “critically examine” aka be slow to judge people we see in the media, because they have feelings too. We should do it by giving them a break.

Or maybe not.

So What About You?

What do You think about everything I just talked about?

If You didn't gather already, my answer to this question is a shameless "I don't know." Mostly because I’m more interested to hear what You have to say! As usual. And don't worry about hurting my feelings. ;)

Talk to meh, I won’t be here for much longer!


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“Can You Hear Me Now?” – Week #8: Radio DJ

"HOWDY!" from College Station, Texas!

For those of you who have never heard of the place, it is the home of the Texas A&M Aggies, and the place where I earned my undergraduate degree.

This week, I've been co-hosting with Radio DJ Niblett of Candy 95! I'll be ending the Program as I started: In a laid-back fashion (Remember when I worked with a virtual company during Week #1??). My blogs this last week will follow that atmosphere. Each day, I've been working the nightshift: 6pm to 11pm CDT.

Night radio is a lot different from radio at any other time. You have fewer people in the car, and as result, less outside interactions with listeners and less time to develop character and emotions. A night Radio DJ has to rely a LOT on quick and funny bits to keep listeners listening. It's not easy at all. The wrong person could easily buckle under the pressure of having to constantly be on their toes.

As Niblett's co-host, my job is pretty easy, I have to admit. My reading material is QUITE different from that of last week. Celebrity gossip can never be compared to the history of the Glen Canyon Dam. At least once a day, I read a "breaking" news story. One story was about some guys who dressed up as ninjas and robbed a Manhattan jewelry store on a Sunday at 2pm. Another story was about a man who violated his ex-wife's restraining order by adding her on Facebook. Real foolishness that you can't stop listening to, basically.

In addition to reading stories and discussing the One-Week Job Program on the air, I laugh a lot. At least 50% of my time on the radio has been me of giggling. I've surprised myself with this. My goal throughout the week has been to lower that percentage. Not far, being back in my college hometown has been relaxing. It's been nice to hang out with old friends and work at the same time. I didn't work a lot while I was in school, and in addition to working at night, this week has been new in a crazy way.

Oh yeah! I forgot to tell you how I even made it to College Station, Texas.

Looking for transportation to my job last week was not easy because, saw where Page is. The only way to get to the town is by car or plane. The planes are itty-bitty, just like the airport, andddd it can cost 300 bucks for a 1.5 hour flight. Ridiculous. As I said in another post, I was lucky that my friend, Katie, had just moved to Phoenix and was willing to drive for so long so I could get to my seventh one-week job. However, the weekend after my job ended, she wasn't available.

I did as much as I could do to find a ride from, which wasn't a lot, so I finally used craigslist. The next closest major Arizonan town to Page is 2.5 hours south - Flagstaff, Arizona. The greyhound bus stops here, so I made that my focus for ridesharing. I got a response right away, but I killed that connection quickly. The guy hadn't even read the details of my posting, and just wanted to make extra money beyond gas. The way he was talking, he could've just driven up, taken my money, and taken off with my belongings when I wasn't looking. I followed my gut feeling that told me to run far away fast, which was a good move on my part, I believe.

Something told me to post on the Phoenix site as well, even though I would be asking for someone to do what Katie did essentially: drive alone from Phoenix 5 hours to Page and pick me up, then drive south 2.5 hours and drop me off at Flagstaff, then drive back to their home in Phoenix. Also, since I was trying to catch a 2:00pm bus, the person would have to leave at 6:30am at the latest from Phoenix. It was a long shot.

I also kept checking for ride offer postings, and the morning of my last day as a river guide, I saw a possibility:

"I am offering a clean comfortable mid-sized suv to move you and/or your things. Insured, prompt, reasonable rates, all with a smile. Drop me an email with your itinerary and I will respond. Appreciate the business!"

The person indicated that his/her location was "all over." I was running late, and I had no other option, so I sent an email. Now Sean may have been less likely to think twice about finding a ride this way, but if you were previously unaware, Amanda, Kieley, and I are ladies. Unfortunately, we have to be extra careful when we look for places to work and sleep. Someone's gotta have a knife around here, I thought to myself. I'll be just fine.

But obviously all news was good! And thankfully, because I totally forgot to get a knife. Typical me. The driver, whose name turned out to be Mike, is a very nice man who was looking for extra income after being laid off. He brought a friend along for the ride, a woman named Desure, whom he had met through giving her a ride just as he did me. We had good breakfast, conversation, and listened to good music. I arrived at the Flagstaff Greyhound station with a lot of time to spare, safe and sound. Mike had kept his promise - ride, smiles, and all.

We still correspond to this day.

I would say that one of the best parts about the past eight weeks has been making friends anywhere and everywhere, not just at work or home. I can't get enough of people and how they operate in their own way. It's way nice to have more reminders that my Psychology degree wasn't a complete waste. :)

More later!

- M

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Seventh Last Day: Good Ride, Good Pride

Recap Time. I felt good Friday morning. Jolly, semi-hyper. When I walked to work, I listened to my music and sang out loud. Danced a little. Thinking back, I believe my mood stemmed from the knowledge that I had truly tried my best all week. No matter what happened, no matter what anybody thought or said, I had put in killer effort for this job. Not everybody could say that if they were in my position.

I arrived at the shop at 9:30am since Korey and I were doing a GCA, and I got everything ready.

This trip was to be my time. My time to shine. The night before, Korey told me that the best way to lead the trip was to wait to be asked questions first, then I could answer and slowly gain the trust of the passengers.

Well, this is what happened.

The boat filled up with passengers, and I began talking about safety, fumbling a few words as I backed out smoothly. It became very obvious very quickly that the crowd was rough. There was very little response to anything, quite unlike the atmosphere of Thursday's trip. I made a bad, pre-arrangedjoke about how it was my first day, and that was why I was wearing a lifejacket. No laughter. At this point, we technically still hadn't left the dam yet. I gave an insufficient introduction about the area, even though I had sat through five introductions throughout the week. No response. Korey later told me: “You gotta get them from beginning.”

I didn't do so hot with that goal.

After the intro, followed by what was pretty much silence, I lost all the information that I knew, that I had studied all week, that I had heard repeated to me all week from the mouths of different people, in different ways. My “interp” was suddenly gone. I didn't obsessively cram the night before or anything, and I avoided doing the same thing the morning of. I treated the day as normal, but though the trip wasn't becoming a nightmare, it wasn't turning out as I had hoped it would. The thought of driving and talking no longer seemed possible. After I made another attempt to “Interp” (it's a verb now, yes haha!), I gave Korey a partially-helpless look, and he didn't let me linger alone for much longer. I silently thanked him.

After that, Korey made a few attempts to include me and get me talking, but I could contribute very little in the way of history facts. I had truly lost my info. When we got to the first beach stop, I didn't park well. Korey pretty much took over after this, and for some reason, I wasn't embarrassed. I guess I was tired of feeling as such, so I instead adopted a critical aspect of river-guiding: personal connection.

As the boss, Korey was doing a superb job of both driving and talking (he even had a few props: some canyon pictures, a notebook full of invigorating quotes, and a fun water-gun-hose-pump thing), but the passengers were still kind of quiet. During the tail-end of my boat-driving, I slowly called on a few people and asked them what they were about, making jokes. At beach stops, I got out of the boat and interacted with passengers, even some from other boats. I got overwhelmingly positive responses and by the end of the trip, I was communicating freely with people. An important part of being a river guide is being able to read your audience, like I mentioned during my time with Easy. Well, our passengers were stiff, but just needed pushing...they kinda needed to be spoon-fed, so that's what Korey and I had to do. I with the conversation-starting, and Korey with the good story-telling.

I wasn't educating anyone about Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and I wasn't driving a boat, but I was still making people feel comfortable, and that's important anywhere, for any type of job. Here's some proof of the bonding I'm talking about:

I mentioned that Korey did a great job as a river guide, but I should add that it was the best trip I'd been on in terms of who was running it. During much of the second half of the trip, I sat with the passengers and listened to Korey tell the stories of the Canyon. It was like being in a history class except the history class met around a fire in the middle of the woods. Everything is calm and quiet, and the only voice you can hear is that of the storyteller, whose words are released with a humble pride, assurance, and genuine respect and love for the tales. I've mentioned the different methods of the different guides before. Well, that also pertained to the actual facts being presented. It was funny to hear slightly-different numbers or quantities being recited. It made me wonder where each river guide got their extra information, or rather, what their rationalization was for rounding or not rounding. All in all, history's somewhat unstable. But exciting nonetheless.

When we got to the end of the trip, people were asking Korey much more than they were in the beginning. Despite the rocky start, Korey had “caught” them and kept them. Nearing Lee's Ferry, I looked up and saw the eyes of most every passenger looking up at Korey, ready for the next piece of history he was going to share.

He actually ended the trip with what sounded like a poem, entitled “A Song of Glen”. In short, the song talks about the importance of preserving the natural state of Glen Canyon, a passionate plea to prevent the damming of it. As Korey read through each stanza, it was surprisingly un-corny. When he finished, I shook my head in awe, disbelief, and with a little bit of laughter. I clapped, and everyone joined in heartily. The trip was in a league of its own, and even though I barely led it, even though it turned out nothing like I had hoped, especially when I had committed in my mind to actually doing it, I was happy to end my time on the river with an exceptional trip. I call Korey “The Glen Guru” now. I don't think he finds the name as clever as I do, but I will persist with it. :)

I drove the boat back to the dam one last time, navigating better than I had ever done before. It was windy again, but not as much as it was on Wednesday. At the end of the day, each river guide has to park their boats away from the dock, and one river guide has to pick everyone up and drop them back at the dock. That was me, and I did well at this in my opinion! I rammed into one staircase, but it was all good! I then parked the “22' x 14' inflatable, aluminum-framed raft” near the dock. I had gotten better at a lot of things this week. Not all the things I wanted to, but that was more than okay. I truly believed that now. I walked up the staircase, gathered all my belongings and turned around to look at the bridge, dam, and river. I physically waved my hand in thanks to the view. Bye. Thanks for the ride. Literally and figuratively, haha. I was sad to leave.

I wanted to stay and learn more. Practice more. Improve more.

When we all got back to the shop, everyone went their separate ways after cleaning up. It was Friday, and everyone was tired and ready to go home. Drew met us at the back, and he, Korey, and I talked about my week. Korey stayed to do some work, while I got some wise words from Drew, which you can hear here:

Drew offered to drop me off at Korey's, and I gladly accepted. In the driveway, we wrapped things up. I thanked him for his patience, guidance, and encouragement, and he wished me well. As he drove off, I again wished I could stay in town longer. I wanted to know more about Drew too.

That night, Korey, Kyle, and I went out to eat. I was really excited about this. I had spent quite a bit of time with Kyle, but I felt like getting to know Korey had only begun that morning, and I was eager to continue. We went to this really nice sushi lounge, a restaurant that didn't seem like it belonged in Page at all. It looked like a sleek, uptown hotspot for singles – a completely new world. We saw Kyle Davis and Matia at one point too!

The three of us shared rolls, and it was the greatest meal. I was still affected days after. This was only my second time for sushi, and it was cool to realize that my taste buds had matured greatly since that time. One of my flexible goals for this journey was to acquire more distinct tastes, and it was nice to know that I was succeeding.

While eating, there was some more discussion of college and careerism. Both Korey and Kyle did not finish college, and I pressed further, asking if they were ever worried or embarrassed by their “unfinished” education. The Seyler brothers are very talented, intelligent individuals and they agreed that the degree never came because they were simply busy living life and being successful. They liked their lives as such, and they didn't want it to change by any means. They both have significant experience with the job industry, and talked about the importance of working hard at whatever you did in life, with some goal of passion in mind of course. Korey told me how learning was life and he just always operated that way. Just because he didn't get a huge portion of his learning from a college classroom didn't mean that any part of his life was unfulfilled. He told me this in a content, “it is what it is” tone, and I liked that.

We then talked about my life after the Program, and I told them what I was thinking: “I don't know what I'm doing. I feel as if everyone's moving back in with their parents.” When I said this, Korey immediately spoke up, saying that he didn't understand the trend. “What people should do is save up a little money, combine it with friends' funds, move to a big young city, and make it happen. Make it happen, that's what I did and do.”

I hate to keep repeating myself but I have to give you the facts. “Oh.” was how I responded. I never thought of things that way. Make it happen. I had a lot of thinking to do. The end of OWJ was fast approaching.

After dinner, we got dessert at a convenience store and went back home. I washed my clothes while Korey and Kyle had a heart-to-heart. I overheard Kyle say something that was really cute: “Man, I don't know. I'm going to miss working here all summer. I like Tucson a lot, but being a river guide is the best job. I know I won't ever find anything like it.” I smiled. That's another reason I wanted to be so good at river-guiding. The novelty.

After awhile, Kyle and I went out dancing, and Korey stayed in. Kyle and I connect on the issue of how dancing is necessary for nightlife. “You need to come down to Tucson,” he told me several times. “People really know how to dance there. They let go.” Of course I was going to remember that. I always find myself in places where people like to stand around and talk instead of dance to the music that is clearly begging to be treated right. Nonsense.

The night ended too soon, I slept, and then woke up early to finalize my packing and cleaning. I never said goodbye to Kyle as I left  the house, but I did get to see Easy, Kyle Davis, and Korey off when I dropped by the shop in the morning. As the warehouse door closed behind me, I heard Easy say "Have a nice life, Michelle!" I could feel his grin.

I don't think I've ever heard that statement delivered in such a genuinely positive manner. I've got to copy that dude more. He's just too good with his words. I mean, he's in Arizona, and I'm in Texas. No one will ever know.

Question Time.

What did you dislike about the job?

Having to constantly deal with multiple fears was never fun. It was stressful. That can be assumed. I also wish I had come earlier in the summer, because a lot of the river guides were burnt out by the time I got there. Had I gotten there in June or July, I would've gotten to experience more energy early on.

What did you like about the job?

I liked meeting new people every day, both guides and passengers. I liked the universal nature of being a river guide. Passengers come from all over the world, and according to Korey, the ages of guides range from age 18 to 65. That's a lot of years and lot of different backgrounds/stories on both sides. In this way, working with CRD was a gold mine for me. I also liked being outside, something I never thought...I would say. Everything that came from being outside was positive for me. The fresh air kept me well. Being surrounded by beauty every day of the job did wonders for my mind. The different effects of working within canyon walls and within office walls is astounding. I'm willing to bet that working as a river guide could be an effective part of a work-therapy program or something. To add to the healing aspect of being outdoors, being in Page enabled me to relive my childhood. Practicing slacklining, biking the streets, and playing catch/soccer with Iggy was so very rejuvenating for my soul and it made me want to revamp my life. I think I even like dogs now. I'm used to staying “in” things: indoors, in bed, in chair. I grew up without sand in my toes and bugs in my hair at any point in my life. I have always wondered if I could handle working outside. Being a river guide made me realize that it actually might be best for me. In short, my moments of diffidence and negativity were matched by moments of peace and tranquility.

What lessons did you learn from being a river guide / Week 7?

Tons. Tons. I think I will come to know more of them in the future as time passes and I have other experiences that I can apply the lessons to, but here are a few:

  1. Limits can always keep moving. They don't have to move fast, but they can still move.
  2. College is an opportunity, NOT a necessity. It may make things easier, but you create your destiny. You can make something out of anything.
  3. People are probably just as insecure as you are. Never assume anyone is better than you.
  4. Feelings of fear, insecurity, or negativity are not bad. They make you human. Express them to the right people, and you won't regret it.
  5. Small towns can have healing characteristics. Too much of something is never good, so get out into the big city when you feel yourself reaching the breaking point. But never underestimate the small. Nothing beats the power of now, and having no choice but to live by that power for a few weeks.
  6. Dogs aren't so bad...
  7. Neither is driving...
  8. Or being in a body of  water....
  9. Or being outside....
  10. Basically, you can always do more than you think [See Lesson 1].

Would you do this as a more-than-one-week-job?

Yes. Because I was so trapped in my limited knowledge, this job is one that I most wish I had more time for. With time and practice, I know that I could be an amazing river guide. I just need a lot of practice. I'm not quite sure if I can get as much as I need. But yes, I would do it. Best job ever, why wouldn't I?

Reflection Time.

When it comes to writing, there's always pressure to hold back, to not mention the not-so-cheery things. And it seems no matter how much you write about the positive, if you write about a hardship of some sort, people will only remember the latter. For the past seven weeks, I've only given you the truth. The unbridled truth, with all the easy, hard, and silly details. That's the only way I can share, and perhaps it's risky, but being me is better than anything else, in my opinion.

I feel the need to check in with You for a second and make sure that you understand the scope of my seventh job assessment. Here is the gist:

Learning to be a river guide was hard, and I was stressed and out-of-place the entire time. But I experienced many other, more positive emotions as well. The time I spent in Page, Arizona was good, because I improved in many areas that were virtually untouched before and I have hope as a result. I met great people who supported me and worked with a great company that does its job well. I was anxious all the time, but I relaxed a lot too. I mean come on, I was in the middle of nowhere, basically on vacation, increasing my life-expectancy through nature exposure. Overall, the week was a fruitful, necessary week.

AND I'm proud of myself for putting myself in the position to grow like I never have before.

I want to thank Korey and Drew for putting up with all my emotions, and for listening to me and working with me. You can imagine how awesome these two men are if they were able to handle me in my all-over-the-place state for an entire week. Thank you to all the CRD guides that trained me and again, listened to me talk about whatever I felt like talking about.

At the Sushi Lounge, Korey and Kyle made a good point. If an employer looks at your resume and they see the Job Title “River Guide,” they will almost always be impressed. They will definitely question you at the very least. I would recommend this job to anyone. There's a reason people call it “the best job ever," and a reason I have no problem using the phrase over and over, bringing it near ad nauseam. Anyone would do well to travel to Page, Arizona and work for CRD. If you don't want to work, go and experience the town, if anything. It's all beauty, so do it.

Now that I've done so many things on the water, I've got to get that swimming thing down and conquered. A good river guide would be better with swimming ability. I need to put my Week 7 experience to good use and I'll admit that I am running out of excuses. I guess I'll call Beth for swimming lessons soon.

Best Wishes,


If you want to know more about how you can apply to work at the Colorado River Discovery, click here!

River Guide, PART II

Wednesday morning, I was functioning on less than four hours of sleep, but I felt serenely energetic. I thought back to last night. I had never done karaoke before, and I have a very-small-but-still-present fear of performing in front of an audience...but I ended up singing three songs. I even sang one song with Forrest! Also, to bike around town in 70-degree weather late at night surrounded by cliffs and canyons was just so freeing. I kind of felt as if I was in the “Wonder Years” or something. I don't know why I thought that, that was just the first television show that came to my mind. That small-town feeling of close proximity, trust, and freedom was alive in me and I wanted it to stay.

When I woke up, Forrest was already up, getting ready to leave town. The night before, Kyle mentioned that I could take his bike to work, but I couldn't adjust the seat, so Forrest ended up taking me to work. I was happy about this because we had gotten some good talks in during our bike ride, and it was nice to have an official opportunity to say goodbye.

Chuck, the guy who was to be my Wednesday river guide partner, had already left for the dam, so I rode through the tunnel with other guides. So far, I had done two morning trips and one evening trip. Today, I was to experience a Tauck, or a morning specialty tour. Chuck is an older man who has lived in Page for about 32 years. As a result, a lot of his information came from both study and personal experience.

Hearing Chuck speak was like hearing a wise man talk about “the way things were,” and it made his stories way more refreshing and detailed than anything I had heard so far. It was because of this that he was able to connect with all types of ages, but especially the young, bold kids on the boat. His jokes were clever and interactive. He took time to play with kids, sometimes faking like he was going to pour water on them. They would scream in mock fear; it was clear that they were really having a good time being on Chuck's boat.

With Chuck, I got a full spectrum of the river guide. You could tell that he was passionate his job, and everything he did was done thoroughly. He made sure to take care of himself, his boat, others – everything and everyone. And while he had everything taken care of, he was never Type-A about it. His ways were matter-of-fact. He knew what needed to be done, so he got it done. Whether you wanted to help or not was fine by him. I found his approach unique.

Chuck was also “turning” that day, and I thought that was even more awesome, because every day I would hear a lot of the river guides complain about having to do more than one trip a day. “I don't mind it,” Chuck would tell me. “Being out on the river in this beautiful place is a privilege. If I get to do it more than once, lucky me, that's all.” Chuck said a lot of inspiring things, delivered in such a way that they could make you easily miss their importance because he said them so simply. I'll never forget one thing he said while he was trying to explain to passengers how their happiness was a priority to him:

I always say that the difference between an adventure and an ordeal is attitude. My job here at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is to start you on the positive route.”


Wow. I felt a little guilty upon hearing that one. Tauck trips are quicker than normal, so we ended around 10:45am. I drove the boat on the way back, during which Chuck gave me a little advice on reading the river for hazards, shallow water, etc. Easy had done something similar the day before. It was obvious that Chuck “just knew” many things about boating, so I wasn't the best at grasping what he was trying to tell me. Nevertheless, we made it back safely. It was on this day that the wind picked up, and wind always makes boat-driving harder. Chuck thought the weather conditions were perfect to practice parking in. If I could maneuver a boat in the wind, I could maneuver it in any situation.  At this point, I had driven a pontoon boat once before, so I took on the task with more confidence than I would previously. I failed miserably. Everyone was waiting for us, so Chuck took over, after commending me for my effort.

A lot of the river guides were turning that day, so I rode back with only Drew and another guide, Kyle Davis. Despite the fact that my two most recent trips were informative and smooth, and despite the fact that I had two episodes of hands-on training, I still felt compelled to pull Drew aside and let him know that I still wasn't feeling Friday. I hated myself a little bit, but I was still convinced that even trying to run a trip on Friday was a bad idea.

I stressed to Drew that I was happy to be in Page, happy to be working with CRD, and that I wasn't throwing away the opportunity that millions of people would die for, I was just too fearful. “I really feel like I've been putting myself out of my comfort zone,” I told him, “but I think the Friday trip would be going too far.” Why I was repeating myself to another CRD boss so soon after I had said basically the same thing to Korey the morning before was beyond me. I kept talking, and Drew eventually stopped me:

You know Michelle, I've set Friday up for success. Whether you give the short safety spiel at the beginning of the trip, or if you walk up with the passengers and explain the petroglyph site for a few minutes, you'll still be doing more than you are right now. Don't just shut the entire trip down. You need to keep stretching that zone. Limits are good, but they should continue to be stretched, even if just a little bit.”


Wow again. These CRD folks are too good. “Oh” (how many times did I say this as a response this week??) was my response to Drew's thought. The idea of a contribution compromise NEVER occurred to me. I was too concerned with getting a supposed disaster out of the way, that I gave up my ability to think of alternatives. At that moment, I felt so grateful for Drew's wisdom, and let a lot of anxiety go. I had been telling myself this all week, but I told myself again: “Que sera, sera, Michelle. Keep on keepin' on.” I believed it a lot more this time.

Drew and I then got into an “Interp” discussion, and he suggested I visit the Page museum. River guides can go to the museum for free with a pass, and I had a whole half-day left, so I took advantage and visited right away. On my way to the museum, Dani called to check and see how I was doing for the week. I thought that was so sweet of her. It really helped to know that so many people cared not only that I wasn't slacking off, but also that I was having a good time and not suffering. By the time I got to the museum, I was smiling.

The museum was cool. I'm not a huge museum/history nerd, but I was so grateful to get the information from the “Interp” presented in nice displays, and supplemented with tons of extra stories. I stayed for an hour. I walked back to the CRD shop, getting ice cream on the way. At the shop, Drew, Adam, and I discussed the mission of One-Week job, and they teased me a bit about Job #8 that was coming up. I explained my “Deep Discourse” concept to Drew, and we planned to meet up and discuss some careerism topics before the end of the week.

I had walked around Page quite a bit at this point, so I went back to Korey's house to shower and relax. Kyle invited me out, but I decided to sleep early. Even though I had a later start the following day and could probably handle a late night, I decided to be greedy. I slept well.

9:30am the next morning, I showed up at the shop to run a Glen Canyon Airlines (GCA) trip with River Guide Kyle Davis. GCAs are considered full-day trips. They are a little longer because they require two beach stops, as opposed to the one stop that most trips see. Kyle is my age, and a recent college graduate as well. He has worked with CRD for six years, but his enthusiasm for the job doesn't seem to have waned at all. Kyle's technique for teaching was to give me constant information and encouragement, while pushing me a little bit by the hour. I felt as if I was literally in “Kyle's school of River Guides,” and I would definitely say that similar to my Tuesday time with Easy, Thursday brought a big boost of hope to my being.

Not only was Kyle great to train with, but the passengers on this particular trip were awe-inspiring. The majority of them were hearing-impaired. One of the passengers was the designated interpreter, so whenever Kyle or I spoke, we had to be sure to do so slowly. Everything that these passengers did was so full of life, and it was hard not to stare and grin. They would sign with passion, point at parts of the canyon with passion, jump in the water with passion, and laugh with passion. They would encourage me with passion.

Sometime during the trip, Kyle let the passengers know that it was my first week and that I was new/nervous. From that point on, they praised and lifted me up every chance they got. Halfway through the trip, I took over driving, something that I never could have imagined doing. It's one thing to drive with yourself and another guide in the boat, but to drive a boat full of passengers who completely trust you is another. The last scenario was one that I didn't think I could ever do, but this group was so very vocal about their faith in me, that on this Thursday, I took the wheel. I also found myself jumping in the cold water for the first time, another thing I never thought I'd do. Everyone cheered for me and kept repeating my name. It felt really good to hear all that. I felt loved, connected. I'm not sure how I ended up in the river; everyone just gave me so much of their strength.

Throughout the trip, Kyle and I learned a bunch of sign language, and I was reminded of how much I wanted

to learn the American Sign Language (ASL) back in the day. Kyle and I then discussed the language curriculum at the university level, and how ASL should be offered country-wide. Two of my uncles are hearing-impaired, and watching the passengers communicate with each other, I suddenly wished I could join in effortlessly. I vowed to study more after I got back home to Texas.

Thursday was my best trip of the week, by far. After we dropped everyone off at Lee's Ferry, Kyle kept telling me what a good job I had done, that I had basically led half the trip. I wasn't completely sure about that, but I decided not to fight anything, believe him, and say “thank you, only because of your guidance.” It felt like the right option.

I drove back to the dam during the second windy afternoon of the week, and Kyle worked hard to educate me (my third time with this) on how to navigate the river going upstream. He drew a few diagrams and gave me a few sayings, but they didn't really work. I knew he wanted the teaching session to be an indubitable success, but not everything can be. We arrived at the dam safely, and I thanked him many times for his help. On the way back to the shop, we discussed my feelings about working at the CRD. He told me how he understood because he used to be a bartender, and he had never experienced being that out-of-the-know before in his life. “That was the most stressful time,” he said. “I understand more of what you are going through now. I've been doing this for six years, so it all comes naturally for me. I think you're brave for doing what you're doing.” That was nice of him to say.

At the shop, Korey told me that he and I were going to be doing a trip together the next day. “I'm going to give you complete control,” he told me. “Do you feel ready?” I told him that working with Kyle was a great help, and that yes, I was ready. “Good,” he said. “It's all you tomorrow!”

Thursday night, Kyle (Seyler) was kind enough to make me dinner – fajitas! We watched reality television together, and then called it a night. Iggy, the brothers' black lab, woke me up early the next morning, but I probably would've done so on my own. After all, Friday was The Big Day.

So What About You?

When one is without one or more of his/her senses, do you think that the other senses amp up in order to compensate for the absence ?

A little random, but I've always wondered about this.

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The best job ever…”

“It's Not A Stick [Shift], Is It?” – Week #7: River Guide

Friday 08/06/10 @ 5:10pm CDT: Leave Austin, Texas by Greyhound bus. Saturday 08/07/10 @ 2:40pm MST: Arrive in Phoenix, Arizona by Greyhound bus.

Sunday 08/08/10 @9am MST: Leave Phoenix, Arizona by car.

Sunday 08/08/10 @1:40pm MST: Arrive in Page, Arizona by car.

1,379 miles of travel in order to make it to Job #7! The journey map has been retired for obvious reasons. If you're really curious, you can view it on a separate tab.

If my friend Katie hadn't given me a ride from Phoenix to Page, I'd be in lots of trouble. A 5-hour drive to Page, and then 5 hours more back to Phoenix. Now that's a good friend. Thank you so much, Katie!

Last week, I was a river Guide with the Colorado River Discovery (CRD)! This job was the first one I received when I found out I got into the One-Week Job Program, suggested by my friend Dani. Being the quintessential outdoors Arizonan girl, she had worked for CRD one summer and wanted me to get to know what many would call "the best job ever" for a week:

"Would you be interested in a river guide job? Kinda random, but beautiful and fun :) I do suppose if boats are not your thing it might not be the best option, but let me know if you're interested!"


When I read Dani's email in early June, I was immediately cautious. I asked her if I had to know how to swim. If I decided to do this job, I would already be 98% out of my element. It would be quite unfortunate if I traveled all the way to Page, only to find out I had to be a skilled swimmer. I'd then be 100% incompetent, and that's...not good.

Dani responded, letting me know that swimming wasn't required for two reasons:

  1. River guides are required to wear a lifejacket at all times.
  2. The water stays around 47 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.

Oh I thought. Well, as long as the chances of me dying are low, I need to say yes. Dani did mention the words "Grand" and "Canyon" in her email, so per my OWJ approach this entire summer, I “went with it.” Say yes first, and deal with the details later. I sent Dani my information right away. Korey Seyler, Sales and Marketing Manager of CRD and friend of Dani, emailed me, saying he had gotten my information from Dani and was ready to work with me if I was willing:

I was so excited to hear and learn about the project that you were selected to participate in and I think that Colorado River Discovery would be an interesting experience during your journey.”


I told Korey I was willing.  I had to throw myself in the deep end. He, Drew, CRD Operations Manager, and I had a phone conversation to finalize details. Two months later aka last weekend, I was hanging out with my friend Katie in her new Phoenix apartment. Having moved to Phoenix for a new job not too long ago, Katie was just as new to the area as I was. We decided to stick to the activities that were guaranteed to please, having dinner and going to a drive-in movie theatre (my first time, SO HAPPY ABOUT DOING THIS!), and slept early for the big drive to Page the next day.

You're probably wondering where Page is. The answer, my friend, is “Far, Far Away,” or “In the middle of nowhere.”

Yeah, that's about 9 miles from the Utah border. You'll be hard-pressed to find a lot of people who actually grew up in Page, because it was created a little over 50 years ago. The area used to be Navajo property, but was then released for the residential use of Glen Canyon Dam construction workers and their families. Page has only been an official town since 1974. While many previous small towns are quickly turning into bigger cities, Page seems to be stuck behind because it's still a relatively new small town and its growth depends heavily on tourism. Through research, I found that there are more than twice as many Caucasians in Page as there are Native Americans, but I totally would've guessed the opposite from my week there.

Just a little history lesson for you.

Anyway, I'm sure you can imagine how beauteous the drive north was that Sunday. Mountains, pine trees, reservation lands. I had never seen anything like it. As Katie and I traveled, the elevation increased while the temperature decreased. At one point it was a perfect 70 degrees, and we had to pull over and walk around. I have a lot of photos. When we got to Page, the elevation was about 4200 feet, and my ears were popping a lot. Katie and I got dinner and ice cream, did some dam-viewing, and headed over to the CRD Welcome Center with my stuff. Korey wasn't there, but Adam, a CRD staff member, was. I wanted Katie to get back to Phoenix with enough time to get a good night's sleep, so I gave her a hug and thanked her deeply.

Adam gave me a tour, after which Korey picked me up and took me to his house to drop off my luggage and get used to the couch I would be getting to know for the next few days. I lived with three guys last week.

I lived with three guys last week.

Korey showed me around the house, letting me know that I was free to use any cars or bikes if I needed to get around.

I also noticed that the door wasn't locked, which I found out was pretty common in the small town. I found the environment of trust sweet, and decided to go along with it. The rest of the night was very relaxed. Korey left me to go to do errands, and his brother, Kyle came home shortly thereafter. Kyle and I hung out for a little while, and then Korey came home. They showed me their slackline in the backyard, something that they both have been practicing on for about a month. I tried and failed...but interest was sparked.

I didn't have food, and Korey suggested I drive his truck to Safeway to get groceries. I immediately became anxious and insecure. If I haven't had enough practice with something (I've never owned a car and drive pretty infrequently), I'm hyper-aware to the point where it's just a burden. And if it's something that most people my age know how to do instinctively, I'm always embarrassed about it (since I assume most people wouldn't understand my emotions about it). Anddd, if there's a risk of bringing a terrible inconvenience to another (i.e. if I wreck someone's car), I'm just stressy about all the possibilities that I secretly see as probabilities.

Part of me still dislikes driving after all this time. But I got over my hesitation because I was hungry and I didn't want to ever worry about food during the week. On my way out the door, I met roommate #3, Forrest. I took Korey's truck, got groceries, waited forever in line, and brought the vehicle back safely, complete with terrible parking job. I figured that it was a small town, so I'd be okay driving a car that wasn't mine. An Arizonan small town, but still a small town.

In order to be a Colorado River Discovery River Guide, you not only have to know how to drive a pontoon boat, but you also have to know your history. When I first started corresponding with Korey, he stressed the importance of knowing what they call “Interp” or the interpretation of certain parts of the River that pertain to certain parts of history. Korey actually sent me the 204-page document via snail mail to me, and I received it a week before OWJ began. He intended for me to study ahead of time in order to expedite the training process, which usually takes longer than I was planning to stay in Page. I thought it was really cool how invested and prepared Korey was in the OWJ process.

Unfortunately, there was a problem.

It was the night before I was to go out on the River, and I hadn't read the book at all. Not even a word. I'm not sure what happened. There were nights where I planned to study. I think one night I even updated my facebook page status, saying that I was studying for a future job. But it never happened. Something always came up, and just like my time in school, I ended up studying at the last minute. I knew that worrying would only waste time and energy, but I began my seventh one-week job being really disappointed in myself. After all, I was already nervous about driving, and being on the water. Not knowing the information didn't help. History was always my worst subject in school too. Some lessons will never be fully learned, I suppose.

Everyone went to bed around 10:30pm, and I stayed up really late, trying my best to read and understand as much as I could, so when I was exposed to the field, the information would stick. I told myself that no matter what, I would keep pushing through any negativity I was going to feel this week. I wasn't going to forget how blessed I was with every moment I had. Fear stops, and I wasn't living to be stopped. I vowed to press on, and if that meant asking for help relentlessly, I would do it. I fell asleep sometime after 2am.

The next morning, I got to the shop at 7am, as Korey told me to do the night before. I met up with Drew, and we went over my schedule for the week. I took a picture for an access card to the canyon tunnel, and I gave him my paperwork. During the summertime, Colorado River Discovery offers two half-day trips, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. All the trips are smooth-water trips, because they are on a 15-mile stretch of the Colorado River within the Glen Canyon, not the Grand Canyon. Still amazing, don't be fooled! They also give specialty trips (some of which are full-day) as a part of other companies' programs, such as those of Tauck Tours and Grand Canyon Airlines. Drew and Korey arranged for me to experience all four types of trips with different river guides, over the course of the first four days. They hoped for me to lead my own trip on Friday, the last day.

On this Monday morning, I was to do what is called a “turn”, where as a river guide, you give a trip both in the morning and afternoon. That's a 12-hour day where you get to the shop at 6:30am, and don't finish until about 6:30pm. Because I didn't have my access card, I was like a passenger on the first day, so I rode to and from Glen Canyon Dam on the bus with passengers. My first trip was with Matia, who is a part-time English teacher and works at a sushi restaurant. She has a very dry humor and it was funny to see her interact with the passengers. My second trip of the day was with Lauren, who goes to nursing school during the non-summer months. Her humor was more of the cute and cheery mix.

Since it was my first day, the differences between Matia's and Lauren's “interp” were hard to point out, but it was fun comparing the two groups of passengers and how both river guides fed off of the personalities of their respective boats. I sat back during both trips and tried my best to take in everything. There was a second where I asked myself what the heck I was doing. I don't “do” water and boats and nature. But there I was, in the midst of natural wonder. I was fortunate to be where I was. Change again.

I fell asleep on the bus back to the shop. I guess the heat got to me. I couldn't find Korey or Drew, but I found Adam, who told me once again to report back the next morning at 7am, since the likelihood of my access card being ready was slim. When I got home, Kyle and I watched TV. Then, Kyle, Forrest, and I watched the movie “The Road.” Powerful, but sad. I showered, then everyone parted ways. I could not sleep because I had “interp” on my mind. I was having trouble remembering some things. I stayed up until 4am or so reading.

Tuesday morning, I woke up around 6:20am to see Kyle on his way out for his morning trip. I forgot to mention that Kyle and Forrest work at CRD too. Oh and that Matia lived in the same house while I was there, but downstairs. Anyway, as I was getting ready, I got a few missed calls, and I called the first number back. It was Kyle, telling me that my access card was ready, and that I needed to be ready soon. I called the other number and it was Drew, telling me that someone was on their way to pick me up because having an access card meant I could ride to the canyon through the tunnel with all the river guides, before the passengers arrived. I'd then get to see how all the river guides prepared for their trips. One step closer to being in the river guide culture! :)

I hurried to get ready, and walked outside to see a CRD van pull up. Out of the van stepped Easy, the guy who was my river guide for Tuesday's morning trip. We instantly connected on issues of friendship, money, and work. Easy and I are similar in age, people-passion, and our insatiable thirst for knowledge. Our differences: one of us is a college-graduate, and the other is an amazing river guide. During my short time with Easy, I became inspired, yes, but a little jealous too. He was so good at connecting with/reading the people on his trip with his words and with his guitar-playing. He knew everything about every part of the river stretch, and about a bunch of random things. He was full of puns, and it was hard not to laugh at each and every one. I hoped to develop that ability to engage people consistently.

At one point, Easy talked about how he was from a small village in Utah, and how he used to be really shy and reclusive. He decided to become a river guide to get over that. He knew he loved people, but he didn't know how to connect with them, so he figured this job would help him improve, and it worked. I never would have guessed that Easy was ever shy, but when he told me his story, it made sense. I, too, used to be much more shy and diffident than I am fact, everything that Easy said in his story mirrored that of mine, just in a different context. Hanging out with Easy made me begin to think of the status of being formally educated and how I grew up in an environment that thought a life without a college degree was a doomed one. Though I followed the traditional schooling route, I'd always thought differently. I was in school, but part of me felt that school wasn't necessary. It was an opportunity that I need not waste, but it was me, whose passion for learning independently, even when no one was looking at me or checking my grades, enabled me to make it through school, excel, and continue to love learning even after graduating from college. For me, Easy was proof of the power-in-fervor-alone concept that I believe in so much.

Easy was patient with me and very, very informative. Every time he did something when he was with me, he was sure to stop and explain what he was doing, whether I asked or not. It turned out that I really needed this because I was so overwhelmed with information, that I didn't really know what to ask or where to begin asking. He gave me first exposures to things such as knot-tying, boat-driving, river-reading, etc. It was still a lot to grasp, but the fact that someone took time to explain things was calming in a situation that I often forgot I was tense during. Tuesday was the day that I began to breathe a little easier, and that was a step toward success and growth. When Easy and I got back to the dam (every trip begins at the Glen Canyon dam and ends at Lee's Ferry. After the passengers get off at the Ferry, they bus an hour back to the CRD shop, while the river guides drive their boats back to the dam for an hour), I thanked him heartily for spending time with me and for helping me calm down and learn. He responded:

Thank you for wanting to learn, Michelle.”


I told him that I'd probably steal that response. Now, while I had gotten more practice with all things river guide, I had gained more confidence. Enough confidence to know that I wasn't going to be confident enough to lead a trip on my own Friday. It's important to take risks and stretch yourself, but it's also important to know your limits. Even though it was Tuesday, I was so sure of my feelings. Korey showed up at the dam while all the morning river guides were cleaning up, and he asked me if I was ready for Friday. I told him that I was not ready and was too nervous, and he told me that everyone says that about their first trip. Doesn't everyone say that everyone says something but really there are times when one person didn't say what everyone supposedly said? I thought. “Oh,” I said out loud. Korey reassured me: “Drew and I were talking about it, and one of us will just accompany you, okay?”

I was unsure again, conflicted. I really didn't view my thought process as “giving up,” just being smart. I'd been through six jobs already; it wasn't as if I was a stranger to change. And it wasn't as if I wasn't pushing myself in Arizona either.

I just had this feeling of anxiety in me that I felt shouldn't be ignored, that I had to speak up about early on so as not to waste anyone's time. I was kind o f proud of myself, but then I didn't expect Korey's response. “Okay,” I told Korey. I rode back to the shop with Easy, and I bought some sunglasses. I had to admit to myself that my eyes were going to die if I kept my habit of squinting my way through 3-plus hours in the sun. I got home at 1:30pm, napped for 30 minutes, and showered.

You need to speak up and ask questions, I told myself in the shower. This is something way different. Way, way different. BE the river guide. You need to try harder. No matter what happens, you tried your best. Get that best-trying going. Effort is one step away from your fear.

I tried this self-pep talk for a little longer, and then I got tired. Tomorrow was a new day, and all these people believed in me. I wanted them to know that I wasn't a slacker or fooling around with their business, but that I was just plain scared this week. But...all the energy I was putting into trying to convince others that my fear is real is energy that could be put into addressing the fear. The fear of too many things.

Forrest came home a little while later, and we played a bit of guitar. Around 6:30pm, Korey and Kyle came home. Korey was so kind to make dinner for Kyle and me – a “Korey combo” of rice, eggs, and veggies. Spicy enough of to clear my nasal cavity, loved it! We watched another movie, “I Love You, Man.” Forrest joined later. Tuesday night was Forrest's last night in town because he was moving back to Tucson for the start of school the next morning. That night, we biked (I borrowed Matia's bike) to a karaoke event. On the way to the bar, there was an airbrushed t-shirt kiosk, and Forrest bought a custom shirt, something for him to remember his first summer in Page by. Lauren, Matia, and a few other guides were out as well, and it was a wonderful time. Kyle went home, and Forrest and I continued to bike the streets of Page until 1:45am or so.

It was a cool, calm night.

Despite being more uncomfortable at a job than I had ever been, I liked where I was. I missed biking streets, I liked being outdoors, and I liked being surrounded by beauty. Everything was set up so it was hard to ignore anything but the present. By the wee hours of Wednesday morning, my time as a river guide was quickly becoming a beautiful mess of opposites – nothing easy, but good nonetheless.

So What About You?

What is the difference between “giving up” and “knowing yourself and your limits”?

I'm really interested to hear what you have to say on this one! Talk to meh, I won't be here for much longer!


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The best job ever...”

Don't Worry, I'm Still Kickin'

Hello All! This is sort of a disappointing blog post, because it doesn't contain any good One-Week Job meat, but I wanted to check in with the world. It is the Friday of Week #7, and as you may have noticed, I haven't blogged at all. I'm always late with these posts, but I've never been this late so I'm addressing the issue. While I could have and arguably should have posted SOMETHING by now, I always aim to give my best words, so I refuse to write just anything. That would make this Program a waste; the stories I share with You are very important to me.

I'm currently not in a state where I can share with you, because I am completely immersing myself in this week's job. This is in an effort to make sure I'm doing all that I can to take as much away from the opportunity as possible. This job's much more difficult for me than all the others, so I'm having to try extra hard. Consequently, my mind has been nowhere ready to write. I have to admit that I would describe this week as sort of a life vacation, but I am definitely not slacking off. I've been reading and studying a lot. I'm awake randomly at 4:30 in the morning because I'm studying again. Consider that a clue for what I've been spending my time with this week! It's probably the worst clue, but clues are fun anyway!

Okay okay, here's another:

So, as soon as I'm ready, I'll begin my three-part week analysis/play-by-play/video tour blogging. I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience my tardiness has caused, is causing, or will cause you, but you should know that all is well. It often is. This wait is the smartest option for both of us. In the meantime, listen to the music from Priceless, a band I discovered during my week in Boston:

I'm very excited to tell you things! You deserve only the best. :)


Sixth Last Day: The Secret Realm

Recap Time. My last night in Austin was a late one. “Last nights” are always filled with weird emotions. You have to be focused because there are always a lot of little things that need to be taken care of before departure – packing, laundering, ticket-buying, calling, etc. And you're kind of sad because you're going to be leaving, maybe you don't want to leave, and you want to make sure you're using your last hours up well, soaking it all up. So you want to hang out with as many people as possible. But doing chores and hanging out with people makes the time pass quicker. So does sleeping. So your best option is just sitting somewhere by yourself, alone, reflecting. But that can get depressing, and you can't get depressed, because you need to gear yourself up for the new place you're going to, because that place is probably going to be just as awesome as the one you're about to leave.

Last nights” are a little rough.

I stayed up late after Beth, David, and Matthew went to bed. I did some laundry, wrote a lot, and ate a lot of Beth's chocolate chip cookies with craisins.

When I woke up the next morning, I showered and packed hurriedly. Cookies were in the kitchen again. Beth not only let me sleep in, but she packed some extra cookies for me to take on the road! I made sure David didn't see me tear up. Every morning I shared with the Brookses came with a tasty breakfast taco and a cup of coffee, both of which were made by David. This Friday morning, David switched it up. Toasted French bread, eggs with shredded cheese, turkey bacon, and orange juice. The breakfast of association professionals. :)

David and I loaded the car up with my luggage, and dropped Matthew off at driver's ed. That was to be my last time to see Matthew, so we said our groggy goodbyes. After that, David and I went to Wells Fargo so I could get some bills. I brought my luggage to work since I had to leave early. I took a picture with David, thanked him for everything, and said goodbye to him as well. It was a little after 9am when I got to the office, and everyone had read my first blog post for the week. That made me feel really good. It showed that TSAE actually cared about my thoughts, and that was encouraging. I was sad to be leaving soon.

Sonnia Montemayor and I had some overdue one-on-one time together. Well, Emmitt Smith was there too. As the Education and Knowledge Resources Director, she oversees anything that has to do with association education presented during conferences, webinars, seminars, and tradeshows. Sonnia works closely with Christine (Chris) Napierkowski, TSAE Meeting Coordinator, who deals with the logistics of all the TSAE programs. This includes finding venues, booking meeting rooms, and making sure all the necessary equipment is provided in all of the rooms. Sonnia previously worked with the National Automobile Dealers Association in Virginia. She discovered the association world while working for an auto dealership.

After getting to know Sonnia's role, she gave me the responsibility of designing and sending an electronic invitation for the Certified Association Executive (CAE) breakfast to be held at the Annual Conference in September. According to the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) website, the CAE program is “designed to elevate professional standards, enhance individual performance, and designate association professionals who demonstrate the knowledge essential to the practice of association management.” In short, the CAE credential in the association industry would be comparable to the M.D. credential in the medical industry. It takes a serious amount of time and study. One has to meet eligibility requirements, submit an application, pass an exam, and fulfill renewal requirements every three years. The program is not for everyone. You can still be a significant part of an association without becoming a CAE.

My fourth big task of the week was to order lunch. We all got Lu Ann platters from Luby's and had lunch in the office eating area. It was good to have most everyone together in one room, eating and talking. The rest of my last day was really quiet and peaceful. Nita Saunders, TSAE's accountant, and Josh left early so I gave them hugs and goodbyes. Around 4pm, Beth and I packed up and left so she could take me to the Greyhound station. At the station, Beth reminded me that the invitation to the Annual Conference in September was genuine and still there for me to take. I told her I would love to go, and would do all I could to attend. I experienced one last Austin hug and parting of ways, followed by another Greyhound adventure.

Question Time.

What did you dislike about the job?

The only thing I didn't like was that I was having so much fun and feeling so productive that I had too little energy or time to write about the fun I was having at the times that I wanted to. Long sentence, but that's what it is.

What did you like about the job?

As the TSAE boss, Beth impressed me greatly (if you haven't noticed already). Though she was very busy, she was always available to answer my questions, and was constantly making sure I was never bored and always a part of anything going on. Because of this, I always felt useful and the time passed quickly. In my observations, I also noticed that Beth took random times to quickly check in with her staff members on a personal level. I think it is for this reason that the staff felt comfortable talking with her about anything. I felt as if Beth was the one calling the shots, but that each staff member had complete control over their respective roles. Beth respects, trusts, and believes in her staff members, so I think they find it easy to return the favor.

There is heavy work that goes on in the TSAE office, but there are also special moments of hanging out and laughter. Even when I was in business professional clothing, I never felt as if I couldn't be myself, and that was new for me. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever been more confident in heels than I was during this week. And those heels were dusty from being in a suitcase for five weeks. Clothes were lint-y too. I still felt confident, happy. I may have actually been more hyper than usual, and I think that's because throughout the week, I felt more and more comfortable working with TSAE. That speaks wonders of the people I was surrounded by.

Meeting new people every day was thrilling. Sometimes it was overwhelming having to hear and explain one-week job to each person, but the fact that I got to hear about the person and their role in TSAE in return was worth it. The camouflaged nature of associations intrigued me as well. Associations are all around us and do so much for us, but few of us know about them. Being a part of an association, learning about an association, and getting the power to spread the news about associations is a little empowering.

Week #6 also gave me a more well-rounded view of Austin. Who knew that it was more than a music-hipster-indie-taco-getaway? I loved Austin before, and I love it even more now.

The last thing I liked about being an association professional was that I got to experience the effect of working at a nonprofit organization. I'll say it again: something about doing good for the good of all before anything else makes life richer.

What lessons did you learn from being an association professional / Week 6?

  1. If you're going to a new country and a native offers you specialty food, make sure they know that you're not very hungry. This will spare you a terrible stomachache. [DIPLOMACY] The Brookses travel a lot, so they know what it's like to be forced to eat foods that you would never choose yourself. They told me some horror stories. Because of this, they were constantly making sure I liked the food they offered me. It was sweet.
  2. Know and be vocal about your preferred work schedule. A few staff members implement what is called flextime, where they adjust their work schedule to a format that suits them best. They started to use this method after a flextime article was printed in the TSAE magazine that is released every other month. Everyone figured that they should practice what they advertise, so they decided to experiment. Sonnia likes to work from home on Monday so she can ease into the week. Josh likes to come early and stay late Monday through Thursday, so he can have a half-day on Friday and start his weekend early. Alaina likes the traditional 8 hour-day. So far, it seems that everyone is satisfied. I think more businesses should try the variable work schedule too, for the potential benefit of the entire company.
  3. Reply to touchy/tricky subjects in an email with care. [DIPLOMACY] Or don't reply. Or if you have to, get someone else to edit it first. And if it's more than two paragraphs, you might as well pick up a phone. Advice from Beth to AAEVT during Monday's training session.
  4. Praise someone when they're doing well, and kindly let someone know when they're not doing well. As a customer, you have a voice. Speak up. You'll improve something. Like an employee who is having a bad day, or the moods of other customers who would never speak up otherwise. Advice from David.
  5. Separate your work life and home life. When Beth was done with the official workday, she was done with work. I thought that was awesome.
  6. Make time for You every day. I mentioned in another post that Beth was a seasoned swimmer. Each day after work, she went to the pool alone and took a good swim. When she came back, it was obvious that that time alone was sort of a calming restoration for her. In making this conclusion, I would think of all the people I know who work just as hard as her, and have given up their ability to take time out for themselves. This is a shame.
  7. Spontaneity can be riveting, but routines can be too. The One-Week Job Program has been the biggest dose of unpredictability that I've ever had in my entire life, and it's been great. While this week contributed to that theme still, it also brought a lot of serious routine too. I had breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day around the same time. I think my health actually got better because of this. Every night I played the Wii with Matthew, or at least watched him play it with David. Beth swam every day after work. There were occurrences that I became used to very quickly, and just like the variety of my days at work, they brought extra spark to my life. This balance of opposite forces was a comfortable, inspiring mix.
  8. Travel is the key to understanding, and therefore to world peace.” During my first in-person conversation with Beth, she told me that one of her priorities in raising Matthew was making sure he got to travel and see the world as much as possible. When she said this, it reminded me of the quote you see at the beginning. As I got to know the Brookses throughout the week, their wisdom was hard to ignore. And I would notice things about Matthew that spoke to a maturity that many 16-year-old boys probably do not have yet. All three of them gave off a combination of patience, understanding, and caring that could only characterize people who have been exposed to many different environments, many different people. After having a difficult ride to Austin, living with the Brookses told me that regardless of any tough times I was experiencing, I was on the right track. My journey is and will continue to be a fruitful one.
  9. Experience first, judge later. I never cease to be humbled. Never. See Reflection Time section.

Would you do this as a more-than-one-week job?

I mean, I'm trying to do all I can to go to the Conference next month. You tell me.

Reflection Time.

I got connected with TSAE before I found the Jed Foundation, so I began the Program thinking I had one more office job than I had intended. After my un-favorite experience with the Foundation, I had stronger office-job judgments than before in regards to TSAE. Part of me expected this week to be full of suits, heavy proprieties, and slow hours, but I have to say, I had it backwards. Completely. When I stepped off the Greyhound bus onto the Austin pavement, I told myself to let any preconceived notions go, and I'm glad I did because they were way off the mark.

"I took the [association] job with the frame of mind that it would be a bit boring, but that it would work until I could find something more exciting. It's funny to think back on it now; I had no clue what my experiences would bring, not just professionally, but personally. The relationships I've built over the last five years have had a profound effect on me."


Every single person I met during this week had similar stories. They began working, unaware of what an association was, fell into a job with an association, fell in love with a job within an association, and ended up staying. Work with an association is far beyond work in an office. It's too worldly to be defined in that way. I'm so very glad that Beth is such a dedicated supporter of Sean and the One-Week Job message, otherwise I never would have discovered what can be described best as a cosmic realm of endless learning, diversity, professionalism, and just plain excitement. To everyone I met during my time in Austin, thank you for helping me find and understand such a treasure.


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Memories of YOU

I forgot to mention that Tuesday's night of “America's Got Talent”-watching came with a couple of Matthew's chocolate-banana milkshakes. It was good, Matthew. By Wednesday morning, I had stepped into the shoes of a Communications Manager and Business Development Manager, was working as a journalist as I finalized three press releases, and had attended two meetings, one as an association management trainee, and one as an association staff member. Not too lazy of me.

To finish off the releases, I had to obtain Beth's input. As the CEO and President of the association giving out the awards, it was imperative that she give a few authentic, positive words on each of the recipients. On the way to work, I took down her words and fit them into the press releases after we arrived at the office around 7:45am.

9am brought the nominators of the award recipients. The plan was to film each nominator speaking about the person they had nominated, and the footage would be used for the presentation at the Annual conference. Josh and Beth let me sit in on the filming, and it was fun to be a part of yet another aspect of the association world. I enjoyed witnessing the different speaking styles of each of the nominators. Some were more conversational and funny, while some were more professional.

I also liked listening to the improvement suggestions by Josh and Bill, the man who actually operated the camera. It was obvious that they knew what they were doing, having certain expectations for time length, the angle of the shooting, and the timing of the sentences that were being said. I know nothing about film editing, so I was happy to learn a few things.

After the last nominators left, I went back and finally finished the press releases, making sure one last time that Beth was okay with the quotes I took from her. Soon after my first task was completed, Alaina had another for me: counting ribbons. TSAE has a bunch of little ribbons for different achievements, and they keep a running count of how many they have. I'm sure everyone sees counting them as a waste of time, so I was asked to do it. :) I didn't mind! I don't know how many ribbons there were, but there were a lot. It took me awhile to count them, and I hate to say that I got some allergies from the old and dusty ones.  Just another unpredictable part of being an association professional AND a one-week jobber. :D

For lunch, I was important. I'm saying this because the office was teasing me about it, so I'm just going to go ahead and

take the boastful route. I attended two lunches, one with some lovely ladies of the TSAE Board of Directors, and another with some members of the Young Professionals Committee. Beth was kind enough to invite me to the first, and I didn't know what to expect. I was inspired to see a group of older and very successful women take turns sharing what was going on in their lives. It was clear that each woman operated in her own unique way, but it was also clear that there was a lot of respect and love at the table.

Susan, Mary, Gwen, Stacy, Pat, and of course, Beth asked me a lot of questions about my one-week job journey, which led to discussions of lifestyle design, the purpose of formal education, and careerism. However, I took every opportunity that I could to eventually change the subject so I could sit back and observe the lunch atmosphere. It felt like a quick lunch, but I felt encouraged and motivated after it. I secretly hoped that I would be having lunches like these in the years to come.

The lunch with the Young Professionals (YP) was equally satisfying, but different. It was more quiet, maybe “chill” would be an accurate word to describe it. The Board of Directors lunch was more high energy, even before everyone sat down. It felt as if the women were old friends who were seeing each other again after some time.

Josh and Sonnia, another TSAE staff member, were at the lunch. Josh was kind enough to organize the lunch so I could meet people closer to my age, individuals I see as the rising stars of association management. The youngest person (from the ages I was given) was seven years my senior, so if I ever choose to pursue the association life, I'll have a lot of work ahead of me! The YP lunch kind of reminded me of many I've had before. One of those times where you've just been inducted into a society, and you and other new members have been invited to an inductee lunch. The food is good, and you probably know one or two other people, but not many people are talking at the table. Because the environment is new, and/or some of the people are new, constant conversation is a little slow to start.

Since I was the new one at the table and the lunch time was aimed at my direct benefit, I started talking a lot in an effort to take advantage. I think I wore myself out quickly, but I kept going. I answered a few questions I was asked about one-week job, but continued on about my blog, and how I was trying to spread awareness of the “pursuit of passion” mindset through videos of people talking about their personal advice and experiences. After explaining my goals for the lunch in this way, Steven, Megan, Julie, Sarah, (Josh, and Sonnia), came through for the world in perfect form:

We Young Professionals (why not include myself at this point) then walked out of the restaurant and went our separate ways. Sonnia suggested dessert, so Josh and I waited for her to get some ice cream from HEB so we could bring it back to the office. The rest of TSAE staff was happy with this decision. I must say...I've never been in an office that has so much food at any time of the day.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining.

As Alaina left for vacation, I kept counting ribbons until Beth and I left for dinner, death-cheating, the Wii, and chocolate ice cream. There is beauty in a routine, friends.

Thursday: Another day that was quite unlike the others. I woke up at “Beth and David time”, around 6:30am. I decided to wait a few weeks to get a new license, since I knew I was going to be in Texas soon. Beth dropped me off at the Austin DPS, and I collected some good stories, unsurprisingly. With my Greyhound adventures and the DPS visit, I must have a best-selling book in me. I got in line at 7:40am, and left at 8:58am – not bad! Josh and Beth picked me up, and we were off to the Omni Hotel downtown.

In addition to a press release and a video of another distinguished professional speaking well of them, TSAE award recipients get to be filmed on the job themselves. Josh, Beth, and I were at the Omni Hotel to film one of the recipients, Leanne, doing her job as Regional Sales Manager. I don't want to ruin the final presentation video for next month, but it was fun to watch, and this time Josh was behind camera. I should've asked him more questions about how he knew he had filmed for long enough, how he was keeping the camera steady, etc. because I was interested to know, but I was too busy being in some of the videos with Leanne!

Haha yep! I'm an actress too! That was a cool and unexpected exercise. Josh gave me some suggestions too, which I humbly and gladly put to use for the second takes. :)

We left the Omni and headed back to the office. Just like she did on the way to the Omni, Beth pointed out loads of association buildings. Many Texas associations are located in Austin to be close to the Capitol and any sort of legislation, but I'm sure that from now on, my eyes will fall upon any association building in any state after seeing so many this week. Some random association facts for you, courtesy of TSAE:

  • The oldest association, American Philosophical Association, was formed in 1735 by Ben Franklin.
  • 9 out of 10 Americans belong to at least one association; 25% belong to four associations.
  • Associations are the leading industry, contributing 5 billion per year to the economy.
  • The top three states by association - employment are California (2,200 Associations; 15,811 employees), Texas (1,678 Associations; 10,165 employees), and New York (1,314 Associations; 12,018 employees).
  • Washington has the highest concentration of associations in order to keep an eye on Congress. Nonprofits/associations are the 3rd largest industry in the DC area, behind government and tourism.
  • According to the UT Bureau of Business Research, the year 2006 saw 954 associations in Texas.
  • Not one college degree is perfectly suited for work in an association. Many association professionals have masters degrees and advanced degrees in law, public administration, and business.

*Lets out deep breath*

If you haven't gotten the point yet, associations are a big deal.

"Every man owes part of his time to the business or industry to which he is engaged. No man has a moral right to withhold his support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his sphere."


Thursday's lunch was yummy, mostly because Beth graciously shared hers with me: Club crackers and hummus. Bing Cherries. Yogurt & granola. Take notes.

After lunch, I joined Beth at a memorial service for one of her friends that she had worked closely with for some time, lobbyist Joseph Lynn Nabers. Beth had asked me earlier in the week if I wanted to attend, and though I was hesitant (I was worried it was out of place), I agreed. During the program, it was clear that Lynn was highly respected. Again, I am poor at estimating, but there had to be at least 800 people in attendance. Several of the people present held prominent positions in the Texas legislature, including past and incumbent governors.

In listening to close friends speak about Lynn's character and their adventures with him, I was moved. The stories described a man of consistent virtue, intelligence, and hard work in all that he did. I didn't know Lynn at all, but I knew that at the very least, he was someone I would've looked up to. After the service, I spoke very little because a lot was going on in my mind. I realized that Beth had given me an opportunity to learn yet another lesson not just in work, but in life. Whatever you choose to spend your time doing, you must do it well, fully, and by honorable methods. People will remember you for the last part more than else. When all else falls away, the good you did, or the lack thereof, will remain. "It" does matter, even when you think it does not, even when you think no one is watching. Because someone most likely is.

The work day was pretty much over when we returned to the office. After another first-rate, David-made dinner with the Brookses, Beth and I went to Zilker Park to watch Matthew play ultimate frisbee. No, I didn't play. But I dressed like I was going to, and that's what counts. Beth and I sat on some lawn chairs in the shade, and had discussions of life and luck. Beth Brooks is an expert on luck, so you'll have to ask her to get the full details. Hm - I've used the name “Beth” a lot in this post. :)

Anyway, it was nice to get out in the fresh air and just look at the grass, and the sky. Just look. It's been a long while since i've done that. As i've gained more knowledge by being more open-minded throughout this trip, i've put some of my old habits on the back burner. And that's okay, because they've gotten my attention for most of my life. But i'll be ready when i get enough time to sit in one place and put it ALL together, old and new.

i'm beginning to wonder what sort of woman i will improve into after all of this ends. i hope it'll be a woman who will continually produce uplifting memories that will last far beyond the moment she takes her last breath.

So What About You?

What memories/impressions/images would You like to leave behind, if any at all? What do You need to change or improve in your life NOW to make sure that happens?

Whatever You do, i hope You do it not because You see it as a means to an end, but because You want to do good for the sake of simply doing good, and only that.

Talk soon? Talk soon.


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“You’re a What.” – Week #6: Association Professional

I'm back in my home state for a little bit, in the city of Austin, Texas! It feels so good to be here. Here's the weekly hour and mileage update: ~769 miles from Denver to Austin by bus.

~5806 miles traveled overall.

~83 hours spent traveling overall.

And here's the trusty weekly map update:

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Haha that map is looking a little messy! This week, I'm working with the Texas Society of Association Executives (TSAE) as an Association Professional! I know you probably don't understand that job title because I had issues of my own before actually working with the company. Let me try to help.

Every job is a part of an industry. Every industry has an association for it. Some examples:

Park Ranger --> National Recreation and Park Association

Teacher --> National Education Association

Facility Manager --> International Facility Management  Association

Some industries have state-based associations, country-based associations, international-based associations, or a combination. If you take time to do more research, you'll quickly find out that there is an association for nearly everything. Associations are a wonderful way to network with other professionals in your industry, to spread awareness about your industry, to be kept abreast of the latest developments in your industry, to improve your industry, etc.

Associations have so much power and potential for personal and communal growth. The funny thing is that if you're not in an association aka not an association professional, you may have HEARD of the word, but you most likely have no idea what associations do, much less how influential they are. TSAE is an important association, because it's the "association of associations" in Texas. In other words, it's "industry" is the association industry, so its main goal is to provide education, awareness, networking and many other things for associations. So, if there is an association for nearly everything, the "association of associations" handles anything that has to do with nearly everything. I hope you're less lost by now. In short, I'm working in the big leagues right now. TSAE ain't no joke. Go me.

When I decided to take on this job for a week, I had very limited reasoning in mind. I say this in retrospect. First, I remembered Sean's experience with this job over two years ago, which he described in his book. Then, I noticed TSAE was on the list of OWJ-Friendly Employers that Sean gave us as we were choosing jobs for the program. There was a note next to the TSAE employer listing that said "would be better than last time" - meaning that the proposed experience would be better than when Sean went to visit.

Of course I had to go after reading that.

It wasn't easy getting to Austin though. I had an altercation with a smug bus driver about my luggage, missed my transfer bus because the smug bus driver put us 45 minutes behind schedule, and had to sit through the hollers and whistles of not-my-type-men during a 90-minute layover in Dallas. The last part wasn't surprising. Not because I'm confident, but because I've had a Greyhound layover in Dallas before. And I've live there for 22 years.

I arrived in Austin 100 minutes late, and was met by Beth Brooks, President and CEO of TSAE. What a calming change. I came off the bus feeling beaten, emotionally and physically. When Beth opened her vehicle trunk for me to place my luggage in it, she pointed at a case of beverages:

"You like green, tea right?"

Tired, I laughed and smiled...but in talking with her on the way to her house, it was clear Beth had really done research on me. She referenced several of my blog posts, which prompted some good conversation. At one point, she indicated that she had an extensive background in swimming and offered to give me lessons. I immediately began to relax because it was nice to know that someone had invested time in me before even meeting me in person, the same way in which I would show interest in someone else. We both like to do our research!

Beth lives with her husband, David, and her 16-year-old son, Matthew. I feel special because she has let me into her home for an entire week. This is the first time that I’ve lived with a family unit and – have I mentioned how calming and relaxing my time in Austin has been? I think it’s because this week is the closest I’ve come to being with my own family again, being so close to Irving, having a family-related routine, and coming to a house of two parents and a younger child after a full day of work. It reminds me of my own family members. I miss them.


When we got to the Brooks' house, David was close to finishing dinner, which is around the same time every night. I've been recording the meals so I can reproduce them later! Good culinary ideas. After a good discussion about travel, food, and diplomacy, we (play the Wii, then) all slept.

The week began strongly. Beth had an important training session to give early Monday morning at 8am. She wanted me to attend, but she let me sleep in first. While I was beginning my sixth one-week job, Matthew was beginning his first day of driver's education! Cute, right? David had to drop him off around 9am, so I rode with them. Dressed in business professional attire, I sat in on the meeting, which lasted until close to noon.

During the meeting, Beth was being a huge help to the American Association of Equine Veterinary Technicians and Assistants (AAEVT). If I remember accurately, they were in the process of building up their association to full status, and were in need of some guidance. Beth knows her stuff. She has been in the association business for a long time, having been with the Texas Dental Association and Texas Pest Control Association before joining TSAE. The meeting was almost four hours long because it takes a lot of work to run a successful association. Many topics were discussed, such as how to prevent a board of directors from failing, how to dissolve situations of interest conflict, and how to choose and develop an effective organization spokesman. I took a copious amount of notes, and even took note of Beth's speaking technique. Can't go wrong with chunking!

After the meeting, I met Josh, Shirley, and Alaina, some of the TSAE staff. Josh is the Communications and Marketing Manager, which means that he oversees and controls all TSAE content, whether that be through the magazine, the website, emails, social media, PR, and any sort of technology. Shirley is the Business Development Manager, so she oversees membership and sponsorship, implementing tons of recruitment and retention methods. Alaina is the Membership Services Coordinator, so she - in her own words - "makes sure members needs are met." Whatever that requires, Alaina gets it done.

By about 2pm, I had received a rude awakening. I thought I knew about associations, but I had no idea. So much goes on in one day! Josh gave me my first task: writing press releases. TSAE has an annual conference, during which they give out awards. My job was to write the press releases for the award recipients! Josh has a strong background in journalism, so this sort of work is very simple to him. In giving me this task, he hoped to help me improve my writing skills, and understand the communications world more. He gave me a college journalism textbook to take some pointers from as well!

I worked on the press releases until about 4:30pm, and then Beth and I left the office. The family and I had dinner and discussion - this time, about sustainability. The night ended with the Wii and dessert.

My Tuesday started early with Beth - an eye-closing 7:25am. I dressed down-er this day, and went back to work on the press releases. I sat in on the weekly staff meeting around 10:30am. I have to admit that I was dozing off because I had no idea what everyone was talking about, but it was impressive to see how prepared everyone was to talk about their responsibilities. With a staff of seven, I suppose it's hard to get away with slacking off!

BETH BOUGHT US ALL TORCHY'S TACO'S FOR LUNCH. If you ever go to Austin, go to Torchy's. Wonderful tacos. Wonderful chips. Wonderful queso. Several of my friends (including me) have gone to Austin SOLELY for the food, and then driven back. Beautiful. THANK YOU, BETH!!!!

After lunch, I finished one of the three press releases. Josh and I went over his comments, and I went back to work. I finished all of them around 3:30pm, and spent the rest of the day organizing my excessive amount of one-week job notes. I then went home with Beth and ate dinner, played Wii, played guitar (Beth got out her classical!), and watched "America's Got Talent" with the family. I can't stand that program. Well, I suppose I can...because we watched it the next night too.

So What About You?

Do you have any questions about the association world ? Let me know, so I can get the answer for you! You never know, it could hold your dream job...

Until next time...


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Fifth Last Day: No Favorites, Just Fun & Freedom

I've apologized for inconsistent posting before, and here we are. I'm just going to stop with the apologies... I think I may have indicated in the past that I enjoyed working at the pizzeria the most out of all the one-week jobs. We have a “problem” now, because that is no longer the case. I could easily say the same thing about my time with Coda Coffee this past week. That it was my best experience. And though I've told you nothing about the job I'm in right now, I really like it too. I'm conflicted!

I've always been hesitant to identify favorites, and this is why. So, forget what I “had” said. This is not to say that I will not have a favorite in two weeks, just that I'm taking recanting a statement. Simply remember that once upon a time, Michelle was against coffee. Then she did that one-week job thing, and now she drinks coffee.

Change is real, and change can be good. YAY! :)

Recap Time.

My time with Coda was pretty routine, but no less stimulating. Wednesday through Friday, Tim and Jessica would pick me up around 7:45am as usual, and I'd head straight to the warehouse and get to work. I spent the rest of my warehouse hours on one order, Bane's project, that required bagging and packaging approximately 500 16oz bags of coffee beans of different varieties, whole bean and ground. The order took a long while, but I was happy that we finished it before the 2pm deadline on Friday. I seriously appreciate having a big task and a goal that I need to reach.

Embarrassingly, I ate out every day at lunch time. Brittany and Dean, sweet as they were, opened their pantry and refrigerator up to me for whatever I needed, but I always ended up eating the lunch I packed for breakfast. Marciano, Trestin, and I were then able to spend time together every day at noon. Workdays ended at 5pm, after which Tim and Jessica would take me home, and I'd wind down with a George Foreman Grill creation and some Lifetime drama. Last week had to be the most television I've watched since this beginning of all this.

It was on Thursday that I had that cupping experience that I talked about before. The cupping I did is not to be confused with the traditional method of Chinese medicine, and a video of it can be seen here:

This visual will explain it better than any words of mine could.

Friday was significantly slow, and as usual, to remain useful, I found a huge pile of dishes to clean. At the end of my last day, I forced everyone at Coda to take pictures, and I took home some coffee mugs and beans for Brittany and Dean! I was overjoyed at the chance to give back to them since they had helped me out so much.

As I had been staying in watching television, Brittany and Dean had had their own engagements to attend every evening. On my last night, they stayed in and Dean made us dinner :) Chicken fingers, fries, and broccoli - SCRUMPTIOUS. We watched When Harry Met Sally (please don't yell at me), my first time to see the movie, and then we went to bed.

On Saturday, I stayed in couch late and did some work on the computer. I then decided to go to the coffee bar around the corner for a cup and a bagel. I wanted to work on distinguishing tastes and aroma, put my coffee knowledge to work. :) I did some laundry, packed, and got some dinner before going out on the road. Dean packed me a nice little snack bag for the traveling, and I left Denver on the Greyhound, unlike the way I had arrived.

Question Time.

What did you dislike about the job and why?

There was very little I disliked about my time with Coda, except for two things.

  1. There were times where I felt I wasn't needed in the warehouse, when things were slow. While I did find dishes to clean, something I always love doing, I wish I knew enough to be able to help the guys out all the time, even in the tiniest way.
  2. There wasn't much overlap with job duties, and I think that would get to me after some time. When I was bagging beans, a few of the guys would walk by and joke with me: “You getting tired of that yet?” As I've said before regarding situations that most would find severely boring, I was completely fine with what I was doing, but I was only there for a week. I definitely don't want to be in a situation where someone who's been in the business for awhile comes up to me and asks me if I hate what I'm doing yet, because if I don't, I will soon. That's not too encouraging!

What did you like about the job and why?

I didn't like, I loved.

I loved the people. Everyone was relaxed from the beginning, mirroring the exact work atmosphere I had been hoping for and work the best in. Moreover, while everyone was generally calm, they worked hard. That spoke to me. The staff was also very real. When people were feeling hyperactive, they acted hyperactive. When people were feeling angry, they acted angry. And they expressed all those emotions in a sufficient amount of time. No dramatics. No excess. No hiding. That was really cool. Okay, I justttt realized that I worked with males the entire week. I don't want to say that this is a factor in the people-loving / work atmosphere but...your call.

I loved the passion. Tommy and Tim know their coffee, and they get excited about it. When Tim and I did deliveries on Tuesday, it was clear that his customers really respected him and fed off of his energy and dedication to making them happy. There were moments where I saw myself owning a coffee company, though that will most likely never happen. But that's how infectious Tim is! Tim is not only passionate about his profession, but he was also passionate about making sure he was doing all he could to make sure I got the most I could out of Coda Coffee with the Program. I truly believe he did just that.

I loved the family feel. Coda Coffee staff is a small but diverse group. There are a lot of different personalities within it, but the thing that really caught my attention was how comfortable everyone felt being themselves. I found out later it was because the staff is really close. There were many times where someone would bring up how Tommy and Tim treat their staff like adults, and how they take care of them as if they were their blood. About 90% of Coda staff knew not one thing about coffee before they came to the company. Many of them indicated that they fell in love with the industry not just because they needed the knowledge for the job, but also because the work environment made the learning process attractive and easy. Wherever I work, I want my experience to be like this. Hard but easy. You feel me?

What lessons did you learn from work at a wholesale coffee roaster / Week 5?

  1. It's okay to let others take care of you. As you'll find out later, I haven't REALLY learned this lesson. But I am learning it. Brittany and Dean were so so so nice to me. Besides the fact that they let me sleep at their place only a month after they moved in themselves (from Texas, mind you), they let me watch their television for as long as I wanted. They urged me to eat as much of their food as I wanted. They even trusted me to stay in their house alone, and left me a key just in case I wanted to go wherever I wanted. They wouldn't let me do anything to help them, and I didn't understand it. I'm still trying to. But this is the thing. If I were them, I would do the same thing for another if I could. In a heartbeat. So why can't I trust others to love on me? Someone help me answer this.
  2. REALLY try something and immerse yourself in it before you write it off completely. See Post: Dear Coffee: Friends ?
  3. Don't be ashamed. For anything. For anyone. In addition to their big hearts, I was amazed at Brittany and Dean's unashamed and consistent indulgence in unhealthy foods. Sour Patch kids, cupcakes, Hershey's kisses, graham crackers, Pringles, oven fries, chicken fingers. I should add that they work out, look like very fit people, and eat other stuff, but I was still just amazed. I feel as if it's almost customary in this day and age to provide some reasoning to those around us whenever we eat that ice cream late at night for the fourth night in a row. We feel guilty because we want others to know that our likelihood of gaining excessive amounts of weight is low, or if it happens, it won't be due to our poor eating habits. But who cares? Who cares. I'm going to eat more ice cream right now. Thank you, Brittany. Thank you, Dean. You've given me confidence to eat that second chocolate chip cookie for BREAKFAST.

(But yikes! Seriously, after my pizza week and this, I need to get my body rightttttt! Tubby Michelle, is that you?)

Would you do this again, as a more-than-one-week job?

Definitely. Definitely.

To Tommy, to Tim. To Jessica, To Laura. To Brian, To Todd. To Issac, To Seok. To Adam, To Trestin. To Bane, To Marciano. To anyone I missed because it's probable. If I liked favorites, you might have been one of mine. Thanks for being so authentic, informative, chill, and for bringing a new beverage into my life. What a great gift you've given. Thanks again.

Reflection Time.

Do what you do.

Do you.

This would be an example:


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P.S. No, "Teqnique" is not a word.

Dear Coffee: Friends ?

I have something to say. I have decided to keep coffee in my life beyond this week. I vow to research and find a cafe in the area that I'm in. One that I deem "good" using the information I've learned during my time with Coda Coffee Company, of course. I'm doing this because...I want to, and that's always a good enough reason, in my opinion. But let's go over the change in reasoning:

Reasons I Wasn't About Coffee Then:

  1. The need. I figured I would probably develop a dependency on the caffeine, and I didn't want to waste time in my life feeding an addiction. Let's ignore the fact that nearly EVERYTHING has caffeine, including medications, some ice creams, and even decaffeinated coffee! So, in theory, I could get "hooked" on anything if I ingested enough of it. Bummer thought process.
  2. The taste. It's horrible. Either I get my coffee "black," a state I always personally described as "black-nasty," or I get to put a ton of stuff in it (cream, sugar, and/or what have I) to alleviate the bitterness of the "black-nasty." Again with the wasted time and effort. I had one moment where I thought that I should be more open to coffee additions to ease into the drink, maybe go extreme in a sort of bandaid-ripping motion, but as I said, it was only one moment.
  3. The trend. I was a Psychology major in college. I like to know what's up, why people want what they want, why people choose to do what they do. I can't begin to count all the times that I've been with someone in the morning hours and I've heard variations of "I. Need. My. Coffee." or "Can we drop by Starbucks real quick?" or "If I don't get my cup of Joe, [insert name here in third person] is not going to be a happy camper today..." You get the idea. Me being me, I immediately ask what the point of coffee is, and why the person who is in desperate need loves this "coffee" thing so much. I usually get extremely poor and insufficient responses, most of which end with "I guess I don't know. Everyone seems to drink coffee, so I just started drinking it too, and now I can't stop." In my mind, I'm thinking...I think I get it now. You start a busy day (or at some point, any day at all), you drink coffee to get you through it. You end a busy day, you drink alcohol to celebrate getting through it. You wanna meet with friends or make new ones, you go out to eat. Consume, consume, consume. Not me! Also, while at a New York Starbucks, I saw a small child ordering a cup. The barista (thankfully) asked the girl how old she was and if the drink for was for her. The girl said she was eight, and that yes, "duh", the drink was for her. EIGHT! I was too shocked to wonder why her mother wasn't around. But please note that once upon a time, an eight-year-old girl ordered a venti chai tea latte at Starbucks. For herself. Small children drink coffee. Okay, what happened to soda and juice? WATER?
  4. The illness. For some reason, I believed that coffee was riddled with malady-causing agents. Whatever you can think of, coffee had it. Still not sure where I got this idea from...
  5. The upbringing. My family isn't about coffee, so I just never had the desire for the beverage. I suppose this reason alone would've sufficed. Sorry about that.

(Thinking back to periods of close-mindedness is always amusing, isn't it?)

Reasons I'm About Coffee Now:


I could talk about the health benefits of coffee, how the taste of "black" coffee is an acquired taste that I'm already beginning to appreciate thanks to a good "cupping" experience I had this week (and lately the idea of acquiring acquired tastes is a fun challenge to me...maybe I'll try sushi again for lunch?),  and how I feel a connection to the culture of coffee producers, making me appreciate coffee even more.

I could even talk about how it's important to drink other beverages (gatorade, tea) besides water because the variety will make your body stronger, as long as it's in moderation (1 cup of coffee a day would be my personal limit), how the people who have mentored me and been so kind to me through this Program have lives that revolve around coffee, and how I owe it to them to at least try and understand their passion more. I could talk about all of this. In detail. But I won't.

Simplicity should prevail here. I'm "about" coffee now because once more, I've found out that assumptions are life-drainers, and that we should seek to experiment, and experiment fully. More often than not, we may learn that we like way more things than we thought we did. We may learn that there is more richness to be had within something we had previously and so surely written off.

So that's what I'm doing here. I'm opening myself up even more and making a new friend. Coffee, when we first met...well, before we even met, I thought you were trouble. But I see now that I was wrong. You're not so bad. I could see us becoming good friends. Hopefully dogs, swimming, and many others can join us soon. You know how we humans can be. Sometimes it's hard to trust, but we're made to trust. So here I go. Please, forgive me for the pre-judgment. :)

So What About You?

What's so great about coffee? What's not-so-great about coffee? Explain your thoughts!

Gotta pack again...and I think I'll get a bagel and some "black-nasty" too ;) ...Talk Soon!


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OWJ Street Team - Success!

OWJ + 1 OWJ Program Participant + Reframe Marketing + 4 days of planning + 5 Amazing Volunteers = Dozens more people that know about One Week Job!

First off, I want to shout out a huge THANK YOU to everyone who helped make the first OWJ Street Team Event a SUCCESS!

For my week as an Event Planner, I decided to stage a pop-up event to help promote awareness of One Week Job.  We staked out a spot in Robson Square in downtown Vancouver, and started spreading the news!  We set up a table, handed out brochures, approached strangers, and did our best to get the word out there.

Good Things:

  • Table was good as a central location and place to talk to passerby - had a good number of people come up to the booth and ask us about what we were doing
  • The signage helped attract attention, ie: “I am Passionate About…” sign
  • We signed up (approx.) 10 new people to receive One Week Job emails, and win an autographed book/coffee-meeting with Sean!
  • A couple business people approached Sean and exchanged business cards – wanted to talk more about possibly working together
  • We handed out all 100 of our fliers
  • Had 5 volunteers show up to help!!  Amazing!
  • Not everyone is on social media, so it was a good way to share the program face-to-face with those who might not have found it online

Ways to Improve:

  • Been more coordinated with our branding – we wore yellow, but there could always be more yellow!
  • Had an activity/game to attract people
  • More volunteers
  • Hit more street corners, moved around more
  • More time - Started earlier and gone longer
  • More/larger signage, put them up around where we were located, at cross walks, etc.
  • Giveaways – something immediate other than the brochures that we could have given out. ie: candy, OWJ branded toy

In the end, I learned the basics on how to pull an event together, and trust me - it's TOUGH!

I seriously stressed out about this one...of course I wanted to make sure it promoted the OWJ name and didn't sully it in any way.  I'm also not that familiar with Vancouver, so it was tough figuring out where we should position ourselves, and where to get our supplies from.  Obviously, my time frame wasn't that flexible, as I had to get everything planned out in less than 4 days!  I had Monday to Wednesday to get everything in place...NUTS!

There was a lot of discussion with Sean and Ian, as they put in their 2 cents.  They were my "clients" - so I had to please them as best I could!

Karen from Reframe Marketing was great - she contacted media outlets, emailed her business list, and was even there the day of to hand out fliers for me!  I really appreciated her help - she kept reminding me to have fun and stay focused during the planning stage.

In the end, to be completely honest...I'm not sure that I'm cut out for Event Planning at this point in my life.  I've been struggling a lot with my stress-level, not just with this event, but with my life in general.  I found that planning this really freaked out both my physical and mental state; I had trouble sleeping, and I could actually feel my heart rate go up as I worried about how I would ever get everything done that I wanted to.

Of course my time limit didn't help things, but if I was ever put in charge of someone's wedding or a corporate event that actually HAD a budget and higher expectations, I'm not sure how I would cope!  This was a steep learning curve, but I suppose eventually I would learn to be more comfortable in this kind of a role.

It was cool to feel as if I was in charge...Karen totally let me drive it, and Sean kept telling people that I was his boss ;)  I loved the first part of the day, when everyone had showed up on location, and we had a little pow-wow to start things off.  To be in that circle of people, and know that everyone was there to help out and make the day a success, was extremely heart warming.

I know how lucky I am to have so many supportive people in my life - my family, my friends, and all the employers that have so kindly taken me on - it blows me away every time I think about it!

Have a great long weekend Canada!

- Amanda

"...I Need A Drink." - Week #5: Coffee "Connoisseur"

I'm disgustingly late with this post! I apologize! I meant to update last night, but I fell asleep 10pm. Scary. I AM IN DENVER, COLORADO! It is beautiful here. Map time again:

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And to keep that travel count going...

~1979 miles from Boston to Denver by airplane.

~5037 miles traveled overall.

~59 hours spent traveling overall.

The last time I was on an airplane was about a decade ago. My employer was so kind to buy me a plane ticket this week! Though I missed "Going Greyhound" (of course this is a joke), I was ready to try a new traveling method. I never mentioned the fact that my driver's license and health insurance card were stolen last Monday. I've been dealing with the consequences of that for over a week now, and it has been very stressful.  Losing these items is probably the worst thing that could happen to me, considering what I'm doing at the moment (especially during the one week I was flying and not Greyhound-ing!). Good thing that the "worst thing" isn't so bad.

In case you were wondering, Flying Without an ID is more than possible! Despite the fact that my afro was heavily untamed, I was wearing destructed jeans, a bright orange T-shirt, and a bright yellow jacket with a picture of a cat on the hood, all in an effort to be comfortable, the Boston TSA let me through the security checkpoint. Arriving three hours before departure and having other proofs of identity helped too.

Boarding the plane, I sat in the middle...something everyone on the plane seemed to be avoiding. The guy in front of me

sat in a row that already had an occupied window seat. He sat in the aisle seat. I made a motion like I was going to sit in his row and kinda waited...for him to move in so I didn't have to climb over his body. He gave me this horrible look. As if I was about to take his freedom away from him or something evil like that. I shrugged, and stepped over him obnoxiously as payback for his facial expression. Rude.


Well, I don't fly often, so I guess I'm not at the point where I can be picky.

As for the flight: takeoff scared me. My ears popped. I chewed gum.  I drank some water, slept, ate some peanuts, and Nabisco crackers. The landing was smooth, and as a result, didn't scare me.

After my baggage took forever and an hour to emerge from the carousel, Tommy Thwaites, owner of Coda Coffee Company, picked me up and put me straight to work. Can't waste the first day of the work week, I suppose! Some Coda coffee carts were in the wrong spot at the Denver Convention Center, so I helped Tommy move them from one space to another. I hadn't been in Denver for 30 minutes, and I was already exercising. I thought lifting my bags from the baggage carousel was going to be the end of it!

Coda Coffee Company is a wholesale coffee roaster. Founded by two brothers, Tim and Tommy Thwaites, Coda prides itself in being environmentally-friendly with all of its processes. I found Coda Coffee through the site, whose mission aligns with that of One-Week Job's. I read about the many companies that are featured on the site, and for some reason the name "Coda" stayed with me. Per my nature, I "went with it", contacted Tommy, and here I am in Denver! You can watch Pursue the Passion's video about Tommy and Coda Coffee here to get to know the business better.

With a team of about 13, tasks such as tasting, blending, roasting, bagging, flavoring, grinding, packing, delivering, selling, advertising, etc. come together every day to provide cafes and businesses with high-quality coffee. This week, I'm getting a taste of as many tasks as I can so I can get the full Coda experience. After Tommy and I finished moving the carts, we went straight to the Coda office. I was introduced to Issac, Adam aka Duncan, Marciano, Bane [Bah-nay], Trestin, Seok, Todd, Jessica, Brian, Courtney, Stevan, and Tim, Tommy's brother and Coda co-owner.

Introductions were quickly followed by some time in the flavoring room with Issac. He then gave me a brief overview about the difference between coffee blends and single-origin coffees while teaching me how to weigh and bag the whole beans. Things slowed down a bit after that, so I started up with my life questions with some of the Crew. Around 4pm, Tommy and his wife, Jessica, took me and my luggage home.

This week, I'm staying with friends of friends, newlyweds Brittany and Dean. They've only been married for a month or so, so I'm constantly worried that I'm not giving them enough alone time. They insist that I have nothing to worry about, and their actions convey that entirely. I'm having trouble being treated so well, but I'm slowly accepting it...mostly because my fatigue leaves me choice. After I settled in, they generously took me out to eat. The night ended with a discussion of "old tv shows" while watching current ones. Not even being in Denver for 8 hours, I had already decided that I really loved my job and accommodation for the week.

Yesterday, I spent a good deal of time learning about roasting with Todd, the Roast Manager. I learned how to grind coffee for espresso with Bane, after which I went on delivery runs with Tim in Boulder! The mountains were a pretty sight, and it was fun to meet some of Coda's customers who were happy to receive new product. It was also nice to get some good discussion in with Tim as we drove around. Traffic hit us on the way home so we ran out of topics...and ended up talking about politics and religion. Heavy. Just like I like it. :D

Tuesday ended at 4pm as well, and I was truly exhausted in a way that I had never been before. I think it was a combination of drinking two substances that I wasn't used to, mate and an ultra-spicy chai, lifting coffee, and being in the hot warehouse. I did manage to cook some chicken on Brittany and Dean's George Foreman grill. THAT THING IS AMAZING. Someone should have told me about it earlier!  I cooked in an empty house, because my hosts were out at a movie. I wanted to wait until they came back so they wouldn't have to be quiet, but I couldn't make it.

I passed out to Kathy Griffin.

Today, I'll be doing my normal bagging, lifting, and product-pulling, but I'll also be coffee-tasting with Tim...maybe even making some drinks! I forgot to mention one more thing...that I know nothing about coffee. And I don't drink it. I always liked the smell, but that was about it. Half the world drinks coffee, and I never understood why. As a result, one of my goals with this Program was to find out. I'm breaking down some of my false assumptions, and am on my way to stomaching my coffee black, MHM!

There is a mountain (get it?) of information when it comes to coffee. I am not yet in a position where I can explain what I've learned so far. Right now, I'm just trying to read, watch, and remember as much as I can, so the next time I go to a coffee shop, I don't have to ask the barista what a "mocha" is. Small goals can bring big victories. Oh, and did you know that Denver has 300 sunny days a year? Neither did I. I haven't been to one cold city during this journey. I definitely thought the opposite would happen. Darn you, Summer! I don't want it to be freezing, but it'd be nice to not sweat for a whole week.

A woman can dream...


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Fourth Last Day: Don't Forget Lonely, Don't Stay Lonely

Tomorrow, we'll be halfway there. Officially. Everything has been crazy fast. I can't think of one moment where the time seemed to drag on. Nope, not when I was staring at a computer for 8 hours a day. Nope, not even when I was stuck on a bus with a blown-out tire for four hours, fifteen minutes away from Job #2.

Well with the bus, the looming possibility of a riot of people who "just can't take it anymore!" was secretly thrilling and hilarious to me. So maybe that situation isn't the best example.

There are seconds where I wish I could fully comprehend the passage of time, but then those seconds fly away because I'm too busy living those seconds, filling those seconds with memories that matter. I suppose the only thing that I can do...that I can keep stop. And give thanks. In any way possible. I think I can slow the clock this way. Just a little bit. Sufficiently.


Recap Time.

I've had the privilege of being able to stay in Boston for two weekends, because most of my sight-seeing has happened during those times. With another 35-40 hour/week job, I hate to finally admit it...but... *AHEM* I love staying in, as long as I have the option of going out. Of course, every week is different...but the trend is there. I'm a homebody! Marsha really isn't, and I didn't want to cramp her style, so most nights she would go out (though she felt terrible about it), I would stay in...and if I was awake when she returned, we'd talk a bit.

Thursday night was a little different. Marsha and I went to restaurant called Joe's American Bar and Grill. Lately, I've opted for sweet potato fries instead of french fries, and I'm VERY happy with my switch. Our food was scrumptious and the free dessert, a Charles River Pie, was insane:

Our waitress insisted that it was "Marsha's birthday," so we found ourselves in a situation where we felt guilty if we didn't finish the whole thing. So we did. Guh.

Friday brought my last day of work. Since it was my last day, Manager Roberto let me make the sign for the slice of the day. The sign usually consists of the phrase "Slice of the Day," a description of what the slice of the day is, some picture, and some quote.  Most commonly the picture is of a rap group, with a rap-related quote. When Roberto put me on the task, he left me with a google search for "biggie quotes." I tried my hardest to keep with the theme, but no grills, chains, or rap lyrics stuck with me. I wanted to add a little bit of Michelle humor too, so I ended up with this (on the right):

Several people laughed and commented on my artwork, but it only lasted an hour, after which it was quickly replaced by the General Manager. Something about it being inappropriate. Of course I understood. Mistakes, mistakes! :D

At the end of my last day, I took home a specialty pizza:

1/2 Brendan's Buffalo Chicken: "The classic combination of fresh buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, sliced tomatoes and fresh garlic."

1/2 Harvard Street: "White pizza, combines buffalo chicken, blue cheese and mozzarella."

It was raining so heavily as I left the pizzeria for the last time, that my shirt, shorts (both items of which I still hadn't laundered), and purse were drenched when I finally got to Marsha's apartment. The pizza boxes were affected to some extent as well. I had to let some slices go unfortunately. I was so worn out from the week , the rain, and cleaning up from the rain, that I just went to bed early.

Yesterday (Saturday), Marsha and I did some eating and shopping. I broke down and got a suitcase, because the duffel bag I've been carrying for the past four weeks was on the way to doing serious damage to my back. We ended the night at the movie theatre for some film-watching. I would say that the movie we watched is one of the best movies, if not the best movie, of the summer. Refreshingly real. I want so bad for the  movie to hurry up and become old and forgotten, so in the future, when someone asks me what my favorite movie is, I can say "[insert movie title]" and they can say:

"Ooooh...yeahh....GOOOOOOOOD one!"

That's all for my assessment. After the movie, it was YouTubes then sleep.

Today was a simple, lazy day. Sleeping in, laundry, and the beach. The weather was sweltering when we arrived, but it turned pleasant as time went on. Those there for tanning were disappointed. Since that didn't include me, I had a good time (chuckle).


Question Time.

What did you dislike about the job and why?

  1. "The boss is here - look busy!" syndrome. I don't understand forced distress, so watching the staff freak out every time the Upper Crust top-dog walked into restaurant wasn't something I did well with. I worked really hard as an Upper Crust employee because I enjoyed making the customers happy and I enjoyed the job, so I didn't see the point in stressing over looking busy when I already was. It was hard to stay calm when everyone else was on edge, though. Reminded me a little of my job last week...
  2. Having a boss-boss. To branch off point number one, I may have issues with authority. This again brings up the idea of "looking busy." It seemed that the few moments I would stop to look around for what I could be doing, a manager would catch me and get on me personally to do something, implying that I was wasting time thumb twiddling. I've had this happen to me many, many times, and it's one of my peeves. I was eager to receive these comments at the beginning of the week, because I honestly did not know what to do. But when it continued until the end of my stay, it became harder to deal with, and felt somewhat counterproductive.
  3. Low spirits. This point  branches off point number one and two. Wherever I work, I would prefer the place to be mostly relaxed, and full of communication. There were one or two days where the entire staff was in a horrible mood, and it really soured the restaurant atmosphere. Some customers felt comfortable enough to mention to me that they noticed the  mood. I found it astounding that customers could sense what was going on.  This isn't to say that bad moods shouldn't be experienced in the workplace, just that they should be addressed and that employees should feel comfortable enough to express what they are feeling. In addition, those higher up should be observant to notice when their employees aren't 100% themselves. Vibe is everything. Whether the vibe is negative or positive is up to everyone involved, but ultimately to those who have most  control.

What did you like about the job and why?

  1. Hyper-productivity. This was my favorite part about the job. There was always a table that needed to be wiped, a trash can that needed to be emptied, a water jug that needed to be filled, etc. Something or someone always needed help. The days flew by, and I loved every minute of them. At the end of the day, I felt as if there was no doubt I had earned my "wages."
  2. Teamwork and Trust. It is impossible to do this job alone. I really appreciated the fact that I could constantly ask for support and receive it quickly. There was never a time where I felt as if I was overloaded or overlooked. This sort of relationship is  really special.
  3. Customer service. See Post: It Starts With Me
  4. Different cultures. The entire kitchen staff and a good lot of the counter staff are from Brazil, and I found it stimulating to witness the way their conversations took place, even if I didn't know what was being said. I also found it fun to interact with them personally.  A lot of these interactions kept the atmosphere upbeat.
  5. Free Pizza. I've never eaten this much pizza in my life, and that's just fine with me.
  6. One-Week Job Support. The Upper Crust Pizzeria is wonderful because it was the best at taking a special interest in making me a part of their team. I truly felt as if they were supportive of both me and the program. Most of all, my experience felt honest, which should be evident in both the pros and cons of my time with the job. I really cherished the entire time I spent in Boston.

What lessons did you learn from working at a pizzeria / Week 4?

  1. There's power in a stranger. See Post: It Starts With Me
  2. Don't Ask "How Are You?" unless you really mean it. I can't stand when people ask questions solely for formality, or worse they will continue on with the conversation without even waiting for your answer! All day every day, I made it a point to ask every customer how they were doing in a meaningful tone. Sometimes I'd switch it up, as long as it indicated that I was genuinely interested in their state. It led to some good, quick conversations and connections. Several people would make it a point to tell me goodbye when they left, and to let me know that they were leaving a tip because of my hospitality. Being genuine feels good and pays good, friends. ;)
  3. Don't work with someone you're dating. I witnessed it while working, and I can't think of one positive to it...personal opinion, though!
  4. In order to love well, you have to let yourself be loved well. (See Reflection Time.)
  5. Don't doubt other people's charity. (Marsha's words!)
  6. DO NOT feel embarrassed by your mistakes. Apologize when necessary, laugh, and move on. This kept my experience positive, even when other staff members were not in the best moods. There were COUNTLESS times that I messed up, that I met with annoyance at my actions, that I was teased, that I did something inappropriate, that I...did something wrong. I smiled and laughed first, addressed the mistake sufficiently and efficiently, and moved on. It helped tremendously. Stay humble, y'all (this contraction has been getting me in trouble with the Easterners. I don't even use it much! Curse you, Texas)!

Would you do this again, as a more-than-one-week job?

Yes. :) That response is completely instinctive, so know that it's real, despite all the negatives I discussed.

I had an unparalleled time with Job#4. A big thank You to Roberto Rosa and Barry Proctor of The Upper Crust Pizzeria - Newbury Street. You both believed in me before you even spoke to me, and that is the type of risk, the type of FAITH in people that not many businessmen would have employed. Bless You both for the opportunity you gave me. I hope I didn't disappoint!

And to my great friend, Marsha...well, you know how I feel about You. Text me if you don't...


Reflection Time.

This week was both the hardest and best of my time in the Program. I think the emotional aspect of the Program has been sneaking up on me. I've been so busy being thankful, that I totally forgot to be honest with myself emotionally. I think it's easy to fall in this way when you're so busy doing so many things. The perspectives and comments from outsiders, while they can be so very encouraging, can also be blinding too.

So many people have contacted me, telling me how awesome a time I must be having, how lucky I am, how they wish they had done what I am doing. I love getting these words, because they keep me focused and positive, but I let them prevent me from thinking about any not-so-great emotions that can come from moving places week to week, and meeting new people constantly.

What Amanda, Kieley, and I are doing isn't easy. I won't speak for them entirely, because we're all wired differently. I can only speak for the ways in which I should be taking care of me. So let me say that today, I realize that sometimes I have felt lonely on this journey. During week 2, one of the Juice members, Alli, gave me a hug, and it left me feeling a little weird: Wow, I really needed that, I thought. I hadn't had a good hug in awhile, because I hadn't been around anyone I knew that well. It affected me.

I know now that I love meeting new people more than ever, but I sometimes need my own space. I have felt overwhelmed and tired beyond capability of social interaction. There have been times that I have stayed home not only because I was tired from work and didn't want to be tired for work the next morning, but also because I just couldn't meet  new people.

Ironically, it is during this week, while with a very close friend, that I realize all this.  I use the word "ironically", because while having these feelings of loneliness, reclusiveness, and ultimate frustration and confusion, I had trouble communicating them to Marsha. I had a good friend right in front of my face, something that I had been needing, but I was too confused to express my thoughts to her. Guilt was the root of all of this.

Subconsciously, I was feeling guilty for feeling anything but 100% positive and grateful for this experience. Part of me didn't want to disappoint someone I cared about so much, someone who had been rooting for me for so long. Someone who was letting me stay with her for a week, who wanted to have fun with me for a whole week. Because I never took the time to acknowledge what I was feeling, everything came to a head, and tension surfaced between Marsha and I.

So I say this week was the hardest. Not the worst. And it was the hardest not because of my job, but because of...well, everything. I eventually forced myself out of my comfort zone in yet another way, opening up to Marsha about things that I wasn't even sure I could explain well enough. The hardest thing then became the best thing, ,because this week ended up making one of the best friendships I have ever had stronger than ever.  We were fortunate enough to have received the chance to learn more about the other, and more about ourselves. So for all those One-Week Job skeptics out there who say a week isn't enough, it is. It is more than enough, and for more than you might think.

As I told Sean on the phone yesterday, even though I'm struggling a bit emotionally right n ow, leaving the Program early has never crossed my mind. This is how I know the growth is good. That's the difference between emotional harm, and emotional help. I'm simply the wiser at this point, and becoming  more so. From now on, I'll be checking in with my ENTIRE emotional self, just as much as I would check in with any of my friends. I encourage You to do the same, no matter what You are up to. You owe it to You. Please, don't forget what I have said here. Resilience is key.


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It Starts With Me

For the past four days (including today), I've eaten at least one Cliff Bar for breakfast, and a pizza slice for lunch. I usually take a box of pizza home for dinner, where I eat it happily while I do my thing(s) on my laptop. Today, as I was walking home with two slices of cheese and one "slice of the day" aka a FRESH tomato, FRESH basil, and FRESH mozzarella pizza slice, I passed by a much older, African-American man whom one would assume to be homeless. Let's call him "Cole." I've been trained from a young age to ignore homeless people for reasons which I'm sure you can come up with yourself:

- Homeless people aren't really homeless.

- Homeless people could get a job and a home if they just tried.

- Homeless people just use your money to buy alcohol. Brown bag, anyone?

- ...Homeless people aren't really homeless.

I don't think of these statements as I'm passing by a homeless person; I just pass by without thinking. Yep, I'm guilty of this. It's just easier. So today, I passed by. And as I continued walking past Cole, the sound...of the jingling...of the the cup...that Cole was holding...randomly caught my attention. I suddenly felt stupid. Not selfish, stupid. Of course!

I walked back to Cole, got down on my knees, pointed to the box as I put it on the ground next to him, and said:

"I hope you like this. It's for you."

He kept nodding his head, cheery, saying over and over: "Thank You, Thank You. Thank You, Thank You." Now remember that there were THREE slices in there, and they are huge...since I hadn't eaten the "slice of the day" yet, I was curious. Before I got up, I tore a little piece of the pizza out for myself:

"Sorry...I just want to taste what you're about to eat!"

He laughed and just kept nodding, smiling, and thanking me. I nodded my head, smiled back, stood up, and walked to Marsha's apartment, partial-pizza in hand. I took a bite. This is the best pizza I've tasted all week. Why the heck did i give this away-

Haha just kidding. I felt good. The pizza I was eating tasted so much better, knowing that Cole was eating it too. Despite my upbringing, I've always wanted to do what I did this afternoon. So many restaurants throw so much food out at the end of the day, and it's sad to think about. Here I am, fortunate enough to not only get a stimulating job in a stimulating city for a week, but to also get free food on top of that. Every day, as much as I want. I had to give.

I had to give.

Sharing with Cole made me think about why I like my job so much this week. It seems that the bulk of my day is spent at the register, taking in-person orders. That puts me at the front of the store, and it enables me to a prominent face of Upper Crust. I naturally take it upon myself to start small conversations with the customers about their days, what they want to order, and how their order tastes. In between taking orders, I sweep, and clear and wipe tables.

It's fun for me to see the surprise/joy in customers' faces whenever I talk to them, or when I rush to clean a table before a customer sits down (or after, haha). They see that I truly care about how they are doing, that I take joy in making the little time they are in the restaurant comfortable. And then there are those customers who basically want you to wash their feet, but that's just amusing to me. I'm finding that I truly love serving by giving people attention, genuine conversation, and a good, clean space to eat tasty food. I get to be responsible for giving people a positive experience with something that is necessary to our living, and that is huge.

There's also the fact that I know how it feels to be a customer, and it seriously makes me hyperactive when I encounter an employee who works hard and really cares if I'm happy. It also makes me angry when I encounter an employee who is rude and selfish. One of my BIGGEST pet peeves. And then there's the part about never having met the customers. I think I have an addiction to strangers. There's something intriguing about the chance to positively influence someone whose story you don't know entirely. You don't know how much your smile has affected them, but you smile anyway. It takes some sort of courage...some sort of humility. You just do good to do good, and you'll never know how far it'll go. That person could be inspired to, at the very least, smile at another stranger, and so on and so on! Good chains - world LOVE is possible. Believe this.

Now remember that serving doesn't make you a servant. Never let ANYONE treat you as if you are trash, as if you are below them. The Huxtables would probably agree (6:25 mark and on):

Tomorrow is Friday. :(


(The title of this post is yet another reference to a website I adore greatly.)

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"I'm in Food Shock" - Week #4: Pizza Lady

I have a confession to make. I didn't choose my job this week. That was part of the deal as a participant in this Program, but I just got lazy and decided to choose only seven jobs and make someone else choose the eighth.

Just kidding! Well, not about the not choosing. About the laziness. This week, I'm working at one of The Upper Crust Pizzeria locations in Boston, Massachusetts. More traveling, heyyyy:

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The trip on Saturday was my shortest at only four hours, ~217 miles. That means I've traveled ~3,058 miles by bus. So amazing.

I suppose I should explain why I didn't choose my job for this week. A friend of mine, Marsha, is in Boston for a summer internship. After Boston, she'll be off to Europe for the fall semester. Yes, that would be nine whole months of separation! We couldn't have that. We decided that if I got the One-Week job opportunity, I would make a serious effort to come to Boston for one of my weeks.

There was a moment where I had this crazy idea that it would be DOUBLY growing if I were to trust my job to another person. It would've been even more crazy to put my future into the hands of someone I had never met before, but I wasn't about that much risk at the time. I wanted to not only be surprised, but I also wanted to show my love for a dear friend by trusting her enough with something like this.

If you've been reading my blogs, you may have come to the conclusion that I enjoy putting myself in uncomfortable environments. I don't blame you. You're most likely correct. I don't know why I do it; I just like it. And besides, there are many instances where I'm slow to branch out. Remember that I'm a picky eater. And that I don't know how to swim. Oh, I actually don't think I've told you the last part. Ah, that's alright. More about that at a later time.

So anyway, Marsha, per her relentless and ueber-thorough nature, became an OWJ PR Rep for the weeks leading up to the first day of the program. She worked really hard to promote the idea and convince employers to take on someone else, whom they wouldn't even meet until the first day on the job! Great gumption. According to her, she encountered a little bit of the flaky, the apathy, the vague, and the angry during her search. She had her own criteria for job choices, all in an effort to - yes, you've got it now - help me become a better person. I choose my friends well. :)

I had no idea what I was doing on Monday when  I came into Boston Saturday morning. Remember how I decided not to sleep Friday night? Well, it was a bad plan because as soon as I settled into Marsha's apartment, we were off to see my employer 30 minutes later! Job #4 turned out to be at a pizzeria! I didn't really show it, but I was really happy. After all, my first employer who left me hanging was a pizzeria owner. Things worked out well. In choosing my jobs, it was very important for me to work in the food service industry. As one of my friends told me one day: "Food is a basic human need."

Saturday afternoon, Roberto, the manager, put me right to work. He had one of the employees, Courtney, give me an overview of how things worked at The Upper Crust:

Though exhausted, I already felt a part of the Upper Crust family. This was a huge relief, considering the week before. So far, I've learned about different beers and wines, how to take orders in person, how to cut limes/lemons, how to make sangria, how to write management letters, how to clean more efficiently, and much more. I'm hoping to convince Roberto to let me make a pizza soon! I'm done with my second day as a pizza lady (I work every day from 10am to 5pm), and I feel as if I'm really helping the business out. This means so much to me.

I'm a slow learner, but I'm determined to master as much of something as I can. The entire staff, including the guys who actually make the pizza in the kitchen, have been so patient with me. They tease me a lot (including some of the customers, sigh) when I mess up, but it's so obvious how eager they are to share their love for the pizzeria with me. That keeps me going unashamedly.

When looking for a job for me, Marsha said Roberto seemed the most enthusiastic about taking me on. She said he was impressed with the program and was willing to teach me as much as he could for the week. So far, he hasn't disappointed. I'm making so many mistakes, and it's...really really exciting. Oddly exciting. Every time I've done something wrong (and sometimes I repeat my mistakes), I get to learn why, and that helps me to do the right thing the next time.

Oh yeah, another thing. The best benefit to working at Upper Crust is the free pizza. I may be sick of pizza by Friday, but I'm willing to take that risk for the extra money in my pocket. The worst thing about free pizza is swollen feet. The day I arrived in Boston, the weather was so humid that after walking so much and eating pizza (lots of sodium!), my feet, especially around my ankles, swelled up.

When I took off my shoes and saw this, I screamed. It's okay, you can laugh. It was funny and dramatic. Marsha gave me a calm-but-slightly-judgmental look, made me lie down, and put an ice pack around my feet. I was going to show You some pictures of my feet, but I decided that was gross. We went out later that night, and my shoes barely fit when I put them on again. Frightening!

While Boston in the summer is ridiculously hot in comparison to the rest of the year, it's beautiful. Not surprising since  it comes with so much history. Marsha called it a "small town in a big city,"and she's completely right. I really adore it here. So far we've gone to Boston Public Garden, a jazz bar, Harvard University (Can you imagine being in summer school with a bunch of tourists walking in and out of the building? Some of the students gave us angry looks...), Fanueil Hall Marketplace, and the Splash Fountain at Christian Science Plaza, among other places.  Gosh I love the Splash Fountain. Perfect place for cute-little-kid-watching.

We went to most of these places by way of "The T." I think I prefer public transportation. I've never owned a car, so it's really nice to know that most of the people around me either don't have a vehicle or might as well not have one.

And then there's the fact that I won't gain tons of weight because I have to walk everywhere. It takes me 15 minutes to walk to work every morning. Unavoidable exercise. It's a sweet deal.

I smell like dough, which is serious, so I'ma go take care of myself.

Talk Soon!


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Russian Seattleite*, not Russian Satellite!

Seven hours ago, my fourth day of work ends. I'm waiting for the elevator. Stephanie, one of the Jed Foundation staff members, walks up to wait with me:

Stephanie: "This elevator is so slow. You take your time to say goodbye to everyone in the office, leave, and end up seeing them again seconds later because the elevator still hasn't moved."

Me: "'s slow. I don't know, I'm used to it by now. Doesn't really bother me."

Stephanie: "Yeah you seem like you're pretty patient."

Me: "Eh you know..." (smiles shyly)

Maybe you don't. What I'm trying to say is that I'm not that bad at this "9-to-5" thing! Patience is not a trait that would apply to me in every situation, but yeah, I suppose I can be pretty darn patient in a good amount of circumstances.

For the past four days, I've been sitting at a desk for ~8 hours straight, typing at a computer with RAM that has allowed me to complete assignments 20 times slower than I should, and without a personal water bottle or lip balm (I KEEP forgetting to purchase these items to help myself out) ! I've been working on a weak computer with a dry mouth and rough lips. Yeah...YEAH! I  must be patient! Maybe that's what Stephanie was referring to.

Then again, I'm only doing this for a week. And then there's the fact that I don't know if my habits (not just at work) this week have to do with patience at all. When I think of patience, I immediately think of waiting. Patient people are good at waiting. What are we waiting for? Why are we waiting? Is it because we don't like our current situation and we want something better to come along?

That was a little bit of my transparent brain for you.

I've been thinking about the job, and my time in New York. I really like that I have always had an assignment to work on this week. There's been no hesitation to ask for another task because I've finished another assignment shortly after it's been given to me. Each task has taken me some time, and I feel accomplished after doing them. There hasn't been one time this week where I haven't felt as if I was useful, and that's really kept my focus and confidence up.

On the other hand, while I've been productive at work, I've been finding it hard to do anything after work, something I touched on in my last post. I feel done with the day after 6pm. I really like sleeping, which is a big temptation for me after a full day at the desk. A big temptation, and a big no-no when living in "The City that never sleeps!"

I believe the major problem I've had this week is that I've put pressure on myself to "live it up" here in a way that other people can understand, when I've been so very happy in my own way. On my way to and from the B&C each day, I stop from time to time to listen to someone playing their instrument on the street/subway.

I stop at the park to watch a bunch of kids play a soccer game.

I stop and observe Anne's ethnically diverse group of friends while at a bar, and how a lot of the other friend groups I've seen around town are the same way. I then grin uncontrollably. Frankly, I'm not used to seeing this sort of thing so frequently.

I stop to eat at a good pizzeria (I believe people have forgiven me for the  McDonald's by now), meet someone new, and end up hearing a part of his life story:

I stop and take a deep breath. The air isn't always good over here (chuckle), but I'm happy to be breathing.

I realize that I can do these things anywhere in the world, but that's what I like about the week I'm spending here in New York City. I've been doing these simple things (instead of going to every historical joint) in new, amazing places, but I find that beautiful. The City feeds me back something fresh, in its own language, and I hear it, I FEEL it loud and clearly. I get to just "be" in a new place. There's no pressure when I'm being me. Now don't get me wrong, if I were in a more flexible position job-wise and was subjected to more peer-pressure, I'd probably be doing a  few more touristy things.

But I'm just trying to conclude something here. I don't think I'm patient at all. I'm not in a hurry either. I just feel happy. I feel happy to be doing what I'm doing, and to be alive. Grateful. I feel grateful. I'm not waiting for anything (the perfect job, the perfect time, the perfect place), so no, I'm not really patient. I'm just living. Trying to make the best of where I am as much as I can, with what I've got. That's all.

Am I making any sense? I hope so. Either way, let's talk more about this next work soon! Had to talk this out.

Thanks so much for listening. It helped.


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"Mind The Mind"- Week #3: NonProfit Worker

I'm in New York, New York now. :) I've traveled ~679 miles this week, and ~2841 miles overall. Here's the trusty visual again:

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This week, I'm working with a nonprofit organization called the Jed Foundation. Their mission statement:

"The Jed Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization working to reduce the rate of suicide and the prevalence of emotional distress of college students."

This job is my first traditional one, for I'm working 10am to 6pm all five days. I have my own desk and computer too! The work that the Jed Foundation does is personal for me. Having experienced mental illness for most of my life, one of my focuses in life is to do all that I can to remove the unnecessary stigma that follows it. I made sure that one of my one-week jobs would give me knowledge to keep me on that path.

As far as my tasks, I'm doing my part to help move some of the Foundation's projects along. I expect that each day will be similar, and I'm okay with that. As long as I'm helping a cause I care deeply about in any way, I feel happy. I do have a hunch that the staying-in-an-office-all-day bit will not be my favorite thing, though. However, in addition to the Foundation's mission, I chose this job because I wanted to experience what is customary in careerism. It's good to question the normal by doing unique things, but it is also important to still experience the normal. That way, you can say you've "done it all", that you've made an informed move in regards to your future.

So about the actual CITY I'm working in.

I got into New York around 11am on Sunday, and was amazed at the size of the bus terminal. I later found out that the Port Authority Bus Terminal is the largest bus station so my awe wasn't exaggerated. Outside, I found a taxi quickly. The driver turned out to be Ghanaian! Having a cultural connection is always nice...but so is having good communication. He told me he knew the location of my lodging, but his driving conveyed otherwise.

So in the first minutes of my first visit to New York City, I was giving SOMEONE ELSE directions.

Had I not taken action, my fare would have been outrageous. Whether or not he was in denial or trying to steal my money, I'm glad I spoke up. I cannot lie; it was a confidence booster. :)

I arrived at my location a few minutes later, where I finally got to meet the owner of the Bed and Coffee (B&C), Anne. Anne is a charismatic, kind-hearted businesswoman and painter who is letting me stay on one of her couches for free. She helped Sean in the same way during the Project, so I am grateful to him for the connection. Harrison, Anne's assistant, gave me a tour of the place and gave me some helpful tips for staying in NYC. He's already made me aware of events going on so I can make the best of my stay. Very hospitable guy.

After I got settled in, a couple of us went to watch the World Cup final. You know how that ended:

I decided to take the Subway to work, to make the next morning smoother. I'm slow with directions, needing to physically walk/drive the path, so I'm hoping to confidently navigate the MTA by Friday. I successfully made it to work and back, sat at a lovely park for awhile, ate dinner, showered, and passed out in couch. I seem to be doing that a lot, passing out from the day. I think that's good. The good-tired, not the bad-tired. It means my life is going well. :)

Yesterday, I made it to my first day of work with time to spare, and Stephanie, the Foundation's Program Manager, put me right to work. I spent most of the day looking over website content, which kept my attention for the entire eight hours. If you haven't gathered already, I'm a real nerd when it comes to information search. After work, I had dinner...which was a huge mistake.

I ate McDonald's.

I ate McDonald's in New York City.

I don't know how, it just happened! Never again, I apologize (to whom I'm not sure)!

When I got back to the B&C, Harrison told me about this great live music show going on that evening. He wasn't forceful, but after the McDonald's error, I could see that he was trying to gently push me to get the heck out of the B&C and actually do something New York.

Though I meant to go out like a young person should, I accidentally fell asleep until this morning.

Sigh. Two strikes.

Currently, I'm back at the B&C from my second day of work, during which I did some research for a new project and a new website concept. I'm determined to do something this evening. It's not every day that you're in "The City"! I can sleep when I'm not awake! Which should be next week. Send me peer pressure vibes please.

So What About You?

Why Do You think I'm so terrible at being in New York for the first time?

I'm joking with the question, but You can answer it if you want. I'm embarrassed and disappointed in myself. Feel free to laugh at my ways...

Talk Soon!


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