week three

Third Last Day: Busy? Just Go to Bed.

Several people have informed me that too much time has passed since I've last written – I'm sorry for that! While I have been using my time for many other things (as always), that is not the reason for my blogging absence. It's been awhile because frankly, I've been having trouble figuring out what to say. In my first One-Week Job blog post, I said this: “I'll be talking about the jobs, of course, but the implications of my involvement in them will transcend the environment I'm in at the time.”

When I used these words a few weeks ago, I meant to convey to You that I wouldn't just be giving you a play-by-play of my work days, but that I would be asking questions that brought my experiences from the workplace into a universal place, one that You could easily access. Moreover, I meant do both things somewhat equally.

You may have noticed that I have given few details about what I was actually doing as a nonprofit worker. That's because I have very little to say about that part of the job, which is neither a great nor a horrible thing. It simply means that there are things to be to be said about why I feel the way I feel. This time around, things'll be much heavier on the question side and  less so on the task-oriented side. There is an opportunity for learning. I hope to shed some light on some of that “learning” in the "Question Time" section.


Recap Time.

Ah New York. I should've "pulled a Sean and Ian” and stayed for three weeks instead of just one! I don't blame them for doing so, because Anne truly spoiled me with her hospitality. The bulk of my NYC good times were with her and other B&C guests. I'm gonna miss the place, and the people. I have to go back so I can explore more! My last three days of Week #3 were nice.

On Wednesday, I was late to work for the first time. Courtney, the Executive Director of the Jed Foundation, arrived an hour so later into the work day, as he had not been in on Monday or Tuesday for vacation. I was given my third assignment of the week on Tuesday around 3:30pm, and was still working on it. I left at 6pm.

I felt an urge to (finally) treat myself to some foods, so I ate dessert at Pinkberry before heading to Lombardi's

The waiter was nice enough to take our picture!

Pizza, where I met a man named Alex. I introduced him to You on Thursday. You can see from the restaurant's website address that it's something special; it was the first pizzeria in the United States. I didn't elaborate on how Alex and I met each other, so here's the story I submitted on a forum I participate in:

i was waiting to eat alone at a pizzeria. Since I wasn't eating with someone, i had to wait longer for an open table. i overheard a server say that "two people are waiting to eat by themselves", and became confused. i then looked over the podium and saw that another man was also waiting to sit alone. i stuck my head around the podium, smiled and asked, "eating alone, huh?" as if i didn't know the answer already. He laughed and said "yeah" in response. Seconds later, as i had hoped, he asked "hey...do You mind sitting together? i don't. We'd probably get a table faster." HOORAY (i'm a little kid?)! i told an employee of the changed plans, we sat together, ate together, shared wisdom with one another, took a picture together, made a video together, and exchanged contact information in an effort to follow up. I can't tell you how pumped this occurrence made me. There's no harm in taking every opportunity to make a new connection, make a new friend.

Cute, I know. :D Meeting and eating with Alex was the best...yes, it was the best part of my time in New York. Something about connecting with a stranger spontaneously energized my spirit. It reinforced my strong belief in the power of stories, in our fundamental likeness as people, and in the too-common and unnecessary nature of fear and deceit.

Simply put, if we would just stop and talk to/listen to someone we've never met before, we might live a little more. We might learn a little somethin'.

I think we spend too much time fearing for and protecting our hearts. We hold back unnecessarily. When we do this, we hurt hurt ourselves AND others. I'm serious.

Wednesday night was a birthday celebration. Joe, Anne's beau, turned ____-years old. I joined Anne and Joe's friends, an eclectic bunch, at a bar that Joe used to work at. They drank, and I watched. We also ate some strawberry tort that Anne made. Yes, in the bar. It was HEAVENLY...I lasted until 12:45am!!!!!!!! My eyelids were quivering, but I did it! I went to bed smiling –   A SMALL IMPROVEMENT IS STILL AN IMPROVEMENT. :)

Everyone else went on until the usual 4am.

At the Jed Foundation, Thursday and Friday were much like Monday through Wednesday, including the tardiness bit. On Thursday, I reset my alarm one time too many, and on Friday, the subway decided to be 20 minutes late.

Oh Michelle.

Oh, I forgot about Thursday's meeting! I got to sit in on a meeting with the Jed staff members and two ladies from Slate PR, Lindsay and Shawn. The purpose of the meeting was to brainstorm an advertising campaign for a new website called “Transition Year”, aimed at promoting emotional wellness during the transition from high school to college.

The main concern was reaching out to the parents, since a common trend is that parents will believe in the prevalence of suicide for young adults, but they won't believe the statistics include their own children. Very sad. Many different methods were thrown out, most of which focused on piggybacking on the back-to-school marketing methods of other big corporations such as Target, Container Store, etc.

I was amazed at how good one of the staff members, Dana, was at coming up with social media outlets, and giving feedback on others' suggestions. There were moments where I felt like I was back in my account executive job from Week #1.

Thursday afternoon, I was STILL working on assignment #3. I wasn't joking about the inadequacy of the computer I used all week! Thursday evening, I ate dinner at another New York favorite, called 7a cafe. I ate a vegan black bean burger. I have to admit here that I overlooked the "vegan" part while ordering, so I was surprised when  I looked at my burger and couldn't find the beef HAHA....the "black bean" bit won me over. Nevertheless, it was a good meal. I got some writing and reading done at the restaurant too, so that was relieving.

Friday was really quiet because 3 out of the regular 5 staff members were out of the office, including Courtney. I said some lines up that I was late because the subway was. I took it upon myself to use my Starbucks gift card to get a grande black iced tea and a multi-grain bagel while waiting. I may have to graduate from green tea - the black iced tea was great! NOTHING beats a good breakfast, let me tell you!

Still working on assignment #3, I finished around 3:30pm and was allowed to go home early on my last day. My bus was to leave 14.5 hours later, so I decided not to feel guilty about leaving before 6pm. Back at the B&C, Anne pressured me into eating the last slice of leftover Strawberry tort, and then I took it too far and ate some of her rum cake too. Oopsies. You only do the One-Week Job program once!

Friday night being my last in the city, Anne was so sweet to take me out to dinner. Her daughter Janette joined us. We (She) was having trouble deciding between Ethiopian or Indian. We finally decided on Ethiopian, but the place had closed down! Apparently this sort of thing is common: As one business closes down or moves location suddenly, a new business springs up shortly thereafter. We then tried an Italian place, but the wait was two hours. Finally settling on The Mermaid Inn, a seafood restaurant, I tried octopus, calamari, lobster, and swordfish for the first time. Tasty.

As I told my friend Casey:

"Michelle is a picky eater, but she's trying! :)"

I didn't sleep Friday night in order to take advantage of the bus ride...which actually turned out to be a not-so-good idea. I'll explain later. Around 5am, I packed my things, walked out of the B&C, and caught the attention of a taxi driver right away. After all, it was Friday night. The bars had closed only an hour earlier. On the way to Port Authority, I asked the driver a few times if he heard me and really knew the location of where I needed to go. His responses indicated that I was angering him. I could've felt bad for repeating myself, but I didn't care enough. Let's not forget what happened when I got into New York City. You can never be too sure.


Question Time.

What did you dislike about the job? Why?

There were several things that I didn't like about the job, but I was far from miserable. The hardest thing for me was that I felt disconnected from the rest of the staff. I'm not sure I came at the best time, because unfortunately, I wasn't able to talk to Courtney very much. Being the Executive Director, he was my primary contact for the one-week job. When he was in the office, he was trying to catch up on the things he had gotten behind on while away. That made it hard to get some good video and discussion in, and I didn't want to rush anything. I wanted things to be comfortable, natural. There wasn't a time where I felt that was possible.

The job was basically 8-hour-days, all business. Any talk that went on was 90% business-related. Talk was pretty minimal otherwise. This environment wasn't easy for me. It got to a point where I got to be very subdued, where I felt that saying certain things at certain times would be inappropriate. Things were a little too professional for me, and it was more than the fact that I was the only one in casual clothing! I just think I was too out of place last week.

In addition to the small amount of discourse, I didn't like  that I was in the same chair for the entire work period. Ironically, I opted to push through the entire day without a break or a very small one, so I could keep the momentum going. In my mind, I had worked so hard to keep going at my desk, I didn't want to ruin it by going out for some fresh air. As a result though, I think I was already in the very early stages of losing my “spark.”

As I may have been uncomfortable in the sense that it wasn't a situation I would be in on a regular basis, my efforts to make the best of it put me in a sort of dangerous comfortability. This "dangerous comfortability" is characterized by a situation in which You tolerate Your existence to a point where You give up and refrain from questioning the alternative. You find your current state forever favorable to anything else.

What did you like about the job? Why?

I loved having something to do at all times. It was a positive change from Week #1 and Week#2. It made me feel busy, and in a way, kept me motivated in the experience. By the day's end, I had physical proof that I had worked throughout the day. I also liked that I got to read about a topic I find so serious in today's world. While I knew most of the information exposed to me throughout the week, I felt happy that I was using my time to read about something I loved.

What lessons did you learn from working as a nonprofit worker?

The people You work with can really determine how positive Your work life is. The Jed Foundation staff was nothing but kind to me, but as I said earlier, I talked to them very little because everything was focused on their own tasks, in their own areas. For me, I think I need not only to like the people I work with, but also to know them on a genuine level. I need to be joking around AND working with my co-workers. I need some times at work where I can hear their stories and get to know them better. I need my work to not feel like work in part because of the people I work with. I don't think I experienced this sensation enough in Week #3.

There's also the lesson in the importance of doing ALL that You do with a sincere effort, whether you like it or don't like it. Fosters good character and resilience.

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

I feel so sad to say “no”, but I can't really say “yes.” I would be lying. I would have no problem doing the job if it was the best option at the time, but if I had other options, I would not do this job again.


Reflection Time.

This job brought up the topic of “being busy” in comparison to “being productive” in my mind. In thinking about my duties throughout Week#3, I was reminded of my time in school. As a teenager, I went to a few highly-competitive schools. We always had many assignments due on the daily, and there was always a competition in discussing who did what and how much. There were several times where I would be up actually studying (and You know I like my sleep), and I would walk around the library to find that some of my friends were up as well.

Even though they kept claiming they were studying for a test 4 weeks or some ridiculous amount of time away, they were Facebook-ing, or even better, drooling at their computer. They were preoccupied with looking busy, or at least having a lot of things that they could say were on their plate. They may not even have realized it, but the evidence was there that to them, the key to success, self-worth, and praise was to be busy, too look busy. Their goal wasn't to be efficient, or truly productive. They were struggling to stay awake and keep their hard-working image alive, when they were probably better off sleeping.

Working with The Foundation, there were times that I was at my desk and I felt the need to tell one of the staff members that I was honestly working, that the computer was just slow. There were times where a staff member would pass behind me and my heart rate would increase. I felt guilty that I was wasting time at my computer, when really I was doing my assignment, and doing it thoroughly. In actuality, I was completely innocent.

Later in week #3, I started listening to my iPod so I could concentrate better, and I felt guilty for that too. I felt pressure to look busy, because being busy is something that others can see. I was at that desk, subject to observation and assessment at any time, within a certain time frame, so there was that pressure to look alive 24/7. Productivity doesn't necessarily operate the same way, and I think it's hard to have confidence in how efficient we are with our time when no one is looking. I prefer when no one looks, though. I want to go for that confidence.

While Job #3 wasn't the most enjoyable one-week experience for me, I still thank the Jed Foundation for welcoming me into their space. In doing that, they showed their support for my journey in self-growth, and for the One-Week Job Program and mission. I thank them for enabling me to find out what I don't like, which is just as important as finding the opposite. Again, remember that this is my personal experience, and I bear no judgment on the Jed Foundation staff. Nor do I bear any judgment on a "desk job" for other people. We are all different. We have different wants, needs, likes, and dislikes. Don't get me wrong here. I'm simply giving you my true heart when I talk to You.

So What About You?

What is the difference between “being busy” and “being productive”? Do You think there is a focus on the former when it comes to the workplace?

I had a great first day of work at Job#4. Can't wait to share some of the details with You!


Follow me on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook!

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: "Yeah...yeah...haha...it'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 time...got work soon! Had to talk this out.

Thanks so much for listening. It helped.


Follow me on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook!

"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:

// The Everlater widget requires javascript to work properly. You can view michelle's One-Week Job Program! or get your own free travel blog.

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!


Follow me on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook!