Thursday, March 27, 2008

Is it a baby, or a... I don't even know what

I make a point of religiously reading the posts over at Chicagoist. Mostly, I read them because I think they kick ass, and they always manage to hit the nail on the head about the nuances, quirks, annoyances, and bliss of living in this city (the other editions are great as well, and I've been reading SFist in preparation of my move). What kills me, today at least, is their knack for finding some seriously hilarious shtuff in the news, such as today's gem about bringing your precious baby into the big, bad city.

I find it hilarious. First of all, the advice is WAY off. Why do you need to stay on Michigan Avenue? There are much better places to stay, without staying with relatives as they suggest. Most people's relatives live in the suburbs, not the city, and then you would have to deal with the dreaded, dirty public transportation! Portillo's as the only dining suggestion? Come on people, Chicago is really turning into an incredible culinary city that even I can enjoy (for the most part, though I eat far more than my fair share of Logan Square tacos) on my part-time, nonprofit income... although by all means, have a beef sandwich and a hotdog dragged through the garden at Portillo's. But the really hilarious and infuriating part of this article, and supposed issue, is the way in which people coddle their children! Am I of a dying generation of kids who played with bugs, ate dirt, and had some crazy city experiences?

Let the kids touch some germs on the L. If your hotel isn't one possessing some special kid-friendly package of toys and babysitters and flying cribs, get over it. Of COURSE kids will like the aquarium, the museums, the planetarium, Navy Pier, etc. Culture your kids, let them get a little dirty, and let them live a little tiny bit. Who knows, you might even have a little bit of fun yourself.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Careful what you wish for!

Well, my dream employer just called to say that I am one of two candidates being considered for a Research and Stewardship Associate position... letting me use my writing and research skills that I'm using in PR right now while letting me get my foot in the door of the development department in what I consider to be the premiere artistic institution in the country. This would give me the experience I'd need to get into a top arts-based MBA program.

I would love this job. I also think I'd love the job at 'best place to work'. I'd also probably love the three other jobs I applied to today (at this point, I'm going to love a predictable schedule, feeling like I'm accomplishing something, having benefits, and getting regular paychecks). So, what to choose? And how important is money to a girl looking to move to an incredibly expensive city, with hopes to purchase a condo with her boyfriend soon, with future hopes for marriage, travel, etc? We're talking a difference of up to 20k here. What to do if I'm put in the position to choose?

Grrrr. It's all happening at once right now, after almost eight months of searching.

Ten days without words or movement...

So I'm giddy right now, which I'm attributing to the ten minutes of nice weather we had this morning, and the fact that 'best place to work' finally got back to me about when and with whom I'll be interviewing in step #67 of the hiring process. Also, its because I'm rather chuffed to find that my favorite blogger, Kate Hutchinson, has been reading my blog. Nick led me to Kate's blog a few months ago ("hey babe, look, someone else is trying to find a job and trying not to sell out"), and I've been an avid reader since. And while I'd love to just talk about her for this entire entry, that is not the point.

Yesterday Kate was blogging a tiny bit about the wonders of going to the gym, and I couldn't agree more. My gym obsession began in my teens when I was trying so hard to still fit into my tutus for ballet, but a serious foray into yoga made me start re-thinking the true aim of physical fitness. In college, I found that working out centered my mind, calmed my jitters, and energized me. Now it has become the constant and controllable factor in a life that includes an erratic schedule at a crazy job, a de-humanizing career search, and equally persuasive parents and boyfriend who live on opposite coasts.

Last night, at my usual Monday yoga class at the gym (my gym has great yoga, honest), the teacher had recently returned from an interesting retreat. It was ten days long, and the constraints were this: no speaking until the last day, no yoga (!), and one must sit perfectly still for ten hours each day, for 90 minutes at a time. She was positively glowing as she told us about what was the most physically challenging practice of her life, which is impressive considering this was coming from an extremely strong and disciplined yogi. Our practice for class was, naturally, based upon the principles of the retreat and was thus extremely difficult. Our asanas were held for several minutes at a time, completely without fidgeting and large adjustments.

What she explained, and what I found in this intense practice, is that the thinking shifts. Instead of thinking "Oh goodness, this is taking forever, this is never going to end, I need to stop" you suddenly accept "This is difficult, but it will end; this difficult position I am in will change at some point". Simple in theory, but difficult in practice, this philosophy is a sort of release and surrender to things in life which you cannot control but logically cannot last forever.

I went to sleep last night realizing that, logically, given my credentials and passion I cannot go career-less forever. My circumstances will change. Accepting these things makes it much easier to take.

It's been a while...

So it's been two weeks since I posted on this fledgling blog. Oh well. My excuse was that I was busy preparing for my trip, but it was really that I was feeling lost, depressed, and wholly uninspired. To be honest, that's been the general feeling for the last year or so, with a couple of random spurts of optomism.

It's been a rough year, and I've allowed the 'woe is me' feeling to penetrate and take over my life. There's really no excuse for that; I've never done it before, I'm not going to let it happen again, and the only reason why I let it happen is because it seemed like an almost acceptable time to let it happen. Thinking I had emerged from it a few months ago, I pressed on more seriously in the job hunt but have ultimately failed thus far because I lacked any sort of aim or passion.

Amsterdam completely changed this. I had never been to Europe, had only been out of the country once (rural Costa Rica, you should go), but Amsterdam just felt perfect. It is a beautiful city that is clean, organized, quiet, artistic, industrious, and just the right size. There is no traffic because there are no cars, just on-time-to-the-second public transit and more bikes than I've ever seen. The people are incredible: bluntly honest, thoughtful, very friendly, and extremely cultured. Quite honestly, it is my idea of the utopian city: the small but bustling center of a wealthy socialist country.

What got to me is that I immediately started imagining living there, and my priorities instantly shifted. My career goals were simply to be challenged while contributing to the success of the city, such that I could enjoy the government controlled 9 hour maximum work days, 20-25 days of vacation, and mandatory 8% bonus. To eat simple, organic meals of fresh bread, dutch cheese, beautiful vegetables, and great beer; to ride my bike EVERYWHERE, to walk with Nick and Elvis in Vondel Park in the evenings, to take weekend excursions to Brussels, Rotterdam, Paris.....

I've come home refreshed, knowing that life does not revolve around what you do from 9-5 (or 8-7, or whatever). Life is about feeling good about what you do during that time, and using your success during that time to enjoy your free time with the people and things you love, in a place that you love. I'm sure this sounds a little half-baked and dreamy, but this is quite a profound moment for this lost little puppy. So now, I say, bring on the job offers (which, amazingly, started to actualize themselves while I was gone). Bring out the boxes to pack my piles of books. Craigslist buyers, come get my furniture. And off to San Francisco (or Holland, or Singapore, or Atlanta, or...?) I go...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A hint (okay, a huge pile) of spontaneity

A funny thing happened today... I booked a trip to Amsterdam. I leave in exactly one week and 3 hours. Nick said "Hey look, flights are cheap. Let's have a little anniversary trip". I said "I'll talk to the parents" since A, there's no way in hell I can travel farther than the nearest convenience store on my budget and B, I wasn't expecting my parents to help out. That's the dumb part... they're SO happy to help me, what with me saving them two quarters of tuition, being a good kid, having an incredibly unlucky year, and just because they're truly wonderful and generous people. My dad said yes, have fun, thanks for the AMEX points. Sweet, right?

For alot of people my age, this probably wouldn't be a very big deal. A great trip at a great price... hooray. But for me, this is huge. I am (was?) an over-planner... I had my life plan at 3 (and followed it up until this past August) and have always planned everything out to a T. I plan the meals for the week, when chores get done, and my desk is a frightening display of OCD post-it-ing. So to say hey, I'm gonna leave the country in a week, is a big deal for me. I'm still in shock!

Perhaps I'm finally coming to terms with the fact that life is going to do what it wants, despite your best attempts to corral it. More importantly, I'm finding that this is almost always a good thing. Learning to roll with the punches is a huge step, and I'm looking forward to doing it more often...

Monday, March 10, 2008

The truth about helicopter parents

I've been job hunting. For a long time. The search has been 'serious' for the last seven months or so (aka as of the death of my dancing career), although I've been sort of recreationally looking ever since the first day of sitting on the couch with a swollen knee and a lack of good daytime TV. Inevitably, you get sick of looking at Craigslist, Monster, Careerbuilder, and Idealist, and start looking at blogs. Trust me, it happens (why are you reading this, anyway?). The whole career blog community is what I find most intriguing right now. Not for a wealth of advice or the holy grail of interviewing or anything of that sort; what cracks me up is the sensationalistic feeling of all the issues. Everyone is SO caught up in the ideas of Gen-Y vs Baby Boomers, helicopter parents, and other issues that really don't seem to be issues to me.

The way I see it, so-called friction at work between the Gen Y group and the Boomers is inevitable because these people are our parents' age. We are in the age range of their children. Naturally, there's going to be some transferrance, and your boss is probably going to yell at you not realizing that he's mistaking you for his 23 year old daughter who just ran away and married a tattoo artist in Las Vegas. Problems between Gen Y and Gen X? Come on, people. You naturally get testy with people you spend most of your waking hours with. It's human nature. When you find the person who doesn't make you want to go on a shooting rampage, hold on to them and marry them.

Helicopter parents are what really bugged me today. I had been reading Penelope Trunk's blog in an effort to become a bit more realistic about my expectations for a job, so naturally when she launched I figured I should read the blogs that she reads: 50 20-something-aimed, career-geared writers. One in particular (I forget her name) seems rather obsessed with helicopter parents. All these 20-somethings complain so much about their 'hovering' parents but the truth is, we did it to ourselves. We were the ones who wanted to do ballet, tennis, swim team, gymnastics, and honors choir all at the same time in fourth grade while taking 6th grade math and getting bussed across the district for the gifted program. So, our parents became impossibly busy chauffeurs. So we were spending hours of extra one-on-one time with our parents each day in the car, and naturally we told them what was going on in our lives. Too much, in fact. They knew our homework assignments, projects, and issues inside and out... and once they knew, its only natural that they made sure that we followed through on it all. So we did it to ourselves in becoming over-involved, super overachievers who made the mistake of telling our parents all of the things we needed to do. Our parents wanted to help and make sure we were successful in all that we were doing, so they hovered (a bit). So many people my age complain that it's their helicopter parents who are to blame for their lacking abilities to look after themselves, get a job, and for their absolutely crushing feelings of inadequacy. Nope, guys. We did it to ourselves. The quicker you figure it out, the quicker you can heal.

Of course, I have this 'suck it up' attitude right now because I lived through a pretty damn hard year and am still living to tell the tale. Also, I'm awaiting travel plans for an onsite interview for a pretty fun job at the number one place in the country to work...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Time to hang up the pointe shoes...

Last night, I went to see the State Ballet of Georgia (the country) perform 'Don Quixote'. Normally I shy away from the full-evening classical ballets, but the main draw last night was Nina Ananiashvili, one of the most prominent ballerinas of my time. I remember seeing her on posters and the covers of Dance Magazine when I was younger, and was excited to see such a legend. However, in my excitement (the ticket was also free... ah, the perks of PR) I forgot to do the math. She was already a very well known 'veteran' ballerina when I was getting serious in to this stuff in middle school...

So she's 43. She also has had an incredibly busy, brutal, physically taxing career. Granted, she also has a body well suited to the form (I'm sure she has a faster metabolism and less arthritis and cartilage damage than I do at my tender, ex-dancer age). But something was clearly wrong with her. Clearly, clearly, seriously wrong. We couldn't tell if it was her back, or a hip, but one leg seemed to not function so well. Furthermore, the corps de ballet was messy and soloists were falling left and right. I wanted to leave at the first intermission.

It all made me think, as I watched 18-year-old men in tights fumble with tamborines, that most people don't know when they've passed their prime. Or do they? It's like seeing people show up to interviews in suits that are 10 years old in both style and size, or the boss who refuses to realize he/she has lost control of his/her employees, or how Elvis thinks he can still jump up on my bed despite failing knees and ends up wiping out on the floor. And Nina Ananiashvili, bringing a huge ballet company and orchestra on a world tour for a gratuitous show of pantomime and pirouettes. Are they just oblivious, or do they know perfectly well what's going on?

I think Nina knows. Those legs don't go up as high as they used to, but gosh darn it she's going to do that Grand Pas de Deux in the third act with the faaaabulous music. While still impossibly thin, she's gone a bit doughy around the middle, but you bet your bottom she owns that incredibly sparkly scarlet velvet tutu. And despite shaky landings and marked jumps, she killed in the finale fouette`s, whipping off 'single single single double' for the first sixteen of the thirty-two. What's most important here is that the crowd ate it up. Standing ovation, applause every time the music paused, hoots and hollers, and plenty of people there just for her.

Was I impressed with the company? Not really. Have I changed my mind about story ballets? Certainly not (whoever thought villagers, tutus, bad pantomime, and erroneous characters made a good entertainment mix was crazy). Do I love going to the Auditorium Theatre to people-and-fur watch? Of course! But what I'm not decided on is whether or not old legends should give it up when they're not at their peak anymore. Any thoughts?

(side note, I remember now that Brett Favre has retired this week. We saw him through some incredible years, and a truly bad year, and then this last year was pretty darn good. Should he have retired sooner? Or kept going until he looked like a geriatric Brian Griese?)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

For Starters

First blog, so why don't I outline the basics.

1) Name's Victoria, 20-something years old. Graduated from Northwestern University w/ Honors in Dance and Philosophy.

2) Grew up dancing, and was able to have a short professional career. I had plans to continue well into my 30's, but my right knee had other plans.

3) Currently working in PR but trying my damnedest to get a more permanent, interesting job... and in San Francisco. What's in San Francisco? Well, 100000% less winter than Chicago, for one. Lots and lots of enjoyable, green, outdoors things to do. And Nick, the peanut butter to my jelly, the one person I've chosen to keep in my life consistently for what's become nearly 4 years!

4) I have a rescued Chihuahua named Elvis... today's our first anniversary of being together... and I'm sure he'll make some appearances on this blog. He's a rock star, after all.