Would you rather have less work or more work you actually enjoy doing?

This question seems rather apt right now, as I sit on a flight home after 10 days vacation. Ten glorious days with my sister, who lives on the other side of the world, seeing four national parks, four states, and many different cities. Tomorrow I return to work and, like a subconscious stretch before a run, last night I dreamt non-stop about “the office”. I dream about Work all the time – I find it impossible to disconnect myself from my job. Ultimately, this is the American “live to work” culture, and I don’t mind it – I’ve always been a hard worker, and apply myself to every aspect of my life – but this time I made an effort to totally shut myself off from my working life.

I expected it to be harder and scarier than it was, and, although I know that tomorrow I will arrive at my desk to a veritable avalanche of emails, I have no intention of checking in tonight, either.

This time away, as well as the “quarter life crisis” I’m likely in the middle of, has caused me to re-evaluate my life. I like my job, I’m very happy with the company that I work for, and am by all means satisfied with my position. However, I would love the opportunity to work for a non-for-profit. Working in healthcare has opened my eyes to all the huge problems facing America, and how important it is to show support and give funding to the multiple not for profit organizations that dedicate their lives to better understanding, educating, or improving lives surrounding these causes.

I feel live a reverse of myself – or perhaps just a mirror of my quasi-liberal upbringing – I came out of college wanting to join a huge corporation and take over the world, and now I find myself wanting to “save the world”. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?

I keep thinking to myself, what would I give from my life to be able to achieve this dream? I have looked into various different volunteer positions, but the truth is that I would need to dedicate evening and weekend hours that, right now, my current job demands. Additionally, having two stinky, scruffy puppies that need their tummies filled, and a husband that doesn’t get home until 9pm, doesn’t really liberate time in my evenings. It’s the most I can do to fit in a 45 minute workout a couple of times a week. But I know that it’s something that I have to find the time to do – or rather, than I need to find time to do to scratch the itch inside my heart that tells me my life so far has been too easy.

Ultimately, the answer to this question is obvious to anyone, and I don’t know a single person that would say they would rather work 30 hours a week gutting fish (unless that’s your calling, in which case more power to you) than doing what they love. Because really, those of us that aren’t lucky enough to work what our heart wants us to work spend so many hours a week dreaming of our “ideal” job, the hours would negate themselves.

I also think it’s important to look at this question as brutally unfair in most aspects – how many people ever have this choice to make? I hope one day that I will be fortunate enough to be able to do what I love, but until then I am not going to be remorseful for the job I do have – there is no value in these “what ifs”, they breed discontent more often than they inspire.

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If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?

I’ve had a lengthy pause from my last post. 2012 has been quite a year so far. Some of you may recall my stating that I was going to train for a half marathon earlier in the year. It’s true. The “big day” was this last saturday, the 14th April. Well, I did it. Truthfully, the experience was a little disappointing for me, and I didn’t manage the time I’d hoped to finish in, but at least I crossed the line. I was expecting to be more emotional, but I was in so much pain when I crossed the line that I was just overwhelmed by relief that it was over!

The question today is about messaging. I’m in the world of marketing, and spend a lot of my time thinking about and focussing on what the correct message is for the right situation and audience. I’m also surrounded by people who are always presenting the best image that they can of themselves, and of our company. This is a trait that I am in awe of – I am brutally honest to a fault, and can’t contain how I’m truly feeling most of the time. When piecing together localized marketing campaigns, it’s easier to decide what the message should be. I work in the southern states, and it’s a safer bet that two people in the same geographic area will respond to the same anecdote than two people from opposites sides of the country. When putting together a national piece the challenge is harder, and a lot more difficult to predict. My experience has shown me that, the larger the audience the more general the message. Therefore, I have to consider than any personal message I would want to convey would need to be general enough to have a beneficial appeal to a wide audience.

This rules out things like “visit the North West Norfolk Coast” (A place a would strongly recommend anyone to visit, but is located in rural England). I’m not very political, and even the few political items that I have decided opinions on would not be things I would want to influence people’s decisions on. I’m not eligible to vote in the United States, and mostly I am glad of it; with the election this year most people I know have gone politics mad. My husband, formerly the most liberal person I know, has joined discussion groups and is considering becoming a representative for a republican candidate, and everything from his iPhone to his facebook is a walking banner for his own political opinions. I think that over time this is something he might regret.

I think that my message would have to be hinged on something I think it plausible and relevant for any person, regardless of country, gender, education, or age. It would need to be universally important to every person.

My first thought, thanks to Richard Curtis, is the message of love. Yes, I believe it is one of the most important things we can learn to do, and also learn to accept from others.  But I think that we hear this message a lot, thanks to Church billboards and hallmark cards, it’s hard to decipher true messages from propaganda.

But, I would still like my message to incorporate elements of love, and peace, and strength. And so my message for the world would be: Know your Inspiration. Sounds strange, maybe, but I think it’s universal. My thought is that if you know why you are doing something, and what you want to achieve, then you are far more likely to a) succeed, and, b) do something worthwhile. Do YOU know why you are doing what you are doing? Or are you simply following someone else’s motions hoping it will ring true for you?

When I entered the 8th mile of my race over the weekend I lost sight of my inspiration. It was what crippled me. By the time I crossed the 11 mile mark I was walking 90 percent of the time and thinking “why on earth am I doing this, it doesn’t matter”. I ended up feeling worse about myself at the end than at the beginning, and it’s because I lost focus on my inspiration. Even now, knowing this, I still find it hard to remember what my training was in aid of, but I know that if I had kept my inspiration close to me I would have had a much better and more positive run.

My message for humanity is a dream for an inspired world, where people work with dedication and passion, with a deep rooted belief in their actions. Perhaps it’s not original and, I’m sure, people will argue that it’s not even possible, but I genuinely wish our societies allowed us more room to act on our inspirations, and to see how that new energy fuels the world that we live in.

If you had to teach something, what would you teach?

Let’s preface this entry with a widely known small fact about me – my family are teachers. All of them. I grew up in a converted Victorian school “The Old School House” – literally, the “old school” house, not the “old school house”. That’s a common mistake. People looked at it and said “if that was the school house, where was the school”, and always said, “in the lounge, study, my bedroom and my parents bedroom”. One big schoolroom full of Victorian school children learning Victorian things. When I was a child we had some of the old school desks with the heavy wooded lids and the ink wells stacked up in the back of the shed. It was marvelous, really, to think about it now – but back then, to me, it was a very normal house.

My parents are both educated people. My dad has more letters after his name than I even remember, and my Mummy is one of the best teachers I’ve ever seen, having dedicated over forty years to the sport. My wonderful twin sister spent some time teaching in Africa, and is now starting her teaching career in England. A lot of people, including myself, assumed that I’d become a teacher too. I even got accepted into one of the best education courses, but decided not to go. It wasn’t my passion at that time, and I didn’t want to take that opportunity away from someone who really wanted it.

People have said I’m a very altruistic person for the way that I think, but I don’t see it that way – I think that everyone should always encourage others to follow their passions and dreams, and by giving my spot to someone else I felt as though I was encouraging that nameless person to achieve their dreams, giving them the gift of a happy day when they found out they had been accepted, and giving countless children the gift of a truly passionate teacher for the next forty years. All children should be taught by teachers that have passion, it is the most important “secret ingredient” to learning.

So what am I passionate about? What would I teach? The natural choice, and what I was supposedto go and teach, was literature. Of course I love it, I’ve breathed it since I was three years old, and I would love to whip generations of young readers into a frenzy over favourite characters that would stay close to them always like friends. I’d also like to teach classics. I think this is residual from my experience of having a very passionate teacher – Mr Chappell – who taught me classics with such fervour that I felt it was impossible to not love the subject. I still get excited by classical topics and themes, often hearing his spry cockney accent jumping in the back of my head.

But hold on… (and here’s the REAL point of my post)… don’t we all teach something every day? Don’t our actions, words, and attitudes teach people things about ourselves, our families, our cultures? “OF COURSE” I hear you shout in unison, “Of course that is what we do!”. Yes, we are all teachers, or promoters, whichever you prefer. I would rather think of myself standing a front a room full of studious young adults than yelling about coupons over a microphone, so I’m going to choose the label TEACHER.

And what do I teach? Well, I hope that I will teach people tolerance and diversity. This is the one thing that I feel as though I need to teach to most of the people who I meet. There is so much prejudice in the world, so much ignorance and fear, it’s frightening. I was lucky to be raised in a pretty open minded household, my parents didn’t use derogatory language towards any group or country, and were well travelled. My school taught me the differences in religion, and assigned equal time to learn about each religion, including Christianity. I thought this was normal. And I was wrong,seriously wrong.

This week there has been a photograph of two male soldiers embracing after one returns from deployment, and it has rocked the internet. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but for a group of people who are educated enough to read, write, and use a computer… most people are just so cruel. Whatever happened to “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?”. We live in a world of education and knowledge, where it’s pretty safe to say that any human being can look at any other human being and say “oh look, we’re both humans, we’re made the same, we’re 99.9999999999999% genetically similar”. Why do we struggle to understand and accept people for their diversities and choices?

I look at the world and I see human beings. Some do things that others disagree with – few do terrible things to harm one or many people. I know people find it hard to forgive other people or to find reason for their actions, but it’s just not helpful to blame their race, gender, social status, sexuality, or religion. Nobody learns anything from these messages, only hate and fear.

When my children (the ones I don’t have yet) grow up I want them to say that I taught them never to hate anyone, never to judge people, and to be always thoughtful about other people’s life experiences. Sometimes, by trying to set the example and teach others something, we make ourselves better at it in the process. Like speaking French, which I can’t do anymore but the people I tutored can; I don’t want my point of view to become like my french – broken, not beautiful.

Three Questions About Living My Life The Right Way

Today I’m going to answer the next three questions at once, because I feel as though they can all be answered simultaneously. the questions are: What is the difference between living and existing? If not now, when? and, have you done anything recently worth remembering?

If you know me, or rather, if you knew me, you’d realize that I’ve been trapped in a really crappy mood recently. Not just the January Blues (although January does really suck), more like the September, October, November, December, and January Blues. 2011 was a year I gave my self to stand still, but it left me feeling despondent and desperate to reconnect with my inner self.

I have a great “life”: health, house, husband, and hound. I have a job and a car and great friends. My brother told me that, financially, I’m in the “top 1% globally” (this is out of all 7 billion people, please don’t “Occupy” my driveway), and I can really believe it in many ways: I never thought I’d have all this at the tender age of 26. It’s a great life.

But living, to me, is backpacking across Asia, or learning to weave in India, or building a school in Africa. That was the plan I had for my life, which, for very reasonable reasons, didn’t play out right. Before anyone thinks I’m husband-bashing, the primary focus of my disappointment is myself. I get bouts of paranoia where I doubt myself, and think that I no longer have “what it takes” to do any of the things that I ever wanted to do.

Which brings me onto our second topic. If not now, then when? We all have dreams, some big, some small. Most of our dreams don’t allow us to choose the exact time that we get to realize them; however, there are those dreams, few and ignorable, that actually do focus on something that we can control. For me, that dream has been running. I was a runner when I was younger, WAY younger, over ten years ago. I used to run a lot. But a painful knee condition and the crippling self-consciousness of being an overweight teenager caused a fracture in my self-confidence, and, even after my knees were stronger, I never really ran again. Over the last few years I’ve dappled with 5ks (my fastest time being in the 29th minute), and have been known to run outside on nicer days here in Kansas City. Something in me has wanted to do a longer run years, and I’ve always held myself back, telling myself that I can’t do it, that I’ll fail. Or worse, that I will do it and no-one will care or value it.

This year I turn twenty-seven: the age I always believed I’d have my shit together. I finally realised that this is my year, and that I will train for that half marathon, and I really don’t care what people think or if people think it is an achievement. I’ve decided that 2012 is the “when” and the “now”, and that running this distance race will be the first step towards re-discovering all of my dreams of adventure.

As for the thing worth remembering? Well, I feel like we should remember every day, even the bad ones, as we can’t learn from things we forget. But that aside, I believe that today I did something worth remembering. I took the plunge, I signed up for The Race… I have a great friend who has committed to keeping me running, and I’m going to go for it.

Fingers crossed….

The day that started the questions.

The first mundane fact about me (and there will be hundreds, if not thousands, to follow) is that I work in an office, and sit in a cubicle. I used to have an office back when I first started 2 and a half years ago… four walls of my very own, with a copy of Van Gough’s ‘Starry Night’ on the wall, which everyone thought was depressing but I rather liked. Having an office was an advantage of being hired after a recession… lots of empty offices around. True story.

But, fortunately, my company has grown rapidly since then, and I have had to give up my (much-loved) office in favour of a cubicle that has a lot less space, but a lot more visitors. I’d much rather have a cubicle in a period of growth than an office in a recession, and I’d much rather have a tiny cubicle filled with visitors than a large office (with free painting) with no-one in it by me. Truthfully, I did rather rattle around in there on my lonesome.

Another (or two) mundane facts about me is that I like my job, and I like the people I work with. They keep me occupied. (Another mundane fact about me: I grew up in England next to a “pill-box” bomb shelter. I can’t use the word ‘occupied’ without thinking about the second world war, even if I don’t mean it in THAT way).

Anyway, as my A-Level Classics teacher, Mr Chappell, would say: “I digress”. It was on a rather usual day, when I was sitting in my cube with my work friends when someone sent me a link. I think the exact article was something along the lines of “50 things you need to stop doing”. The website was www.marcandangel.com .

I fell in love with this website on the spot. I love reading current things by current people, and this website spoke to me. I loved the truthfulness behind the articles, and found myself agreeing with almost every article I read. The points were simple, well constructed, and hard to ignore. After a good forty minutes of browsing (in between working, of course), I came across the following article: “365 Questions to ask yourself this year“. I read all 365 questions, even though I was at work, answering each one in my head. Some were easy, some were hard, some were cheesy, and some were genuinely insightful.

Suddenly a little voice (I think it might even have been “Me”) spoke up inside my head. I should do this, I should answer these questions, one a day for a year… and I was Inspired. Capital “I”. It’s been so many years since I truly felt inspired and motivated to write than I hardly recognized what was happening.

Inspiration was always easy for me in college, I only needed to open a blank document on my computer and a short story would come tripping off my keyboard, often a thinly disguised reflection of my own life. I could, and often did, write several poems a day, the themes were very collegiate: Love, Sex, Heartbreak, Despair. Moving into the real world came with the cost of a cold, hard truth. Writing a poem about paying a mortgage, or watching my friends lose their jobs was neither easy, productive, or touching. I found the only words trapped in my keyboards were short, unintentionally terse email home: Everything fine, sorry for not writing, hope to write more soon. My mother would reminisce: “you used to write such lovely, long letters, everyone used to look forward to them”. The elephant in the room was that I no longer wrote, and people no longer expected me to. Me, the family writer, suddenly without definition. I was the family wordsmith, I had become somebody else’s Employee, and somebody else’s Wife.

So this glimmer of inspiration, this tiny re-entrance into my mind, is something huge and wonderful in the scheme of my grand Midwestern adventure. I hope to discover who I’ve become, if I’ve really changed in the five years since I put down the pen. My intention is not to impress my opinion upon anyone, and I sincerely hope nothing I write is offensive, it is not intended to be. I will answer my first question on January 1st, working from the list in the original article. If I omit, edit or amend any questions, this is only to better suit the purposes of the blog. I will try to keep aligned as closely to the questions I first read on that strange, nondescript December day.