Career Talk — Part 2: Most Frustrating Job Experiences

Background/Intro (skip to the next bold header if you read this last time)

I posted a call for submissions on a couple of platforms, and  I am still accepting submissions, as this will be an ongoing multi-post series. Because, in the words of Amy Adams’ character from Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day: “The crisis is ongoing!”

Also, many of the submissions were very detailed and I want to keep these posts to a reasonable length, so each post will be dedicated to a different question on the list below, and when I’m done with that, I’ll hopefully start again from question #1 with new submissions.
The original call/prompt was as follows:

I’m currently at a crossroads in my career, and I’m hoping to write a blog post next week to help get my brain thinking about various different options. I would love to hear from people in any and all professions. If you’re interested, let me know in your comment or via email or message: a) what your job is, b) whether you’d like to remain anonymous, and c) an answer to one or more of the following questions:

1) What’s the most rewarding experience you’ve had at your current job?

2) What’s the most frustrating experience you’ve had at your current job?

3) What’s the most helpful or supportive thing a coworker has ever done for you?

4) What’s the worst thing a coworker has ever done to you?

5) What’s the funniest story you have from your current job?

I just came up with these questions so they’re not comprehensive – if there’s a particular work experience or story you’d like to share that doesn’t fit any of them, feel free to share it anyway! This is just an exercise to help me get the gears turning in my brain as I figure out what to do next with my life 🙂

So I’m not expecting this to solve my career stalemate, but at least it will hopefully provide some forward movement in my thoughts on the topic, because the thing about putting things in writing is, you have to move forward with them. You can’t just write the same sentence over and over again. (I mean, you can, and someone probably has, and they probably called it “art” — but let’s be honest, that is crap.)

(NOTE: Some names may have been changed to preserve anonymity, allowing me to exercise my brilliant pseudonym-making skillz.)

2) What’s the most frustrating experience you’ve had at your current job?

Answer #1: When some, very few, students are not interested in learning anything new, but want to merely copy some method they have learned, even when they are clearly frustrated by it, and would most likely gain understanding by stepping back and looking at the bigger picture.

Also, when my supervisor retired, the new one (apparently not as knowledgeable as the older one) at first constantly criticized various things I did as being incorrect until I provided sources to back up my work. It added a level of frustration that was completely unnecessary.

~Submitted by Roonil Wazlib, tutor

Oh, yes, I’ve been told I’m doing things wrong and had to prove myself right, or let someone else take over so that they could see for themselves why the conventional method or tool was not appropriate in that particular instance. It’s especially aggravating when you’re new at your job and don’t have the experience to know if anything you’re doing is actually right, and then you have to deal with everyone else second-guessing you on top of you second-guessing yourself. Even when you turn out to be right, it’s more draining than satisfying.

Answer #2: Most frustrating is my lack of career advancement at this particular company. A lot of that has to do with circumstances beyond my control, which I always have trouble with, being a complete control freak, as well as certain personality traits in my direct manager. He always sugar coats things b/c he doesn’t like to upset anyone and tends to beat around the bush and never tells you like it is. I’m the complete opposite and tend to expect/need others to do the same. It took me seriously overstepping my bounds and pissing him off royally to finally get a straight answer from him regarding my performance a couple of years ago. I’m hitting walls again and have not advanced as I’d like to and I’m not interested in pissing him off again. I don’t think it would end well if I did.

~ Submitted by Lorelai Gilmore, marketing

Being a constant newbie at this whole career thing, I haven’t really had a chance to worry about things like advancement and promotion. Hopefully one day I will experience these wonderful frustrations, but for now, it’s like people ask me, “You applied to X? Is there opportunity for advancement?” and I’m like, “I dunno, at this point I’m honestly just trying to find something that I can do day in and day out that doesn’t make me want to kill myself or others.” High standards, yo.

Answer #3: I had an team member who was a terrible employee. She rarely showed up on time, she never accomplished anything unless it was spelled out step by step what needed to be done. Our office is very self-driven. Team members are encouraged to seek out projects they find interesting. Rarely will there be a normal Supervisor [who] tells employee[s] what to do. Rather, we all gather together, mention interesting things we’ve heard of and someone says I want to do this!

Telling a team member what to do step by step is counterproductive to the way our office works. Often, our dynamic work environment takes a bit of time to get used to. We hire a few PT college students to work at our office and having them adjust to the not being told what to do mentality can be jarring. Usually they are excited by the chance to use their skills and experiences to make something of their own, and adjust quickly.

I don’t know why, but I suspect it’s because this team member just didn’t find the work interesting. She would constantly come up with reasons that her bad behavior was due to an external cause that was over, only for another issue to rise up. The excuses were never ending, and it was the most frustrating experience I’ve had with a coworker.

Everyone in our office is pretty passionate about what we do. To have this team member disrespect our work by very blatantly not caring was a difficult experience for me. I realized two things about management and people at this point:

  1. You can’t force people to care. If it isn’t something they find marginally interesting (or isn’t at all related to what they’ve done previously) even the most collaborative dynamic office will be a challenge. Now, things are related in ways you might not expect. For example, my major focused heavily on things like learning and cognitive processes. Understanding how people think and learn are very related to working on projects dedicated to learning. You, SM, went  from Creative Writing to Mechanic, a fairly dichotomous pair. However, they have a lot of similarities in skills required. Both require an understanding of progress and effect. How something that happens in one area can impact every other aspect of the car/story.
  2. How people interact with each other and thrive in environments is extremely important to their workplace happiness. This team member had worked in various different fields before, and I looked over her resume to see where I went wrong. I realized, while several of her previous positions involved a self-driven attitude, they also all involved interacting with lots of people. In our office, we frequently brainstorm different ideas, research on our computers for a few hours and meet back. To have to do work that involved long periods of time without interacting with people drained this team member.

~Submitted by Ms. Watson, a programmer

A lot of what you wrote, Ms. Watson, reminded me of why I don’t want to write for a living or be a journalist or something like that, despite people constantly thinking I’d be great at it just because I can string two sentences together.

As a freelance writer, you have to be very self-driven, as you describe your office as being. I’m certainly self-driven in some ways, but not in the “constantly coming up with new ideas” kind of way. For instance, as a fiction writer, I’m primarily a novelist, not a short story writer. I don’t come up with idea after idea after idea — I occasionally stumble onto one thing that speaks to me, and I develop it. My posts on this blog and on my Facebook Notes work in much the same way — once in a while something strikes me, and I ruminate on it and explore it from multiple angles. I don’t sit around trying to come up with new ideas, and I’ve always hated the idea of the pressure to constantly come up with and churn out new content, just for the sheer volume of it, because that’s how you pay the bills. Some people have wonderfully creative minds and are naturally always inventing new stories, ideas, patterns, songs, and so on — but I’m not. And I would absolutely hate to have to be.

Then there’s the flip-side, where you write for something that assigns everything so you’re always writing their ideas and not your own, and then you have to force yourself to care about whatever assignment you’re given, in order to write it. And as you said, that’s impossible. I’ve done copywriting like that in the past, and it felt like I was destroying my soul. I’m not being melodramatic here; that is literally what it felt like. It was bad. And the thought of doing that to myself on a regular basis? Just kill me now.

This is why I prefer copyediting. Other people come up with the ideas, and you don’t have to write them. Best of both worlds. You just fix and polish and perfect. But you’re absolutely necessary; the finished product is clearly and measurably better because of you.

And YES, environment and coworkers are unbelievably important for my job satisfaction. I do not function well without allies. I survive, but I’m almost always miserable in those situations.

Answer #4: The WORST part about my job was the schooling for it. It was literally hell. It was the worst years of my life, and I did not have a typical “college” experience. Even the fact knowing that I need to take the boards again when i am 30, and every 10 years after that, gives me the occasional nightmare.

Day to day the job is stressful when there are a ton of patients and I need to move quickly and patients complain they were waiting for a long time, and I get upset that it’s not my fault, because you can’t rush an exam and they need to schedule people better. Or I get frustrated when I tell a patient they need to come in for a biopsy because they might have cancer, and they just never come back, and then I am responsible legally to call them and send a certified letter or else they can sue me when they have cancer and I’ll be blamed even though they are a grown adult and I TOLD them to come back and warned them.

~Submitted by Elisheva, physician assistant

Thanks for the heads-up about the schooling. Definitely good to know. I’m not sure when I’ll have the stomach for a hellish school experience, but it’s definitely not right now.

And yeah, people who don’t listen are the worst. My doctors would probably say that makes me the worst. Sigh. I’m the worst. I’m working on taking better care of myself, though, I swear!

Answer #5: When I got what I considered my first real job as an editor, it was at a women’s magazine. Early in the game, in an attempt to be responsible, I gave my boss of list of all the days off I’d be taking that year. I was entitled to X number of days, and I itemized all X of them. Several were Jewish holidays. She looked at the list and said to me, “This is fine, but at some point in your career, you’re going to have to decide which is more important to you, your career or your religion.” I was pretty shocked by the remark and decided then and there that nobody was ever pulling that kind of anti-Semitic crap on me again and that for the rest of my working life I was going to take off all Jewish holidays Orthodox Jews took, regardless of how I spent them.

~Submitted by Judy Jewett, editor

I have luckily never had to deal with that kind of crap. All the schools I’ve ever gone to and all the jobs I’ve ever had have all been extremely mindful of my religious requirements. Fingers crossed that any future employers will be just as understanding.

MY ANSWER: Oh gosh, where do I even start.

Well, like I said up there, there were those times when I was told I was doing something wrong and turned out to be doing it right. Like when I was looking everywhere for the breaker bar and socket, and was told, “no, take this wrench,” and I’d say, “no, I don’t have the leverage to use that,” and they’d say, “of course you do,” and then I’d spend five minutes trying to loosen the bolt with that wrench, before tossing it aside and demanding the breaker bar, and breaking the bolt loose in two seconds with it.

There were times when I was given a tool and told to do a job and I tried approximately a hundred times, and in between tries, I insisted that this tool was not well suited for this job at this angle; something else was needed. And I was told to just keep trying, which I did until I was thoroughly fed up and basically begged for help. At which point the mechanic who had assigned me the job would go over to his tool box, take out a different tool or an add-on to the original tool, which I of course had not known existed but had been asking for since the beginning, and he’d complete the job with that.

And there were times when I was given a job to do on my own that was not physically possible for one person to accomplish. That happens a lot with cars, btw — I’ve seen 4 grown male mechanics struggle to work together to remove a single bolt. That’s just how these things are designed sometimes. But I’m inexperienced, and I don’t know enough to always tell the difference between when something is “impossible” or when it’s just “really hard.” Because sometimes it is just really hard and you need to suck it up and do it. And if I’m told to do something on my own, I tend to assume it’s not impossible, because what kind of sadist assigns impossible jobs to the newbie, so I would push myself to the very limits of my strength, and then push some more, because maybe I just thought I’d reached my limit but really I just needed that little…bit…more… I was constantly afraid of hurting myself, of pulling something, of throwing out my back from pushing too hard because I just didn’t have the experience to know when I should stop.

Oh, and often the other mechanics would just be standing around watching me struggle. How’s that for work environment.

Up next: Most Supportive Coworker Experiences! Stay tuned, and submit if you’ve got a good one!

______________

Like this post? I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you, wonderful reader, that my GoFundMe campaign is still open — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive. The proceeds no longer go toward automotive school tuition, because I have paid off my loan in full, but you can still commission me to write anything you want. You can force me to watch ANYTHING and review it for you. Anything. Real-Housewives-of-Atlanta-kind-of-anything. Hit me with your best shot.

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Career Talk — Part 1: Most Rewarding Job Experiences

Last week, I posted a call for submissions on a couple of platforms, although notably not on here. Which may have been a silly oversight, so I want to clarify that I am still accepting submissions, as this will be an ongoing multi-post series. Because, in the words of Amy Adams’ character from Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day: “The crisis is ongoing!”

Also, many of the submissions were very detailed and I want to keep these posts to a reasonable length, so each post will be dedicated to a different question on the list below, and when I’m done with that, I’ll hopefully start again from question #1 with new submissions.

The original call/prompt was as follows:

I’m currently at a crossroads in my career, and I’m hoping to write a blog post next week to help get my brain thinking about various different options. I would love to hear from people in any and all professions. If you’re interested, let me know in your comment or via email or message: a) what your job is, b) whether you’d like to remain anonymous, and c) an answer to one or more of the following questions:

1) What’s the most rewarding experience you’ve had at your current job?

2) What’s the most frustrating experience you’ve had at your current job?

3) What’s the most helpful or supportive thing a coworker has ever done for you?

4) What’s the worst thing a coworker has ever done to you?

5) What’s the funniest story you have from your current job?

I just came up with these questions so they’re not comprehensive – if there’s a particular work experience or story you’d like to share that doesn’t fit any of them, feel free to share it anyway! This is just an exercise to help me get the gears turning in my brain as I figure out what to do next with my life 🙂

So I’m not expecting this to solve my career stalemate, but at least it will hopefully provide some forward movement in my thoughts on the topic, because the thing about putting things in writing is, you have to move forward with them. You can’t just write the same sentence over and over again. (I mean, you can, and someone probably has, and they probably called it “art” — but let’s be honest, that is crap.)

Let’s get started with the answers, shall we?

(NOTE: Some names may have been changed to preserve anonymity, allowing me to exercise my brilliant pseudonym-making skillz.)

1) What’s the most rewarding experience you’ve had at your current job?

Answer #1: Probably developing an app for a department at the school where I work.

You see, the original system they used declared bankruptcy and left them in the lurch as they were applying for accreditation in a few months.

They came to me (who administered the previous system for them) and asked what they could do. As this was in the the middle of the year, requisitioning tens of thousands of dollars was a challenge at best. Also, no system was really available that met their needs- It would be settling and not fine tuned to the needs of the program.

So I asked exactly what they wanted in an assessment system and researched ways we could do it for free (or, very little money). Using some recently learned programming, I wrote an app that filled the parameters of their requests exactly. Excited by the progress, we hired a new PT computer science student to flesh out the app further. Together with this student (who is brilliant, amazing, and dedicated) we worked tirelessly to develop this assessment app, working with occasionally vague direction and goals.

In the end, we met the deadline, the program secured accreditation (yay!), and use of this system has saved the college over $60,000 a year. This is my most fulfilling experience in my work because by collaborating and thinking outside of the box, we accomplished something amazing. We built something from the ground up, without direction. We were essentially told- we need this, can you help us?

~ Submitted by Comm Puter, Instructional Technologist

Wowza, that sounds awesome. I hope they paid you well for that! I don’t anticipate doing something like that in my career, but I did recently get myself invited to Dash, which claims it will teach me the basics of coding, so that’s something.

Answer #2: When students experience that joy that comes from learning something they did not previously understand. Many students who were worried about failing come back and compliment me on helping them to pass their classes.

~ Submitted by R., a professional tutor

Yeah, I’ve never wanted to be a teacher (both my parents are teachers and if hearing about the realities of that profession from the time you were born until the present day doesn’t make you never want to be a teacher, well, then you just haven’t been listening) but I’ve never been against the idea of one-on-one tutoring. The problem has generally been that whenever I’ve looked into trying to do it through any kind of organization, they want to know what my qualifications are and that I’ve done it before and how much and what subjects, and I haven’t done any of that in any formal or documented way. Apparently saying “I AM BRILLIANT AND REALLY GOOD AT EXPLAINING STUFFS HIRE ME PLZ” is not enough. I know that the best way to get started would be to tutor kids of people I know who already trust me, buuuuuuut…I don’t really like a lot of those kids? So I don’t want to do that to myself? I know, I can be more selective if I become more established, but the beginning would probably be a long hard slog.

Answer #3: I absolutely love my job. There is always a juicy story or something interesting that comes in the door. There are happy and sad stories. I’ve told a patient that she is finally pregnant after she was having fertility issues for 3 years. I’ve told a patient she has endometrial cancer and had her cry at my desk. I’ve even told a 43 year old that SURPRISE she is pregnant, and she tells me her daughter is 20 and she was in shock. I’ve had Muslim patients come with their husbands and have to ask permission from them to get procedures done with the male doctor. I’ve told people they have STDs and they cry because they think their spouse is cheating on them. And yes even when someone comes for a routine pap or yeast infection, I can provide that relief. I like talking to all types of women and having a small glimpse of the most intimate part of their lives.

I also like working in gynecology because it’s easy for me. Its a limited field of medicine (unlike internal medicine or primary care) so its easy to become an expert in it pretty quickly. Being a physician assistant in general is great because if I ever get super bored of doing my 140th pap smear that week, and get sick of gynecology I know that I have options to switch jobs to another field of medicine like dermatology, orthopedics, or surgery etc. so i don’t feel locked in for life.

~ Submitted by Elisheva N., physician assistant in a private gynecology practice

I definitely love collecting stories and learning about people, and being in a position to build them up when they’re hurt or vulnerable. In fact, that’s the main reason I was instantly compelled by the mission of a certain non-profit organization that I came across this week, RevealNYC — it’s an organization dedicated to providing support, fashion, and cosmetics to women who have been victims of domestic violence, to rebuild their confidence, give them practical life skills, and help them feel beautiful again. I intend to get in touch with the organization and see if there’s anything I can offer. Though it is a volunteer-run non-profit and would not solve the career or money dilemma.

Becoming a PA would require me to go back to school, which I’m not interested in doing at this point, but theoretically might be later, so it’s nice to know that it’s versatile if I should decide to put myself through that.

Answer #4: What’s so rewarding about what I do is the client interaction and hearing how happy my clients are when I do my job and make their programs successful and profitable and help them reach their goals. I’ve also set out to make an impact at my company in terms of training and best practices and my boss has entrusted me with creating an entire company-wide training manual all by my lonesome. I took that as a huge compliment to my ability to not only do my job to the best of my ability, but be able to set the standard company-wide for how it should be done.

~ Submitted by Boss Lady, marketing

Positive reinforcement is definitely important for me, too. It’s not quite on the level of Rachel Berry: “I am Tinker Bell! I need applause to live!” — but it’s extremely helpful. As is feeling like I bring something of my own to the table that no one else is already providing.

MY ANSWER: At my recent auto mechanic job, I didn’t feel like I was much of a contributor. Yeah, I did a lot of things, but they often felt like things that anyone else there could do, and do faster (the other mechanics often told me so, maybe sometimes as misguided attempts at motivation, maybe sometimes as a macho thing, whatever) so I often felt redundant at best and like gunk in the machine at worst. Sometimes customers would give me tip money after I’d worked on their cars, but generally I felt like those were Changing A Tire While Female tips, not tips that I’d actually earned.

However, there was one tip that I did feel like I earned. It happened when this lady walked into the shop and after looking around apprehensively, she quietly asked how much an inspection would cost.

“Thirty-seven dollars,” I said, because I’m a decent human who gives straightforward answers to nervous customers.

“Two hundred dollars,” said the mechanic next to me, because he’d evidently decided to be a buttface.

The woman looked from him to me and back, clearly confused. “How much?”

“Two hundred dollars,” said the other mechanic, because nothing makes a bad joke funnier than repeating it.

“It’s thirty-seven dollars, “ I repeated firmly, looking the woman in the eye. “Don’t listen to him; he’s lying.”

She thanked me and went out, brought the car in with some dude who could have been her husband or brother or boyfriend or friend, and the obnoxious mechanic ran the inspection. The car failed the inspection after we hooked up its computer to ours and ran the program.

Obnoxious Mechanic broke the news to her and her companion, and he then incoherently began explaining to them why it had happened, and why they needed to drive the car around some more and come back later.

I could see that he was only confusing them more, so I butted in and broke it down into more user friendly terms, because this was one area that I actually could explain pretty well: the car’s computer runs self-diagnostic tests on itself while you drive, and we get that information from the computer when we hook it up for the inspection. Sometimes the car hasn’t been driven enough or under the right conditions for all the self-tests to run, and that causes the inspection failure. But driving the car for an hour, making sure to include highway driving, should be enough to get all the tests to run.

They paid him for running the inspection, and then the lady came up to me specifically and gave me a dollar tip.

It’s hanging from the ceiling in my room, my one memento on display from this job.

dollar pic

Up next: Most Frustrating Job Experiences! Stay tuned!

______________

Like this post? I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you, wonderful reader, that my GoFundMe campaign is still open — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive. The proceeds no longer go toward automotive school tuition, because I have paid off my loan in full, but you can still commission me to write anything you want. You can force me to watch ANYTHING and review it for you. Anything. Real-Housewives-of-Atlanta-kind-of-anything. Hit me with your best shot.

On Passion, or Reflections on My First Auto Repair Job

 

 

“Find your passion,” they say. “Everyone’s good at something,” they say.

It’s such a fallacy, you know? Just look at it. How on earth would they know if everyone is good at something? Human beings are a random mishmash of genetic traits, and it’s perfectly possible for someone to get the short end of every stick and be good at absolutely nothing. (Not that it would ever be anyone’s business to say to a person, “You are good at absolutely nothing” — it’s nobody’s place to make that judgment call on any individual, but that doesn’t mean that the existence of such an individual is flat-out impossible.)

And even if you’re good at stuff, even if you’re gifted, who’s to say you’re gifted in areas that bring you fulfillment? And who’s to say that everyone has an automatic Fulfillment Button that they just have to find and press? Maybe this person does, and that person doesn’t. There is absolutely no evidence to support it as a universal truth. It just sounds seductively nice.

I happen to be good at many things. But I am not a passionate person when it comes to my interests. I reach a saturation point, sometimes faster, sometimes slower. Museums, for instance — I have warned every guy I’ve dated never to take me to a museum just to look at stuff, because I will get so bored, so fast. My saturation point with “looking at stuff on walls and in glass cases” is super low. Guided tour of the museum, hearing people talk about that same stuff, having a conversation about it — saturation point is still there, but it’s higher.

But not necessarily because it interests me. I just like knowing stuff, just having knowledge, not to do anything useful with it; just to have it, mostly so that I can pull it out and seem somewhat intelligent and worldly, rather than the utterly boring person that I actually am. I don’t like having to work to collect this knowledge, I like having it handed to me in accessible formats, which for me include conversations, not articles or plaques on museum walls. See, if the subject matter actually interested me, I’m sure those last two mediums wouldn’t seem so godawful dull to me. But so little subject matter actually interests me. I get bored so easily.

I remember asking myself (and maybe my friends) in high school: “Do we like certain subjects because we’re good at them, or do we get good at certain subjects because we like them?” My conclusion all these years later is that it varies from person to person and subject to subject, and that for me personally, since I am good at almost everything, but I don’t like everything, a simple cause-effect relationship between aptitude and liking can’t be the only thing at play there. But I’ve never been able to figure out what makes me like things and what doesn’t.

***

I got a job at an auto repair shop and I’ve gone to work there for the past three days.

I’ve also had three panic attacks in the past three days, which is a first for me.

I wish I could say the job and the panic attacks are unconnected, but that is very much not the case. But it might not be for the reasons you’d expect.

The job is great. It’s exactly what I wanted. I get to take things apart, I get to put them back together, I get to use tools, I have guidance and supervision so there’s very little pressure, and all the other (male, of course) mechanics have been perfectly nice and supportive and helpful. And I enjoy being there, and I enjoy doing the work. It’s basically the perfect job — if you’d have told me any time in the past year or so that this is the kind of work I would be doing, ratcheting out bolts, changing oil, taking out hoses and fans and entire radiators to replace them, I would have said that was just about the best thing ever.

But…it isn’t?

It’s everything I thought I wanted, but I don’t feel the way I thought I’d feel about it.

What I mean is, yes, I finish the work day feeling good, feeling like I accomplished something. And that lasts for about an hour.

Then the further I get from the work that I did, the worse I feel. The emptier I feel. The more dissatisfied. I look back on the day and try to feel like I was productive, and I can’t. I feel like I wasted my time, like I should have been doing something else, only I don’t know what. And I feel like I don’t want to go back.

I don’t know why I feel that way about it; I just know that I do.

And that’s when the anxiety/panic attacks hit, every day like clockwork, because it’s really jarring to get everything you thought you wanted and feel that unsatisfied with it. I’ve done plenty of jobs in the past that weren’t necessarily the most soul-nourishing or fulfilling things, but that was okay, because they were just interim placeholders — summer jobs, internships, freelance gigs — not something that I had worked toward and thought I really wanted. And I kind of feel like I’d prefer to go back to doing some sort of interim placeholder job that I know from the outset is unfulfilling, rather than doing something that I thought would be fulfilling but somehow isn’t.

***

I don’t really know what to do. I’ve been trying to reevaluate my options, because the anxiety attacks have been severe, physically debilitating. I’m talking throwing up, can’t sleep, can’t eat, throat muscles constricting so I can barely breathe, etc. Mental anxiety is unpleasant, but I can deal with it. Physical manifestations, though, I cannot. I’ve discovered a fairly decent new coping mechanism wherein I lie very still under the covers in my bed with my stuffed tiger and turn the game on on the radio so that the voices there make it impossible for me to hear my own thoughts. But that is clearly not a long term solution.

I’ve been pushing off trying therapy for a long time because it’s expensive, but my mom and I are finally looking at some options for me, and we’ll see how that goes.

I’ve been trying to look at the job itself and figure out what would make it more satisfying — is the problem that I rarely interact with any customers so I don’t feel the positive impact that my work is having? Is it because I haven’t gotten to use my own tools that much because everyone is letting me use their (much better and more versatile) tools? Is it because I’m told what to do rather than getting a chance to figure out the diagnosis for myself?
But I have a gut instinct that it’s not any of those things, really. That I could make an effort to have all those things be part of the job and still not be satisfied. It’s not the job; it’s me.

And I worry that I’m just wired without a Fulfillment Button, so no matter how much I look I won’t find it; that I can set goals and reach them and get everything I want, but maybe I’m just never going to be happy.

I know that plenty of people switch careers and career paths many times over the course of their lives, and that a lot of them have invested a heck of a lot more time and money than I have, so if that is what I end up doing, it doesn’t mean I failed, it doesn’t mean any of this was a mistake, or that I’m not special or a worthwhile human being just because this didn’t pan out. But starting over is never easy.

In one of the books (Mirror Dance) of my favorite sci-fi series (The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold), a major character suffers a traumatic injury and gets amnesia. Because Bujold is a brilliant writer and not a hack, this isn’t just some tropey plot device; it becomes a reflection on the nature of identity. During his attempts to reconstruct his identity, this character at one point feels like he’s doing it by process of elimination, trying to learn everything else in the universe in the hopes that whatever small, person-shaped hole is left at the end will be him. That’s what starting over feels like to me — daunting and lonely and a crap-ton of work.

And I know there are a lot of people who’ve supported me, emotionally and financially, throughout this whole endeavor, and I hate to let you down. But I also know that ultimately, it’s my life, and my opinion is what matters here, not yours.

So, for the people who’ve been asking, “HOW IS THE NEW JOB???” — the answer is: I don’t know. I’m going to give it a little more time; I know it’s only been three days and any job is an adjustment, none more so than the first one. But if this pattern/emotional loop of “good work day, seeping dissatisfaction, debilitating panic attack” persists, I may look elsewhere and begin my quarter-life crisis anew.

Why Cars?

 

Ah, the question everybody’s been asking ever since I, of all people, announced my intention to become an automotive technician/mechanic.

 

I could give you a lovely, oversimplified answer in the words of Roald Dahl:

 

“A gasoline engine is sheer magic,” he said to me once. “Just imagine being able to take a thousand different bits of metal — and if you fit them all together in a certain way — and then you feed them a little oil and gasoline — and if you press a little switch — suddenly those bits of metal will all come to life — and they will purr and hum and roar — they will make the wheels of a motor car go whizzing around at fantastic speeds . . .”

~ Danny the Champion of the World

 

But let’s be real; that’s not really why I’m doing it.

 

My reasons are far more nefarious, of course.

 

There were two major legs of this journey thus far: (1) deciding that I didn’t want a white collar job, and (2) deciding that out of the various blue collar trades I could choose, I wanted to try auto mechanics.

 

Why not white collar?

 

For years, literally years, possibly a decade or more, when people asked me what I was going to do when I grew up, I’d say, “Well, I write, but that’s not very lucrative, so at some point I’ll have to get a real job.”

 

Same answer from the time I was 14 until now. I probably even used the word “lucrative” in my answer back then too. People interpreted it jokingly (a 14-year-old with that much foresight about the ways of the world is always amusing), and I may have even meant it jokingly at first because I was young and surrounded by people who had no knowledge of what writing for a living actually entailed and so always told me that I could do it because I was talented. As if talent alone buys health insurance.

 

Yup.

 

As the years unfolded, my statement about having to get a real job that did not involve writing stayed the same, and people heard it the same way, as a joke, but I started to mean it more and more seriously. By the time I was in college, even though I had no qualms about majoring in Creative Writing, I knew that I did not want to write for a living, that I did not want to have to write book after book or article after article knowing that if I didn’t, I’d have no money and no food. I wanted writing to be something that I did because I wanted to, not because I had to. And the common supplemental jobs that even successful writers tended to have so that they wouldn’t have to depend solely on their writing for income were things that I had little interest in, like office work and teaching.

 

[I have had enjoyable office work experience, for the record, and if I like my coworkers and I like the atmosphere, I’m sure I could be quite content with it. But it feels like a backup, not a Plan A. As for teaching, being the daughter of two teachers has taught me that it is largely the most thankless job you can have, aside from perhaps umpires and referees, and I respect everyone who goes into the profession, but if I’d had a list of possible jobs, “teaching” would have been the very first one I crossed off.]

 

Early on in college, I also realized that I had zero interest in going to grad school. There was nothing I liked enough to study exclusively for two or three or four or five additional years while paying tons of money for the privilege. Medicine, law, business, philosophy, psychology, education, social work, math, engineering — I’d never even wanted an undergraduate degree in any of those; why would I suddenly want a Masters or a PhD? As for an MFA in Creative Writing . . . I knew I didn’t want to write for a living, or get a Masters degree in order to teach, so spending all that money and all that time held little appeal. It seemed like an obvious, conventional path that didn’t really lead anywhere that I personally wanted to go. (No disrespect meant to anyone who does get an MFA or two — you guys rock!)

 

Jesus approves.

 

I concluded in those early years of college that if I was in fact going to get “a real job,” it would be something that did not center on writing, or editing, or sitting in front of a computer screen, or even words at all. I didn’t want my job to tap into those particular creative juices and sap them, using them for the benefit of some company or corporation or publication, and not for my own.

 

And I also did not feel that doing something like that would be satisfying enough for me to do day in and day out. To sit at a desk, type on a computer, fill out paperwork, or work in a lab. Perfectly worthwhile and necessary occupations, and something I could probably be content with, but again, not something that felt like Plan A. And I didn’t want to do something that required me to be in constant contact with people, either, like a therapist or a social worker or an activist or anything like that. It’s not that I don’t think I have people skills, but I’d rather not have a job where that is 80% of the job description. That’s too emotionally exhausting. My emotional energy, like my word-related creative energy, is something I’d rather reserve for myself.

 

I wanted something totally separate, and very tangible. Something that would be gratifying because the accomplishments were visible and measurable and involved getting my hands dirty. I like working with my hands and fixing things, especially when other people can’t. And to me, that all added up to blue collar.

 

 

Why cars?

 

If you’d asked me two or three years ago, I’d have told you that when I finished with college, I was planning to go to trade school to become an electrician. It was an option arrived at mostly by process of elimination because being a plumber would involve poop and being a construction worker would probably require a lot more heavy lifting than my temperamental back can handle and there weren’t many options for carpentry training. Plus, I like wires, and electricity is pretty exciting.

 

I did a lot of research on electrician training in the New York City area, had a lot of tabs open and a lot of webpages bookmarked, and even decided on a school that I wanted to check out. I even called to find out their tuition and enrollment dates. This was back in the summer of 2013, after my graduation from college in June earlier that year.

 

But then I stalled. I was warned that it takes 8 years to get an electrician license in New York. I was warned that there was a lot of heavy lifting involved in being an electrician, too. But mostly I felt that the lack of specificity of “electrician” didn’t make me feel excited about all the possibilities therein, but rather, frustrated by how broad and unfocused and open-ended it all seemed. I started thinking back to other options I’d considered, like in my Hollywood hostel room on my January 2013 trip to do research for my book, when I’d curled up in bed with my laptop and spent a few hours looking into Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning programs and curriculums. HVAC didn’t really hold much interest for me, and the only local program I could find wouldn’t accept students with above-high-school-level education, but still, I felt a pull to invest in something more specialized.

 

this showed up when I google-image searched for “specific” and who am I to argue with google

 

I decided to put things on hold for a little while. Give myself time to mull it over a bit more. And so I decided to work on my novel for three months, see if I could finish it, see how far I’d get, and put trade school on the back burner.

 

This didn’t go 100% as planned. I kept getting distracted by the constant pressure my mother started putting on me to get a job or decide on trade school, and I spent more time surfing the internet doing research and looking at all my options and bookmarking more sites about electricians, HVAC, plumbers helpers, etc, than I spent writing.

 

My mother had also spoken to our appliance repairman, and he’d suggested looking into the field of home automation because the cables were thinner and lighter and would be less taxing on me physically. So I looked into that, but not with the utmost enthusiasm, because it felt to me like the kind of people who are automating their homes — installing security cameras, motion sensors, remote locking/unlocking systems that can be accessed from your phone — are a very particular niche, and of a fairly high socio-economic class, and I didn’t want my services to be SO specific, limited only to moderately wealthy people who want to protect their stuff. I totally support them wanting to protect said stuff; I’d just rather let someone else do it. I wanted to be specialized, but not that specialized.

 

I can’t really remember at what point in the process did it first hit me that, “You know what’s really cool? AIRPLANES.” I’d always thought airplanes were pretty awesome, but I’d never really considered them a possibility, careerwise. Why? No real reason, honestly. Just that the idea seemed so huge and out there and absurd, even more so than working in other trades, especially for a woman, that my brain didn’t really acknowledge the concept.

 

But apparently I’d reached a point where I said to myself, “Self, just let the ideas run wild. No idea is too stupid, too crazy, too impossible. Don’t dismiss something offhand just because it’s huge or you don’t know anyone else who does it or because everyone’s going to tell you that it’s no place for a tiny little girl. There’s never going to be a better time to try something. Life is only going to get more complicated from here on out, so the time is now.”

 

“The way I figure it, we are all entitled to one really big, incredibly stupid screw-up in our lives. Maybe this is one of those. We’ll see.” ~Michael Garibaldi

 

So I arrived at: “Airplanes are coooooooool.”

 

Then came: “You know what’s cooler than airplanes? FIXING airplanes.”

 

And I looked into training options for that and couldn’t really find anything in my area, although there were a number of posts on job sites for “entry-level mechanics” at the local airports, JFK, Laguardia, and Newark. But they required knowledge of tools and other basic experience, not to mention a driver’s license, so while I considered applying, it didn’t seem like the best idea.

 

Then: “What makes airplanes so cool?”

 

“It’s this big giant machine with a bajillion moving parts that all add up to basically magic.” (This is where that Danny the Champion of the World quote comes back around.)

 

“You know what else are big giant machines with a bajillion moving parts that all add up to basically magic?”

 

“CARS.”

 

So I started looking into that, and lo and behold there were trade schools for it within commuting distance from my house. I researched them online, requested information, talked with them on the phone, arranged campus tours, got free swag, waffled some more (I plan to write a future post about how I chose between the two programs I was looking at), spoke to graduates of the programs (male and female), decided that I wanted to enroll in May, and finally did it, student loan and payment plan and all.
 

*

 

People have told me that they find it inspiring that I’m following my dream. That’s kind of awkward to hear, because I don’t know if cars, and potentially ultimately airplanes, are my dream. I don’t always know why I’m doing this. Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing it for the same reasons a lot of people go to law school — they don’t what else to do.

 

But I know it’s certainly not anyone else’s dream for me, given the number of people who’ve told me outright or implied that they’re disappointed that I’m not pursuing writing, or radio, or whatever else brilliant college-educated young women are supposed to do. And if it’s not anyone else’s dream, it must be mine, right?

 

All I really know is that 1) it’s the first stage of my education that I have had control over from start to finish, because no one else would ever have chosen this for me, and 2) today I assisted with an oil change and checked a car’s hoses and belts and fluids and got my hands covered with grease and I feel fantastic.

 

I’ll keep you posted.

 

____

 

Like my thinky thoughts? Want more of them? Consider donating and commissioning more, via my GoFundMe campaign — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive — and thanks for reading! And you can keep up with me on Twitter @FloatingSpirals and never miss a post 🙂

 

Project “Help SM Keep Writing While She Becomes an Automotive Technician”

(honk if you turned your head sideways to see this pic better)

As you may or may not be able to see from the picture, I am a petite 24-year-old Jewish girl with a degree in Creative Writing, who wants to pursue a very different sort of career. I considered many options and decided that I want to work with cars and/or airplanes. Not designing them or engineering them, but actually working on them with my actual hands. And my research to this point leads me to believe that my best option for getting started building those skills is to enroll in one of the Certified Automotive Technician programs in my area. Since I know basically nothing about cars except for some socio-cultural connotations of certain brands (humanities major ftw!), this will be an adventure.

The thing is, once they stop laughing, most people who know me and hear about this plan are concerned, some for my sanity, some for my safety, but overwhelmingly they are concerned about my writing. “How can you not pursue writing as a career? You have such a gift!” and “Please promise me you won’t ever stop writing” are fairly common reactions. (For context, here’s my Amazon author page: www.amazon.com/author/smrosenberg, my blog: www.smrosenbergblog.wordpress.com, and various  other posts of mine around the interwebs.)

So to accommodate that concern, I’ve set up this campaign: http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive and this email address: smautomotive00@gmail.com. The idea is that if you donate, you are eligible to send me a topic to write about, which I will post on my wordpress blog. This way, I will have an influx of ideas and inspiration AND a reason to write. (Only nonfiction requests; I want to keep my fiction juices geared toward the novel I’ve been working on.) You are free to donate as much or as little as you want, although of course those who donate more will get priority. If you do donate and make a request, PLEASE use the email address and not facebook or any alternate method of communication; it will be so much easier for me to keep track of things if they are all in one place and not scattered across communication platforms.

This is the program I’ve selected: http://www.nyadi.com/portfolio/certified-automotive-technician/  The tuition and fees come to about $16,000 ($50 registration fee, $14,800 tuition, $1000 for tools, $75 for books, $46 for uniforms, $3 ID tag) not including transportation and living expenses, so rest assured, I can use any donations you can spare. Be aware that GoFundMe takes 7.9% of the total + 30 cents per donation, so I’m not getting everything you give.

RULES:

You can pick any topic you want! You can ask me to write about why I decided to do this, my top ten TV shows, or about how I do my hair — I don’t care! I am the final arbiter of what I am and am not comfortable with and if you email me a topic that I won’t write about, I’ll ask you to pick another. I can’t guarantee length or word count (except in specific instances of $15 donations and $150 donations – see reward levels on the GoFundMe page) or time frame, but I will try to write at least 100 words on whatever topics you choose, no matter how ridiculous. I will notify you by email when your topic has been posted. ALSO: Let me know in your email if you want to be credited in the post by name or by a username as the donor of the topic, or if you want to be completely anonymous.

You can ask me to watch and review an episode of television if you donate $25 or more! (I’ll let you know if I think your requested episode is too spoilery for me to watch and let you pick an alternative.)

You can ask me to review a movie if you donate $50 or more ($65 if the movie is currently playing in theaters, because theaters are expensive)!

You can ask me to read and review a book if you donate $75 or more! Be nice, though; try to make it something I might like. And around 300 pages or less? I can be flexible! But I am gonna be in school, you know.

If you donate $100 or more. . .*drumroll please*. . . you can pick a song that I have to sing at least one minute of (if it’s not too filthy) and upload to my SoundCloud account: www.soundcloud.com/floatingspirals. Seriously. I really hope nobody does this.

At $150, I will write you 1000 words on whatever topic you pick (provided that it’s something I’m okay with writing about)! Some of those words may wind up being nonsense words, but still, they will be words!

At $500, you get whatever you want, basically.

The first topic request costs as little as $1, but if you’re going to request multiple topics (which you totally can; go for it!), I ask that you donate more than that. $5 – $10 per topic? Use your best judgment.

If you have any further questions, email me at smautomotive00@gmail.com or tweet at me @FloatingSpirals on twitter.

And if you can’t think of anything to request, donate anyway! I will accept your money! ALL YOUR MONEY. You can always request a topic later. Every dollar counts! If you never got me a birthday present — this is it.

Look at the cute little widget I set up! How cool is that?

Links to the writing samples I linked above, in case you’re curious:

http://boylanblog.tumblr.com/post/34574365681/currently-eating

https://www.facebook.com/notes/sm-rosenberg/on-no/10151777996233186

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/10/teen-fiction-knowing_n_1870971.html

http://yankees.lhblogs.com/2014/01/27/pinch-hitting-sm-rosenberg/

https://www.facebook.com/notes/sm-rosenberg/heavy/10150827187218186

http://boylanblog.tumblr.com/post/49763062122/intern-magic-hat

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE TO ALL: Donations are a gift. As such, I absolutely do not expect donations from any of you, so I don’t want you to feel guilty if you can’t give or don’t want to. Guilt is a powerful motivator, but if it means people start feeling awkward around me because they haven’t donated, or if they start feeling resentful of me for putting them on the spot, that’s obviously really really bad. I’d rather have your friendship and your respect than your money. (Of course I’d love both, but if all you can/want to give me is words of encouragement or support, or sharing it around to others who might be interested instead, I will be touched nonetheless.) I will try not to be a jerk about this, and if I do ask you, “Hey, did you see the GoFundMe I started???” please understand that I’m not trying to pressure you into donating; that’s just me being really excited about this whole project, the automotive school and the writing. Because I am PSYCHED. Also terrified. But psyched.

Hugs to all of you.