to present on my time in Japan,
I found a photo of myself
in front of the floating torii
I was there. Of course
I remember my awe
that gate (between
the profane and
the sacred); still,
That all really
happened! I didn’t
just dream it! Read more…
I graduated from law school in 2004. I had no interest in practicing law, so I moved to Japan and taught English there instead. Though I was supposedly the teacher, I learned a lot and had a blast.
I moved back to my hometown for family reasons and took a job temping in a small HR office. Job opportunities did not abound, so I was simply glad I could pay my bills. I felt the same when I took on a temporary administrative role at a larger company before long. I sucked at it, but did my best to find silver linings, of which there were many.
As my temporary admin gig neared its conclusion, a woman I’d met exactly once offered to take me onto her team as an admin. I sent her a copy of my resume; once she saw I’d gone to law school, she became determined to get me negotiating software contracts on her team. I rejected at first, saying I’d have taken the Bar if I wanted to do anything law-related.
She persisted, thank God. I soon began negotiating contracts, and felt (happily) challenged for the first time in years. I loved learning about hardware and software, which I had to do to be effective at negotiating. I enjoyed negotiating and was grateful to have an encouraging, supportive manager nudging me outside my comfort zone.
I worked on software contracts for a decade. Then, two years ago tomorrow, I began working as a software licensing contractor. My commute to a full-time job with great benefits was just too long. I accepted job uncertainty as a small cost compared to the benefit of not spending four hours in my car daily.
My first few months as a contractor were deeply uncomfortable. There was a lot of ambiguity, which frustrated me until I took it upon myself to lessen the ambiguity. If anyone didn’t like how I was doing that, I figured, they’d be sure to tell me.
Taking risks, I found myself growing. I found joy in that growing, though I’d started out discombobulated.
As that contract wound down, an opening came up for a software asset management position. I seized the opportunity. Sure, I’d never done it before and didn’t know a thing about helping ensure neither too many nor too few licenses were procured, but I knew I’d grow. I knew that any frustration I felt at being a noob the first few months would be counterbalanced by the ultimate joy of learning.
I “knew,” but I didn’t really know. ‘Cause, see, I had no idea how much I’d learn, nor how much I’d be encouraged to learn. I couldn’t have fathomed how much support I’d have, nor how mistakes would be treated as just a part of the journey of learning. I had no idea what it’d be like to feel genuine psychological safety for the first time in my life, among a team that makes me laugh while pushing me to do better every day.
I took a risk two years ago tomorrow, and another one fifteen months ago. Because of those risks, my whole life feels so much richer than it did two years ago. For how rough my life began, it’s pretty rad now.
This is all a necessary background for another story to come. For now, though, I want to say that I am more fortunate than I sometimes remember.
I’m thankful to be challenged to remember this.
For many months, I lost touch with the physical world while immersing myself in a virtual political one. To sustain that, I had too much coffee and too much beer; coupled with the fact I was no longer getting outside to move, I gained a lot of weight.
I’m not too concerned with my weight as an isolated factor. I see it as a symptom, not itself a problem. Happily, after almost four years of figuring out which foods hurt my body and which ones heal it, I know exactly how to tackle the root causes of my feeling-crappy-ness. Doing so, I’ll feel much, much better … and my weight will change as a result.
What had bugged me, then? My clothing! I got to the point where I had four skirts and zero pairs of pants that fit me. I didn’t want to invest a bunch of money in clothing I’d only wear once or twice, so I spent a month wearing my least favorite clothing before deciding I had to change something.
How, I wondered, could I spend only a few dollars to cover a transition period? The answer came to me by virtue of my work in software licensing.
For ages, most companies bought their own hardware to run their software. Maintaining hardware was expensive and time-consuming, so that cloud computing was pretty exciting: all the software benefits, none of the hardware costs!*
Using software in the cloud, someone else has to maintain the hardware. With that “someone else” investing in all that infrastructure, the client company can use a little or a lot of hardware capacity … without having to constantly worry about hardware itself.
In a word, cloud computing offers easy scalability.
I needed that, but in clothing–something that would easily scale up and down with its hardware (me).
You know what provides scalability? Maternity clothes!
I bought a few pairs of pants and a few pairs of shorts. For the first time in a month or so, I actually felt good in what I was wearing.
It cost me all of $40, and will keep me covered across many sizes.
So, hey! Here’s to scalability, and making small investments to feel a little better now!
* There are plenty of other costs, by the way. Just don’t expect techies to care too much while oohing and aahing over new technologies!
A few months ago, my family happened across a used bookstore that was going out of business. The store’s lovely, kid-friendly owners couldn’t afford the rent, which had just been jacked up something like 50%.
My husband, sons, and I bought a couple of boxes full of books that day. Before we left, my husband signed up for the owners’ school book fair mailing list. It’s a good thing he did, too!
A few days ago, he got a great email about the bookstore. First, there’d been such an outpouring of love for Camelot Books, its owners had decided to open up shop somewhere else a few months down the road. The store wouldn’t be closing down for good. Woo-hoo!
Second, there wouldn’t be enough space to store their inventory in the meantime. With thousands of books still left, the real sale had begun!
My family and I returned to the store yesterday, eventually leaving with one enormous box of books for only about fifty dollars. We left, too, with memories of another hour spent surrounded by books, love, and each other … and the elation of knowing this bookstore will continue, and with it a joy that has little to do with physical location.
“Mama?” my seven-year-old, Li’l D, spoke.
“My friend [M] said that the difference between my hair and [my little brother, Littler J’s] is that his is way bigger because it hasn’t been cut for a while.”
“That’s one difference,” I said. “Another is that his hair is fine, while your hair is …” I searched for the right word, understanding many words that seem neutral in the dictionary are charged in living color.
“Your hair is thick,” I concluded.
“Which is better?” Li’l D asked plaintively.
“Oh, sweetie,” I said, ruffling his thicker curls. “Neither is better. When I was little, my only friend who wasn’t my sibling–Topaz–had curly hair. I was so jealous of her curly hair. Then again, she wished she had my straight hair.”
Li’l D looked at his brother’s hair and half-smiled. “Oh.”
I don’t know if he believes me now. I don’t know if he’ll believe me later. I only know that (1) pre-pregnancy me of eight years ago wouldn’t have understood “dog whistles,” or the ways politicians invoke race without ever explicitly mentioning it, and (2) I believe it through-and-through. His curls are lovely. His brother’s curls are lovely.
One brother’s curls are fine. Another brother’s curls are coarse.
Both brothers are beautiful; either’s hair, only a fraction of that.