2010 in review

I just got this year-end summary email from wordpress.com. 1500 views? I think a lot of those might have been me, reading my own blog. Anyway, for anyone considering starting a blog, this is pretty cool motivation. Or for anyone who has a blog that’s been inactive for some time (ahem, not naming any names), this should be a good reminder of how awesome it feels to get positive feedback on your writing.

Thanks to everyone who’s been reading, sharing and commenting on my blog. Your support is amazing and appreciated more than you know.

Happy 2011!!

 

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2010. That’s about 4 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 13 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 50 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 21mb. That’s about 4 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was November 30th with 108 views. The most popular post that day was You’re Fired!.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, touch.facebook.com, stumbleupon.com, en.wordpress.com, and thespinningplate.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for samantha pollack, samantha pollack city girl country girl, samantha pollack blog, cover letter for server position, and lesson to your heart.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

You’re Fired! November 2010
2 comments

2

City Girl, Country Girl September 2010

3

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Halloween November 2010
3 comments

4

Servitude November 2010
9 comments

5

The Joys and Sorrows of Being Unemployed October 2010
5 comments

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Thirty-three

Yesterday was my birthday.

That’s right — thirty-three years ago, four days after Christmas and two days before New Year’s Eve, the world was graced with my presence. Immediately followed by the blizzard of ’78.

Growing up, I have to credit my family for making every effort to celebrate my birthday as a completely separate entity. I never got ‘combination’ presents (until I was older and asked for them), and I even got an extended family celebration since Armenians always gather and celebrate the New Year anyway. Our traditional feast of kufta and money bread was always followed by a beautifully made chocolate cake from my grandmother.

My early birthday memories are faint. They all run together as large family gatherings, with the cake decoration being the one standout. As a toddler, all the grandchildren got the merry-go-round cake — a carousel that sits on top of a round cake. As we got older, my Grammy would decorate the cake (freestyle) with whatever we were into that year. The year I played Molly in the church production of Annie, I got an Annie cake. Another year, it was Raggedy Ann.

Since my birthday marks not just another year of my life, but the end of the calendar year as well, I feel especially reflective. Here are some of my most memorable birthdays to date:

Eight

One Christmas, my mom contracted a vicious case of strep throat. Having two little kids, she wanted us to remain strep-free, so we stayed a few nights at our grandparents, including the night before my birthday.

I will never forget making my way downstairs that morning, turning the corner and seeing the kitchen table overflowing with my birthday. My grandmother had made a banner that said “Happy Birthday Samantha!” and sitting there on the table was Sally, a stuffed Polar bear that I still sleep with today. What started out as a stressor (I won’t be at home for my birthday!) turned out to be my best and most memorable childhood birthday.

Sixteen

My family is big on surprises. Really big. For my Sweet Sixteen, my mother got in touch with some of my friends and planned a surprise party for me at Ruthie and Moe’s diner in downtown Cleveland (they were friends of my mom, and their daughter Sara was one of my closest friends at the time*). The plan was perfect — Sara asked me if I wanted to join her on a downtown shopping trip with her older brother Josh, and on the way they just had to stop at the diner and get some cash…..SURPRISE!

Except……I knew about it. My best friend Alicia (still one of my best friends today) had the invitation sitting on her dresser, and I uncovered it one day while milling around her room, like you do in your best friend’s room. She came out of the bathroom (she had her own bathroom!), saw my sheepish expression and, horror-stricken, said “What did you see??'”

This remained our secret for years to come. I finally told my mom, and maybe one or two of my other friends, but not until much later. It was still a great party, and one of the first real birthday parties I had, since my birthday always fell during winter break.

*I feel obligated to say something more about the diner. Ruthie and Moe were great friends to my mom, and Ruthie is responsible for the best matzoh ball soup I’ve ever had. Moe passed away in early 2002 and will always be remembered, in my mind at least, for his smiling eyes, which always seemed to be winking at you.

Twenty-Six

The night before my 26th birthday, I received the mother of all broken hearts. I was out bar-crawling with some old girlfriends when I discovered that one of them was the second point in a deceitful love triangle (I was the third). I slipped out of the bar, recruited some friends to come sit with me and spent an unnecessary amount of time on the phone with the origin of this triangle, crying my eyes out. The next morning, my birthday, I had to work at Maggiano’s.

I felt like crap.

My best friend called and forgot to say happy birthday. I cut out a reassuring horoscope from the Metro and got reamed out for cutting up someone else’s paper (the Metro is a free paper, by the way, available on every street corner).

Toward the end of my shift, one of the girls from the previous night showed up with flowers and told me to come meet her when I was done. I did, and proceeded to drown my sorrows with her and my fellow triangle-ee at this awesome dive called My Brother’s Place, which is no longer there. At some point that evening, I had to meet my friends for a big birthday dinner at some Judy Jetson looking place in the South End. I was so drunk I don’t really remember dinner. In fact, the only thing I remember clearly is all my friends laughing at me. They still tease me about that night.

I have since forgiven everyone involved in the triangle, including myself, although it took a very long time.

Dirty Thirty

I planned my own 30th birthday party, and everything about it was fantastic. I wore a perfect green dress, ate a delicious meal at one of my favorite restaurants and was surrounded by many friends. I loved turning 30. I remember feeling so happy about my life at the time. I had a job I loved and was good at, a great apartment, a sister in the same city and a loving and loyal network of close friends. I had a ball and so did my friends, and bonus! — the best drunken-after-party photos of all time came from that night.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

This year, I celebrated my birthday in my new town, in my new life. It was colored by some post-holiday depression and the frustration Matthew and I have felt with our financial situation. It was mellow, but it was okay. Facebook helps.

Thirty-Three

I had just moved to Asheville, North Carolina with Matthew. I was starting my own business as a personal trainer and health coach. We were dead broke, relying on family assistance to make ends meet. It was snowy and gray, and we had just returned from an especially gluttonous holiday week in Ohio.

We slept in that day and didn’t really get going until the afternoon. Matthew had a surprise spa visit planned that got cancelled due to weather. My two best friends were supposed to arrive the next day, but their flight got cancelled and they had to drive all the way. I lost my dad’s birthday card, which was not only beautiful and inspiring, but also contained $150.00.

We were stressed out, and we lamented these things even as we tried to rally and make a great birthday anyway. As Matthew said, the Universe was not helping us out.

But maybe it was. If the past year of my life has taught me anything, it’s that everything in life is good, as long as it moves you from one place to the next. When jumping from one stone to the next, sometimes you slip and fall in the mud. But you still get to that next stone, even if you have to dig yourself out and claw your way up there. And when you do, you’re a lot less afraid, because you’ve already proven to yourself that you can get out of the mud.

I know that Future Me will look back on this birthday with nostalgia. There is something romantic about having nothing. And besides, it is undeniable that I am in a transition right now that will lead to a new and previously unimaginable life. A life that I am creating all by myself, for myself. The life that I want.

I guess that’s a pretty good birthday present.

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What Happened

Ok.

Here’s what happened. I got mad. Real mad. My patience took a hiatus and I let it all in. Let what in, you say? The pressure of having no income, my resistance to a service job, the unavailability of said service job, the frustration of having no clients and the ensuing desperation, the relative lack of a social life due to insufficient funds and insufficient friends. All of that. I let it run wild all over my mind, my body….and this blog.

And I felt guilty about it. I felt like I had sullied this precious creation of mine, and in turn disappointed or turned off my readers.

I don’t feel I should apologize though. I can edit or remove a post anytime I want. So if I really want to, I can take the offending post down with one click of the mouse. And I might.

At the moment, however, I offer an explanation. I was frustrated. I’d had it up to “here”. I needed to vent to someone other than my poor boyfriend. I’m not proud of taking it out on you, but that’s what I did. And because of that, I guess I owe it to you now to say that things have improved. With some help, I pulled my head out of my arse and started to make things happen. I’m working like a maniac on starting my business (more on that later), resuming the job search with a fresh perspective and creating some pretty crafty Christmas presents.

I realized something. When I started this blog, I thought it would be a great way to keep everyone informed about what I was up to. What it was like to relocate, to co-habitate, to go from big city to small town. I thought it would be a great way for me to practice writing for other people, and to feel connected with all the friends and family I left behind. I thought, in short, that this blog was for me. And if it’s for me, then I can write whatever I damn well please. This is creation! This is where I’m at today; if you don’t like it, don’t read it. And so forth.

But I was wrong. This blog is not for me. It’s for you. You are the ones who read it, it is your feedback that makes me want to keep writing. And, assuming my writing is powerful enough, it is your mood that is affected by reading it. So if my last entry bummed you out, then I can apologize for that. And I do.

This newfound humility is partially responsible for my silence this week. My other excuse is this whole ‘starting-a-business’ business. I promise to elaborate on that soon.

In the meantime, here’s your blog back.

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Stranger in a Strange Land

(video courtesy of youtube)

Ladies aaaaaaand gentleman, step right up! Come see the freak of nature!

She’s a personal trainer who actually thinks she can make a living that way! She thinks you have to know what you’re doing when you work out! She drives in the snow! She walks to the grocery store! You won’t believe your eyes, folks. A bona fide city slicker, right here in our midst! You can talk to her!

My new money-making idea: I’ll charge people five bucks each to come gawk at me and tell me that the only money in Asheville is in the service industry.

These days, I’m feeling like an alien. I know nobody and nobody knows me. This town is all about the “community,” the “word-of-mouth,” the “I’ll-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine.” Well, that all sounds great for a struggling entrepreneur. But right now it feels like a clique that I can’t get into. If Asheville were Heathers, I’d be Veronica.

Turns out I have little value to new gyms because I can’t bring in any existing clients. But I don’t have any clients because I can’t get in front of gym members. I keep knocking at the door even though it keeps closing in my face. I have been told at least once daily that I’m going to have to wait tables. “That’s what everyone has to do here.” Hmmm, no offense Asheville, but I am not everyone. I refuse to accept that as my fate. Here’s the real bitch of it though: even if I wanted to wait tables (and I think it’s pretty clear that I don’t), I couldn’t get a job, because you have to know the “right people” for that, too.

Where did I move to, L.A.?

To add to my frustration, today marks the first real Snow Day of the season. Except….there’s not very much snow. I couldn’t go out this morning because last night there were like forty wrecks in an inch of snow. People, please! This is very hard for an Ohio girl with a December birthday. I learned to drive in the snow. I then spent several years in the city, relying on public transportation. And when it snowed, I bundled up and got where I needed to get, snow or no.

Granted, in Boston there is much silliness about the snow, and cleanup is not what you would expect from a New England town. But people do go to work in the winter. Colleges don’t close because of a flurry.

I’m so tired of everything being so difficult. I’m tired of not having a career. I’m tired of hearing the same shit from everyone I talk to. Here’s a sampling:

-It’s really tough to find a job in Asheville.
-Service industry. That’s where the money is.
-It’s a different market down here. The fitness industry is not the same.
-Do you want to join my pyramid scheme?
-Yeah, the first year in Asheville is really hard.
-That’s just what people do here. The service industry is full of people who can’t find work in their field.
-You just have to be positive!

It’s been three months. In the scheme of things, I suppose that’s not very long. But I’ve had at least one job since I was 15. Three months out of work is seriously messing with my sense of self-worth. Yeah, I know I should be positive. I know that I am in charge of my own destiny, that if I put out negative I’ll get negative back, and if I put out positive then the universe will help me. Blah, blah, blah.

YOU try it.

And there it is. I am alienated and alienating. It is a self-fulfilling, self-propelled, vicious cycle. And I am trying to break it. Really, I am. But it’s hard. I ask a great deal of myself. Network, stay positive, start a business, earn money, stay in shape, eat healthy, take care of Matthew and the cat, be okay even though you’re not okay. Be happy.

I try. But sometimes, it’s just too much for little old me.

I usually try to avoid blog entries like this. I don’t like reading overly personal or angry blogs, so why would I write one? I like to set a more positive tone, for two reasons. 1) It makes me feel better, and 2) I don’t want to bum out my readers, or worse — lose them entirely. But I am nothing if not authentic. So today, loyal readers and fellow members of the blogosphere, I apologize. I just don’t have it in me this morning. What I can do instead is offer a discussion prompt:

Use the comment box below to describe a time in your life when you felt like a stranger.  Maybe your story will help someone else feel a little less strange.

Posted in Culture Shock, Jobby-Jobs, Life in General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

You’re Fired!

Well folks, I done got canned. Sacked. Terminated. I received my pink slip. They gave me the boot. I got the axe.

That’s right. I will no longer be serving up Gyros or Moussaka. There are two things that bother me about this:

1. I will no longer be able to regale you with stories of the BFGR. Not that I have yet, but I was going to.

2. I was really looking forward to working the first two weeks of December so I could screw them over for the holidays. Guess they never heard of the “chopping block” technique*.

*Keeping all the undesirables on through December to ensure holiday coverage, then going on a firing spree in January. The doomed servers are referred to as being on the “chopping block.”

Of course, there is one other small concern: I was kind of counting on that two weeks’ worth of crappy pay. But I must admit, even that doesn’t compare to the relief I feel at never having to set foot in there again.

I’ve never been fired before. I’ve never quit a job on the spot either, though I’ve fantasized about it. Let’s face it, I am a nerd. When faced with the choice, I usually follow the rules. And even though I had one foot out the door (okay, more like both feet, my entire brain and a shoulder), it still stung. Fired? It’s like getting an F, another thing I’ve never done. I was upset.

But mostly, I can’t seem to move past the general haughtiness, the arrogance, the stern, “you’re in big trouble, young lady” attitude. Excuse me? I do not suffer this kind of treatment. It stuns me, actually, that these men feel entitled to speak to women that way. Losing my job, I can take. In fact, I’m already over it. I was over it before they even fired me. But my disgust toward the management? Not so easy. It’s that kind of maddening, impotent anger that results from witnessing an incredible injustice about which you can do nothing. Nothing! Can I stop them from acting that way? Nope. Could it ever happen that the servers would all wake up one day and refuse to be treated as slaves? No. Can I spread rumors about rats in their kitchen? Yes.

But I would never do something like that and everyone knows it. (hellooo? nerd)

True karmic justice can occur only if these men are somehow shamed. They have to know why bad luck has befallen them. That it’s their own fault. That each woman they disrespect is a radiant Venus, smarter and more capable than they will ever be. They act above us, expect us to be grateful to work for them, hold it over our heads in order to control. But they are wrong. They are not better than me. I am better than them.

I am better than them because I will not allow their beliefs to become mine. I am better than them because I have the gift of intuition and wonder. I know how good this life is, and how big. In comparison, these men (and the restaurant they take so seriously) are tiny.

I am better than them because I know that being better doesn’t matter. That responding to their cockiness only fuels the fire. Taking revenge only spreads negativity. If those girls don’t mind working there, that is their decision, and they have every right to make it.

There’s this part in The Fountainhead, where the main character (Roark) comes face to face with his nemesis, this really slimy guy who’s been sabotaging all of Roark’s chances. The guy is so pleased with himself for all the hand-wringing he believes he’s caused, and wants to know what Roark thinks of him. He practically begs for it. Roark looks puzzled, and in a totally indifferent (typically Rand-ian) manner, replies, “But I don’t think of you,” and walks away.

I’ve always thought that was the best response. The best revenge is not even caring enough to take revenge.

So, my attentions turn to more noble pursuits — papering the town with flyers, networking my ass off, staging a blitzkrieg of free workshops and introductory sessions at the gym, picking up Infinite Jest again, creating Christmas out of twenty bucks and my own two hands.

Big Fat Greek who?

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Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Halloween

What is this thing that happens to people in October? People get more excited about Halloween than any other holiday. Is it the thrill of pretending to be someone else? To take on a different identity for one night is pretty liberating. Is it the adrenaline rush of being frightened? Surely this has contributed to the popularity of haunted houses and Saw 47. Maybe it’s just an excuse to get completely hammered, since no one will                                                                                         recognize you anyway.

Just for the record, I love Halloween.

This year, Matthew and I got tickets to Moogfest 2010. Which means: a three-day Halloween dance party in a town that’s already full of freaks. It was really fun. I even had an “I love where I live!” moment during Thievery Corporation.

Some popular costumes this year:

  • Double Dare contestants – 8
  • Super Mario Bros. – at least 6 or 8 sets. Come on!
  • Chilean miners – at least 10, really?
  • Waldo/Wilma – at least 4/3 respectively
  • Full-on, double freaking rainbow – 2 (but what does it mean?)

I got to thinking, maybe we should start enjoying the rest of the year even half as much as we enjoy this one weekend. What can we take from Halloween and apply to everyday life?

~Lesson #1: Personality goes a long way~

Ever notice how much fun you have not being yourself for a few hours? The more in character you are, the better time you have, and the best costumes are always those with the most personality. Dress like an old man – eh, just okay. But dress like an old man and act like an old man – now that’s funny. Example: I saw three Carmen Sandiego’s at Moogfest. They just looked like some girls with red hats and coats. But back in Boston, my friend Angie rocked the big sunglasses, yellow scarf, and acted mysterious all night. And she almost won best costume (sorry dude, maybe next year).

~Lesson #2: Stop taking yourself so seriously. Get your goofy on~

When you’re in costume, it’s easier to let down your inhibitions. Wearing a disguise invites you to act a little sillier than usual, and that always feels so good. Even the most grounded, happy people need to cut loose every once in a while. We all get bogged down by the minutia of life – work drama, bill paying, laundry, grocery stores – and it’s nice to take a break. To laugh and act like an idiot. To see what other people come up with and watch them act like idiots. To do whatever feels right to do in that exact moment, without worrying about what people think.

~Lesson #3: You are not in a bubble. Acknowledge all the other people wandering around in this huge life, and start sharing some of it with them~

Think of a Halloween party.  There is a sense of community there that doesn’t exist in the hustle and bustle of daily life. Everybody’s friends, bound together by the commonality of dressing up. You talk to everyone, complimenting their costume or helping someone fix their makeup. The same sort of thing happens at music festivals, religious ceremonies or (sometimes) major sporting events. I’m not making this up; it’s a real phenomenon called Communitas.

~Lesson #4: Do something that scares you every once in a while~

Costumes and silliness aside, there is another aspect of Halloween and it’s my favorite part. The scary part. Creepy music, horror movies, and blood-soaked prom dresses….bring it on. I know it’s not for everyone, but many folks seem particularly drawn to the spooky stuff. When you’re scared, it’s exciting. Overcoming your fear is even more exciting. And if you never do anything that scares you, how can you grow? Pushing past the boundaries of possibility is a daunting task, but it creates limitless possibility in return. Plus…..being scared is an adrenaline rush. It makes your heart beat into your ears and your legs go spaghetti. Does that sound like anything else?

Lesson #5: Pumpkins are delicious and very good for you.

In October, we carve pumpkins to look like faces, light candles inside them and put them on our porches. This year, my dad bought us pumpkins but we never got around to carving them. So I gutted them, roasted them and made pumpkin puree from scratch. Now we will feast on pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread and pumpkin seeds until the next time someone                                               buys us an oversized squash.

~Lesson #6: Sometimes, having no money inspires the greatest ideas~

This year, Matthew and I did not have the time, energy or funds to put toward a Halloween costume. But we couldn’t go as nothing. So we decided to throw something together from our own closets. And that something was….nerds. Nerds! A classic, and people loved it. Matthew got kicked about 1,000 times (probably due to the “kick me” sign I taped to his back). Our costumes really seemed to bring out the Biff Tannen in everyone. We were never expecting so much fanfare for these last-minute, completely zero-dollar costumes, but people actually told us to enter the contest. And even though some folks might have been acting out their old high school aggression, our getups never failed to produce a smile. Moral of the story=everyone loves nerds. Why? Because everyone – every hipster, goth chick, guitar god, seven-time Tour de France winner, prom queen, cocky restaurant owner…everyone has an inner nerd. Some just hide it better than others. Plus, watching nerds dance is always funny.

~Lesson #7: Get in touch with your inner nerd and give him/her some love. Go ahead and geek out~

Some of my favorite costumes this year:

  • Lloyd Dobler
  • Pee-Wee Herman
  • David Bowie from Labyrinth (complete w/baby doll)
  • Hooters guy
  • Twins from the Shining
  • Facebook


So even though it’s only been a week, and Halloween is forgotten as our thoughts shift to winter and holiday time, try to remember the lesson. Put a little Halloween in your day today.



Posted in Life in General | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Servitude

Readers, I realize I’ve been quiet for a little too long. The truth is, I lost my sense of humor for a while there. I got sucked into the vortex of depression and anxiety that comes with the inability to find gainful employment. And now that I’ve found it, I don’t like it. Anyway, I didn’t really feel like subjecting you to my personal rollercoaster.

 

The past few weeks have been a study in contrast – the mean reds of joblessness, friendlessness…..against the happy bright blue of autumn skies, all of it wrapped up in the velvety softness of being in love. I can feel myself growing, and I know this is good. But damn.

Anyway, I finally found a job, slinging Moussaka at a fairly nice place about ten minutes out of town. I got hired on the spot, and it wasn’t because of this cover letter.

About an hour after walking out of there with a ridiculous, ear-to-ear grin on my face, a nagging inner voice started whispering, and the whispering grew all weekend until I started my shift on Monday. After two weeks and significant inner conflict, I have finally deciphered the message behind that whisper:

I don’t want to do this again.

As relieved as I am to know that Ramen noodles and homelessness are no longer imminent possibilities, I have to admit that I am not at all excited about this. I waited tables and/or tended bar for ten years. My whole twenties. I thought I could never get out. But then I did.  One of my biggest life accomplishments was establishing a full-time, livable income without waiting a single table. Quitting Maggiano’s was a milestone in my life.

During the past two, waitress-less years of my life, I have wistfully remembered my days in the industry–sleeping in, being able to go out at night (and not feel drunk after one cocktail), socializing with members of the opposite sex, and so forth. And the money, of course. At the gym I worked twice as many hours as my friends in the business, and most of them always had more money than me. I’ve been more than a little envious of them for not having to wake up before sunrise. But of course, we always covet what we don’t have. In my moments of envy, I conveniently forgot about chauvinistic micro-managers, late nights and working Sundays. I overlooked the drudgery of side work and condescending patrons.

Well, my new job’s got it all. I hereby dub it The Big Fat Greek Restaurant [There is a real restaurant with the same name in New York, this has no relation. Don’t sue me]. I will say that the food is high quality, the wines are well-chosen and the servers seem to do well. But…..but……it took me about a week to articulate this — it’s just not fun. Fun is against the rules there. So is putting on Chapstick, eating anything (ever), holding a wine glass by the bowl and wearing earrings.

The other night, as I put on my new/old apron for the first/millionth time, my heart sank. I know I should have a positive, this-is-only-temporary attitude, but I’m scared. Don’t most people have that attitude when they start waiting tables? “Means-to-an-end” – sound familiar? Isn’t that the cliché of our entire industry?

And another thing: I can’t tell how much of my dread comes from a return to the business in general, or the BFGR specifically.  There are two major pros of waiting tables: money and fun. These are the reasons so many people stick with it for so long. You can make your rent in five shifts, sometimes less, and the people you work with are irreverent and funny. So far I’m 0/2, but that’s partly because I’m not giving very good service yet (hey, I’m rusty, gimme a break).

Last week I worked my first double in…….three years? My first weekday double in at lest five years. Let’s just say I was not looking forward to it (as opposed to saying, for instance, that I left the house crying) I made $127 and had to clean toilets as my side work.

So, I feel it’s safe to say that this is not the place for me. I already have my foot in the door at the place I really wanted to work, so it’s just a matter of patience now. And at least I’m making some money, which is better than no money. But still, it’s a little ridiculous there. I plan to turn it into some excellent blog material. I figure if I treat it as a social experiment, that might take some of the sting out of being there.

You know how you can tell if you hate your job? If when, every time you leave, you seriously consider just not ever showing up again. Or when, after knowing you all of ten minutes, your (Greek) boss starts calling you Frida because of your eyebrows.

I realized today, with the help of an incredibly loving and supportive Matthew, that I really don’t have to work there if I don’t want to. What is money, if everything else about this job makes me feel stressed out and unhappy? I am building a life in Asheville. Know what that means? I have the opportunity–no, the responsibility–to choose the pieces wisely. I am a talented and successful trainer with an opportunity to start my own business, and that should be where my focus lies. (That, and making some quality friends). Sure, I need a secondary income for now, but if that becomes a source of stress that sucks time and energy away from the real reason I’m here, then guess what?

86’d.

So everyone, I am going to turn my current situation into an opportunity to tell all of you the same thing. Say you have a really horrible boss, an unhappy relationship, a shitty roommate or a crazy drunk friend that no one actually likes but everyone just tolerates anyway —  whatever your dilemma, remember there is always something you can do. It may not be the easiest course of action, but in the end you are only accountable to yourself. Whenever you find yourself feeling trapped and overwhelmed, just remember – you don’t have to do anything. There is always a choice.

 

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On Running

Yesterday, I had a perfect run. A sunny, fall day with a nice breeze, a 3.5 mile course through a beautiful neighborhood encircling a lake, great tunes popping up on the iPod. Every so often, all these pieces fall into place and the runner is rewarded with that feeling– you were only meant to run,  your lungs and legs and feet are a perfect machine, you could run forever.

Since I got to Asheville, this feeling has eluded me. As a runner, one of the most exciting adventures is discovering a new route. Exploring uncharted territory on foot. You get a feeling for a place that can’t be replicated in a car, on a bike, even on a walk. So, moving to a whole new place should be a runner’s dream, right?

Wrong.

See, in the city, you can walk out the door and go on an infinite number of different runs. Three miles, ten miles, hilly, flat, water, no water, whatever. Sidewalks all the way. And bonus – in a city like Boston, you have to go out looking for the hills. Here in the mountains, you can’t get away from them. Also, you can’t just run wherever you want. There are only sidewalks sometimes, and other times the sidewalk you’re on just ends for no reason. There are hills every which way. Plus the city rests at about 2,000 ft, which isn’t that much unless you’ve been dwelling at sea level for the past 14 years. There are also some neighborhoods to avoid, some of which are not so far from my house.

Needless to say, it’s been tough getting my running mojo back. My first few jogs around the neighborhood were pathetic. Sucking wind, I believe would be the term. My limbs felt heavy, my lungs were tight and painful, and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t seem to break three miles.

But there have been some bright spots. My first week here, I met some great girls who now include me in their weekend running group. This has done several things for me – I’m making friends, discovering new routes without getting lost and running farther than I would on my own. Another thing that’s hard to do in the city but easy to do in the mountains is trail running. A fifteen minute drive takes you to Warren Wilson College, where you can run mile after mile through the woods, along a river, through a pasture. For a flat run (thank god), there is a park about five minutes away with a 1.4 mile loop and plenty of open space if you want to do any push ups or athletic drills (you know,  just in case you want to). It was hard to get used to the idea of having to drive somewhere to run somewhere, but I have to say it’s very rewarding, plus it opens up many possibilities in terms of variety.

So, back to my perfect run. The route was actually designed by the running-group organizer and it was the first route I ever attempted in Asheville. Yesterday I tried it again, by myself. I knew how far it was from before, but as I was doing the last half mile (a gravel trail along the lake), I thought I must have made a mistake. Surely I couldn’t have gone three miles already? I felt like I had just started. And most of the time, I was jamming to some tunes, thinking lazily about this or that…..it was exactly the kind of meditative escape that (for me) is the goal of almost every workout. Just as I was coming up on the final stretch, the best running song ever came on. Seriously, if you run with music and you haven’t discovered this yet, give it a try. I LOVE it – Diablo Rojo by Rodrigo y Gabriela. Turns your run into poetry.

As I glided up the last little slope and my car came into view, that ecstasy that is exclusive to amazing runs burst through me, and when I crossed the imaginary finish line I actually leaped into the air and said, “YEAH!!” I was smiling ear to ear. I realize I must have looked like an idiot, but who cares? I was just happy to have my mojo back. I felt like I could keep running forever, do the whole loop one more time.

And if all this hadn’t happened on my break from a double at the BFGR, I just might have.

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My Fantasy Cover Letter

Hi.

Before I get into this, I’d like to share something that happened to me.

A couple of weeks ago, I applied for a server position via Craigslist and was ignored. Last time I dined at the establishment in question, I cringed as the server struggled to open a bottle of wine, label facing her belly, complaining that her wine key was the problem, when she actually had the best kind of wine key there is (double hinge, anyone?) Then she went ahead and poured everyone a full glass, gentlemen first. And why didn’t they email me back about that server position????

But I didn’t come here to talk about that.

I’ve been writing a lot of cover letters. Dear blah blah blah, I’m so-and-so, please hire me. It’s very tedious and time-consuming, and it’s all just a game to get some face time, which is where the job really becomes mine.

Last time I was composing one of these beauties, I found myself with a bad case of writer’s block. Because writing cover letters is boring. And it’s really hard not to sound desperate. I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I could just write what I really want to say? And then I realized–I have a blog! I can write whatever I want, and not jeopardize my chances of getting a job in the process.

And so, behold my fantasy cover letter:

To Whom it Concerns:

I just moved here and I don’t know anybody. I am a personal trainer, but nobody wants a personal trainer down here, all these people want to do is go to yoga and eat tempeh and just be in naaatuuure, maaaan. I need money and friends. This is why I would like to work for you.

I’ve spent ten years as a bartender and server in Boston. In Boston, they are mixing cocktails that haven’t even been invented yet. I can teach you how to make them if you want.

Listen, restaurant manager. I know you have a lot of applicants, but how many of those people do you think are actually good at this job? How many people on your current staff show up late, request every other weekend off, or turn around and quit after a month? I know you know who I’m talking about. Well, not this girl. I am fucking awesome at this job and you’d be a fool not to hire me. You want me to sell your tempeh burger and fake bacon? Done! I’ll sell the shit outta that shit. With a smile on my face. Have you seen my smile? Please!

I can work whenever you want me to work, as long you’re not sexist and/or condescending.  If you are, please disregard all of the above and don’t call me. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best, Sam P.

Aaaaaaaaaaahhhh. I feel much better now.

Back to the grind.

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Why I Still Love Eddie

Music lovers of any generation can always tell you what hooked them. For my mom, it was John Lennon singing “Twist and Shout.” In high school, my best friend and I geeked out over something called The Shit Mix, which was a compilation of psychedelic classic rock (read: it was a mixtape). My three-year-old goddaughter is already addicted, although the adults in her life may have done that on purpose. For Eddie, it had a lot to do with Pete Townshend. Personally, I can point to an exact day.

 

The thing that woke me up, turned me on, made me buzz all over and want to stop doing everything in the world besides listen, was this:

This episode of Unplugged wasn’t the first time I heard Pearl Jam, but it was the first time I ever really paid attention and listened to Eddie Vedder. I was mesmerized. I think my eyeballs grew 3 sizes that day.  The very next time my mom drove me to the mall, I snatched up Ten on cassette tape. It was March 1992.

I murdered that tape. The liner notes are practically in pieces. I pored over the lyrics, which were printed in Eddie’s graffiti-like handwriting, to make sure I knew every single word he sang. I knew every note of every guitar solo. I would lie in bed at night and sing along until Eddie and I had perfect harmony. (And by the way, to all of you who have heard my singing voice, we did).

Being thirteen is rough. Actually, all the years from about twelve to eighteen pretty much suck. I can remember being alone in my room, coiled into a ball of lonely, frustrated teen angst, with nothing except the music. When I wanted to smash the windows, exerting my youth and rallying against Moms and Dads and Teachers, there was “Why Go” and “Rearviewmirror.” When I wanted to cry and feel sorry for myself, I had “Indifference” and a bootleg version of “Footsteps.” When I wanted to practice my singing, I rocked “Oceans.”

Throughout high school and into my first few years of college, I was obsessed. I collected everything I could get my hands on. I made collages. By the time Yield came out in 1998 though, the magic was wearing off. (Which is not to say that that album isn’t great, because it is. I just didn’t need it so much). Around this time I also started feeling like I should leave my teenage obsession behind, or maybe I just made myself sick of them. Binaural (2000) was helpful in this pursuit, because at the time, I hated it.

This is when Pearl Jam lost a lot of their early fan base, myself included. But while most people never looked back, I couldn’t stay away. I can’t really say why, except that I felt a certain loyalty to something that was so personal and emotional and…..mine. Plus, they’re good. I think, for a few years, that I tried to minimize or deny my connection to this band and present it as more of a youthful crush. I was embarrassed about it. Whenever I talked about Pearl Jam, it was in a decidedly sheepish and self-deprecating tone.

But with age comes confidence. One of the best growing-up moments comes when you realize how much easier it is to live when you don’t care what other people think. So, I reconnected with my 16-year-old self. I went through a Pearl Jam Renaissance. But this time, I had a job and could afford concert tickets. Lots of concert tickets.

And here is where I truly began to appreciate the significance of this band. I am 32 now, and my passion for music has burned since that day in 1992. Eighteen years later, the people responsible for hooking me are still hooked themselves. We got to grow up together. Now they tour for months on end and are lauded as one of the best live bands around. They give every fan club member a shot at the front row. Their friends include(d) Sean Penn, Joey Ramone and Howard Zinn. Sometimes, they play for four hours.

My point is, this is one of very few bands that  a) didn’t OD in the 90’s and ruin their careers (or die), and b) were huge in 1993 but are still relevant and entertaining in 2010 (I’m talking to you, STP, Soundgarden reunion). The collages and crush-y feelings of high school have long since dissolved, and two feelings have taken their place: respect and gratitude. Respect — for the way these guys have carried themselves over the years, for one of the best guitarists in the business, for growing up without becoming uncool.

And gratitude — for waking me up, turning me on, making me buzz all over and want to stop doing everything in the world except listen. And for bearing witness to the adolescent Sam, who skipped school one day because she couldn’t get tickets to the previous night’s show (thanks, Mom).

There was a moment in Hartford a couple years ago, when the band played a song that was a particular favorite of mine when I was about 15. In the middle of 30,000 fans, I was transported back to my childhood bedroom, singing in perfect harmony with lyrics I couldn’t forget if I tried. I may or may not have cried a little. And it struck me, then, just how lucky I am.

When my mom was my age, John Lennon was already dead. I could have picked seven other Seattle bands to love and my hero would be dead too. And do I even need to mention Forever 27?

Can I really be saying that the reason I still love Eddie is because he’s still alive? Yuck! What cruel muse has led me to such a corny conclusion, and from my least favorite PJ song no less?

Well, there is obviously more to it than that. Every time I’m at a show, and the house lights are up and the whole crowd is Rockin’ in the Free World, I feel like bursting with happiness. It’s not often you get to be right about something all along, or that loyalty is so richly rewarded.

 

But the real reason I keep coming back is that…….

 

What else can I say? It’s the truth.

 

 

 

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