Real Adult Life

a diligent over-analysis of "adultolescence"

discerning priorities April 25, 2010

Filed under: Life,Musings — jamiej527 @ 11:05 PM
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I recently blindsided myself with the realization that my life is up to me to control.

Revolutionary, right?  Hardly. Yet the concept struck me straight in the gut.  As I watched my friends careen into suburban motherhood, I recognized that I’m not cut out for The Mommy Track.  This isn’t to say I never want to be a mom, nor do I judge my friends for their decisions.  I merely recognized that I’ve always lived my life with a different sense of balance than they do.

So I pictured my life in every circumstance, letting myself feel the weight and freedom of possibility.  Graduate school out East, chasing an MBA in finance.  Setting up new roots with my current job in Arizona.  Rooming with a grad-school bound friend in Nebraska and figuring things out from there.  Testing the strength of my network in California, New York, or Massachusetts.

I took stock of what I valued.  What I was hoping to find, what I didn’t want to lose.  And I ended up deciding that I don’t want to go anywhere.

My world is here in Minnesota.  Yes, for the right adventure I’d uproot and fly.  But not only do I love what I have here, I’m proud of it.  Not every 23 year old woman is close friends with her grandparents.  I may only have a few decades-long friendships, but some people have none at all.

I’ve been told that my life is at a point of change and growth, which is it is.  And I know moving wouldn’t mean losing touch with loved ones.  But I’ve worked hard at the relationships in my life, I simply don’t want to leave them.  And I AM at a great period of growth and change.  For example, I’m establishing independent adult relationships with relatives that I love and feel blessed to experience.

Sure, I don’t know what it feels like to Chinese takeout in New York at 3 a.m..  But I do know what it’s like to drink wine coolers by firelight with my Grandma.  Fair trade.


Project Change: Mini Win! December 22, 2009

Filed under: Work — jamiej527 @ 12:45 AM
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I had a breakthrough today with Challenging Coworker.   Challenging Coworker apologized for some brash comments and stated that I’m much better than the average person who holds position (which is a compliment akin to a marriage proposal, considering the source).  (S)he also stated that (s)he does have a great deal of respect for me.

Ho.  Lee.  Crap.

Granted, given the chance this person would still get me fired in the blink of an eye.

But one particular comment stood out to me: Challenging Coworker says the branch is a markedly more positive place since I joined the team.


Sales this month are nothing to write home about, and we’re stressed by understaffing.  But I’ve fought for this mini-win for nearly three months.  You’d better believe I’m gonna celebrate it!


Professional Identity December 21, 2009

Filed under: Musings,Work — jamiej527 @ 1:01 AM
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I bought a new cell phone yesterday, and found myself putting deep thought into which protective cover to select.  I’m drawn to bright colors, and instinctively grabbed one with a bright blue design.  After a few moments I began to trade my spunky cover with a grown-up clear one.  My boyfriend blocked my hand and grinned at me: “C’mon, Jamie, get the one you want.  You don’t need to be professional all the time.  And if you do, just take the cover off.

In my year-and-a-half at the bottom rung of the corporate ladder, my self-image has changed.  I no longer feel like I’m dressing up to go play banker.  I’m no longer surprised by the level of authority my customers and coworkers grant to me.  Somewhere along the way I grew to see myself as a professional; I came to believe the myth I’ve worked so hard to weave.

But, as my moment in the Verizon store revealed, part of me is in no hurry be a Real Adult.

There’s a natural dissonance with any major change, and these little moments make me smile.  But they also make me realize that I never want to lose the piece of myself that loves brightly colored accessories.  The fact is, I’m going to have to fight to keep her.  That piece of myself is also the piece who, while interviewing someone who we hope will become a new employee, gets completely distracted by a man in a Santa suit and exclaims “Hey, look!  St. Nick!”

After the interview, my Buzzkill Coworker made it clear that she disapproved of my “unprofessional action.”  She also doesn’t like that I wear a Northface fleece jacket above my pink Ann Claiborne heels or use the word “bummer” when working with customers.

I’ll grant that my professional identity isn’t flawless.  The secret?  I don’t want flawless.


Project Change: Frustrations November 30, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamiej527 @ 8:46 PM

Another month down.  We sucked up our sales goals.

Co-managers are afraid of getting fired for not hitting our minimum standards.  I understand that the risk of getting put on performance probation is very real.  I understand that losing one’s job is scarier for them–people in their 50’s and 60’s–than for my twenty-something self.

But where’s the practicality it worrying?  In talking about how well we did back in March and April?  In soliloquizing how the company “never used to be this way”?

Move forward.  Strive for improvement.  There’s no point in focusing on the things we can no longer control.

I’m not frustrated because we’re not making goals.  I’m frustrated because my coworkers are so ready to stagnate.

Secondly, I’m frustrated because we’re improving.  Legitimately, measurably improving.  But it’s the subtle, across-the-board improvement that has yet to show up on the company radar.  Rather than miserably  failing  to even approach goals, we’re now just barely missing targets.  Not great, but it counts.

It counts.  We CAN do this.  What surprises me is that my counterparts have a harder time getting on board than my direct reports.


“Destiny” November 29, 2009

Filed under: Life,Musings — jamiej527 @ 4:42 PM
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The Men Who Stare at Goats left something to be desired, but it managed to leave one scene stuck in my head.  This scene suggests that we all have a destiny in the universe, and that trying to do anything you’re not destined to do is like swimming upstream.  When a person stops struggling against their destiny and accepts their preordained path in the universe, everything falls into place and life is no longer a constant struggle.

In college, I was exposed to Catholic theology of vocation.  The basic idea is that God has a plan for us all, and that our lives provide a natural roadmap to this calling.  Rather than looking for an abstract idea that God “puts on the heart,” vocation seekers look to their past and recognize their happiest and most successful moments.  These moments act as a compass, pointing the seeker toward the path God has suited them to fulfill.

Even the critical, secular parts of me are drawn to these ideas.  Absent God, absent a divine concept of “The Universe,” the theories still seem practical.  The basic theory: figure out where your joys and talents intersect, and a fulfilling life will naturally follow.

To use myself as an example, I loved getting good grades because I got a thrill out of hitting predetermined benchmarks.  I loved sports mostly because I loved building camaraderie and being part of a team.  I loved dance and performing arts because I get a natural high from constant improvement in pursuit of perfection.  That is: my greatest thrill has been achieving a goal that my team had worked its asses off to attain.  Is it really a surprise that I love management?

Whether it’s called “destiny” or just a “job that’s a great fit,” I think the idea that some of us get caught swimming upstream is dead-on accurate.  That’s not to say that finding a good fit makes life challenge-free.  That’s not the point.  The point is that everyone has a path (or two, or six) that make them happier and more successful than any other path.  At that point the challenges will be thrilling, not nausea-inducing.

Or, in the immortal words of Garden State: “Do what you love.  Fuck the rest.”


My “Great” Company November 27, 2009

Filed under: Musings,Work — jamiej527 @ 1:26 AM
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I met a former coworker for post-work drinks this week, where we indulged in obligatory company gossip.  We swapped our latest customer “war stories,” caught up with life outside the office, and vented about general company policy.

As we talked, I noticed that my view of our company had changed considerably since moving to my new position.  Like pretty much every company in the country, ours is cutting costs in every possible corner.  The inconsequential cog that I am in the company wheel, I loathe these decisions.  They invariably make life harder for those of us in the branches: we end up fighting to maintain our own credibility while enacting changes that we may or may not agree with.

Working at headquarters places me closer to these decisions.   Our President’s office is a few floors above my desk, I’ve chatted with members of twenty departments at my desk while helping them manage their personal banking, I’ve watched three members of our marketing department walk out like zombies just moments after being laid off.

I expected this new branch to bring greater frustration: eliminated departments and laid-off employees are no longer abstract corporate mandates, they’re decisions that affect the lives of my close acquaintances.  I’ve actually found that I respect my company more than ever before.

That is, my definition of “my company” has shifted its focus.  “My company” no longer refers to executives and the Board.  “My company” refers to the wonderful, talented men and women who work their asses off every day.  When I say “my company” I’m no longer referring to the entity that cuts resources, I’m referring to my coworkers who find ingenious ways to achieve results despite these cuts.

For example, it maddens me that our company’s television commercials are woefully sub-par.  Since moving to headquarters, I now see them and appreciate the volume of exposure our meager 2-person marketing department is able to assemble.  My frustration has melted.  I’ve grown in it’s place an appreciation for the amazing work my coworkers can do despite being stretched thinner than ever before.

As a customer recently commented: the longer you stay at a company, the more you notice its shortcomings.  True, but only half the story.  The longer you stay at a company, the more you begin to value the employees more than the brand.


Inter-Generational Challenges November 21, 2009

Filed under: Life,Musings,Work — jamiej527 @ 12:01 AM

Like all workplaces, mine has one particular challenging coworker.  On Thursday this individual stated that, “as you’ll know if you’ve taken any HR training courses, this new group of young adults is just horrible to work with.” She went on to explain that she dislikes working with me and others like me Gen Y-ers.  That I have usurped a position that I don’t deserve Gen Y-er’s sense of entitlement leads them to take on more responsibility than they are prepared to handle.

Without rehashing details, our 20-minute conversation was incredibly uncomfortable.  I’m proud to say I kept my composure during our chat, speaking from my brain rather than my defenses.

Since the beginning of time, each generation has chastised the next.  The “kids these days!” curmudgeon stereotype grew out of truth.  My hypothesis: we’re raised to uphold particular values and bristle when a large group of people succeeds by flouting these same values.

The best way to work between generations, IMHO, is to interact with each coworker as an individual rather than a member of a subgroup.  But what does one do when she’s already been pegged as a token subgroup member?   I’m stumped.