Monday, January 3, 2011

happy new year

Well, I have been a bit remiss about posting.  I guess that technically, I have kept my promise to myself, because I mentally committed to posting to this blog every workday.  And with maybe one exception, I have.  So I didn't post last week because I didn't work last week.  But I have been missing it, and I'm back at work, so here I am.  With a really, really long post.

(I struggled to find a Baby New Year/Father Time picture that wasn't creepy,
to symbolize how I tend to view the new year.  This is where it would have
gone, had I been successful.  Instead, I chose this generic, but glittery, picture from here.)

It's a new year, which means it's New Year's resolution time.  Can we talk about that, please?  I am a resolution-maker.  I am constantly making resolutions.  I'm a big self-improver.  I think it stems from the fact that I am naturally an introspective/introverted person.  It makes sense, right?  If you spend a lot of time on your own, thinking about things, you become more aware of your Self (or at least, you spend a lot of time thinking about your self).  If you are more aware of your Self, you tend to dwell on the things that you wish were different, or the things that would make you happier.  Hence, the self-improvement urge.  Maybe it is not this way for everyone who is a loner by nature.  But it is the case for me.  So I have some New Year's resolutions.

But before we get to them, I have to put something out there.  I HATE NEW YEAR'S.  It is my least favorite holiday, which is saying a lot because of how much I hate Easter.  (I mean really, a human-sized rabbit that creeps into your house in the night and hides hard-boiled chicken eggs?  We couldn't come up with anything better than that to tell our kids?  That sounds scary to me, not fun.)  Being a resolution-person, some might think I would like the clean slate that the new year offers me.  Instead, however, I have a tendency to get overly dramatic about the whole experience. 

First, there is New Year's Eve.  This represents the same thing that I hate about my birthday -- party pressure.  I don't really like large groups of people, and parties drain me.  However.  Not having/attending a party on New Year's Eve or my birthday makes me feel all self-doubty and like I have no friends.  I absolutely dread the question "What are you doing for New Year's Eve?" almost as much as I dread, "What did you do for your birthday?"  Because sometimes, what actually sounds like a good time to me is "Uh, I read my book.  Then Kathy made me dinner and I ate too much."  I'm afraid that reaction would make people look at me like I was kind of pathetic.  Like how people used to look at me in college, when they found out I was a math major, by choice.  And that them looking at me like that would make me feel like maybe I am kind of pathetic.  But more than that, the problem is that I have tried the low-key New Year's, where I stay home, don't go to any kind of party, blah blah blah.  And actually, at the end of that I feel a little... pathetic.  Probably because of the second issue I have with New Year's.

The second, and probably controlling, reason that I hate New Year's so much is because although I am a resolution person, I have a tendency to see changes as endings, rather than beginnings.  I did not go to California for law school, I left Michigan for law school.  I am not starting a new career this year, I am quitting my job this year.  New Year's is not the start of 2011, it's the end of 2010.  I am pretty sure Kathy thinks it is because I am a half-empty person.  Maybe so.  Whatever the reason, it's hard for me to frame things in a positive way, rather than a negative way.  This leads rather nicely into the moment you have all been waiting for... my New Year's resolutions.

1.  Try to see changes as beginnings rather than endings.  I realize this one is a bit vague, but if there is any way to be accountable for it, it's this blog, which is actually about changes, and on which I really do make a conscious effort to keep from being too ranty.

2.  Quit my job Start a new job or career. (See what a good start I am off to with number 1?)  This job that I have has made me rather miserable for some time now, and I have accepted the fact that it's probably not going to just change itself.  So I need to change jobs in order to be a bit happier.  And also avoid conversations like this:

Child #1: Mommy, why was Erin on the floor crying in her towel?
Kathy:  Why do you think, sweetie?
Child #1: Because she hates her job?
Kathy:  That's right.
Child #2:  She really needs to get a new job.
Kathy:  I think so too.

Dramatic, huh?  This is the new year's resolution I shared with the kids when we talked about them, and the littlest one told me I should get a job at his school, so that when he gets bigger and is in the right grade, I can be his teacher.  Awwww....  That might not be far off from a pretty good plan.  Anyway.  A new career is the goal.  A new job would be sufficient to count this one a success.

3.  Try to let go of perfection.  All my life, I have struggled to be the best.  Note that this is not the same thing as doing my best.  Sometimes, I could be the best with only minimal effort.  That was always okay with me.  Meanwhile, I have watched others set the bar slightly lower.  Maybe they were shooting for a solid B grade point average, or trying to come in middle-of-the-pack in order to avoid being noticed.  To someone who is as intensely competitive as it turns out I am, this was completely out of the question.  I have actually been known to get angry when small children beat me at games of chance.  I think it is time to let this go a little bit.  To try not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

4.  Save, save, save.  One of the reasons that I struggle with changing jobs/careers is that I am naturally pretty risk-averse.  I think it will be easier for me to act on the change I want if I have a bit of backup.  Luckily, I have Kathy, so the likelihood of me starving on the street is pretty remote.  But still, being self-sufficient is pretty important to me.  Enter rigorous budget.  The rigorous budget has two purposes.  First, it will show Kathy and me (and the rest of the family) what it would be like if we were to scale ourselves back to pretty much only Kathy's salary, so that we will have a period of adjustment with some built-in flexibility.  Second, it will enable us to put away a good chunk of money so that we feel secure enough for me to make a transition in careers.  Even if I don't find something right away, we will have something to fall back on if things don't go according to plan.

So there you have it.  My four New Year's resolutions, most of which revolve around increased job satisfaction.  It's not that I am floating along perfectly satisfied in every other area of my life, it's more that I think that this one change will influence my whole life for the better.  And I'm only human, after all, and I can't be expected to change everything all at once.

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