Day One-Hundred-and-Twenty: Full-time badass/writer

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“So I want the monogram to read M-A-X P-O-W…”

 

I am happy to announce that an actual real-life company has deemed me employable. Yeah! Not that any of you ever doubted that, right? (Right?)

So, I have a full-time job.

This is both awesome and scary.

It’s a big tick in the ‘Growing up and getting my shit together’ box, and a big step further into the adult world–which, let’s face it, still makes me feel like Will Ferrell in Elf.

I spent my first day as a technical writer being shown around the building, having stuff explained to me in a “we’re not trying to overwhelm you, but you probably need to know this” kind of way, and double-checking that they had hired the right person and I was not part of some switched-at-interview mix-up.

It’s not that I’m super surprised that someone would give me a job–I do have a degree now, and a not-useless set of skills–but a lot of writers only dream of being paid (in a full-time position) to just, well, write.

When I get a census form whenever the fuck those things come out (every five years, apparently, so I’ll be waiting until 2016), or am filling out any other form that asks for my occupation, I can actually put the word ‘writer’ in my job title. Not a vague ‘Administration’ or ‘Hospitality’ (because KFC totally counted) or ‘Sales’, but a studied-to-get-a-freaking-degree-in-this writer.

This is a serious win.

 

“I thought you studied journalism,” some of my more observant friends will point out.

This is true. I did study journalism. I also had a second major in Creative and Professional Writing.

“But didn’t you want to be a journalist?” the same friends will tactlessly push.

While it is true–though, admittedly, shocking–that a student of journalism would be considering a career as a journalist, asking the above is a bit like asking a science student, “But didn’t you want to be a scientist?” It’s kind of reductive to assume that the broad set of skills one obtains in each of those degrees would only be useful and desireable in one single job. (Besides, ‘scientist’ is about as vague as you can get. Some of those guys don’t even wear lab coats and swirl beakers. I know!)

I did consider getting a job as ‘a journalist’, and even applied for a few, but at the end of the day, my most basic desire is to work as a writer. I want to have a job where the skills that I paid a painful amount of money (that I don’t yet earn enough to pay back–writing jobs, eh?) to get are being used. If that job is as a journalist: great. I love journalistic writing; I’ll probably do it on the side anyway. If it turns out, as it has, that a job as a technical writer ticks those boxes, then I am happy to broaden my horizons beyond the expected, and get some new skills to boot. Someone actually wants to pay me to do what I love? Show me to my desk.

So, here’s to Monday to Friday, bussing to the city, budgeting with an actual income, challenges and new experiences, and the impending appearance of some kick-ass business cards.

 

TB

Technical Writer/Bad-Ass M.C.

Day Sixty-Nine: Hey, adulthood, what gives?

I should have realised by now that this ‘grown up’ thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but I’m calling bullshit on a few things that adulthood has dished up. In fact, I’m considering suing adulthood on the grounds of false advertising. You see, there are things that were fabled when I was just shy of 20 that have not come to pass.

 

The following are entirely unacceptable and require immediate explanation:

 

Bad skin

ImageI’m calling it: 23 is too far from your teens for pimples to be attributable to teenage hormones. You know that acne is a teenage problem when you get diagnosed with ‘adult acne’. I suffered pretty badly with it through my later teens, hoping against hope that this was just a phase, that there would be a time soon where my skin would be smooth and glowing and people would stop and say, “damn, that’s some nice skin.” It’s not that I’ve lapsed back into full-blown acne at any stage in the last few years, but I am pretty consistently plagued by little bumpy skin demons who love nothing more than to arrive unannounced before big photography-heavy events (think school formal, graduation, significant birthdays). Some days I look at myself in the mirror and wonder if I’ll still be fighting spots when I’m 60, my arthritic fingers fumbling to apply globs of concealer over the offending blemishes before I head to bingo. Maybe my friends will even be jealous. Zits are super youthful, right?

I think it’s about time my skin just settled the fuck down and got its life together.

 

Money (or lack thereof)

ImageNobody in my family was ever especially rich, and, while we had some nice things and didn’t struggle, I was hardly growing up a Kardashian. Nevertheless, simple maths told me that based on the number of hours each of my parents worked, we should have been totally rolling in it. Well, they should have been totally rolling in it. I did always suspect they had more up their sleeves than they were letting on. Keep in mind that this was during a time of my life when $10 was a small fortune. I couldn’t wait–well, still can’t wait–for a time when I was making a couple of grand a fortnight and buying like 100 Ghost Drops at a time whenever the hell I wanted. Alas, adulthood has greeted me with a continuing run of casual employment, incredibly modest paychecks, and not nearly enough small flavoured lollies. It’s probably got something to do with six-year-old me’s assumption that by now I would have a job as a singer/actress/model, split my time between London and Paris, and appear on the cover of magazines (I had big plans, ok?).

Since I’ve only just finished studying, I’m going to give adulthood six months grace to address this little hiccup.

Oh, and a tiger. I want a tiger.

 

Cooking skills (or severe lack thereof)

ImageI’m not sure why, because I never was particularly involved in helping my parents with dinner, but I was working under the impression that when it came time for me to get my own place and feed myself I would be some kind of Jamie Oliver-Nigella Lawson hybrid, as beautiful as I was culinarily talented. All I can say is thank god for Google. I shit you not, I had to look up how to boil an egg. Ok, I’m not brain-dead; I get that there is water, a pot, and an egg involved, but I had zero idea how long to put it in, whether to boil the water first then add the egg (turns out to be the wrong way), or why you had to stir the water after you put the eggs in (to centre the yolks, it seems, which would have been helpful to know before I went ahead and let them sit). I sound incompetent or spoilt (the former is probably true), but I really just never had to think about this kind of stuff before now. I didn’t boil too many eggs at the family home, as it turns out. Cooking meat to non-charred, non-bleeding perfection, experimenting with flavours without poisoning myself and others, and learning the difference between a pan that is hot enough and a pan that is instant-stick-and-burn are all coming to me slowly and with much trial and error (mostly error).

I get the feeling that adulthood is going to be reading a lot of recipe books this year…

 

Being disorganised/unmotivated

ImageMy parents are both neat, orderly people, who write things down, manage hectic schedules, and stay on top of bills and birthdays. It seemed that Mum never did something unless it had a purpose, and every spare minute could be effectively used to complete a pending task (no doubt child-related, sorry Mum). I don’t know whether it’s this example or a deep-down knowledge that I only have a finite amount of time on this earth, but I feel like a total waste of space when I’m just sitting down relaxing. Not that this mentality is conducive to achievement. It’s almost the opposite. My mind seems to think that guilt is code for “fuck this, let’s eat chips”. Disorganised may be the wrong word for it. My days are heavily scheduled, just not with stuff that’s immediately important or useful for my future/present. How can I possibly tweak my resume while there’s a fingerprint on that window? I can pay that bill next week after I get paid–ooh, pretty dress, must buy! I have so much washing/cleaning/writing to catch up on on my day off *texts friends to see what they’re doing*. I’m going to get up and go for a run tomorrow–zzzzzz.

If there was a gene that was supposed to click on when I turned 20, I am yet to feel its effects.

 

Maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world that I haven’t crossed irreversibly into some realm of joyless, clear-skinned, freakishly-organised humans. I get the feeling that I’ll look back in ten years’ time and laugh that I’d entertained the notion that I was an adult. Actually, it’s just as likely that I’ll look back and laugh at all the fart jokes I’ve made. Hehe, farts.

 

TB

Day Thirty-Six: Practical uses for mind-reading

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Photo source: armzrace.com

 

Sometimes I feel like things would be easier if people could just read my mind.

Not in like a “oh my god, that guy has a huge head–oh, shit, he’s looking; break eye contact” kind of way, but just so I could impart useful information directly from brain into theirs without the strain of having to articulate it. I’d be super selective about what I do and do not want to be transferred across. It’d be like a mass file transfer of anything marked “work” or “recipes” or “irritating chain emails circa 1999”. Heck, we could even make a brain ‘cloud’, where you can just access thoughts and knowledge as you need it, rather than sending your brain into a crawl for the eight hours that it takes to transfer the millions of thoughts across.

I bring this up because I’m currently training someone to do my job once I strike out in the world of Actually Doing What You Studied That Degree For. I don’t think I’m necessarily a bad trainer. I’ve improved since my days in fast food, where having a trainee trailing you and handling your orders made your food service decidedly slow. Back then, I gave my managers black looks when they saddled me with a newbie. It’s not that I don’t like newbies–everyone has to start somewhere–but they have to be told stuff more than once, which, for impatient me, is already once too many.

I’m not sure how many times today I just stopped mid-sentence because I realised I’d forgotten some important aspect, or ended a long spiel with “but we’ll go into that properly later”. Even the most intelligent person would have brain fatigue after the cognitive load that I just dumped on this poor girl today. (Luckily for her, she’s very switched on.) I’m not sure how much is too much for a first day, but I’m fairly certain I covered about a week’s worth of stuff today.

“I’m sorry,” she said mid-way through doing something that I’d showed her once. “How do I do this bit again?”

I felt like I was some kind of dictator (or overzealous parent), expecting her to understand everything after one explanation and mimic my tasks perfectly.

I’m sorry,” I said more than a few times. “I’ve never had to train someone to do my job before.”

It turns out that it’s a surprisingly hard thing to do. There’s no manual. I’ve never really written much down in the way of instructions. The secretary before me was kind enough to write me a cheat sheet with the basic tasks outlined on it, but a lot of that is outdated now. I found myself filling half an A4 page just with Stuff to Do at the Start of the Day.

Every so often, I’d stop and say, “I think that’s pretty much it,” only to be reminded several minutes later when a task was required that that most certainly was not ‘it’. How do you impart four years of tacit knowledge on to someone in a matter of days?

The answer is that you don’t. You leave them with as much knowledge and forewarning as you can, and then they just get to have a wild learning curve. It’s super fun. I did it four years ago, and it was probably the best way to learn.

Still, the brain-to-brain thing would be pretty amazing, right? Here are some other scenarios where it would be mega helpful.

 

Image“So, anyway, and then I was like–TURN RIGHT!”
We’re flung against our seatbelts during the sharpest turn I’ve ever experienced. The driver glares at me.
“What the hell, man!” my friend and glorified-cabbie yells.
“Oh, sorry,” I mutter, sheepishly. “I forgot that you don’t know where I live.”

This happens to me far too often. If only I could transfer a handy route map from my brain to theirs, I wouldn’t have belt burn on my throat right now.

 

ImageThat moment of strangled indecision could be avoided simply if a man could tap into the Responses to Women’s Impossible Queries section of his wife/girlfriend/female acquaintance’s brain. ‘What do you want to hear?’ would be an appropriate search term, with a more specific ‘How can I avoid being slapped?’ added as a secondary phrase.

 

Image“Oh yes! Yes! That’s it! Ye–did you just stick your pointed claw up my cloaca?”
And man, oh man, wouldn’t everything just be so much simpler if potential sexual partners could browse your preferred moves and Absolute Deal Breakers before engaging in playtime? First kisses would never be awkward again. Those weird sexual skeletons would be out in the open from the word ‘go’. Dudes who normally wouldn’t get a look-in would be able to upload their entire sexual history–including photographic memory references–and impress the socks (and panties) off a total babe. Mostly, it would just eliminate the need for any kind of awkward bedroom banter, including but not limited to, “Is that OK?”, “You like that, baby?”, and of course “That is strictly an exit only!”

 

But then, maybe it’s better than people can’t read my mind. Just now, I was thinking about chocolate and cloacas in the same ten-second stream. You don’t even want to know what kind of mental pictures that throws up.

If you do: start inventing!

 

TB

 

 

Day Five: Life is short, but not that short

Image“People die all the time, just like that. Why, you could wake up dead tomorrow…” – Homer Simpson

If there’s one thing I love, it’s a good Simpsons quote. Or a bad Simpsons quote. I’m especially fond of obscure Simpsons quotes. There’s a quote for every situation. My family and boyfriend are very much aware of this.

People do die all the time. While you’re highly unlikely to ‘wake up dead’, big H does make a good point about the fleeting nature of life. Bart gets this zinger of a home truth at the age of ten, but a lot of us are spared the harder lessons of life until we’re much older (though not necessarily more equipped to handle them).

I have three surviving grandparents and am lucky enough to have been untouched by significant tragedy in my life. Death was a reality, but only a very distant one. A good friend in my ballet class died of cancer when I (and she) was 12 or 13. I was pretty affected when I thought about the life that she would never get to lead, and the pain her parents must have felt seeing healthy kids and asking, “why us?”

The problem with the ‘life is short’ revelation is that it usually comes too late. It takes a diagnosis with aggressive cancer for people to quit their stressful jobs, overhaul their diets, and do the things they always wanted to do but never did. It’s day five and I’m already telling myself that I could just work a shitty job for a year, get some money together, then maybe have the financial security to pursue what I really want to do (and get paid very little for it). Wouldn’t it be better to start chasing the dream now? I’m 23, my financial commitments are limited to rent, groceries, and car payments, and I have no dependents. Most people have a ‘mid-life’ crisis. I’m having a ‘start-of-life’ crisis. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I had coffee with a good friend (and much more prolific blogger than I) a few weeks back. Naturally the conversation steered towards what we were each doing career-wise. My friend had done the slog in a job she grew very tired of over a couple of years. With a decent packet of savings behind her, she’d given the corporate sector a big middle finger (figuratively, though I don’t doubt that she’d be capable of doing it for real), and decided to get serious about her dream.

“Most of these food writers only started doing it for real in their late 20s or early 30s,” she told me (and I paraphrase liberally). “I’m 23, so I figure I’ve already got about 8 years on them.

We may not be 18 and running our own businesses, but we do have to stop and remember that relatively speaking, we’re babies. People are living longer (and my boyfriend says they’re not far off the fabled ‘immortality pill’) and changing careers like hairstyles. I heard someone say once that there’s always someone younger and smarter who will do the same job for less money than you will, and that may be true in some fields–goodbye international modelling career–but I firmly (naively?) believe that there is a job out there that only I can do. And if there isn’t, then I have to create that job and convince someone that they can’t live without it.

So, I apologise in advance to all the people who will hear/read about my trials in the job market, and I thank my wonderful boyfriend for living with a part-timer who may be writing for free for a while. The most successful people start at the bottom and work their way up BUT they do it in the right industry from the outset. Sweeping floors in the salon sucks (I imagine), but it’s one step closer than sweeping floors at an office.

I wrote a letter to myself when I finished school (classic reflection day activity) that was mailed to me at the beginning of the following year. Without looking at it, I’m fairly sure it began with something like looking good. When I read it at the beginning of 2008 before I’d trotted off to uni for the first time, I nodded sagely at my words of wisdom and put the letter aside. A little over six months later, when I hated my course and hit crisis point, I sought it out and read it again. It said this:

I guess uni feels like another few years of work, no matter what course you got into. But it won’t sap you like school did. And if it does , then you have a choice. Don’t feel restricted to the single path that you had always set. Get out and see and experience the world if you want to. Be happy.

The singular point of my letter to myself was that I never had to do anything I didn’t want to again. And isn’t that the whole point of being an adult? Being able to control your own life, your own direction?

Don’t you want to be sure that if you wake up dead tomorrow, you’re happy with the short burst of life you were given?

TB

P.S. You smell. (A fitting end to both my letter and this post. Teenage Lucy kept things light.)