Monday, August 30, 2010

Business Travel Boot Camp

I think I have the job I imagined when I was growing up.  But why do I feel so tired?  Let's recap ... I have been spending two weeks a month in Buffalo, New York, a good, solid 2,000 miles away from home, two connecting flights, and a hearty drive to the airport.  Meanwhile, summer fun travel, and unexpected travel has cropped up.  I'm home maybe 3 days in the next few weeks, a thought that is oddly discomforting.  Not that it might be home for that much longer.  So we drove 17 hours on Wednesday to Oregon.  Spent an incredibly long day filled with funeral prep, memorial service, lots of children, and no booze - a day of Griswold-ian proportions.  After 13 hours, I was beat, but I didn't complain, I held it in.  When a certain not-quite-two-year-old yelled and cried and gave me evil looks, I didn't complain.  When I offered to help, and was given a bean recipe from a cheap church cookbook, fourteen cans of beans, and various other disgusting foods to throw together, I did it.  I helped out. When we had the BBQ with no adult beverages, and lots of mysterious dairy food, I picked through and found the fresh produce, and the relatively innocuous BBQ meat, and sipped ice water.  I was rewarded with a trip to the cousins' local watering hole, and proceeded to match my husband, his sister, and two cousins drink for drink - except they drank craptacular domestic lite brews, I downed dirty Grey Goose martinis like I was dying on the Titanic.  But I digress.  My husband turned a somewhat sad time into a fabulous birthday weekend for me.  Fabulous restaurants, a beautiful hotel room on the beach, more fabulous restaurants, the beach, a winery, and a nice drive down the coast, what more can a girl ask for?  Oh, yes, I'm 35.  That's the first time I've said it.  And you know what?  I like being 35.  This is going to be an awesome year.

We got into Utah around 8 last night, had a few drinks with a friend, and stayed the night by the airport, so I could get up early and head to Buffalo.  Tomorrow it's Philadelphia for an interview, after 4 hours of PhD class tonight - on the East coast, so I won't be finished until 11:00 p.m., which mind you, is only 9:00 p.m where I come from, but my flight for Philly leaves at 7:00 a.m. Eastern time.  Translate:  I only get 4 or 5 hours of sleep tonight before I have to look, feel, sound, and be my best tomorrow, after a flight.  I get home late Friday night, only to take off Saturday morning for the first football game/tailgate of the year, and camping for the weekend.  Come home, then a day later, leave for Texas for another football game.  It gets worse from here, but I'll spare you the details.  I'm tired, I'm disoriented, I just want to sleep, but I can't.  Instead I found a great Japanese take-out restaurant, which made my tummy feel blissfully nourished, had a Grey Goose on the rocks, and thus draining my last flask, and now gearing up for phone calls.  Strap in, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Even though this is the life I thought I want, I would really rather go home, curl up on my couch and watch bad TV with my husband.  This is the time to put the big-girl pants on, make the most of the fact that people think I do a great job, and see where it goes from here ...

Friday, August 20, 2010

When It's Tough ...

Work started out so well this week, and unfortunately, has gone downhill since.  I was put in tough positions this week, between people decades older (and supposedly wiser) than I.  And I failed several people, disappointed them.  I have always feared authority, and when I disappoint someone in authority, the pain is almost more than I can stomach.  My husband helps me put it into perspective, but it's still difficult to face people, even after I've had to bite my tongue, apologize, and live with the time that has to pass before someone else usurps my mistakes and creates a diversion from me.  

One of my friends posted a quote on Facebook last night that I have to live by, "Sometimes it takes just one person who believes in you."  I have that.  In fact, I have many more than one person who believes in me.  Right now, a few people who I've worked so hard for, don't believe in me.  And I have to recognize that it's okay.  That this, too, will pass.  How do you do that?  Drink martinis at night and make a comforting dinner.  Focus on the people who will stand behind me.  Remember that I'm more than my failures.  Easier said than done.

I'm, quite candidly, disappointed in these same people for not extending to me forgiveness and understanding.  We are trying to change our culture at work into one where people are reinforced to do the right thing.  Unfortunately, there are several key people who don't get the science, who don't practice it, and I know I'm not the only one who is feeling downtrodden.  Three days to go until PhD classes start.  I'm ready for the distraction.  (I think.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Work/Life Balance?

I'm working 10-11 hour days, traveling weekly for work and fun, and wondering how I am keeping up with it all.  I can go in to work at 6:30 a.m. and look forward to it, and then have to drag myself away at 5:00 p.m.  Really?  It's an attitude, a choice.  I am motivated by the results, by the number of people I can help, by the fact that I am doing something I love and getting feedback that I'm doing it (most of it) right.  It helps that my husband works at the same place and understands the demands.  It also helps that he supports me in my crazy, out-of-town assignments, my PhD work, and knowing that, while I complain, it fulfills me and makes me visible to a large number of colleagues (a point he never fails to mention when I complain!).

I am exhausted, but happy.  The delicious curve-ball is still dangling in the air, mid-pitch, and I have to put it aside and trust that the universe is unfolding as it should.  A dear friend of mine from a life several years ago had this framed picture in his office, called "Desiderata" (never sure what that meant) and it said something to the affect that you have to trust that "the universe is unfolding as it should."  And he would remind me of that so often that it became ingrained in my psyche.  I dearly miss this friend, and our large iced raspberry mochas with extra whipped cream that we treated ourselves with.  We didn't keep in touch when I moved away, and I regret it.  He became my best friend for a couple of years and got me through a tumultuous time in my life.  It's odd how people come and go in our lives.  Some people impact you in ways you don't realize until years later - then you miss them and cherish the time you had.

So back to the work/life balance.  Right now, work has taken a priority over my life.  I'm not proud of it, but I'm doing what I need to - to get the job done, and secure my future.  I still take care of my home life, sure, some things suffer (like housework), but I do my best to support the man who supports me - the man who is my best friend, my biggest fan and supporter.  We work hard, but thanks to him, we play hard, too.  If not for him, I'm afraid I wouldn't take much time off of work.  He has taught me that time spent with family and friends - or just each other - is well spent.  Even if we do nothing but watch bad TV and make sarcastic comments over a bottle of red and a fabulous dinner I've prepared.  Or if we hop in the car and travel 14 hours to get to wine country, 8 hours to Vegas, or 3 hours to the mountains of northern wyoming.

I'm about to start four PhD classes in 6 days.  Four ... three I thought was a push - but I've done it for a few semesters and am probably being over-confident.  A moment of panic.  Can I REALLY do four?  One is totally optional - part of a certification I can get, and it should be easy, it's industrial psychology, which is what I do at work.  Can I do this?  I hope I'm not delusional.  Can I really finish the assignment two time-zones, and two flights away, work at my normal job, take care of my personal life, and continue this PhD journey?  I guess time will tell.  I've only excelled when I've pushed myself.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The PhD Journey

I spent a week on the Colorado State University campus, both in Ft. Collins and Pingree Park.  The people I met and will be working with are fantastic.  By the end of the week (which I will admit was difficult), we created a great support system for each other.

We spent time hiking (a Colorado outdoor enthusiast's definition of a "light" hike is quite different from this Wyoming outdoor UN-enthusiast's - 5+ miles in steep terrain, humidity, and pouring rain).  We also spent time talking about the PhD journey, more specifically, our dissertations.  I love gender and generation studies.  I was planning to research gender and corporate America, but during the hike (when I was forced to look inward for strength and keep my mind of the brutality of the mountains), I changed my focus.  I want my career to be slightly different than human resource management.  My PhD work will focus more on training, development, and performance, and I have the opportunity to better shape my job if I concentrate my research on these topics.  I haven't quite narrowed it down yet, but my Literature Review class this fall will help me find a need.  I want to explore maybe technology in corporate training, even more specifically, training without Powerpoint, which has become a safety net for trainers, a lazy way out.  I do hate training, I might add.  I hate the glossy look of people thinking - what the hell does she know - but I love designing training.  It's my N vs. S on the Myers-Briggs - my intuitive self (as opposed to sensing) loves design and invention and big picture, high energy goals and ideals.  But when it comes to implementing, ehhh leave that to someone else.  I don't want to actually go through with the training - I just want to design it!

What People Eat When They Are Alone

My trip to Buffalo last week was fraught with delays - delays with serious hours of nothing-to-do-magnitude.  I'm beginning to think I'm cursed.  Of course, the one flight that isn't delayed is my original connection flight, that one, of course, leaves on time, leaving me stranded until the next flight hours away.  I digress ... I read a book called What People Eat When They Are Alone and was thoroughly disgusted and disturbed by the contents.  This was the perfect book to combat appetite, because I can't believe people will consume such a poor combination of ingredients.  I shouldn't judge, but well, I am.  We're talking about bizarre items - saltine crackers crushed up in milk, cheese over eggs, toast covered with a sauce that makes it soggy, anchovies and canned fish, I didn't find a single thing in the book that I would even consider adding to my culinary repertoire.

Last week all I ate was restaurant food.  Not good restaurant food - such a thing is rare anyway - but average, completely average food cooked by people who, it seems, do not have a passion for food.  I miss cooking every night for my husband and me.  People complain they don't know how to cook for two - let alone one - but dinner is the most important part of my day.  It's the time of day when I can let go of work, uncork a bottle of vino, and be truly creative.  I don't buy processed foods.  I make as much from scratch as I possibly can.  Americans have become so lazy and complacent about food.  No wonder people make fun of us.

When I Grow Up ...

Life threw me one incredibly complicated, deliciously intriguing curveball this week.  I'm not at liberty to discuss, but I am hanging on a thread.  It's like that episode of "24" (okay, all of the episodes on "24"), where you aren't sure what Jack Bauer will do in the next hour, but you have to wait a week to see.  You may forget about it for a few hours, but then your mind wanders back and thinks - what the hell IS going to happen?

We had a fabulous weekend at the shore - Brigantine Beach, New Jersey, outside of Atlantic City, with a friend from work in Philadelphia.  She is a fellow foodie and appreciates a nice, long meal.  We dined at a seafood restaurant on the water, at dusk, and it was perfect.  We consumed a couple of bottles of Central Coast (California) Chardonnay (my fondness for this region of wine only amplifies as I travel the rest of the U.S.).  The service was slower, which was welcome in my eyes, because it gave us a chance to talk, to catch up, and to enjoy the view from our table by the water, with a skyline view of Atlantic city as it lights up the night sky.  I had a seafood platter, simply grilled with perfect seasoning - grouper, lobster, shrimp, scallops, crab cakes.  We ate slowly, lingering over the perfect evening.  The next day was spent on the beach.  My husband, in tune with my love of all things water, spent the day finding the perfect seashells for me to take home.  I should note that we both hate to shop, we don't buy souveniers because we don't need more crap cluttering up our life.  But seashells are a beautiful, natural reminder of a weekend well spent at the beach (my natural habitat - even though I was born and raised in land-locked states).

But really, what do I want to be when I grow up?  Work is crazy busy for me, traveling back and forth from Western New York, doing the work of two people, and waiting for my next semester of PhD classes to start next week, four classes this semester, 12 credits.  I'm really pushing myself because I want to get two additional certifications that just opened up, which add 18 credit hours to an already taxing 60-credit requirement for the doctorate.  In just over three years to go.  I hope I'm not overestimating my abilities, but still, I always find that the more I push myself, the more I achieve.