Category Archives: Work

Today: Getting Over Me

I am 41 years old.

I have been working since I was 15 years old in a variety of retail, food service, and educational jobs. My first job was working as a children’s librarian. At 15, my hometown library trusted me to manage evenings alone in the children’s section of the library and to help shape the lives of children who spent their time with me, reading books.

I graduated high school in the top 10% of my class. I have a bachelor’s degree (education), two master’s degrees (theology and literature), and an abruptly aborted attempt at a PhD (American literature), but I passed my comps, technically making me ABD. I never had a GPA lower than a 3.4.

I have taught every grade, except kindergarten, fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. I was responsible for helping to educate preservice teachers. I taught college classes for fuck’s sake.

Now. Today. In this life. I am in an entry level position, but I work for an amazing company (I would argue one of the best).  I wouldn’t give away my career for anything.

I struggle today with this: one of my favorite coworkers who has the same job title that I have now is an 18-year-old recent high school graduate.

I struggle today with this: why did I waste 25 years of my life with higher education to find myself here?

Today I’m finding it difficult to deal with this.

Today I am having a hard time making sense of how this is fair.

Today I am feeling duped by the American Dream.

I followed all the rules in the educational and vocational sectors of our culture. And each time I have to start over. At the bottom. In the entryway. Even out on the doorstep, if you will.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my job. I love my life. I love my coworkers.

Why can’t I just be happy here? Why can’t I just let this feeling rest?

Because I can’t reconcile who I am with what I’ve been socialized to think I deserve, or what I have been socialized to think is owed to me, because I did it “right.”

I am perfectly happy on most days with who I have become and who I am becoming. I am perfectly content most days to be joyful and blessed that I am loved, respected, challenged, and fulfilled by my work.

But today. Today I struggle with being 41 years old. And being here.

*

And I think what bothers me the most in all of this is my ongoing struggle with entitlement. I know I am blessed to have all I have. I know I am privileged in so many ways. I know I sound whiny and ungrateful, when I am so grateful for so many people, experiences, and opportunities. I know I just need grace. Grace. More grace.

Feeling vs. Looking. Books. Work.

I noticed this morning that my body is starting to feel better with the moderation of food, excluding the day when I ate an entire bag of holiday peppermint M&Ms, the careful attention to water consumption, and the additional exercise. I am beginning to feel like an athlete again, which is a great joy. Now here’s the sticky wicket: when I get to this point, I always want my body to start to looking like an athlete’s body as soon as possible. I know it doesn’t happen this way. I know it will take a good six months to start noticing bodily changes in the mirror. I always notice the changes in my pants first, and I have already started to notice the way they fit differently, a bit loser in the waist, a bit tighter in the thighs. Damn you, squats, I’ve only been at this for two weeks, and you’re already making my thighs big(ger). I don’t like to weigh myself all the time, because then I get really discouraged, so I’ll wait until January 23, one month from when I started at 235 pounds. Hopefully, we’ll see a bit loss, but I feel better, so all is well anyway.

*

I finished Tiny Beautiful Things the other day, and decided the best thing I can do for my mental health is keep reading books. I fired up my new Kindle, a Christmas gift from my parents, and borrowed The Bloodletter’s Daughter. I know nothing about this book, except that it’s historical fiction and looks a little seedy. After I walk the dogs, this morning, I am going to start reading my first electronic book ever. I’m also finishing the last two chapters of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which has taken me forever to finish, and I’m starting Wild Things by Dave Eggers, which I owned at one point in my life, but must have lost somewhere. I purchased this copy from Half Price Books. Next on the list is the Wrinkle in Time trilogy, and from there who knows. My goal is just to read about a book a week or so and love them in the way I described in my last post.

*

Work is going well. I love the coffee business. I just wish it paid a bit more, like double what it pays. Haha. Right.

The Toothpaste Won’t Go Back in the Tube

I’ve been in Minnesota for about seven weeks now, and I can say that I am growing to love it here. I have a great job at Cairbou (or the ‘Bou, as they call it here) that provides me little stress (except financial stress, since I only make $8 an hour), and I have free time to run, bike, and spend time with Bec doing things we love. I start swimming on next Monday night at 8, and I am mostly relaxed. The past seven weeks hasn’t been easy—make no mistake—but I have learned a lot about who I am and where I am going. Yesterday I received a care package from a friend. In it was a map that said YOU CAN GO YOUR OWN WAY in big letters. Another little reminder that this move has been good for me. Don’t get me wrong; I still miss my friends and family very much, but I feel hopeful right now that I am becoming someone I can live with for the rest of my life.

One of my big goals for moving here was to be able to get in touch with the me I used to love and respect, and to shed like a used up exoskeleton the me I had become, the bitter, sad, angry, short-tempered, and otherwise not very gracious me. I would say for the most part, I have rediscovered the person I want to be, but there are moments where the old me rears her ugly head. I got very angry with a poor unsuspecting woman at the license branch, this morning I got into a fight with Bec over some utility bill envelopes, and I’ve argued with a couple of friends over really petty and stupid shit. These moments wouldn’t have even phased me six months ago, because I sort of lived my life in combat mode, almost living my life for the argument, or to prove my rightness in every situation. Ridiculous. Embarrassing. Wrong.

I look back, and I wonder how I even had any friends with the way I acted most of the time. Maybe I am hyper-critical of myself and my actions, but I desire to be a person who ushers peace and grace and love into this world, and I certainly wasn’t doing much of that. In these “old me” moments—though they are few and far between in the past month or so—when I see myself acting short, or being an asshole, I am embarrassed about my present actions, and I am saddened by the fact that I had become a person whose first response was fault finding or misplaced anger.

I’ve started trying to stop making excuses and start making amends. It’s almost like I am in attitude AA, and I am trying to find those people I’ve wronged and try to apologize or at least let folks know that I am aware of how I was, and sadly occasionally still can be, because I’m finding that this is just like any other sinful (I hate that word sin but I don’t have a better word for it) behavior, in that, I can’t just make it go away.

When I think about how our personal conduct affects others, I am always transported back to a children’s sermon, one of the better ones, that someone gave at Grace UMC when I was in high school or college. I think the person giving it was Shelly Neal, but I can’t be sure. Anyway, in the process of the children’s sermon, the person speaking squeezed an entire tube of toothpaste out onto a paper plate. She then said, “Okay, kids, now put it back in the tube.” They tried various methods, but to no avail. She said, “Um, yeah, it doesn’t work.” If you’ve ever tried to put toothpaste back in the tube, because you squirted out too much, you already know this. If you follow the children’s sermon illustration, you’ll understand that what we say and do is like the toothpaste. Once it’s out there, it can’t be put back in the tube. Basically, I am trying really hard to be a person who doesn’t squeeze the tube unless what is going to come out of the tube is true, kind, necessary, or helpful (Bernard Meltzer). If what I am about to say or do isn’t one of those things, I am trying to avoid saying or doing it. Living this way, for me, is a struggle.

*

In the fitness realm: I was doing really well with running, but my hours bumped up, so I had to readjust. On Monday, I start a Whole 30 for the month of September, and I start swimming on Monday and Wednesday night, as I said above, so I plan to get back to the running and biking more regularly as well. I’ve lost 15 pounds since July 11 when I moved here, and I mostly attribute it to reduced stress and better eating. I’m looking forward to Muncie 70.3 for next summer, and I know it will be fabulous.

EDIT: I am not doing a Whole 30. I don’t want to. 🙂

Day 6 of Year 40: Things Are Looking Up From Here

In the interest of keeping this blog space for reals, I’m going to be honest and say that the last week has really sucked. Starting with my job-related meltdown during a supposedly romantic walk with my wife through the second I’m-all-alone-on-my-40th-birthday meltdown and ending with my third I’m-a-big-baby-and-nobody-loves-me-because-I’m-fat-and-work-at-Caribou-Coffee meltdown Saturday morning, this past week has been a giant crap sandwich of self-pity and self-loathing. Cue the Marilyn Manson soundtrack, or maybe the Smiths for those of you who kick it old school.

Let me go back a bit. Since March, when we knew we were moving to Minnesota, I’ve been praying for a job that will allow me to relax, have fun, get my smile back, and let me have my home time be home time. This is not a teaching job. I prayed specifically for a job in a bar or a coffee shop. I preferred one that was close to home. When I got to Minnesota, I started my job search by applying for teaching jobs, and not getting any, I started looking at other options. I applied at Trader Joe’s (not cool enough to work there after two interviews), I applied at a local brewery (not cool enough to even get an interview), and I applied at Caribou Coffee (where I was hired on the spot). For $8 an hour.

For $8 an hour. This simply wouldn’t do. I needed money. For those of you who know me, this probably seems quite strange, because I am the woman who sees money as green pieces of paper that float in and out of my life like snow. But I need to be able to pay the bills I’ve accrued while attaining my Oh, So Valuable Education. So I balked at this gift I’d been given. A space to relax, to make coffee, to be myself. See I thwarted the desires of my heart from the get go. Somehow working in a coffee shop or a bar seemed beneath my dignity. After all, I do have numerous graduate degrees. Somehow my own self-worth came only through a professional job; we do, here in the US of A, value people based on their livelihood. And I was now a coffee maker, a job I could’ve done straight out of high school. I had bought into all the classist assumptions I’d been taught to deconstruct. Apparently, I thought myself too cool to be working class, and too entitled as well. I deserve to teach because I have the degrees. I bought the system and all the hype I’ve always critiqued. Apparently, I bought into the capitalist machine. My job, whichever cog I was in the machine, determined my value. And I wasn’t a very valuable cog.

But wait.

My value does not come from which cog in the machine I am.

My value does not come from any external source.

My value comes from who I am and how I treat other people.

But I didn’t just get there from my pit of despair. It took some scratching and clawing, some chatting with friends, and some serious soul searching. God had just given me the desire of my heart: a job that doesn’t define me and that doesn’t follow me home. And I told [Them] to piss off about it. Seriously, God had given me what I asked for, and I was more than pissed about it. So, on the romantic walk with my wife, I was upset to the point of emitting a guttural cry. I couldn’t contain it, the tears poured, the sobs surged forth, and my body shook. I was hyperventilating in sadness. The system had betrayed me: I had multiple graduate degrees and I couldn’t find a job. I had played the game, and it screwed me. But wait. I had prayed for this job and gotten it.

So then, on my birthday, which was the day after the Great Deluge, I was all alone. In my house. In Minnesota. And I was turning 40. By myself. Did I mention that I was by myself? And, again, I was pissed and sad, and felt betrayed. I could have gone out and made a day of it by myself. I’m not afraid to be alone, and I’m not afraid to explore on my own. But I chose, instead, to sit in my living room and wallow in my own self-pity. I chose it. Willfully. By the time Bec got home from work to take me out, I was a basket case, and them we went to my favorite restaurant, and it was lovely and the funk started to reside. I made an effort to open my heart on our walk we took after dinner. And it helped.

So then, again, on Saturday when the funk came back, I wasn’t expecting it to manifest in an angry tear against the woman I love, but it did. I was angry at her for bringing me here. And I was angry with her for everything, basically, and it wasn’t her fault. But I said it was. And I was mean and ungrateful. You know, your typical self-centered asshole. And everything fell out: “I am fat, fifty pounds fatter than this time last year. I work for minimum wage at a fucking coffee shop. Do you even want me here? Do you even want to be with me?” Only instead of it coming out like that, it came out all accusatory and ugly and horrible. And we both cried. And it was awful.

But something clicked in me through the day yesterday. And kept clicking. It said to look at the beauty in my life. To focus on what is good and beautiful and wonder-filled.

My value does not come from which cog in the machine I am.

My value does not come from any external source.

My value comes from who I am and how I treat other people.

And right at those moments, my value was swirling around the bottom of the toilet bowl. I’ve been an asshole. You see, I think most people think that moving has been the biggest stress for me, leaving behind family and friends and familiar things. While that has been stressful, my biggest stress has been figuring out who I am again. I have been given this beautiful opportunity to rebuild myself from the ground up and I almost blew it on building myself into the same bitter jackass I was for the past couple of years in Muncie.

So who am I?

I am Corby. I hope to be a triathlete. I hope to be an excellent Caribou employee. I hope to love deeply. I hope to give grace. I hope to show much compassion. And I hope to be able to receive and recognize all the blessings in my life.

In accordance with my goals, I have quit smoking (okay, I had two on Friday Cheat Day); I have quit drinking (okay, I had three beers on Friday Cheat Day); I have a job at the ‘Bou; I went for a bike ride, and I went for a run, and we take a walk every night; and I’m working on the quiet time…

Here’s to love and life and beauty.

Minnesota Minute

On July 11, I moved to Newport, Minnesota, famous for railroads, an oil refinery, a red rock, an early Methodist Church, and two parades a year, the Fireman’s parade and the Pioneer Days parade, which stops at the park right next to our new house. I have no job, no money, and no network, so to say I feel a bit lost is an understatement. What I do have is a supportive wife, lots of friends who love me, pets that are happy, an education and some experiences that surely someone will find worthwhile, and a little bat that lives outside the window of my tiny attic writing and art studio. At least, I hope the little bat lives there. She was there yesterday, but there was no sign of her tonight. I hope she comes back.

I spent the first day I was here sleeping all day long, because I was thoroughly exhausted from the drive, the stress of moving, and the joyful three-week-long sendoff my friends back home gave to me. The second day I spent at Starbucks using their free internet connection to fill out an application for a job that I found out has already been filled, and I drove all over picking up applications from places whose applications are not yet online. The third day I spent driving all over (again) to buy groceries, a grill, and other necessary items. Both Bec and I were so tired when we got home, we ate dinner, put in a movie and relaxed.

She fell asleep and missed the first parade of our tenure here at 597 4th Avenue, or The Flop House and Diner Too. I nearly missed the parade, too, the Fireman’s Parade, as it is called, because I thought for sure someone’s house was burning down just down the block. I had wondered for several hours why our neighbors were sitting in chairs outside in their lawn, but then I heard sirens, the sirens of many firetrucks, ambulances, and police cars. This parade was unlike other parades I’ve seen with their slow, ambling caravans of cars, bands, and walking floats. In fact, there was not one part of the parade that was normal. The whole of the procession was moving way too quickly to be considered anything but a group of emergency vehicles driving from point A to point B.

Really, the only bit of it that made me think parade was my neighbor, who my brother says reminds him of a character in Orange is the New Black, and her husband sitting out in their chairs with bags to collect candy. Each time a vehicle that looked like a potential candy dispenser drove past she would wave and cheer and collect her treasures, jumping up and down like a small child. By the end of the thing, they had collected a sizeable bag of cheap candy and grins from ear to ear. The whole picture was pretty amusing. (This same neighbor brought us a bowl full of her delicious organically grown raspberries and blackberries tonight.)

Today seemed more like a normal day, in that we went to hang out with the twins. They used me as a jungle gym for about two hours, we played tornado and rocket jump, both games I made up, and then I spent the rest of the day at Starbucks filling out more applications, while Bec unpacked more stuff, cleaned up the downstairs odds and ends, and hung artwork on the walls. To end the day, I cooked jambalaya for Bec, Ann, and me, and we sat on the porch for a good long time.

This whole moving process is teaching me things about myself and about other people, and I am grateful for the learning experience. My focus is changing from being so inwardly focused to being more outwardly focused. Aside from getting a job, I have only five goals for myself in the next year: (1) quit smoking and drinking so much, (2) eat a healthy primal diet, (3) swim, bike, and run, (4) give myself quiet time to read (both books and the Bible), write, and do art, (5) be gentle with others, bring joy and grace into the world. I have to give my worries away and rely on God and other folks to get me through sometimes, a task that is no small feat for me.