Tag Archives: writing

For lack of a better title: My new job

It’s officially my second week at [insert name of big university publishing company here]. Friends and family have asked me the usual questions – what do I do? Do I like it? And which part exactly of publishing do I touch?

I think I’m drawn to jobs that sound straightforward on paper, but are actually kind of complicated to explain. And yet I’ve come full circle, and find myself in a role much like the one I landed straight out of college – Admin. Assistant. It’s pretty different (in scope) compared to the first time I found myself in this type of job – much more document management and many more meetings to arrange around insanely-busy schedules, but the groundwork feels familiar and I really enjoy it. My (extreme) attention to detail is both a blessing and a curse, as I submerse myself in the why, how, and did-I-dot-all-my-i’s of my daily workload.

I’m happy to be part of an organization devoted to literature, research, and education, so I feel inspired to be a better admin. assistant this time around. And there’s much to learn; for instance, I’ve never worked on a PMO (programme management office, in this case) and feel challenged to wrap my head around MS Project workbooks and change management processes. As to the question of “which part” of publishing I do, I suppose the easy answer is people. Divisional infrastructure, risk management, and other business-y terms might be a better description, but the core of it is: look at how departments are currently doing things (hierarchy, IT and process support, etc.) and help them do things differently. Well, help my boss help those departments do things differently.

So, I get a high-level view of how things work here, and that’s pretty cool.

Other perks: cheap cappuccinos, a gym in the basement (did a ViPR class today, which was fun) and an in-house library. Not to mention a slightly shorter commute (by 5 minutes, I’m slow on my bike) and walking distance from John’s office. He likes the cappuccinos, too (and burger-bar Fridays).

This past weekend, I got together with my former co-workers, and hope to keep that going as my previous job increasingly becomes a distant memory. The people were (are) great, and Oxford is small, so I feel I can actually maintain those connections. What I won’t miss is the ride up Rose Hill (and possibly a few things I liked to grumble about on regular occasion to anyone who’d listen).

I should wrap this up because I have a deep conditioning treatment* dripping down my face and into my eyes (ouch), but as a last note on this subject, I feel like this is the most “career”-ish job I’ve had. Maybe it’s just a result of getting older, but it could also have something to do with aligning my love of literature and knowledge with how I pay my bills. It’s a nice feeling.

*Homemade science experiment: mix equal parts warmed coconut oil (one of the few oils that penetrates the hair cortex, rather than just coating it) with a moisturizing conditioner (conditions, duh) and add a small blob of raw honey (an effective humectant/emollient) and massage into your hair. Secure with clips/bobby pins. Leave in for a few hours (or until you get sick of it dripping down your face) and wash hair as normal. Shiny!

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The “R” Word

Normally, I start thinking about what I’d like to do differently in the upcoming year immediately after Christmas. But for the first time, New Year’s Eve came and went (with a bang– lots of bangs–as the Nuremberg sky lit up with fireworks and smoke so thick you had to climb through it), and I found myself kissing my husband and not really thinking about anything else.

Then I remembered, oh yeah, this is when I should resolve to do something about those habits I still keep although they don’t do me any good. Or to put it in a more positive light, this is the time of year where the collective desire to effect change gives us the momentum we need to begin. Beginning is the hardest part. John gave me the scientific interpretation earlier today– something about a moment of momentum, and overcoming that energy barrier– but understanding it* still might not inspire us to do anything about it*.

*it: That feeling of procrastination. I-know-I-should-just-start-but-don’t-wanna. The motivation to start.

Today, I went for a rainy run and thought about all of those little things I do or don’t do that annoy me, and reflected on how all those other times I made New Year’s resolutions that didn’t pan out, and I realized that those other resolutions lacked…well, resolve, really. And accountability. It’s easy to keep intentions in mind, and then to berate ourselves when we inevitably forget those intentions months later, because we never put them into practice.

So to keep it simple, my resolution is to write more. And read more. I’ll be a pretty crappy librarian someday if I never read, right?

Also: To not feel like a failure for not having the aforementioned career that I got my Master’s degree for. It doesn’t hurt to cast a wider net when it comes to jobs and business experience.

And finally: To give myself more credit. Which is probably a resolution that’s good for everyone.

 

9 miles, uphill, both ways

I know– it’s been a while. I could say I’ve been waiting until I had an expertly drafted, nail-biting, page-turning blog post before hitting “publish” again, but that’d be a lie. Still, better to get something out there before another week goes by, and so forth.

If I let that happen, I’d find myself here two years later (in the same position, curled up on the couch in my Carrier-branded fleece jacket and cat hair-covered fleece blanket, watching another thrilling episode of Ice Road Truckers). And I’d wonder, what happened to the past 24 months?

It’s one reason I decided to blog again, aside from the obvious “living abroad is exciting” thing. Too often, I find myself missing complete chunks of time. I can’t remember how old I was when I learned how to ride a bike, or what my favorite TV show was in 12th grade, or what I learned in my college French classes, or what it was like living in my first apartment in Philadelphia. Without stopping to write things down, my brain doesn’t have that motivation to go, “Hmm, we might want to remember this one day.” And then I feel boring. Complacent. It’s not that I need my life to be filled with constant excitement– on the contrary. I’m kind of a homebody, happier on the couch with John and the cats (with or without Ice Truckers) than…anywhere else, really. But If I don’t stop to notice and appreciate (and remember) these nice, relaxing days and nights, they’ll just turn into more “missing chunks.”

To summarize that tangent into one sentence: Writing and sharing is good for the soul, so here I am.

In attempt to remember what the hell happened this week, before it goes into black hole territory:

1. I started my new job! Oh, maybe I didn’t even mention I had a new job. Or an interview. I’m superstitious like that; it wasn’t a sure thing. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted the position, so I was pretty relaxed about the whole interview process. Somehow, that translated to confidence. And the most surprising thing is that I really like it so far. The people and work environment are wonderful, and I’m finding more and more support to what might be the closest I ever get to a life epiphany:

It’s more important to find a supportive, engaging and enjoyable environment rather than to  land the ideal (planned-for, studied-for, ultra-specific) job.

Maybe it’s just the honeymoon phase, but I don’t think so. Speaking of honeymoons, though…

2. That thing in September is my wedding. This might be awkward, but obviously we have guest list limits (and there’s that whole dislike of large crowds thing). We’re keeping it to mostly family, because, well, John and I are becoming our own family through this whole “marriage” thing. We’d like our individual families to see that, be part of it, support it. It’s kind of a private event, if you think about it. We can always party with our friends later, right? (Please don’t hate me, non-invitees!)

One promise I plan to keep, before that bigger “I do” promise: this blog will not turn into a melodramatic, wedding planning bridezilla frenzy disaster. I couldn’t care less if my “bridal party” (our siblings) wear matching ensembles that they’ll never wear again. I frown upon chair sashes. Pomanders and place cards? Shudder. It’s one day, people. It’ll be a fun party, and I’ll get to wear a pretty dress, and then I’ll be married. It doesn’t have to be an overly-constructed, over-priced ordeal. And instead of getting into wedding bikini shape or whatever pre-wives do to torture themselves, I’ll keep nursing my Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food (half price at The Co-op today! In all my excitement, I ate, um, most of it).

3. My name is Clea, and I have a problem: lists must be comprised of at least 3 items.

Oh, biking. That was going to be the subject of my original post. See what happens? Anyway, I have a 9ish mile round-trip commute to work. There’s one way to go that’s maybe .2 miles shorter than the second route, but it involves the grueling Headington Hill, that murderous quad-builder that starts at my front door. So I take the more scenic route through Cowley and Rose Hill (“the ghetto” of Oxford, apparently, though it seems pretty idyllic and just like everywhere else in this city). The slightly-more-flat route. I’m getting dusted by everyone from middle-aged ladies on cruisers to teenage boys riding with look ma, no hands!

It seems like everyone and their grandma “cycles” all across town, so I should be getting in pretty good cardiovascular condition in a few weeks here. And catch up to my fellow commuters. Maybe leave a few of them in the dust.

Fine, and maybe negate some of that Ben & Jerry’s, because I’m not above vanity after all.

So this is that rain they warned me about

It’s a quiet and relaxing Friday night. Our bellies full of delicious Chinese takeaway (look, I speak British now!), John and I are drinking peach sparkling water and watching Wreck-it Ralph. Well, sort of. We’re both on our iPads, half-watching. I’d blame this ADD on mobile devices, but I think I lost the ability to focus on whatever’s on the telly (did it again!) when I got a laptop in college.

This movie seems light enough for multi-tasking, though.

I rode my shiny new bike into Headington town center this morning to check out their twice monthly farmers’ market today. Does anyone else find it incredibly awkward to talk with vendors? I sampled some fantastic chorizo, unpasteurized goat cheese, and white truffle hummus, and told each seller I’d stop back. Of course, I didn’t. I find it so awkward to talk to a seller and not end up buying anything. It may be worse to avoid eye contact altogether, though. At least I showed up.

I ended up buying a purple cabbage, to be used in a buttery balsamic sauté recipe that two friends shared with me. I got a cheddar muffin flecked with fresh watercress, and 3 packs of free-range pork sausage (not excessive at all, right?) And then I went into Starbucks to dry off and do some editing.

Oh, right, the title of this post. It rained all day today. And yesterday. Sometimes more of a drizzle, sometimes more of a spray, or a mist, but never a downpour. I skipped my run yesterday, hoping today would be drier. When I realized at 5:30 today that that wouldn’t happen, and remembered that sometimes this might last for days at a time, I decided to suck it up and run in the rain.

The temperature was crisp but comfortable, with no wind, so I zipped up my windbreaker and slapped on my touristy-but-functional Tulum, Mexico baseball cap. Halfway through my brisk 3 miles, my body warmed up and I tied my jacket around my waist. Sure, I got wet, but it actually felt refreshing to dart through the twilight, raindrops cooling my flushed skin.

Now I wish I’d paid attention to this movie, because I’m completely lost. Apparently I’m not as good at multi-tasking as I thought. Actually, I know I’m bad at it and don’t think anyone else is very good at it, either.

The weekend’s on the horizon, and I’m not sure what it will bring. Maybe a trip into the city for Poundland, for some house things. Maybe (definitely) some of those sausages, probably the sun-dried tomato variety. Maybe some sunshine? Even if the rain continues, I’ll still love this place.

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What about work?

When John accepted the Oxford U. position, I almost immediately started looking for a job of my own. I was leaving a pretty comfortable (in terms of environment and salary) position that I saw as something between administration and management. Administrative in that I made sure people were crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s, and managerial in that I got frequent opportunities to go, “Well, that idea seems stupid, so let’s try this instead.” I found myself back in my 2008 shoes (the beat-up blue slip-ons with the rainbow straps), applying to entry-level administrative/personal assistant jobs, with the occasional, hopeful, part-time librarian application thrown into the mix.

After about 2 months, I received my 8th rejection. Sure, I was pretty upset. I thought I was over-qualified for most of these jobs; not that I think I’m a genius, but I can file papers and type. And I still maintain that my library science coursework was somewhat of a joke, though John will argue with me until I see that I’m doing that “thing” where I brush off accomplishments because they seemed easy to me. It took me a while to understand that maybe finding something easy (of course, putting in the work along the way) means I’m good at it. In a society where we’re always comparing ourselves against and measuring up to one another, we should pat ourselves on the back more often for our natural talents. Sounds cheesy, but I mean it.

After that 8th rejection, I decided to chill out and back off for a while, rather than continue the job hunt. John is far more generous than I am with money, and continuously reassured me that we’d have enough to cover our living expenses from his salary (which is, roughly, what I’d been making for the past year or so). I also wanted to continue my freelance work– perhaps even give it the full, focused attention it deserves, rather than rushing to meet deadlines on Sunday nights.

Of course, I still did the deadline-rushing thing last week. For my Tech & Learning work, I assemble anywhere between 20-100+ monthly press releases from various vendors (Blackboard, PBS, Epson, even Mitsubishi) into neat little product “what’s new” lists, cutting out the sales-y language and repackaging them into unbiased summaries. It’s easy and, actually, interesting– students and teachers today have access to more Apps and gadgets than we know what to do with. What’s actually useful and how to make these tools affordable is another point of discussion, but I’ll lead that up to the education experts. It’d make sense for me to set a reasonable daily, or even weekly, schedule to do this– but if we’re being honest, I always wait until the day before the monthly deadline before I even open a single email. Not much has changed since college.

I also occasionally proofread Philadelphia Stories editions. It’s a free publication that features artwork, poetry and short stories, and I get to indulge my inner grammar nerd while reading some pretty decent work at the same time.

My main focus for this month, though, is editing the final chapters (80-90 pages or so) of a friend’s memoir. My former boss introduced us; she’s unbelievably friendly, awesome, and brave for putting her writing out there to the public. I struggle between calling myself a proofreader and an editor, but now that I don’t have a full-time job using up my brain-space, I should be able to check for transitions, symbolism, flow– all that other stuff that doesn’t fall into “capitalize this” or “change that word.” And I’m looking forward to it.

Finally, on a whim, I responded to a call for a proofreader that someone posted to DailyInfo.co.uk. I didn’t really know what to expect, or stop to question whether I was even qualified (side note: I should probably learn the actual proofreading marks; I’m surprised I’ve gotten as far as I have when considering my abuse of parentheses and penchant for inserting too many commas). I met with a phD candidate in Business Management, and sat with him for an hour in a local cafe. We went over his professor’s comments on a paper; English wasn’t his first language, so I clarified some language and improved his sentence structure in a few places.

I learned some new words, which I’m still not convinced are words– they’re business jargon, an abuse of the English language. I still cringe whenever I see “COB” or “EOB,” and paragraphs about stakeholder power/influence make my skin crawl. But, it was fun, I made £10, and I like to think that I taught the guy something he wouldn’t have learned from submitting his paper to one of those “professional proofreading” websites (my competition, I suppose).

Friends and family were asking whether I’ve been applying to more jobs, now that I’m hear [full disclosure: just caught my own typo, and I’m leaving it in to make fun of myself. But I did fix another one in this post…], and it’s hard for me not to feel guilty when I respond with a firm no. I have to remind myself that I’m not falling into the bored-housewife role, or the lazy-dependent role. What I’m doing, at the moment, is actually pretty close to my dream job. I don’t rush off to the office to plop in front of a computer and put in a straight and straightforward 8-9 hours. I write and pick apart people’s spelling mistakes and get paid (a little) for it.

I wake up when I want to, and I get to make breakfast and coffee with John. I can take breaks, naps, read for fun, cook lunch or go out, go for a run (on the agenda, after I hit the “publish post” button: a 4 mile round-trip into Summertown, an apparently gorgeous neighborhood I haven’t been to yet). I can sit and think, or not think for a while. I can work on making our shoebox feel more like home. I can continue the search for that much-needed dresser, all before dinnertime.

Sure, I might tire of that freedom and life of luxury, and want to rake in a little more dough so we can shop at Waitrose more often or go on short weekend trips to Spain, France, or to visit my grandma in Germany. But before I get ahead of myself, I need to remember that this is sort of a golden opportunity to just relax for a while and do exactly what I want, when I want. Not many people get that. I’m very lucky.