Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Other Shoe?

I was doing some thinking last night (dangerous habit, I know), and I think I realized one of the other reasons I’ve been somewhat stressed about this week. You know, besides traveling to an unfamiliar small town, starting a new job, and having to be social with people I don’t know that well.

I think part of me is waiting for the other shoe to drop.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic, this job is unlike any I’ve had before. This job is one I set out to do, with years of preparation and school. It might even be the start of a career. And I’ve never had a job like that before.

Sure, I’ve had other jobs I could have made a career out of, like my A/V tech position before I went to grad school. But this new job is something that, while I may not want to stay a drafter forever, is getting me valuable experience towards some future employment. I’ve chosen a field, in other words, and am making progress in it.

Maybe it’s a form of Impostor Syndrome that has me worried. Or maybe it’s that after two years of not being able to find a job in my chosen field I’ve become a bit leery of when things start going my way. Either way, I can’t help but feel that, on some level, there’s got to be a catch somewhere. Something somewhere is going to pop up, and bring me crashing back down to earth in a spectacularly depressing fashion.

I know that I’m being a bit irrational. But it’s hard to shake the feeling. I’m still in the rosy-tinted “ZOMG NEW JORB” stage, but I’ve also apparently gained enough cynicism over the years that I realize that can’t last. Then my cynicism gets together with my overactive imagination and starts spitballing on ways things could go horribly wrong.

In the end, this is probably going to be a job like any other. It’s going to have its ups and its downs. It will be fun, tedious, exciting, boring, stressful, etc. all in turn. Sure, the fact that it’s in a new field (that I chose) is weird, but whether or not I knew it at the time, I’ve chosen a specialty. Why wouldn’t I want a job using those skills? I’d just like it if I could shake the feeling that there’s going to be complications.

Good Little CAD Monkey

I’m trying something different with my writing this week, something that I hope will become my new habit. At my last job, I would often end up writing after I got off work. This wasn’t that much of an issue, since I was getting up so early and getting home by early afternoon. With the new job, however, that wouldn’t work as well. So I’m going to try writing before work every morning.

So far, this is going quite well. I’m still in the habit of getting up early, and the time change has me getting up even earlier. It also means that I can have my evening completely free. Let’s just say I’m not exactly used to “Small Midwest Business” levels of hospitality; the office has taken me out to dinner the past two nights and, while the food was tasty, I’ve found myself longing for the quiet of my hotel room and computer after a couple hours. But being the guest of honor, of course, I haven’t known how to politely extricate myself. After all, it’s not like I can make the excuse of wanting to sample the hopping nightlife scene, right?

Anyway, you’re probably less interested in my griping than how my first day was. Well, too bad: this is my blog, I do what I want!

…Alright, fine. My first day was pretty good. Lots of new information to take in; “drink from the firehose” levels of information. Not in the least of which was everyone’s names. But as I got into things, it started to make sense. It’s nice to be working in AutoCAD again, and the day went pretty quickly. They’ve got me set up in the conference room, where I’m using the wall-mounted HDTV as a monitor. That’s been interesting, as I get to crane my neck up all day, and I occasionally find myself leaning in to try and get a better look.

The CAD work is pretty rote, but can also be kinda fun. I had to take a site survey (pics and dimensions) and generate a floor plan. Inevitably, there were times that the dimensions didn’t match up, but I’m quite proud of myself with how little I let that bother me. It’s been kind of fun, like solving a puzzle when all you have is a series of close-up photos of the box and someone’s sketch of the finished product.

There are some potential negatives, of course. I’m not as fast as I’d like to be, but I figure slow and steady is better while I’m learning the company’s methods and systems. I can see how this work would get tedious and repetitive, but I’m trying to stay positive about it. I’m finally working in my chosen field, and that counts for a lot. And sure, it’s different than school was, but that’s to be expected. No schooling can really prepare you for the real world of using your skills, unless all your training is on-the-job.

Anyway, that may have been a bit rambling. I’d like to say more, but it’s time to go to work. Maybe if I have a few more spoons left at the end of the day (so that I don’t just come back to the hotel and play computer games until it’s past time to sleep) I’ll have something more thoughtful to say tomorrow.

Spoon Mega-Pack

Yesterday was kind of a whirlwind. I made it into my hotel late in the afternoon, and had just enough time to stop by the home office for a quick tour before I was whisked off to dinner with a handful of my new coworkers. It was fun to meet people, but I have a feeling being “on” and social all week is really going to take its toll on me.

It’s a small office in a small town, and that would always be difficult to come in to from the outside. Maybe things will go better once I can start doing some actual work, but right now it’s got me a bit nervous. What if I stumble into some unknown faux pas by mistake? I really want to make a good impression.

Everyone’s been really friendly so far, but in some ways that’s almost more stressful. It sounds like my near future is filled with catered lunches and after-work social dinners, and oh yeah: actual work. Maybe it’s just because of how different this is from my last job that I find it stressful and weird.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still excited about using my degree. But I’m also somewhat scared. Maybe it’s fear of change, maybe it’s fear of success. Actually, that latter one sounds closer to the mark. Not to get too deep and introspective, but I’ve had trouble in the past in feeling like I “deserve” to have good things happen to me. And I think this is similar. What have I done to “deserve” getting a job in my degree field? Am I really good enough to do this sort of thing professionally, or am I just deluding myself? What happens when others find out? That’s just a few of the irrational thoughts going through my slightly sleep-deprived head right now.

There’s probably also a bit of culture shock. Like I said, this is clearly a fairly tight-knit office, with in-jokes and shared experiences. But the area I’m in is also quite rural. My hotel is about 20 minutes from the office in the next town over, and the road is framed by cornfields on either side. Everything is quite flat, without any easily-identified geographical features. My phone’s GPS has been getting me places, but as a result I’m not really learning where I am in relation to things; I’m merely following the directions. It’s also clear that (as trite as this sounds) living here has different concerns than I’m used to. People seem to enjoy it, but I don’t know that I would. And while Denver isn’t exactly a big city (my girlfriend would posit it’s nothing but a large town when compared with something like Chicago), even the suburbs feel more urban than here.

Anyway, that’s enough morose navel gazing for now. It’s just about time for me to leave for my first day of work/orientation. It sounds like it’s going to be fun, and as long as I get enough downtime to myself in the evenings, I should make it through the week. It’s a good thing I brought my laptop.

Leaving On A Jet Plane

I sit in the airport, waiting for my plane to board. I am surrounded by fellow travelers, most keeping to themselves, either reading a paper or crouched behind their smartphone. Some sit on the benches, staring off into space. Others squeeze themselves into corners, next to whatever meager power outlet offerings there are. I sit facing the window, airplanes taxiing to and from the runway in front of me. Even now, I can’t quite believe it.

I can’t quite believe I’m on my way to start my new job.

I keep thinking that maybe this is just another consequence of having a variable schedule; maybe I’ve got Monday off, and I’ll have to be up at 4am tomorrow morning like usual. I still don’t quite grok that I don’t have to do that any more, that instead I get to sit at a computer during regular office hours, plugging away at AutoCAD.

And my body doesn’t believe it yet either. The past few mornings, I’ve been awake at 4am whether I want to be or not. So I’ve laid there, tossing and turning in the too-warm dark, trying to convince myself that yes, I can go back to sleep. That no, you don’t want to just suck it up and start reading. Oh, and ignore your bladder: it is filled with lies.

So if anything, I’ve been more tired than usual, paradoxically because I’m able to sleep in. I’m sure I’ll adjust soon enough, but these first few days (weeks?) are going to be odd. In more ways than one, I bet.

See, I’m also nervous about being able to perform my job duties. Intellectually, I know that this fear is irrational. After all, I’ve had experience with AutoCAD since high school, and while I may be a bit rusty, I’m sure those habits will come back fairly quickly. I guess what has me nervous is the fact that I’m going to be using those skills professionally, that my drawings will actually be used for something beyond my own education.

It’s a weird feeling. But an exciting one, too. One of the complaints I’ve had about my previous jobs is there hasn’t been a big feeling of accomplishment, that at the end of the day it’s hard to feel like you’ve made any progress. But with architecture, I’m hoping that will be different: it’s hard to feel like you haven’t accomplished anything when, at the end of things, there’s a building where once there was not.

And sure, I’m probably romanticizing the drudgery and routine of things (like construction documents, or bathroom layouts, or door schedules). But I’m hopeful that this work will be more fulfilling. Even if I’m just doing drawings, polishing the design work of others, I’ll be involved with the process. I’ll have helped make something. And that’s exciting.

And a tad bit scary.

Costco No More

It is done! As of today, I am no longer a retail grunt. Two years to the day since I started, I no longer have to work at Costco. I no longer have to get up at four in the morning. I no longer have to push carts in the soggy snow. I no longer have to deal with people’s vacation messing with my availability. I am free.

Yeah, I might be excited.

I felt good on my way out. I didn’t go out of my way to burn any bridges, so I got a lot of “good luck” and “it was a pleasure working with you.” Even from some of the managers! I also got some “don’t be a stranger” and “come see us every once in a while.” I tried to be polite and make noncommittal noises, because yeah, I’m not exactly eager to relive that feeling any time soon.

Costco wasn’t a bad company to work for. As far as retail goes, I can actually recommend it. However, I just didn’t want to spend my life in retail. If I had started younger, arranged my life around the nights/weekends, maybe it would have been different. But not with the life I’ve made for myself.

So yeah. My two years of retail servitude wasn’t as bad as it could have been. It definitely made me appreciate the work people do more. I’ve said everyone should work retail (or something similar) at least once, just to appreciate the workers. So I have. And I do. And now I’m ready to be done.

It’s no secret I’ve been unhappy in my job for a long time. And while I know this new job will not be perfect, I can’t help but hope it will be better. And at least I’ll be using my degree, and working more normal office hours. That has to count for a lot.

So long, Costco, and thanks for all the fish.

The Penultimate Day

Not much to say today. Today was my second-to-last day at my retail job, and like most of the days this past week so far it was pretty uneventful. Boring, even. So here’s some rambling thoughts.

I’ve discovered that working a mid-day shift from 10am to 3pm is pretty annoying. Sure, it’s only five hours. But there’s hardly enough time to get started on anything in the morning, and there’s not much time left in the afternoon either. It would be hard to pick a block of five hours that would be better at completely torpedoing your day.

I had my last performance review yesterday. My boss wrote it in the present tense, as if I was still going to be working there; I guess it was easier for them do do it that way. But one of the comments really stood out at me as odd: apparently I “need to work on having a more positive attitude.” When I asked for clarification, I was told that I had seemed “grumpy” for the past few months, like I wasn’t happy at work and was making my feelings known. Now, if you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I haven’t been happy with my soon-to-be-former employment for quite a while. And looking back at my schedule, it was about May that I started really looking for a better job. It was also the time that my availability stopped being respected; of course that’s going to make me unhappy. And of course I’m not going to be thrilled to deal with the people that put me in that untenable situation.

When talking about my attitude at work, my boss mentioned that they didn’t know how long I was actively searching for another job; if I started being unhappy once I had the new job lined up, or if my unhappiness is what drove me to look for another job. It was tempting, but I managed not to tell them. I decided they didn’t really need to know. But for the record, it was kind of both: I started looking for another job because I was unhappy, and the act of looking forced me to really look at how unlikeable the situation was. It may have been petty of me to withhold that information, but it felt kind of good at the same time.

Come back tomorrow, where I will regale you with tales of joyous celebration, as my years of servitude finally draw to a close. Or, as I reminisce about the job that’s paid my bills for the past two years. If you want to be really entertained, I might even try to come up with a list of what I enjoyed about this job!

Fashion Injection

One of the things I’ve been doing in preparation for my new job is getting new clothes. It’s been an interesting experience for me, since I don’t really buy clothes all that often, and I’m having to do so for an office environment I haven’t really been in before.

I’ve been pretty lucky in my previous jobs in terms of dress codes. For instance: when I worked in the computer lab during grad school, I was pretty much free to wear whatever I wanted. T-shirt, jeans, it didn’t matter. My time as an A/V tech was similar, but towards the end our boss did insist we wear polo shirts with the university logo on them. As a result, I have yet to wear a polo shirt since.

When I started my retail job, that was the first time in a while I had to consciously change what I wore. The company dress code insisted on collared shirts, so my nerdy wardrobe was right out. Luckily, I was able to hit up a few thrift stores which, combined with some cheap undershirts, let me quickly bolster my wardrobe options.

Working in an architecture office, however, I expect to be a bit different. I imagine it’s going to skew more “business casual” than “casual,” so my comfortable jeans and boots are probably not going to cut it anymore. So I’ve supplemented my wardrobe (yet again) with several pairs of slacks and some nicer button shirts. It’s always better to be over-dressed than under, I figure.

The funny thing is, I used to dress more formally years ago. In high school, it wasn’t uncommon for me to wear a nice button shirt and a pair of khakis to class. Even my Hawaiian shirts got tucked in nicely. I guess that made me one of “those” nerds, the kind that, well, dress more formally than they probably need to.

But over the years, my style has relaxed into a more typical jeans-and-printed-tee one. I’ve toyed with the idea of consciously shifting my wardrobe into something more “stylish,” but it’s really hard to overcome my natural inclination towards practicality over fashion; buying clothes just because they’re “new” or “fashionable” has always seemed silly. But hey: a new job can be a great excuse to make a few changes, to get a fresh start. And I might as well take as much advantage of it as I can, right?

The Last Morning

Today was my last time getting up at 4am to sling product around, filling up pallets and making the store largely presentable. And much like yesterday, what a last day it was.

There was once again too much to do, and not enough time to accomplish it. We were already a bit behind, given the kind of day that we had yesterday. And to make matters worse, the other stocker for my side of the store called in; apparently their “car wouldn’t start” or something. So guess what happened? If you guessed that I had to stock the entire side of the store (which is ideally a three-person job) all by myself, then get yourself a gold star! You’re right!

Nothing but the critical issues got addressed, and even some of those had to be left for another day. There wasn’t anyone else to help me, because apparently the other side of the store needed the attention. I wouldn’t know; I barely had enough time to make it to my break. But at least the senior manager seemed to realize the futility of it all, and I wasn’t yelled at for things outside of my control. I just would have preferred to leave my stocking duties on a better not, but I guess there’s something poetic about how things went: under-staffed and over-worked to the very end!

This week is shaping up to be a lot harder than I expected, even without accounting for how crazy things have been before the store opened. Short Timer Syndrome has settled in, and even the most mundane features of my job are like sandpaper on my psyche. Was I really this blind to the annoyances of retail before this? Or am I just that mentally checked out already? I mean, how could I not notice having to answer questions whose answers are right on the sign in front of them?!

It actually surprises me how quickly my view of things changed once I knew I was going to escape. It’s a testament to the human mind, I guess, how easily it can shut out the inane and bothersome. I’m trying to remember that this new job is not guaranteed to be perfect; I’m sure it will have its fair share of annoyances and problems. But right now, it’s looking a lot more appealing than what I’m having to deal with at my current job.

There’s a reason I’m leaving. I’d do well to remember that. I just wish I didn’t need to be beaten over the head with reasons.

The Last Monday

I worked my last Monday in retail today. Let’s just say I won’t be missing it. And oh boy, what a Monday. Too much to do, not enough time to do it; you know, the usual. Oh, and it was way too humid in the warehouse.

Interestingly enough, I’m not the only one that’s leaving. Several other people are moving on, mostly to other branches within the same company. But combined with the general low morale that’s been seeping through the store, I’m starting to feel like a rat on my way off of a sinking ship.

How do I know morale is low? Well, there have been signs besides by own malaise. “Sick” calls have been increasing, even reaching up to the forklift drivers. Several people are calling in each week, often multiples a day. Even my boss is feeling the stress: they commented that “if They wanted to burn everybody out, They’re doing a great job.” Not exactly inspiring words from a superior, eh?

Things seem to have definitely taken a downward turn since the new(ish) store manager. Staffing is getting cut to threadbare levels, managers are doing more menial jobs, and the general level of polish around the store has fell significantly.

In light of all this, I think I’m getting out at the right time. Not just for my own needs, but for general work quality and satisfaction. And even better: tomorrow is my last early morning! Everything’s coming up Milhouse!

New Glasses

I got new glasses today. It’s part of my push to take advantage of as many of the perks of my retail job while I still can. Turns out I could have been getting a free pair of glasses a year since I’ve been working there. Funny how a deadline tends to focus one’s motivation.

Anyway, it’s been years since I’ve gotten my eyes checked, let alone new glasses. I have a fairly mild prescription; about the only exciting thing about it is I’m farsighted in one eye and nearsighted in the other. But like I said, a mild prescription. Mild enough that I don’t bother wearing my glasses during any physical activity. I’ll definitely get a headache if I’m not using them for a prolonged period, but that’s more because one eye ends up doing more work than the other.

But anyway, I’m getting distracted. Much like my new prescription is! (Eh? See what I did there? [There too?]) It’s not that I can’t see, it’s that it’s different, and I’m noticing it as a result.

Good or bad, we humans tend to take things for granted, or at least stop noticing them after a while. But with my new lenses, I can feel my eyes taking a moment or two to adjust and focus. And believe it or not, things actually look a bit too clear. They’re not, it’s just that they’re clearer than they used to be. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but right now it’s odd.

I also managed to talk myself into a new style of frames! It definitely wasn’t a sure thing, since I’ve been making a lot of decisions lately, and am fast approaching my limit. But I managed to soldier on, and I think I’ve managed to pick something a bit more stylish than my last pair. Rectangular frames are apparently “in” right now.

Anyway, not much to say today other than that. Work was draining, even given how short my shift was. To say nothing about Short Timer Syndrome (it’s like Senioritis). Long story short, I’m ready to be done.

One more week.