Sunday, August 21, 2011

24 gold coins

three years ago this summer i was in the middle of a major, nasty funk. work sucked, my attitude about pretty much everything sucked, i was feeling tired, worn-out, emotionally depleted, and was really hating my job. oh, wait. did i say that already? newspaper journalism is (understatement of the century) not what it used to be. Newsrooms used to be busy, bustling places where reporters really were a little bit like rosalind russell and people did yell "stop the presses." (ok, they still do but mostly to fix something that's hugely screwed up rather than to get in breaking news). it was a cool place to be because the work was important and you spent your day with (love them or hate them...) interesting characters. the newsroom was a melting pot of old, young, wisecracking, crotchety, witty, neurotic folks who were all really, really good at what they were doing. well, by the time we get to 2008 my newspaper had gone through maybe 3 rounds of layoffs, our pay was about to get cut 12%, the staff was depleted, dejected, demoralized and depressed. while the only option was to change with the changing times, i was pissed. and not just at what was being done to us, but to a large degree, mad at myself for not seeing it coming and not having a solid plan B.

i decided i had to do something so i took a "what the hell am i supposed to be doing with my life" course for "women in transition." some of the folks were like me, others had been recently laid off, others knew the layoff was right around the corner. all of us knew we were looking for something better but we  needed a nudge getting there. there were elements of that class that were genuinely useful. i particularly liked taking career planning surveys, inventories and learning about what kinds of jobs were a good fit for  my skills and interests. but mostly, i just didn't feel like i got what i was looking for. perhaps it was naive, but i really thought i would walk out of the 8-week course with a plan B. a solid idea and a plan for how to get there.

you see, i got to where i was in part because when i was a kid i liked this show. 

that must explain why there were a ton of kids wanting to be FBI agents during the reign of the x files and wanna-be forensics investigators because of CSI. there are worse things to do with your life, but it should have been better thought out.

all the reasons we choose the path we take are far more complex than i can write and nobody wants to read it anyway. but when i got to that place, that "women's" life-coaching class, i was ready for someone to tell me the answer. sadly, the answer didn't come. or maybe it did and i am still processing it. but at the time, the best thing i could come up with was to start a gelato shop. nope, it didn't make sense, not in minnesota anyway. the economy was beginning its descent, banks weren't lending and i knew that new small businesses almost always fail. but it gave me something to think about. something to doodle on the edges of my notebook. i thought about gelato a lot. in my mind i had the location scouted, the decor planned, the furnishings chosen. the place didn't have a name but i knew how i wanted it to feel. 

i can't remember her name, but there was one memorable woman in the class. her job situation was terrible. she had a tyrannical, narcissistic boss. she had been beaten down and was a miserable mess. honestly, the check-in part of the class was the worst because people would go around the table telling one sob-story after the next. i know i should have been commiserating and supportive but it just made me more gloomy. one day during "caring and sharing" she said she was working on managing her time and was really trying not to let the eight hours at work poison the other 16 when she was not. she said she was trying to remind herself that "every day we get 24 gold coins and it's our choice how we spend them."

wow. well said. and that was the most profound thing i got from the class. right there. do more things that make you happy. do fewer things that don't. it wasn't long after that i started doing more spinning and got my etsy shop going.

this weekend i did all the busy stuff i always cram into the weekends but i made sure i sat in the hammock and finished a sudoku. and i read a book. it was a short one, but i read an entire book when i could have been doing far more practical tasks. three years ago i don't think i could have allowed myself the luxury of that much stillness. i was too busy beating myself up blaming myself for not having it all figured out.