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Dollars and Change

When I first started this new blog in August of 2010, I talked about how there were massive changes happening in my life at that time and I used that as a launching platform to change from my old blog to my new one. I’ve somehow, inadvertantly, focused aspects of this blog on change.

I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing, but it was not my intent. I guess that is why I find myself amused to be writing, once again, about change.

Recently, I’ve had some professional challenges. When I was first presented with the new change, I was dramatically upset. Crying and inability to focus kind of upset. But, I did not let it get me down. I knew, knew for certain, that this was not a change for the better. There was no way to put a positive spin on this. So I fought. I stood up for myself and said, “this is not okay”. And I lost. Those who outrank me decreed that the change was happening, like it or not.

And I hurt even more. Because now, I have the fear, the uncertainty, the uncomfortable feeling of change, but I also have the pain of losing. It’s not fun and it makes it hard, but I am glad that I fought. I don’t think I should have just accepted what was happening to me–at that time.

I fought and lost. But I’m proud of me for fighting at all.

Still, the change is coming. I cannot stop it and I cannot fight it anymore. It will happen. I dread this change. If I think about it too closely, my stomach starts to hurt. I’ve had a headache ever since it was finalized. That’s not dramatic, that’s reality. I am more tense and sit all day with my shoulders squared, trying to face this new challenge with my brave-face on, and the tension is causing an eternal headache. (Ok, “eternal headache” was a bit of drama…)

Recently, a friend told me about a big change happening to her, professionally. She is extremely upset about this change, and understandably so. From her earliest memories, she’s had her eye on one single goal and she reached it ten years ago. Since then, she is maintaining and growing and making herself even better in her choice. However, the powers-that-be in her world have decided that things must change. She will be making a major transition soon, and she is not happy about it.

I don’t blame her. I feel the pain she feels. The fear, the uncertainty, the insecurity you feel-wondering if you’ll possibly be good at the new, the anger and frustration that come with a change you did not choose. I’m sorry this is happening to her, but then I wonder…

What if this isn’t bad? What if she finds out that she was MADE for this new role? I know her, she overachieves at her job, she will conquer this and become as amazing in her new role as she was in her current role. She doubts, right now, that this can or will happen, but that is the emotions associated with change talking. She will succeed, I really have no doubt, but it is so hard, so very hard in the throes to recognize this.

It requires time and distance, the strength to get the emotion under control before you can gain perspective. I’ve still not acheived it for myself, I am fighting through the added difficulty the emotional aspect brings and still wondering if there is a light at the end of my tunnel. I know, from experience, that there is, but at the moment, I’m not there. Not even close.

I think I will get there, experience has taught me that, but when it comes to my friend, I know for certain that she will be okay.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, because of a conversation I had with my mom this weekend. The conversation was very personal, regarding my brother, but it dealt with change and adaptation. Somehow, no matter how hard you resist the change, there comes a point, somewhere down the road where the way things are become “the new normal”. You stop thinking of the things in your life as change or as an intrusion or as new or different, they are just the way things are. Even if, when the change begins, it is absolutely unthinkable (as in the family situation), there comes a point when you do achieve a new normal.

I call this adaptation. Even if you hate a particular change, especially when you hate a certain change, there will come a point when everything will adapt. Your feelings, your emotions, your daily life, your routine, the way you think and feel and act; these things will all reform around the new normal. What was once “the way it is” will become no longer and will, eventually, become the odd, scary, different  part of your life.

It’s almost sad, and certainly a whole lot scary, but we can adapt to anything. We can change the world around us and we can let the circumstances of our lives change completely and none of that means that we lose who we are. We remain the people we have always been, just with new experiences and new challenges to draw from in the future.

If change is the hard part, then the new normal is the dollars. The good part we’re all waiting for, when the world rights itself once again.

It may take a while, but we always get there.

(Interested in some past posts on change?)

Letting Go

Do you still remember your childhood phone number?

Do you still remember when people only had one phone number?

Do you remember when you had to remember phone numbers?

Do you still remember when there wasn’t call waiting and caller ID?

Do you remember life before cell phones?

I do, but it gets harder every day. I remember my childhood phone number. I also remember Kelly’s childhood phone number, but that’s the number I called more than any other, even my own, so it makes sense. I wonder if she remembers mine?

At any rate, when I was in the sixth grade, my parents moved us out of the city, to the suburbs. This meant a new address, new phone number and many other “new” things. It was transitory, but not terrible. Kelly and I devised a system to scam the USPS in order to send each other letters. (Do you remember writing letters?) In time, the new became the regular and it was another step toward realizing that change happens and we always adapt.

Technology has changed a great many things in life, many for the good. One of the most startling changes, I think, is the telephone system. Fewer and fewer people have landlines now. Cell phones are everywhere. No more “I wasn’t home”, it doesn’t matter, your phone goes where you are. When I bought my house, it never even crossed my mind to get a land line. It would have been great to get my “own” home phone number, but I guess that is what my cell number is for.

Still, my parents had a phone. It was the second of my childhood numbers. I remember the third, the second line my parents put in. The “kids'” line. My friends could call me there, but they didn’t call the “parents” line, that was for the adults, their friends, and, I suppose, the bills and crap that come with kids and a house. When we got the second line, I thought we were rich. People on television had two phone lines…not us. I always felt cool telling my friends, this is my line–not my parents’ line.

Eventually, the second line went away. I don’t know if it was financial or just unnecessary, but eventually it was gone. Then, from that day on, the number from home was just the one. My second childhood number. To this day my parents still have that number. It is number one on my favorites list on my cell phone. It is far and away my most called number.

My parents, like most people, have gotten cell phones. My dad only a couple years ago, he was a stubborn hold out. Not only did he get one, he actually uses it. He calls me from it all the time. He said he likes that the numbers are stored in it, so he doesn’t have to remember anyone’s phone number.

Today, I got an email from my mom. She and dad are canceling the land line and living off their cell phones alone, like many of the rest of us. It wasn’t a surprise, I’ve been encouraging it for some time. It seems ridiculous for two people to pay for three phones. But, the email came and announced that the cancellation is happening tomorrow. Just one more day. I was seized with the sudden urge to call the number several times, just because I won’t be able to anymore. Mere moments after digesting that info, my mom called me at work. From the soon-to-be discarded land line. I had a moment of “oh, this will be the last time this number shows up on my work caller ID” and it was.

It seems ridiculous to obsess over losing a phone number (“It’s just a number” – Mom) but it seems sad. Like letting go of another piece of childhood, of youth, of my past. I also received the renewal notice for my license, it is coming up at my birthday. I’ll finally be changing my address–it’ll no longer have my “home” address, it will instead carry the address of where I live. (Yes, it has been over a year in my house and my license still shows the old address, get over it).

They are bits and pieces, tiny moments we take for granted. You probably never think about a phone number, until you’re smacked in the face with it being gone. With all due respect to my mother, I think numbers are more than just that, they are connections, ways of keeping us in touch with the ones we love. I’ll still be able to call my parents, I’m not losing them, or losing touch, but the thought of never calling that number again is sad. It is a piece of my history and it is time to let go.

Technology has replaced the staid practices of my youth, and that’s okay. I’ll always have the memories and one day I’ll be playing one of those silly games with my grandkids and I’ll rattle off my “landline” and I’ll have to explain what that was. The same way my parents told me about party lines. Maybe this is just a rite of passage.

Raining on my Picnik

Do you know Picnik?

I’ve been using it for years. It is directly connected to Flickr, where I store all my photos, and I edit whenever I want. I love it so much, I upgraded to the premium version years ago. I actually pay money to have more features. Worth every single penny.

It’s how I can go from a photo like this:
photo

to a photo like this:

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The differences are subtle, I’ll give you that, but the second one is a terrific photograph.

In addition to editing, Picnik gives the option of creating.

That means I can take a photo like this:
photo

and edit into something more visible, like this:
photo

or even turn it into artwork, like this:
photo

I’ll even use it to create artwork for my home by taking an original photograph, like this:
photo

and playing with it until it becomes something like this:
photo

All of these were done by me. Given my familiarity with Picnik, by now, it only took me a few minutes to create each of these. For the uninitiated, maybe a minute more.

But, I’m not trying to sell you on Picnik. In fact, just recently I got an email from them that they are permanently closing their doors on April 19, 2012. Closing. Going out of business. No more Picnik. There has, so far, been no plan to replace it with anything on Flickr. That sincerely sucks. That means downloading photos from Flickr onto my computer to upload them to a different free site, then back again, just to edit a picture.

That. Sucks.

Then, I found out that Picnik is not really closing. Turns out, Google, who owns Picnik, has decided to move it from an independent (and Flickr related) website to serving Google+ only. Google+, if you don’t know, is Google’s social networking behemoth. Some say they’re trying to compete with Facebook. I don’t care. I don’t use FB and had no interest in trying Google+. Still, I really love Picnik, so I signed up. I tried it out, I gave it a fair shake. I hated it.

It was huge and overwhelming and confusing and not at all intuitive. I’m a very smart girl, but I couldn’t figure out a way to make it work for me. I figure if their main site is that bad, what are they going to do to Picnik? Plus, I am not moving the nearly 10,000 photos stored on Flickr over to Google+, I’m not. And I will not suddenly start storing any new photos on Google+, why would I want them stored separately?

So, I’m unhappy. I read about an online petition to stop Google from closing Picnik and I went over and signed. I’m not a huge fan of online petitions (btw, click the link to sign it yourself) mostly because I think they don’t really work and they are WAY overused. A petition to stop the canceling of a tv show? Come on.

But, this seems worthwhile to try, because it makes no sense. If you want Picnik services on Google+, just put them there. There is no reason to shut down Picnik commercial. Why can’t it be open to everyone AND Google+ users? The two terms are not mutually exclusive. Speculation is that Google is trying to force more Google+ users by herding us loyal Picnikers over there. Well, I tried and I’m out.

Besides, now that I have suspicion planted in my brain, I don’t wish to be a part of it. I’ll live without it or find something else to replace it. That’s the beauty of the vastness of the world wide web. There is always something else to take its place. Google should remember that. I paid $25 a year to use Picnik. But because of this shabby treatment and poor decision making I won’t use the exact same product, for free, on a different site.

There is a lesson in there. It’s pretty simple. Do the right thing. Since when did that stop being the rule, rather than the exception?

Rewind. Repeat. Relive.

If you had the chance, would you do it over again?

Anything?

It’s hard to decide, because, logically, if you go back and change one part, you’re changing everything that comes after. You’d not come back to this place and time, you’d be living a different life. Theoretically, I suppose your choices could bring you right back to this point, but then going back to change something seems pretty silly, hmm?

I’m reading a new book that I find fascinating. It is called Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton. It’s a do-over novel. So, you read a section that ends with a question. You choose what you’d do next, turn to the corresponding page and find out what happens, based on your decision. I keep reading it over and over and making different decisions to see what happens. It is funny that when I choose something I would actually choose, it can blow up in my face. Then, if I choose differently than I truly would, sometimes I end up with the life I really want.

Strange, right?

But, it makes me think about choices, how our choices affect us and what that means in the bigger picture. The thing is, we don’t really get to know. We rarely get to see the linear line of our lives to realize how our decisions affect our lives. Of course, I can’t help but wonder about some of the choices I’ve made.

Generally, I’m happy with my choices. I don’t believe in regret, because it does you no good. Once the decision is made, it is made, there’s no changing it, so why waste your time with regret?

However, having said that, there is one choice I’ve made in my life that I’m simply not confident in. I may have made the wrong choice. I’ll never know, there is simply no way to decide, but I still wonder, to this day.

When I graduated from grad school, December of 2006, I had a job offer waiting for me. I could have been a children’s librarian at a public library, working full-time, right out of the gate. They offered me the job before I even graduated, in November.

I would have had health benefits (better than what I have now). I would have been paid a salary higher than I’m making now. (This especially sucks since it is five years later, I’ve had one raise here and I’m still making less than that starting salary–and, after five years, I’d have had plenty of raises at that job. Ouch.) I would have been doing the job I wanted to do (children’s librarian) in a place where I wanted to work (public library).

There was so very much about that job I liked. I met the people who worked there. They were kind, they made me laugh, they took me out to lunch. I felt comfortable with them. I could have enjoyed working with them.

But, after Christmas, I turned down the job.

I said no. I made a decision and changed the course of my life, for better or worse.

Why?

Well, the primary reason is that the job was in New Jersey. I didn’t want to live in New Jersey. Even though it was on the Jersey shore and living near the ocean appealed to me very much, I didn’t want to LIVE in New Jersey. More subtly, I was homesick. I’d lived away from my family for two years, while in grad school. I missed my friends. I wasn’t able to go to KJ’s wedding. I missed Tom and Mindy’s reception (luckily it was months after the wedding, which I was able to make). I missed my family. I missed people being nice, even if they were strangers, I missed always knowing where I was and where I was going (literally, when driving around). I wanted to be home.

Moreover, I was scared. Leaving to live in DC for two years was scary enough, but I knew, the whole time, that it was temporary. I knew when I graduated, I’d go home. And it was still hard. I made friends and things got easier, but it wasn’t the same. These friends didn’t know me like my friends back home. They will probably never meet my parents or my siblings. They were “away” friends, not “always” friends.

Then, thinking of moving, I got more scared. Accepting a job isn’t temporary, it’s pretty permanent. I told myself it didn’t have to be, I could just try it for a year and see what I thought. Still, I knew, things just seem to go on, no matter what, and I was scared I would wake up one day, years from now, and find that I was still living in New Jersey. Maybe I met a NJ boy and had NJ babies and was living a very nice life. Maybe my career would switch gears and I’d have moved again–to California or Texas or Colorado or Georgia, who would possibly know? Maybe, maybe, maybe, that sound kept thundering through my brain.

Maybe should have been exciting. Look at the world, see the possibilities, there is nothing that I could not do–that sort of thing. But, suddenly, maybe seemed kind of ominous. I asked Mindy, “if I lived in NJ, you’d visit, right?” and she gave a patented “mindy-esque” answer. It was real, brutal, and honest. I still remember, all these years later. She said,”I’d probably come once to visit, but let’s be realistic, that kind of thing doesn’t really happen. I’d like to say I’d visit all the time, but I just wouldn’t. People don’t.”

People don’t.

It’s true. I thought of all the friends that I’ve known that have moved away. Some I promised to stay in touch with, some I forgot as soon as they were gone. None, am I still friends with anymore. People don’t.

Family is, of course, different. I knew I wouldn’t lose my family, but I would have lost the ability to participate in many things. I would have missed Emily and Chad’s engagement. My sister would have asked me to be her maid of honor over the phone, instead of in person. Sure, I’d still have gone to the wedding, but the “stuff” talking about it, meetings, dress shopping, that would have gone on without me. I’d have missed the birth of my first nephew. I wouldn’t have been there when Simon was born. Given the state of relations at that time, he could have been 10 months old before I’d ever met him, if I hadn’t lived here. There are other things, moments, that I could list here, but it isn’t the point.

The point is, I weighed the options and chose safety, family, and friends over a career, over stability and, dear God, financial security.

Do I regret it? No. I’m happy with the way my life is, mostly, but I do sometimes wish for that other path. For that option. I want to walk down that road a ways and just see what it would have been like. I want to meet myself, now, five years later, and see who she is, the Olivia who said yes to a job in NJ. How is she different? Is she married? Does she have kids? Who are her friends? How much money does she have in the bank? Where does she live? What is her house like? Does she still love her job? What makes her sad? What does THAT Olivia wish she could change about her life? And, most importantly, does that Olivia think that taking the job was the right choice?

It wouldn’t matter, it wouldn’t change anything. I’m still me and I made the choice I made and things turned out the way they turned out. But, I can’t help wishing for a peek behind the curtain. I just would like to know if I made the right or wrong choice.

Then, I remind myself that there is no right or wrong choice. That was not a yes or no decision. It was a scale, a balance. I could stack the chips any way that I wanted and make the scale balance just the way I chose. I chose home. Family. Certainty. I shied away from insecurity, unknown, change. That was me, at that time. I was defined by the choices I’d made up until that point and my decision went that way. It wasn’t right or wrong and it never will be. It was simply the choice I made during the biggest crossroad I’d at which I’d ever stood.

I know that in my life I will stand at those crossroads again. I will face down major decisions. It will happen and I will feel scared and shaky and nervous. I will fill the scales with the chips I have in my pocket at the time and I will choose. It will change my life and I will probably never even know how. We are rarely ever offered that lucky glimpse behind the curtain, we hardly ever get validation that the choice was good. We just live the lives we choose and hope we’re smart enough to keep making decisions that make us happy.

But, we never actually know. It’s that mystical “what if” that I can’t stop wondering about. Because next time I make the choice, I’ll base part of my decision on the choice I made the last time–and I have to do it without knowing if that choice was good or not.

It’s amazing, when you think about it, how much of life is absolute blind faith.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (who was kind enough to give me a day off yesterday), once said, “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” That’s a pretty good description of life choices, too. We make that choice, which is that first step and we’re stepping blindly into the unknown. We can’t see the staircase, we just step, hoping it will be there when we land.

I’ve been lucky, I’ve always found the staircase. It may have, sometimes, gone down when I’d hoped it was going up, but it’s always there and I keep stepping–to see what comes next. That’s the fun in life. What comes next.

Must be a pretty darn good book if it made me think this much, right? I’m about to start the sequel tonight. I’ll let you know. Or maybe I won’t. I’ll have to decide.