In a post that strays a little from my theme this semester, I would like to wish my daughter Ava a very Happy 9th Birthday!!!! On this day nine years ago I was in labor with Ava, I was 18 and freshly out of high school. Today on Ava’s ninth birthday I am a college grad, who is pursuing her Masters Degree. On the day Ava was born I had no idea what the future held because the picture I’d painted had dissolved into a whole new reality as a teenage mother. On Ava’s second birthday I was failing out of John Jay College and was giving up slowly on myself and my future. On Ava’s third Birthday I used my whole tax return to throw her an elaborate themed party to mask how much I felt like a failure. I figured if all looked well then nobody would notice that I was working a crappy retail job and couldn’t figure out what I was going to do about college.
When Ava was four I went back to school and I had a firm sight on where I wanted to be– and nothing would get in my way. This June I will walk in my graduation ceremony and it will be the second time that Ava will have seen me receive a degree. I do this not only to provide from her but to show her that you can fall as many times as you want so long as you GET BACK UP!
My college career is Ava’s as much as it is mine because I’ve never been in college without Ava. Even when she was just a baby bump, she came to college with me. She’s sat through lectures with me, said goodnight to be over the phone, sat and watched me type essays and annotate article after article. While some nights she did complain, she always tells me I’m doing a good job and that makes it worth it– even on the days she is driving me insane. This year as Ava turns nine I see more of myself in her than ever, and I want better from her. I know she can be better, do better and reach higher than I ever have– and it frustrates me when she doesn’t. Nonetheless I know she is bound to be great and make a name for herself– after all, a queen only raises a queen!
When I was younger my mom told me that sometimes adults can be more childish than actual children. I didn’t quite get this idea until I started working full-time– more so in a leadership role. At first it baffled me how people who were in positions of such esteem and regard could be so immature and petty. I witnessed grown adults holding grudges, gossiping and being cliquey– worse than middle school girls. My first thought was “well I’ll just avoid all of that and mind my business” but unfortunately gossip culture will find you; and it will test you.
I figured that by being nice to everyone, not overstepping the work/ socializing boundary that I could avoid that whole whirlwind of picking sides– I was wrong. In being nice to everyone and chit chatting over the water cooler, I opened myself up to other employees prodding for information about their coworkers because I seemed to get along with everyone. When I didn’t play into the game I became a scapegoat and a goody-two-shoes. While I don’t often let idle gossip bother me, dealing with such petulant behavior from adults was tiring. I ended up putting my foot down and just making it clear to all that if something was amiss or there was confusion I should be asked directly– and not relayed messages through the grapevine.
In my middle school days, gossip and ally making was rattling to me and I wanted to badly to be on the right side. I found however, that the “right” side often meant compromising my character or my morality and I just couldn’t do it. In elementary school I was an outcast for making friends with a girl who had an accident and in middle school I was made fun of by proxy because one of my best friends was a little overweight. Once I reached high school I was over it entirely and I built myself a network of girlfriends who didn’t give a damn what people thought of them and although not all of us keep in touch anymore the lesson they taught resonated.
I don’t need to be liked or loved by everyone to do my job, or to be good at it and I certainly don’t owe anyone anything. The most important thing that I can say is to be firm in your footing; stand up for what you believe in and who you are. Most of all, do your job, do it well and don’t tread anywhere the ice may be too thin.
With more knowledge comes more power, right? Well in my case more knowledge and more ability came with a larger office, more employees and more targets to hit. Naturally I was flattered my boss thought highly enough of me to promote me, but deep down I was panicked. Part of me even secretly hoped I wouldn’t have to do it and I could sit quietly in the shadows. When I looked at myself in the mirror though, I realized that I needed to look at myself in a better light. I needed to believe in myself and view myself with confidence and not doubt of what mistakes I may make.
When the season started I was jittery, but I tried to sound as confident and positive as I possibly could when I met my new team of employees. I found that they were a really great group of people who were relieved to get a new leader at the helm; this made easing into a new role easier. I’d heard once in a psychology class that there are two types of leaders; transactional and transitional. Transaction leaders are a hands off type of leader that only handles things that go wrong or need attention, but a transitional leader will lead by example– and that’s the kind of leader I wanted to be.
I started by making a list of exactly what I needed to do that day, down to the most minuscule of tasks because it made the whole day seem like less of a challenge. I checked off the must do stuff first– things that had time deadlines or needed to be done the same time every day. After those tasks I worked on the bigger projects and tasks that took more of my time and effort. Breaking up my tasks made my time seem like less of a long-winded spiral. I found that managing my time made me less anxious because it eased the feeling that I wouldn’t get to everything I needed to do. As I started to develop a routine I started to worry less about the day-to-day and just organize my days in a way that made the most sense– and I haven’t looked back since.
Tell me readers, how do you stay organized?
Have you ever finished a book or a TV series and then looked up and thought “what do I do now?”. That was the exact thought I had the first day I was able to go right home after work. What do I do with all this free time? Should I start knitting? What is life without college like? I’d been in school for 80% of my 20’s and I got so accustomed to being in that student state of mind that this whole commute and “call it a day” lifestyle was new to me. I decided (like I mentioned in my first post) to start taking better care of me. Cooking at home, getting back into the gym and trying to focus on the plus and not the minus.
Meal prepping for me was a whole new world. I’d never been super into cooking or baking so I decided to start simple; chicken, veggies and some brown rice or quinoa. Well, I ended up eating this for about 3 weeks straight for lunch until a co-worker said “Sam, are you on some special diet?” Well, I kind of was the “I have no idea how to cook” diet, but that was a wake up call for me; it was time to try new dishes. So with the help of my best friend, Mariah, I ventured into simple step meal making.
My first creation was chicken tortellini, Alfredo, which, if I do say so myself was delish. Now If you don’t believe me, I also fed this to my mom and co-workers and nobody died–so there’s that. I’m sort of lazy when it comes to cleaning pots and pans but making that was shockingly easy, so the next adventure is going to be pasta salad or penne-vodka– we will see. But this endeavor into cooking is just a sign of the change in times because a year ago instead of wrangling tortellini I’d have been in lecture, or running from work to class. Now I have some time to explore skills and other things that I just never had the time for– and it’s exciting. I look forward to seeing what else comes with this new phase of life and I can’t wait to share it with my readers too!