Saturday, March 23, 2013
"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now."
My career goal when I was a child was to be an astronomer. Astronomy was my hobby and passion. I started to pursue a degree in astrophysics by taking basic science and astronomy courses in college. I did okay in basic astronomy courses and got good grades in math courses until I got to calculus. I just didn't get it. I could not grasp chemistry and physics. My dad, who was an electrical engineer, tutored me in calculus and physics, both which I failed and tried retaking several times. While he admired my tenacity, he finally encouraged me to pursue another career path. I simply did not have my dad's extreme talent for math and physical sciences. I had taken a psychology course and found biological psychology to be interesting, thus the beginnings of my interest in psychology as a career path.
Sometimes our dreams get dashed despite our best efforts. I was very disappointed that I did not have the brain to become an astronomer. But the more I delved into biological psychology, the more it became a passion. I came to realize that there is not really a wrong path, just a different one. Had I focused solely on the disappointment of not being able to look at the stars for my job, I may never have uncovered new passions. I have uncovered numerous interests over the years, including massage, psychology, neuroscience, exercise science, and veterinary medicine.
My education and career paths have been a little messy. I started and left massage school, moving to Portland, Oregon and then back to Minneapolis. I was in and out of the University of Minnesota, mainly because I was stubborn in giving up my dream to be an astronomer. In the mean time, I was working in the field of mental health. I finally settled on psychology as a major and was working towards that. I was especially interested in the brain.
After several years of working in mental health, it became apparent how much the work was wearing on me. I started looking into other fields, and working with animals was the first thing that popped into my head. I looked into attending school to be a veterinary technician. I have an interest in the science of medicine and, of course, am a total sucker for animals. I had some issues with my jobs in veterinary medicine from the get-go. I just figured I needed to find a good niche. I jumped right into emergency medicine right out of school, as working in a day practice was unappealing.
I stuck with emergency medicine for 3 years, hating the low pay and hospital politics the whole time. I enjoyed some parts of practicing medicine and of course, saving animals. But my hours were awful and I had no life. I finally jumped on the opportunity to take an overnight position at my current workplace, doing poison control. I was not looking forward to working all overnights, but at least the pay was good, the hours were set in stone, and the job seemed interesting.
My current job has had its ups and downs. I adored my company when I first started. I had a great supervisor and the place seemed mostly devoid of typical office politics. We were encouraged to speak our minds. Then the supervisor I really liked left, and a my current "supervisor" took over. It was immediately clear that she was not smart enough to handle the job. They also brought in a new head veterinarian, whose primary concern was advancing herself, not our company. It has just gone continuously downhill from there.
I realized I probably did not want to be a veterinary technician forever and went back to school to complete my Bachelor's in psychology and kinesiology, as exercise and healthy living had become a passion. I planned on pursuing a Master's of Public Health in community health education. I did all the preparations for grad school and got application materials together. After getting through my Bachelor's working full-time and nearly losing my house in the process, I just could not face the stress and debt of grad school. So, I have stayed at my job for another 2 years.
Well, this job has officially overstayed its welcome. I have been passed over again and again for additional responsibilities. I have asked about doing writing for them, such as writing articles, and they have less qualified people doing it. They never ask me to help with projects. It is because they strongly reward extroverts, and I am an unapologetic introvert. That's funny, too, because you would think they would want the extroverts on the phones all the time, and have the smart and quiet introvert doing the research and writing. But, most of the decisions they make do not make actual sense, like so many businesses.
I was talking to my mother a few days ago and discussing the career change I will be making over the next couple of years. She is very nervous about it, just as she has been any time I have changed careers or jobs. I pointed out that I have never regretted a job that I have quit and the career change I made from being in the field of mental health to being a veterinary technician ended up being a smart move. I have indeed found much of my career as a veterinary technician to be fulfilling, but after 10 years, it is not going anywhere. I am not growing as a veterinary professional and most certainly not as a person. I told her that I think work should help you grow as a person and because we spend so much time working, it should be something we love. "Well, you're lucky if you can find that," was her response.
But luck has nothing to do with it. My mother has been a nurse for 40 years. She did love being an emergency room nurse years ago. Her current job as a phone triage nurse has been less fulfilling, but she has stuck with it for the past 15 years for the sake of stability. She has talked about doing other things, mainly pursuing a dream of being an organic farmer. While I admire her perseverance, I have always wished for her that she had made a career change when she started to feel dispassionate about her work. I think she was too afraid to take the risk, so she has stuck with a job that makes her miserable just to avoid the chance that something could go wrong in taking a risk.
Much to my mother's chagrin, I am my father's daughter in that I have never stopped searching for work that helps me grow as a person. He changed jobs several times throughout his career as an engineer, and the most fulfilling job he had was his last one, where he designed pacemaker circuitry at Medtronic. He loved it so much that he read books outside of work about the heart and how it worked. Like my dad, I don't want work that I just coast through. My dad loved his work so much that he said if money weren't an issue, he would do it for free. THAT is the type of work that I seek. I believe that our careers should be an extension of who we are deep down inside, and that work should help foster growth in other areas of our lives. Moreover, life is just too damn short to be doing work that we hate.
The other argument my mother has made is that it is important to have a plan for retirement. I agree with this...but only up to a point. I don't want to have a job I despise and that sucks the life out of me just for the sake for a retirement that I may or may not be able to have or enjoy. Just look at my father--he died at age 61, just a few years away from retirement. But, he loved his career and worked with joy. I would rather actually live my life in the meantime and have work that is meaningful. I would rather do work that I love up until the day I die than be a slave to a horrible job just for the sake of a 401K. Needless to say, I am working on my exit plan.
As some may have heard, I have been admitted to massage school and will start in the fall. Massage is something I have always enjoyed doing, and I have a talent for it. When I am giving a massage, I zone out and my hands practically melt into the person I am working on. I love the deep and healing connection that happens during a massage. I have had some training, but will be starting the program from scratch. I plan on specializing in deep tissue, sports, medical/hospital, hot stone, and infant/pediatric massage. I would like to end up working primarily in a medical and/or rehabilitation facility. I would also like to teach infant massage and to work with NICU babies.
In the meantime, I am going to finally complete my personal trainer certification. I have been hitting the books and plan to take the test in July. Having this certification would open a lot of doors and complement my massage training/career.
And finally, I have heard throughout my life that I have a talent for writing. It is also my longest-standing hobby (I have been writing stories since I was 6) and has always stirred a passion within me. It was not until my good SparkFriend Dava (SMILINGTREE) suggested that I pursue freelance writing that I considered it a viable career option. She is not the first professional writer to suggest that I pursue writing, but maybe I was just ready to really hear it this time. I am looking into this and working with Dava to delve more seriously into writing. I have been enjoying making an effort to write more.
The next 2 years or so will prove challenging as I make this career transition. I am excited for the change. Just I have finally learned that I deserve to live a healthy life through eating right and working out, I have finally developed enough respect for myself to pursue my career dreams.
Facing this major life change has made me desperately miss my dad. This would have been right up his alley, and he would have been the person I would have gone to for guidance. I had officially decided I was going back to massage school the week before my dad died. I don't know why it was important to me, but I asked my stepmom if my dad knew that I was going back to massage school, as I had a chance to tell her but hadn't told him yet. She said that yes, she had told him. I feel a little better knowing that he knew about it. I hope I make a life change that would have made him proud, although my dad always told me he admired my work ethic and passion for learning. He never thought pursuing a goal or interest was a wasted effort as long as it was something I thought would make me happy. It leaves a big hole in my heart, though, that I can't share this journey with my dad. He was always the one to say, "If that it what you want, then go make it happen, no matter what." I will need to be that voice for myself from now on.
"The Prophet" "On Work":
"You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.
For to be idle is to become a stranger unto the seasons, and to step out of life's procession, that marches in majesty and proud submission towards the infinite.
When you work you are a flute through whose heart the whispering of the hours turns to music.
Which of you would be a reed, dumb and silent, when all else sings together in unison?
Always you have been told that work is a curse and labour a misfortune.
But I say to you that when you work you fulfill a part of earth's furthest dream, assigned to you when that dream was born,
And in keeping yourself with labour you are in truth loving life,
And to love life through labour is to be intimate with life's inmost secret."
-From "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran
Monday, March 04, 2013
My dad and my brother Brian when he was a toddler. We could not get them plots right next to each other, but my dad was buried in the same row as Brian.
As most of you know, my dad passed away suddenly on February 11th. The past few weeks have been an exhausting emotional roller coaster. I have felt virtually every emotion there is, sometimes simultaneously.
I had finished watching the series "Six Feet Under" a couple of months ago. For those who haven't seen it, the show is about a family that runs a funeral home. The father dies in the first episode and the show revolves around how the family deals with his death (as well as other issues). I found "Six Feet Under" to be life-changing. It changed the way I view end-of-life and made me accepting of death. It isn't that I was in any denial about the fact that everyone dies. After all, one of my early childhood memories is of my brother Brian's death. But the show made me feel matter-of-factly about death. I know that my grandparents and at some point both of my parents will pass away. However, my dad dying was not on my radar. His diabetes had been fairly well-managed and he never had any cardiac events related to his high blood pressure. I was more prepared to hear that something had happened to my mother when I got a call from a hospital, as she has been hospitalized for heart-related events. So, needless to say, my reaction was utter shock. Luckily my best friend rushed right over and took me to the hospital, where I got to see my dad's body and say good-bye to him.
I almost immediately thought of "Six Feet Under" because the show addresses the different reactions to death and grief and that there is no one "right" way to react. One of the main characters says in the first episode, after his father's funeral, "Four days ago I was a relatively happy guy. Now it's like I don't even know who that guy is any more." I can relate to that sentiment. Just 3 weeks ago, I was a joyous woman who came home from a great workout at the gym, took a shower, and then as soon as I stepped out I received a phone call that changed my life. I was clueless that I was about to become a new person. Ever since, I will get waves of emotions that are so extreme, they are almost irrational. It is easy so launch into disaster mode at the drop of a hat. I have felt at times that I have no love or compassion to give to anyone, even though that's not true. During those periods I have also been convinced that I will never feel better again, even though I know that's not true. Although I may not be able to control my emotions (nor do I necessarily want to), I can reflect on them and try to keep things in perspective.
I accept that I will never be the same person. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it just...is. I do not mean that I believe I will be a depressed person from now on or anything like that. Grieving is not the same as depression, despite how depressed one may feel while mourning. Grief starts immediately after hearing that someone has died and as much as the emotions can be extremely strong and horrible, I recognize that the feelings are normal. I let the emotions come forth and I process them as they come. If I feel good or happy, I make a point to not feel guilty about it. While I have experienced extreme sadness, anger, and even confusion over the past few weeks, I have also witnessed extreme love and kindness. My best friends, without hesitation, were there for me (and continue to be). I don't know that I have ever felt more cared for in my adult life than I have over the past few weeks.
Nothing tests how much you have changed as a person than dealing with some of the strongest emotions you will ever experience. I was concerned that I would want to eat my way through these strong emotions. Admittedly, I have had a couple of binges over the past 3 weeks, but my inclination has been to continue to eat in a healthful manner. Even in the midst of binging I realized the eating was not helpful, and the overeating was still not near what I would have done in the past. Part of the overeating was out of convenience. I did not feel like cooking for a while, so it was easier to order food or have frozen pizza on hand. I made a point to still eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, but I just did not feel like doing my batch cooking like I usually do. I finally made a big pot of soup and some dishes, and have basically been back on track. I am proud that I haven't had many strong urges to engage in emotional eating. I am not, however, focusing much on weight loss right now. My goal is to eat healthfully and track my food, but I am not worried about the scale.
Jiu Jitsu got a bit sidelined over the past few weeks. I did go to class the subsequent 2 days after my dad died, but then I think the shock set in and I did not feel like going to the gym. I felt like I was being ignored when I did go to the gym, which made me pissed at the guys at the gym because I thought they were alienating me. One day I just up and left before class even started. I decided to join another gym, which I did last week. I went back to the gym where I used to train (and where my brother John still trains); their Jiu Jitsu instructor is a black belt and I missed my old instructor's kick-ass kickboxing classes. Then I went back to my other gym for a class with a black belt guest instructor. I felt at home again. I felt almost embarrassed at how angry I had gotten at those guys for no reason and realized that there is a reason you shouldn't make big decisions when you're grieving; your judgement is just way too clouded. So, for now, I will do classes at both gyms. I am going to afford myself that luxury for a few months and then decide what I would like to do. Like I am giving myself a break from eating specifically for weight loss, I am going to give myself a break from training for competition. I am not going to sign up for any of the upcoming competitions; I will decide how I feel as the day approached, but I am not putting any pressure on myself to compete. I just need my training to be fun and stress-relieving for now.
Work has been very challenging, and not in a good way. Doing poison control already tries one's patience and is very taxing. I have had almost zero patience over the past couple of weeks. I struggled to provide even the most basic kindness to my callers. Then I took a call from a guy whose dog and 2 cats ingested a supplement. I started talking to the guy, and several minutes into the call, he told me that he found one of his cats was dead when he got home. His dog was already sick. He started choking up telling me about his cat. I wanted to reach through the phone and fix everything for this man. I remembered that I'm not the only one who has problems. My compassion returned quite a bit after that phone call. I can deal with my emotions while also helping others. Actually, extending compassion is helpful to me; it helps me remember that I do have something to offer.
Part of how I am coping with all of this is rewatching "Six Feet Under" (I bought it this time). It is really help me process my emotions and recognize that my dad being gone is a reality. If you have never seen "Six Feet Under", I would strongly recommend it. Be forewarned that the show can be crass and raunchy, but the show is beautiful (albeit the story lines are outlandish). I honestly don't think I would be handling my dad's death as well as I am had I not watched it.
I don't mean for this to be a "poor little me" post. As always, I will be honest about my feelings. I am grieving right now, I will have my ups and downs, but I will get through. After all, my dad would want me to continue to pursue my goals and he wanted me to be happy. Knowing that helps me work through the ugly feelings that bubble up with grief. I may be heart-broken, but I think my heart is also building up from the love I had from my father and from family and friends since his death. I hope to eventually emerge as an even better person than I was before.
Old family picture (my dad, brother Brian, my mom, me, and brother John as a baby).
Picture of my brother John, my dad, and me at his rehearsal dinner a few years ago.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
My dad in his early 20s.
As many of you know, my dad passed away suddenly on Monday, February 11th. I buried my dad a week ago today. This has been an overwhelmingly emotion time; I will address that in a later blog. I wanted to post a quick blog in memory of my dad. A single blog cannot, of course, encompass our relationship. But I feel the more that is written about him, the more his memory will live on.
I have had a hard time deciding what to write, so I wanted to share the speech I made at his funeral. I really wanted to speak at his funeral, although I had a hard time writing the speech and getting the words together. I knew I did not want to just get up there and wing it. I wanted to incorporate a reading from the book "The Prophet," but otherwise I was having difficulty deciding what to say. I did some writing to try to get the speech together, but the words would not come. It was not until I was sitting alone with my dad before the funeral that the speech came to me all at once. Here is the speech:
I have been struggling over the past few days in deciding what words to say today. Words just seem so insufficient to encompass such a brilliant and kind man whose life touched so many others. So, I turned to the best source of inspiration I could think of. I watched the movie that my dad and I watched so often, I can recite, and so could he. A movie that shaped the very woman I am today..."Spaceballs." There was rarely a time that my dad and I got together where we didn't quote "Spaceballs." The quote that stands out today is, "When will then be now?" from when Dark Helmet is looking in the desert. As much as I would like to go back to "then," a week ago when life was normal and I had plans to meet my dad for lunch tomorrow, I can't. We've passed "then."
I spoke to my dad for the last time last Sunday when we talked on the phone. Our last words to each other were "I love you." These were always the last words we said to each other. It didn't matter whether it was "I love you" during an embrace, a quick "Love ya" before hanging up the phone, or even "Love, dad" at the end of an e-mail, I knew how much he deeply meant it. I do feel a deep sense of loss with my dad dying, but as his daughter who is able to look back with knowing that nothing was left unsaid and knowing how proud he was of my brother and I, I feel joy in having had such a special relationship with my dad. He had no expectations of my brother and I other than that we were doing something that made us happy. He also encouraged us to be passionate about learning, as anyone who knew him knows that he always sought to learn something new.
Rather than focusing on the loss of my dad, I have been focusing on his life and the joy I had in my relationship with him. One of my favorite books is "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran, and there was a passage that spoke to me during this time, which I would like to share:
“On Joy and Sorrow”:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.
My dad's death was very sudden for us, but I take comfort that my dad got to live with joy until his last moment. While there is, of course, sorrow from his loss, he did not experience any sorrow at the end of his life. He was one who had taken the sorrow from his own life and created joy. My dad took joy in his family and told my brother and I how he was proud of us. I am overjoyed to look back on his life, his love, and his achievements and feel so deeply proud of him. He was surrounded by so many people who loved him, and now my family is surrounded by loving people. In the end, the best we can hope for is to be surrounded by joy and love.
The joy I feel when I think of my dad cuts through the sorrow, although the feelings are deeply intertwined. I will miss my dad more than words are able to express, but I am glad he knew how much he meant to me, even without getting to say "good-bye.” I love you, Dad, so, so much.
I was happy to have made it all the way through the speech. I was so close to him that I felt a little like he spoke through me. He was always proud of me as long as I was doing my best, so that is what I did. The best way for me to memorialize my dad is to keep learning new things and exploring all of life's possibilities, like he did.
Recent picture of my dad.
Recent picture of my dad and stepmom.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
I am in a little bit of shock right now. I went to the gym tonight, came home and showered, got out, and the phone rang almost immediately. It was a nurse at a hospital telling me my father had passed away and that I needed to come to the hospital immediately. Needless to say, I was pretty hysterical. I am very fortunate that I have close friends, and my best friend came right over and drove me to the hospital.
My poor stepmom had been with him the whole time. He collapsed suddenly at home and she immediately called 911. The paramedics tried to resuscitate him at home and while en route to the hospital. He had probably died long before getting to the hospital. The medical examiner said the cause of death was a heart attack.
I got to see my father and held his hand for the last time. I thanked him and told him I loved him.
I was supposed to see my dad yesterday, but between bad weather and him not feeling well (he had been feeling tired for a few days), we decided to reschedule. We talked on the phone, though. I am glad that our last words to each other were, "I love you." I am glad that we were always open and honest--there is nothing that I feel was left unsaid. If nothing else, I am glad to not have regrets about my relationship with my dad. When he left our family when I was very young, there was a good chance that I would not really know my dad. After my brother died, though, he realized that being a father was the most important duty he had. We became very close and have always lived near each other. We saw each other frequently.
I will probably be doing a lot of the funeral planning this week. I want to plan a celebration worthy of such a generous, amazing, and brilliant man. My dad pushed me, inspired me, and loved me. I am glad he knew that.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Just wanted to share an article from Cathe Friedrich that addresses "weight loss resistance," or lack of weight loss despite doing "all the right things." I am glad that research is starting to address the fact that people can eat right and exercise and still not lose weight. Every body is different, so it is a matter of experimenting until the right balance is struck.
Here is the article:
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