Downsizing

DownsizingFotolia_JJAVA_16982277_Subscription_LI have been downsized. “Reduction in Work Force” was the actual term used, but downsized is as good a word as any. The downstream engineering nosedive has left me unemployed and it amounts to the same thing. It’s not any easy position to be in but I’m taking it as best I can. I just needed to figure out how to react to this new situation.

My reaction is to downsize my life. Yup – just jump on the slide and follow it down. I’m going to strip my life down to the bare essentials: the stuff I actually need, want and that make me happy. This may sound crunchy granola, though it’s really not. It’s smart, concise and makes sense. I’d done it before and it was freeing.

When I moved to London in 2012 I brought 5 suitcases with me. This was all the clothes and personal items that I felt I needed. I didn’t miss any of the things I’d left behind or sold off – not even my car. The only things back in the states I missed were the people, and the Internet helped to alleviate that a bit. But I didn’t miss the stuff.

Granted it was easier in London where a furnished room or apartment is the norm. All little sundries of living in a city were in the apartments already. One only needed their personal effects to move from place to place. It was nice – and moving was so much faster for the most part.

My time in London came to an end though and I returned to the states. On my return I made a mistake and went all “American” on things. I wanted space and things and comforts. The over sized apartment for one person. The car I used maybe once a week. The dining room set I have used all of once except as a laundry rack. The “home office” in the extra space I didn’t need. The comforts I stored away and never looked. The framed pictures I never bothered to hang – some still in the shipping box. And I had to pay for them all instead of living within my means with the stuff I only needed and putting money into savings.

This slump in my industry has been slow moving, like a sinkhole that gets just a bit bigger everyday until you realize it’s become a chasm. There were layoffs behind mine and I took steps months back to try and hold it off. Since last October I have been working part-time hours and taking in only 50% of my salary. My big mistake was not taking the steps I needed to THEN to reduce my lifestyle. So here I am now, taking in less than a quarter of what I was while working and my savings have already been tapped. Being a Pollyanna is not a way to deal with economic downturns.

Now I have to work with what I have – which ain’t much. There is car insurance, medical insurance, housing, food and storage for my stuff that won’t fit in a smaller place. Unemployment insurance does not pay enough for all of this. Something has to give.

STUFF loses in this scenario.

If I can’t pay rent, I’m homeless and I lose my stuff.

I need to eat in order to live. If I die I won’t need my stuff.

Without insurance I can get sick or worse and end up in a place where I lose my stuff.

With my reduced income I can see a lot of scenarios where my stuff is forfeit or a burden. If it all comes down to me needing to sacrifice to keep it and it could all be lost anyway, why not just sacrifice my stuff now. This way the extra money I would be paying to STORE it can go to the more important things in the first place. I also have no idea where I will end up in the next few months as I will probably need to go to where the work is, so why pay even more to MOVE the stuff?

So sell my stuff (again) I will, or donate it if I can’t find buyers. Its just stuff, it can all be gotten again if needed. Of course next time in a more controlled and non-debt creating way. I have already let go of some things and every item leaves with a bit of fear, sadness and regret. But there is also a sense of freedom. That sense of freedom gets stronger each time. And it’s just stuff.

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Writing

stock-photo-14801367-ink-well-and-quill-penOk, so writing. Why do I find it so painful? I like expressing my thoughts in words; I have for years. Sitting in front of the computer and putting them down on the page is excruciating, though. If I had to put words to it I would say it is a mixture of fear and insecurity. Well, if you boil insecurity down to its primal nature, that’s also fear. So, I am just afraid to write.

That’s not quite right. I’m afraid to put the words out there. I’m afraid of rejection. I’m afraid that ultimately I have nothing to say that anyone is actually going to give a shit about.

There are always stories going through my head. Stories that I find interesting but that no one else has actually written (that I know of). What if my stories are only interesting to me? Are my stories nothing but derivative shit? Maybe even my life is only of interest to me since I’m the one inside this skull and everyone else is out there going “Meh!”

Still, for over 20 years now, writing is the one thing I keep circling back to like that clichéd fucking moth and the flame. I think I need to give into it, embrace the fear and just fucking do it. It’s apparently not going to go away on it’s own.

I am trying a system that I can see getting annoying really fast if it doesn’t yield results. I have heard it referred to the egg-timer method by Lauren Graham (love you Lorelei) in her book “Talking as Fast as I Can”. She got it from someone else but you can read her book for that reference.

Basically you literally set a timer, egg time not required with an iPhone. Turn off all Internet, TV’s and phones (except the timer I guess). Also turn off any music you can sing along to. Start the timer and just sit in front of your writing platform of choice. You don’t have to write; you just need to sit there for the duration of the timer. If you do write you don’t even need a project – just write anything.

This is how this little piece is coming out; I set the timer for an hour and just started to write stuff. It may be a bit spot-on to write about WHY and HOW I’m doing the writing but it’s day one so “PPHHLLAABBTT!”

I just remembered that this is not the first I’ve heard of the method. I took a creative writing class in College and the text was a paperback by Natalie Goldberg called “Writing Down the Bones”. She has similar suggestions in the book but is more rigorous about actually writing for the period. Her method is you keep writing, regardless of what you say, for the entire time. You can pour out your hatred of your grandparents, cite nursery rhymes and just curse for the entire time. She has a story in the book about a student who did this and just wrote “vagina” (I’m pretty sure it was ‘vagina’) for the entire time period for several classes. He just needed to get rid of the block first.

Here I am trying to remove a block. This rambling is it. It is work; it is progress. There is not need for it to be concise, poignant or even readable (and I pity you who may be reading it) but it needs to happen.

Also, setting hour-long writing blocks is a good way to fill up some time in my day as I deal with being unemployed. I must do something with my days to avoid falling into sadness and moodiness. No one wants that, least of all me. I’ll annoy myself when it happens.

I just cut a segment out of this that was just as long into another file. I went off on a topic that seemed to have it’s own life so I am giving it one. I guess I do have things to say and this is letting them out. So – good on me.

Writing is something I have found therapeutic in the past. I remember in my 20’s when my friend Laura and I used to write together and read each other’s work at certain intervals. I miss those days. We even took another page for “Writing Down the Bones” and went to a diner to write. Say down, talked ordered coffee and breakfast and started writing. We explained to out server what we were doing, that we were going to tip based on time not just food ordered, and that if she needed to table to turn over to let us know and we would leave. Far from being annoyed she was very interested and kept out coffee full. This was FAR from the days of millennials camping in Starbucks for hours at a time so was as novel to her as to us.

I miss those days with Laura and other friends giving me a support network for writing. The further from those days the harder it was to keep up the practice. A few bad relationships didn’t help either.

Now I must start over with being my own support network. I need to find my own reasons and my own motivation for renewing the practice. Tricks as it were to open myself up to it again. I need to tease the love of the act back out of the fear of the result.

Ok – My timer went off. I’m done. It wasn’t that painful and I got a LOT more on paper than expected, especially since I edit as I go. I can get used to this. We’ll see.

Improv’ing My Life

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In an attempt to keep myself occupied, I signed up for an improv comedy class. I was scared, insecure and nervous. Last Saturday was my class recital – before an actual audience. And. I. LOVED. It. It was a rush.

For having a self-described fear of public speaking, I loved being up there. Not only did I perform, but I wound up being the spokesman for the class that night. I tried to NOT be the spokesman by doing “not it”, but no one else said it so I was the one. Truth be told, I’m glad I did that, too. Ultimately I want to be out there.

Looking at myself with an open eye, it comes as no surprise that I like it. I like making a fool of myself. I make up things regularly in order to try and be amusing. Improv is just pretty much me. Now to learn how do actually do it as opposed to just being an idiot with my friends.

Level two classes are set to start and I have signed up for mixed troupes under my theaters umbrella called “Protostar”. It is going to be a lot of work, but it should be with any craft. I have started listen to a podcast on improv and even the people out of improv that have made it have put a LOT of work in. No one seems to be a natural.

I know at 48 that there is all but no chance of going anywhere with this. But right now I love it and will keep at it; working and listening and studying. I will also be making a fool of myself on stage whenever I can.

What Do you want to…

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Lately, I have been asking myself “what do I want to be when I grow up?” Thinking about it has raised another question.  As a society we seem to have made this question mean the same as “What do I want to DO when I grow up?”  BOTH of these questions are just the same way of asking “How do you make money?”

I’m not going to go off on the obsession with money, it’s not quite the point. But why do this?  Why do we need to base our selves on our jobs?  There are some cases where this can be true: Doctor, Nurse, Teacher, Pope… But for the most part our jobs are just small parts of our lives; hopefully.

Yes, I am an engineer; but that is just my education and my job. This is not the soul definition of me, though.  I am so much more.  In fact, for years my job has seemed to be at odds with how I live the rest of my life and how I perceive myself.  Right now the engineer gig is at an all-time low for me which is leading to this existential rambling.  So many questions.

What do I want to be BE?

  • I want to be happy.
  • I want to be a wise-ass.
  • I want to be a good friend.
  • I want to be a good man.

What do I want to DO? I have so many ideas of things I want to do:

  • I want do Improv Comedy
  • I want to start a new political party
  • I want to publish a book
  • I want to act in a play
  • I want to learn the cello
  • I want to shake the willfully ignorant awake
  • I want to make people jealous of my life
  • I want to punch the GOP in the face
  • I want to sing better
  • I want to make people regret being assholes to me
  • I want to get people to whom I was an asshole to forgive me
  • I want to run a non-profit
  • I want to start a social movement that changes the world

But how many of these can realistically be turned into a job? Damned if I know.  That’s a much harder question right now.

 

blah!

10I’m forty-eight years old. My job sucks. My finances are in the tubes due to said sucking job and several bad financial decisions involving following my heart. There is one question that revolves around these things that I’m having an issue with…

What do I want to be when I grow up?

The answer is an emphatic: “I don’t fucking know!”

I really have no idea where to go from here. There is the comfort of sliding into another position in the same field and hope it’s better. A sideways move into a related field may be a better fit for me. Throwing it all to the wind I can strike out into something utterly new and unrelated; both exciting and scary.

All three of these options are equally likely right now because on top of it all, the industry that I’m in is completely bottoming out. I know of people with degrees and experience getting laid-off and unable to get new jobs because there aren’t any; at least none for mid-career types. The openings seem to be all entry level or PHD, not a lot in between.  I’m falling into the experience gap.

So, here I am, floundering; on the job and money things anyway. The rest of my life is pretty great. I have a great new boyfriend, fantastic friends and I’m reconnecting with family. It’s hard to keep these great aspects on my life.  But I do my best.