Chutes and ladders

For the past week, I’ve been instructing a training course for budding young CPA’s to learn how to do the job my company pays them to do. I’m molding young minds, influencing behaviors and ways of thinking, offering new perspectives, and hopefully, not completely ruining them in the process. I come home at the end of the day exhausted, too tired to go to the gym, fall asleep earlier than I’m used to, and wake up earlier than I’m used to, exhausted, having to do it all again. Vicious cycle, indeed.

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Despite how much it takes out of me dealing with lazy yet eager millennials who make up their own logic and rules, this is one aspect of my job I actually quite enjoy. But boy, does it take a lot out of me. The teaching used to reinvigorate me, and make the year that much more tolerable because the courses broke up my year a bit. It wasn’t just the vicious cycle of audit life. It had a little something sweet in it, when I could share my knowledge, insights, best practices, and lessons learned with those who didn’t have to go through what I did to learn them the hard way. And one day, they will have their own lessons they learned the hard way.

To be fair, I feel I don’t have much extra to give, either. As I look at my posts throughout August, all 4 of them, few and far between, it’s becoming apparent that I’ve lost my motivation, my muse, my inspiration, my desire to speak and write and be heard and understood. I don’t think I’m running out of things to talk about; I just prefer not to express them. Often, I find myself withholding thoughts and comments, not just on this blog, but in real life. What’s the point, anyway? Perhaps I have calcified, growing from recent experiences. Perhaps I’m more Cancer than Leo, out of necessity to protect my soft insides.

I find myself with desperately low levels of hope. If left to its own devices, my mind takes a path down a spiral chute into the futility of it all. I know how to abbreviate the slide down, so it doesn’t go down too deep or get too severe. But I’ve found myself in the darkest of rooms of late, by myself, wondering if anyone notices that I’m gone. If anyone cares. Put it this way – the people that I wish would care, don’t. The people that I think are perceptive enough to notice, don’t. I feel invisible. Unnoticed. But it’s also not like I’m out there waving my arms around frantically trying to be noticed. I’m purposely fading into the background. Not hiding, but certainly not conspicuous.

This does not please me. I’m in the prime of my life. I should be chasing dreams. Perhaps I don’t dare to dream right now, because I don’t see the point. That’s certainly not a good place to be. But this old dog can’t teach herself new tricks. The catch-22 of having to know the answer in order to teach myself the answer becomes glaringly obvious and ever more ridiculous.

It struck me the other day that law and accounting professionals aim to become partners at their respective firms. Teachers and professors elbow for room and compete to get tenure with a university. Even chefs become master chefs. Carpenters become master carpenters. Just about every career has an elite level whereby others judge you to be successful, where you’ve made it. However, in order to make partner or get tenure, you probably had to be an asshole to at least one person. You had to step on one person, or find a way to make your own light shine brighter at the expense of someone else’s flame. It’s sickening to me. Or at least, most of the partners I know did. If I chose that path, I’d probably have to do it, too.

I’d have to warm up to some more senior partners in New York, kiss some ass, shake some hands… and work. Hard. Work late. Every night. Work on weekends. I’d be miserable. But in the end, it would be worth it, right? I guess I just don’t work that way. It’s not worth it to me. If being great at what I do means that others must be below me in the pyramid scheme, then it’s not for me.

Can’t I be great at my craft without the requisite of partnership or tenure or status of any kind? To me, I don’t particularly care what others think, but to be left alone to do what you do in peace without being prodded to try harder or aim higher… that would be ideal. Not according to the professionals. You’re only as good as your last superheroic feat. They might hate the game too, but they play it. I don’t think that game is for me. I don’t hate the players; I hate the game.

That very strong feeling in me, that the game is not for me, leaves me in quite a pickle. It leaves me with the knowledge that my current career won’t get me where I want to be. I got the advice when I was younger to make sure I was on the right ladder before I start climbing. Smart cookie, whoever it was that told me that. But here I am, 11+ years into climbing my ladder, and all of a sudden, it’s the wrong one. I don’t see the point in climbing anymore. And I don’t think there is a place for me at the top of that ladder, just because of who I am and how I think.

I let my mind wander, to explore whether any other careers might be good for me, and I draw blanks. I don’t necessarily want the level of success at work attributed to the titles or status.

I don’t necessarily want to be travelling right now, either. I don’t think that is my ladder right this moment, though it definitely is important to me. I’m quite enjoying staying put, minimizing my expenses, and nesting for a bit. Actually living in the apartment I pay and insane amount of rent for, instead of travelling and still having to pay the rent. Part of me is restless, but not as much as it was before my sabbatical in May and June. Being restless implies there is something you are looking forward to, even if you may not know what it is, and you are anxious for that to happen or come to pass.

Right now, I don’t have anything that I’m looking forward to. Sure, there are things I feel are missing from my life. A partner. Pets. A better job. A bigger place to live where I can breathe a little more easily and have less of the city bustle and buzz around me. As I type this, some genius is jackhammering before 8am on a Saturday. Rude. I was already up. But it’s still fucking rude.

I’ve been working on what I can and trying to accept the things I cannot change. Easier said than done.

And that’s the thing: no one wants to read the blog of someone who is just meh. Who doesn’t feel great about themselves or where they are in life. People want inspiring. Positive. Optimistic. Hopeful. A happy ending. Not every moment in our lives can be that high, though. Does anyone really want to read about the downs, though?

What if there is no happy ending? After seeing the catacombs beneath Paris, and the concentration camp outside Berlin, so many people have lived and died on this earth. Only a handful are known by generations today. Most have returned as ash to the earth, unnamed, unmarked, unremembered.

I’ve thought about the footprint I’m leaving lately, or rather, the lack thereof. I don’t spend a lot of my money. Most of it is spent on rent – I hardly go out to eat for dinner anymore, with the exception of taking some friends in town visiting from Sydney out to dinners in my lovely city lately. I don’t need many clothes or material possessions. I find myself declining gifts, even those as simple as flowers from a friend as a kind gesture on my birthday, because I don’t need them. I’m afraid no one can give me what I need as a gift, though it is a kind gesture nonetheless.

Food doesn’t taste good anymore, so why treat myself to a pizza or fancy sit-down dinner for one?

My friends visiting from Sydney left yesterday, but one of them said something to me last night as she sat at her gate at SFO, delayed and irritated. “Love u gorgeous. Stop hiding the world needs you xoxo”

How did she know? I shared some, but not all, of my thoughts above with them (mostly the part about becoming partner or getting tenure) the other night, but how did she know the right thing to say to me?

This world needs me? It feels as if it conspires against me despite my efforts. Maybe it doesn’t feel like it wants me right now, and it doesn’t seem to like me right now. But it needs me? Something is keeping me here. I’m not done yet. What it needs me for, I’m still not sure of yet. I’m exactly where I need to be, but it still doesn’t feel right.

So come on world. Throw me a friggin bone. OK?

Lessons from Antarctica

Today, I watched a documentary called “Antarctica: A Year on Ice,” about a year in the life of some people who live and work on various national bases down down down under.

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They spoke of missing the smell of rivers, rain, crops, dirt, sunshine, and how the only smells in Antarctica are volcanic, or salty and fishy from the ocean water. Sometimes, the scent of the waste of 100,000 penguins fills your nose.

It reminded me to be thankful for those things you don’t even realize you’re experiencing, because when you are deprived of them, say, to spend a year in Antarctica, you miss them.

Right now, I’m experiencing sunshine, a semi-clean apartment with a faint scent of bleach, air freshener, candle, clean laundry, weed. It is San Francisco, California, after all. I’m grateful for those smells. If I were in Antarctica, I wouldn’t have them.

I’ve often thought about what it would be like to live in Antarctica. Being from California, I really don’t know how I would handle the weather. I’ve still never experienced a full season of winter anywhere it snows. Hell, California is in the middle of a drought right now, so there hasn’t even been much rain since I moved back from Australia. My 4 umbrellas I used religiously in Sydney have gone dusty. Dusty umbrellas. Unreal. The sunshine is unappreciated, overbearing, and worthy of scorn. The heat is annoying; the sweat it causes, unbearable.

I am conscious of some hip and back pain, but for the most part, my health is great right now. Last night, I finally had my first good night’s sleep in weeks. I’m actually losing weight of late, because I’m just not that hungry anymore, and what I do eat is more salads, fruits, vegetables, and less drinking. I haven’t had a cold in ages, and while my knees are permanently damaged, they function for what I need.

I am single, whether I want to be or not. I’m free. I don’t even have a cat for which to be responsible. No kids. My mother is fully self sufficient and living on the other side of the country, close to family. She has her life; I have mine. My aunt lives an hour’s plane flight south. She, too, has her own life and doesn’t need me. I’m not worried about money. I have a job. I have friends, really truly amazing friends.

These are the glory days I will someday, in the distant future, look back on with a nostalgic smile on my face. This will be what I miss, what I may no longer have. Some day, I’ll look back at today, and curse myself for taking it for granted. I’ll wish I could have just enjoyed these moments while I was in them. I’ll have it all figured out and laugh at myself now for not having discovered it sooner. The secret of life is to just be in it. And be happy in that moment. Don’t worry so much. Don’t overthink it. 

It’s funny to think about, that someday, everything you have will be gone. There will instead be something else. Many somethings else, if you’re lucky. Unknowns. Unfelts. Unsmelleds.

So today, I am thankful for what I do have at this very moment, and want for nothing more and nothing less.

I may never get to Antarctica, despite how much I may think it would be great. But I don’t have to go there to learn some of its lessons. I never even thought to ask, “What does it smell like in Antarctica?”

But now, I know. It smells like everything you miss.

A morning’s work

I’ve been marinating in my book, the Sagas of Icelanders, since my post on its Preface. I’m still in the first saga, admittedly near the end of it, though. Egil’s Saga.

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Egil was a Viking, descended from lots of people whose names begin with Thor and twist into some permutation thereof: Thorstein, Thorolf, Thorsgerd…

Egil was a bald and homely man, with a deep brow prone to sulking and pensive thought, who pillaged and smote opponents who dared face him without hesitation, yet he was also a poet, soft and willowy with words. His saga contains elements of poetry and verse.

The saga has been wonderful to soak in, allowing me to reminisce on days recently spent in Norway, on a boat in the fjords, and in Iceland, facing sharp weather and edgy terrain, battling the harshest of the elements.

The author of the saga uses “wintered” as a verb, as in this person wintered on that farm. It’s marvelous, thinking of wintering as a verb. Like those New Yorkers who summer in the Hamptons or on Fire Island, Icelanders wintered places.

When I imagine wintering, I imagine cocooning, in a ski lodge for rich weirdoes, with a roaring fire and candles everywhere, a hot tub outside in the snow, and time spent with family, friends, and those you care about in tight quarters. When I layer that with my knowledge of Iceland, I imagine beautiful auroras overhead in fluorescent greens and bright fuschias and electric blues and purples. I see white snow over everything, quieting the world, and smoothing it over in a blanket, to echo the whisper of footfalls in the snow. That is a hearth, a home, a winter.

Some of Egil’s verses spoke to me as I read them this morning. It was not until I read them that I saw their truth in me and how I feel, of late.

“My tongue is sluggish
for me to move,
my poem’s scales
ponderous to raise.
The god’s prize [poetry]
is beyond my grasp,
tough to drag out
from my mind’s haunts.

…I think of the other
as the battle grows,
scout around
and wonder

which other valiant
warrior stands
by my side
in the peril;
I often need him
when facing foes.
When friends dwindle
I am wary to soar.

I do not relish
the company of men
though each of them might
live in peace with me…

I was in league
with the lord of spears, [Odin]
pledged myself loyal
to believe in him,
before he broke off
his friendship with me,
the guardian of chariots,
architect of victory.

I awoke early
to stack my words
as my speech’s slave
did its morning’s work.
I have piled a mound
of praise that long
will stand without crumbling
in poetry’s field.

It is mid-August in San Francisco. There has been a week of morning fog so thick, I feel foggy, too. Then, yesterday, because the leaves have long since changed colors and dropped from the trees due to drought, a fire in nearby Clear Lake has made the bay area hazy and brown. Am I in LA or Shanghai? Is it autumn? No, it’s summer in San Francisco. It is cloudy and much too warm; I am too.

So today, when I find myself struggling to share a post on my blog, I share Egil’s words, and echo them as my own, without embellishment. Just a stack-stone fence (another brick in the wall), a morning’s work, with no mortar or matrix to hold tight the empty spaces between. It is enough.

On Tesla, on Turing

I haven’t found the same joy in writing of late, which accounts for the drastic drop in the number of blog posts I’m putting out into the world. One could say I’ve lost my muse and motivation. Another could argue I’ve not much to say. One would not be far off the mark with either of those.

I’d apologize, but it’s really nothing for which I need to apologize. I’m still actively playing the waiting game for new opportunities in the career space, and not because I want to. A series of many positive changes in my life, and potentially very big life steps, hinges on a few first steps, which appear to be taking their sweet-ass time.

In the mean time, I instructed a training course last week for young CPA’s, which took all my time to prep and deliver lectures and simulations, making for some long days. All I did in my spare time this past week was sleep. Friday night, I was in bed by 9pm, and slept until 7:30am Saturday. Tired, much?

My 34th birthday looms on the horizon in 11 days. I can’t think of anything I want to do less than celebrate it. If I’m being honest with myself, I thought I’d already be a self-made millionaire, and a financial planner for gay people (my “dream job” if you asked me in college), loving my job and really making a difference. I thought I’d have a loving partner, a dog, a cat, (ok maybe at least 3-10 of each), and a home to call my own with a family I love. I thought I didn’t need my parents.

I imagined a full and complete life; I wanted it so. To quote the great SNL skit where Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin (Amy Poehler and Tina Fey) contemplate being lady presidents, Hillary says, “Yeah, you know, Sarah, looking back, if I could change one thing, I should have wanted it more.”

For how much I wanted these things, none of them have materialized in any lasting form in my life. What is the point of having these dreams, if, even after trying for so long, after grabbing at every opportunity I saw to attain this ideal life of mine, I still have nothing to show for it?

Perhaps, it isn’t really my dream. Or I’d be living it by now. Perhaps my dream all along was to be a lone wolf in a big city, to not have anything or anyone weigh me down. Live my way, when I want to, how I want to. Maybe I’m deluding myself into wanting those things, because I thought that is what I was supposed to have by now. For how much I want love and stability to be a part of my life, I cannot seem to find it anywhere.

Not having these things leaves me feeling unhappy and incomplete. Like I’m not complete now, as I am. I know that isn’t true, because I am wholly complete right now, as I am. I may be a work in progress, and I have soft curves and hard edges. I have a lot to contribute and a lot of love to give. It both scares and saddens me that my love may never wash ashore and find the person it’s meant for.

Yesterday I watched a documentary on Nikola Tesla, and then proceeded to watch the Imitation Game after that. Variations on a theme, indeed.

Tesla’s advances in physics and the study of energy and power, compared and contrasted to the contributions of the mathematical genius of the homosexual Turing. Both were misunderstood during their living days, focused, as they should be, on the study to which they’d dedicated their lives. Founding fathers of the very technology we use daily today – wifi, wireless transmission of information, computers, encryption and decryption. On Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Tesla is credited with the two most foundational elements for all human needs (in this century, anyway):

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Nikola Tesla lived his 86 years as a virgin, resisting the advances of everyone, focused solely on his true passion: his experiments. Alan Turing was only pardoned for crimes of indecency posthumously by the Queen, in recognition of helping the allies to win World War 2 by breaking down encrypted Nazi radio transmissions.

I’ve done nothing so great as Tesla or Turing in my 34 years. Not even close. However, I like to think I have something Tesla lacked. If he had properly managed his patents and protected the information he was developing a little better, Marconi and Edison, would not be the more famous inventors in the same arena. If Tesla had just one ounce of business know-how, he’d be a millionaire in the current day.

I also like to think that Turing would not be a criminal for being a homosexual. Those were different times. He was discreet, but he didn’t dedicate any of his time to the fight for equality or human rights when it came to homosexuals.

I’ve managed my own affairs and live comfortably on a humble salary in quite an expensive city. I’ve dedicated time to LGBT initiatives in the workplace and in the community throughout my career and adult life.

I may not have invented any technology or computer, but I’ve contributed. I should give myself more credit.

I also did a few things this week, though small now, show I’m expanding my mind a little for what is to come. I’ve researched corgi breeders in Northern California, and the breed in general, to ready myself for one day welcoming a cute, little, flurfy squish bean with drumstick legs into my humble home. I’ve even started a regime of evening walks, like I’ve already got a dog. I’ve weighed the pros and cons, and really do want pets in my life. There will be a litter in December, and two litters in 2016. Maybe one of those little 8-week-old puppies will come home with me within the next year…

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My living circumstances now preclude me from having dogs, which is just as well, because my living arrangements do need to change. I hate my property management company, and probably should not have signed the lease they put in front of me as it was, because it had some downright stupid clauses and rules by which I’m not forced to abide. That’s not even having a whinge about the rent being too damn high, which I feel I should be entitled to because my rent is way too goddamn high.

So I’m looking into putting my name in and a deposit down sometime in 2016 for my sweet ball of adorability soon to come. I equate where I am now to that stage where women, like, stop drinking, and inject themselves with pre-natal hormones to make themselves fertile and increase chances of pregnancy. Yet, somehow, not quite so hard on my body. And before you start harping on me for not adopting a pet from the SPCA, I’m considering doing that simultaneously, so my little corgi has a friend, who is a rescue and a different age. So back off, buster.

In order to be able to welcome home a little fuzzy bundle of sausage legs, I need a new place to live. I also need to reconsider any major vacations for the first couple of years I have a pup. There’s training, codependence, separation anxiety from utter cuteness, and I if I commit to a pup, I don’t want to fall short and do wrong by that sweet little thing. You see, I do, sort of, have a plan.

  1. Sort out the career and work situation, which carries with it the financing for this magic carpet ride.
  2. Find a new place to live, potentially as a homeowner again, this time on my own and for the right reasons, in a pet-friendly building.
  3. Take any major vacations before acquiring pup.
  4. Then insert pets and, boom, I’ve actively planned and executed my own happiness quotient increase.

I can’t control finding a partner along the way, nor do I even know anymore that having a partner is part of my path. Today, if you ask me, I was not meant to have a partner, and love is not for me on this journey as a human on earth. But, ask again tomorrow.

Yes, my life is a work in process. But I am actually working on it. Maybe there won’t be any super computers or lightning contributions to society from me. Hopefully, there will be something, though. Even if it’s just photo uploads to facebook of my pup doing something endearing and delightful.

I received some wise advice when I was in college. There comes a time when you must steer your ship, and time when you must go with the flow. The trick is, knowing when to actively steer or passively sail. This is a time when I must steer the course of my ship, and once I have it on the proper course, then I can sit back and let it go. And my little corgi gets to be my first mate… if things go well.

Preface

“Here is the poetry of the North Atlantic… a testimony to the human spirit’s ability to not only endure what fate may send it but to be renewed by the experience.”

That is the quote on the cover of the book I bought as an afterthought in the Reykjavik airport bookstore while I waited to board my flight home. The Sagas of Icelanders.

Tourism has really taken off in Iceland, and in recent years, it has bypassed fishing as the country’s primary revenue generator. I had such a good time there, that when it came time to leave, I found myself wanting to come back for more. I rarely find myself interested in doing that.

Back in the 7th grade, I basically ignored/tuned out world history – had a bit of a blind spot for it. Truth is, this student just wasn’t ready. So I missed Beowulf, and what I assume was any literary or historical exposure to Vikings, because I sure as hell don’t remember being given an option to learn that stuff.

With the Sagas of Icelanders, I actually bought a real book – not a kindle electronic version, a real paperback book. I stopped; I curled up on the couch. I got comfy; I took the time to read a preface of a book in which I wanted to fully immerse myself. I wanted to slather the silica white sentences over my imagination with a wide painter’s brush, like a mud mask in the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s one-of-many claims to fame.

If you’re anything like me, when you pick up a book, you skip the preface and go right for the heart and soul of the book – the very story that you (hopefully) paid to acquire. Why would you want to read about what someone thinks of the book, when you could read the book for yourself and form your own views? That was always my rationale.

If you want more context to anything, read its preface. Someone thought enough of that book or in this case, that collection of sagas, to write about the writing. The preface is the warm blanket you throw over yourself as you nestle into the comfy spot on the couch to read it.

In the case of the Sagas of Icelanders, its preface provides what was happening historically when the sagas were originally written. The preface gives some background to Icelandic words, poetic verses, name generation, and conveys the author’s true passion for the stories. It comes from a perspective of a child who grew up and learned and lived by these stories. It’s not just about reading the sagas themselves; it’s about a way of life very similar to our own, yet captured in another time.

I can tell from reading the preface that the author has much knowledge of the history of Iceland, and of Viking society. Because of the writer’s passion, I, as a reader, feel compassion, and empathy with the very people about which she was writing.

An author creates the lens with which the world will see the tales she spins. She has the power to set the tone for the work, and choose the lighting in which it will be displayed and adored. If the author battles the demons of depression, for example, that may come through heavily in the literary art she creates. If she experiences joy in real life, it may be near impossible to contain that joy and keep it from spilling into the work. I saw this quote and believe it to be true on some level:

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I finished the preface to the Sagas of Icelanders this past weekend, and got into the first of the sagas, Egil’s Saga. It’s been a great read thus far, but like the Bible, it references genealogy and provides context by stating who descended from who, and so on. So there are a lot of Norwegian names to butcher in my brain as I read silently, and it takes awhile to get past the names for what the story is.

My blog idigres has had a relatively short life thus far, a year and two months, and I have written while I endured the throes of my own reality wagging me, just as a tail wags its dog. I’ve had ups and downs and in betweens. I doubt I made anybody cry with my writing. I hope I made some people laugh or smile. I tried to be as genuine as I possibly could when it came to my feelings, without divulging too many trivial and unnecessary details. You, dear reader, have been allowed to enter my world. You may have felt my surprise, some of my joys, and many of my more pensive and verbose moods.

Life is about growing, and time marches on. I’ve been handed my fair share of lemons, and I can make a fantastic vodka lemonade. But, in all seriousness, real personal development and growth is about building a foundation with the bricks they throw at you, so you can stand taller. It’s about bouncing back and being ever better, finding a sense of renewed vitality in moving on.

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Maybe one day, all the people will have read all the books in existence many times over, and every book will someday have a preface written for it by someone who feels that book, deeply, and cares enough to share that passion with anyone who picks it up. We could all use a little help being understood, and when someone just gets you, of course you want them to do your own personal marketing.

That’s a happy thought, and I think I’m going to end this post there. Every story has a happy ending, depending on when you end it. Good vibrations out there to the world – may you find the author of your preface and may you have the distinct pleasure of basking in the feeling of being understood. And may you be renewed by that experience.