Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Comin' Round the (Creepy) Mountain (Town)

It's just that some mountain towns are full of people who look like they might want to kill you, is the thing.

And anyone who's watched enough horror movies in their day knows that. For me, it's my newfound interest in The Walking Dead that most recently clued me into this truth that unseemly looking mountain men in plaid shirts might not be fully trustworthy, as well as this experience I had last weekend. Which is unsettlingly opposite of everything else I know and love about men in plaid shirts. This feels like an extremely inconvenient fine line. Date them? Run from them to save my life? WHY IS LIFE COMPLICATED

So back to last weekend.

It started out innocently enough -- a camping trip! with my friend Laura! in the mountains! And her friend Nate who I didn't know at the time but hey cool yay Nate! Our plan was simple: Laura and Nate would spend Saturday at the beach, I would spend it in my office working (see: why I haven't blogged in nearly a month) and then we'd all meet up for camping (and naturally I'd go to the beach the next morning to make up for my lack-o'-Saturday).

It all went fine until blah blah blah, campsite was full, blah blah blah. The next important part of the story is when I pull into a gas station in a small mountain town, in a spot that has some precious cell service, and call Laura. That's about when I looked up and around my car and saw.....walkers. (see: The Walking Dead term for zombies) (see: many ragged men...in plaid...shuffling about the parking lot side-eying the lone female in a mini cooper that sticks out like a sore city thumb.) Yipes. Laura informed me that she and Nate were just up the road at an ice cream parlor, so I zipped right out of that parking lot and headed that way (passing a VERY suspect looking hitchhiker...in plaid...along the side of the road in the meantime).

I pulled into the parking lot of a most delightfully kitschy ice cream place, greeted Laura ("Why does everyone in this town look like they want to kill me" "Oh you mean that hitchhiker??") (By the mouth of two witnesses, boys and ghouls....)

Thus ensued the following series of events:

  • Laura and I both need to pee like our lives depend on it ("the bathroom's around the corner..."). Wander into some scary dark yard area with a shed ("it's around the other corner...").
  • Slightly drunk, unkempt males in line at the ice cream place inform us we need a code to get into the bathroom. We ask the sweet older asian man (his race is relevant, stay tuned) who runs the ice cream parlor what the code is. ("No code....") (Snickering from slightly drunk, unkempt males in line) (Really weird joke, guys...)
  • Laura and I successfully pee. I successfully touch nothing in that janky bathroom in the process. Because I am a wizard.
  • Return to ice cream line. Witness slightly drunk, unkempt males loudly speaking (really bad) Spanish (yes) to the sweet older asian (yes) man taking their order. Ohhhkay. Open palm, insert face.
  • Laura and Nate order ice cream. Since I just chowed down on In 'n Out and a Dr. Pepper in my car, I decline ice cream. Sweet older asian man decides I need ice cream anyway and gives me a small scoop of vanilla with hot fudge on top fo' free ("It's business!") ("Yes thank you I like business.")
  • Rendezvous in a booth inside the ice cream parlor. Discuss options. All local campsites full. Determine to find a suitably cheap and suitably seedy local motel to stay in. Not enough connection to search the Internets. Eat ice cream. Drive back down the road to the gas station full of walkers.
  • Pull up next to each other at the gas station and roll down our windows. Immediately approached by young female, who claims to be some kind of monk and proceeds to ask for gas money. Mid-convo about what kind of monk she is and what that means, her fellow traveler (male) appears behind us (velociraptor style) and jumps in mid-sentence to mansplain to us what his female travel companion was already successfully saying. Shut him up, turn back to her. Learn that they sold all their possessions to travel the world, or something. Except the car, or something.
  • Leave gas station for fear of walkers and veloci-monks. Rendezvous around the corner. Google many local motels. Stumble upon helpfully critical reviews ranging from the usual "no hot water" to the less usual "wear shoes at all times" to the extremely less usual "all phone cords in rooms have been severed." (Don't worry, that guy still gave the place two stars. WHO ARE YOU)
  • Discover that even janky mountain motels with severed phone cords want to charge an arm and a leg (which they will probably re-sell to the walkers at the gas station) for a night of no-hot-water and always-wearing-my-shoes.
  • Laugh until we cry.
  • Admit defeat.
  • Drive home.
  • Sleep in own bed.
  • Obviously drive to the beach the next morning anyway to get my sun/sand/ocean fix.
And there you have it. The story of the creepy mountain town, the walkers, the monks, the mediumly drunk and casually ethnically ignorant townies, the severed phone cords and the camping trip that was never meant to be.

But with a story like that....I'm not even mad, you know?

Over and out. Miss you all in blog world! Stay tuned for when work slows down and I get more of my life back and bring you more enlightening tales. 


Sunday, October 4, 2015

On the Coexistence of Faith & Fear

"Faith and Fear cannot coexist."

The quote's been given a variety of ways (and in a variety of memes on Pinterest), but that's the general gist. Faith and fear = oil and water. Never fear! Never doubt! Be of good cheer! That's the path to true happiness! Have confidence and buck up, kiddo!

I've seen it many times over my life -- clearly well intentioned to encourage and buoy people who find themselves grappling with a common human paradox. I believe the idea is even printed in a few scriptural canons, actually. But to be honest, even back in the most religious phases of my life, it has never not puzzled me.

Because I have felt both emotions. Many times. At the same time.

But....so is the quote wrong? Am I wrong? If scriptures and church leaders were always right, like I was always told, then I must have been wrong. Right? I'm feeling fear, so I must not have enough faith, right? I'm feeling doubt, so I'm not so good at believing and I'm probably making wrong choices.....right?

I'm going to go with wrong, on this one. For me, dead, bullseye wrong. And maybe it's not true for you. If you can slice your emotions that cleanly and precisely, I'm a) not going to get in your way, and b) in awe of your ability to do this. I think you've achieved magical unicorn human emotional status.

But every big decision I've made in my life came with a mix of these two emotional entities. A swirly, twirly cocktail of courage, doubt, strength, hesitation and confusion about all of the above. (I wrote more about that mixed cocktail of joy, here.) And I think it was considerably unhelpful to constantly tell myself that I was wrong for feeling those opposing emotions together. Not just unhelpful, but harmful, in truth.

Thanks to a stint of therapy a few years ago, I am a firm believer in a really important, crucial truth that is the anchor to my own mental health: no emotion is inherently wrong. No emotion is inherently bad. You feel what you feel. It's a chemical, biological, etc. reaction. It seems to me that the business of living is learning to cope with the inevitable reality of that. But it seems to me that the business of joy and peace is accepting that reality and not condemning yourself for it.

When I applied to college (and most recently, grad school!), I had faith that I'd get in. But, I also had fear that I wouldn't. When I applied to every job I've ever had in my life, I had faith and hope that they'd choose me. But, I also had doubts that things would ever work out. When I've began or ended every romantic relationship I've had, it was the same story -- faith that I was making the right choice, and fear that I'd regret it one way or the other down the line.

This is life. This is reality. This is truth.

I don't buy into or believe that the presence of fear or doubt always mean that a path is wrong. Quite the opposite, actually, since most big things seem to inherently bring those feelings along for the ride. But equally important, I also don't think hope or faith that something should or could be right always means that it is. I actually think there is extremely positive use to be found in fear and doubt -- because they are red flags. They are your brain's way of cautioning you. And yeah, the frustrating part is that mortality means sorting out the red flags and the hopes and adding a dollop of logic and deciding how best to proceed. And on top of that, having the confidence that the direction you choose for yourself is right, regardless of fear.

But the mix of emotions is inevitable. And it is not bad. It is life. It is reality. It is truth.

And coming from someone who formerly struggled much more than I currently do with having confidence in my own gut feelings, trusting myself and being stymied by fear and faith both in their own ways, let me tell you that life is so (SO!) (SO!) much better when you allow yourself to just feel what you feel and go from there.

Because for me, there is zero emotional or spiritual power to be found in condemning the contrary tides of my own heart.

^^not a real tattoo, but don't we wish it was?? just the one for now.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

So I'm Going to Get an MBA (feat. highlights from my admissions essay)

I wish the title of this blog could have said "feat. 50 Cent" or "feat. Christina Aguilera" like some important musical artist was sponsoring my educational endeavors and also dropping a beat somewhere in this post.

I have no idea why I picked those two artists but I'm not taking it back and you'll never make me. Also if any important musical artist does want to sponsor my education, I'll be here with open arms. Let's move on to the real substance of this post....

....I'M GETTING AN MBA!

Found out approximately 8 hrs ago that I am officially accepted into the program at Santa Clara University. No, I'm not quitting my job. Night school. I love my job. I will love working full time and going to school at the same time. Sanity status pending evaluation.

**And also, please note (PLEASE NOTE) that Santa Clara University is where my one true basketball love, Steve Nash, played college ball. The reason is fate. We're in this together now, he and I. (Nevermind that one time when he broke up with me. He regrets it, we chatted, there were some tears, he went down on the Lakers' dime, I'm fine he's fine we're all fine.)**

Anyway, I'll start school next spring and I couldn't be more stoked! I was going to write my thoughts on the why/how/what/who/quienes/quieres of the decision, but then I realized I already had -- in the ol' admissions essay that I submitted with my application! So, you get excerpts from that below instead.

Thanks to everyone who knew about the application shenanigans and encouraged me along the way. And specific thanks to Camille and Justin for writing my letters of recommendation. You're both champions and your blogs are real nice too.

First, this photo of me in my official college kid swag.


How, you ask, did I come to own this swag when I only received official admission 8 hrs ago? The answer might be that I bought it right when I applied, as a sign of confidence to the universe. Universe, thanks for playing along :) (Especially since now I don't have to awkwardly donate it to Goodwill or burn it in spiteful frustration.)

And now, them words.
The night before I moved to California, an email from my new employer appeared in my inbox. Due to funding, the company was eliminating my position. I had 12 hours left before leaving for Palo Alto, and I no longer had a job waiting for me. 
The next morning, I got in my car and I drove to California anyway.
The next few months were a whirlwind. My survival methods ranged from working part-time at a shopping mall to taste-testing popcorn for $80 in response to a craigslist ad. With college graduation several years behind me, working jobs similar to the ones I’d worked in high school was humbling. But, it infused an empathy in me that I don’t take lightly. In fact, I am now shaping my entire career around it. 
Prior to California, my career interests centered on writing. As I look back from where I’m at now in the recruiting field, I can see clearly that although I was funneling my time and energy into a creative career, there was always a strong people-focused aspect to everything I did. From building relationships with coworkers to taking new interns under my wing to instituting company culture perks (e.g. office olympics), it was always, in some way, about the people for me. 
When I was working full-time as a content writer, my team completed the Strengthsfinder 2.0 quiz. My results were telling of the career change that eventually lay ahead of me, as many of my top five strengths (empathy, developer, includer, adaptability and positivity) focused on my passion for people. 
These days, when people ask what I want to do down the line, my answer is simple: I want to help people be happy at work. I want people to love their jobs. 
(blah blah blah, thoughts about how the program and what concentration specifically play into my career goals, organizations I created and volunteered with in the past, I'm a special unicorn and I'm too self conscious to let the world read this part, etc.) 
I have considered graduate school for years, but could never quite put my finger on an end goal to justify the investment. After changing job fields and moving into recruiting, I finally realized what had been written on the wall for years -- my career needs to be about people. And after meeting people who work in [the types of roles that interest me], it finally all clicked for me. I am the type of person who often immediately knows what I want when I see it, and will then doggedly pursue it until I achieve whatever I’ve set my sights on. The convergence of my newfound career goal and my long-time desire to attend grad school finally put all the pieces in place for me. I am going to earn an MBA, and then I am going to immerse myself in a people-centered career where I can fuel change and make a positive impact on work culture and employee satisfaction. I want Santa Clara University to be the next stepping stone on my way to getting there.
....the end!

Thanks for reading along. And thanks in advance for joining me in the inevitable rambles over the next couple years as this whole crazy show goes down. Mazel tov to one and all!

Katie Elizabeth Hawkes, MBA. Let's do this.