On Quitting a Job in a Recession

“What do you do when you’re not working here?” I asked him as we stood on the beach.

“Well, I just gave my two week notice four weeks ago,” he said.  My face lit up.  “Oh how exciting!” I said.  I don’t think he expected such a response.  I explained that I’ve quit quite a few jobs in my time.  My sister looked at him and said, “Yeah – she quits a job every year.  But how old are you?”  “Twenty-five,” he said.  I knew what my sister – a married, home-owning, thirty-two year old, mother of one – was getting at.  “And I can quit jobs til I’m 50,” I announced, feeling her rolling eyes on me without even looking at her face.

I wanted to ask him more questions – how he did it, how it felt, what he really wanted to do – but not under my sister’s unapproving glare.  I got my chance a few days later.  Turns out he liked his job, but didn’t like his hours – the overnight shift.   When he started, he was told he’d be moved to the day shift.  More than a year later he was told he was so good at what he was doing, they wanted to keep him right where he was – working 7PM to 7AM.  He expressed his dismay, nothing was done, so he left.  In a recession.  Oh how I love these stories.

When I asked him what he really wanted to do, he said he should find another IT job as he figures he should work in the field he got his degree in for at least ten years so his parents don’t regret paying for his IT degree.  I laughed and wanted to say, “You didn’t answer my question,” but we were interrupted and I never got back to it.

I didn’t get to say it to him, but I’ll say it to you: No, there is no law of the universe that says you must do what you got your degree in.  Yes, there may be a law of your parents.  But no, most likely you did not sign a contract with them saying “I will work in my field even if I’m miserable and unhappy.”

Though initially they may not see your logic, ultimately most parents want you to be happy.  They may think the way you’ll be happy is working in your chosen field.  But that may not be the case.  It may take a little – actually, a lot – for them to get over you not wanting to “use your degree.”  But really – whose life is it?  When are you going to start living the life you want to live, not the one your parents want for you?

Yes, your parents may know you.  But I think it’s our job as kids to show them all the other possibilities that exist for us that they never thought of.  Good luck.  And if you need someone to congratulate you when you quit your job, I’m here for you:)

Canoe Island

“Do you camp up there?” people ask when I tell them I’m going on our annual family vacation to Lake George.  “Far from it,” I say.  “Picture Dirty Dancing.  The same ten families come the same week every year to the same place.”  “Is there a dance instructor?” they ask, referring to Patrick Swayze’s character in the movie.  “No…but they do have boat boys.”  I then have to explain what a “boat boy” is: basically college kids on summer break who take us out sailing or water skiing.  People think a place like this just exists in the movies.  I go on.  “They ring a bell for meals and we all go up to the Main Lodge.  They serve three meals a day.”  “Really?” people ask.   Really.

There was a time I hated this place.  It coincided with a time in my teenage life when I hated just about everything – including the way I looked in a swimsuit.  Therefore, a vacation on a lake was not my idea of fun.  Thankfully, they had a piano.  That was my solace.  I’d bring enough piano music to fill the bench and when I got bored of reading or sailing, I’d head up to the piano.  It sits in a room right outside the entrance to the dining room.  In the afternoons when I would practice, the place was empty.  But it became my own little tradition for quite a few years to play the hour before dinner.  My father would sit on a couch behind me and engage anyone who came in in conversation.  This was my only rule.  You had to pretend like you weren’t listening – otherwise I’d get nervous.  Dad was there to explain the rule and keep the conversations going.

Then, the bell would ring.  I’d finish my piece, put my music back in the bench, and close the piano.  Then, I’d join the procession into the dining room.  And sit down to a four course meal with the same people I’ve eaten with the last week in June nearly every year of my life.

The tradition continues.  Though my fingers hardly touch the keys of my piano at home anymore, I still bring my music to Canoe Island Lodge.  And perhaps tonight, I’ll entertain dear family friends for a few minutes before dinner.  But only if they pretend they’re not listening.

Back to the Future

“That’s a real one,” I said to the group of four nursing students as they pulled a vertebral column (backbone) out of their bone box.  “What do you mean real?” one asked.  I laughed.  “Real.  As in it used to be in someone’s body.”  I watched as two of them lost all color and leaned away from it while the other two grabbed for it, their eyes wide and mouths open.  “Really?”  “Yes, really!”  I explained how you could tell the real bones from the plastic ones.  “The real ones are a lot lighter and more porous – you’ll see holes in them.  And they’ll be a rougher when you touch them.”

“Is ours real?” said a student at another table.  “Yup,” I said.  Some were happy they had real bones in their boxes, some thrilled to find they didn’t.  Wait til we dissect sheep brains, I thought to myself.

I wisely don’t tell them what we’re doing ahead of time.  As I’m going through my plan for that days lab, I just casually say, “After we finish going over all the structures on the brain models, we’ll be dissecting sheep brains.  There are gloves in the middle of each table.  The trays are over there.” I point to the sink.  Most students at this point are stunned.   I hear the whispers.  “Is she serious?” they ask each other.  I continue, enjoying every minute of watching some of their faces turn from disbelief to sheer joy and excitement.  “Take a tray per lab table, and one instrument from each box.  Then, get a brain from the plastic container over there,” I say, pointing to the bucket sitting next to the sink.  “Be very careful – they’re slippery.  I don’t want any brains on the floor.”  I just keep going as if people look at brains every day. A more vocal student will usually stop me at this point saying, “Hold up Miss Gallo.  You mean we’re going to cut open a brain today?”  “Yup,” I respond.  Most are thrilled, or at least interested.  A few want nothing to do with it, to which I respond, “If you’re going to be a nurse, you’re going to see a lot more disgusting things than this.”

Though I finished teaching A&P six weeks ago, these memories came back to me since I just finished reading the book “The Anatomist” by Bill Hayes.  It’s basically the story of how the book Gray’s Anatomy came to be.  In doing his research, he attends gross anatomy classes at UCSF and that, for me, was the most interesting part of the book.  Especially since he spends one semester with physical therapy students.

It wasn’t so much that it brought back memories of my own time in a cadaver lab, but that I wanted to be there again.  I was a little jealous that he was in a lab dissecting human bodies and I wasn’t.  No – it was more than that.  He talked about the instructors and I wanted to be them.  I can’t tell you how many times, in teaching A&P to my nursing students, I wished I could show them something on a cadaver.

I had a chance to get back into a cadaver lab on Friday.  I had dinner with my former anatomy professor.  In the days prior to our meeting I thought the first thing I wanted to do was go see the cadavers, but for some unknown reason I didn’t ask.  So I didn’t get to see them. I realize for most people that seeing dead bodies would not be on the top of your list of things to do before you eat dinner…but that’s beside the point.

The good news is the opportunity is not lost.  My anatomy professor teaches the course over the summer now and it would be very easy for me to go out there for a day, or a few days, or a week and help him out.  I assisted him when I was in school, and he has offered that he would welcome my assistance again.  So who knows?  This summer, I might just take that opportunity.  And then I won’t be jealous of that author anymore.

Another Crazy Idea?

Not too long after I started teaching Anatomy &Physiology lab at a local college, one of the tenured professors asked me if I was considering getting a doctorate and teaching full-time at a college.

“No, I don’t think so,” I said.  “It’s a lot of time and money to get a doctorate.  And I have too many other things I want to do.”  He understood.

A few months ago I was on a Saturday day trip with my father.  My mother was out of town for the day and he was going stir-crazy.  He decided to take a mini-road trip and asked if I wanted to join him.  Though I had plenty of anatomy to prepare, I opted for the adventure.  A little was out of sympathy, but another reason was just for the sheer “being a kid again” factor.  Just me and dad.  On a road trip.  On our way to our destination (a newly remodeled Dairy Queen my father, owner of two such stores, wanted to take a look at), we stopped and looked at things for sale on the side of the country roads on which we were traveling.  I was marveling to my father that his driving wasn’t really getting to me like it usually does.  I can’t recall how the topic changed to teaching.

“You really like it, don’t you?” Dad said.  I confirmed that I did, was enjoying it very much in fact.  “It’s a great place to work,” he said.  “College isn’t like the real world.”  Dad says this a lot.  By “real world” he means that the professors aren’t punching a clock like office drones.  They can make their own schedules to a point and get all those holidays and time off .  Dad, as an entrepreneur, doesn’t punch a clock either.  He, too, can make his own schedule to a point.  But he doesn’t have paid time off and someone else paying his health insurance.

I was saying how many different things a professor could get involved with on a campus.  There’s the teaching, but then you can advise a student group or be on committees.  And your work changes.  But before dad got thinking I might have found something I’d do “forever” (he still harbors dreams of that), I said, “but I’d need a doctorate to do all that…and that’s way too much time and money.”

Then something clicked.  My alma mater offers doctorates in Physical Therapy.  A clinical doctorate.  Not a PhD.  But a doctorate all the same.  In other words, it’s more hands-on clinical research and less sitting in a library writing a dissertation.  And I recall reading that they had a “transitional” program for those of us that already had a Masters degree in PT.  I said perhaps I should look into that.  But would it be the craziest idea ever to get a doctorate in a field I pretty much abandoned from the moment I graduated?  Just so I could teach?  I’d have to think about this.  But I did mention it to dad.  He’s been trained to not get too excited about any one of my ideas because a lot of them are only ideas and never get pursued.  He doesn’t always remember this training, but thankfully this time he did.  “Yeah, you should look into that,” he said, his voice indicating a wee bit of excitement but much more subdued than in past years.

Upon our return, I hopped on the internet and was shocked to see that the DPT only requires 16 credits – four classes.  Not only that, but three of the four actually interested me!  And you could do the entire program on-line!  I also learned that it cost a whole lot less than I thought it would.  This couldn’t be right, I thought.  So I looked at other schools who had these transitional doctorate programs.  And they were all pretty much the same – in terms of credits, on-line coursework, and cost.  Whereas I thought my research would show me the degree would take forever to get and cost more than it would be worth for me, I found I was wrong.  Hmph.  Who knew.

Visiting the Tumbleweed Tiny House

As we drove up to the Harley Davidson dealership in Austintown, Ohio, the Tiny House was no where to be seen.  I grew a little nervous.  “Uh oh,” I said.  “Wait a minute,” responded Dad.  “Let’s drive around the whole building first.”  And that’s when we found it.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  I would have felt terrible if we had driven seven hours only to have the thing not be there.

Here are some pictures of it – inside and out.  I’m in most of them to give a sense of scale!

In the Sleeping Loft

Outside the Fencl

The Kitchen (the bathroom is through a doorway opposite the sink)

Sitting in the bump-out

Mom and Dad in the Living Room

Dad peeking in the front door

On Listening to Your Body

After noticing her dog was keeping an eye on us, our host explained, “He knows he gets fed at 8, 12 and 5.  So if it’s near those times, he stays close to me – reminding me it’s time.  It’s amazing how their bodies just know.”

And I thought, “Our bodies know too….we just aren’t taught to listen to them.”  I’ve tried listening more lately.  I’ve learned that I don’t need to eat nearly as much as I do.  That if I listen to my body, she’ll tell me when I’ve had enough.  And she’s always right.  She’ll also tell me when I’m tired and when it’s time to get up.  She dutifully calls me to rise – sans alarm – at 6:55 each morning.  Sometimes I listen, sometimes I don’t.  She also lets me know when I’m doing too much.  And if I don’t listen, she brings some sort of sickness to me to remind me who’s in charge.  However, she’s also kind about bringing on this sickness.  She usually does it over a school break when she knows I can afford to stop without getting too far behind.

She softens my skin in the summertime, then dries it up in the winter.  I can feel when I’m getting sunburn, and in that way she reminds me to put on sunscreen.  She forces me into tears over seemingly nothing at least once a month.  On my morning walks, she shows me all the new life spring brings.  I try to remember to notice it the rest of the day.

“Self-knowledge can, and ought, to apply not only to the soul, but also to the body; the man without insight into the fabric of his body has no knowledge of himself.”

-John Moir, student of anatomy, notes from opening lecture, Anatomical Education in a Scottish University, 1620, as quoted by Bill Hayes in The Anatomist

Kohlrabi and More Praise for the Farmer’s Market

“What’s that?” asked my Little Sister.  We were standing under a tent at my local farmer’s market, surrounded on three sides  by fresh produce.  “I have no idea,” I said as we stood in line waiting to make our purchases.  “But he’s got a price list – let’s see what’s on there that we’ve never heard of.”  And that’s how we figured out the strange looking thing in front of us was kohlrabi.

It took some time to reach the front of the line, but I didn’t mind because there was so much to take in just standing there.  The guy in front of me was buying fresh corn meal.  This was the second time in a month that I have met someone who grinds local corn into cornmeal.  The farmer was explaining what it could be used for and how to store it.  And I knew when my turn came the farmer would patiently answer all my questions, too.  I got to the front of the line and asked “What’s that?” as I pointed to what I suspected was Kohlrabi.  “That’s a thing called Kohlrabi,” he said.  We were right!

The next question I asked is the reason I love Farmer’s Markets: What do you do with it?  He explained how to bake it, or that I could roast it, or eat it raw, or put it in salads.  I asked what it tasted like, how long it would take to cook, and then said, “I’ll take one.”  It was only fifty-five cents.  For that much, it was worth the adventure of trying something new.

I moved on to the guy who sells pork and beef.  My Little Sister is a vegetarian – or at the stage where she’s trying on the idea.  I raved about this guy’s stuff anyway, and when the farmer offered us a taste test of some grilled pork she took some, too.  He apologized for not calling me in the spring for tutoring for his son.  He explained that his other daughter had been able to help instead.  “No problem,” I said.  “I’m just glad he got the help he needed.”  I then explained to my Little Sister that I had bought meat from this guy over the winter.  I went to his house to pick it up as he doesn’t sell at winter farm markets.  And during that conversation he found out I tutored math and took my number.

“Now these are wonderful,” he said as he pulled some frozen ham hocks out.  “For soups, you mean?” I asked.  “Well, you could use them for that, but I just put them in a crock pot, cover them with water, and they just melt off the bone when they’re done.”  I’d never bought let alone cooked with ham hocks before.  I was in.  “All right – I’ll take them.  And some of your sweet sausage.”  I explained to my little sister, “This is the best sausage ever,” recalling the first time I ever bought meat from him was the day he was offerings tastes of his sausage.

I ran into one of my former high school teachers there, and his wife who is in my crochet group.  I introduced my Little Sister and after a chat with them she said, “You know everyone here!”  I laughed as we made our way to the bakery tent where I introduced her to the delights of Hello Dolly bars.

And then I realized her comment was just another reason I love farmers markets.  Yes, you may run into someone you know at the grocery store.  But how often do you meet the people who grow your food?  Probably never, because most of them live in California or Florida or Kansas.  I first started coming to Farmer’s Markets in an effort to buy local and reduce my environmental impact.  Then the additional perks just kept piling up: the food tastes better, there is much more variety, I can look at something and, instead of wondering what it is, I can simply ask and then learn how to make it.  I don’t have to wait on long lines being tempted by candy bars on either side of me.  I may wait on a line, but everyone on it wants shares similar values to me and wants to chat.  A lot of them even have cute dogs with them.  And I get to build relationships with local people.  People who are doing something they love and want to share it with others.  How can you beat that?

Letting Go

We are a society that likes to hold on to things: the clothes that no longer fit, the kitchen gadget never used, the man we just know isn’t right for us.

“I should just let it go,” I said to my mother the other day.  Except I wasn’t talking about clothes or gadgets or men.  I was talking about my attempts to reconnect with my Catholic roots.  Don’t get me wrong – God and I have a nice little friendship going.  And have for quite some time.  That’s not going anywhere.  And I am always renewed at the yearly retreat I attend and inspired by my sessions with my spiritual director.  None of that will go away either.  But when people ask what religion I am, I haven’t said “Catholic” in a long time.  My response is, “Well…I grew up Catholic.”  Because I no longer consider myself one.  I get the feeling the Catholic church doesn’t want people like me.  People that question things.  People that like new ideas.  People that don’t want to be judged by their stance on gay marriage or by their attendance at and contributions to a church.

I’ve left jobs when the management and I no longer agree.  And so it is with the church.  The management and I no longer agree.  The management here on earth, I should say.

And I thought I’d have a lot to say on this, a lot of explaining to do.  But as I sit here, I find it’s simple really.  It had its time and place in my life.  I’ve struggled a long time to hold on to it, and now it’s just time to let it go.

The Pursuit of Happiness

A speaker I went to hear last night said it seems we forgot about our right to pursue happiness.  That, instead, we’ve replaced it with the right to pursue materialistic things.

I see his point.  People think the accumulation of more or bigger “stuff” leads to “happiness.”  So we’re a society with lots of stuff.  But not a lot of happy people.

Which is why I love helping people clean out their “stuff.”  It makes them happy.  It releases tension.  It gives them space – both in their homes and in their heads – that they haven’t had in a long time.

So consider this an invitation to face that junk drawer, that hall closet, that garage shelf.   And if you need some help, I’m available.  I love organizing so much I travel the country doing it.  I’ll be in the Providence, Rhode Island area in August.  If you want to me to plan a trip to your area, visit clutterclearingcompanion.com (a web site in progress) and let me know:)