I’m just doing my job

“Are we having a meeting about how big Emily’s file sizes are?” 

“What?” 

“Emily sent a huge file through WeTransfer the other day. It’s too big. People don’t delete things off their computers and it takes up a lot of space. I’m not making fun of you for it. We just need to send lower res files to China.” 

I refrained from rolling my eyes.

“Oooookay…whatever.” Our Director dismiss him and with a hand wave sent him away. 

Design files can be large. We send large files all the time to our team in China via WeTransfer that are high quality in hopes it doesn’t cause any more barriers in communication than there already are. Our Director wasn’t going to sweat it. Still, the fact that this Engineer came down to the first floor and interrupted our meeting to “not poke fun at me” really upset me. Were we not clearly talking shop in a meeting? Was I supposed to respond well to that? Was I supposed to be offended? What was the point of making an example of this? Why bring it up? 

He happened to be CCd on one of the e-mails I sent to China two weeks earlier. It was a file full of warning labels to go on a newly manufactured product. He sent me a private e-mail saying:

“Thanks for your work on this. This file size is huge!” 

“Yeah, it is. Design files usually are when you drop more files into them. Would you like me to send you a smaller low res one for your records?” 

“No, that’s okay.” 

Literally the entire thread of e-mails. The last I had heard of the whole thing, up until this meeting when he so rudely let himself in and announced it as if it was some kind of ongoing problem. Ignoring that he spoke over someone. Ignoring the half closed door. 

There are very few times in life that I can count, where in the moment of conflict I felt very personally attacked and offended. Most of those occurred with my brothers who know how to push my buttons just right. I take what I do seriously, but I don’t take myself very seriously. So things even out in time, or I just push it down passive aggressively and deal with it on my own later. But in public, and in general, it takes a lot to get me offended. Though, lately with how anxious and hypersensitive I have become, it’s happening more frequently that I’m minorly offended or bothered by something in the moment and I express it but after a couple days it goes away and I can get back to my life again. 

This for some reason brought that offense up a notch. I was livid. Embarrassed to be made an example of over something I knew no one else could care about, but for some particular reason this Wednesday at 10 am….I cared. I was being called out over something trivial…no…less than trivial…something down right stupid. After all, why was it my responsibility to make file sizes smaller for people who forget to delete them? There is something called “in window preview” that allows you to look at the file online and never need to put it on your computer. Also, is it not the computer users job to be responsible for their own divice’s data space? Why is that my responsibility?

It’s not. It’s not my responsibility. I just need to let it go and let it die. No one else is bothered by it. I shouldn’t be either. Besides, I’m new. I’m still learning. I ought to give myself grace, since others clearly are not. I’ll get over it. I know I will. It just pokes a little bit more today. 

Great Creative Expectations

https://embed.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius

I keep forgetting this TEDtalk exists. I had seen it first when I was in college learning to cope with the high expectations of creativity: that you have this creative resivoir that never ran dry and always pumped out good ideas. I had been taking 22 credit hours to graduate at the time. It was a stressful, anxiety ridden, and all around confusing semester. My boyfriend had gotten kicked out of school and had to head back to California while I navigated my final semester on my own. I felt abandoned. Unsure. And all around used between my relationship that was long distance, and the demands of being a graphic design student in her final semester.

I had logged on to TED.com and just went to the category “Creativity” and just let it play through the videos randomly. This particular video had struck me so deeply that I remember feeling a sudden and complete sigh of relief. Going to a Christian school had its benefits, and the source of my creativity was one of them. God was the Creator who made me creative, and all my creativity was a source from Him. What a wonderful and reassuring affirmation.

I had forgotten about it, as I often do in my humanness. 

I was at work today when I heard it again. It was a stressful, anxiety ridden, and all around confusing Tuesday. My creative juices exhausted as I attempted to come up with more and more variations of a package design for a product just new to the market. “A culinary innovation” I had thought, but then rejected for its cliche nature and discarded with the rest of my bad ideas. I needed feedback from our marketing director, who, of course, had blown me of for the past few days, and I was sure would do so again. 

I turned on TED.com for some videos on food. A desperate attempt to come up with some kind of revolutionary idea. Of course, I didn’t come up with anything. Instead I sat staring at the screen in hopes something would just come to me. A couple adjustments and mistakes were corrected, and as the talks kept speaking, I found myself less working on the project and desperate to be doing something else. The videos were relevant to my job after all, so who could really yell at me? Eventually I started clicking on videos in the side bar, craving information that was outside of my usual everyday, and looking for a challenge. Looking to learn something new.

I was about 5 videos into my listening when I played the video, and about five minutes into viewing it I had recalled having heard this talk before. As she spoke that sense of relief came over me again, but not in a religious or supernatural way (though that is still largely a part of my life), but in knowing I was one of a collaborative team. 

Collaboration is another buffer creatives can maintain to protect them from the stress, high expectations, and struggle of creativity. Being one of a group of people working towards the same goal certainly takes the pressure off. It makes sucesses more fun. It makes losses less burdensome. It makes the artists more humble knowing their work was part of a contribution, and it gives the artist an awareness that full credit cannot come to them for each success. They were part of a bigger story, a contributing part, but not the only contributing part. 

So as I sat in my chair, fully aware of how far behind this package design was, hearing my e-mails chime as they came in from the factory in China wondering how all that is going…I realized I can only go so far as my contribution allows. If we as a team are working together, I had to wait for the together part of it. I have exhausted my resources. I showed up for my part, and my marketing director had a lot of other parts he had to show up for too. So my job was as done as it could be until I got feedback. The pressure was off. I had done all I could do, and I was so thankful to find this TEDtalk again. 

I Suck at Friendship

I saw that she had tried to call me, about 15 min after we were supposed to speak. I had planned and reschedule on her already for our phone call, but once again, my brain failed me. Not that I had forgotten this time, but I had laid down for a nap with every intention of calling her on time, then proceeded to sleep through the alarm, then proceeded to wake up thinking I had woken up in time, then proceeded to fall back to sleep. I had felt terribly about it upon realizing that I had missed her call. So much so that I texted her back and tried to make up the lost time. 

Before I was married, I hardly forgot or missed a date. Now, it’s like I can’t set a date to save my life. I forget about it or I double book it or I just can’t seem to get myself together enough to make it on time. The worst part of it all, is that if I fuck up my own social life, I fuck up my husband’s. He knows so few people, and I’m the only one who contacts anyone to hang out because of it. His social life is entirely dependent on me. The introvert of the two of us. Ironic. 

I feel like I’m unintentionally pushing people away. I want to see them. I want to spend time with them. I care and love them very much. I just am so sucky at keeping plans since I got married. What’s worse is that I promised I wouldn’t do this to people. I promised that my marriage wouldn’t make me fall off the face of the earth, because it had hurt my feelings so much to have my friends do it to me. Yet, I’m so tired being at the beck and call of my workplace and then having to come home and be at the beck and call of my husband. There really is no such thing as introverting and down time anymore. I can’t have days where all I do is nap without interruption. I can’t have the silence, or the daydreaming I used to, or at least, not the same quality of it. It’s like my brain can never refresh fully because the presence of another human being is there, forever. It’s weird. I don’t like it. 

Part of me hopes this is temporary. Another part of me knows it isn’t. My husband is having a difficult time making friends of his own in the area. So he relies on me to make them for him. So here I am juggling the social life of an extrovert. Tired. Exhausted even. Neglecting my friends who are single for the couples I had so long also been neglected by until I was no longer single. I feel like I’ve only been married for a few months and the only respite I got out of it was a buissness meeting to IL(which was super fun and I really ought to write a blog post about it, but I’m not sure I’ll get to it), which doesn’t sound relaxing at all, but was a nice step outside of my husband’s life for an overnight, and a refreshing step back into my own world. A very clear step of only having to worry about myself again. The way it used to be. 

All that sounds super selfish. I’ll admit it probably is. Which makes me feel like a shitty person. I don’t feel like I should play mother like this. I don’t feel like I should be responsible for my husband’s play dates. I’m hardly good at being responsible for my own. To be honest I really haven’t had my own play date in a long time. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I need to have my own separate friends again, the ones who aren’t another couple. Individuals I can keep in touch with and have all my own. Knowing myself though, I’d probably forget those dinner dates and such as well. Maybe I’m just destined to be a shitty friend forever. 

Deadlines, Assembly lines, and Waistlines 

Since starting my full-time job as a graphic designer, I’ve found myself relying on reading energy. The energy of people, the energy of a room, the energy of collaboration. Trying to gauge how much energy people are investing into projects. Much of the energy of my investment, has gone into cooking with my team. Yes. Cooking. I work for a company that manufactures and sells kitchen appliances. Lots of them. Under several nameplates and in many different stores internationally. 

Today we spent the afternoon going over the care and use guide (also known as a CUG in our line of work). We have an air cooker, which is basically a table top oven of sorts that works best when trying to make frozen foods like fries, nuggets, egg rolls etc… anything you could bake or fry, but without the oil. The collaboration was simple. Get the manufacturing specs together and the engineering notes, throw in (or make up) the names of parts, act out the step-by-step of the process and write it out, throw in the warnings as you come across probable and improbable issues, and hit the ground rolling. Then you eat whatever you make while you type up the findings into a cute little booklet that gets revised 50 times in multiple languages (in our case English and French) before getting mass printed well after the deadline and stuffed into a box for absolutely no one to read. Because who really reads the CUG? 

The food is pretty much the only incentive of the process. Of course, that doesn’t help my waistline. What also doesn’t help my waistline is the fact that I now work a desk job and eat food at work. On top of that…all employees of the company get to check out a product from the product library fresh off the assembly line and available to the public or not. True story. So say…I want to borrow the top selling company dehydrator from the product library. I just go to customer service. Fill out the paperwork and say….I want it for three months. Just put in the date three months from the day I pick it up…and there you go. I have a dehydrator for three months so I can interact with the products we sell without having to purchase the product unless I want to. When I’m ready to purchase the product? I get a discount. A steep discount. 

All this, paired with me trying to take more insulin unlike before, has made me gain ten pounds. I can’t say I’m very happy about that. My weight has been something I became more and more conscious of in college, and now that I’m out of college, it’s become something my attention fixated on, especially since I had lost so much weight due to diabetic complications. I liked being smaller. I liked people noticing how much I lost. Even if I didn’t like how I lost it, I liked the result…..a little too much. Now, I work in a food oriented business, and while I’ve never considered myself fat….I know I am a person who enjoys eating. A little too much. And since eating a little too much and enjoying being skinny a little too much,  I find myself fixated so stupidly on my weight, and wanting desperately to go back to “forgetting” to take insulin and lose it all again. 

When did I get this shallow? There are worse things to be than fat! What is wrong with me!?!? When did I focus my own energy into something so silly and superficial as my weight? How did I get so good at reading the energy of everyone else, that I failed to read my own? 

Finally…

After several months of waiting and waiting, I had thought the ship had sailed. I was convinced and disappointed. It was a great position. Only five minutes from my house. What are the odds of that? Finding a corporate graphic design job only five minutes from my house in a tiny lakeside town very few people in the world had heard of? I thought it was impossible. Still, I waited. Nothing. I waited longer. Nothing. I e-mailed asking how things were going. I got a generic response of noncommittal and affirmation that they were still interviewing. I waited more.

Eventually my wedding came and went. Still nothing. I had given them the dates I would be “away” on my honeymoon, so part of me still hoped that  they were considering me and not counting me out. Still, there was that other part of me whispering that it wouldn’t happen. Not to me. It was too big of a step. Too much for me. There were so many other talents and people asking for less from them financially. Every doubt encircled my heart, and I became discouraged. Still, I was tired from looking for other jobs. I stopped looking. Kept going to work at retail, praying hard that God would open a door somewhere.

“We need another hand in the gift shop, and obviously we thought of you right away. It’d only be short hour, but it would give you a better financial situation.”

I was flattered that the Director of the museum wanted me to switch from volunteer to paid associate. I wanted to say yes, but he inquired about the interviews I had for the design position. I told him honestly that I hadn’t heard anything back, but I wasn’t sure what to expect really.

“There is a part of me that says I ought to wait on this.”

He nodded knowingly. Kindred spirit to my own.

“We can play it by ear, but by saying this, I have a feeling that I’m going to lose you to them. You’re talented and very special.”

I was so encouraged. A fellow designer, professional, and creative twice my senior thought I had what it took. I held on a little while longer to that little glimmer of hope. There was also a bit of relief knowing that even if I didn’t get the design job, money was going to come from somewhere. I wasn’t being left out here, trapped in a position in retail that wasn’t doing anything for me. I had options that would be supplemental, fulfilling, and use my expertise. I thanked God for listening to me, even if it was for a moment.

“Have you heard back from them babe?” My husband asked the evening he came home from his first day at his new job.

“No. The ship has sailed I think. It’s been nearly a month since I last heard anything.”

“You never know though.”

“I do know.”

I didn’t know.

That same evening my iPad told me I had an e-mail notification. It was them.

I got the job.

Busy Week

I’ve been out with people nearly every night this week. Which is odd for me. As an introvert I’m almost always isolating myself to give me plenty of time to recharge, especially since I work in customer service and spend … Continue reading

The Visit

“It didn’t go well.” 

“What do you mean it didn’t go well?” 

“She was pissed off at the state of the store.” 

“What was wrong with it?” 

“We had boxes of clearance that we were scanning out to send off to the clearance center in Milwaukee.” 

 “And she was upset about that?”

“Said it looked messy. So now this week we have two more corporate visits.” 
I nearly walked out in that moment. Not only was it absurd that they were giving us corporate visits on one of the worst weekends to do so, but on the weekend our Regional Visual Manager and District Manager were on vacation, and only days after we were experiencing the trauma of our store manager abruptly leaving us. We had no leadership. We were understaffed because of a sudden outbreak of bronchitis. All of us were at our wits end. Considering we were running the store on a busy sale weekend with only three associates and a manager I thought we had done pretty well all things considered. The clearance product was all packed, scanned, and ready to ship by the end date. So there were a few boxes out on the floor? There was someone at the station working on them while they were there. Corporate had no reason to complain, but corporate always complains. They all do. They try to rule with an iron fist of fear, and never with actual empathetic leadership skills that FastCompany magazine always told me about. 

That day, I had three managers for other stores come to visit and help out. I was called in every which direction. I felt like I had accomplished nothing, and yet, things were getting done. Were it not for that and the fact that I had only just bought my house and needed a stable job, I would have quit that day. Thankfully I had made no rash decisions. Thankfully I had gotten the help I needed in order to get a better handle on the issues I knew my store had, but didn’t have the staff hands, or staff that cared, to get done. 

What pisses me off about the whole thing, is that most of the time when we want feedback or need help, we get ignored. Half the time our e-mails just don’t get answered. Half the time our store managers don’t actually get us answers, or pretend they did when they never asked. It isn’t until after they’ve suddenly gone and quit we suddenly get told all the lies we were lead to believe. Then we are thrown into a chaos so panicked that we end up making things worse. 

At the same time, they do too. Corporate comes in with lists upon lists of issues. Things we simply cannot get done with so few hands. We are missing two managers. A store manager, and a Home Store manager. Our last Home Store Manager up and moved to California. Living the dream with her BF, and probably enjoying a Bloody Mary on the porch of her LA apartment hearing traffic beneath her feet and enjoying warmer weather than we could even comprehend in Wisconsin at this time of year. 

Part of me is so envious of her. 

So I didn’t quit. I’m still there. Discouraged that my applications get rejected and that there isn’t much out there to switch to. I’ve considered going completely design freelance. Still, with how much Papyrus love there is out there in this town, I’m not sure this town is ready for good design. Still, I’m so burned out on work. Black Friday is coming and I was hoping to be gone by now. I suppose I have no reason to complain. I suppose I’m just not in the places I wanted to be because I’m not meant to be. Or am I just not trying hard enough? Am I just not aiming high enough? 

I’ll never be sure. All I know is what isn’t happening. It’s discouraging, especially during a week that has had its fill of discouragement. 

Bra Wall

I heard the wind pick up and the light tapping of what I assumed was frozen precipitation in my window. A dim light was cast through the gap between the blanket I was using as a makeshift curtain and the … Continue reading