Category: Personal

When You Can’t Write What You Want

I find it equal parts simple and difficult to come up with blog post ideas. On one hand, I’ve been blogging off and on for nearly 15 years now, with most of the past nine years featuring at least semi-regular blogging. I’ve had a ton of things I’ve written about in that time that I could easily rehash for content when I need it. But that’s not what I really want to do. I could likely turn this blog into a listicle filled site, and though I’ve parodied listcles from time to time, that’s also not route I’d prefer to go. What I try to do instead is to talk about new things with each post I write — or at the very least address different facets of a topic if I’ve talked about it before.

Another important thing to note about my blog is that I tend to write most posts, save for the Mid-Month Short Story Challenge responses, well in advance. If I have something I want to talk about that’s time sensitive, I’ll write about it and post it relatively quickly, but more often I’ve written a post weeks before it sees the light of day. When those timely posts get written, they push my scheduled posts back, which is how a post written in mid-October doesn’t end up going up on the blog until nearly Christmas time.

When I come up with post ideas, I tend to send them to myself via email so that I don’t forget about them. Some of those post ideas end up just getting deleted, but more often than not, I’ll eventually write about most things I send myself, if for no other reason than to clean out my inbox. I’d love to clean out my inbox right now1This goes both for my personal inbox and my work one..

The most frustrating thing for me as a blogger is when I have ideas to write about, but I can’t write about them yet for whatever reason. More often than not, this is because it’s something that’s on a timeline that’s out of my control2As is the case with all of the pending post ideas at this point., though occasionally it’s something that I have some level of control over. And that’s terribly frustrating. I don’t like having a lack of control over my writing, even though it’s something I have experience with just from having written a book.

At times like this, it’s hard to keep content somewhat regular on my blog. I tend to write more about non-personal things, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve written about Pokemon and pie in the past 30ish days3To be fair, the pie post is fantastic.. I feel like these are the driest times to be a reader of my blog, which certainly won’t help me reach my blog goals for the year. The best situation would be that things change to where I can write about the things I (badly) wish to write about. In the interim, however, I’ll just write about whatever comes to mind, even if I’m not able to hit the same post length or traffic goals I have with most posts.

How do you handle it when there’s something you want to write or talk about, but can’t for whatever reason? Let me know in the comments.

What the Florida?

I just spent two weeks in Tampa for work. And…listen Florida…we need to talk about your wildlife and your food.

I’m not much of a nature person. Nature doesn’t have WiFi1Unless you’re in Minneapolis, apparently.. Why would you go outside where there’s not internet when you can be inside where there is internet? But sometimes, you go outside and you see neat things like this.

There was a motherfucking armadillo just chilling outside a building. Why? Apparently they’re native to the area. But…why is there just an armadillo that near people? It was a calm armadillo — it walked around this flower bed for a few minutes then went into hiding under one of the ferns. It’s pretty cool to see. That said, less than a mile away, there was a swamp, which meant lots of birds and possible alligator danger. And when I say swamp…

…I mean a swamp. Complete with birds pecking into the water to catch bugs. Fortunately, long necked birds and a handful of hyperactive squirrels were all I saw in the area. And, despite signs being posted in numerous places (including at work), there weren’t any alligators that I actually needed to beware of. In fact, the most alarming thing I encountered the entire time I was in Tampa was the food.

I love trying local food when I travel. I’ve found some fantastic places to eat when I’ve traveled, be it for work or otherwise. Want good barbecue? Go to Austin, Texas. Need a good Afghani restaurant in San Diego? I’ve got a place for you. Mouth-watering shaved ice on your mind for desert? The best place is in Sacramento. And of course the best pizza you’ll find is in Chicago.

If you want food in Tampa, I’m going to strongly recommend IHOP.

If you’re from the US2I know IHOP is in countries outside of the US, but the vast majority of its stores are here, so I am going to guess that is where most of you would have encountered it. , I know what you’re thinking right about now. IHOP is fine. It’s decent diner breakfast. They have great hash browns3Seriously though. IHOP is the only place I get hash browns from.. But to say IHOP is the best place to eat in an area either indicates that you’re really in the mood for pancakes or that the food in that area is terrible. In Tampa’s case, it’s the latter.

I try to order food for delivery most of the time when I’m travelling for work. Although I recognize it costs a bit more to have food delivered, it saves me having to rent a car or get a Lyft to somewhere just to have dinner. I’m glad I rented a car in Tampa, as every place I ordered delivery from took over 90 minutes to bring food to my hotel — even if the place was under two miles away. I get it on Friday and Saturday nights, but a random Wednesday night generally doesn’t have exceptionally long pizza delivery times4As a former pizza delivery driver, I can vouch for this..

As for going out to places, it was rare that I was able to find food that didn’t leave me feeling sick to my stomach afterward. I really wish I had an explanation for why Tampa’s food was so unpleasant to me, even when ignoring wait times. Yet everything I hate aside from IHOP tasted strange. Not strange as in uncommon to me, but strange as in just not good.

I realize this is very much a first world problem. I’m quite fortunate that I’ve been able to travel as much as I have, be it for work or otherwise. I guess my word of advice here is that if you have to go to Tampa for any reason, take a few minutes and pick up some groceries. Your dinner will be much better for it.

What are some of the worst food cities you’ve ever been to? What about the best ones?  Where’s the best place to eat in your hometown? Sound off in the comments.

Precarious

For the second week in a row, you guys get a picture with my post. I feel like I’m turning into Laidig, only with less artistic talent1And no Scottish accent.. I’ve been doing far more travel than I’m used to over the last year, which means I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in airports. Sometimes, that travel leads me to see awesome things, much like the sky pothole in last week’s post. Other times, I run into things that are less well put together.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the worst time to be without power while travelling during the time immediately before your flight. The time leading up to a flight isn’t particularly boarding. After all, even if you get to the airport far earlier than you need to, there are generally televisions everywhere, with at least half of them not tuned to a news station. It’s not difficult to amuse yourself in an airport.

That said, the time leading up to a flight is a significant battery drain on your electronics, should you choose to use them. Considering the fact that many people choose to take advantage of mobile boarding passes, use their cell phones for ride sharing services, or spend their time in airports playing Pokemon Go2I’ve learned that some airports are better than others for Pokemon Go. O’Hare and Newark? Awesome. Cleveland and Las Vegas? Good, but not great. Atlanta? Hit or miss, depending on what terminal you end up in. Sacramento and San Diego? Eh…, good luck keeping that mobile device charged though being at the airport…and the plane ride…and getting through your destination airport…and in the car you’re taking to get to your hotel3Or wherever you’re staying. I’d also like to point out I’ve spent too much time in hotels in the past year..

And so we must rely on airport power outlets to charge up. In a best case scenario, the outlets are open, they function correctly, and they let you charge while taking advantage of airport wifi4Boingo wifi is a joke. Thank you to airports like Cleveland and Sacramento that give free wifi.. Sometimes, that leaves you in a situation where you have to use a not-so-stellar outlet like the one I had to use before my last trip.

I’m sure there’s some sort of deep life lesson in the balancing act my laptop’s power cord is performing. It’s probably something about how no matter how close to the edge life seems, just keep hanging on and doing your job. Eventually, you’ll find a place where you fit in better, no matter how precarious your position seems. That’s probably the lesson. I prefer a different lesson though.

Always bring enough spare batteries to power a small city.

Sky Pothole

A few weeks ago, as I was flying from Ohio to California via Las Vegas, I snapped the following picture over southwestern Nebraska.

I’m usually pretty good at cloud identification from the ground, but I honestly have no idea why this phenomenon occurred. I took the picture while sitting on a flight at an extremely early hour of the morning, with a row all to myself. You’d be surprised how few people take flights to Las Vegas at 530 in the morning.

By visiting Las Vegas en route to California — in addition to hitting Atlanta on the trip back — I’ve managed to hit one of my 30 for 30 goals just a couple of months late. I’ve now been to over half of the states of the United States.

As I look over everywhere I’ve been, nearly all of the states I’ve visited have been for work reasons. Whether it’s travelling for a job I was working for or moving for a new job, I’ve been to around 20 states on this map for the first time because of work. I recognize I’m very fortunate for this to be the case. Being able to see a good portion of the country I live in has calmed my desire for travel to non-US locations, even though I’d still love to go places.

It’s rare anymore to have a relatively quiet flight. On said flight to Las Vegas, I had two entire rows to myself. I spent the first half of the flight working on my current story project, while the second half of the flight was devoted to re-playing Pokemon Gold.

The last time I had a flight this empty, it was my first flight ever, heading from New Jersey to Spain for my study abroad program. That flight set a lot of false expectations for me around how empty planes are supposed to be. But, nearly twelve years later, I finally got a similarly empty plane. Having that time to yourself leaves you lots of time to think. Regardless of whether that time is devoted to writing or to thinking about exactly how sky potholes form, it’s a wonderful change of pace.

Wanted For Immediate Employerment: Somewhere That Fuels Passion

I hate when people say that school — be that high school, college, or some other form of education — doesn’t prepare you for the real world. Categorically, the statement is false. Education teaches us many skills even beyond those we learn in the classroom, such as critical thinking, interpersonal communication, honesty, and compassion1At the very least, if you’re taking school even a little seriously, you get some of this out of school..

That said, there is some validity to the statement. There are a handful of things that schools don’t do a particularly good job of preparing students for the non-school world on. As a rule of thumb, these items are money-driven items that American society puts low value on, yet are critical to being a successful adult. In my estimation, that list includes, but is not limited to, the following items.

  • Money management/balancing a checkbook
  • Interviewing
  • Job searching
  • Not being a jerk to people on the internet
  • Developing relationships with people you don’t see in person (think telecommuters or companies that have many interconnected offices globally)

I want to use today’s post to talk about the third item on that list. Hunting for a job is a surprisingly stressful part of adult life. With the explosion of technology over the last decade and a half, the way employees look for a job, as well as the way companies search for potential employees, has changed drastically.

The way I got my first job was pretty much the same way my dad and my grandfather got their first jobs. I walked into the pizza shop down the road from my house, asked if they were hiring, filled out an application, interviewed, and got hired. With no experience and minimal in terms of marketable skills, I managed to land my first job at the age of 14 the same way people I knew had done so in the 1970s and 1950s. I had a similarly easy experience looking for my next two jobs. I got a job in my college dorm at age 18 and a job as a cook in a restaurant at age 20 via the exact same method.

To be clear, all three of those situations came before the era of Indeed, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, and other job boards dominating the job hunting market. But I was still proud of getting them. I really didn’t care what I was doing at the time. I was happy to be able to have money to pay bills. I wasn’t about to let myself end up in a situation where I couldn’t support myself2Or others in my life in the future, which was, stunningly, a thought on my mind at age 14..

It’s been about 16 years since I got my first job. The job searching experience has grossly changed since then. While you could (I’m certain) still walk into some businesses and try to get a job the same way I did when I was 14, the more practical and prudent thing to do is to review online job boards or company websites to look for jobs. This isn’t necessarily a bad change. A major advantage to the job board culture is the ability for job seekers to be exposed to companies and jobs they would never have otherwise heard of without that technology.

There are, however, a couple of major problems with the job board culture. For whatever reason, most companies don’t put salary or salary ranges on job postings online. I can’t imagine what the companies are trying to avoid by doing that3Wage discrimination lawsuits. It’s wage discrimination lawsuits.. This has slowed down my own personal job search drastically, as many companies write their job descriptions for people that have more experience than what they’re actually looking for. Which is fine. You’re not going to get the perfect candidate more often than not, so aim high so that you still get the things you need if you fall short. But it’s incredibly disheartening as a job seeker to get into the interviewing process only to find out that a job requiring 3-5 of job-field experience only pays entry level salary4For non-US readers, in the US, it is often considered unprofessional to ask about salary for a job prior to the offer letter stage. I learned this the hard way a couple of years ago when a company told me they wouldn’t be continuing the interview process because I asked about salary during the HR screening..

The second, and arguably more important thing, missing from most job board postings is why the job matters. I realize that having a passion for what you do isn’t a draw to a job for some people. As an interviewer, I’ve had people tell me that they’re looking for a job for a paycheck and nothing more. And that’s fine. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I also recognize that people have their own motivations and needs. What’s important to the person sitting across the table from me in an interview, regardless of which side of the interview I’m on, is not necessarily the same thing that’s important to me.

That very fact also makes job searching incredibly difficult. As a job seeker, you can’t just go to a job posting and figure out if most positions are going to make you feel good about what you do purely from reading the job description. Granted, some positions make it completely obvious whether or not you’re doing the right thing at the job you’re applying for. But in most situations, it’ll require more research to determine if the company you’re considering applying to is ethical, responsible, charitable, or whatever you’re looking for in an employer. You should be researching companies you’re considering working for anyway. It’s the responsible thing to do as a job seeker. But to not see those factors in a job posting makes the job seeker’s path much harder5Nevermind the fact that job postings are still a bit of marketing from a company. They want to put their best foot forward to attract the best talent possible. If this means not mentioning your company’s flaws, that’s not misleading, that’s responsible marketing. Remember rule #2 of this blog: Everything is marketing..

So how do you, as a job seeker, find a job that fulfills your passion? I really wish I had a good answer to give, especially after making you read 1000 words already before getting to that question6Let’s be real though. If you’re still reading at this point, you like long-form reads. I don’t do non-long-form pieces, at least not generally.. I’m going through my own job search now — and have been for a few months now — and I’ve yet to find a job that screams ‘You will care about this’ to me. Of course, by the time this posts, that could change7I tend to write my posts 3-6 weeks in advance, as I only (usually) have one post go up a week. So I’m writing this in mid-October.. But as of when I’m writing it, not so much.

I want to care about what I do. I want to feel like what I do has a positive impact on people — be it those I work with directly or those that my company works with directly. I want the company I work for to be transparent and honest about its directives and actions, as well as its purpose. That’s not to say previous or current companies I’ve worked for have or haven’t done this. That said, I do know what I want in the future. And it’s hard to find. Especially since there’s no job board for employees seeking work with purpose.