Month: December 2015

So This Was Christmas

So the holiday has come and gone and I feel like a post-Christmas-post is mandatory.  I suppose that alone shows that on some level, the holiday has meaning to me.  Last year’s post was admittedly non-festive, but left the hope of the holiday spirit in the hands of the children.  This year, after a hard year, the holidays didn’t bring anything special except the reminder that things are getting better for 2016… and that the holidays are about family.

The man I work for had right around thirty guests in his home for the holidays this year – all of them extended family of some sort.  As both his Executive and Personal Assistant I was naturally involved in a great deal of the holiday arrangements: A large tree, gifts for both family and clients, and decking out his mansion in massive amounts of light and ribbon. In execution it was fun.  I met a ton of great people and observed a close family coming together for the holidays.  The house was festive, the tree was beautiful, stockings were hung, junk food was abundant, and christmas music often played in the background (fortunately only when we had guests.)  But the thing about being The Assistant in any case – holidays or otherwise – is that you are a part of everything but at the same time you’re always separated… always in the grey area.

2015-12-18 17.57.02

No Seriously… this is the house. (Next year we’ll do some lasers.)

It’s an enlightening self-study, to see what the effect of seeing an “ideal” and somewhat traditional family Christmas has on me.  Further it reinforced to me that Christmas is indeed a matter of family in my mind, and without it the “holiday spirit” simply doesn’t hold up.  I watched this group of people who were familiar in ways only a close family can be, and I realized that the concept is nearly alien to me.  To be honest there are maybe a handful of people in the entire world that I trust on that level, and out of them probably only two are actually related to me.  And yes, I know, family isn’t about blood relation.  I’ve had many surrogate family members in my time thus far.  Some have endured, many have not, but regardless my family is something that I still need to build… and I haven’t the slightest idea how or when (or with whom) that will happen.

The above sounds whiney… it’s not really meant to.  If anything, it’s hopeful.  I know it’s entirely possible for me to get into the spirit of Christmas, and I even know how.  As usual it’s a matter of patience and making sure I have myself in a position to do it right.  The majority of 2015 was an (arguably necessary) step backwards, but I learned a lot in the process about standing my ground and knowing what my priorities are. Even my current role is already teaching me a great deal about my motivations and where I want to be.  Truthfully I’m not certain in the long-term it will get me there, but for now it’s the balance I’ve sought through many months of barely scraping by, and I’m grateful for that.

2015-12-10 13.29.46-1

That’s all the holiday spirit you get from me this year.

Also, my Christmas wasn’t bad. I wasn’t alone, it just wasn’t a huge production. The budget was (by necessity) very, very low and I gave little and received little (though to be honest what I received was way cooler than what I was able to give.)  This is all very okay though, I like giving and I kind of suck at gracefully receiving (unless we’re talking in the bedroom… but this is Christmas post, get your head out of the gutter.) To be honest I was grateful that it was what it was and not something far worse.  I have been fortunate that the final month of this year has set up for a vastly improved 2016.  Had I not (finally) gotten some very good options and offers for work in the last couple of months, Christmas might very well have been a dark day for me.

But in the meantime, this year I was a first-hand witness to the sort of ideal Christmas I hope to someday have.  But in order to have that I have a lot of building and developing to do, the least of which involves finding somebody to share that building with.  I suppose it’s entirely possible that things won’t turn out the way I hope and a completely different set of circumstances will bring back the holiday spirit for me.  At least at the moment I can say that although that specific spirit currently eludes me, my personal spirit does not.  As of now I have the hope that can find it, build it,  or make it… one way or another.  But that’s the beginning of the spirit, of anything good really: hope.

Advertisements

You Don’t Have To “Follow Your Dreams”

“What do you want to do?”  “What do you want to be?”  “What’s your passion?” “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “What do you dream of being?”

Rich.  And Happy.  With Kids.

Oh, you want to know how?  Well fuck off, I don’t know.  Except I do, and that is: whatever I can do that will get me there while keeping me happy, letting me live my life, and allowing me to keep my dignity intact/stay true to myself.

I suppose that’s awfully specific for somebody that doesn’t know, but as a thirty-six year old single male that achieved “full yuppie”, and then spent months unemployed until just recently, I’ve had a lot of experience and a fair amount of time to mull this over.  What I figured out is that all those questions above seem encouraging and productive, but they can, in fact, be exactly the opposite.  They can demotivate and even create insecurity where there doesn’t need to be any.

Napping Guy Disappointed Girl

Obviously they had different priorities…

The thing is, some people have dreams when they are little, but as we grow, we change and (hopefully) so do our priorities.  When we’re kids, a lot of us really hate taking naps.  Sleep is so boring!  But years later, as an adult, nap time is a close second (and let’s face it, depending on the person, it’s possibly not second) to the horizontal mambo.  We grow, we learn, priorities change, and so does what we dream of.

When I was a young boy, I wanted to be a fighter pilot so badly that I studied different aircraft, their capabilities, their combat roles, and even the engines that powered them and who made them.  I thought the SR-71 Blackbird was the coolest thing in the world.  I grew up, took the ASVAB, aced it, and made the Marines love me (yes, I know I should’ve talked to the Air Force first, but that Staff Sergeant talked a good game.)  They told me I could take my pick of assignments between the AV-8B Harrier II (the jet that can take off vertically and hover) or the F-18 Hornet (The fastest and most maneuverable mainstream fighter the US produced at the time.) I was sold on the F-18 and made a soft commitment to enlist   I trained with Staff Sergeant Johnson to prepare for boot camp while learning more and more about the program.  It would entail military “basic” school, the Naval Academy, and then Flight School specializing (in my case) in fixed-wing aviation.  The long and the short of this was a minimum of a fourteen year commitment once I signed on the dotted line.  And when that day came, my eighteen-year-old self thought about my friends, my girlfriend, and the person I thought I would become, and I walked away (Sorry Staff Sergeant Johnson.)  Once I got realistic about my childhood dream, I didn’t want it any more, and that as okay.

41pHhTBIl6L._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_

Most dreams seem to involve mountains and sunsets…

But especially in recent years, society has moved to this obsession with goals/dreams.  People who don’t have a specific one are in danger of being labeled as unfocused, distracted, lacking direction, drifters, or any number of relatively negative terms.  This, in turn, can make people who don’t really have a specific dream feel insecure about the lack of that dream.  They can begin to think there might be something wrong with them and feel like they need to invent a “passion” to define themselves.  This can have the opposite effect, and lead to an abundance of wasted time pretending to care about something that is ultimately unfulfilling.  Such a situation is much more common that we might think and can easily lead to a number of psychological issues.  Ironically, inventing your passion is a very effective way of stifling a real passion you may not know you have yet.

For instance, I remember looking at characters in movies that weren’t the good or bad guy, but were the “right-hand man” and thinking “That would be neat… I could totally be THAT guy rather than the main good/bad guy.”  It wasn’t a dream, it was just a respect for that sort of person that I identified with passively. A couple of decades later that’s the majority of my recent professional experience.  Even better is that I (generally) like it and have made as much, or more than most of the people I know who are “following their passions”.  I never thought to myself  “Someday I’m going to be this awesome Executive Assistant!” but by being open to it and accepting the natural evolution of my career in that direction, I realized that I was, in fact, actualizing something I had passively envisioned more than a few times.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on people who have and follow their dreams.  I have a ton of respect for them.  Many of my very close friends have pursued their dreams and passions and are reaping the rewards of their dedication over the years.  They worked hard, put in their time, (most) suffered to some degree, and are rewarded by the option of doing what they always wanted to do.  But that’s not everyone, and more importantly it doesn’t have to be everyone.  We have to dispel the idea that dreams = life success.  They can most certainly create motivation to succeed, but they are not a requirement.  There are a number of other ways to motivate yourself.

417aba25d1ec0683fd3895dfa3544e06

And that’s OKAY!

Achievement and/or success often breeds motivation, and sometimes it takes a whole lot of trying things and failing to find it.  Further, you may very well find that what you succeed at is something you never even considered before.  That’s where business roles that I call “tool” types come from.  They aren’t what you typically think of when you dream of what you want to become.  Therefore they often aren’t “visionaries” or well-known business leaders.  But instead of having their own dream, they enable/assist the dreamers in order to grow and take their visions to whole new levels.

Maybe you never dreamed of being an accountant, but you find you’re naturally good at it, and it rewards you well leading to job satisfaction and general financial success.  That process can make people pretty happy.  The same can be said for what I do as an Executive Assistant.  I get to live vicariously through extremely successful CEOs, Inventors, Celebrities and other notable dreamers.  I am compensated well and often enjoy a number of (expensive) fringe benefits without the drawbacks of being imbalanced as said visionaries often are (out of necessity really.) I stay balanced and I help to balance them, leading to a great deal of personal and job satisfaction.

There are countless roles that can lead to professional success as an “enabler” or “tool”.  So I’m not saying don’t dream, I’m just saying that if you don’t have a specific dream, don’t stress it.  Provide for yourself (and those you need to provide for) and take pride in that accomplishment.  Just keep trying to improve yourself.  Try things, fail (more than) a few times if you need to, and focus on what you want for yourself.  You don’t have to have a direction  as long as you keep yourself moving forward in some way.  Keep making your own path, cutting through the jungle of life and you might just find that you look up and discover something that you or nobody else had thought of yet. Accidents like that have made a lot of people both rich and happy.