Starting Over

Not going to lie, I’m pretty scared of how this will actually turn out.

I have just scrapped a writing project I’d been working on for four years (how did it take that long??) and started it over because it would work better as a modern story rather than a fantasy.

I realised that there were so many themes at play in the project that keeping it as a fantasy story was actually distracting from the theme. I wanted to tell a more relatable story and having “ye old time” dialogue just simply wasn’t doing it for me.

It’s scary to scrap it at this point because I’d had already gone so far (over 200,000 words!) into the plot. Although the last 100,000 so words of it was pretty much garbage because I had been hating the story while still forcing myself to work on it.

So far I am enjoying the new start. Whether it’s just the excitement from working on a “new” project or actually having something that works is still hard to tell. But hopefully it’s the latter.

 

Deer In Headlines

That’s how I feel right now. My decision to quit my job without having a new job was made abruptly, and I don’t regret it. But I still can’t stop myself from feeling the terror of unemployment.

How will I take care of myself?

Sure, I have a family, a husband who loves me and supports me in my decisions. I have a roof over my head and food to eat.

But what if I didn’t have any of those things? What if those things suddenly disappeared tomorrow? Then what would I do and where would I be? It feels strange to know that I am this close to homelessness.

Well. I did leave my job with some savings. I wasn’t totally crazy. I also do have some prospects I am trying to look into. But the terrifying thought of being unproductive as a citizen of the world simply does not go away.

Unproductive. What a word. The very idea that I am not turning today’s 8 hours worth of work into money that would then sustain me as me being unproductive… how did it come to this? When did we begin weighing our value in work and money?

Whatever happened to doing the work because we enjoyed it? Whatever happened to just having enough to live on and actually living our lives?

My father’s CEO voice in my head is asking me, “how dare you pull out of the Rat Race at merely 31 years old? Get back in there and keep going!”

It felt strange today not to commute to work in the morning to work. Not to sit down at a desk I’d been sitting at for five months (five months! was it really only that long?) and clearing tickets.

Tickets. A word to summarize the endless demands from people who supposedly pay our bills. I got used to measuring my days based on how many tickets we closed. In this last job, I became jaded. I didn’t bother getting to know the clients. I knew none of them. Their names and the names of their companies all blended into one giant demanding monster. All of the requests were the same; their website looked ugly. The site went down. They broke another page trying to edit it.

Meanwhile in other parts of the world, people are actually dying. They are being bombed and people are losing loved ones here and there. Real human suffering is taking place all of the time while people over here worry about how their website looks and how much business and money they’ve lost because the color of their navigation menu is not the same green they originally wanted.

How did we get here?

Allowing Your Clients to Drive Your Product

From my years working with SaaS platforms, I have noticed one common trend; the danger of Software as a Service to slowly become Software as a Slave.

At the rate that technology is advancing, the public is generally under the assumption that there is nothing that code cannot do. While that may be true, clients and owners alike should understand that in programming and software development, like astronomy, is an on-going science.

This means that while the limits of what we can do with software is unlimited; much of it may still be unknown. There are consistently new programming languages developed, for example, the recent emergence of Sass, or Syntactically Awesome Stylesheets, saw a great improvement in webpage load speed.

So why is it important for those running a SaaS company to be aware of the common misconceptions of what technology can do?

Software as a Service is generally set up as a pay per use product. This means that your business is no longer just about signing up an account and getting that one time (or maybe two payments) squared away after project goes live; Software as a Service is about maintaining an on-going relationship with your clients and being “open” to their requests and needs.

This means that as a salesperson or an account manager at a SaaS company with a global platform, your job is to set your client’s expectations of the CURRENT limits of technology. To your clients, YOU are the expert. While you may come across high maintenance clients who think that you have computer wizards up your sleeve who can deliver anything they could possibly want, it is still your job to educate these clients on what is currently possible and what is not.

In my time working with SaaS companies, always in Projects or Support presence, I have seen account managers or sales being talked into promising features and functions that cannot be deliverable within the time frame given. As a result, the company as a whole receives the reputation of a company that cannot deliver quality on-going service.

At that certain point, the company has to make a choice and change their business model to letting development drive improvement rather than relying solely on client requests. At that time it would benefit the business to invest in Research in technical advancements so that the company is advancing its technologies on its own without relying on client prompts.

After all, it is better to have a service ready before clients even hear about it rather than to have your clients tell you they want something that you don’t already have. It is also better for the growth of your company to rely on internal structure rather than solely on customer needs.

Impulse Buy = Shopaholic?

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Am I a shopaholic?

According to some online tests, I may be.

I had an uncomfortable argument with the TubHubs this morning about discretionary spending and how I am prone to impulse buy.

Impulse Buying is a habit I admit to. It was always easy to cop to because I can just say, “at least I’m not in debt”.

Not being in debt is not the same as having substantial savings, though. 

When I was still in school, it was easy to blame the lack of savings on tuition and student loans. I was one of the biggest whiners about how expensive tuition was and how my education was the ONLY REASON I didn’t have any money left over.

After student loans were paid off a couple years ago, I told myself that I’ll need to start seriously saving. I was able to keep the ‘rainy-day fund’ going, but beyond that I didn’t make much head way. The excuse I made then was that I couldn’t possibly save large sums of money because of the wage cuts I took. In reality, it was because I was spending frivolously.

While I did realise the problem a while ago, I never really seriously looked at how to curb my impulse buy habit. Now that I have no distractions, I forced myself to spend some time researching theories and ideas behind shopping addiction.

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Shopping Addiction Symptoms, Causes, and Effects – Seriously, this article actually exists. There are actually drugs that you can take in order to curb your impulses (it’s the same drug they prescribe for Alzheimers).

Though, based on the list provided there of “Are you a shopaholic?”, I don’t really compare. I don’t have financial hardship, and I don’t feel a ‘euphoric rushes or anxiety’ when I’m shopping.

That article annoyed me more than I thought it would. It felt like another way for drug companies to tell you that you need drugs to curb your behavior. I need behavior tools, not mental state altering chemicals.

After some more research, I found this blog: The Simple DollarThere is an article there listing 10 tools to help you prevent impulse buying. It seems like something that was more doable.

Tool number 6 really caught my eye.

6. Calculate the value in life energy

If you’ve been a reader of The Simple Dollar for long, you know about how to calculate your true hourly wage. Keep that number handy, and the next time you want to buy something, divide the price of the item by your true hourly wage … this will tell you how many hours of your life you had to give up to buy that item. Sometimes the number of hours can be eye-opening, especially for more expensive items. Consider whether you really want to give up that much of your life for that item.

Then I went on to read about the “true hourly wage” he mentioned. I went through and made a spreadsheet to calculate my actually hourly wage.

To get your actual hourly wage, you take your annual salary, deduct tax, then deduct any expenses related to work such as childcare, lunch, commute, etc. Then you take that annual number and divide it by the actual hours you are working through the year. 

Here is the assumption I had (and probably most people had) based on googling annual salary to hourly:

The average, full-time, salaried employee works 40 hours a week. Based on this, the average salaried person works 2,080 (40 x 52) hours a year. To determine your hourly wage, divide your annual salary by 2,080. If you make$75,000 a year, your hourly wage is$75,000/2080, or $36.06.

So making 75 grand is pretty great, right? …. NOT.

When I plug in 75,000 as the annual salary into the spreadsheet I made, here is what I got:

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Notice that my Work deductions are LOW. I don’t have childcare, and I have a cheap commute (transit). I included clothing/vanity for office appropriate clothing (that I otherwise would never buy) and make up (that I otherwise would not need to wear). My tax deductions are based on the Australian income tax rate.

Still, my actual hourly income on $75,000/year is really only $22-23/hour.

So I sat here and let that sink in for a bit. When I consider that I’m only making around $20 an hour, that really puts a damper on impulse shopping. Now instead of just thinking about what I can afford, I should be thinking about what I can afford after savings.

There are other great tips in this article, but number 6 caught my eye as it speaks directly to how I think.

Thanks, The Simple Dollar. I’m now a little bit more money-savvy. I hope.

Leaving

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It’s now less than two weeks before we leave.

Over the past weekend, we’ve packed all our things in the shipping crate. Then we squeezed the rest of our portable things together into 4 large suitcases and 1 carry-on.

The house we lived in the for the past three years is now empty. It already feels like someone else’s home.

I was saying to Jamie earlier this morning–the more empty the house becomes, the more displaced I feel.

I am terrified. I foolishly believed I had grown up, that this childish fear of rootlessness had been conquered when I first moved to USA. I was wrong. Moving to USA from Canada isn’t really moving. You’re still on the same continent. You can still travel between USA and Canada on your own two feet if you really wanted to go home desperately. If there was a end-of-the-world apocalypse, I could get to Canada without a plane.

Moving to Australia from here… I can’t come back easily. I can’t just jump into the ocean and end up back home. Of course practically I can fly back to Canada, but really, how often are you going to go home if you have to make such a long trip?

The mature side of me would argue that Jamie is my ‘home’ now. Selfishly, I need more than that. I need more than a person. People can leave you, but stuff can’t. Things can’t just get up on their own, decide you’re not good enough, and walk out of your life.

It’s ridiculous to feel this way. I know the Hows and Whys. Fear of displacement, abandonment–all common things to suffer from when one is the product of a dysfunctional family.

I even have the tools (writing about it is one of them) I need to help me stop feeling this way. I know how to talk myself down, I know how to remind myself that I’m an adult and that childish fears and resentments don’t dictate my life now.

I guess knowing how to fix something doesn’t make me stop hating the idea that I need repairs to begin with. The knowledge that I will always feel like this is frustrating. Yes, it’d be the adult thing to do to learn and accept our short-comings and lots in life–but that doesn’t mean I can’t complain about it.

 

Job Hunt

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Even though I know I’ll have a job in Sydney, I can’t help but wonder what else is out there.

So I start job hunting for the first time in 4 years. I can’t fathom why it’s much more stressful than I remember.

I mean–if anything, it should feel easier, shouldn’t it? I’m older, I have more work experience, and I know what I want.

But that’s just it. Knowing exactly what type of job I want and knowing what I’m worth are the exactly why job hunting is more stressful than I remember.

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When I was younger, I believed in my own skills less. I felt young and hopeless and I was willing to believe anyone else’s estimations of me. Job hunting in my twenties felt just like Halloween–I’m going from job to job, dressed up like an adult when I feel like a kid. I’m holding out my empty bag of hopes and dreams and just asking random strangers to give me something I normally don’t deserve.

Yet another aspect of why job hunting now is more stressful: I am more of a realist now. Four years ago, I was looking for ANY job. I didn’t care what job I had, because in my mind, I was a writer. I was going to be a writer on my own and whatever job I got to pay the bills really didn’t matter, because I didn’t have to care about enjoying it. I blindly believed I could do both; I could work in a professional field for a living and still accomplish the personal writing goals I set out to do.

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But… four years later, I haven’t made much progress, writing-wise. I do my daily word limits like a good little self-starter. I’ve created some interesting short stories in this time. Overall though, my big writing projects haven’t gone very far. There are a million excuses when you work a day job.

  • I’m too tired thinking about my work that I actually get paid for.
  • My brain is frazzled from my paid work.
  • I need down time from my paid work.

The excuses for not having completed personal writing goals are endless when you actually care about your day job.

It’s depressing, because now that I’m (kind of) an adult, I know better. I know that caring about one’s day job is impossible to avoid. Being a kid, even a young adult, you really have no accurate understanding of what might happened to you if you quit your day job. You have no one counting on you to put food on the table at the end of the day.

So here is where I admit: it’s not possible to care less about my day job. I have to care. Caring means more stress. And that’s okay. Being an adult means I have to stress. Maybe having all these things to stress about will make me a better writer.

Caring about my day job doesn’t have to mean that I just throw in the towel on what I want to achieve with writing; it just means that it’ll be more difficult for me to do, but it’s not impossible. I just have to push myself harder.

Perhaps this is why J.M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan–to help him (or others) deal with the realities of adulthood.

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Opening A Bank Account

I had no idea that you can open a bank account now without walking into a bank.

You don’t even have to be in the country yet. 

I just opened an Australian bank account, in preparation for moving there. The online application took me 5 minutes to complete online.

Of course, it’s still pending approval. I’m still in disbelief that this could happen, so I’m guessing it might not happen.

Fingers crossed.

A Strange Pride

My little brother is visiting us this week. I haven’t really seen my brother away from home, ever. I’ve only ever spent time with him in the scenery of our childhood home, where he is a most relaxed non-adult (playing games, watching TV).

I’m shocked by how mature he is. Sure, he’s almost 23 now and he most likely believes he’s an adult like all 23 year olds believe they are when they’re really not… but my brother is actually behaving like an adult, unlike most 23 year olds.

I’m used to my brother asking me for help with the usual adult things; things like doing taxes, booking trips, applying to classes, calling the Visa company (he really did ask me once how to call the Visa company…). This was when I was still living in Vancouver and still just a half hour trip away from home.

One of the only things that made leaving Vancouver difficult was having to leave my brother. I felt that I was leaving him alone to “brave the adult world” on his own with no help. TubHubs often says I coddle my brother. I feel that I need to at least be available because I knew how terrifying it is to grow up without an adult you can go to for questions, or even just have a person to go to to affirm that you’ve made the right choices for yourself.

I was that person for my brother. He told me everything about his life and asked for my advice on life choices. He relied on me to help him navigate the tricky years between being a teenager with no responsibilities and becoming an adult who has to deal with his own shit. I like being that person.

 

Having my brother here this week, I’ve already seen various instances of things he’s already done that he normally would have asked my help for.

I don’t feel that I’ve “lost” anything. I just feel proud. In place of being the person that he expects to help him with everything, I’m now just the person he asks for advice from. I remember the last time he called me about something. He started the conversation with this line: “I already know what I want to do in this situation, so I don’t want you to convince me otherwise. I just need to talk about it because I don’t know how to feel about it.”

The emotional maturity of that statement really threw me, at the time. He knew when he had gone beyond the point of needing my influence, and he told me this clearly. He then told me, clearly, that he needed to talk to me about it because he needed help understanding how he feels.

I have no idea where the time has gone. There is a series of photos of him when he was 2 years old. He’s standing in diapers in front of a book case, his hair is everywhere. In the first of the series, he’s scratching his head. In the photos following, his expression changes from curiosity to a open smile as he stumbles towards the photographer.

I took those photos on a Sunday afternoon, out of boredom. They’re still my favorite pictures of him.

 

Late Night Phone Calls

I got quite a scare the other night. It was 9 pm, I had settled in for the night, reading a book. My phone rings, which is odd in itself because no one ever calls me, and no one calls me at 9 pm.

Getting a call at 9 pm for me is like the average person getting a call at 2 am–you immediately think the worst has happened.

I look at my phone, caller ID says “Mom Cell”. Now I’m torn. She never calls me directly from her cell; she’d never pay the long distance for that. Do I pick up? My immediate reaction is to let it go to voicemail. So I do.

As soon as I’ve decided that, I regret it. What if someone was in an accident? My brothers, my dad? That would be the only reason my mom would pay long distance for.

The voicemail icon pops up on my phone. I listen to it. At first it sounds like pocket dial, but that doesn’t seem right; she’s speaking directly into the phone. You can’t pocket dial someone and then speak directly into the phone. She’s saying something about “hey you–” and then is cut off. I listen to the voicemail twice to see if there was anything else.

It doesn’t take much for me to call her back. I’m now worried and curious. She picks up the phone and says a tentative “hello?” as if she doesn’t know who’s calling.

I forget that she doesn’t have my Skype number. She called me directly on my AT&T number, and I called her from Skype.

“Hey! Ma! You called me.”

“Oh! It’s you! Haha. I am at dinner with my friends and they wanted to see a photo of you so I pulled up your contact in my phone to show them your contact photo, but it called you somehow.”

“Oh. Okay.”

She goes on to tell me random things a mother would tell you about her life if she hasn’t heard from you in a while. I say ‘okay’ to everything and then we hang up. (The quickest way to end a conversation with a talkative person you don’t want to talk to is with one word replies).

I don’t think about the phone call until now. It occurs to me that I am just as terrified as any normal person would be at the thought of something happening to their family. This is good. I had assumed that I would be apathetic to their plight, because of all that’s happened.

Secondly, I dread talking to my mother, even as an adult. I thought it was something I would have grown out of by now, but I haven’t.

Thirdly, despite what she’s done, and all the negative things she’s said to us, she is somehow still proud of us–proud enough to tell her friends about her kids.

This is a new thing–empathizing with my mother to this degree. I think about her when she was my age and I think of her as just a person, rather than just my mother.

I think of her having some of the same self-doubts I have now, the same worries. Whether she’s made the right choices, whether she would be happier doing something else. I wonder about how she felt about my father, and how she could have fallen out of love with him. She must have loved him at one point, right? I wonder how she chose to stay married to a person she no longer loved.

I wonder whether she felt suffocated. In her marriage, in being a mother. She’s told us all, many times before, that she “never wanted any of this”. Our father never forgave her for that. He believes, like most people do, that you should never tell young children you don’t want them–even if it’s true.

What choice did she have, though? I don’t remember her having any friends when we were young. We didn’t have much money, so she couldn’t participate in many of the social things she could have done as a parent with two young children. So who else was she to voice her thoughts and feelings? She had a husband who reprimanded her for feeling suffocated, who never really emotionally supported her through anything.

My dad loves us. He loves the family life. It’s unfathomable to him that anyone could feel anything other than grateful for their children.

She must have felt so alone, in that situation. She must have felt like a monster. She lived in a society that was changing–following in America’s foot-prints: children are everything! Having a family and being the best mother you can be are the the most important things you will ever do!

I begin to see how her life must have been. She couldn’t talk to her sisters about how she felt. Most of them were mothers themselves, and while they weren’t all in happy marriages, they were all grateful for their children. One of them was even barred from seeing her children… so how would it seem to her, for my mom to go to her and complain about what burdens her children are?

When my mother was arrested for essentially being a bad mother (she got caught hitting my brother), her sisters came to be individually and said things like, “we always knew that she wasn’t a good mother. We were all so worried for you kids.”

That says very clearly to me that there is no way my mother could have went to her judgmental sisters for how she was feeling. They would have just painted her as a monster, and made her feel worse.

The thing is, it shouldn’t be that uncommon, to feel what my mother felt. It probably wasn’t that uncommon. Talking about it was frowned upon, though. Talking about anything related to motherhood in a negative light was frowned upon. Instead they were taught to “eat bitterness” because that’s what their mothers and their grandmothers did before them. They are taught to “learn their place”. In fact, if you complained about anything you had to do, even if you still did it, that was seen as a weakness of character and you must have been raised with a lack of morals.

I hope society has changed from that, now. I hope I can talk about why it sucks to have kids when I do have kids. I hope I won’t be judged for sharing my feelings. I hope I won’t feel like I have to just keep these things to myself because it’s “horrible” to talk about it.

Because it’s perfectly normal to love your kids, and not to love the work that comes with them. I love the hamster I had, but I didn’t enjoy cleaning out his cage. Who would enjoy scrubbing up hamster pee-mixed wood mush? I did it despite hating it because I loved Sir Roderick enough to want him to have a comfortable home.

If my mother had been allowed to speak her mind without feeling like an outcast, even to her husband, I believe she wouldn’t have taken it out on us. It seems like my brother and I were the only people she could really talk to; we were there all of the time, and we were too young to have any of the adult opinions that would have made her feel like a horrible person.

In the end, I feel bad for her. She has friends now, and she’s close to her sisters–but she doesn’t have us. That is pretty sad.

I hope one day I do grow out of not wanting to talk to her. I hope one day I would be emotionally intelligent enough to help repair what she broke.