March 31, 2012

I Get By

Maybe it's being American, maybe it's just me, but it's really difficult to be truly happy unless I'm doing something I love, or at least believe in. The majority of Americans hate their jobs and slave away because we have mortgages and dependent children (or at least rent and car payments and a princess cat) and it may be because we're told from a very young age that we can do anything we want, that all we have to do is figure out what we want to do and sure enough we'll find a way to make a living doing it. We hear stories of people who teach dogs to surf for a living, people who review restaurants and clubs for a living, people who find their niche, find a product or company or idea they can get behind and end up not just making a living or getting by but doing well. These people exist as a shining example to the rest of us that our mediocre jobs and mediocre paychecks don't have to be forever, that if we want something bad enough all we have to do is go get it.

But what it really feels like is a taunt. These people just show us that we will always be miserable because we did not luck out- we did not meet that eclectic investor who took a fancy to us on the beach and funded our start-up dog surfing company, because someone else was slightly more qualified than we were, because someone's niece or cousin was applying for the same job we were, and perhaps most of all because at the end of the work day the last thing we want to do is think about the jobs we don't have.

I recently met with a trainer at the gym I joined to discuss my goals, which is to run my next half marathon in less than 2 hours. I said that on a scale of 1 to 10 as to how committed I was to this goal I was an 8. I have no idea why I put that. I'm really more like a 5, as in I do really want to beat that time but I don't realistically think I can do so. Why? From 730 in the morning to about 7 at night my time is work or work related: getting ready in the morning, commuting, working, lunch break (in which I sit in my car), cleaning my lunch box, and preparing food for the next day. Add stopping at the gym on my way home for strength training and some treadmill time and I'm a solid hour plus stretching plus changing time, plus showering once I get home, and that time is only going to increase the more I do street runs that are 6+ miles. By the time I make and eat dinner after a typical day it's at least 9pm and I should be in bed by 11 to get the amount of sleep I want (ha, yeah right).

So, when do I look for that perfect job that I'll do well in, that I care about and that pays enough? The weekends are great, but again that's when I need to be doing those really long runs, when I can see my friends, when I can get some good writing in (I know this blog should really be the last thing I spend time on, in addition to puttering about on the internet, which has slowed to a trickle, but I hate not writing for myself after all day of writing for work), and when I can catch up on the sleep I inevitably miss during the week. Job hunting, tailoring your resume and a cover letter for each position, takes a long time. Plus, my resume needs an overhaul. It's overwhelming.

Every now and then I regret my educational choices and wish I stuck with biology like I planned in high school. Then at least I'd be in a field I was passionate about and could still be writing for myself, maybe with an animal blog. There are three things I'm highly passionate about: animals and the environment, social equality, and food. I want to get my Master's in sociology, but part of me still thinks that won't be enough. I miss working with (or at least among) animals and want very badly to get back to that. But schooling is a very unlikely option because it would require me to essentially start over, making my 4 years in college irrelevant and my 4 years of professional experience completely useless. Plus, by the time I would be ready to get the job I actually want I'd be in my mid 30s with tens of thousands of dollars in debt working in a field that will never pay that off. Knowing that feels hopeless.

There are other things I want that make it impossible for me to take much of a pay cut for that perfect job. I've been frustrated for so long that I still, 4 years out of college and with all of that professional experience under my belt,  have to watch every dollar I spend. The only reason I did the Hot Chocolate Race last week was because a bonus paid for it, but those bonuses are small, very rare and should be going to things like my car. I'm more than ready to be financially set, to stop thinking as soon as I finish paying for this one thing I'll be OK, I desperately need a new computer (and unfortunately only want a shiny, very expensive one), really need a new bed, and really want to take a community college class. Oh, and save for our road trip at the end of summer, start my personal savings so that I'll one day live in a nicer place with a dog, and have a night out every now and then that doesn't involve me picking the cheapest thing on the menu. It feels like a lot, but I also feel like I was promised that going to college would mean all of these dreams coming true, and I don't see how it's going to happen. Those I know who've made some of these things happen are either married and benefitting from their husband's incomes or had a lot of parental financial support. I had/have/wanted neither. But life this way can get frustrating.

A lot of the frustration in all honesty is coming from the current political situation. Every goddamn day I hear how one party is wanting to cut Americans off from health services (don't get me started on the current war on women), how all we need is a good Republican in Washington to clean up the mess, which is the same exact thing the Democrats said 4 years ago to clean up the previous Republican mess, and it's really fucking annoying. Seriously... I've only been paying attention to politics for about 8 years and this will be the third presidential election I've participated in, but I already think nothing is ever going to change. As long as one party is in office the other will blame it for everything that ever goes wrong and will be totally uncooperative just because it can, just because it's jealous that it's not in control. What fucking children. And we elect these people. We elect them because they call themselves Christian, because they play a wonderful game of  us versus them, because they make every promise in the book from January until November and then forget about us completely. It makes me not want to live here anymore so that I don't have to be governed by the most immature people in the world. Cutting school funding so people like me can't help themselves, cutting social services so people worse off than me can't learn to be independent, and giving presents to people better off than me to they can buy Ferrari's (the trickle down idea is behind it all, but who does that really help besides luxury car mechanics?). Unfortunately it's April and we've still got 7 more months of this bullshit to go. I just hope Obama wins and will take some dramatic measures during the next four years to make things a little better without worrying about reelection.

I know this climate isn't going to last forever but I really want it to be over soon. If it's this hard for me it's got to be murder on a lot of other Americans.

Death and Taxes

Now all of these guys are flushed.

After procrastinating for long enough (all the while telling myself it was because I was trying to save up as much as possible, even though it was because I was scared of the 1099 process) I finally did my taxes today.

I gotta hand it to Turbo Tax for being pretty easy to follow. My favorite thing is when they tell you when some option is common or uncommon and then give examples so newbies can figure it out. It cost me $90 and I doubt I got as many deductions as I could have or should have, but I still ended up owing a lot less than I anticipated (helloooooo new MacBook Pro!!!) and got it done within a few hours, so not to shabby. 

However, earlier today, again after a lot of procrastination, I finally changed the water in my fish tank. About half of the water had evaporated over the weeks (it'd been a while since any water was put into it) and I took about another quarter out for a total of three quarters water change, which is about normal. After adding about half of the total amount of tap water in, which has always been fine for my fish since I specifically got hardy ones, I put in a bit of the water purifier. Then I added more tap water and topped it off with a few drops of the purifier. Maybe the tap water was too warm, maybe the fish were old, but the shock of the water change killed my two silver fish.

Fucking nothing is certain but death and taxes.

I'm a little sad because I'd had these guys for a while and kinda thought they were indestructible (I asked the guy at the fish store for fish that were difficult to kill and have been quite pleased with them the last few years), and after adding a couple of more fish to control my exploding snail population the silver fish were no longer kings of the pond. The new fish were bigger, though they were all supposed to live peacefully together, and the silver fish seemed intimidated and not as likely to go after food. It could be me seeing more of the situation than there was, but they looked thin (if fish can look thin). So I'm not really surprised that they died. I do feel bad for them though- I did like them a lot.

One thing is for sure though: I'm not replacing these guys. I'm about ready to be done with the whole having a fish tank thing, especially now that they're getting fed twice a day instead of once (damn spoiled fish) which is fun on weekends, and the new fish are still young so I know they'll be around a while, assuming I don't kill them with water changes. I swear, I kill more fish by changing the tank water than anything else. It must be like desert plants: water them too much and they shrivel up and die.

In other news, the water change has reminded me that I have way too many snails for one fish tank. I need something that eats the adults that won't eat my surviving swimmers.

March 29, 2012

In Which I Am A Stereotype

Also, a girl.

No idea why this was the first girl I thought of.

In a twist that's mostly unlike me I'm feeling extraordinarily insecure about the world, my own life especially. I feel like I'm failing at most things and being mediocre at the rest and that in order to improve in any one area I need to give up another. Between working, training for a half marathon, the two blogs and job searching my time runs out so quickly. I'm tired constantly, have little energy and spending close to 12 hours a day working (or preparing to work) at a job that's emotionally tiring makes my enjoyable evenings fly by. 

It's disgusting how one of my coworker's is being treated and that I'm being used as a pawn to hurt her after I tried to step in and help, it's terrifying how one owner seems to be actively trying to run the company into the ground and it's frustrating to have been there a year with very little positive changes to the company. I don't have the tools to properly do my job, despite asking for them repeatedly, and have been told we're all expendable, which feels awesome. There is a silver lining to my job: I'm now in charge of the company's social media campaign in addition to writing, there are more promises of taking me off phone call duty (we'll see...), and one owner seems to really appreciate me. 

I loved running 15 months ago when I had only a part time job that I didn't have to get up early for and could do my running first thing, which I prefer but am much too tired to motivate myself to get up at 6. Now it's just an hour or more into my night that I could spend relaxing, cooking, cleaning, running errands, and keeping better tabs on this blog. I had more time to plan my meals to fuel my body and help it recover, could eat immediately and then rest after a long run, and had the energy to keep going without stopping for double digit miles. All of that is gone now. But even if I didn't have the blogs or didn't want to spend time with my boyfriend I wouldn't want my life to only consist of working and running- I don't like either that much. I miss when running was fun and having to do it makes it not fun.

On a daily basis I see people who have made their living from their blog or their passion (hell... I'm dating someone who's doing that) and I'm jealous. I read home remodeling blogs at work, follow people making a difference for animals on Facebook, watch my boyfriend become more successful doing what he loves and feel like I put in a lot of effort and time for something I don't care about, something that doesn't matter. I want to care about what I do, I want to work for a company that respects its employees and tries as hard as we do to make it into something great, and I'm not even asking or hoping to make a lot of money... just to sustain myself and live a modest life without worry. 

But a big part of my newfound insecurity is knowing that there are things I definitely want that I may not get. I've always wanted to get my Master's degree and for the last couple of years have wanted to pursue sociology, partially because it's a field I'm interested in that truly matters and partially because pursuing the field I really want is unrealistic, especially in this educational climate. As funds for higher education are being slashed left and right, as kids barely even have the tools they need to learn and compete in the world, my hope for returning to school while working is starting to fade. Classes at community colleges are being cut, which means the prerequisites I would need are few and far between, and student loans are at an all time high. It's not easy to be in school right now, and it's hard to imagine being in school while having a full time job on top of it- I couldn't even do that as a literature major in undergrad. Another thing I've (almost) always  known I wanted is to have someone I could build the kind of life one would build with a life partner (is it weird that "life partner" sounds less awkward than "husband?"), and as I get older I realize more that it's important to me. My sister recently moved in with her long term boyfriend and they got a puppy together, and while I'm exceedingly happy and excited for them both I can't help but hope I have a similar future. The up side is that for the first time in my life I'm with someone who doesn't come with a "but we'll have to break up eventually" addendum. Like the How I Met Your Mother episode, everyone seems to have a "but;" for the longest time that was "but he wants kids," and it's exciting to date without that on the table. But (ha, see?) it's also terrifying to feel strongly about someone else when I know what I want in my life. 

Hopefully the insecurities will fade quickly... taking care of my taxes this weekend will at least get that off my shoulders and if all goes well money won't be as big of an issue (at least I'll be saving for fun things). At the very least my race will be over in 5 weeks and after that I'll be able to look at running and going to the gym in a fun way because I'll want to do it, not because I have to. And, above all else, hopefully a better work opportunity will come my way soon.

March 15, 2012

America Hates Women

Petertopia should never happen.

The United States of America, the greatest country on Earth, land of the free and home of the brave, has it out for women.

We've accepted that women are going to be in the workplace. They haven't shut up about working and voting and having a say in how business is run in this country for 70 years, and they're still having babies and taking care of the house, so we grant them this. And they might as well drive and go to college and own property, cause it just gets complicated when they get all mad that they aren't equal.

But this whole women being in charge of their sexual activity and reproductive rights? Or having either of those two things to begin with?

There are two laws proposed right now that will make it all sorts of fun to be a modern woman. The first is an Arizona law (surprise surprise) that will force women to provide proof to their employers that they are using the birth control their company insurance policies provide for medical purposes that are unrelated to preventing pregnancy. Medical issues such as endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome are treated with hormonal contraception, and Arizona law currently requires employers that provide medical benefits to their employees to include birth control. But not only is that being repealed (meaning health insurance no longer has to cover birth control at all), the new proposal will also make it possible for an employer to fire a woman for using birth control that a company chooses to provide for its intended purpose: preventing pregnancy.

So, religious Arizona employers who are kind enough now to include prescription birth control in their health insurance plans want to make sure that it's only a last resort type of medication, taking advantage of medical side effects. And if you can't or won't prove that you have a life threatening or debilitating medical condition and you're using company provided birth control? Fired.

Fired for not wanting to get pregnant. And being a whore.

If you'd rather keep your job and take the birth control that your company is so gracious to provide (no word on whether there's any sort of cost associated with these health plans, which means women could very well be fired for something they're paying for) all you have to do is provide your private medical records, with proof of your diagnosis and doctor-recommended treatment to your employer. Now your employer will know more about your body than most friends probably do.

No word on whether or not men will have to prove their erectile disfunction to their employers in order to get prescription Viagra.

The other proposed law is actively attacking women and accusing them of child abuse just for being unmarried. The bill proposes that a child being raised by a single mother (not father) is considered to have an abusive living situation. The sponsor of the bill, Donald Pridemore (a Republican, if you can believe that), says that women should not "jump into a divorce" and look at alternatives or try to remember why they got married in the first place. He's quoted as saying the traditional family is in crisis, and this is why what he's calling the child abuse law must exist. If you think about it, he does kind of have a point: we're letting gays marry, women have abortions, and the divorce rate is at an all time high. What is our country coming to?

He also said children living with single mothers are "20 times more likely to be sexually abused" but doesn't say where he found those statistics. I wonder how he believes the fathers of these "abused" children are free from blame: it takes two to get married and it takes two to get divorced, and if courts award sole custody to the mother, what does that tell you about the father? Seriously, this is one step away from making divorce illegal.

These bills come on the heels of two different measures that force women in two different states to have an ultrasound (not the regular kind you see in movies, the up the vagina kind) before going through with an abortion, groups everywhere denying women's right to not get pregnant, and making abortions illegal or incredibly difficult to get in other states. Pretty sure I'm moving to Canada.

March 11, 2012

Three Years of Blogging

I started this blog 3 years ago today (under a different name for a few days, until I settled on this) as a way to keep me focused and sharp during what would become a 3 month period of unemployment. There's certainly been a lot that's happened and changed in three years:

Got 2 jobs at the Wild Animal Park
Broke up with my long term boyfriend
Seriously doubted my faith
Collected unemployment insurance
Moved out of my wonderful studio
Changed my phone number
Lived with a friend
Lived with a crazy person
Had an amazing summer
Started running, seriously
Reevaluated my meat eating habits
Dated a friend, then ended the friendship
Used my Class B license for a job
Made a bunch of international friends
Had a shitty year
Said goodbye to a dog
Read a bunch of books
Remembered why I love living in San Diego
Was more or less dumped in favor of cocaine
Was more or less disowned by my father
Found a great roommate and a great apartment
Learned to love North Park
Got a writing job
Rediscovered my real passion
Celebrated 2 cousin's weddings
Ran 3 half marathons in 2 states
Made real friendships
Lost fake friendships
Fell deeply in love with a real friend
Traveled to San Francisco and Las Vegas
Sold a car
Bought a car
Started a new blog

This year has been amazing so far and the vast majority of last year was, too. I fully intend on enjoying the rest of it as much as I possibly can. Imagining what the next three years might hold is pretty exciting, too, especially (and this is where I get to be a girl) when I think about the amazing times in store with my boyfriend at my side. There's one thing that will always be certain in my life, in the next 3 years an beyond, and that is that I will always be writing. 

March 8, 2012

Birth Control

Neutering is a much cheaper, much more effective method. Anyone?

So, this is a thing now. And I'm going to put in my two cents on why politicians should leave it the hell alone.

Birth control, and whether or not insurance companies should offer it without a copay and even whether or not women should have access to it, stands to be a real issue in the upcoming election. And when I use the word real, I do not mean legitimate, because it is not a legitimate issue for a presidential contender to discuss. There has been a lot of misinformed crap floating around about what birth control is or what it means to us as a society, almost exclusively spouted by old men, but the most egregious of all comments recently came from Rush Limbaugh, who believes birth control turns women into sluts.

His actual words:
"What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We're the pimps."

We shouldn't be taking his comments seriously and do our best to just ignore him because he clearly has absolutely no understanding of how birth control works or even what this bill would mean, but there are people who listen to him and take his hateful remarks seriously, and those people scare me. Plus, this is an issue that's not only important for us as a society but something that will directly affect me. So I'm going to point out the glaringly obvious flaws in these comments.

1. Limbaugh doesn't have sex. This one seems the most clear and obvious. If he is having sex without the intention of creating a child (which is against Republican values anyway) he needs to be using some form of birth control so as not to have a child every year, and if he thinks so poorly of birth control he wouldn't use any or support his... wife? girlfriend? one night stand? from using it. So, Limbaugh must not have sex. At least, not with women.

2. Condoms and other barrier methods fail. Oral contraception makes for a lovely back up, and emergency contraception (which is not the same thing as abortion) is pretty darn crucial at preventing abortions, which both conservatives and liberals want, and helps responsible couples do the right thing.

3. Allowing women to have sex with men without getting pregnant does not turn them into sluts or prostitutes. It allows both women and men to have the kinds of relationships they want (most of which are loving and committed) without turning into rabbits and bankrupting our country. I have yet to figure out how this is bad. In fact, if a woman is going to be slutty it's better that she's using birth control so she doesn't either have abortions or bring several unwanted children into the world, which us taxpayers actually would be paying for. Whether that's condoms, barriers or oral contraception, preventing unwanted pregnancies when women and men have sex is something we must do.

4. People will always have sex. Any high school health teacher can tell you that people will want to have sex, and not having birth control available isn't going to stop them, which is why abstinence only education isn't effective and unwanted pregnancies do happen and the foster care system exists. Taking away the ability to prevent pregnancy will not ever in a million years turn people into chaste, abstaining, uber responsible citizens. And when married couples can't prevent themselves from having child after child, we'll change our minds about birth control.

5. Requiring health insurance companies to offer oral contraception without copays is not the same thing as paying women for sex. More accurately, it's giving men a way to have sex with women without being financially responsible for children. Think about it: a man can have the same amount of sex as any woman, but a woman can only get pregnant once a year at best while a man can get 365 women pregnant every year, which he would then have to pay. Who should be a bigger advocate of birth control?

6. Oral contraception treats many health issues unrelated to pregnancy or sex. I know a few women who have such horrible menstrual cycles that they are incapable of doing a whole lot of anything without major pain relievers and birth control helps lessen the intensity of the pain and allows them to have normal lives. Without hormonal birth control many women would be incapable of holding down a job, caring for others or completing tasks because of debilitating pain a few days every single month.

And finally...

7. Women need birth control because we have sex with men. Men get women pregnant because men have sex with women, and birth control prevents men from having children they have no interest in. Men benefit from birth control just as much as, if not more than, women but it seems like some of them are just too dumb to see the connection.