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Change Is A Very Good Thing

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“Since I saw you last, there is a change upon you.” ~ William Shakespeare (Antony & Cleopatra II, 6)

The day after my last day at work, I did this:

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I’d been wanting to cut my hair for a long time now, and a new beginning in my personal life seemed like exactly the right time to just go for it.  I haven’t had my hair this short since I was 8 years old, when my Mom took me to get it cut and the next morning a mean boy at school asked me “so are you a boy or a girl now?”  (I wish now that I’d punched him in the mouth but I think I just cried.)

It’s been a month now and I’m so glad I did it.  First of all, it’s 107 degrees in Austin right now, so it’s a much cooler option.  Secondly, I was glad to be able to donate my hair to Wigs for Kids, an organization that provides free hair replacement systems for children with cancer and other illnesses.  And third – well, it just felt freeing.  My shoulders are now bare and lighter – free from long wilted hair and from the stress of an unhealthy job.

By the way, I’m blaming that stress of the past year for the recent appearance of several unwelcome PURE WHITE hairs on the top of my head that have now become even more conspicuous with my new short ‘do.  How did I skip over gray and go straight to white??  I hope I don’t wake up one morning with one of those stress-induced skunk-type stripes on the side of my head. 

So – even though I do miss wearing my baseball hats with my long ponytail, I’m liking this change.  You always hear about how much people hate change, but I think it can be a very good thing.  It forces us out of our comfort zone and gives our adjustment abilities that much-needed skills practice.

What change have you been thinking about making lately?  Will you do it?  Why or why not?

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

PS: If you missed the first stage of the 2013 Tour de France this morning, it was a doozy!  Never let it be said that the sport of cycling is boring: with only about 15 minutes to go in the race, one of the team buses inexplicably got wedged/stuck under the overhanging gantry/barrier at the finish line on the island of  Corsica. 

With the riders barreling down the road towards the finish in an all-out sprint, the TdF organizers scrambled frantically to free the bus in order to avoid a major catastrophe.  They flip-flopped back and forth on directions to the riders, first telling them a revised finish line would now be at the 3 km to go mark before the actual finish, but then retracting that when they finally got the bus freed with only minutes to spare.  Confusion and chaos ruled, major crashes happened inside the final 5 km to the (actual) finish, and the now-famous bus of course immediately got its own parody Twitter account (@OricaGreenEdgeB).

Talk about having to adapt to change…  Vive le Tour!

Photo by Casey B. Gibson via velonews.competitor.com

Photo by Casey B. Gibson via velonews.competitor.com

Why I’m Still In Love With The Tour de France

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“Now for our mountain sport: up to yond hill; Your legs are young; I’ll tread these flats.” ~ William Shakespeare (Cymbeline III, 3)

One of the things that makes me the most UNunhappiest in the world is the Tour de France. Yes, the sport and race that is now most famous for cheating and doping and controversy is (still) my most favorite sport.  Over the past few years, the revelations, accusations and conflagrations within the cycling world have certainly been depressing and disappointing, but I can’t help it – I’m still in love with the Tour de France.

This Saturday June 29th, the 100th edition of the Tour kicks off on the island of Corsica before heading to mainland France.  Cycling fans around the world are converging on the roads of France, in front of their televisions and computers, and on social media sites like Twitter to bond over their common love and obsession for “la grande boucle” (“the big loop).  The world’s best riders from 22 teams will battle each other and an extremely unforgiving course of over 2,100 miles for three weeks during the world’s most difficult race, all in pursuit of a yellow piece of lycra (and legend).  It’s dangerous and incredible and dramatic and unbelievable and electric and beautiful.  There’s nothing else quite like it.  Count me among the obsessed.

2013 Tour De France route map

2013 Tour De France route map

For many years now, I’ve saved up all my vacation hours each year to take three weeks off in July to watch the Tour.  In 2010, after a year of organizing and saving and planning, I lived a dream and went to France to follow the race around the French Alps for 10 days and to celebrate my 40th birthday.  It was one of the most amazing and incredible experiences of my life!  I will never forget standing on top of the world, the famous Col de la Madeleine in the French Alps, on my birthday, watching the riders snake up the mountain road below our vantage point and then watching them labor by us towards the summit, threading the needle of the massive crowds.  There were thousands of people on that mountain, fans from all over the world, all out in the middle of nowhere screaming at the top of their lungs and having the times of their lives.  I still get emotional when I think about it.  It was pure joy for me.

Col de la Madeleine, 2010 Tour de France

Col de la Madeleine, 2010 Tour de France

Col de la Madeleine, 2010 Tour de France

Col de la Madeleine, 2010 Tour de France

I went with a French-organized official tour group and it was great;  we lodged near each day’s stage in beautiful areas, and transportation was provided from one day’s route to the next.  (The only downside was the lack of hotel air conditioning during one of France’s worst heat waves in history.)  I was the only non-native person in the tour group who was fluent in French, and most of the French guys running our tour didn’t speak English, so I ended up being an unofficial group translator between some of the clients and the French-speaking staff.  Sometimes they put me in one of the support cars instead of the bus and I was able to help the French staff provide assistance to those in our group who were cycling the routes ahead of the pro riders each day.  I loved it!  I felt at home and useful and just so happy to be in one of the most pristine, beautiful corners of the world I’d ever seen. 

Morzine, site of Stage 8 finish, 2010 Tour de France

Avoriaz, site of Stage 8 finish
2010 Tour de France

Morzine, site of Stage 9 depart, 2010 Tour de France

Morzine, site of Stage 9 depart
2010 Tour de France

Postcard-perfect town of Morzine, 2010 Tour de France

Postcard-perfect town of Morzine
2010 Tour de France

We had unrestricted access to behind-the-scenes start and finish areas, and it was amazing to see the massive sets, broadcast trucks and media areas up close.  It’s a traveling logistics miracle which boggles the mind.  An entire mini-city is set up and dismantled every single day of the race.  I’d love to actually work for the Tour one day, what a dream job that would be!

At the finish line of Stage 8 in Station des Rousses, 2010 Tour de France

At the finish line of Stage 7 in Station des Rousses, 2010 Tour de France

Waiting for the winners at the award podium at finish of Stage 8 in Avoriaz, 2010 Tour de France.

Waiting for the winners at the award podium at finish of Stage 8 in Avoriaz, 2010 Tour de France.

We got to see lots of crazy sights and even crazier people (the Dutch fans are literally insane).  People line the roads of each stage’s route hours (or sometimes even days) ahead of time to stake out the best spots.  A nice little old German lady cooking a pot of potatoes even let me use her RV bathroom in an intestinal emergency.  The Tour’s publicity caravan passes through on the road an hour or two ahead of the riders and hurls out free swag to the waiting throngs.  Blaring music, girls on roller blades who throw candy at you, and huge dancing yeti monsters all add to the carnival atmosphere.

The Pink Wig Guys - we saw them everywhere we went.  2010 Tour de France

The Pink Wig Guys – we saw them everywhere we went. 2010 Tour de France

Friendly families in their camper vans are on the side of every road. 2010 Tour de France

Friendly families in their camper vans are on the side of every road. 2010 Tour de France

Publicity Caravan - here, the yellow jersey sponsor. 2010 Tour de France

Publicity Caravan – here, the yellow jersey sponsor. 2010 Tour de France

Publicity Caravan - still not sure what this product is. 2010 Tour de France

Publicity Caravan – still not sure what this product is. 2010 Tour de France

I guiltily confess to being somewhat of a stalker during the 2010 Tour de France.  I was on a mission to get up close and personal with one of the most impressive specimens of athletic prowess (and just plain hotness) in all of sport:  the one, the only –  Spartacus.  For you non-cycling readers, that’s World Champion Fabian Cancellara, a Swiss rider of awe-inspiring talent with a jaw of steel and ham hocks for thighs (and pretty nice hair too).  On the rest day in Morzine, I found him (ok, tracked him down) at his team hotel just as he returned from a training ride:

Fabian Cancellara on Rest Day in Morzine, 2010 Tour de France.

Fabian Cancellara on Rest Day in Morzine, 2010 Tour de France.

I was just a few feet away from cycling brilliance, and as he walked inside the hotel, I summoned the courage to follow him and ask him to sign the Texas flag I’d brought with me.  He did and I fainted Just kidding, but my heart was pounding pretty hard. He was all sweaty and when I asked him if he’d take a picture with me, he leaned in and I swear I could smell just a whiff of Swiss chocolate.  🙂

As if that weren’t enough, when I went back outside to the hotel patio, Jens Voigt and Andy Schleck had also just returned from their rides, and they also talked to me and signed my flag!  Tour-tough-man Jens is also one of my all-time favorite riders (as he is for most cycling fans), such a funny and all-around nice guy, and Andy Schleck from Luxembourg – well, if you don’t know who he is, he only ended up winning the Tour that year.  Yup, I hung out with the champion for a while.  No big deal.

When I approached Jens, he jokingly asked “Is it even legal to sign a flag?  And before I do, do you even know who I am?”  I was so flustered the only thing I could think to say in response was “Of course, you almost died last year in that horrible crash!”  Oof.  He laughed and said, “Well, next to my signature I’m going to print my name so you can tell which one it is later.”  Which he did. 

Jens Voigt signs my flag. 2010 Tour de France

Jens Voigt signs my flag.
2010 Tour de France

Andy Schleck took a picture with me and asked me a few questions, then signed the flag as well. He was a very nice guy.  I wanted to feed him a double grilled cheese sandwich.

Andy Schleck on rest day in Morzine, 2010 Tour de France Winner

Andy Schleck on rest day in Morzine, 2010 Tour de France Winner

I also was able to talk to and get signatures from Sylvain Chavanel (France), also one of my favorites, as well as American sprinter Tyler Farrar, Kiwi lead-out man Julian Dean, and up-and-coming USA hopeful Taylor Phinney.  I didn’t set out to be an autograph hound, honest; but it ended up being a convenient vehicle to use to start talking to them.  That’s one of the great things about cycling events – they’re FREE (as long as you can get yourself there), and you can walk right up to your biggest crushes idols and just have a conversation with them!  It’s amazing and I hope it stays that way forever. 

I guess I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the helmeted gorilla in the room: the 2010 Tour was Lance Armstrong‘s last.  He’d made his much-touted comeback the year before, and the rumor was this would be his final attempt.  Sharing a hometown with the guy, and listening to many wax nostalgic about this being his last hurrah, I did feel a strange pull toward him at this Tour; heck, he was kind of the reason I’d even become a cycling fan in the first place.

Lance during the 2010 Tour de France. Source: Spencer Platt/Getty Images Europe

Lance during the 2010 Tour de France.
Source: Spencer Platt/Getty Images Europe

When I returned from the Peace Corps in 2001 and stopped in Austin on my way home to Albuquerque, I went to the huge outdoor celebration that the city threw for him on the lakeshores of downtown.  He’d just won his third Tour, and I attended more out of curiosity than true fandom.  I’d been in Africa for his first two victories; what I knew of him so far was just what I’d read in our agency-provided Newsweek magazines.  But, like so many others, I got caught up in the story, and from that point on I started following cycling much more closely. When I moved to Austin in 2009, the frenzy over his professional comeback ushered me into this city.

Everyone has their own opinion on Lance.  This story isn’t about him, although he is part of my memories of my trip to the Tour…

While we toured the area around the team buses prior to the stage start in Chambéry, one of the publicity guys from the RadioShack team noticed my Texas flag.  He interviewed me for a team video that they watched at the end of each day, just a few seconds of who I was, where I was from and why had I come to the Tour.  He then told me that if I stuck around, he’d talk to Lance about signing my flag.  A few minutes later, Lance descended the bus stairs, talked to the media for a few minutes (actually he got into a heated argument with a woman reporter who questioned him about doping), and then proceeded down a line of fans.  When he got to the end where I was, we talked for a minute about Austin, he thanked me for traveling all that way, and then he signed my Texas flag in the middle of the white star.

Lance signs my Texas flag. 2010 Tour de France

Lance signs my Texas flag.
2010 Tour de France

My 2010 Tour de France Texas flag.

My 2010 Tour de France Texas flag.

Stars burn out, as we’ve seen.  But memories last forever (hopefully).  Despite all the disappointments of recent past, I still love the Tour for the memories I have of it, and for the dogged determination of the human spirit that personifies the competition within the race.  I believe cycling is reinventing itself for the better, one pedal-stroke at a time.  If you are a fan of cycling and especially the Tour, you MUST get yourself to France one day to be a part of it.  It’s really impossible to accurately describe the atmosphere and the dedication that goes into every part of the Tour; you must see and experience it for yourself.  France is a spectacularly beautiful country, and I can see why they are so proud of their Tour; it shows off the best of what they have to offer.  

Back Camera

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I plan to go back – next year, in fact.  The 2014 Tour de France’s “Grand Depart” is going to be in England, the other place of my dreams and UNunhappiness – there’s no way I can pass up that opportunity.  I hope to see you there!

For now, I’m off to stock up on croissants and Camembert.  Vive le Tour!

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

Wormhole Take Me Away…

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“Too well, too well I feel the different plague of each calamity….”  ~ William Shakespeare (King John)

Part of the reason that I quit my job a few weeks ago was that it made me sick – literally and figuratively – and I simply felt bad almost all the time.  The job required that I be in elementary schools all day, every day; after three days in one school, we’d move on to another.  From the very first week on the job, my immune system was overwhelmed with a constant barrage of viral and bacterial assaults launched by the in-your-face sneezing and coughing of all those adorable little germ warriors (kids).  I salute the teachers out there who have hardened immune systems of steel from years of battlefield exposure, I don’t know how you do it!

I would get over one cold and be well for about a week or two before the next one would start.  I started lugging around several liters of my own water from home each day after a coworker pointed out to me that the kids were putting their mouths directly on the water spouts of the water fountains I was using to refill my bottles.  (Why is this still happening and why hasn’t someone invented a water fountain that won’t allow this?  Scientists, get on that please.)   Another coworker told me she stopped tying kids’ shoelaces after she knew someone who got a nasty fungal infection from doing the same thing. 

We should be paying our teachers and school staff in bars of gold, by the way.

My close friends and family that really know me also know that I’m a bit of a germophobe, although I’ve gotten better about it in recent years (yes I have!).  Still, this was a pretty tough aspect of the job for me to handle.   When the flu started spreading like wildfire last fall I began reminding the kids to cover their coughs and sneezes vampire-style, but was told by my supervisor to stop doing this (it wasn’t part of our rote 45-minute memorized lesson, so epidemic prevention be damned).  Despite my best measures (I really need to buy stock in hand sanitizer companies), it always seemed to be a losing battle for me. 

I spent Christmas Day morning in Urgent Care with a bad case of bronchitis and strep.  I caught a nasty norovirus one time that sucker-punched me out of the ring for a while (intestinal woes that you do NOT want to hear about, trust me).  And then at the end of March, I came down with a particularly nasty bug that caused me to do something I’ve never done before:  I called 911 in the middle of the night because I’d woken up feeling as though my throat was closing up and I couldn’t get enough air.

The very nice and handsome EMT and ambulance workers who showed up at my house were there all of five minutes before they deemed me to simply have a bad case of – wait for it – laryngitis.  Caused by the upper respiratory infection I’d come down with, but still just plain ol’ laryngitis.  Was I embarrassed?  If I’d had a lever I could have pulled to open up a wormhole to another galaxy in my living room, I would have dived in all Greg Louganis-style.  Especially after the guy taking my pulse ox rate remarked “cute candy cane pajamas.”

Wait for me, Picard.

Wait for me, Picard.

My Dad – who had practiced his Indy 500 speed skills getting to my house after I’d called him to croak out in a weird froggy-sounding voice that I was calling an ambulance – then took me to a 24-hour clinic where another cute medical professional gave me a cortisone shot and a Rx for steroids and sent me on my merry groggy way.  Luckily it was nothing too serious, but it was one of the final straws in my decision to finally quit a job that was making me miserable in more ways than one.  It’s hard to be UNunhappy when you’re sick all the time.

By the way and a heads up:  I was told that most emergency services (ambulance, EMT) are almost always considered out-of-network for insurance purposes.  I don’t know if it’s true everywhere or not, but I didn’t know that before I picked up the phone and called that night.  I imagine it’s the last thing on people’s mind when they need true emergency help – as it should be.  But I was in shock many weeks later as I opened two bills totaling $725.00 – the portion my insurance would refuse to cover.  For 5 minutes of evaluation EMS provided at my home that night and no transport.  That my insurance wouldn’t cover because the responders were out-of-network.

But here’s the restore-your-faith-in-humanity part of the story:  When I called the EMS billing service to inquire about the bill breakdown and payment plans, a nice man named Bruce asked me if I had secondary insurance that could cover my part of the bill.  I said no, and told him that actually, I was about to be unemployed.  He then told me he was going to waive the remaining part of the EMS bill, because that was their policy if people didn’t have enough insurance coverage to pay the balance.  He said “We don’t ever want anyone to NOT pick up the phone and call 911 in the middle of the night when they feel they need it – like you did – because they’re worried they can’t pay for it.  We’re here to help you.”

I think my very intelligent-sounding response was along the lines of “Wha?!?”  I was incredulous, and told him so, and then thanked him profusely.  I actually asked him, was this an American company and policy, in the land of healthcare-induced bankruptcies that we hear so much about all the time (Yes it was.)  It was a very welcome glimmer of humanity and decency in the shadowy underground that is the U.S. healthcare industry, and I was extremely grateful for it.

Now that I quit my job, I’m having to wage another battle: not on germs this time (well, ok, that’s ongoing), but on convincing healthcare insurance companies that I’m worthy of being insured as an individual.  Companies that will increase your monthly premium by $64 per month if you went to the chiropractor one time for one episode of minor back muscle pain.  Companies that penalize you instead of rewarding you for wanting to improve your mental and physical health.  The mere act of applying for individual coverage suddenly launches you into a world of criminal-like suspicion, it’s crazy.

After I applied to several different health insurance vendors, many of them called me for underwriter investigations.  One company actually wanted to know the day of my last period and if it was a “normal” one…how did this ever become any of their damn business??  And Mr. Underwriter, when it comes to describing that painful part of every woman’s existence – you simply can’t handle the truth.  Evidence: this hilarious video by UK company BodyForm in response to a pseudo-frustrated boyfriend’s Facebook post (it’s well worth your time!):

Another underwriter suspiciously questioned the fact that I said I’d lowered my cholesterol by losing nearly 50 pounds, implying that they thought the only reason I could’ve lost that much weight was by being sick, not because of individual hard effort and just wanting to be healthier.  I was glad it wasn’t a Skype call so they couldn’t see the gesture I made to them during our conversation.

It’s all pretty discouraging and frustrating, but I’m not letting it get me too down.  I knew this would be one of the consequences of quitting my job, and short of moving to England or France’s land-of-socialized-medicine tomorrow, it’s just something I’m going to have to deal with.

I feel really lucky in my life that I’ve never had very serious health problems, knock on wood.  (Well, there was that one time I nearly died after a mugger pushed me over a bridge, but that’s a story for another post.)  I usually always made them out to be more serious in my mind than they were in real life, but I’m getting better at that too.  I’ve already survived some pretty tough times in my life, so I know I’m a strong person that is hopefully capable of handling whatever may come. 

With or without a wormhole.

pooh1

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

 

Oh Crap…and Is The Universe Really Talking to Me?

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“O God! that one might read the book of fate.” ~ William Shakespeare (King Henry IV, Part II)

I revealed in my last post that I recently quit my soul-sucking job.  A few weeks before I gave my notice, I applied for two high-level professional positions that fortune seemed to point in my direction.  One was with a local nonprofit group that does great things in the community, the other with the University of Texas.  I was extremely interested in both positions, and I’d been trying to get a job with UT ever since I moved to Austin over three years ago (the hiring process at UT is extremely competitive).

Both jobs paid significantly less than the salary I was making at the time, but I was so ready to get out of my toxic work situation that I didn’t even care.  I think I would have accepted being paid in chocolate coins if it meant less stress and more meaningful work.

The nonprofit group was the first to reach out, and called me in for an interview.  I ACED it.  I have to admit, I love the feeling you get from a well-oiled job interview!  (My secret tip that I don’t mind passing along to you:  sing “I Have Confidence” from the Sound of Music in your best Maria impersonation at the top of your lungs right before you go into the interview.  Preferably in the privacy of your car.  You’re welcome.)

SoMIHC

Click photo to hear “I Have Confidence” sung by the great Julie Andrews!

It was shortly after that interview that I gave my notice at my then-current job (a very UNunhappy moment by the way).  A day or two later, the UT office at which I’d applied called me to schedule a phone interview.  I was ecstatic!  It was the first UT job I’d applied for (of many) which had reached the interview stage.  And, the job seemed to be literally written just for me: they wanted someone who had lived and worked in sub-Saharan Africa (thank you Peace Corps), spoke a foreign language (oui, moi), and had experience advising students (I used to work as an advisor at the University of NM).

Keep Calm and Speak French

The UT phone interview went great, and they then scheduled a second interview for a few days later, to be conducted via Skype.  Everything meshed and it went swimmingly well.  I made funny quips and asked well-researched questions.  I’d done my homework and I was prepared – as I have been my whole life.  Organized, detailed, prepared – that’s me.

I was feeling great!  I was in the running for two jobs in what seemed to be a perfect timing situation!  I’d finally quit my miserable job that was driving me into the ground, and I was headed for happier times!  I drove by the UT office near campus and it was in a beautiful setting; I was already imagining working there and figuring out where I’d park.

The day of the Skype interview with UT, the nonprofit group called me to offer me their job.  However, they told me that between the time of my interview and now, they’d decided to change the job title and some of the duties of the position I’d applied for; it was still a good job, but it was no longer what I thought it was going to be.  It now wasn’t as attractive to me as the UT job – which by this time I was 99% sure I was going to get.

Notice those words “perfect” and “sure” above?  Not-so-subtle foreshadowing.  By now you can probably guess what happened.

I declined the nonprofit job offer.  And then UT emailed me a few days later to say they decided to hire someone else.

What have I done!?

I think I stared at that email for about ten minutes in pure disbelief.  “Oh Crap” is a tame version of my reaction.  My perfect interviews and my perfect preparation and my perfect planning all crumbled away into nothingness as I sat there.  I started to feel the fear rise up from a pit deep inside me – what had I done?

In the following days, I searched for the bigger message in this ego-busting development.  I looked for the answer in many different forms of chocolate, but nothing materialized (except lots of calories).  I even blamed the huge Texas flag hanging on my wall that was visible in the background of my Skype interview camera view; I took that flag to the 2010 Tour de France and Lance Armstrong autographed it for me right in the middle of the white star…maybe they saw that and held it against me, another casualty of the cycling doping controversy?

This wasn’t the way things were supposed to happen.  Or was it?  Where was Shakespeare’s quoted book of fate when you needed it?  Of course I wanted to know why this detour had forced me to take another direction, but then I started to think that maybe what I needed to focus on was not the “why,” but the new direction in and of itself. 

You see, before I’d applied to either of those jobs or quit my current job, I’d been thinking of and toying with the idea of doing something completely different with my life.  Ditching the traditional 40-hour office landscape for a much different one that I’d been thinking of for many, many years.  One that is vastly more colorful and joyful and meaningful.  I applied for those two jobs out of interest, yes, but also out of fear.  Fear that my other visions and hopes and ideas weren’t good enough somehow. 

Bleeding Hearts

But now here I was at the literal crossroads of fear and fortitude.  Inextricably intertwined.  Giving into one could mean sacrificing the other.  And even though I would have been very good in either of those jobs that I applied for had I gotten them, I feel somehow that the universe was, just maybe (even though it’s pretty busy with all the supernovas and collapsing stars and whatnot) whispering in my ear,  “It’s not the right time for that.”   And so I decided to listen.  And I’m ok with the way things turned out.

As I finished the last few days at my job, I felt strangely calm – this, despite not having a perfect plan in place for my next steps.  Or maybe because of the lack of a perfect plan.  Or maybe it was just blissfully-ignorant shock, but it was nice.  And I felt a sense of freedom – not just from the weight of the job stress being lifted off my shoulders, but also from the blank slate being presented to me.  (But I hate the feeling of chalk on my hands, so I’m going to think of it as a blank whiteboard.)

Yes, I’ve had a few moments of self-doubt…I think it would be strange if I hadn’t.  I have to keep reminding myself that we get this one life, this one chance in a fleetingly short blip on the universal timeline of history to do what makes us feel alive and worthy and content – to do what makes us UNunhappy

Is the universe talking to you?  What is it saying?  And does it have an accent? Enquiring minds want to know.   

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

Hate your job? QUIT ALREADY!!! I did.

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“Screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we’ll not fail.” ~William Shakespeare (Macbeth)

I’m an über fan of the show “The Office”  (both versions – British and American).  I’ve seen every episode multiple times, and I was sad to see it end when the series finale aired on May 16th.  Whenever I’m feeling down, watching an episode or two never fails to make me laugh out loud.  (And, I have a major crush on John Krasinski and his perfect hair.)

JKpic

(Thanks Jenna Fischer for tweeting this perfect John pic!)

One of my all-time favorite scenes from The Office was the one where Michael Scott quit his job at Dunder Mifflin Paper Company:

Oh Michael, I love you and your resolute, childlike narcissism.

Like most of you I imagine, I’ve spent most of my working life in an office; only a few of my working years have NOT been in an office setting (Peace Corps & Home Depot spring to mind).  I’ve dealt with my fair share of office politics, drama queen co-workers, bipolar bosses, pervasive PowerPoints, and mind-numbing boredom.  I’ve stared into enough filthy food-splattered office microwaves to last me a lifetime.  At one office – not exaggerating – I endured a musical-chairs-rotation of 8 different bosses in the 7 years I worked there (and none of them were Michael Scott, unfortunately). 

Looking back on all my office work experiences together, it resembles a schizophrenic reality-show combination of Survivor, Punk’d, and The Joe Schmo Show all rolled into one (“What is going ooooonnnnnn??!!!” = Best reveal moment ever by the way on Joe Schmo).  The cumulative effect of all these experiences was disturbing yet manageable, or so it felt that way at the time. 

It was almost like a badge of honor to outwit, outplay and outlast other coworkers that would fall by the wayside – but at an expense I couldn’t yet recognize.

So what happened that prompted my current journey?  Almost a year ago, I found out I was being transferred into a new position by my employer; funding for our prior positions had run out, and they scrambled to plop a few of us into ill-fitting new jobs at a different office where we were underutilized and undervalued.  I had no choice in the matter, and I knew within a nanosecond of the announcement that it would be a job that I was going to hate.  Not dislike.  Hate

But did I listen to the voice in my head that was screaming “GET OUT NOW!”  Of course not; being the responsible workforce professional that I was, I trudged ahead in sensible pay-the-bills fashion.

That daily trudging left much of my sanity and health lying battered and bleeding on the side of Austin’s congested roadways that I wrestled each day on my 50-mile round-trip commute.  It was a hell of a ride (TWSS).

I lasted nine months.  And then I finally made the decision to give my bundle of frayed nerves up for adoption.

About a month ago, I finally took back my life and JUST QUIT.  I wanted so badly to boldly march into my boss’s office and quote Michael Scott from the video above as I turned in my notice, inspiring shock and awe in the process. 

Turns out I’m not quite the brave thespian I’d envisioned…and the boring reality is that I walked (normal-style) into HR and turned in my notice in a perfectly-civilized non-histrionic meeting.   I never could have delivered the line as good as Michael did anyway…it should remain his.

michaelscott-truffled-650x365

I was taught growing up that you never give up, never quit, so this was a hard decision for me.  But there are times when we just don’t win the battles we choose (or are thrown into) and simply must walk away.  Sometimes knowing when to make that decision and following through can be a victory in itself.

I read a quote by Confucius the other day that said “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”  Staying in such a soul-sucking job for as long as I did was me making my own life complicated; quitting it was me getting back to basics.  I’m ready for simplicity again!

And before you ask: no, I didn’t have another job lined up at the time that I quit, despite my father’s voice on a repeat loop in my head saying “Don’t quit a job before you have a job.  Don’t quit a job before you have a job.”  I feel a little like Baby in Dirty Dancing, rebelling with the bad boy despite what others think she “should” do – only my Johnny is joblessness, and way less sexy.

Yes, I’m terrified. But I’m FREE!  But definitely terrified. My last day on the payroll was two weeks ago, and I don’t have another job yet.  Those real-life bills aren’t going to pay themselves.  But I do have a vision that I’m working toward – one that started when I was only 16 years old actually (stay tuned for future posts to learn all about it).  

The line from The Office series finale that struck me the most – and validated 100% my decision to try my hand at life decisions that would hopefully lead to a state of UNunhappy – was this one by Pam:

“Be strong.  Trust yourself.  Conquer your fears.  Just go after what you want, & act fast, because life just isn’t that long.”

It doesn’t really get much clearer than that. 

John Wayne once said “Courage is being scared to death, and saddling up anyway.”  So I guess this is me saddling up (yippee-ki-yay blog readers)!  Let’s see where this trail ride leads.

So to sum up:  You have no idea how high I can fly…on an uncomplicated horse…that dances dirty….  Or something like that.

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

Commence operation UNunhappy!

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“Charm ache with air, and agony with words.” ~William Shakespeare (Much Ado About Nothing)

Welcome to the kickoff of my new blog, operation UNunhappy!  Thanks for taking the time to visit.

I started the operation UNunhappy blog to document my mid-life crisis attempts to reset, rediscover, and re-purpose my measly little existence.  I’m on a mission to de-perfection-ize my life (since my penchant for perfectionism has nearly driven me insane).  Join me for a real, honest account of the ups and downs in my trek toward UNunhappy – a term I coined to define the byproduct of life that so many of us are searching for.

So what does being UNunhappy mean I’m not exactly sure yet, but I intend to try to find out.  I’m all too familiar with its antithesis, unhappiness: for a long time now, I have definitely been unhappy with most aspects of my life:  my work, my health, my relationships with others, my future pathways.  I’ve gone through some pretty tough times in the past few years – who hasn’t, right?  A potent mixture of divorce, deception, grief, loss, soul-sucking work, and adverse life events pretty much knocked the proverbial wind out of me.  Of course it hasn’t been all bad, there have been some good times too.  But I believe it has to be possible to find and experience – on a regular basis – contentment, ease, satisfaction, humor, fulfillment, love, and a sense of PEACE in our lives; and so I’ve started a new journey to balance my daily existence with these vital aspects of UNunhappiness.  Will it be all peonies and puppy dog tails?  Of course not (although I hope to literally have both of those things in my life on regular basis in the near future).  I believe that no one can or should be deliriously bubbly and happy every minute of every day (and I’m pretty suspicious of those that appear so)…without struggle and hardship, it would be pretty difficult to appropriately appreciate the good times, right?

So thanks for indulging me and taking a few minutes out of your day to observe, follow, and advise me in my chronicles.  This blog is just a baby right now; it’ll grow up and expand as time goes on, so thanks for your patience.  I’ve already taken some huge risks and made big changes in my life just within the past few weeks that have pushed me over the starting line.  I hope you’ll stay tuned to learn about them and see what happens…maybe I’ll crash and burn (hope not), maybe I’ll end up trekking to Mount Kilimanjaro (nope), or maybe I’ll just live each day as it comes and try my best not to Scrooge it all up.  Yeah, that sounds good.

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

(P.S.: Click on the “About Me” tab in the Menu for the lowdown on why I’ve been dubbed Ant and not Aunt, plus more info about yours truly.)

(P.S.S.: If you’re so inclined, kindly please sign up in the column to the right/below to follow my blog and get email notifications of new postings.  Also, follow me on Twitter at @AntKristi for uncensored rantings, ravings and all sorts of general meanderings.  Merci!)

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