Do I love it or Hate it? The Pros of Perspective

There are times at my job when I want to punch holes in the wall. Working at a startup has its frustrations; uncertainties, sudden changes in direction, unclear expectations, i.e., all things that drive me insane. I’m the type of person that has always liked having things laid out in front on them. When I was 11 my family went to Paris and my step-mom created a printable itinerary. Most people would find this excessive or irritating but she did it solely to please me, and I was ecstatic. I loved knowing what was going to happen. Even a few months ago I went on a trip to Montreal by myself and I had a list of things to do in the order I would do them in. Now that I’m an adult and I’m trying to be less controlling and obsessive, I gave myself a little wiggle room on my trip, but nonetheless I found great comfort in knowing what I was going to do each day and at what time (for the most part).

Working for a startup has caused me to abandon finding a sense of comfort in knowing what’s going to come. I’ve only been working at my job for a few months, but dear god how much has changed in those few months. After only working there for less than two months I was told that I had to create all the documentation for a product I had no idea how to use for one of our most important clients. No problem. Then I was told I had about 10 months less than thought I had to complete it. F****************ck.

That was maybe two months ago but it feels like an eternity. I’ve had to do so many things I’ve never been comfortable with; asking people questions, assuming I am not correct, talking to people, etc. Needless to say, it has been uncomfortable and quite stressful at times. But my point is not to bitch and moan that my job is hard, jobs should be challenging. My point is that I started to lose sight of all the good about my job because I was so caught up in the bad.

Is it annoying when you’re told you have to write about things you literally know nothing about to an ‘expert audience’ and then be given no further guidance? Yeah, that sucks. But what about when you find out that any time you ask someone for help they ALWAYS make time to meet with you? Pretty cool. What about when someone NEVER responds to your emails and you have to physically hunt them down? Well, that’s stupid. But then someone holds up a bottle of whiskey and signals for you to come over to have a tasting at 4pm on a Monday? Pretty f**king awesome

I’ve found a solid amount of reasons not to like my job, but I realized I’ve found even more reasons to love my job. I’ve been so caught up on focusing on the negative that I was letting all the positive pass me by. Fun fact: if you look miserable, people will not want to talk to you. If you smile and say “Hey what’s up?” you will more often than not be greeted with a smile and an occasional invite to happy hour.

When I feel down (see http://www.ihavethecrazy.wordpress.com) I have a tendency to do something my mom refers to as “awfulize”. Anyone can do this, regardless of your mental state. It pretty much means that you see a situation as awful without any silver lining or hope for change. I do this more often than I care to admit. When I’m feeling good it’s easier to be like, “Hey, it’s just an off day. You’ll write better content tomorrow.” Or “You’re not even friends with any of those people, why would they invite you to their team dinner? You don’t even know their names.” But some days it’s more like, “You are a huge disappointment. You suck as a writer.” And, “Everyone hates you. You have no friends.” It happens to all of us and it sucks.

What I’m trying to say is that if you can try to gain a little perspective it makes life SO much easier. When my commute into the city tries to suck my soul to live I try to remember, “You’re on your way to the awesome gym you joined because your job gives you a flexible schedule.” Does my commute still suck? Hell yeah. Getting stuck in between Atlantica Terminal and Canal Street is like some demented vortex but hey, when I get out I get to go to my gym where I see nice people and coaches who are all about lifting heavy sh*t. Lifting heavy sh*t makes you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment that I cannot describe, but that’s for a future post. After that I get to go to work and have no one give me a bitch look for coming in at 10am. Because I get my sh*t done. My job trusts me to do a good job and that’s what I do, when it works for me. I’m really lucky to work for a company like that.

Sometimes it’s hard to have a positive perspective (agian, see http://www.ihavethecrazy.wordpress.com), but if you can try to have one more often than not, I feel fairly confident in saying that you’ll feel a lot better. It’s hard to refocus your thoughts. It’s much easier to blame the world for your problems and give in to the fact that life sucks. Life can suck so much of the time, but if you try to acknowledge that and then find the little silver linings life doesn’t seem so bad. Do I like living in the city? No. Do I like living with my boyfriend, near my family and some of my closests friends, and working for a startup that lets me drink in the office? Hell yes. When I really think about it, all the things I hate about where I live are cancelled out by the things that I love (but don’t tell my boyfriend, or I won’t be able to vent out the disasters of taking the subway).

If you can find more reasons to love something than you hate something, then focus on those reasons. Conversely, if you find more reasons to hate something than you love it, you may need to reevaluate some things (check this out). Is everything in life perfect? Absolutely not. There is no perfect job, no perfect city, no perfect partner (although mine is pretty perfect). I know I’m not perfect – I change my mind every 30 seconds, I have to be reminded to wipe my feet off when I get out of the shower, and I have questionable health standards when it comes to eating things that fell on the ground. But I think my person is able to see the positives – I love hard, I’m incredibly passionate about my craft (writing, duh), and some day I’ll make a kick ass mom. Plus my butt is not looking too bad these days thanks to my new gym. But again, I digress – look at your life, look at your choices. Gain some perspective; if things are overall good, embrace it and try to learn to deal with the bad. But if things are truly bad, reevaluate and make some changes. Change is hard but oh my god is it worth it. A year ago I was unemployed after a failed freelance job at a tech startup that just went bankrupt. Keep your head up and count your blessings, if you smile more than you cry you’re doing just fine.

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Dear New York

Dear New York,

We have to talk.  This isn’t working out, but due to certain life circumstances we need to try to make it work.  I know you’re one of the greatest cities in the world, no one is saying you’re not, but I’m having some issues with you.

First of all, you are LOUD AS HELL.  Why do you have to be so loud ALL THE TIME?  I know you’re big and filled with (horribly mean) people, but must you be so loud all the time?  While we’re on the subject of your size, you need to chill with all the new buildings.  You had a beautiful skyline but it’s so cluttered now it’s losing its magic.  There, I said it.

Another issue you really need to get a handle on is your smell.  Dear God.  Why is that every corner I turn, even in your beautiful and EXPENSIVE neighborhoods, I am overtaken by the smell of urine?  I know it’s not really your fault our dick mayor is allowing homeless people to take over the city like maggots feasting on an animal corpse, but seriously.  It’s disgusting.  

I love that you’re filled with some of the best restaurants in the world.  Seriously, I know people who have traveled to the country of origin of certain foods and said it’s better in New York.  But why must you make everything so damn expensive?  I bought a small soup and some mango slices the other day and it was $9.00.  I don’t have that kind of soup/mango money, New York, I have to pay massive amounts of rent just to be near you.  Your sister Brooklyn is no cheap lady.  And I’m sorry to say this, but I like her better than you.  I even like your slightly less attractive cousin Queens better than you.  Don’t be upset, I still like you better than the Bronx.  We’re not even going to bring up Staten Island.

You entice from across the river with your beautiful park and your endless array of bars and restaurants I want to explore.  But every time I try to come to see you, which I have to do five days a week anyway, you make it SO difficult.  I know you’re old, but it’s 2015, why are signal problems such an issue for you?  Even when I finally make it to you, getting around is a huge pain in the ass.  I usually travel by foot since I don’t have Uber money but you are littered with people and construction obstacles.  I hate to bring up the odor thing again, but it’s really off putting.  You should be ashamed of your subway stations.

Alas New York, even though you drive me crazy most of the time, it seems we must make it work..for now.  My family lives near you and they’re pretty cool.  The man I love also works to keep you safe and he has to be here to do that.  Well played New York, using people I love against me.  I guess I can try to see the good in you.  You do offer potential writing opportunities for me to explore when I get more experience (which all your jobs demand so damn much of).  Some of your touristy things are pretty cool, I do enjoy walking over the Brooklyn Bridge and gazing at the Freedom Tower.  There are also endless things to do and places to explore in you.  Sometimes you’re really beautiful too.  Watching the sunset from my roof or walking through one of your parks on a warm spring days is pretty darn nice.

Alright New York, maybe I’ll stop being so hard on you.  Although I don’t want to stay with your forever because you give me horrible anxiety and I’m pretty sure your air is slowly killing me, I guess I can try to enjoy you for now.
Xoxo

The Plight of the Technical Writer

I’ve been a technical writer for over three years now.  It’s a career I kind of fell into and while it’s been disappointing for satisfying my creative needs and urges, it’s been great for paying the bills.  It’s also been tremendous for making me sound more intelligent than I am (sometimes).
I saw a meme about technical writers today, so I decided the right my own version about how people perceive what I spend the vast amount of my time doing.
What my family thinks I do:
I am an experienced professional in a growing career.  I am also a woman in tech which makes companies more inclined to hire me.  Gotta meet those diversity ratios.  They usually make me sound way more impressive than I am.  But who am I to stop them?
“My daughter works in tech.  She’s a technical writer so she works with engineers and explains how complex technologies work to any audience*.  It’s a really fast growing career and she already has three years of experience, so yes, she’s doing very well.”
What society thinks I do:
No f***in idea.  I think once someone knew what a technical writer does.  The conversation usually goes something like this:
Person: So what do you do?
Me: I’m a technical writer.
Person: A technical writer?  I’ve never heard of that before.  So what do you do?
Me: I write user guides and manuals about how to use different technologies.  I mainly work with different different types of soft…
Person: Wow that sounds really boring.
Me:*sighs*…it is.
What recruiters think I do:
Depends on the recruiter, but most of them seem to have at least a general understanding of what technical writers do.  However, I was interviewed by one lady who had clearly never even heard of a technical writer nor was she aware her company had them.
“So I see you’ve been technical writing for over three years.  That’s really great!  You must be a genius with computers.  I’m terrible with computers, I can barely turn them on!  How’d you get into technical writing anyway?  It seems like a super specific skill you’d had to study for years.”
*Note: I had no idea that technical writing existed until three years ago when I was explaining what I did to someone and they said, “Oh you’re a technical writer!”  Occasionally people are impressed.
What developers think I do:
They assume I’m an engineer or have engineer-like abilities.  This is false.  I’m about 90% writer, 10% technical.  They seem to assume that they don’t need to explain certain things to me, and that I can simply just look up the code and know exactly what they’re talking about.  This is also false.  Word to the wise for newer technical writers – do not lie about your technical abilities on your resume or during an interview.  It will be assumed you can be left to your own devices to do things like write in XML and understand how to use a variety of developer tools.
“You want to know how the API works?  Just go into (insert name of developer tool I’ve never head of) and look up the code.  It’s super simple.  You can’t read code?  No problem, the API al;sdkjfa;kbweihrpwoenfwkfnejfao;whef.”
Note: that was not me having a seizure while writing this.  That’s literally what it sounds like to me when developers try to explain certain things to me.
What I think I do:
Read spec sheets, sit through demos, and play around with software to write detailed, yet concise instructions for external and internal users.
“I’m a technical writer.  I translate engineer.”
What I actually do:
Pretend I understand what people are talking about and try to write instructions.  And panic.  There is so much panicking.
“Ok so then the user…what?  I can’t read algorithms, what the hell does that mean?  I can’t ask the engineers a fourth time…I can figure this out.  So you do this then…you…f***. *Rocks back and forth.*