Travel Theme: Pathways

This week’s travel theme is pathways. I love this because there is something about path photos that makes you stop and think. As cheesy as it sounds, they really do call to mind where we’ve been and where we’re going. And I came across this quote recently that I’d like to try to live by:

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” – Thoreau

P1060243During a heavy afternoon rain — the path that led to school in Samara, Costa Rica. Each day as I walked up and down this path I felt purposeful, content, and full of life. Also, there was sometimes a horse on it.

IMG_0465Biking to a lighthouse along this beautiful path in Cape Cod. Not pictured: the hill that caused me to nearly keel over and die.

IMG_2248A path off Going-to-the-Sun Road in Montana, which was simultaneously the most breathtaking and utterly terrifying drive I have ever experienced. Frequent breaks were needed for deep-breathing and meandering down pretty paths like this one. And just around the bend?

IMG_2258These guys.

Backwards motivation

My sister (the one who actually reads my blog) said to me the other day, “I noticed your blogging has slowed down a bit. Have you just been really busy?”

That would be a logical assumption, but…no. Actually, the opposite. When I was at my busiest, with work and class and research papers, I kept blogging right along. But as soon as I ceased to be busy, I also ceased to be productive. You know that saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person”? I think that’s part of it…productivity breeds productivity and laziness breeds laziness.

For me, though, there’s a much more immature explanation: I just really like to be doing anything but what I’m supposed to be doing.

It basically goes something like this:

What I should be doing What I am doing
Writing a paper Cleaning my apartment
Cleaning my apartment Baking cookies
Reading for school Blogging
Blogging Watching Jerseylicious
Showering Laying in bed whining
Laundry Showering (whoops, can’t do laundry now, totally need the hot water)
Going to work Going to work (but desperately wanting to do any of the above)

The trick for me to be motivated to do anything is to feel like I’m getting away with something. For some reason, I get major satisfaction out of it.

This is…stupid. I know. But I don’t think it’s just me (?) – at the end of one semester of grad school, my group-mates and I discussed the fact that our apartments were all abnormally clean. This was, of course, because we were avoiding our group project.

Hence, as the amount of things I am required to do decrease, so to do the things I would normally do to avoid them. This could become a particular problem for me as I enter my period of funemployment. I’m thinking I may have to create lots of decoy obligations for myself just so I can look for productive ways out of them.

As I see it, I have two options…get it together and do things exactly when and how they should be done (just seems unlikely at this point), or embrace my peculiar motivation structure and manipulate it to maximize my productivity. And my method really can’t be that bad, can it? After all, everything always gets done in the end. Except laundry.

Funemployment

At one of the last meetings of my graduate research seminar, our professor gave us a rather heartwarming pep talk about our future. He encouraged us not to underestimate our own worth and the value we bring to the workforce, not to sell ourselves short and settle in our job search. It was sweet, really.

But at one point, he said, “As you move into this next phase of your lives…” to which one of my classmates interjected, “You mean from student to unemployed?”

I think he pretty much summed up what we were all thinking, at least those of us who took time off between college and grad school and have been “out there” on the job market before.

“My internship ends on May 17,” I said to my boyfriend recently. “Then I’ll officially be unemployed.”

“No you won’t,” he said. “You’ll be funemployed.”

I stared at him blankly. “Did you just think of that?” He nodded proudly.

It was his contention that I should enjoy this summer of unemployment, likely the last time I’ll be without a 9 to 5 for a long time, maybe decades. Initially I railed against this notion. “Being unemployed is not fun!!” I argued.

And that’s true. It’s not. But I thought about his idea, and I realized something. As long as I am truly doing everything in my power to find a job…why not try to enjoy the extra downtime and freedom — and summer — while I have it? This is also a privilege thing, of course, and I realize that. I don’t have a family to feed. I have support and low expenses and a part-time job to keep me afloat. For most people, I know, unemployment is a desperate state and anything but fun.

Even in my situation, in the absence of impending financial catastrophe, it’s still not fun mentally and emotionally. There are few things that can dent your self-esteem faster than looking for a job and not finding one. Constantly trying to sell something that no one seems to be buying. It’s draining, frustrating, and honestly demoralizing. But I also know what will happen if I let these negative emotions about the process take over. Last time, I gave up – took a job that represented the opposite of everything I want in life, and wound up miserable.

This time, I don’t want to do that. It’s hard; the longer the job search takes, the more the anxiety builds. The more you start to feel that you’re not a “legitimate” person. But what does that even mean? In that awful job I talked about before, I could not have appeared more legitimate from the outside. But to myself? I was a joke.

Sweetly Indecisive had a good post recently on the difference between starting and settling. I’m not holding out for my ultimate dream job here – I’m willing to start somewhere. But what I’m not willing to do is settle for a job that makes me dread getting out of bed every single morning.

So I’m going to try, really try, to keep all that negativity and desperation at bay. To work as hard as I can to find a job, but not hate my life and myself in the meantime. To grab onto some of those magical moments of summer “vacation” while I can. To not define myself by this period of stagnancy, however long it may last. And to trust that there’s something worthwhile out there for me.

This is easier said than done, of course. But one day soon enough, when my alarm goes off at 6 a.m. and I head out in the cold for my morning commute, I’ll probably be thinking how I should have enjoyed this time while it lasted. Should have done morning yoga and picked up an iced coffee (from that place that makes their ice cubes out of coffee) and walked through the park in the sunshine. So between resume-polishing and cover letter-writing, I’m going to do all those things.

Funemployment, here I come… I’m almost looking forward to you. Just kindly don’t last too long.