Musings of a Chicago-Born New Yorker

Career

I Literally Make Life Decisions Because of Christmas’s Commercialism

I received a great suggestion a couple of weeks ago. The short version is, “you should start blogging again because you need an outlet for all that shit you keep bottled inside.” The medium version is that a lot of our career coaching at my school seems to be therapy in disguise, and the professor assigned to this particular group saw me, felt that I felt invisible, and was doing her very best to give me even one useful suggestion for how to cope. I will keep the long version to myself for now.

The last couple of months specifically and last year in generally have been a period of upheaval in my life. According to all my social media feeds, almost everyone feels this way. There’s a lot I could dig into there, but instead, I’m going to talk about something that I’ve been thinking about almost constantly in the last few days.

I live in Belgium y’all. I won’t live here permanently, I’m not about become anyone’s expat, especially not here. But I feel so good about my decision to come here and get my MBA. My class is very international. There are 42 students from 20 countries. Something that comes up a lot is the reason that each of us decided to come here.

My answer feels a bit silly sometimes, but I value honesty over appearing to be a very serious person. So here’s the reason I decided to uproot my life and move across a whole ocean:

 

A trip to Paris for New Year’s with my husband at the end of 2016 included a trip right after the new year to Brussels. Purely because of it’s proximity and affordability, we found ourselves in Brussels. And when you are in Brussels, you find yourself in Grand Place. When I walked into the area pictured above, I fell in love.

I’m not sure if this will make sense to everyone who reads it, but energy matters to me. It matter to me for people, places, and things. And the energy of Grand Place appealed to me. And it didn’t hurt that it was still gussied up from Christmas 2016. When I was 6 or so years old, I picked out a bedroom set based on the red & green decorative pillows they added because it was December. Yeah, I’m that chick, and have been my whole life. I was already considering trying to come to Europe for a 12, 15, or 18 month MBA program. But I came back from Brussels and googled “MBA programs in Brussels.”

Once I researched my school, I realized it would be a really good fit and it was the only school I applied to. I was happy to pack up my shit and move to another country, but made sure to leave roots behind in New York for when I’m done.

Christmas is here again, and I went to Grand Place, as you do when you’re in Belgium. They have the tree up again, and I was eager to get a look at it with all decorations in place. It was a bit underwhelming in the daylight, but when I went back the next night, it was better.

It was a really nice moment for me. Standing in Grand Place in early 2017, this new seed of a dream felt near impossible to make happen. And perhaps the huge upheaval of the last year made it more possible, but it didn’t change the fact that it felt huge every step of the way. So when I was standing there in late 2018, I felt really proud of myself.

I made one of my dreams come true. 2018 has been a year of doing a lot for just me, which is something I might be a bit rusty at. I’m still figuring out how to balance all of the things that matter to me. But it was really nice to take this moment and just feel pride and happiness. Christmas is my jam, and I’m excited for getting to spend this Christmas here, even if I have to deal with Zwarte Piet. I might have to do a whole other post about that shit… But for now, let’s just focus on the happy dreams-coming-true, actively-pursuing-my-goals thing for now, okay?

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Now We’re Back On The Same Page

New York living is expensive y’all!

Imagine going to Starbucks every day for a week. You’re feeling all hyper and caffeine-alicious, but wonderfully satisfied. Then you realize that bottle of water, plus some fruit, plus a couple of those new yummy chocolate croissants, plus that tempting sale-priced Holiday blend coffee destined for your French press at home have all conspired together. And you are now $150 poorer than you were 7 days ago. And this is just from a coffee shop!

Now imagine that everywhere is Starbucks. Everywhere. Anything you do more than once in a week suddenly suck hundreds of dollars from your budget. Budget,say what? That thing that just frustrates you because no amount of planning can account for what you have no choice but to do when you lose your Metro card you just added $112 dollars to? Yeah, budgets.

Okay, I’m done with the stream of consciousness run on sentences for a bit. I think I’ve made my point that incidental costs alone make New York living expensive.

All of this was just based on my own experiences. But I’m not here alone, the husband is here too. He’s had the same challenges I’ve had coupled with the frustration of not working as much as he’d like.

We knew this would happen. We came to New York so he could spread his musician wings, open up a new market, and ultimately work even more (hopefully) than he was in Chicago.

That type of thing doesn’t happen overnight.

So it’s been a rough six months, financially at least. There were definitely some bumps along the way.

I had to stop drinking Starbucks every day. You won’t like me when I’m decaffeinated.

The husband unilaterally decided to postpone grad school. Again. That’s all I’ll say on that topic for now.

And the cats have taken to terrorizing the entire apartment building because they got used to having free reign of stairways during their months in exile at my parents’ house in Chicago.

Getting used to having no space anymore that counts as an escape for alone time, I’ve claimed some Saturdays as my own where I hang out in Greenwich Village, sometimes with the folks from the soup kitchen. Sometimes, I’m just by myself, hanging at Starbucks, drinking a mocha and watching Hulu on my phone.

But now things are evening out, at least they appear that way.

The husband is getting more calls for gigs, and offers to head out-of-town to play as well. So far, it appears he’s been able to maintain his musical connection to the Midwest while developing roots on the East Coast.

This weekend, he’s headed to Haiti for a music festival, then he’s back playing multiple gigs in NYC and some of the most popular jazz clubs in the city. Then he’s off to Midwest and out West for a month and some change to play there.

All of this has of course boosted his morale. It’s a nice feeling to know that the people like you, they really like you. And they want to pay you to stick around and do more.

On my end, I’m starting to hit a groove at work. I’m finishing up a work project that I’ve put a lot into and I’m hoping to see some real returns on it in the coming months. It’s all about getting more active participation in the donation process on all sides.

New York City provides some interesting challenges to organ and tissue donation that I just wasn’t experienced with coming from the Midwest. But I think I’ve risen to the challenge and if anything, it’s made me more committed to this work and I’ve dug deeper to find new ways to make it happen.

One thing I always tell my staff is that every time we speak to a family regarding donation, it’s an investment in today and tomorrow. Whether or not a family who has lost a loved one decides to have that person become a donor is irrelevant in this way.

I tell them that we want to make sure we are caring for these families at this difficult time and letting them know that our desire to help people get transplants never diminishes our compassion for their loss. Every time a family hangs up with us, they should feel positive about the conversation.

When we do this consistently, we are doing a small part to contribute to positive public opinion regarding donation. And we lay the groundwork for the family to say yes next time. If a family decides to donate, but they have a bad experience, they’re not going to want to repeat it. If a family decides not to donate, but they have a good experience, they may reconsider next time (depending on their reasons for saying no in the first place).

At my old job in Chicago and at this one, I have encountered families that have heard from us multiple times. They have been unfortunate enough to lose multiple family members in the last handful of years. It just so happened that these family members that passed away were all eligible for tissue donation. And when they hear from us, they have to make that decision about donation, and it’s a unique decision every time they decide.

I am finally starting to feel like I’m getting through to people regarding the importance of this. As America gets older (and sicker), more and more people will know someone in need of a transplant.

Just like with gay marriage, knowing and loving someone affected by an issue makes you more likely to support it. To me this means that in coming years, people will be more open to donation. I want to make sure that when that happens, those who have already lost loved ones and talked to us have a positive feeling towards the organization I work for.

It’s our jobs to make something positive come out of a sad situation and give people a chance to live on through others. We can’t do that unless we’re constantly taking care of public opinion regarding what we do.

I definitely didn’t mean to go on such a long pro-donation ramble, but I just feel so passionately about this. And considering the fact that all I do in NYC is work, volunteer, church, and sleep, it’s a big portion of my life here.

I’m looking forward in the near future to do more that just that. Now that the husband is working more, I at least get to go out to his gigs because they usually let me in free.

But even though I’m not out at amazing restaurants and cool clubs all the time (or, couch, ever), I’m really doing okay.

The time I spend away from home is so fulfilling, and really a lot of fun.

At work I’m saving lives with the click of a button, and co-workers are crazy and fun in the best way possible.

At church, I’m growing closer to God. And I’m looking forward to seeing what’s going on with the young adult ministry, it seems like it could be fun.

At one of my volunteer things, I get to tutor (which y’all know I love) and play with a new baby.

At the other volunteer thing, I’m hanging out in the Village, and becoming part of a really amazing family of good people who just like being together and making someone else’s day a bit better.

Since the second I signed the lease on our lovely little brownstone apartment, I’ve loved living in New York. But since things have evened out a bit more, I love it even more.

Now if I could just figure out the best way to navigate the public school system here so we don’t have to move one day when we have kids…


Big Changes Coming

There will be a change coming soon to the look of my blog. I’m going to have to do it because now the look is Chicago-centric. I’m a born and raised Chicago girl after all, so it made sense to have it that way.

But now, drum roll please…

 

I am about to become A Chicago-Style Girl in New York City!

 

That’s right, I’m moving to the Big Apple on July 15th. It all happened so fast. I’ve been alluding here and there on this blog for months that a change might come, but I never really got too much into it. There was just so much up in the air, I didn’t eve know where to start.

The uncertainty of my future coupled with my shame over not staying on a consistent exercise schedule made it difficult to find the motivation to blog. Add to it how busy my life is, and you have a perfect storm of neglect.

I should start vlogging. That way I can just chat about what I want to say and don’t have to go back over it for spellcheck.

But back to the point at hand. I’m moving to NYC!!

Here’s what happened.

The husband has always intended to move to New York. He’s a jazz musician and New York is the place to see where his career can really go. We’ve planned on heading there the entire time we’ve been together.

The plan was for me to look for work in the donation/transplant field that I currently work in and for the husband to apply for grad school.

But then he didn’t apply for grad school, and our plans got pushed back a year.

This year, he applied, but extra late. Lucky for him, he got into Queens College, which is where he really wanted to go. Apparently there’s some amazing saxophone person there he really wants to learn from/study with.

Once it was clear the husband actually turned in an application for grad school, I started applying for jobs in New York. There weren’t a lot of them available that fit what I wanted to do with what I’m qualified to do, but I still applied.

I got a couple of bites here and there, but nothing that resulted in a job offer.

After a series of unfortunate events, the husband decides he isn’t going to start grad school until January 2014. Pretty much immediately after that, I got a call for an interview in New York. My girls and I had a weekend trip up there, and the timing worked out for the interview.

When I went, I fell even more in love with the city. Walking around Central Park, hanging out in Chelsea, and riding the subway  just felt so right. The interview went really well (they had me there for three hours!), and they called to offer me the job the very next day.

This was last Tuesday.

Things have been on such a whirlwind since then. Since our lease was up at the end of June, I was more than happy to move out, but now had to plan for an almost immediate move to NYC. We don’t have all the details worked out yet, but this is happening.

The husband and I are at my parents for a few weeks until it’s time for me to head to New York and try to find an apartment. My last day of work is July 12th. There are a million things to do between now and then.

But for blogging purposes, I will soon be A Chicago-Style Girl in NYC. Wish me luck!


Let’s Do It Again

Anyone familiar with the Staple Singers? I love music from before and right around the time I was born (this song clearly being almost ten years before). Those people could put together an entire song without ever saying two complete sentences. Good job Curtis Mayfield.

This barely PG song was running through my mind as I was feeling like getting back on top of all the goals I’ve set for myself.

Today is the first day in a while I’ve felt better about work. Things are still up in the air about so many aspects of my department, but at least I’m getting used to it. Having a new boss, having different job duties, and having different employees was really a lot to take in all at once.

I’ve been reading a lot of great blog posts around about how to handle stress. It gave some great tips, but it also just reminded me to acknowledge the stress and not hermit crab myself until it passed. Almost as soon as I looked the stress right in the eye, it dissipated.

I’m still not crazy about things at work, but I have a whole new perspective.

Ah, who am I kidding. I feel better because I see a way out. When you fix one part of your life, the rest seems to feel less important. Our lease on the apartment I’ve come to hate is up June 30th.

Obviously, I’ll be turning Project UnPack into Project Downsize-and-RePack. Wish me luck. I really have no choice but to get shit done in the next couple months. If I tell myself that a few more times, perhaps I’ll really mean it.

Since I’m getting my projects back on task, I’ll take a look at being healthy again. My blog was judging me as Day 90 came and went for the Tracy Anderson Metamorphosis. I really dropped the ball on that one.

If I start again (for the third time), I’ll start back at the beginning. I’m thinking I should. It was going well when I was making time for it no matter what and when I was utilizing MyFitnessPal.

A new friend I met through UBP13 named Danielle over at Motivating Mommy has invited me to friend her on the app/website. She’s my first friend on that site, so I’m looking forward to using that to get back into it. Can you tell I’m barely effective at utilizing social media?

So with Project RePack, starting over at Day 1 for Tracy Anderson, and finding a balance at work, I’ve got an awful lot on my plate. You know what always smooths things out for me? Shopping!

I don’t really have the expendable income to do a lot of shopping for myself, but I can do shopping for others. There are birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays coming up soon. Today, I just purchased the birthday gift for our twin nieces. We’re getting them these adorable old school style lunch boxes. Want to see a sample of what they look like? Of course you do!

So adorable, right? And these are just a few options they have.

So adorable, right? And these are just a few options they have.

If you click the screenshot, it will take you to the Frecklebox website, and you can have a closer look.I purchased two already and the gifts are shipping soon my way customized for each girl. Even though it’s not for me, a bit of shopping really just rounds out my week and takes the edge off.

For clarity’s sake, this wasn’t sponsored at all. If it were, the picture would be better, the post more streamlined, and praise more effusive.

Aside from the shopping-when-I-have-no-money, who’s getting back on track with me? Being healthy, reducing stress, making your house apartment a home? Let’s do this!