Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pocket Muse #4

Cover of "The Pocket Muse"
Cover of The Pocket Muse
I skipped a few exercises because they relate to a specific writing project, not to freewriting. Here's the next freewriting prompt, if you're playing along:
Write about a less-than-remarkable aspect of your life.
Even leaving the media out of it, the narrative you tend to hear from people around you suggests that most people's high school experiences fall into one of two categories: Glory Days or Hell I'm Lucky To Have Survived.

The bullying I experienced in middle school was really more thoughtless than malicious -- everyone kind of had a status, and you were more likely to get bullied if you strayed from it. If you're a Smart Kid and get a worse grade than a Dumb Kid, expect to be tortured. If you're an Ugly Kid and someone has a crush on you, that someone will be tormented, but it's nothing personal against you. I'm not saying it wasn't toxic, but it wasn't generally torturous.

The bullying I experienced in Girl Scouts was torturous, and while I wouldn't victim-blame, I will say that my inability to handle it sure gave the bullies more material. But that was Girl Scouts. It's not the same thing at all.

And I had a rough time of it on my high school bus, but school proper was just... meh.

I got along fine with the people in my classes, and I could usually find people to eat lunch with who were friendly enough. But they would all go out on the weekend together, and I wouldn't hear about it until after the fact. I remember one week where all anyone could talk about was this amazingly awesome party that everyone but me had been to -- and I hadn't been invited, didn't even know about it until afterwards.

Really, an extension of middle school -- not malicious, just thoughtless.  And with the ego of a teenager, I assume it Meant Something.

I wasn't included, so that meant no one wanted to include me. I didn't matter. I was worthless.

Getting bullied was horrible, I would never prefer it, but at least when I was bullied, someone gave a shit about me, even if in a hateful way. I once did an experiment where I wouldn't talk during lunch until someone talked to me, and kept track of how long it took anyone to notice, and how often I was talked to. It took three days, and then I only got found out because they discovered my notes, not my silence.

And the thing is, there were plenty of people I got along with just fine as individuals.

But group those perfectly nice, perfectly friendly people together, and they just forgot I existed.

It's not the hell-on-earth shattering essays are made of.

I was unhappy, but not unhappy enough to complain almost 15 years later.

I wouldn't even mention it if not for this prompt.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What makes you happy? #40

There's something about weddings.
English: Wedding cake
English: Wedding cake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Actually, I think it's a perfect storm of somethings. Since I'm too old for school dances and not interested in clubs, it's the rare chance to get all dressed up and dance. You usually get to see old friends and/or relatives, but the hall is usually set up that you can disappear and take a breather if you need to -- at minimum, there's usually a nice bathroom.

Sometimes, the food is amazing and there's an open bar, but decent food and beer or mocktails is fine by me.

Then you wrap all that up in the fact that someone you care about is having the happiest day of his/her life.

It's a celebration of love, and most of the time, it's fun.

That reminds me: I have a gift to buy and a dress to get hemmed...

Monday, July 28, 2014

I Don't Know What I Want... Chapter 9, Part 2

I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This

By Julie Jansen 


Chapter 9: Yearning to Be on Your Own

So if, unlike me, you decided from last week's review of your Self-Assessments that you're a good candidate for Entrepreneurship, you now get to think about everything that might be standing in your way.

Step 2: Exploring Roadblocks and Opportunities

First, Jansen give us a list of ways we can break into self-employment. There are pros and cons for all of them, so I'm just going to give you a few bullet points:
  • Be a temp worker. I don't consider this self-employment. I've been a temp, and it's more like I have two bosses (the agency and the client company), not none. But it does provide flexibility. Contract work falls under this umbrella, too, but most contracts I'm qualified for, I'd be an employee with a finish line and without benefits. You have to be ready to hit the ground running with some of these jobs, because they are hiring you to do just one job and be sure it's done, and done well, before your time is up.
  • Hang out your shingle. Flying solo lets you do whatever you want, but you have no backup. Jansen asks us to narrow down our business focus if we want to go this route:  
    • What skills and abilities would you enjoy using?
    • What needs are there in the market that you can fill?
    • What about trends?
    • Are you special enough to fill or create a niche?
    • Can you improve on an existing product or service?
    • Can an existing product or service be introduced to another market?
    • Have you observed any patterns you can exploit?
    • Is there a business in another country you can bring to your home?
    • And so on! Basically, it's marketing at this point.
  • Buy a franchise. You're starting with name recognition and some backup from the parent company. Not bad, if you can afford the capital needed to buy in to begin with. And while you're the boss, you still have to play by Corporate's rules.
    • Can you handle that balance?
    • Is the franchise you want actually reputable?
    • Will you like working there?
      • Enough to research your brains out before you even start?
    • Will you feel proud of your product?
    • Is it recession-proof?
    • Does the franchisor have a strategy?
    • Are you comfortable with the market?
    • Are you familiar, and comfortable, with the resources available to you?
    • Do you have a lawyer?
  • Buy a business. There are always business owners looking to sell. Maintain or improve what the previous owner did, and you've got a client base built in -- not to mention products, employees, and systems. But researching to find the right business to buy is a giant chore, it may be hard to find a good fit, and you never know what unexpected problems you might be inheriting. And be sure to inspect both equipment and invoices!
    • What's your professional background?
    • How much, and for how long, are you willing to research to find the right business?
    • Can you move? Commute?
    • Are you an investor or a manager?
    • How's your network?
    • How big do you want to get?
    • Like a stock, is your business "growth" or "income"?
    • Can you turn around a failing company?
    • Can you afford the investments you'll need to make?
    • What's your timeline on actually making money?
  • Create a partnership. It's just like getting married! But what kind of partnership do you want to have? Make sure your lawyer is clear on that, too.
That's a lot to think about, and we haven't even gotten to the Roadblocks and Obstacles! We'll talk more about them next time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pocket Muse #3

Cover of "The Pocket Muse"
Cover of The Pocket Muse
Making my writing a priority means making my blog a priority, and doing more creative writing. Pocket Muse posts help me do both!

Write about a noise -- or a silence -- that won't go away.
 The air conditioner isn't especially loud. In fact, it makes for some great white noise at night. The underlying hum blocks out the outside noise.

That's sort of the problem. I don't know if it's the precise pitch, or what, but it tends to block out the noise inside, too. The volume on the television has to be cranked up high, and I can't understand what Chris is saying to me if we're in separate rooms.

This is partly my own fault. In high school, I rode the bus with some kids who... well, I don't know what their ultimate goal was, nor do I care, but they were actively, intentionally obnoxious, and at times ramped it up to full-on bullying.

I knew listening to my headphones at such a high volume could ruin my hearing in adulthood, but I decided that saving my sanity "now" was worth risking my hearing "later."

Now that it's "later," I don't regret it. I resent having had to make that choice, but I still think I made the right one.

What's funny is, I'm pretty sure I would pass a hearing test just fine. They just play the tones at decreasing volumes, and it's just a tone, and you're listening for it.  It's tones I'm not listening for that are the problem. And more importantly, it's words. I can hear the tones just fine -- I know you're talking to me, and I can pretty much make out the vowels -- but your consonants get lost.

There aren't many people reading this, but I know those of you who do have a wide knowledge base among you. Anyone know of a hearing test that measures consonants distinguished through background noise?

Because until I get that figured out, I can't talk to you in a bar where there's music playing, unless you're cool with repeating every other sentence. And I for one hate doing that, so I'd never ask you to.

Monday, July 21, 2014

I Don't Know What I Want... Chapter 9

I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This

By Julie Jansen 


Chapter 8: Yearning to Be on Your Own

So you want to start your own business.

I mean, I don't, really, but a lot of people do, so this chapter may be for you.

Jansen goes on and on about why you might want to start your own business, but if you do, you don't need me to tell you your reasons, and if you don't, I'm not about to try to convince you, so let's flip ahead a bit.

You know what that means:

Step 1: Completing the "Yearning to Be on Your Own" Self-Assessment

 First, we review our Values Assessment from Chapter 3. Then, we consider our Change Readiness Assessment from later in that chapter. And, if we're not really change-ready, we need to list some ways we can get there.

Then, we review our Interests Assessment and Skills Assessment from Chapter 4, and decide which of these you hope to spend most of your time doing.

Finally, before we jump ahead to Step 2, we take a quiz on whether self-employment is right for us. I bet you the quiz will tell me it's not, but let me take it and get back to you. You go ahead and do the same in your copy of the book (you are reading along, right?).

...And I scored a 6 out of 20. "Not indicative of entrepreneurial success."  Not surprising.

But maybe it's a better fit for you. How'd you do?