Toxic Messages: They Need to Stop

While turning over the idea of this blog post in my head for the past few days, I feel like I’ve written this before, in some capacity. I’m not a person who likes to complain much (or at least without rationalizing away reasons for complaint). Or ask for help, much to the chagrin of my family and boyfriend. But this recent story about a 25-year-old employee at Yelp’s firing from her job and the response of most people to it has really gotten to me.

I don’t think she should have written an open letter on Medium or rage-tweeted at her CEO. There are other reasons people have dug up on social media why she was fired and that suggest she may not be “as poor as she seems” (which ugh, let’s not get into the problems with that statement). However, a lot of the concerns she brings up about living in the Bay Area (or, in many places) are valid.

Rent prices are outrageous. Completely, and utterly. I am lucky to have the rent price I have where I live right now, even with it being raised last June. I still pay at least $400 less than most people that live in a smaller apartment than I do. I live in a quiet mountain town and it’s hard to get anywhere, but my rent is low. I’m thankful for that, honestly. But the prospect of moving anywhere else and finding a job that can pay for that is daunting.

People want to get on this girl’s case about “not planning ahead” and not budgeting for living in the Bay Area…but someone has to fill those entry-level jobs in any city. Often, for a college graduate, that is all you’re going to get. These jobs may have once been intended for people in high school or college, but people have to eat. They have to live. They have to find a job where they can get one. People love to bash on “millennials” for whatever choice they make. If they stay at home and live with their parents, they get called entitled and lazy. If they complain about the fact that they have a college degree and still can’t be paid a living wage, they get called entitled and lazy. If they have a few years of work experience under their belt and still can’t get an interview for anything above $15 an hour, they get called entitled and lazy. There’s really no winning in the situation. And that’s part of the problem I have.

No one is perfect. This girl who wrote this open letter certainly isn’t. But there’s no need for people to dogpile on someone who spoke out about it (however right or wrong her approach was) when several facets of what she said are true. People commenting on this article say “Well if you don’t like it, find another job.” When’s the last time they job-searched? Do they realize how difficult it is to do so? That even if you are working, that finding something else can take years? Especially something that pays more than you are currently making. Even if you have been paid more money in the past it’s more likely you’ll be able to find a job that pays less because you need to get something right away than something that pays you what you have actually earned through the work you’ve already done.

Ultimately, I’m just tired of being told that my generation is entitled, lazy, stuck-up, and can’t do anything for themselves. It’s a toxic message and it needs to stop. The reality of the statistics and numbers for what our generation experiences are real. Why do people think we are getting married and having kids later? Why do they think we’re not buying houses? Why do they think that we’re not saving any money? Why do they think we’re not moving out of our parents’ houses? Do they think we want this? Do they think that we’re stupid enough to not think that saving, buying a house, or living on our own are good ideas?

I don’t pretend to know what the solutions are. I only know what I’ve dealt with and what kind of situation I’m in. I don’t know the details of why a business that makes millions can’t manage to pay a living wage to even their lowest level employees. But I still think that the overarching message to millennials and the blaming of people who have no power needs to stop. We are all at the mercy of what people bigger than us decide. There are several ways to deal with it, but those methods shouldn’t come with criticism and shame. It’d be great if for a change, we could all lift each other up instead of tearing each other down.

Did you read the former Eat24/Yelp employee’s letter to the CEO? What do you think? Let me know in the comments. 

Scary Things About Trying Something New

Something you may not know about me – and may seem odd considering how little I watch television – is that I ADORE YouTube.

In the past couple of years, I started watching a lot of YouTube, mostly WoW-related machinima and other videos at first. I really liked Nobbel87‘s lore videos, and SlightlyImpressive‘s machinimas, and then discovered Nixxiom and Moocluck and fell down a rabbit hole. Now I’ve added people to my sub list like ShoddyCast who do Fallout and Skyrim lore (and an amazing “Rethinking” series, where they use in-game problems and relate them to the real-world), and people like Laci Green and Feminist Frequency for food-for-thought type videos. I’ve got a really long sub list, now.

It got me thinking about making my own videos.

Part of the reason I thought about doing videos is that currently, I do not have the capability to stream. My internet download speed is 6Mbps, my upload speed is…something I don’t want to think about. It’s definitely too slow to stream anything without major hiccups and freezes. My computer is a beast and so can handle it while laughing at Twitch, probably, but my internet would have a field day. So, I thought about doing videos instead.

I took a film class in college where I learned the basics of using video editing software. I know essentially how it works, and downloaded Lightworks to start with. I began recording a few of the games I play. It’s nice that recording is relatively simple with my graphics card and ShadowPlay, and so have a nice recording of one of my first League games of the season and the first hour of my playthrough of Rise of the Tomb Raider.

I was pretty confident that I’d be able to video edit easily. I learn new software super quickly, and I’d done video editing before, albeit 5-6 years ago. What could be hard about it?

Turns out, a lot.

For full disclosure, this does not mean I’m giving up. Or that this is too hard for me, because it’s not. But the types of problems I’ve had are incredibly frustrating and it’s scary to think you’re going to do something relatively easily and then have obstacles all along the way.

First of all, I’ve been using Audacity to record my voice separately from the Shadowplay mic recording because it tends to make the game audio far too loud while my voice is drowned out by dramatic music, no matter what game I’m playing, and it doesn’t separate the tracks by default. This means I have to add in the audio later, and with something like a League game where I’m only going to upload highlights or funny moments, isolating the audio to the right parts of the game is mostly very time-consuming. This is something I need to expect, but something I hadn’t thought about much before beginning. I have a video from that game that I’ll likely upload soon, but it’s most likely going to be a shorter rendition of what I had originally planned, but hopefully will be much more entertaining.

Then, I thought of the fact that I was eagerly anticipating the Rise of the Tomb Raider release for PC. I had been incredibly disappointed that it had been released as an Xbox exclusive, and was admittedly smug when they announced the PC release date about a month after the Xbox exclusive release. (They released it the same day as Fallout 4. Probably not a good idea.) I thought I’d start a Let’s Play of the game since I adored the first game and love Lara Croft as a character so much that I had a hard time getting into other games because a. they weren’t Lara and b. they weren’t ladies, usually.

I recorded about a full hour of gameplay with webcam and separate audio on the Monday after I bought it for PC. I excitedly uploaded the video into Lightworks to separate it into 15-minute intervals to edit together and upload to YouTube. However, I ran into a concerning problem – the audio and video did not match up. By quite a lot.

This is a problem that is fixable in post-processing, but I was confused as to why it would even be out of sync. I read a ton of forum posts, and most people who had asked the question hadn’t received a satisfactory answer, and were usually using a different editing program. I downloaded a trial of Adobe Premiere and tried it there, and had the same result, possibly even worse. I downloaded Handbrake and re-encoded the video for constant framerate vs. variable framerate, but it didn’t help – if anything, it made things worse. At the moment, I’m still trying to find a solution, and trying to avoid having to record the whole thing again, or completely readjust the audio by hand over four 15-minute segments where the audio could be in one of the other segments I’m splitting it into. Recording it again wouldn’t be the worst thing, since I could actually make sure to time myself and stop a little before 15 minutes so I wouldn’t have to split it, but I’m still not sure which direction to go at the moment. If you have any suggestions or have had this problem before, please let me know!

Honestly, I’m not discouraged as far as I’m going to throw it on the ground and say “Nope, this isn’t going to work”. It is frustrating, though, and I’m going to have to fight a little bit of an uphill battle to get started on this thing I want to do. I’ve been thinking about if I have this much issue with this type of recording, what would happen if I wanted to do machinima? Having to use green screens and WoW ModelViewer? The main thing is for me to try to push down my own self-doubt and keep my own stubborn willpower going. I can do this, even if I have to hop a bunch of obstacles along the way.

What obstacles have you run into trying out something new? Do you have any advice for me? Do you know how to solve my audio/video sync problem? Let me know in the comments! 

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Presence by Amy Cuddy, Thoughts

I’m currently reading Presence by Amy Cuddy, a book that I received for Christmas from my mom. I’ve always been relatively shy, not good at showing my true self on first impression. Not that I fake it by any means, but I am quiet and shy and I don’t feel like I’m necessarily engaging upon first meeting someone. Interviews are the worst. I have gotten better at them over the years, but the wrong signals from an interviewer and I feel like I’m sinking into myself, and they won’t see the things I’m capable of.

Reading this book has been fascinating. Every few pages, I am seeing behaviors, body language, and more that I can pinpoint to the past few years of my life, especially in the workplace. What has been especially interesting is the concept of power, and how people act when they feel powerful or powerless, and I vividly (sometimes painfully) remember both instances I felt at my last job, sadly the “powerless” one far more often. These observations, combined with others about emotional labor and my own introversion and the needs that weren’t met, it’s a cocktail of things to notice and take to heart for future use.

I don’t feel that I have the luxury to be picky about my future work yet, for the most part. I’m still rather young and although I have more management experience than your average 26-year-old, I am in that tricky little middle segment where I don’t have the years of experience required for the field I want to be in, but have the work experience and skills that can translate to other fields easily, if I were to be given the chance. But, I think that after finishing this book I will have some of the internal skills necessary to show my best, most honest self – and to spot the things in a job or company that will be toxic to my well-being. The concept of personal power to me is amazing, and looking back on the brief, but numerous times I felt that are inspiring.

This book is helping me to understand the factors that helped spur me to my highest highs, where I got things done quickly, efficiently, and was on top of every single thing imaginable, and to my lows, where I still kept the balls in the air of importance, but felt discouraged, unappreciated, small, cold, and powerless. To be able to understand how this happens and to take the reins on channeling my more powerful moments into a constant, personal flame is something I hope I can do soon.

I may have some more thoughts to share on this book once I finish it. I’m amazed at how much I’ve gotten out of it already, and I’m only about halfway through. Stay tuned to see if I have more to add in another post later. 🙂

The Sob Story (And the Good Part)

I said I’d explain why I have a lot of time on my hands nowadays.

I worked three years at a tiny company. There were four of us in the office at the beginning, technically seven by the time I left. Had eight supervisors in the field, thirty – forty laborers working.

I spent most of my first year without much training. I found things to do, figured things out on my own, and learned my own ways of dealing with things. Google Docs became my go-to for everything, from making our daily schedule mobile to having my plant lists available to everyone in the office. I took care of a lot of stuff. Everything from helping with payroll to managing up to 15 projects at a time, to being the go-to person for how to spell something, what correct grammar was, where to find something on our server, why their computer wasn’t working. What address or job number one of our projects was that I could come up with by memory.

I’d been unhappy for a long time. There were a lot of positive things about this job – things that were very unique to being in a small business. But there were bad things too. Things like favoritism, and taking on far too much with too little recognition and too little pay. The anxiety of answering the phone with people listening and the ball and chain of having to answer a phone that was 95% spam calls.  Feeling so exhausted when I got home that I couldn’t muster the energy to do anything. Not reading. Not writing. So much time that I didn’t write and it hurt like mad. So much time I felt guilty and like I was missing a part of myself. Feeling like my relationships were suffering because I suffered so much in the eight hours I had to be at work every day. Being lied about to my boss. Suffering abuse from people who were jealous and vindictive when all I wanted was to be left alone and be able to do my work. I didn’t even want compliments, they embarrass me. All I wanted was for people to know that I was doing a ton to make the office and company run and to be treated as such.

There was such good there, too. When you’re at the center of most of the company’s workings, you see a lot and there are such good things. There’s being able to laugh and joke with the people you work with every day, to get a smile on your face from the things they text you that relate to work. To be able to be proud of knowing that the work you’re doing directly affects the product that’s delivered. To be proud that some of the people who come in contact with you recognize your work and appreciate it just as much as you appreciate theirs. To have the opportunity to work with people outside your company that are so generous, and kind, and are reliable and do good work and you sing their praises every day because you appreciate it so much and it makes your job that much easier. To know that you did what you could to make everything in each employee’s life run smoother, as much as you could within your power to do so. To be able to bridge the gaps between people’s strengths and weaknesses and what was needed to keep everything going.

The worst thing was being unable to fight to stay. To be told that “we’ve noticed you’re unhappy” but being powerless to change it, or even be asked how it could be changed. For the abuse to stop and to be paid according to the work I did would have been enough. To not go home and worry about money every day. To not feel like shit every time I came home. To feel like I could go out to eat every once in a while or buy my favorite bottle of wine would have been enough. But I didn’t even get to present my case. I was sent away with a package of checks and tears in my eyes. I shed so many tears in that first week. It was like a breakup. Worse than a breakup. You never realize how much time and effort and self you spend at a job until you leave, especially not really on your own terms.

The good news is that ultimately, it is for the best. There was a ton of grieving at the start, and I still don’t even want to go to the town that I worked in. Our projects we had are all around me and the place I live in is very, very small. But it’s getting better. I can talk about it without bursting into tears. I’m going to be okay. I’ve been feeling my self-confidence come back little by little in the past weeks, and knowing that I am capable of so much is reassuring. I learned so much and took on so much and taught myself and was taught by others so much that is going to transfer to other things. I’m looking for jobs and looking at job descriptions and thinking “I could do that, no problem” even when I don’t have the exact experience they ask for. I feel like I can write again. I’m looking for freelance writing and ideas for making my own videos and looking to start streaming and learning to code. Even though it came from a very painful channel, I have this immense opportunity to go where I want to go. And although this whole experience deconstructed my life and left me feeling like I was treading water at first, I’m remembering how to swim — slowly but surely.

Identifying with Corkscrews

When I was born, my hair was black.

Later on, my hair became brown with blonde highlights, and was wavy and fine. My mom always did my hair, hand twirling it into ringlets and other cutesy styles as soon as it was long enough.

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I only vaguely remember my hair being like this. I didn’t try combing it myself until much later, which ended up with not knowing what to do during science camp in fourth grade and letting it do whatever it wanted. Little did I know that would be the easy time period.

As soon as I turned twelve or thirteen, my hair turned into the corkscrew-ridden, poofy and endless volume hair it is today. I didn’t wear my hair down much, I learned to soak it completely, and pull it into a ponytail or a parrot-shaped blue clip that I loved.

I can’t say that I’ve ever hated my hair, but I was certainly jealous of the different hairstyles that other girls who had straight hair could pull off, especially being able to wear it down every day. Every fashion magazine I read either had curly hair cut very short, or no girls with curly hair at all. Every hair cut I got was cut too short, or cut incorrectly. I brushed and shampooed my hair into oblivion, dealing with endless tangles, clouds of frizz, and no products that worked like they should.

The few times I wore my hair down in my younger years, I faced ridicule. I wore my hair down on a trip to Alcatraz, and after the wind on the boat was done with it, it was what others deemed to be a hot mess. An awful, frizz-filled photo of me from that trip was  placed on the board in our religion classroom a few years later, just out of my reach and sat there taunting me while others looked at it and laughed. There are several memories I have of being teased for my hair, including the fact that it retains its shape after it’s been up, and having the ‘glued down neat’ appearance it always did. I tried straightening my hair for special occasions, and while I always got lots of compliments when it was straight, it never looked just right…or felt just right.

On graduation day, I chopped a good portion of it off, my sister cutting it in the kitchen at my house, adding layers I’d never had before. It was the beginning of a journey that I’d continue on to figure out how to deal with this part of me that would never change.

Over the years I continued trying to find people who could cut my hair well. I had a couple of good haircuts, and then one that used thinning shears which took a few years to recover from. I’d go a year between haircuts afraid to let someone even touch it. I went through a variety of different styling products, some for ‘white’ hair, some for ‘black hair’, none actually striking the balance I needed. Ones that worked well at the time were often discontinued. Looks and beauty may be only skin-deep, but I wanted to be happy with what I looked at in the mirror. I wanted my hair to be what I wanted.

Fast forward to about two months ago. I had heard about Ouidad and other curly-hair specialists before, but hadn’t had the opportunity to have my hair cut by one. Intrigued at possibly finding the solution I needed, I made an appointment, which was supremely difficult to schedule as they were booked at least four weekends in advance from the time I called. When the day finally came, I sat nervously waiting for my stylist, reading a book on my phone.

Saffron Salon in Napa is the closest Ouidad-certified salon to my house. Suzy introduced herself to me, and we got started. I admit to having a slight panic when she mentioned thinning out the “bulk” in my hair, but I decided to trust and not say anything, as I was trying it out to get a cut from a curly-hair specialist. I couldn’t have been more right to do so.

Tired, but victory-laden with ringlets.

I spent the better part of four hours there, but it was worth it. By the time I left, I’d had a deep-conditioning treatment, had my hair washed and conditioned, then cut and styled. I couldn’t believe my hair could look the way it did when I walked out of the salon. My hair was in perfect, soft, not frizzy ringlets, had enough volume but not too much, and even the curliest part was well-behaved.

I’ll admit that I don’t style it exactly with the “rake and shake” technique that I learned that day, and I’m still trying to train my head out of wanting to part to the side like I’ve done for six years now. But I am amazed at what a little understanding did for me to treat my hair a little better. It may be mostly for looks, but my hair is a part of me and should be treated well and kept healthy, just like the rest of me. Trying to change what it is doesn’t help me much.

Today, I appreciate my curly hair. It fits my personality and my character (not to mention my face) and now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Click these links for more information about Ouidad and DevaCurl.

Have you had hair/beauty woes about something you couldn’t change? How did you deal with it? Let me know in the comments.

The Frame of Mind of Reading a Good Book

You pick up a new book (or series). You scan the cover and the description of the book, wonder what all the fuss was about, or what awaits you inside. You turn to the first page and begin to read.

A few pages in.  “This is pretty good. I don’t see the crazy interest in it though. Why was everyone raving about it so much?”

The action starts. “Okay, I like this, I can get into this….WHAT? HOW could THAT happen?!”  You shove your face as close to the words as possible.

The action continues to climb in intensity. You’re curled up in a tight ball, with whatever format you happen to be reading on tightly tucked between your hands and your intent eyeballs. There is no such thing as reading too fast! You wonder if you can get away with not going to work tomorrow because this book is so good. Inevitably, you will fall asleep, because of course it’s 2:00 in the morning, and you really do need to get up and work at 7:30 (you know, in 5 1/2 hours).

You’re at work. You can’t stop thinking about your book. You try to immerse yourself in work, but can’t concentrate. You’re daydreaming about the story, about your favorite characters. You might even start unknowingly speaking in the same dialect that the characters speak in, wondering why your coworkers and friends are looking at you funny.

You’re on your lunch break. You hungrily devour as many words as possible, and when the time ticks over to the last minute of your lunch break, you tear yourself away from the book, feeling as if strands of your psyche are left tucked in the pages. Now comes the hours ticking down until you can go home and read again.

You get home and sail into your bed to continue reading. Your eyes move back and forth like a pendulum, that speeds faster and faster in pace with the action in the book. You forget completely about eating, your position while reading continues to change, the view of your room: windows, doors, floor, melt away until you’re basically sitting in the story, watching all that’s going on. You can see each character clearly, as if they were standing right in front of you.

You finish the book. You read the last line, lingering on the conclusion. You can’t believe you just got through this book so fast. You can’t believe you didn’t trust the raving your book-loving friends you trust had done. And ultimately, you feel exhausted. Like you’ve just run a marathon, climbed a flight of stairs, then did thirty push ups all in a row. Your mind literally hurts.

All of the scenery of the book drains out of your view, like it was made of wax and is melting away slowly. You lay flat on your back, still immersed in the world, but with nothing to keep it from drifting away.

For the next couple of days, you can’t seem to start another book. You feel drained and mope-y, still recovering from the book hangover that you just suffered. You’re not sure you can ever find another book you’ll love just as much.

But of course you will. You’ll find another book – whether you find it in a bookstore, or online for your Kindle, or a friend pushes it in your face, or you become curious about one you’ve heard a lot about. You’ll dive in…and the cycle will start all over again.

Tragedy (When Death Comes Too Soon)

I’d say I met an inordinate amount of people when I was growing up, from going to school in a tight-knit community and working at summer camp for seven (yes, count them, seven) summers.

I’m not sure if the amount of tragedy you witness is directly in correlation to how many people you know, but sometimes I wonder.

I grew up in the Seventh-day Adventist church, which if you attend any of the schools and interact with people from other schools, everyone knows everyone, or at least that’s how it seems. You meet a lot of people your age. And when something bad happens, you hear about it almost immediately.

The first time this happened, I was seventeen years old. I was at a dress rehearsal for a band concert when I noticed I had several missed calls from one of my friends. We had spent a lot of time hanging out together with her family and our mutual friend Seth the previous summer. They both lived in Rocklin at the time, and he had come to my church a few months before.

When she answered the phone, she was in tears. Her voice was cracking, and she said, “Sam, Seth was in a motorcycle accident…and he died.”

I felt like the whole world stopped. I had never had a friend of mine pass away. We weren’t best friends, but close enough to make the shock of it hit me like a freight train. I don’t remember what I said, don’t really remember a lot of the rest of that weekend or so. I spent a lot of time in my bed crying and with my mind blank, and trying to find the news articles about what happened. By the time I went to his memorial, I felt completely numb, and couldn’t process how someone could be there one day and gone the next. Especially someone I’d hung out with, laughed until we cried, the three of us sitting out on the bridge at summer camp watching the meteor shower. I felt guilty and even more upset because it had been months since I’d talked to him last, and he was gone, just like that, at nineteen.

There’s been many others since that have been around my age and passed away far before old age should have taken them. There were four young men that were killed in a car accident that were from my college, and I pass their memorial crosses every single day. There was a young professor that passed away from pancreatic cancer. There was a classmate’s brother that passed away in his sleep during college. A girl I knew from high school died of a disease she had since she was young.

Just a few days ago, a young woman who I knew from summer camp died in her sleep. I really didn’t know her very well: we didn’t spend time with the same people, or work the same type of job at camp. She was always friendly and nice to me, and had a sharp sense of humor. Hearing of her passing was shocking and like a punch to the gut. Knowing anyone who should have lived a much longer life makes you reevaluate a lot of things in your own.

Recently, I read the book The Lovely Bones. If you haven’t read it, it’s about a girl who is murdered, and goes to her own personal heaven. She is able to watch her family as they struggle through the grief and horror of losing her. After reading that book, for some reason death became a lot more real. I felt so much more mortal than I have ever felt in my lifetime. Then the recent news made me think even more about mortality, and about living life to the fullest, and about keeping your loved ones close and making sure they know how much you care, because you really, honestly never know how long they will be around. We should never take life for granted.

It’s said that people my age think that they’re invincible, everyone in their twenties has always felt that way. It’s odd to be in my mid-twenties and appreciating life for the fact that it can be taken away so suddenly. It can inject fear and anxiety, but it can also inject a sense of adventure and curiosity, and a need to love to the limits and fill every corner of your heart with the things that make life great.

We shouldn’t take life for granted.