One Week In: The New Job

Firstly, thank you so much for your kind words on my somewhat surprise announcement last week about my new job. If you know me IRL you have definitely heard me talk a lot about my work situation in the last six months or so…if we are only Interwebs friends, I’ve tried really hard to keep all that stuff quiet, as you do. But! Here we are! One week in to my new position at a new agency and I have SO many thoughts and feelings. Because it’s work, most of those thoughts need to stay off the Interwebs, but there are some I’d like to share:

    • I forgot how much I love being with other people. I work for a small agency, and there certainly are plenty of quirks per capita, but HUMANS! I am with OTHER HUMANS all day long. Quirks aside, it is glorious.
    • I miss my Salt Lake co-workers something fierce; my team there is amazing.
    • I don’t mind the commute, I’m between 40 and 50 minutes each way, in heavy traffic. This is about four times longer than any commute I’ve had, and–so far–I really don’t mind. I listen to audiobooks and I know there isn’t any way for me to get there in 15 minutes in the best of traffic, so I sit and listen and try to zen out a little.
    • I do miss being off work at 4:00 pm, working Utah hours made for delightfully long evenings getting a TON of stuff done. (Arizona doesn’t do Daylight Savings time, so half the year it’s in the Mountain time zone and half the year in Pacific.
    • The office I moved into had sat empty for quite a while, it was dark and dusty and jam packed with big, black, metal furniture. I’ve managed to get rid of two of the big file cabinets, include the massive one that blocked HALF of the window and I keep the blinds pulled up to let in as much light as possible. That one change has made it feel so much bigger and brighter, my coworkers keep commenting that they had no idea my office was so nice, so not-cave-like. I’ve scrubbed and Clorox wiped everything, I’ve brought in plants and a not-flourescent desk lamp and a little art (more to come).
    • I don’t know if I’ll ever love it as much as my home office, which has already had a little makeover, of sorts, and will continue to transform over the coming months.
    • Officey clothes! Officey shoes! I have missed this part of my wardrobe! It’s been fun to resurrect my pencil skirts and peep-toe pumps. (Also? Fitting into so much more of my closet makes it easier to give up leggings and fuzzy slippers. Ahem.)
    • I am getting used to having an involved boss again. It’s been a little bit of a do-si-do dance for me, I’m trying to both do my job as effectively and efficiently as I can, but also not assert authority that absolutely isn’t mine. I know I will like having some larger guiding principles and a long-term plan for growth, those are things I definitely was looking for in this job change.
    • I feel like I should be totally overwhelmed; but I am not. Not at all, actually. Granted, it helps a LOT that I am in the same industry, and at the same type of company (state agency). There are a lot of similarities, and while I’m learning a ton of new things, I feel like I have a solid framework to hang all this new information on, I don’t have to build the framework while simultaneously juggling all the New Info at the same time.

I really think I will like it here. And that is a really fantastic feeling. Have you started any big new projects? How is it going? Are you swamped? Or do you feel like you’ve got this!? Tell me, tell me, tell me!

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When you start something new there is always a little bit of anxiety mixed in with the thrill of the new, the unexplored, the possibility. Maybe that’s just me. Coincidentally, when planning a new adventure, I also go through waves of melancholy and exhilaration; sad about what I’ll never have time to experience and simultaneously over the moon about what I will be able to see and do.

My brain is a living, spinning contradiction in almost every way. It’s exhausting.

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Confessions of a Bookaholic: Henrik Ibsen plays

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Henrik Ibsen, a Norwegian playwright, spent his career picking apart stodgy Victorian values to examine the seedy underbelly, actual relationships, and human behaviors that flourished as real-life counter-points to the hyper-moral, Christian, patriarchy-based social facade. He writes about feminism, the degradation of women, the differences between religion and morality, the benefits and drawbacks of a nationally mandated version of Christianity; he writes about sex and STDs, incest, marriage and adultery, and almost all of his works have suicide and/or madness in them. Most plays written during Ibsen’s lifetime (he published from 1849-1899) followed a fairly standard story arc involving a (male) hero-protagonist faced with insurmountable odds and a tidy, happy ending with a moral lesson and true love’s kiss. Ibsen challenged this format and introduced complex characters fighting with a lot of sticky moral questions that fall squarely into a large gray area where nothing is so easy as black or white. He delves into the realities that lurk behind the Victorian veneer, and while many of his plays are over 150 years old, there is so much of his content that feels completely fresh and current to modern sensibilities. Basically, Ibsen is a Norwegian-speaking Shakespeare. Dah, he’s such a fantastic writer with a tremendous grasp of human nature!

I know reading plays can be an acquired taste, it is not the same as reading a novel (something almost every review of J.K. Rowling’s A Cursed Child mentions). In reading a play you, the reader, have to imagine far more than you would in a book as you only have dialogue to work with (and a few minimal stage directions or visual descriptions). Reading a play and being fully immersed in the world of the playwright, understanding the emotions behind dialogue without much (if any) omniscient narration is a learned skill. If you’ve ever watched a (well designed/performed) play you probably completely understood the story and characters and their motivations, right? Playwrights intend their work to be heard, not read, and it makes a huge difference in understanding for most people. If you can find an audio version to listen to while you read, that may help (I listened to a few through Librivox, but the actors are kind of a crap shoot). If you haven’t read an Ibsen play before–or any play before–I’d recommend starting with one of these first two: A Doll’s House, or Hedda Gabler.

A Doll’s House: Probably Ibsen’s most famous play, first published in 1879 it portrays the tragedy of a Victorian (patriarchal) marriage and the ridiculous role it leaves for women who are fully capable in the outside “man’s” world. Nora has good business sense; her husband does not. Nora has strong opinions on relationships and money and marriage that mirror feminists several generations later; her husband does not. The options that are open for her and super limited and in order for her to help her husband at all she must be super subversive and secretive and possibly even veer into illegal-for-Victorians territory, you know, so her incompetent husband doesn’t lose face in public. This is perhaps the first play in the western theatrical canon that addresses gender roles and how they can be damaging for men AND women.

Hedda Gabler:  Hedda is in an unhappy marriage with a man she doesn’t love and feels trapped and thwarted in the rest of her aspirations.Hedda doesn’t want to be a mother–the obvious/only next step for someone in her position–and she doesn’t particularly want to be a wife, quiet and docile and domestic is not her jam. She tries to explain this to her husband, to a friend, to her ex-lover, to a doctor, to the household staff, but no one seems to grasp that she cannot and will not shoe-horn herself into the mold that is expected of her. Hedda is often called the female Hamlet, she has such a complex and meaty role!

Ghosts: This is a psychological thriller that boldly discusses marriage infidelity, venereal disease, and assisted suicide. Yes, and it was published in 1881 when NONE of those things were openly discussed. Helen Alving is tortured by the memories of her late husband’s many infidelities, yet as a Good Victorian Woman she feels she must honor him in every way possible, to help him save face in their community. She wants her son to return home from his travels to help her establish a new family order, one without ties to her dead husband, one where she hopes she will be free. What she does not expect is that her son, Oswald, has his own horrifying legacy from his father: his syphilis is not a result of his Parisian free love, but was inherited directly from his philandering father, and it is quickly killing him. Fun fact: Once upon a time I took home a state theater medal for a scene from Ghosts; I was Helen Alving, my bff was Oswald in the scene is where Oswald asks for his mother to administer enough drugs to kill him if the syphilis eats too much of his brain and he becomes a syphilis vegetable. Not an easy scene for a couple of 18 year olds!

Enemy of the People: This! Published in 1882 this play is still so relevant. We’re talking water in Flint, Michigan, and the GOP and current Presidential election brouhaha, and environmental damage being covered up by a ruling (but stupid) majority; this play has all of that. A popular tourist attraction in a small town, the baths, is actually poisoning people, the concerned doctor-scientist who discovers this wants to rally the town to his cause, close down the baths and correct the issue. He takes to the media (newspaper) to argue his case, and is completely shut down by his brother, the Mayor, and the rest of the “concerned” town citizens who do not want the baths closed because they will all lose revenue in their respective businesses if the tourists stay away. Does ANY of this sound remotely current? Yes. Yes it does. Ibsen is brilliant, and there are so many quotes that are spot-on in our current political and environmental landscape.

Rosmerscholm: Not my favorite Ibsen, it explores similar themes of his other plays: the role of women, morality vs Christianity, and–as always–there is a lot of talk of suicide.

Master Builder: Somewhat autobiographical, Ibsen writes about an architect who believes he has sort-of magical powers, if he dreams something up, it comes to pass. He has built his career on the destruction of his wife’s family/ancestral home, something she has never gotten over. And then this teenage vixen comes along to try and destroy the architect, and she does good work. Not my favorite, and it didn’t have great reviews when it was first performed, but it is interesting how much of Ibsen’s life is in this particular play.

Emperor and Galilean: Huge, sweeping epic on the fight between Christianity and paganism in ancient Rome (AD 351). The Roman Emperor, Julian, is trying to rule his vast land holdings; the followers of Christ (the Galilean of the title) are trying to maintain Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire. The clash between church and state, Christian and other, intellectuals and faith, it’s all there. A recent re-translation by Ben Powers cuts this 7-hour play down to 3.5 hours (both performance time) and modernizes the language a bit, it is easier to understand than the original behemoth.

More info on Henrik Ibsen.

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Vague-Blogging: Explained

I did the thing. I dealt with the Really Messy and Difficult Thing I vague-blogged about a little while ago. I can’t get too much into it, but it was a Work Thing, one that has been fermenting and getting consistently worse for about 18 months and was slowly sucking my soul.

For many years I had a fantastic, supportive, demanding, inspiring supervisor. She left the company last spring, and her replacement…well…despite being the best candidate in the pool of applicants, the feet just could not fill the shoes my old boss carefully and thoughtfully left in her office. Initial feelings of “Oh, well, New Boss is new…give it some time, things will get better…” Things never got better.

[Redact. Redact. Redact.]

I have been tentatively looking for a job in Arizona since last fall, more in earnest the last few months. However, after applying to at least 3 dozen jobs I still hadn’t got a single call for an interview.

I was discouraged and I wrote a vague blog post about wanting to change everything in my life (but really, I only meant I wanted to change the one really distressing part of my life).

Literally, just a few hours after publishing that rant, the Arizona equivalent of my Utah state department called completely out of the blue, they had an opening, and they wanted me, and could I please come in for an interview? Oh, and also send them a resume? And fill out an application? (This is a case for networking, people! There is no other way to have this kind of head-hunted experience!) Two days later I interviewed, and a few hours after that I had a job offer with a title increase and a solid starting platform for salary/benefit negotiations.

Today is my first day as a Director. I am no longer a remote employee 700 miles from my colleagues, I no longer have a 15-foot commute and working in fuzzy slippers is not part of my government employee dress code. I have BOATLOADS to learn–people, programs, processes–but I am looking forward to the challenge. I have a beautiful view, a wall of windows in my office, and will be a downtown employee once again. Granted, this time “downtown” is a 30 miles (each way) commute with rush hour traffic, but even that will not be too terrible. I can drive 700 miles from Phoenix to Salt Lake without stopping, 45 minutes is nothing.

I will forever miss my fantastic colleagues and co-workers from my Salt Lake City office. I am already missing the idea of going back several times a year for visits and work meetings and evenings or weekends spent with family, friends, and my mountains.

But this is the right decision right now.

Deeeep breaths. Here I go!

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Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, New Mexico

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It’s not really a huge surprise that I kind of love the weird: weird architecture, weird geology, weird non-fiction topics to obsess about. When I read about the Tent Rocks in New Mexico I knew we would be stopping to explore, and this was before I even knew what they looked like!

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Creamy, layered sandstone, slot canyons, pointy tents (or mirage-like ice cream cones, depending on how hot it is and how long you’ve been hiking), with a path through the whole thing and up to the top of the mesa for a better view.

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Mr. Blue Eyes and I lathered up in sunscreen (it was 90-something degrees…not the best day for hiking!), grabbed more water, and started hiking. At first, the trail was super flat and meandering, we passed old people and babies who had stopped to enjoy the shade or go exploring.

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We wandered through a couple of amazing slot canyons, I stood at one end, camera poised, waiting for all tourists to get out of my shot. I love slot canyons, these were fairly narrow, but completely dry. (However, had there been rain they certainly would have been dicey!)

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We kept wandering….and then we hit the “steep” part. There was very little shade and I was a sweaty mess, but–nerd that I am–there were MORE TENT ROCKS TO SEE! So we kept going, zig-zagging up the cliff, scrambling at places, to get to the top of the mesa and look down into the “campground” of tents we’d just wandered through.

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I would love to visit in the early morning or on a cool spring evening, I bet the sunrise/sunset on those rocks is just stunning. As it was, I was impressed by the sandstone formations, all the layers, and the slot canyons. Yay, nature!

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