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So there’s this thing.  And this thing is soul-torching and reawakening, and like a breath of fresh air.  And yesterday Joel grinned at me on the couch and said that he always knew I wanted this (professionally), that he knew it two years ago, and he was surprised I hadn’t realized it myself.  What do you mean, I implored, what are you talking about?  How did you know?  He said he knew when I dedicated my time and energy to it, and behaviorally all of my actions pointed to it, but verbally my words were not corresponding with my efforts.  I was excelling at this thing, while in the same breath, explaining why it wasn’t for me right now and that I wanted something else.  And I didn’t know I wanted this – so soon – and as I was preparing all of my materials for highly-qualified people to pick over and analyze, I was struck by two feelings – absolute freedom and sheer terror.  Terror because not only do I have to show my materials (my portfolio, if you will) to all of my previous mentors for feedback, but I have to put it out there to people that I don’t know and I’ve never met and hope and wish they see something in my portfolio that convinces them, “We need to talk to this person more.”  Freedom because Joel was totally correct – this thing, it fits me really well.  The lifestyle, the focus, the persistence and drive, it all works.  It’s like opening a door that I thought was sealed off and only accessible (by my own misgivings and plans) until much later and discovering that I totally want to see more if I’m allowed to step beyond the doorstep.   So for the last seven days, I huddled against my computer, the opportunity spelled out in words before me, my fingers trying to type words and adjectives that match what the opportunity says and doesn’t say.  Regular job ads – the ones I’ve been meticulously applying to and documenting with precise cover letters and shiny resumes – don’t have the same effect on me as this one has had.

This ad shakes me to the core, made me feel passionate and alive again, and oh-so-hopeful.  Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve felt like that?  That feeling like, if-I-don’t-get-this, I-might-crumble-and-collapse, but-I-know-I’ll-get-it-that’s-how-right-this-feels kind of feeling.  I haven’t felt like that since I began applying for graduate school the first time around.  When I hoped and wished and dreamed for an acceptance letter from my first choice program.  And I didn’t get a letter, but a phone call, that said, “Congratulations, you’ve been accepted” I swear I melted into a puddle right there on the floor of my internship.  I can remember the smell and time and place I was at when I got that phone call.  My mentor would later say I sounded so professional and so confident, but in reality, I was tucked away in a back office hoping no one would notice I was away from my desk and taking a personal call.  My voice issued low tones of calm, but my mind was racing with excitement and possibility.  But that was the thing, back then:  for the most part, college was a breeze.  I mean, I certainly didn’t finish with a perfect 4.0, and I had the requisite college major change, and I considered a good time to be out on my balcony finishing a book, and I had but a handful of friends, but there was nothing ever terribly hard for me in my undergraduate work.  Big fish in a small (intellectual) pond (at a school of 30,000+).  I could achieve ANYTHING.  I worked my ass off and became a Registered Yoga Teacher.  I applied to the University Honors Program and got in.   I applied for a semester abroad at Oxford University and found myself there.  I wanted an apartment, I got my first choice.  I applied for grad school – I got into my first choice.  I successfully completed my masters, loved my program and my colleagues and faculty, and applied to PhD programs and got into my first choice.  You see where this is going.  And although I haven’t exactly encountered huge setbacks or personal tragedies by any means, the last three years during my PhD program have been difficult.  It was little things that I was responsible for too, I’m not trying to cast blame around, especially after it is all said and done – but it was mistrust, dislike, frustration, irritation, and disappointments.  Suddenly, being me didn’t mean much.  It meant that I finished the program in near record time, but I left behind this trail of hurt feelings and wistful thinking and disappointment.  I didn’t get along well with my fellow graduate students (with the exception of a very few) due to interpersonal conflict and misaligned goals.  I didn’t establish strong connections with most of the faculty (again, with the exception of a few) and published with none.  The alumni network is not strong.  I didn’t appreciate much of what the school stood for (the university itself was rife with controversy the entire time I was there:  plagiarism, firings, misappropriation of funds, on and on).  As an undergrad for four years (ah, hell, my whole life prior to that, too), I could get anything I wanted because I was smart, motivated and competent and usually in a good financial position (thanks, parents!).  Cliché, but the world was an oyster and I kept finding the pearl every time I looked for one.  Relevant side note:  during horse camp one summer, I went swimming in a backcountry freshwater pond and stepped on a clam. I fished underneath the muddy water with my fingers until I found it, and pulled it up above the surface.  I pried that sucker open and I, amazingly, found a pearl.  I stuffed it into my jeans pocket and fingered the pitted surface for the rest of the day (real pearls generally aren’t perfectly round).  Anyway, back to the point, if I could apply my mind to it, I could achieve it.  Then for the past three years, I have struggled with impressing anyone and was baffled when hard work really didn’t do anything besides make the less-motivated people mad at me.  I was confused when I was the star performer and turning in good work, and I was ignored.  The people that were making mistakes, fumbling around, not making good progress – those were the people that got the attention and (strangely enough) the praise.  I excelled at teaching.  No one really cared and instead forced me into taking a teaching prep class in order to follow a newly-designed rule – this was after I was already teaching and demonstrating competence, and others were allowed to get out of it.  Just unfair.  And I know that if anyone were to read this, they would hold their finger up and say, wait a minute, that’s not how that happened, and I would say:  that is EXACTLY how it happened.  I demonstrated I was good at research, and I did an umpteen amount of projects, papers, and manuscripts during my “free” time and prided myself on working really hard, when everyone else was proud of themselves for doing one research project that was part of their assigned assistantship.  Did any of that get acknowledged?  No.  I was left alone and ignored.  I know I’m sounding bitter and remorseful and gripetastic, but hey, as my old friend Val would say, “That’s what’s up.”

    My point being, I survived with a huge backpack filled with cynicism on my back.  I earned the degree and now I have three letters behind my name.  I guess that’s an accomplishment in and of itself, but it doesn’t feel like it.  I feel like I just ran a marathon and then no one was at the finish line to congratulate me (I mean, besides the obvious cheer squad – family and select friends).  I finished and all I have to show for it right now is sitting at home in front of my computer in my pajamas for four hours every morning until I bother to get dressed, applying to job after job after job.  Resume, cover letter, online application, rinse and repeat.  I keep telling myself that I have loads of projects to work on, and I do, but really, I’m just counting down the seconds until I’m employed.  Until I find a different kind of purpose.  I’m not complaining too much.  But I feel like I deserve to, just a little.  It’s heartbreaking and discouraging to put in 4+2+3 = 9 years of degrees and school only to be told, “The economy is tight right now.  We’re going to hire the person that has had 15 years of experience for this entry-level, bachelors-degree-preferred job you are applying to.”  My occupation is a bit of a niche field, and the type of work I do is influenced by who is in the field at any given moment.  And heck, I know that I’ve only been on the job market for about a month now, and that’s nothing when compared to people that lost their careers and are starting over, or have been unemployed for six, eight, twelve months.   I know. 

This long winded post, all to say, I found something that I have a decent shot at.  I have meticulously prepped my portfolio, expressing my competence and enthusiasm, trying to express – I AM THE PERSON YOU’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR.  Look no further!  It has renewed my enthusiasm for doing what I do, and spending 7 days with it occupying my thoughts gave me a chance to feel inspired, invigorated, hopeful…THIS is how I felt ALL the time as an undergrad!  Whatever I wanted, I reached for it and I succeeded.  I am doing nothing but thinking about the positive side, the possibilities that this would result in, imagining successfully interviewing for it, everything like that – because that’s what I used to do.  I used to be a positive, happy, ENTHRALLED individual.   The last three years sucked my motivation and positive thinking out of me, but I think I found it again.  I don’t feel cynical about this.  I feel good about this.  And any terror or jitters I am feeling is in direct proportion to NOT wanting to feel cynical anymore. I want to prove that I can do this.  I want to prove and show that for once, after a weird three-year hiatus, that I CAN do something when I set my mind to it.  And if it doesn’t happen?  Well, that’s another blog entry I guess, but for now, I’m hopeful.  And I couldn’t ask for more than to feel that way again.

Well, I’m very happy to report that our work yesterday went well.  I took both dogs out to a field behind our house and worked with them.

I worked with Trooper for an hour and a half – I was surprised when I realized what time it was when we came back.  We walked squares on the long lead, worked on heeling, sits, and long stays off lead.  He did very well, considering the amount of traffic that was driving by on two sides of the field.  I felt a little silly walking around in squares in front of cars, but it proved effective.

I worked with Cosette for about 30 minutes.  We also walked squares and worked on long stays.  She’s not as skilled with the stays which is ironic, considering how calm and still she can be when she’s around the house.  She is much more likely to break her sit.  I was also working intensely with her on nosing ahead of me when she’s heeling. 

The long time with both dogs paid off in the evening.  Joel and I both settled down to do some computer time and grading, and the dogs curled up in the living room next to each other and chewed on their bones.  There was significantly less dog rough-housing, which I don’t tolerate for long periods.

I was very happy to read about this article, reporting that it is National Dog Walking Week.  I liked this excerpt:

  "With more and more people becoming sedentary and gaining weight due to a lack of exercise, dogs don't get the necessary outlet they need to stay physically and mentally healthy. I feel that part of the overpopulation of dogs in this country is hugely associated with our growing waistlines. Generally, the less a person exercises, the less a dog exercises. Having trained thousands of dogs in the last twenty years, it's my estimation that at least 75% of dogs in shelters are there due to a lack of exercise, which has thus resulted in serious behavior issues such as aggression, destruction and separation anxiety issues. Often, dogs run away from home because they're kept sequestered all day long in a crate or a small yard, says Paige, which only exacerbates a dog's destructive, aggressive or anxious tendencies. This, coupled with too much fatty food, leads to obesity, as well as medical issues like pancreatitis, diabetes, heart disease and the number one killer of dogs – cancer. October is a beautiful time of year everywhere to get outside. Walking your dog on a daily basis not only increases the endorphins in both human and canine brains but it improves the bond between the two.”

I’m looking forward to working with them both tonight.

It turns out that being unemployed keeps me busy!  Well, I’m not completely unemployed  - I have a long-distance telework arrangement with the winery, and I teach a graduate class on Fridays.  Both of those are occupying some of my time.  The other parts of my time are filled up by editing my dissertation, preparing a follow-up study to my dissertation, creating additional studies, and a few other academic pursuits.  The dogs are enjoying the house.  I find myself wishing that I could take them for more walks or do more water retrieving, but doing so involves us out and about in public.  Both dogs have small issues I have to work on, and taking both by myself just seems somewhat insurmountable sometimes.  Well, not insurmountable, but more difficult.  And if I only take Cosette, Trooper howls and yelps up a storm (separation anxiety – which is an issue unto itself).    Cosette is in need of a few retouches on her heeling – she regularly walks with her shoulders ahead of the line of my hips, which is a no-no.  I’m considering going back to basics with her, and restarting.  Trooper is just in general all over the place, so he needs attention 100% of the time when we’re walking together.  Together, they are a little too much to handle – especially if there is another dog crossing our path.  The other day we were having a bit of a challenging walk and there was a dog standing in his own lawn minding his own business, and Cosette and Trooper saw him and just went nuts and ran in front of me to start barking.  Luckily I had a good grip on their leashes and gave them a quick correction and walked away from the distraction.  But, it still stands:   I don’t have as much control over my dogs as I want.  

This is a several part problem:  (1)  not enough exercise, (2) not enough training on my part, (3) not enough consistency.  It’s very much an avoidant thing – because it’s bad, I avoid it, and by avoiding it, I make it worse.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, they aren’t terrible or anything, but they certainly are not laid-back Labs.
Sigh.  I should go walk them some more.  I’ll go walk Trooper now, and Cosette later when Joel gets home so Troops has some company.  Peace!

Just me.  Completely raw. 
I love this poem and posted a portion of it on my Facebook:
Cello, by tenthousandcicadias
"She leaned, forlorn against a weathered wall,
no hall to fill with song.

Slender neck, adorned in scrolls of curl,
poised itself in wait of charm extended--
for strings had not yet dimpled at fingers deft,
nor had she known the spring of ample stroking.

He came to her, with understanding hand
and eyes that fell at frame of curving grace
and dared to stretch his touch to sleekest sides
--her perfectly contoured hourglass,
swollen, for want of play--
and at his lasting trace
her tips edged shyly upward, to be encompassed whole.

When she warmed
and whispered awakened, soft vibrations
he brought his bow, aloft, to supple strings
to slide in flowing motion
above the bending bridge.
With movement skilled he met her lack
caressing back and forth
in gentle adagio that eased woes
and oozed pianissimo through swirled openings
dusting her with richest resin
until she swooned in soothing phrase,
surrendering to his gift.

Mellowed vibrato swelled
and vigor grew
as he persisted
in passion’s modulation
with sweet allegro strokes
and deeper still
'till every space
of hollowed belly resounded
with rigorous crescendo,
filling, telling love’s concerto.

She rested in exquisite song
of satisfied fermata
and he knew,
through satiated quiet,
she was hand crafted
to sound his music."
Never mind searching for who you are. Search for the person you aspire to be. ~Robert Brault
I'm in a bit of a ...tempestuous...mood.
The work I'm doing isn't exactly what I thought I'd be doing right now.
It's a conglomeration between my new life and my old life. 
Sort of good, but sort of frustrating.

On my desk, "The relationship between pay and job satisfaction: a meta-analysis of the literature."  Love reading this kind of thing.  Want to DO this sort of research.

Where's an employer when I need one? 


The dogs are loving the new digs.
Just wanted to post some photos of the two beauties!
As of 11:40 a.m., Friday, July 30, 2010, I'm Labradoris, Ph.D.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Did you hear that?  That was the sound of me emitting a giant exhale.

-The motorcycle course wrapped successfully, with me emerging hand-in-hand with a passing score and a certificate that I can use to obtain the "M" classification on my license.  While I am FAR from being comfortable on a bike, I'm at least not afraid anymore.  Taking the class made me a better driver, too.  I had never operated a manual in my life, so getting used to a clutch was a big step.  But, I did okay and actually liked going "fast" - we never got up above 25 mph on the course, but it felt fast to me initially.  I'm a master corner-er too.  I can corner, swerve, lean, and do a perfect double U-turn (a serpentine in dressage horse language).  I'm not wanting to go out and buy a motorcycle right now, but it's definitely more possible now.

-My dissertation edits are done and it is in my committee's hands.  I will DEFEND MY DISSERTATION next Friday (July 30)!  It feels weird to even say that!  But, I am very excited and very happy to be approaching the finish line -- it's been a long three years.

-The big news is:  I've decided to move!  Joel and I will be moving to his new job, which is in a smaller town outside of The Big City.  I'm going to spend the first two months closing up my life here, unpacking there, and settling in to a life outside of graduate school.  I'm going to be job searching in The Big City, and I'm really hoping I will land something nice - not just something to get by on.

-We've found a very cute rental house with a great, laid-back landlord that (1) has a black Lab, but (2) LOVES that we will be bringing our two Labs!!  Can you believe it?  She wants us to have our dogs there!  It's almost too good to be true - we had to pinch ourselves.  The dogs will even have a doggy door in the back door to go out into the FENCED BACKYARD!!!!  I'm so excited!  The past three years, Cosette (and more recently, Trooper) have had to wear their leashes everytime we go outside.  Now, they can go out and play in the backyard without having me go out there too (I'm most excited about this during the winter).  It's a small backyard, but it's big enough for them.  Plus, we got $100 knocked off our rent by agreeing to take care of the lawn and garden maintenance!  Score!

-My time with the winery is coming to a close, although I'm not looking forward to leaving.  It's been a great job and something that I've really cherished doing.  I will probably stay in contact for the next few months, just helping out and letting them transition to a full-time person that can take care of wholesale distribution. 

-So, the next few weeks will be spent cleaning, packing, teaching, defending, graduating (Joel, not me - I have to graduate in December), moving, working, and job searching!  Should be a really fun time in its own little way. 

Just breathe...
Just breathe...

Things are looking up, but I'm still holding my breath over a couple of things.  I'm so nervous.  Hopefully I'll be able to share the news soon, and it will be news I want to share.  I don't know why I'm so nervous.  My stomach is in knots, even though what I'm planning is going to be a good thing.  There's just a lot of angles involved.

Meanwhile, I'll keep snuggling the dogs.  They're good companions.  =)