(F)e-mail

Everyone knows that there’s a double standard in the workplace between men and women. And if you don’t know, you A) have never worked with the opposite sex or B) truly don’t know there’s a double standard, so you shouldn’t be reading this blog. You should be reading every feminist text you can find.

But let’s just say that we’re all on the same page, and we’ve all noticed that men and women are treated (and paid) differently at work.

Where are the differences most evident? In promotions? In conversations at the water cooler? In the lunch room?

No, it’s in our e-mails.

When I first started working, I wrote e-mails that had sentences with question marks implied at every turn.

They looked like this:

Hello?

Um, excuse me? Do you mind doing the thing that you said you were going to do four weeks ago? I know you must be busy, but I’m sorry, do you think you could get it to me? When possible? Thank you? I really appreciate your work? Thanks for not yelling at me?

And yes, maybe that’s just because I am a very timid and shy person to begin with. But I’m also a woman. And I feel the same at work that I do in daily life: like I’m not meant to be there and I’m taking up space. My e-mails reflect that.

And this is a sentiment embedded in women since the day that we are born. Chimamanda Adichie points out in her book, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, that little girls are constantly pulled back by their mothers, asked to “play nice” and “sit still,” whereas little boys are given free rein of the playroom. (And what is an office but an adult playroom? Where we are all free to interact with our surroundings and work on what we are best at?)

So, what do my e-mails look like now? They’re still nice. I understand that it’s not fair to take out my frustrations on an unsuspecting stranger. And as sad as it is to say, people do respond more nicely when you are nice to them in the first place.

But I beat around the bush a lot less. I ask. And in very rare and desperate times, I even plead. I do not demand. I’m not as confident in myself yet. But maybe someday, I’ll conquer my inbox in the same way that the vikings took new land: completely.

Why I (Occasionally) Wear My Fitbit

I get it. We all have fitness goals. Run farther and faster. Weigh less. Be stronger. And a Fitbit or other weight loss device can really help to motivate us. We set goals and track our meals. But then we’re all like, “I can’t walk any farther because I’ve met my goal for the day, and I don’t want to over do it and lose steam for the rest of the week.” But at least we’re trying, right? 

And don’t get me wrong. I totally appreciate having a little thing that helps me get up and go. Because that’s not exactly easy when you have a desk job. And it’s not exactly easy when you’re just an all around busy person, like we all are. 

But these were my thoughts before I realized that with a fit bit, you’re never really alone

Like, instead of running along a path, getting a workout in, in complete silence,  your Fitbit vibrates because someone’s texted you and you can read it on your Fitbit. I mean, how am I supposed to get into my run, enjoy nature and the sensations of my body, if I’m being reminded that I’m still connected to the real world? If I can read texts on my wrist? 

And it distracts me all day long. Because how do I ignore something that is right under my nose?
I know, I know. I could just turn off the alerts. But wouldn’t I miss being constantly in the know? And when does this become a concerned citizen discussing a pervasive issue to a bratty twenty year old something’s entitled rant? (Yes, I have a Fitbit. Even though it scares me to own one, I have one.) 

But maybe that’s what our new reality is. Our technology has just become a part of us, and we have to stay connected, no matter what. 

And like it or not, tech is pushing forward…by sometimes just making us do push ups. 

Date with Death

I was actually typing up an entirely different blogpost when my computer’s battery percentage caught my eye. It’s nearly dead, and the icon is red, urging me to go get my charger, as if everything is so urgent. (It’s the same with the dashboard lights in your car. I swear the alarms go off when you are running low on window washer fluid.)

And so, I do what any lazy one of us does: I procrastinate. I let the battery run down to the wire, playing a terrible game with my valuables. Will I lose all of the words I have just typed out when the screen goes black, or will I get my charger in time to reboot it up quickly, leaving me where I left off?

I wonder all of this, and then I wonder, if somehow, the fact that my computer keeps track of when it is going to die somehow makes it worse.

I mean, what if people were notified in the same way about when they were going to die? Like a special watch or an egg timer that you kept in your pocket that incessantly clicked. Would you want that device? Or more to the point, would you want that knowledge?

Of course, some of us don’t get that choice; it is thrusted upon us. Terminal patients are given an estimate. Some exceed the limit, some don’t. But they are more or less told when their lives are going to end. And so, you have to decide what to do with your time left. You either make amends or you make memories. You do what you can with the best that you have.

But.

Isn’t that what we are all doing anyway? We may not know when we are going to die, but we know it will happen. This encourages us to make decisions and forego others. We’re all doing what we can with the best that we have, whether we know it or not.

And you may argue that people with terminal illnesses are different because they know the time they have, and it isn’t much. A sense of urgency is not lost on them like it is on the rest of us.

But I have to wonder if it actually is. If we’re all not procrastinating bigger decisions, just letting our batteries run out, no matter how long we have. Because even if we know when we’ll die, does it make it any easier to live right now? Shouldn’t we all be living like tomorrow is our last day?

The end of this story is that I eventually got up and grabbed my charger before it was too late.

I only want to make sure that it isn’t too late for you, either.

The Lost Art of Waiting

Like any patriotic American, I went to see fireworks last night. Burdened by blankets and not much else, we set out at dusk to watch the pyrotechnic display. We were a bit worried that we would not be able to find a parking spot or a seat on the lawn, but our fears were quelled when we scored both. Positioned comfortably in the grass, we watched the clouds roll in to cover the setting sun.

And, in a phrase, we waited. And waited. And yes, even waited. Until one of us had the good sense to check our smartphone and be reconnected to the civilized world. The clock read about 7:45 or so. When were the fireworks supposed to go off, you ask? Around 9:30, or so the website said that no one had bothered to check until we were sitting at the designated launch arena. So, we had about an hour and a half.

Now, I was in a bit of a state. As a self-identified bookworm, I am rarely ever without a book. Actually, I am known to keep spare books in my car for just such an occasion. Heck, I’ve read during a bridge opening, with my car set in park. (You have three guesses about who forgot to bring a book to this particular shindig, and the first two don’t count.)

Yes, in surprising fashion, I did not have a book. And even more surprisingly, my father did. So, he made out the best in this situation because I did not even have a pair of headphones or enough battery life on my phone to surf the web and still take pictures of the main event.

Of course, you have probably figured out that we made out just fine during this harrowing ordeal. We saw the fireworks, and it was a great show. But how did we survive the waiting?

Truly, I forgot how torturous it was to have nothing to entertain yourself with during the dull moments of life before you could pick up at the good parts. My attention span was flitting and fleeting, and I was squirming in my skin.

But I also forgot that it was as pleasurable to feel the grass tickle your chin and watch children tumble and fall for the fun of it as it was to read a book or listen to music. I forgot how satisfying it was to observe your surroundings instead of avoiding them. Just being has its perks instead of doing all of the time.

Not to be a begrudging member of our society, because I like the advances we have made in modern entertainment, but I wonder at the cost of having constant stimulation. Truly, I think there is an art to waiting in that you can find entertainment in your own head and not on a screen. And yes, for us shy people, the fact that you can look down at a screen while passing a person you may know without having to make small talk is a godsend. But when is it time to look up again? When will we put down the phone recording the fireworks instead of seeing them ourselves?

All in all, I hope to regain the lost art of waiting. Of making a game out of thin air. Of entertaining myself with thoughts alone. Of seeing fireworks behind my eyes long after they have disappeared into the night instead of saving them on a small disk for a shorter amount of time. Because this is all I will have in the end.

Back That Thing Up (Often)

So, as most of you know, I was down one incredibly expensive computer this past week, which made blogging quite difficult. But thankfully, it is now back, shiny and new with a functioning keyboard and battery.

Except for the fact that most of my files are gone.

Yes, somewhere between last May and right now I decided that it would not be a good idea to back up my files so that I could enjoy them at a later date. So, that means old resumes, cover letters, new drafts of an old book, and a few writings are completely gone. A huge price to pay for a new keyboard and battery (plus the astronomical price I actually paid for repairs).

And I can’t lie. The panic set in when I realized it. I couldn’t believe that I had thought my files were safe enough and that I could resist backing up my current progress. Like many millenials, most of my life is on a computer. Pictures, old assignments, senior thesis, music, all on one fallible device. You feel helpless when you find that it is all gone, your presence in the world wiped clean. And then something absolutely selfish crept in, convincing me that my outrage for not keeping a recent backup of precious documents somehow mattered in the great scheme of the universe. People are dying all over the world but me? I have to rewrite my resume. Boo hoo.

Well, you can sense my outrage over my own outrage.

Because it’s incredibly frustrating to lose all of your progress, but it isn’t life threatening. To discuss one of my favorite books of all time, You’re a Badass, Jen Sincero spends time talking about failure and how to cope with it. One of the stories that stuck with me was from a friend of hers. Her friend had worked hard to create her own recording studio, buying all of the equipment out of her own pocket. Only a few days after the construction was complete, the entire studio was engulfed in flames. That’s right, her brand new recording studio gone. Do you know what she did? She didn’t tear her hair out. She didn’t cry over the ashes of her headphones and mixers. She simply built another one, a more state-of-the-art one. And she created mad, sick beats.

And that’s how you need to approach each setback and failure. You should never think that when you are made to start over that you should stop altogether. Just the opposite. You should begin again and try even harder. Me? I’m ready to rewrite the drafts I had (from scratch) because now I don’t have to be hampered by what could have been. I don’t have to edit what’s there. I can start completely over and create something great.

So, do me a favor. Do not view any step back as a failure. See it as a chance to start again, fresher and better each time.

Oh, and back up all of your stuff. Like now. Seriously. Save your future self so much frustration. I’m not kidding. Go.