homecoming

A couple weekends ago I went to my alma mater’s homecoming. The air was cold but the sun was warm, and all the right people were there. The game was so lopsided (in our favor) I only stayed for half.

The food was good, the drinks even better, and it turns out I missed some people I never thought I would. I saw most of the people I expected to – the types that never leave. There was one or two people in particular I wanted to run into, but didn’t think I would. I know them and enjoyed my time with them in school, but we were never very close so we didn’t keep in touch very often.

One of these people – let’s call him Andy – did happen to be at the bar I went to. He was a friend of a friend that I had a few classes with senior year and I always loved hanging out with him. We did the usual “where are you now/how’s the job” bullshit type of conversation that you’re supposed to have. To everyone who had asked me this, I didn’t even try to mask that I wasn’t overly happy at my current job. When I expressed this to Andy, he said something to the effect of:

You’re too smart for that! I found a job I like, you just have to keep looking and keep networking. You’re so much smarter than me and you deserve to do something you love.

This was followed by the usual “I love you/I miss you” drunken conversation, but those words stuck with me. “You’re so much smarter than me, you deserve better”.

Andy is someone I barely know, who barely knows me! Yet, he knows and believes I deserve better (and he already has a girlfriend so it wasn’t like he had ulterior motives). Maybe I’m reading too far into a slightly drunken encounter, but how does this acquaintance of mine have more confidence in me than I do? I think that was the part that stuck with me more than the words themselves. If certain friends of mine had said this, I would have brushed it off as “oh they’re just being nice”. But because we don’t stay in touch, because we barely know each other, that somehow made what he said mean more.

On that note, I started applying for jobs again. I also turned down my first ever interview this week, because it would have been another job where I’d be unhappy in six months or less.

Finally, I got someone’s attention with some old writing samples. I’ll hear back next week if I get to interview with this tech company in a tiny nearby suburb I adore. The fact that it’s a tech company is terrifying, considering I don’t understand half of what their website says, but I’m excited about the fact that I would get to work on things I enjoy. Or at the very least, I could expand my knowledge and actually gain valuable skills – as opposed to what I’m doing now.

If someone I barely know has faith in me, at the very least I should have some faith in me.

Stagnancy is hazardous

A very, very close friend of mine got married last weekend and after his honeymoon he’s headed back to his new home in Denver this week. One of my coworkers just announced her first pregnancy. A new but semi-close friend of mine returns to California today; he graduated college so now he’s going to take some time to figure out what to do with his life.
And then, me. I’m just… here.
I don’t want to get married or have babies quite yet, but after more than a year at the same job I feel stagnant. And not just in a “this is real life and you don’t get a promotions every six months the way you change classes every semester in college” sort of way. It’s been a year and I don’t feel like I’ve learned all that much with this job. Everything I learned in the first 3 months is all I’ve learned so far. And it may be all I will learn for another year, at least. I’m not moving forward and I think I might even be moving backwards in some ways.
And ok, so I have things like this blog. Like my coaching, like the instagram I made for my dog (yeah, it happened, I’m not sorry). Weird side projects that I can’t even fully commit to – just look at how often I update this! It started as a weekly thing and has slowly drifted to more of a monthly pace. Which is fine, probably. Maybe I was too ambitious with the weekly goal in the first place.
But seriously –
What.
Am.
I.
Doing!
I went to a new dentist for the first time today, and my hygienist – who’s probably in her late 40s or early 50s – is telling me how she sort of wants to look at new career options. The problem is she’s even more stuck than I am. She’s been in her position for 20 years, her two kids are about to start college, and her retirement is looming on the horizon. She can’t see how it would make sense to go back to school, so what else can she do? Many of her friends, she tells me, feel the same way she does. They aren’t really happy in their careers but they’ve waited too long and it doesn’t make financial sense to make a drastic change. So they just wait to retire.
That’s exactly the position I don’t want to be in 25 years from now.
There are days where I’m totally comfortable in all the limbos. My dating life makes no sense, I don’t know what I want to do with my career, etc. Then the stagnation gets to me. It’d be fine if I didn’t know what I wanted, but was still moving in some direction. Any direction! Not knowing and not moving though? That’s too much to deal with.

Coach’s Update

Those of you who read this blog regularly may know that I’m a volunteer youth soccer coach. Those of you who really know what’s up may know about the team I coached this past season. For those of who you stumbled upon this accidentally you can read this or I can just say I was asked to coach soccer for a group of girls who came from complicated situations and I was scared about coaching them because I felt like I lacked the necessary experience.

However, as with all things so far where I’ve been nervous about my leap of faith; it all turned out ok. Probably as well as it could have gone, in fact.

These girls were… heartbreaking, overwhelming and absolutely astounding all at once and on so many levels. There were days where I felt like I was coaching a prison team or something more drastic: the general hardness about some of the girls, their utter excitement just because they were outside, and the “I can’t be partners with her because we don’t get along” conversations I had at least once a week. Yet at other times it amazed me how normal they were. They were excited about the team t-shirts and they were worried about messing up their hair just like your average high school girl.

They tested my patience and forced me to get creative, to adjust on the fly. Every week I felt only partially prepared. I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere or making any kind of a difference. The coordinators of the whole thing showed up unexpectedly at one of the practices and complimented me on my clarity when explaining what we were doing, on how I gradually made a drill harder without having to switch gears too often, which worked especially well for this group. And these are serious, professional coaches who were giving the compliment. They coach all the local premier leagues and they actually make money doing this! It was surprising and exactly the reassurance I needed.

The final week, there was a tournament with all the teams. There were only 4 teams total and 4 games in the tournament, so the winners of the first two games played each other for the “championship” and the “second-place” team in each game played each other in a “consolation” game. A local high school marching band came out; so there was a parade before the tournament, there was food. The band played and the dancers danced between some of the games. The different groups took turns chanting their team names. My team was consistently the loudest.

It was our turn to play our first game. Everything about this tournament was a simplified version of soccer. The field was small, the halves were short, and the referees were the coaches. There were kick-ins instead of throw-ins and there were no goal kicks or corner kicks. It was like they knew we spent the last 6 weeks focusing on the fundamentals and didn’t have time to cover any of the actual rules of soccer. It was like watching high school girls play kindergarten soccer.

I didn’t have high expectations, but maybe I should have. We won our first game 3-0.

The consolation game was only ten minutes, and then it was our turn again for the championship game against the coordinator’s team. They also won their first game by the same shutout score, 3-0. Before the final game there was more chanting, more competition between the teams.  Some of my girls were now trying to coach for me, telling me who would start the next game and what their “plan” was. Some of the other girls were nervous – they hadn’t really competed with this kind of “pressure” before.

We won. We beat the coordinator’s team. Again, by a shut out.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of a team. The girls got a World Cup replica trophy to keep in their hall/housing unit. Everyone got medals. The chanting continued for several more minutes, some playful taunting added in. They were ecstatic and I wanted to cry.

Now that it’s over, it seems silly how scared I was. All I can think about is finding the next step, the next small leap, the next thing that scares me. One of these days I’ll take the big leap and finally move out of this state. Until then – small leaps of faith.

Ignorance is a bully

I’m not sure how to classify the “clique” I was a part of in high school. My high school was small; many of the cliques sort of blended together. The stoners were also the jocks. The popular girls who dated the stoner-jocks weren’t cheerleaders but more stereo-typically athletic “jockettes”. There were the dropouts, who supplied the stoner-jocks. The smart kids were usually the same ones who played soccer, rather than football.
I floated between cliques a lot. I dated a jock once. I was friends with all the soccer guys. I was in all the advanced classes. One of my best friends was one of the artsy girls. I was nerdy, athletic, and nice to the kids most people ignored. I guess if it was a census, I would have checked the “Other” box.

But ultimately, I was never bullied and I never was the bully. There were a few guys who played football who probably were considered the “school bullies”. But I usually told them off and made them look stupid when I could. If I made fun of anyone, it was them.

Turns out, there are bullies in the real world and they’re so much worse.

Maybe “bully” is the wrong word. And maybe I’m a little slow because I only just now figured it out. But I am disappointed; I expected better of these people.

I expected better from those who live in urban or suburban areas, who have been exposed to greater diversity than I was. I expected them to be more open-minded and accepting. To give the new girl at the office a chance. To appreciate her prior experience and to use her failures and mistakes as teaching moments. Instead, at the first wrong word or minor error they immediately write her off. They judge her when she comes into work on her phone speaking Spanish and they assume she’s doing it to show off. (She’s from Colombia. You assume she talks to everyone in English? Or, maybe, just maybe, she speaks Spanish so fluently she doesn’t give any thought to what you would think about it.) These people, they rebel against any change in routine, any attempt to break the monotony. They “hate reading” or “don’t own books” or some other phrase I’ve always found ridiculous. They barely even read their emails, only skim. Any knowledge of the world outside their homes or cubicles they only know from the insanity that is TV News. If they do read anything, it’s only from one of those “happy news” websites because CNN makes them “sick” or “sad.” They don’t understand how pronouns work for those who don’t follow gender norms. They’ve always been comfortable. They’re still surprised by interracial marriages and they avoid talking about or reading about anything controversial.

Once upon a time, I was blatantly politically incorrect and I was proud of it. Even if it wasn’t out of hate for any particular group, I was just in a rebellious stage where I didn’t care what I said. Then I went to college and grew up and realized I was a feminist and that political correctness is real for a reason. I realized how uneducated and uncultured I was. I was humbled by it all. Stupidly, I made the assumption that any other college-educated adult went through this same humbling process. I was wrong. Every day I’m surrounded by these people, these closed-minded bullies who attack anything out of the ordinary like a bunch of antibodies on a virus. These are the same people who judged my solo adventures. The ones who try to turn “creative brainstorming time” into the least creative process.

Maybe they just make fun of everyone and everything and it’s all in good fun. Maybe I’m just becoming too sensitive and need to relax.

These people who decided I was worthy enough to be part of this in-crowd used to be the reason I loved my job. They’re fun-loving people. But now, I’m just growing to hate them (and my job) more and more every single day.

After living here for a year, I’m finally starting to explore my city. Since I’m not good at making friends, I’m just doing it solo. Why wait for someone to go with? I’m a perfectly capable adult who can totally do things on my own!

I’ve already mentioned my first solo bar trip, but before that I went to the art museum and wandered around that part of the city for awhile. It was a gorgeous day and everything about it was perfect. I didn’t even go through the entire museum because there was just too much to see! Last weekend, I went back to the art museum and tried to go see an exhibit but it was sold out, so I ended up at the local historical museum across the street. The city’s historical museum is also free, but not as cool as the art museum would have been. Still, I learned a couple of cool things about my city. Who knew there was a surprising amount of culture that came from – and was impacted by – this decaying mess!?

Now that I’ve done this a few times, going out on my own is not a big deal to me anymore. And why should it be anyway? I’m introverted, independent, and self-sufficient; thus, I’m more than okay doing a lot of things by myself. I probably wouldn’t go to, say, a sporting event by myself, but I’m cool with wandering around and doing things where I don’t need to talk to people anyway.

However, I made the mistake of mentioning my solo fun to my coworkers. Most of them are married. Or they’ve lived in the area their whole life, so all their friends are here. Or they have kids. Or the most excitement they get is refinancing their mortgage. Maybe all of the above. So when I said I went to the art museum by myself, some of them didn’t believe me. The rest make fun of me for it whenever possible.

Now, I’m not the sensitive type. I can take a joke. I’m usually “that girl” that is just the natural target for getting made fun of. And I welcome it; I always have a good comeback because that’s how I was raised. But their comments about me going to the museum by myself actually stung this time. In front of my coworkers, I laughed it off. In reality, I was angry at them! Who are they to tell me what’s strange? I’m single and alone up here – does that mean I have to stay home every weekend? Do I have to go out on stupid, awkward, uncomfortable dates just so I can leave my house? You with the kids – you don’t crave some alone time now and then? You with the husband – don’t you go shopping by yourself almost every day? You, that just bought a house – don’t you go to lunch by yourself at least once a week? How is this any different?

What I got from this experience is that there are socially acceptable solo activities, like grocery shopping, and there are socially unacceptable solo activities. Apparently fun things do not fit into that first list. I think that’s ridiculous. So while I’m still annoyed by their jests, I’m not going to stop doing these things. I’m just not going to tell them about it anymore. Which, given how prying and nosy these people can be, I shouldn’t tell them anything anyway.

If you were wondering what the downside to moving to a new city and living alone is? I wouldn’t say this is it. Go out, do things on your own. Just be prepared for people to question it. And ignore them. They wish they had the confidence to do the same.

And there goes another season

I was worried about this past season. I now realize I had no need to be, and I’m going to miss these boys.

At the start of the season I had 15 players. Now I have 15 more little brothers. I practiced patience, gained a stronger voice, and learned I have a sense of humor very similar to that of a 12-year-old boy.

No one made any comments about girls not being good at sports, or my ability to coach because I’m female. Many of them are following the world cup just as closely and I am. For all of this I am relieved, proud, and impressed with the future children of the universe.

Even the parents were amazing! I am incredibly grateful I had great players and great parents, and I’m going to miss the little boogers. I loved the girls I coached the season before, don’t get me wrong. But considering how worried I was, and considering how well the season went…I’m really sad to see them go. Having a full team like this is incredible, and seeing the leaps and bounds they all made was so rewarding.

Next week, however, I’m about to start a whole new kind of scary coaching situation.

I will be part of a group of coaches who will be teaching middle and high school girls about soccer. These girls come from foster homes, abusive homes, and drug-using homes. Some of them are victims of human trafficking. Some of them have mental health issues, some lack motor skills, and some are dealing with anger problems. This is something I truly feel ill-equipped for, to put it lightly. I have very limited experience with these issues; even less experience with how to coach someone with these types of issues. Like learning any new skill, soccer can be frustrating in the beginning. I’m barely able to deal with a frustrated 12-year-old, let alone a 16-year-old trafficking victim with a history of anger issues.

The good news is I have help. Both the counselors at the shelter and a few experienced soccer coaches will be at practices. So, I can’t cause too much damage.

I am unbelievably honored to be a part of this; I am honored to have a chance at improving someone’s quality of life, even in some small way. Letting someone know it’s ok to try something new, to be a part of a team, is a tough thing. Teaching someone that it’s okay to fail – especially when I’m still learning how to do that myself – is going to be a challenge.

This is a thing that scares me, and I’m just going to dive in head first. What other way is there?

First time for everything

I remember saying to my friends when we first graduated college, “Well, my dad made friends by just going to the same bar enough times, so…maybe that’s how adults make friends.”

Yet, it took me a year to go to a bar by myself.

Monday, the USWNT played their second round game against Colombia. I found out that the limited cable I have didnt have the channel the game was on, so I texted the few people I knew in the area, with no luck. I really wanted to see the game, so I decided to go to a bar, by myself, to watch it.

Honestly, it was sort of great.

I did text a lot of people during this process. Both for typical important game reasons –  OMG did you see that penalty? what BS! – but also to feel less alone. But once I got there, I wanted them to stop texting me. The game was exciting, the bartender was friendly… I didn’t need these remote access friends. While I didn’t meet anyone new, the atmosphere and people watching were enough to keep me company. I even tried 3 new beers! And they were all great!

Yeah, it was uncomfortable at first. and yes, this experience was helped by a good bar with a good bartender and an excellent beer selection. But either way, I highly recommend.