More than ever before, I feel quite split into multiple work personalities. If I’m feeling critical, I might say that I’m avoiding a commitment one way or the other. If I’m feeling generous, I might say that I’m just making sure that we’re not putting all of our eggs in one basket by pursuing all opportunities. Jobs, the economy, clients, customers, trends – they can all be fickle, so it’s hard to say no while opportunities still manage to come my way. It’s that freelance mentality. When you’ve created this life supported by hobbling together various businesses and freelance projects for so long, it’s quite scary to cut the cord and jump all the way in.
But I think about doing it all the time – when I’m riding the train to the office sandwiched a little too closely to people on all sides; when I’m sitting at a meeting during an insecure moment of “what am I doing here?”; when I’m at home on my days off folding laundry and catching up on house work before picking the girls up from school. Taking this part time(ish) job at a startup was supposed to be a move towards simplifying my work life, a break from the hustle of lining up freelance jobs so that I could dedicate the time away from the job to work on our business. At least that was the idea. I still continue to freelance because it gives us a more comfortable cushion, but it also covers camp costs and childcare so that I could go into the office. The irony of that kills me, but isn’t this a common dilemma for many working parents? In the end, the job just added another layer of complexity in my already schizophrenic work life. So now I have 3 jobs, not 2. Funny how that ended up working.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been commuting to a job for a year now. Some things I knew going in – that the commute can be soul sucking, that childcare would be stressful, and that physically working in an office would be a big transition. The AC situation, let alone sitting 8 hours at a desk, is still hard to get used to (I really don’t like wearing 3 layers and a scarf in the middle of summer). The interaction with people is great, and lately, getting off from work during golden hour as the sun gets ready to set makes me want to linger in the city a little longer before heading into the subway station.
What did surprise me was how challenging work relationships can be, especially in really small teams. It’s often as complex as being in a relationship with your spouse or family and it takes a lot of work to foster good relationships built on mutual respect and trust. Being part of a startup, where the future of pretty much everything that you’re working on is inherently uncertain and risky, can feel like you’re on a ship with no navigational course. The highs and little victories can be exciting, but the low points can be the worst too. Things can turn on a dime when winds shift suddenly and you have to execute fast to stay afloat. We’re at a transitional point right now and the work that I’ve been doing for a better part of a year changed when we turned our focus towards something completely different than when I joined. My job title and role was constantly shifting all year anyway and I’m fairly used to change when it comes to work situations given the nature of freelance, but it did result in anxiety-filled uncertainty. I’m still trying to find my footing in this new iteration of the company. Feelings that I hadn’t experienced in a long time, in the context of work, surface quite frequently – insecurity, frustration, but also all the good stuff of being part of a team. The gender stuff too rears its head even though I try not to allow it. All the emotional extras of having a job and commuting during rush hour that I had sort of forgotten about takes up a lot of mental space – so much so that I don’t really have the mental energy to do much else some days when I get home. On those days I feel pretty unproductive, but simply put, a startup job isn’t the kind of job that you can just punch in and out of, and a part time job isn’t really part time when you’re connected to the office online on days when you’re not there.
So my plan to consolidate my work life so I can dedicate more time to the business isn’t exactly going as I planned – not yet anyway – but not all is always lost when things don’t go as you envision. For now, I’m okay with letting things drift to see which direction they take rather than steering the ship too tightly. Taking on a job was, quite frankly, something that I didn’t think would happen considering freelancing worked for us all those years and I loved being self employed despite all its challenges. But sometimes you need to swallow your fears and personal wants in order to do what’s good for your family, and in our case it was a steady paycheck and better benefits. I can’t say for certain that after a year, it’s the right career choice for the future, but I don’t know what the future is – I’m working at a startup, after all. Success rates are notoriously low and most burn out after a few years. But then again, the same can be said about the food industry. Here we still are 8 years later…
Posted by Jenna | 6 Comments
We haven’t had too many city adventures lately, mostly because we’ve been escaping to various gardens and parks outside the city to take advantage of Spring in all its flowering glory. Commuting to an office a few days a week has also dampened my desire to take a train into Manhattan on the weekends to hang out. But now that the trees have shed all its petals and bursts of color in exchange for a canopy of green, we found ourselves in the mood to stay local this weekend.
On Friday after school, we all jumped in the car when Mark got home from the kitchen to make a delivery in Dumbo. Walking around the cobblestone streets, we counted no less than 6 wedding shoots in and around the neighborhood. With the backdrop of lower Manhattan across the river and two iconic Bridges, you can’t argue that there’s a better location for a NYC wedding photoshoot. The streets were bustling with people getting off work and you could taste the anticipation of the weekend in the air. The city in twilight hours is irresistible – you just want to stay outside and watch the light shift from gold to dusk and enjoy the evening breeze.
On Saturday morning we walked around the Lower East Side, eating our way through a block party celebrating the 75th birthday of the Essex Street Market and hitting up Economy Candy afterwards. Hard to believe, but it was our first time in the store. Remember candy cigarettes? I had totally forgotten about them, but they had them and I had to laugh at the thought that at one point in time, candy cigarettes was totally acceptable for little kids. And I loved them as a kid, I did! We used to hang them from our lips, pretending to take long drags, wearing Jordache jeans and god knows what else from the 80s. The girls just looked at the boxes like it didn’t even register. They quickly moved on to other, more enticing looking bins.
I spent the rest of the day Saturday walking around by myself, popping into stores, trying to satisfy a particular sandal search quest. When I’m looking for something I can be quite obsessed, though with much less shopping stamina than I used to have. It had been awhile since I walked leisurely around the city alone and it felt like this great luxury of time. I looked through all the open windows of cafes and restaurants and felt a weird jealous pang of all the people brunching, which is silly, of course. I can’t explain it, but something about that particular scene that morning just felt far removed from my life. Maybe it was just being in the Lower East Side which isn’t a neighborhood I go to much anymore; it reminds me of a past life I used to have. I guess I’ve also become more reclusive in this last year. But the day ended with a backyard potluck dinner back in Brooklyn with our other food biz friends, so I’m not as much of a lost cause on the social front as I sound.
The weekend felt like a precursor to what we can look forward to this summer. It’s already June. I do hope time paces itself a bit. Although we have much to look forward to in the coming months, I’m wanting time to sloooooow down. 24 hours in a day isn’t nearly enough.
Posted by Jenna | 3 Comments
I wrote a post about the one year anniversary of my brother’s death and birthday today, but I decided to delete it. Seems like that’s how it’s been going these days – second guessing everything. I’m too tired to write clearly, but maybe it was also too soon to write the post that I’ve been wanting to write.
Mostly what I’ve been thinking is, how can it be one year already? What’s in a year? Everything, nothing, all of it in between. It feels like a long time, but also like no time has passed. Angry, sad, and every contradiction in the book. It also reminds me of when I was little and how death seemed so enormous to me – not because I was necessarily scared of it, but because it sounded so final. Trying not to get overwhelmed by the finality of it all.
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I’ve been pretty quiet, I know. But sometimes you need to be quiet, you know? Just to balance out the “loudness” of life and all that comes with being alive. But I wanted to share these photos of our recent visit to Wave Hill in the Bronx. I suspected Spring would be a nice time to come, but I didn’t expect such a spectacular display of flowers. Seriously, this magnolia tree; it was magnificent. I had never seen blossoms like these before. It looks like a Saucer Magnolia which is everywhere in the city, but these blooms were fuller and luscious with a deeper, vibrant shade of pink, plus the blossoms were still very much peak when most of the sidewalk magnolia petals had fallen. As tall as the tree was, some of the branches of this massive tree curved down to the earth almost as if the size of the giant blossoms weighed it down.
I was pretty enchanted by all the various potted cactus and succulents when we visited last summer, but look…flowers! I wasn’t expecting to see them flowering this time around. I tried to get the rest of the family over to take a look while I geeked out on the flowers but they weren’t as overtly impressed like I was. Pffftttt.
And more magnificent magnolias – this time, a different species and a paler shade of pink.
I’ve been enjoying the flowers this Spring a little more intensely than other years. I guess something about surrounding yourself with beauty to remind yourself of the good things in life. Or something like that, right?
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When we were in Seattle last month, the city had an early Spring and the cherry blossoms were already at peak bloom. But you know what’s funny? We didn’t fall heads over heels like we usually do every Spring which was a bit surprising since we were so eager to shed all traces of winter. I mean the trees were beautiful and all, but they were just “there” in the backdrop of the city.
When the cherry blossoms finally opened here 3 weeks later, they enchanted us like they always do, and I realized then that the anticipation of the blooms was everything. At the first sight of the tightest buds, we’d start watching every day on the walk to school, wondering when they’d bloom. And then one day, seemingly overnight, they did. Like magic.
Hope you had a happy Mother’s Day.
Posted by Jenna | 6 Comments