Saturday, July 22, 2017

Old habits die hard

I don't like strangers touching me. I know this is a relatively obvious statement to make; most of us don't like it when someone we don't know bumps into us on the street or our hands brush on the Metro. As I am female, I have also experienced my share of "being female in public" moments of dudes thinking it was appropriate to grab my butt or touch some part of my person at a bar. Nope, it is not appropriate. As the great Patrick Swayze once said, "This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don't go into yours, you don't go into mine." I like to live my personal space life with occasional Johnny Castle quotes in my brain as it seems appropriate (he knew a thing or two about personal space). We can all agree that none of us enjoy these types of encounters with strangers. Don't get me started on sweaty crowds at music festivals.

When I say I don't like strangers touching me, I'm actually talking about people who are in professions where they may actually have to touch a person to do their jobs. This includes massage therapists, manicurists, hair stylists, and yoga instructors. I don't doubt that their intention is professional and in their clients' best interest but I find the type of familiarity that comes with these interactions somewhat exhausting. Several of my friends think this is strange, particularly the massage part since they find massages relaxing (I don't). And it's not like I don't make exceptions; I like my stylist and I have a favorite manicure place. I typically attribute my dislike of these types of interactions to my introverted, slightly Type A nature and call it a day.

One of the things I promised myself when I started my new job was that I would not fall into the patterns I've been living in my work life for the last past 5 years (maybe it was the last 10 but I'll just say 5 to be generous). This is the list I made for myself of habits I want to try to break:
  • Eating lunch at my desk more than 3 times a week
  • Not taking a break at least once per day
  • Excessive baking
  • Not taking advantage of all the perks, benefits, and fun stuff available to me
  • Arriving early...every day
  • Feeling like my phone is a new appendage and I must read all of my work emails immediately
  • Not wasting my PTO
  • Going out to lunch more than 3 times a week
  • Only wearing jeans 2 times a week
It's not a work revolution I know but, when added up over time, these habits abet in creating a work life that feels like work. I want to enjoy where I work and what I do. Yes, the organization creates the culture and maybe encourages the habits. However, the reality is that I am part of the culture and the process. I have free will. I an adult lady who can do things. Attitude and practice are part creating habits.

I've been in the new job a month as of this week. A month is both a short and long time period depending on your perspective. I feel like it's gone by very quickly. I've done an incredible amount of work this month but have also only scratched the surface of the organization and my actual job. What's cool and satisfying is that I'm already contributing and getting things accomplished. Given my experience with onboarding new employees, I know this is not always the case when you start a new job. I like my new manager, my team, and many of the other people I've met since starting. I feel like I'm doing good work. There's a feeling of trust that I don't know I've ever felt this early in a new job. It's refreshing.

So how am I doing on breaking those old habits or at least not establishing new versions of them?
  • Eating lunch at my desk more than 3 times a week - I'm trying so hard not to do this. There are multiple lunch/break rooms in the office plus and outdoor area that's not terrible even on a super hot day. I'm getting better but still need some improvement.
  • Not taking a break at least once per day - Two weeks ago I starting walking around the outdoor track with two of my co-workers. It's about a 20 minute walk and I need to do the correct thing and put it on my calendar so I do this at least 3 times per week. And yes, I have walking buddies. I'm on the slow path of making friends at work.
  • Excessive baking - Haven't baked a thing. I have a lot of feelings about this since I really love to bake but don't really want to get in the habit of bringing stuff to work. I'm not saying my new co-workers would be the same but there is a point where this becomes an expectation rather than a nice thing I do for people. I don't want to get into the expectation place again. Thankfully, I'm starting a monthly crafting get together with my friends so they will get all th baked goods and I'll at get some baking done and order will be restored to the universe. Or something.
  • Not taking advantage of all the perks, benefits, and fun stuff available to me - We'll come back to this one in a moment
  • Arriving early...every day - My commute is much longer now so I'm very aware of time as I start my day. I wake up, go to the gym, get ready, and am out of the house by 6:30. I'm at work by 7:20 and ready to start my day. My hours are earlier so I leave by 4:30. I think I've finally adjusted to the new schedule. I occasionally go to bed at 9 pm on a weekday. I am totally fine with this.
  • Feeling like my phone is a new appendage and I must read all of my work emails immediately - Most of my direct team is located outside of the US so the bulk of my emails actually come in early in the morning given the time difference. I'm totally cool with this. I suspect this will change once the program I manage kicks off in September but for now, I'm managing my work email time quite well.
  • Not wasting my PTO - Noted. I already have several uses for the days I'll have this calendar year AND I took the bonus holiday of July 3 (floating holiday) so I'm baby-stepping my way to taking time off.
  • Going out to lunch more than 3 times a week - I've been pretty good about bringing my lunch but also reliant on the fact that we have a cafe in the building which is both awesome and terrible. This is a work in progress.
  • Only wearing jeans 2 times a week - I am crushing this one! In a month, I've only worn jeans twice. I've always tried to wear clothes that are on the dressier side of casual so this hasn't been as hard as I thought it would be. It also helps that everyone in the office is super stylish and incredibly put together in a very casual/professional way. They're very inspiring. Also, I may have just purchased business appropriate tops in dinosaur and cat patterns. I still have to be me.
As of this past Monday, I'm not the newest person on the team anymore. I was actually helpful to the person who started this past Monday. I could actually answer questions for her and shared the wisdom of my whole month of employment with the company with her. I know, it's great stuff.

Which brings us back to strangers touching me. One thing I've come to enjoy about this new organization is that they seem to have figured out how to have the perks of a typical tech company (ping pong table and Rock Band in the break room, car detailing on site, fresh fruit in the kitchen) without making it seem like they're pandering to some weird trend in HR or trying to be super cool to for the kids. Maybe I'm being naive but I don't believe so. There is an genuineness with these efforts that's hard to fake. One of these perks is monthly seated chair massages. It just so happened that the July day fell on my actual one month anniversary so I decided, in the interest of this new start, I would put aside my feelings and give it a try. The worst that could happen would be that it wasn't enjoyable and I'd never sign up again. The best? Well, my commuting stress would be massaged into submission.

It was somewhere in between. This is all set up in a large conference room on the first floor of the building. They darken the room and turn on soothing music. Each 10 minute time block includes four people; they do a nice job of setting up each chair in the space so it doesn't feel crowded. The massage therapist I was assigned to was very nice; I'm pretty sure he realized he was dealing with a slightly Type A person who is not great at relaxing on command (which is basically what a massage is in the big picture of life). I felt better afterward. I dived right back into work but the tension in my shoulders was gone (that's where my stress lives by the way). It was a positive experience. Will I do it again? Maybe. Even if I don't, I'm still trying to make a good work life for myself.

It was a good first month. The work is fun and challenging. The people are pretty cool. As I wrote back in May, I was getting so bored not working and not doing what I like doing (helping people be their best at work). Boredom can be a good thing but it's also exhausting. There are only so many hours of CSI reruns to watch (although there are 15 seasons so you can do the math). It feels good to be back in the world of work.

Now if I could only find the elusive best way home in the evening, I'd be all set. I don't know how people commute for years and years without becoming rage-filled psychopaths; I've only been doing this for a month and I want to physically harm people who don't realize the lane ends and they have to merge even though there's a GIANT SIGN that tells them this. These people are why we can't have nice things.

The desk dinos have a new home and seem to be settling in nicely. One of them may come with me when the frozen yogurt truck pays us a visit this week.

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