Journey into the Unknown

I’m kind of hesitant to make this post, but seeing as it’s the only thing I feel like I have to write about at this precise moment, I’m just going to say fuck it and do it anyway… because that’s how I roll with these things.

I’m starting a new job on Monday. A real job. A job that has a salary and health insurance and benefits. I’m going to be doing consultant work… I’ll be helping enterprise level clients train their employees how to build websites using Drupal. Details beyond that… classified. At least for the moment.

I’m nervous and excited. There’s a lot about this position that’s probably going to be different than positions I’ve had before. I’m more used to being a grunt… The person who does all the heavy lifting in regards to coding and building, and this is a position where a large degree of what I’ll be doing is teaching and guiding. Being as this is something that’s new for me, there’s a part of my brain that’s freaking out and telling me that I’m crazy and what the heck do you think you’re doing and then the other half of my brain is yelling, “SHUT UP! WE’RE GETTING HEALTH INSURANCE!”

While I’ll miss getting to sleep in to odd hours of the day and randomly getting to snuggle the cat whenever I want, I’m am looking forward to having a “get up and get my butt out of the house” type job again. One of the advantages to having that sort of job is I am more inclined to get out of the house and be a social being… and I feel like as of late, I’ve been completely antisocial.

It’s a journey into the unknown… and maybe some of the known… but I’m ready to start it.

Struggles of Working From Home

A few weeks ago, I wrote about some of my career aspirations in a post called Work’s Been on My Mind. Some of my worries are currently less worrisome because last Friday I got a text from one of my Drupal peeps who decided that he needed to hire some help to finish up the theming on the project he’s working on, so he wanted to see if I had availability. Big fat yes! Good timing, too. I seriously needed to get some income flowing again.

So, that’s something I’m really excited about!

However, it’s been rough the past couple of days as I’ve transitioned from living a relatively laid back existence where I rolled out of bed at 1pm and my cares largely centered around writing blog entries, reading blogs, making sure the dishes were done and agonizing over whether or not I should do my exercises. Not to say that I was totally relaxed, I was certainly doing some major emotional heavy lifting because I had the time to focus on that…. but you know, I was living a life where it didn’t matter what hours you were awake and which hours you were sleeping.

I’ve had a surge of anxiety attacks the past few days, which hasn’t been fun at all. However, I’ve been trying to practice some massive self-love while I’m going through this transition by just being mindful. I’m trying to be loving towards myself. Instead of beating myself up for feeling like I’m struggling, I’m trying the best I can to embrace it and learn from it. I’m trying to remember to reach out to others when I feel like I’m struggling, and that it’s totally okay to feel overwhelmed and stressed out.

So… What’s been stressing me out?

1. Sleep. Our house sleeps on an nontraditional sleep schedule. When I’m in between gigs, my sleep patterns largely mimic James’. He works in a music venue, and while his hours vary from this occasionally, he generally leaves the house at 1:30pm and isn’t home until midnight, because he needs time to wind down from the day and we like to spend a little bit of time together before we go to sleep, this generally means bedtime is sometime between 3 and 4am. It also means wake-up time is a little later too. If we sleep in the ballpark of 7-8 hours, that means anywhere between a 10am to noon wake-up and a morning full of watching TV and taking the slow boat to getting up and moving.

Since this new gig requires me to be working during the daylight hours, I’ve been having to rethink this whole sleep schedule thing. Ideally, I want to be awake and at my desk by 10am so I can start my day and be done by 6pm… which logic would say means I ought to be up and out of bed at about 9am so I can do things like shower, get dressed, eat, etc. However, when you’re going to bed at 4am getting up at 9? Not so easy. I can cope with 5 hours of sleep, but it makes for an extremely cranky morning. I’ve been failing hardcore at my ideal 9am wake-up and have been hitting the snooze button to as late as 10:30, which ends up making for a stressful morning because I’m trying to get dressed, eat breakfast, possibly shower AND while also being at the computer to do a morning check-in call / IMs to plan my day.

As evidenced by my last post, I had trouble getting to sleep on Monday night (I know, it’s really Tuesday morning when I go to sleep, but that confuses people when I don’t reference the day before) and ended up only getting 3 hours of sleep which made for a very rough Tuesday. I was overtired. I was stressed out because there were a few tasks that I was further behind on work at that juncture than I wanted to be. I had a lot of things on my mind and I was feeling horribly resentful that I had to persevere through and put my emotions on the back burner temporarily. I’d grown used to having all the time in the world to do anything I wanted, including dealing with processing an anxiety attack immediately. My coworker was checking in on me in really short intervals because he was trying to be helpful, and during one of the check-ins, I sort of snapped. But, I made an effort to take care of myself too, I told him that I had to go to a yoga class at 6, and I was so pleased at myself for doing that. I felt 100% better after I got home from yoga. Yay self-care!

I’m still not sure what I’m going to do about get to bed time… I have a hard time falling asleep, especially if it’s before James is ready to go to bed. I’ve had to take melatonin most nights recently to get to sleep, so I may start taking it a little bit earlier.

2. How to handle days when I have to work and James doesn’t. This gig requires me to work during the day, Monday through Friday with weekends off, and I work from home. James doesn’t work Monday – Friday. He generally works Saturday – Tuesday (this week’s weird because he worked on Thursday). When this happens, it means that we don’t get a “weekend” together, it also means that several days during the week I have the added distraction of someone puttering the house doing something that generally looks more fun than what I have to be doing.

For example, Wednesday morning I woke up about an hour and a half before he did and started my day. When he got up, he plopped himself down in front of the computer and started watching The Daily Show, which is sort of our version of watching the morning news. I asked him in at a volume that I thought was loud enough for him to put on earphones so I couldn’t hear it… It was distracting! I mean, The Daily Show was on! I wanted so bad to just walk away from the computer and plop my ass down in front of the computer for an hour to watch that and The Colbert Report. But I couldn’t! I had stuff to do if I wanted to stop working at 6!

It turns out he didn’t hear me, but I thought he had ignored my request. Instead of doing the rational thing which would have been to get up off my butt and go give him a hug and ask him to please use the earphones, I ended up throwing a temper tantrum like a three year old who’s not getting her way. I threw my keyboard. I stomped and cried. I curled up in a little ball. James came out and hugged me and helped talk me down out of my fit of rage and frustration… and I decided to just walk away from the computer for a bit and lay down. I told him to make sure I got up in 15 minutes, and I laid in bed doing the dead mans pose from yoga and just concentrated on my breathing and cleared my mind. I ended up falling asleep. I think he tried to wake me up, so I asked for 15 more minutes and he gave me 30. I felt a little bit guilty to have to stop work and take a nap like that, but it was totally the loving thing to do for myself and I don’t feel bad that! Besides, after I woke up I was in a way better mood and I was super productive and got myself totally caught up to where I wanted to be by the end of the day!

3. Dealing with day to day household stuff. Cate from Sangui(knit)ie had a wonderful post up today on RevolutionizeHer about letting go of being wonder woman and doing everything, and I knew before I even read it that I totally identified because that photo she picked to go with her post pretty much could have been my kitchen. The dishes got totally out of control over the weekend, and when I started working on Monday I suddenly didn’t have time to do them and the pile just got bigger and bigger, and since I was feeling so overwhelmed from going from not working to working… The dishes sat in the sink untouched. James took over dish duty from me yesterday, and totally whipped the sink into shape. I ended up doing the tail end of it though… We had to do it in two batches because we ran out of dish rack space. I succeeded at not beating myself up too hard over the dishes… but I’d be lying to say that it didn’t stress me out the first couple of days. I’d walk into the kitchen and see that pile and just be all, “No fucking way! This sucks!”

Today was really the first day all week where I felt like I really hit my groove in terms of work, so I’m definitely getting back into the swing of things. I’m far from done with this subject as a whole… but I think I’m going to stop for now… I’ve already made this blog post FAR too long. Congratulations if you made it this far! YOU DESERVE A METAL! YAY!

Work’s Been On My Mind

You know what I really hate?

When you sit down to write a blog entry and then you don’t finish it because you ran out of time because your honey came home from work and all of the sudden kisses and huggles and episodes of How I Met Your Mother become way more of a priority than baring your soul to the Internet and then when you finally get back to that blog entry that’s been burning a hole in the back of your brain for two days you’re all like, “FUCK! I can’t write this! I’ve totally lost my train of thought and I’m not sure I want to even tell these people this stuff!”

I hate when that happens.

There are a lot of things on my mind these days.

The big ominous cloud over my head has to do with career and money. I’m in a position right now where I don’t have any work lined up, and that’s pretty scary…

I’m trying my best to utilize the time I have right now to make some positive changes towards what sort of business I take on. By far and large, most of the work that I’ve taken on has been subcontract work from other companies… and that’s great, it’s pretty awesome to get a project that takes a month or two, but I’m getting to the point where I want to diversify a bit.

For example, I’d love to take on some smaller projects… like designing and creating custom themes for bloggers, shop owners, small businesses, bands, etc. in addition to the larger projects that I take on.

To add a little diversity to my skill set other than just web presence stuff, I’d love to offer copy and ghostwriting services. I’d love to offer digital scrapbooking for hire services. I’d love to teach people who are totally clueless on how to do all of this social media stuff get themselves up and moving.

And I totally believe I can do all that…

I just feel so overwhelmed with how to market myself because I feel like I am essentially trying to pitch myself to an extremely diverse set of people… and in some cases, I’m not entirely sure exactly WHO I’m marketing myself to.

It’s also really scary to be thinking about reaching out to a new market of people because of the money aspect. I know some of the markets that I’m the most interested in being able to work with are also markets that don’t have megabucks to spend. Pricing is still something that I’m really concerned about, what my policies are regarding avoiding a lot of feature creep and getting paid ought to be, etc.

I’ve been slowly working on a design for my personal portfolio website, and thinking about how I want to present myself… and man… it’s so much easier to do this stuff for someone else! It feels totally counter-intuitive to be bragging about myself! It’s something I totally need to get my butt in gear about because I want to be doing paying work sooner than later!

Overthinking It

When I was in high school and college, I used to change up my blog designs quite frequently. I wasn’t as prolific as some of the other people I followed, but when I felt things were getting stale stylistically (probably somewhere every 2-4 months), I wouldn’t hesitate to head into Photoshop and the stylesheets and switch things up. I was happy to do it. I was excited to do it. It might have taken me a day or two to figure out what I wanted… and there were definitely times I felt like I was butting heads with my vision versus my Photoshop skills but I largely proceeded without fear.

I didn’t know to be afraid in those days. I was just doing what felt like fun.

Then, I graduated from college and became a real paid for my skills web developer and everything changed.

Suddenly, my life went from messing around with Photoshop and CSS to make my blog look pretty to using Photoshop to slice up someone else’s design and using CSS to replicate what was in the picture, usually resulting in a fight with a designer somewhere down the line because something was 1px off or I eyedroppered the wrong shade of blue out of the Photoshop file because no one gave me a colorsheet to work from.

I was working on teams to build small to mid sized websites using Drupal. Things were constantly about collaborating with others to get the job done. My life became about best practices and standards. Everything was always about doing things the right way over the easy way.

I’m not saying that’s a bad thing… because it isn’t. It’s the way things have to be to have a large web project run smoothly. However, it had a rather grim downside for me.

Fear and complacency.

It wasn’t very long after I went professional that my blog began to suffer. It was no longer fun to retheme my blog, instead it was a terrifying proposition. My job involved implementing designs that other people made. I had quickly become used to the fact that I was relying on others for the blueprint of everything I did… I’d open Photoshop and sigh and say to myself, “I’m not a real designer,” and then I’d give up.

As if it somehow mattered if I was a “real” designer or not when it came to my blog.

I considered hiring the job out to someone else, but couldn’t bring myself to do it for something that I essentially knew how to do myself… even if I found myself believing that I wasn’t all that capable.

I bring it up because I’ve been unhappy with my current theme for quite some time. While I love how it reflects my New Yorkerness, I’ve been not loving the color scheme so much. It’s so drab. I dread the moments where I have to actually go and look at it.

I’ve been sitting with Photoshop open on my machine for the greater part of the week… Largely feeling at a loss about what to do about my “I hate how my blog looks” predicament. I vented to longtime blogger friend, Aubrey who commiserated with me on the whole feeling fearful and inadequate in regards to design skills and we reminisced about the time when we didn’t care, we just did.

And now… We just spend our overthinking it instead of just doing it.

Which leads me to yesterday evening, with the goal of creating a new layout in my head… I found myself browsing through fonts on the web looking for some inspiration. I downloaded and installed a bunch of new ones, and all of the sudden… The look I wanted came together. No overthinking. Just playing around and seeing where it went… and I think it went somewhere good.

I went to bed this morning with a mockup in hand and a plan… and I couldn’t be happier.

The new theme will probably be up by the end of the week, if not before…. Be on the lookout for it!

There Just Aren’t Words for the Joy

One of the reasons I was so restless to leave my burlesque show after my act was done on Friday night was because James texted me to let me know that he had Winston the Tape Machine up and running.

This is one of those big exciting milestone things.

It was torture to not drop everything immediately and rush home the minute I heard that news.

He had a tape of Julio Ortiz that he recorded something like nine years ago for his final project at school all queued up and when I got home, he had me press the magical play button on the remote control.

I don’t think pressing a button could actually be more satisfying.

The reel started turning and this music started coming out of the speakers…

Holy shit.

One, Julio has the voice of an angel. So there’s that.

Two, if you closed your eyes you could swear there was someone in your room playing a guitar. It seriously sounded that real.

Two or three minutes in, I’m bawling like a baby because it’s just that good, and in the process making myself look like a blue raccoon because of all the burlesque makeup I was still wearing.

I remember James playing with the faders, isolating each track, changing things around on the board… He tried to get me to do it, but I just started shaking like a leaf. I’m not sure why, I know darn well I couldn’t break anything.

It was one of those moments where there just aren’t words for the joy.

I try to explain the best I can, but it’s just one of those times that I feel like I’m falling so far short of how amazing it really was.

Winston the Tape Machine

This is Winston.

He’s a 519 pound baby tape machine.

James adopted him.

He came to live with James on Tuesday and brought some friends with him… a console, a rack with some outboard gear and an end table.

James made the mistake of saying “I feel like I’m about to have a child” to describe the anticipation of this tape machine arriving.

So yeah… the tape machine’s his baby.

Tuesday afternoon one of his friends called me up and asked me how the expectant father was handling it all.

Like a champ. Like a motherfucking champ.

Sometime around the beginning of this month, James was recalling how his friend had said years ago that if he ever found himself in the position where he’d have use for a tape machine, he might be willing to let it go to a good home. So, James decided to call him up and see if he even still had the thing and it turned out he was looking to sell it and a bunch of other gear and selling it to somebody he knew sounded like a fantastic idea, so… tape machine.

The thing about having a tape machine show up in your life when you’re the girlfriend of a sound engineer is all of the sudden you finally start meeting some of these friends of his as they wander over to inspect the new toy and help set stuff up.

Which means you get to hear a lot of stories because as someone who isn’t terribly useful in the department of heavy lifting, there’s not a whole lot of stuff for me to do other than sit and sip my soda and watch men lift heavy audio gear and listen to them quote the entire script of The Big Lebowski (which didn’t actually happen this week, BUT IT COULD HAVE!)

It’s kinda like having a garage in your bedroom.

Only the men folk are staring at a tape machine instead of a car.

And then you might find yourself staying in on a Friday night watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 while this is happening on the floor behind you:

And you start tripping over shit that looks like this in the middle of the night:

And you know what?

I’m pretty damn happy about that.

And yes, he did name the tape machine after a character in the Ghostbusters. EDIT: See comment #1.

Work and Procrastination

Yesterday evening I went over and hung out with my friend Lin and watched a couple of episodes of The Simpsons with her, one of which was “The Book Job” (which can be seen as of when I posted this entry on Hulu), in short an episode on ghostwritten young adult novels and it features the lovely Neil Gaiman. You should watch it.

I bring it up because there’s a scene in the show that pretty much sums up my experience as a work from home front end web developer / writer. Lisa decides that she’s going to write a book on her own, and in the process of which she does pretty much everything except write her book. It becomes a procrastination fest of “Oh! Just one more round of this game and I’ll get started.” and “Oh! Just as soon as a reorganize my CD collection and I’ll get started.” I just found myself sitting there watching and thinking to myself, “Oh good grief! That’s me some days!”

Which is precisely why I’m sitting here writing this godforsaken blog entry right this very minute, don’t you know? I’m having a serious case of the procrastinasties (Yes, I just made that word up. Shut up.)

I’m currently on a project work wise that involves that little thing we call responsive web design. For those of you who are reading this and aren’t web developy designy people… responsive web design is just a concept about designing websites that are flexible and degrade elagently when you make the browser window bigger or smaller. For an example, take a look at Owltastic and see what happens when you make her site smaller, the right sidebar suddenly becomes a footer, the header graphic size changes based on how big it is, once you get below a certain size her left sidebar disappears because it’s not so important that it be there if you don’t have the screen space, etc.

The whole point of doing this is so the site looks pretty on your desktop AND on your TV AND on your Android phone AND on your iPad AND any other device that you happen to be able to look at websites on without having to make separate layouts for each of these things. It just resizes nicely based on whatever width you have available.

I’ve never made one of these before and well, despite the fact that writing the last two paragraphs made me feel a little bit excited… I’m doing that thing where I dig in my heels and want to do everything else on the Internet because you know, I haven’t done this before and it’s big and scary and OH MY GOD! DO YOU MEAN I ACTUALLY HAVE TO LEARN SOMETHING!?

Sigh.

Excuse me while I go do my dishes for a moment.

Okay, back.

The thing about working in the web development industry is that you’re constantly being expected to learn stuff. It’s not a bad thing. It’s one of things that makes the work challenging and exciting. It’s also one of those things that can make the work intensely stressful… Especially when you’re trying to learn something completely new AND you’re working on a tight deadline.

I certainly can’t speak for anyone else, but I go through these periods where I just want to throw myself down in the middle of the floor screaming “NO!” and flailing like a tantruming child who doesn’t want to do her homework when I’m asked to learn yet another new thing. But like the tantruming child, I eventually calm down and do my work and learn something new.

I won’t lie. I feel like it’s been a bit of a rough road the past year for me workwise.

Prior to this year, I worked making websites for rockstars at a major record company for two years. It was one of those jobs that people look at your resume and say, “That’s so cool!” Except for the fact that it wasn’t really… I didn’t use my brain most of the time I was working there. I barely learned anything new, I just churned shit out and tried to argue against implementing anything that would make my life exceptionally difficult. And by exceptionally difficult, something that would require me learning something.

When I came out on the other side, it was a different world. I could barely remember how to build a Drupal site because I’d worked somewhere for so long where I wasn’t allowed to enable new modules. And there were all these new modules that people were using all the time…. Features and Contexts…. “Where the hell did all this shit come from when I wasn’t looking?” I wondered.

It’s been a lot of trying to get back on the horse and feeling a little resentful that it’s no longer a horse, they’ve done gone made it a horseless carriage on me.

Okay, so it’s really not that bad. I just psych myself out a lot.

I also am REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY distractable when I’m putting off doing something.

I mean, I’ve watched Episode 1 of the Dresden Dolls 2006 Tour Documentary series (which can be found here, and part of The Muppet Family Christmas and about four chapters of Erika Lopez’s Flaming Iguanas (the end is so close I can almost taste it), and I did the dishes, ate a bowl of chili and I’m on my second blog entry of the day.

If I’ve done all that shit today, that means I’m putting something off. Seriously.