I Am More Than Tacos

victorian-cubicle-jJust over a year ago I decided to write my thoughts down in a journal. I kept reading all kinds of stuff about bullet journals and productivity and efficiency and just gettin’ shit done. I am all about gettin’ shit done, but then I realized my life is pretty boring and I really don’t need to organize my day with a bullet journal. But I liked the ideas of bullet points so I just started writing down ideas in point form.

I am getting to the taco part. Eventually.

I reviewed the two small journals that I have filled over the last 15 months and all in all this has been a good thing. I liked that I can completely vent to the journal and sometimes I actually feel better after. Writing shit down has helped me think about goals (realistic and unrealistic) and even on occasion, allowed me to think of a strategy to figure out a problem.

So most of what I wrote down fell into these categories:

Work

To work at Chipmunk Inc, you need a lot of patience. Super human amounts of patience. It’s exhausting. Not just with the customers, but the Overlords who seem hell bent on making Things As Difficult As Possible. So I wrote down a lot of my frustrations with a department that only operates in crisis mode. If there is no crisis, one has to be created. Efficiency and ease are not part of the plan. You can see how frustrating and confusing this environment can be if you love efficiency and ease.

Early on I actually wrote out some notes for an idea at work to make things easier and more efficient but that pitch went nowhere. Then slowly (I am not the brightest bulb when it comes to office politics) learned that the crisis mode is never going to go away. People will go out of their way to sabotage ideas (especially when they promote efficiency and ease) because by doing so, their job may be eliminated cause they will not needed. So crisis mode has to ever present. Like when I made an innocent joke about someone defrauding the company in an email and someone had to jump in and give me a talking to, because the person making money selling our product illegally might get triggered and complain. Some might call this supervisin’, I call it busy work. Or micromanaging. Take your pick.

So venting to the journal about unmanageable work work load, incompetent leadership and a complete absence of resources to do the job, actually worked. I was slightly less stressed and depressed. I was still depressed and stressed but I was able to work through it.

But.

But my temper did get the best of me. I asked politely over and over and over again, nine times in total for a very reasonable concession concerning our work flow and it was rejected over and over and over again. By three different supervisors. It was extremely frustrating because the ones rejecting the request over and over and over again had never actually done the job of their subordinates so they were unfamiliar (oh why am I being polite, I mean clueless) why this request was so important and why I kept pushing for a change.

Sooooo if you only respond to crisis mode, then I will create a crisis. I probably pushed the envelope a little too far (apparently my co-workers were highly entertained by my shenanigans) but the it worked. I had a good idea what was going to happen next, a meeting with a couple of supervisors, so I took the time to write down in my journal how I was going to approach things in this meeting. I was able to organized and write out my strategy. Sure this strategy involved out and out manipulation of emotions which I don’t like to do, but it had to be done. In the end I had a plan and was prepared for the meeting AND I won. AND I got a high five from a co-worker.

Worth the cost of a $3 notebook.

Okay I am getting to the taco part.

Waiting for Public Transit

And waiting. And waiting, and waiting. Last February I actually spent 15 hours in one week waiting for the bus. There are many entries about the incompetency of the transit higher ups (I always thank the drivers, the problems are not their fault). There were a lot of notes about the bus not showing up, the bus being late, having to walk the last 1-2 km to my destination because getting two buses to connect was Not Going To Happen. Then I realized, it’s okay to be pissed off.

There is a lot of talk about learning to not sweat stuff or go with the flow and not to be irritated. Nope, I want to be pissed off. There is really no reason to internalize my annoyance. No sane person should be okay with standing in -38C weather for an hour waiting for a bus. This endless waiting took any gumption out of me when I finally arrived at work, but bills have to be paid.

I lost my hat and I was a little bummed but it will eventually go to charity and I can buy another hat.

Random Insights

taco-j1The main goal of journaling was to gain insight and possibly think of things to write for this blog. So here are a few examples of my deep thoughts.

Finally the part about the damn tacos!

I really like to make lists. I come from a long ling of list makers so it’s not unexpected. To do lists, bills to be paid lists, budgets which are lists but with numbers, grocery lists. Lists of DIY tasks and the materials I required. I made tacos quite often last year. I’m gonna brag here, but my veggie tacos are fucking delicious. But after recording a lot of lists involving taco ingredients and very little insight, I declared I am more than tacos!

I had schadenfreude one day and then felt bad later. Now I only wish schadenfreude on dictators.

I am always in denial when I get a cold. People get colds in winter, get over it you idiot.

Recognition that it’s okay to spend a little money on yourself. I don’t know if anyone noticed because people live in their own bubble.

I hate being dishonest day in and day out. Lies of omissions, little white lies, big whoppers. I had an honest conversation one day and when the person received a polite but honest answer, he looked like I’d punched him in the face. I felt relaxed after being honest but also a little disappointed that I have to avoid the truth in order to avoid getting screamed at all day long.

I bought a couch, twice. Nearly went mad. I am sitting on it, it’s quite comfy.

If I was rich, I’d be all about stealth wealth.

I should be better about giving to charity. I have been.

No matter how hard you plan and execute sometimes things just end up falling apart. So the lesson learned is try not to have too many things that can break and then you don’t have to deal with the constant upkeep. More often than not, I don’t need what I think I desperately need. You can just turn your back on things and everything will be okay. The mental health crisis in the US has turned my job into that of a life coach/therapist to help people manage their stuff. No, of course that is not my actual job.

I was sad when Bill’s sister died young. Life is unfair. We all know this, even little kids know this, but it’s never fun to be reminded.

Watching people who are competent in their lives is comforting. Some times I am jealous of their accomplishments but then I think about it and realize it’s cause they learned how to do the work and followed through. I still think a lot of success comes down to luck but also good planning and execution. Don’t get distracted by your jealousy but focus on what they did to be successful.

I miss quiet places.

If you haven’t quite figured it out, I plan to continue writing in my journal and eating veggie tacos. You might want to give both a try.

The Dumpster Fire

dumpster1This is a weird one to write. The Dumpster Fire has been a miserable experience but at the same time a positive experience. There are times when the experience felt like I was part of a bizarre psych experiment or starring in my own version of cheesy sitcom, possibly a comic opera, except there was no laugh track, a wacky sidekick, but on occasion, there was singing.

Us at Chipmunk are trapped in an impossible situation because our department is meant to fail so it can be shut down and moved to the Chipmunk Head Office In The Land of Cheap Acorns.

The strange part about this disappointing turn of events is that intellectual curiosity took me on a different path as I tried to understand the incompetence, secrecy and impulsive decision making that started the fire in the first place.

Because of the dumpster fire, I…

Picked up an accounting book at a thrift store for $ 2

I most likely will have to read it several times to get my head around all the concepts. Reading the accounting book was nowhere near as scary as I thought reading an accounting book would be. Like there would be monsters or snakes lurking among the pages, poised to attack me with a calculator and wonky Excel file? A little weird to be reading it for leisure, but you know, sorry not sorry. I wanted to understand if what I was experiencing was normal or abnormal. Spoiler: it’s abnormal.

Started learning more about finance

I don’t think I will finish this journey with a finance degree but I have learned a lot of about the business side of finance. I am pretty good with my money (I have to be, I work at Chipmunk) but now I understand how people shift money around in business. Some methods are ethical and some not so ethical. I also learned not to be afraid of credit. Credit can be a tool if you know what you are doing. I know what I am doing.

Spent more time with like minded people

I found myself in a community where I can learn new skills and leave the dumpster fire thinking behind me. It’s like I am having a shower and scrubbing the dysfunction away with a Loofah of New Ideas.

Conceded that people are out of touch

And sometimes it’s best not to explain why and how. I found myself over and over again explaining what I thought were simple concepts but grew more and more frustrated when people didn’t understand them. I thought I was failing because I could not articulate the ideas, but it was more a case of the people just not caring to understand. People are perfectly capable of understanding but choose not to because it’s easier. Speaking of easier…

courtAlways, as often as you can, put the ball in the other person’s court

Not always nice or moral but time and time again I have seen this tactic work. If you want something to go away, ignore it, and force the other person to react. Most of the time, the other person will not jump through hoops to get what they want.

 

It’s okay to feel pissed off

The positivity people always trying to force you to see everything as a learning experience and how to build skills and insights from the failure and get better and never have any emotions over the fact that Things Are On Fire! I concluded that I was pissed off at being in a situation where every single resource has been removed or downgraded and no sane person would not feel some sort of emotion. I often have to remind people that I am not a robot. 

Being wrong is not so terrible

I used to hate to be wrong so I would do all this research and planning and checking to make sure I wasn’t wrong. I always felt that I was wrong because I was not diligent in my research or wasn’t smart enough to figure out the problem or understand the situation. It felt like a moral failing to not understand. Now I know (slightly) better, no matter how hard you try, things don’t necessarily work out. The community of people I’ve joined are wrong all the time and they seem to function without scorn or shame.

Eventually the dumpster will burn down into a messy goo of metal and plastic and we will all move on but when that time comes, I will have a greater sense of what is and is not expected of me and what I expect of others. While being pissed off about a situation is okay, not having to experience it again, is better.

Gadgets Make You Mean

Did you hear the one about the minimalist and the gadget company?

sad-robot2I’ve been a minimalist for a long time. The main reason is that I earn a low income and there is little room in my budget for wants. Everything I buy is a need. Silly things like rent, food and a bus pass pretty much eat up 68% of my income. I put 10-20% in the bank and live very simply. Since I can’t afford to buy anything extra, my living space is compact and super efficient. This really helps me keep my sanity. I don’t have to keep track of things or maintain things or worry about the things breaking. You do not have to worry about breaking/repairing/replacing something you do not own.

So why do you work at a gadget company? Jobs, even shitty ones, are hard to come by and I need a job. I also thought that the gadget company would possibly go public and my financial situation would improve enough that I could increase my savings. No crazy ideas of owning fast car (or just owning a car) or a fancy house but some money in a retirement fund. Now that I think about it, even my idea of a windfall is pretty minimalist.

Before I talk about what it’s like for a minimalist to work at a gadget company, I want to explain a few things about the Gadget. I don’t want to get fired/sued so I will be vague about the gadget. I’ll just call it Chipmunk.

In defense of Chipmunk, it’s a pretty handy gadget, that’s well made, and it helps people save time and be more organized. You can totally survive in our modern society without a Chipmunk.

In no way does the Chipmunk save a life. So, if your Chipmunk dies, you will not die. It’s not an insulin pump, or a pacemaker or a wildly expensive life saving cancer drug. It’s basically a useful toy.

I work in technical support at Chipmunk Inc and this is what I have discovered about gadgets. It’s not a pretty picture I paint, and I am sure many would disagree. But there is something about a dependence on a gadget that brings out the worst in people.

Gadgets Can Make You Stupid

At Chipmunk Inc, we try to work with you when you do stupid stuff. Minor stupid stuff like when you throw away the receipt for an item with a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty, or you call us on speaker phone (you sound like Donald Duck to us). You call us from your car without your Chipmunk and get mad when we tell you that you need to be in front of the Chipmunk to troubleshoot it.

If I have to tell you why it’s not a good idea to call tech support when driving, well you just proved that gadgets can make you stupid.

We try to be fair when you break, drop, dunk in water, run over with your car (the list of Chipmunk abuse is endless) to get you a new Chipmunk.

And then you lie about how your Chipmunk mysteriously broke.

We can see the tire treads. We can see that you left it on top of the radiator and melted it. We know it didn’t get wet in a light rain shower, but you dropped it in the toilet. We can tell when you are trying to submit doctored documents to get a free Chipmunk under warranty. You are not fooling anyone. Frankly it’s pretty dumb to spend hours and hours trying to stonewall us or manipulate us to get a free gadget that costs less than $200. C’mon, go big. If you are going to invest so much time and effort into deceit and fraud, go scam someone else for a couple of thousands of dollars. Aren’t you worth more than $5/hr with your scamming? Have some dignity.

Gadgets Can Make You Entitled

Sometimes the Chipmunk breaks. It’s made in China by people who just don’t give a poop. Frankly I’m surprised it doesn’t break more. That’s the world we live in. If you haven’t destroyed it by being stupid and lying about it, we will give you a free one if it falls under the warranty period.

The Chipmunk has three main parts, A, B and C. If part A breaks, we give you a new part A. It’s all modular so there is nothing to unscrew or install because frankly you are too stupid to not screw this up and then sue us for a billion dollars (tip – we don’t have a billion dollars). If we cannot get you to not use your Chipmunk as a door stop, then we aren’t going to ask you to do any soldering. That being said, if Part A breaks, and Parts B and C work fine, we are going to give you a new part A. Not a Part B and a Part C because you are angry or sad that part A broke. No. There is nothing wrong with parts B and C. Please go be entitled to some other company, I am busy.

Quite often people think that because they own the most expensive Chipmunk, they should get special treatment and get their gadget replaced first and screw the other people with their inferior Chipmunks. Don’t you know who I am? Nope. All Chipmunk customers are equal no matter their income.

If you Chipmunk does not fall under a warranty claim because you killed it, or it just wore out we will help you get a replacement, but you can’t expect us to give you a free one. The same way Toyota does not give people new tires for their cars if the tires wear out after ten years. We are a business not a charity.

Gadgets Make You Mean

This is an ugly truth.

I consider myself an expert because I’ve been screamed at and cursed out by tens of thousands of people when their gadget breaks. I’m told I should expect this in my job, but in all honesty, it’s disgraceful when an adult has a complete and utter temper tantrum because their toy broke. This is the mark that the gadget has made you lose sight of not just decency and but reality.

When you call someone incompetent or a loser or threatens to have them fired or burn down their office, you have crossed the line from upset to down right mean, possibly unstable. And yes, this happens a lot.

I get it, you love your Chipmunk and you worked hard for your Chipmunk. It comes down to the idea that if you can no longer function as a rational person and are so stressed and anxious because you are constantly worried about your Chipmunk breaking or being stolen or losing it, then that’s a sign that an item in your life is no longer bringing value or joy but worry and stress.

It’s time to set the Chipmunk free.