Tag Archives: Work

Worker Bee – A Fable in 868 Words

worker-bee

In the morning, the bees set out from their hive.  They buzzed with anticipation.  Soon, the sweet taste of nectar would be on their tongues. They would then bring the nectar back to the hive.  They had to sustain their queen and each other with the honey they produced.

One bee however, lagged behind the others.  This Worker Bee sighed as her sisters took flight.  They all had the same job to do.  It was the same job they had yesterday and the day before that.  It would be the same job tomorrow and the day after that.  Nothing ever changed for the worker bees and this particular bee knew it.  Oh, how she wished for something different with her life!

The Worker Bee flew a mile or so and finally made a stop at a rose bush.  Without thinking about what she was doing, she went about her task and in just a few moments, she was on her way home.

Back at the hive, her nectar was received with thanks and appreciation.  But as she flew away, the Worker Bee heard a whispered exchange among the other bees. “It’s like she doesn’t even try.  She hardly had any nectar to offer.”

Who are they to criticize me? thought Worker Bee.  That’s not fair!  I never asked to spend my days chasing down nectar and feeding the hive.  They just assumed I would do it.  Well, I’ll show them.

The next day the bees again took flight in search of nectar.  But not Worker Bee.  She headed towards the lake and spent the day frolicking among the lily pads.  On the way home, she picked up just a touch of nectar from the same rose bush she had stopped at before.  She deposited it in the hive and did not care to listen to anything the other bees had to say about her.

Worker Bee spent the next two days at the lake as well and each day when she came home she offered just a touch of nectar.  The other bees looked at her in irritation.  She thought she heard comments such as “lazy,” and “no good,” but Worker Bee averted her eyes, pretending she could not see or hear them.  What did she care?  She did not want to be doing this work.

After another day at the lake, Worker Bee was summoned before the Queen.  This request was not something she could ignore.  Worker Bee bowed before her majesty and waited.

“You do not like the work you do for the hive?” asked the Queen.

Worker Bee looked up in surprise.  She had not expected this question.  “No, your majesty,” Worker Bee admitted.  “I do not think this is the work for me.”

“Perhaps not,” said the Queen.  “But it is the work you have been given.  Why do you not do your best at it?”

Worker Bee thought about the Queen’s question and offered one in turn.  “Why should I do my best when this work isn’t for me?”

“I see,” said the Queen.  “In that case, you are free from your duties.  Go and find the work that is suited for you.”

Worker Bee flew away from the Queen as fast as she could.  She didn’t even thank the Queen, for she was afraid her majesty would take back her offer.  Worker Bee was free!  She could finally do whatever it was she wanted to do.

For the next few days, Worker Bee played at the lake.  She buzzed to and fro, stopping on many lily pads and marveling at all the fun she was having.

After a few more days, Worker Bee was ready to move on from the lake.  She buzzed around, taking note of all the different flowers she had somehow missed while working for the hive.  She stopped at each one, taking in its beauty for the sheer delight and pleasure of it.  She licked up the nectar from one yellow one in particular which looked like spun gold.  The nectar was so sweet and delicious, Worker Bee wanted to share it with someone.  But there was no one around and Worker Bee suddenly felt lonely.

Worker Bee decided to return to the hive with her nectar.  As she returned home, no one seemed to take much notice of her, but she couldn’t help but buzz with excitement at the sweet treasure she had found.  Soon the other bees were tasting the nectar and in no time at all, Worker Bee was again summoned by the Queen.

“Yes, this nectar is particularly tasty,” the Queen told Worker Bee, who gloated at her find.  “I don’t suppose you would be able to bring us back more tomorrow?”

“Oh, yes, your majesty!” said Worker Bee.  “I’d be happy to.”

Worker Bee went out the next morning to her yellow flower and returned with the nectar.  It was just as sweet as the day before.  The bees delighted in the nectar so much, that Worker Bee continued bringing back the nectar to the hive every day after that.  Worker Bee never complained about her job again.  Now that she  found what she was looking for, it didn’t quite seem like work.

Memoir Monday – September 19th, 2016

restaurant-coffee-cup-cappuccino

A funny thing has been happening lately.  I keep telling everyone I have a PhD.  Ironically, when I had two sets of business cards made in the last few years, one personal set for when I went on my sabbatical and one professional set for when I was promoted to associate professor, I forgot to include my doctoral degree on both.

When I realized these omissions, it occurred to me I could not care less about them.  I thought, A-ha!  I have finally gotten over myself and now I can move on. 

It was one of the best break-ups I’ve ever had

and I didn’t even have to gaze longingly at my ceiling while playing Jewel’s You Were Meant For Me on repeat to get over it.

Since then, I’d certainly say I’ve moved on, what with quitting my teaching job and maintaining I never want to conduct another statistical analysis again in my life.  Yet, here I am day in and day out trying to work my degree into conversations with my customers.

Oh, did I forget to mention I got a new job?  One that has customers?  I know, crazy, right? For those of you who know me, you have heard me say over the years, “I could never have a service job.”  So imagine my surprise that I am now working in a service job.  And an even bigger surprise – I am loving it!

It all happened rather by chance.  The wife of the couple my husband and I are housesitting for in Connecticut showed us around town before they left.  We were at the local grocery store when we turned around an aisle corner and bumped into a woman who owns a café in town.  She lamented her college students had gone back to school and she was without help.  My husband and I volunteered for the job.

Six days a week (I get Wednesdays off), from 11am to 2pm, I now assist in a café.  I greet customers, make sandwiches, wash dishes, and perform various other duties, but most excitedly for me I get to make change using an early model cash register!  You may not think the previous sentence warrants an exclamation point, but one of my favorite toys as a child was a cash register (first a fisher price one, then an upgraded model that came with fake credit cards and an electronic display).

I also loved basic math as a child and just for fun when I finished exams early in grade school, I would flip them over and calculate long division problems like

576869707078685747475869 ÷ 12

So getting to use a cash register which adds up the prices of lunches, iced teas, and brownies, with the punch of a few buttons, then makes delightful cha-ching sounds when I give the customers change is somewhat of a dream come true for me.  Of course, it’s not the same sort of dream coming true as being a published writer, but in the meantime, I’m pretty excited about it.

I must have some insecurity, though, about being in this job because I bring up my PhD often.

Why does it matter?  I suspect it’s because deep down I sometimes take to heart what other people think of me.  Or more accurately, what I think other people think about me.  Here’s how it goes in my mind: Oh, did you hear?  Dr. Kandra is now working at a café?  So much for her writing career! 

On the positive side I am aware of what happens when we assume and a lot of the time I am able to stamp out my ego and get back to actually living my life instead of getting caught up in my head.  It turns out I actually like this job and I honestly don’t think it minimizes my goals of being a writer in any way.

There’s also the fact that in this new job, I am doing things that I’ve always taken for granted as easy.  Maybe for some people they are.  For me, not so much, and even though I am incredibly enthusiastic about it (DID I MENTION THE CASH REGISTER?!?!) and what I bring to the café, I keep making mistakes.  For example, today I learned that mayonnaise does not go on a traditional Italian tomato and mozzarella sandwich.  EVER.  In case you want to know, use olive oil.

These experiences have been incredibly humbling for me and I think I’m having a hard time accepting not being inherently good at something.

Time will tell if I can embrace this humility and maybe learn something from it.

In the meantime, I am going to enjoy my cash register and making sandwiches. I only have two short months here.  Come November when my husband and I head to our next housesitting job in North Carolina, this may be an even tougher breakup than with my PhD.  I will have to get my playlist ready just in case I have a hard time saying goodbye.  I’m thinking Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, and Celine Dion.  I’m also welcome to suggestions.  Please feel free to leave any in the comments below.

Memoir Monday — September 5th, 2016

No One is an island

              I did something unexpected in my quest to become a writer last week.  I applied for a temporary, seasonal job at a non-profit organization.  This job is not related to my writing, although it does involve others’ writing.  Its purpose is to identify the best-of-the-best underserved high school seniors to match them with four-year colleges and universities through essays these students have written.

              The reason I say this is unexpected is because I don’t actually need a job.   My husband and I prepared financially for when we would both stop working at our steady-income jobs.  We have housesitting jobs lined up to take us through May, 2017, so our monthly expenses are only food, health insurance, and car stuff. 

              In fact, my teaching salary was paid through the summer so it’s not like I’ve even been experiencing what no-income living is like. 

Yet, for the past few weeks I have felt wholly inadequate as to what I’ve been contributing to society. 

 

              One of the things I really struggled with this past summer in New York was finding volunteer opportunities.  Living where we did, which was 40 minutes to anywhere, and having only one car, it was hard to find many service opportunities, especially when I couldn’t give more than two months of a commitment. 

              So since the beginning of May I have essentially focused on writing in my professional life.  I’m pretty pleased with the progress as I have query letters out to agents and I have sent manuscripts to some boutique publishers.  I have an agent critique coming up in October with one of my children’s stories and I’m a month in to blogging, which is a big deal for me as I’ve started two other blogs in my life that woefully never got past the first entry. 

              Of course, I would love to say that I already have an agent or a book contract, but I don’t.  I’ve also been rejected a few times (which I’ll write more about in the future) and I know more rejection is coming my way because that’s simply the nature of life. Although I do hold fast to words I once heard Al Gore speak at COP-20 in Lima, Peru, “After the last no, comes a yes….” 

              But what it all comes down to is lately something seems to be missing living in my writing bubble.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very happy place to be and I am certainly not going to leave and never come back.  My current professional goals and life purpose are tied to that bubble and I am confident I am on the right track.

              

What I feel is missing in my life, though, is balance.

Writing is a solitary life.  I had the privilege and opportunity to attend a weekly writing group while we were in New York.  Every Wednesday afternoon my husband and I would drive almost an hour to the Schenectady County Public Library where we made some really great friends and we shared our writing among lovely and talented writers.

              The rest of the “work” week I spent sitting at the kitchen table writing on my tablet.  It was über productive, but I’m just now realizing that it’s not enough.  It reminds me of the depression I experienced a few years ago at work when one of my favorite people in the world left the university I taught at and all of sudden I didn’t have nearly any social interaction.

              I wish I could claim that my own awareness came to this realization, but it took the wise words of an integrative doctor to point this out to me. 

We are social animals and I need socialization. 

 

              Here is the socialization plan I’ve come up with for the next two months when my husband and I will be housesitting in Connecticut:

1)      Spend three days a week writing at the library to get me out of the house;

2)      Volunteer at the library (that is, if they’ll have me for just two months);

3)      Seek other short-term volunteer opportunities as they present themselves;

4)      Attend a weekly writers’ group;

5)      Work at short-term, limited employment jobs where I can see my contributions to society;

6)      Find a spiritual community that encourages self-reflection and growth.

              I’m optimistic it will work, but in the event it doesn’t, at the very least it keeps me aware that I am dissatisfied with one area of my life and I am seeking to improve it.  If anyone has any suggestions for points I may have missed on my socialization plan or areas they think I’ve missed, please share.  I can use all the socialization I can get!

Memoir Monday – August 29th, 2016

Fifth Post 2

When I read (well, listened through Audible) to Oliver Burkeman’s The Antidote one quotation stuck out to me more than any other.  “Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work,” so said Chuck Close from Inside the Painter’s Studio.  I shared this quotation with a good friend of mine while I was giving her a ride to work and in her typical fashion she neatly flipped it into

“Losers have no discipline.”

As someone who does not like to classify themselves as a “loser,” I realized early on in this process that there’s more to writing than just saying I was going to do it.  Sure, I had already resigned from my tenured job as an associate professor because I wanted to be a writer (amongst other reasons), but I was still in what I consider the “contemplation” stage.  I know the transtheoretical states of change model (precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance) are more related to health behaviors than habits, in general, but I think there’s something to it, especially for my transition into a writer’s life.

If we start with the first stage of the model, the precontemplation phase, this is when I was still buying into the notion that salary, benefits, and accumulation of goods was how I should be living my life.  It felt safe and secure, and so I continued ignoring my ever-growing list of professional and personal dissatisfactions.

It wasn’t until I was getting ready for my sabbatical that I considered a different way of life.  I was moving to NC from IL and I had to decide what to do with all my stuff.  I had a rental house full of furniture, media, and knickknacks and other than a few nice things, most of my belongings had been with me since my school days.

I decided to get rid of it all, look for a furnished apartment in Chapel Hill, and then invest in high quality home goods once I returned from my sabbatical.  But once I started selling, donating, and giving away my belongings, I couldn’t stop.  It felt so freeing!  Things I thought I could never part with (like favorite books and clothes), I now gave away with complete joy and abandon.  It got to the point where one of my colleagues jokingly asked if I was dying, that’s how much of my belongings I gave away.

So while I was free and unencumbered of stuff on my sabbatical, I realized I could shed the dead weight of my professional life, too.  More than anything else, what I had enjoyed with my career in recent years was writing.  I began to meditate on what a life like that would be like and thus I fully entered the contemplation stage of the transtheoretical model.

Up first – where I would earn income from?  As I’ve already written about, I knew full well that writing can be a challenging field professionally.  But being a writer, especially of children’s books, was now my life’s goal, and I wasn’t going to let fear stand in my way.

Up next, where I would live?  My heart has always belonged to Chapel Hill and I feel very much at home there.  But then I woke in the middle of the night and it came to me – I could be a professional house/pet sitter in the meantime.  I thought this would be perfect, considering I love animals, and I had already dabbled in this with family and friends. As an added bonus – I wouldn’t have to buy any stuff again.  EVER!

So I had a plan for my basic necessities to be covered and without having rent or utilities to pay, earning a substantial amount of money would no longer be a necessity.  Now I was ready to prepare to be a writer.  I continued NOT buying anything I would have to tote around with (some clothes being the rare exception), resigned from my job, bought a new computer, gathered up all my notebooks, and started writing (a little bit).  I didn’t write every day, even though many days I could see stories in my mind.  I had a hard time prioritizing it, especially when my narcolepsy wasn’t as under control as I would like.

I dabbled in writing challenges and prompts, miserably failing at NANOWRIMO in November, but occasionally I would be able to crank out a short story or children’s story.  I had completely stopped working on my YA novel for reasons I couldn’t explain.  I got sidetracked by meeting my husband (coincidentally enough, we met after I attend a writers’ group in Naperville) and eloping in Nashville.  But then it hit me, one day in the spring when I was thinking about writing, I realized 

I WAS BEING A LOSER AT WRITING!

And I didn’t want to be a loser (even though I had already come to terms that “failure” would be okay).  I wanted to win!

I immediately started a writing practice – a minimum of 500 words every day.  I favorited a list of writing blogs and online resources to pursue on a regular basis.  I listened to the Great Courses How to Publish a Book.  I brought a notebook with me everywhere to jot down story ideas.  I started submitting stories to contests, publishes, and agents.  At first, it was scary and hard, especially the unknown processes of finding publishers and agents, but once I got into the swing of things, I found it energizing and exciting.  I was now full swing in the action stage of the theoretical model.  So all that’s left is for me to maintain, now.  And I think I will because as I told my friend that day in her car, “I DON’T WANT TO BE A LOSER!”  It just took me a little bit longer to get there.

The Bridge – A Flash Fiction Story in 494 Words

The Bridge

A young man arrived at work one morning.  His boss greeted him with, “This stupid weather is going to ruin the fundraiser on Saturday,” and then proceeded to yell for the next 30 minutes about rain.  His coworkers all said, “Hello, how are you?” and then each responded with “I’m so busy,” when they were asked in turn.

The young man’s day faded into oblivion, like every one before it.  He gave a rote, “have a nice night,” to his coworkers before driving home.  Once there, he wanted to collapse on his couch.  But his dog greeted him at the door with a goofy grin and stamping feet, so the young man acquiesced.  He got the dog’s leash, and they went for a walk.

But it wasn’t their typical walk.  This time, they turned left instead of right.  They walked for a long time as the young man wanted to forget about the stresses of his day.  Then, they came to a bridge.  How strange, he thought.  He had never seen this bridge, but perhaps that was because they always turned right before.

Halfway across, they met an old man.  He couldn’t quite place the man’s face, though it seemed rather familiar.  He wondered if they had met somewhere before.

“Hello,” the old man greeted them.

“Hello,” came the young man’s response.  Then they stared at each other.  The young man thought again that he knew this other man, but he couldn’t quite say how.  Maybe it was just the man’s eyes; they reminded him of his own, only with more lines.

The old man broke their silence.  “What brings you to this bridge today?” he asked.

The young man shrugged in response.

“Do you know where you’re going?”

Another shrug.

“Can you at least tell me where you’ve been?”

“Nowhere,” came the reply, punctuated with a sigh.  Story of my life, the young man thought.

“Then it’s a good thing you came to this bridge today,” said the old man.  “This is a bridge to everywhere.”

“How can that be?”

The young man craned his neck to see what lay on the other side, but the old man commanded, “Close your eyes,” so he did.   “Now, what do you see?”

At first he saw nothing but infinite blackness stretching before him.  Then all of a sudden he said, “I see me, with my dog.  We’re by a lake somewhere.  I’m fishing.”

“And?”

“I see us a climbing a mountain, hiking among wildflowers and pine trees.”

“And?”

“We’re on a beach, laying in the sun.  Every so often we go swim in the ocean.”

“Good,” said the old man.  “Now that you know where you’re going, don’t you think it’s time you got there?”

The young man opened his eyes.  To his surprise he was alone on the bridge except for his dog.  But he didn’t dwell on the old man’s disappearance.  He and his dog started walking again.  They had places to go.