What’s so hard about taking a break?

I’m in this marketing certificate program at the University of Chicago’s Graham School right now and I have to say that being back in a classroom suits me well.  It’s a very different environment than my first go-around at UChicago as an undergrad.  Students are far more likely to be carrying around Marketing case studies than The Marx-Engels Reader (imagine that!) and the instructors are highly accomplished professionals who are more likely to drive a luxury SUV than possess a PhD.  But it’s great.  My classmates are lively, our guest speakers are engaging, and even though it’s the first time I’ve paid entirely for education out of pocket, it’s absolutely worth it.

During class earlier this week one of our guest speakers revealed that it was actually her last day at her current job and that she had a six week break before she started her next one.  Six weeks!  Jaws slowly dropped in a combination of jealousy and disbelief.  My instructor commented something to the effect of “Studies have shown that that’s the only time you can really relax, when you’re in between jobs, but you know you already have the next job secured.”  Heads nodded, still not able fully to comprehend the idea of being blissfully unencumbered by work emails for more than six minutes, let alone six weeks.  And with that the guest speaker walked out the door, possibly 20 pounds lighter than the rest of us.

Japan Airlines and MicrosoftThis morning on the bus I was reflecting on that quick interchange in class when I saw an ad for Microsoft Office 360, of all things.  The ad caught my eye not because it was advertising software that nearly everyone uses at some point in their working life, but because the “Japan Airlines” image caught my attention.  The juxtaposition of exotic travel and a mundane office product was timely.  I thought, “When’s the last time I went on a proper vacation? Or even staycation?”  Even though I had a couple of weeks off in between jobs when I moved to Chicago, that time was consumed by job hunting, almost to the point of obsession.  And I spent an inordinate (and probably unhealthy) amount of time reading Gawker’s absorbing series “Unemployment Stories” which was alternately terrifying and slightly encouraging.  But at no time did I consider myself on a break from working.

As long as I can remember during my professional career (i.e. not grad school or hourly jobs), I’ve taken off just the weekend between ending one gig and starting another.  Oh, except that one time when I took off two weeks between jobs…in order to write my Master’s thesis.  I know what you’re thinking: that Em Hall sure knows how to relax!

But there’s no reason to punish ourselves for stepping away from work emails and an office environment for a break, even on a regular basis.  I’m lucky enough to work at two jobs now where getting out of the office – whether for professional development, special events, or just a mental break from the cacophony – is actually encouraged.  What a gift!  And I’m really glad that our guest speaker shared with us that she felt no guilt for a six-week break.  She shouldn’t!  Nor should any of us.  I’m not looking to change jobs any time soon, but I know that when I prepare for the next big adventure in my life, I’m going to take some time to myself, to honor all that I’ve accomplished and celebrate what’s yet to come.

I’m riding 200 miles in support of About Face Theatre and other amazing community organizations in this summer’s Ride For AIDS Chicago.  If you’d like to donate, please visit my fundraising page.  Thank you for your support!

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Saddle Up!

Okay, so the original idea I had for the new EmilyHaHa.com was a blog devoted to work, because at the time I fired it up, I was in the middle of a job hunt and was – for the first time in my adult life – staring in the face of involuntary unemployment.  I had a couple of small side projects going on, but nothing that would count as full- or even part-time “work.”  And that was terrifying.

Fast forward a few months and now I have two 25-hour-a-week jobs, plus an additional side project!  Some days I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, but for the most part it’s exhilarating to get paid to do things like market a theatre or communicate about public housing.  And I get to work with so many smart, funny, wildly talented people that it’s unbelievable.  I learn new stuff every day and I am challenging myself professionally in new ways that I haven’t experienced in years.  In short, work life is good.

But one thing I have not been doing is challenging myself personally, either mentally or physically.  I’ve slipped into old patterns of too much couch time and too little fresh air, which is ridiculous because I live blocks from one of the most beautiful lake fronts in the world.  Plus I don’t have cable anymore so that’s not even an excuse!

I had to find something radical to snap me out of my pattern of behavior and jump start a goal I’ve had for years, which is to lose a significant amount of weight and get myself to a place of good health.  Like, no more late night pizza, no more going days without eating a fresh vegetable, and no more instances of getting winded by sprinting up the steps to catch a train.  No more.

presta valveSo I found something to kick my lazy rear into gear: Ride for AIDS Chicago.  I know what you’re thinking: Em Hall is neither an AIDS activist nor a cyclist.  Tawk amongst yourselves.  But seriously, what am I thinking?  Well, I’m thinking a couple of things.  I get to raise money for an organization that I’ve fallen madly in love with – About Face Theatre – and I get to spend time doing something that’s good for my health in so many ways.

My biggest fear isn’t that I won’t complete the ride (because I will) or that I’ll injure myself (because I won’t).  No, my biggest fear is that I won’t know how to live with my new self, a self that eats a healthy balanced diet and craves exercise.  A self with a mind that’s sharp as a tack during the day and quieted during the night.  A self that’s better to those around her because she’s better to herself.  So yeah, that’s the scary part.  Becoming a better version of myself.  Because let’s be honest: it’s far easier to stick with bad habits and tell yourself that tomorrow is the day you’ll change.  But today is the day I’m changing!

I hope you’ll follow along on my journey.  If you want to donate to support my ride, that’s fantastic (and I thank you in advance!) but really I just want you to join me as I work to be that better self that I know I can be.  I’m going to need all the support I can get.  And I’m already learning new stuff, like the fact that my road bike as Presta valves (that’s an example above) and that I need an adapter to air the tires (the Chicago Bike Blog tells you how).  That should tell you how often I’ve ridden that bike!

Okay, that’s enough to get this thing started.  Look for lots more content from me moving forward.  It’s great to have you along for the ride…

I’m riding 200 miles in support of About Face Theatre and other amazing community organizations in this summer’s Ride For AIDS Chicago.  If you’d like to donate, please visit my fundraising page.  Thank you for your support!

Welcome

It’s time for a new blog.  Metro-Venture was a trip (get it?) but a recent move to Chicago has me thinkin’ a lot of thoughts.  Perhaps too many.  And most of them are about work.  And jobs.  And what people do when they’re working their job.  So this blog is going to explore what it means to go to one office every day for 30 years, or work a lot of jobs, or change jobs, or work from home, or not work at all.  Maybe you’re working hard.  Maybe you’re hardly working.

I have a lot of fun stories to share and far more questions than answers.  Welcome.