The Window Washers

I originally started this particular blog for a couple of reasons.  One was to explore what “working” meant to me.  At the time I was struggling a bit to find my professional identity, having moved back to Chicago from DC after losing a job for the first time in my life (the organization closed) and with no immediate prospects for full-time employment on the horizon.  In the course of just six months I had done the following:

  • Em Hall in the Chicago Sun-Timesstarted a marketing certificate program at University of Chicago’s Graham School
  • wrapped up my final days as new media director at my last job in DC
  • worked part-time at the German Christmas Market in Daley Plaza (and made it into the Sun-Times to boot!)
  • survived a marathon round of interviews for a small agency that – after their request for a seventh interview came in – so frustrated me that I politely removed myself as a candidate; a girl can only take so much
  • survived two days of four-hours-each interview rounds with 10 different people at a nonprofit; didn’t hear a word back until months later when I received a generic email thanking me for my time…all eight hours of it, I guess
  • continued consulting for a client back in DC
  • collected unemployment for exactly one week
  • participated in a graduate student’s research because she was offering a Starbucks gift card in exchange for my time (in my feverish attempts at cost cutting I had temporarily switched to fixing only instant coffee at home…I know)
  • made coffee dates to network with any and all people I knew in Chicago, most of them being my sister’s friends (this was my excuse to use my Starbucks gift card)
  • went on another interview; took the position; quit the position two weeks later; was immediately hired back as a consultant (I still do work for them today)
  • started volunteering with Hyde Park Cats and the DuSable Museum
  • took on consulting work for another client in DC
  • went on an interview so wretchedly boring that the only thing I remember about it is that the green tea they offered me was really delicious
  • accepted one of my two current positions, which is as the part-time marketing manager at a theatre
  • questions and re-questioned every single decision I’d ever made in my whole life
  • found some sense of peace in knowing that even without a full-time job and benefits and a crystal-clear 20-year career plan, things would be okay

Phew!  Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.  Now on to the second reason I started this blog, and that’s to recount all of the wild and crazy work adventures I’ve had so far in my life.  Once I start rattling off the list to somebody they’ll say, “Oh wow!  You should really write this down.”  And I think, I should.  And then I don’t.  So this blog can begin to help rectify that.  Plus it’s a welcome distraction from my actual work sometimes.  Ha!

Right now – in between crafting the scintillating sentences of this very blog – I’m sitting in my office on the 15th floor of a not-at-all-fancy building in Chicago’s Loop and watching one window-washer work his magic on an adjacent building.  I work at a lovely non-profit downtown three days a week (it’s another part-time job I took on in May) and until I worked here I realized a few things: I have never had my own office before, I have never worked as high as on the 15th floor of anything, and window washers SCARE THE HECK out of me when I don’t see their ropes and they start squeegeeing away at my windows.

I wonder, Do they count their day in minutes or hours or number of windows washed or number of people they cause to jump out of their seats (ahem) or some other form of measurement?  What is it like to be hanging from the side of a building all day?  Do window washers experience the same sort of petty office disagreements and coworker squabbles that seem to occur in every organization?  Or is their job just really awesome and independent and the type of thing that they can leave behind when they step off their platform after a long day of hanging in the air?

In moments of work ennui I often fantasize about being a bus driver or a pet groomer or maybe a yoga instructor, jobs that I perceive to be the kind where you can leave work at the office at the end of the day.  I know that’s completely untrue – everybody stresses about their job at some point in their off hours – but I often can’t help but wonder if my professional life should have taken a different direction and that one day I’ll wake up to discover I’ve been doing the wrong thing this whole time.  What if?

But that’s not very useful thinking and I try to check myself when I fall into it.  The truth is, I really enjoy what I do most days, and I’m lucky enough to have worked with some amazing people along my entire job journey.  In upcoming posts I’ll be telling their stories, as well as recount some of my fun adventures in the office, on the sales floor, and – once – behind the wheel of a John Deere Gator 4×4.  First up: my stint as a hosiery saleswoman…

Saddle Up!

Okay, so the original idea I had for the new 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!