28 days left in Pittsburgh: Inspiration via massage

Let's goooo already!

Today I finally used my groupon for a massage at a swanky salon near my apartment.

All day I looked forward to having all the knots in my back and shoulders squished and smoothed out. And of course, who doesn’t like having their head scratched? Heavenly. About halfway through the massage, the therapist discovered that my right “pecs”, the muscle right next to your shoulder socket, were extremely sore. We had already discussed my ongoing middle back soreness, likely due to posture issues working at a desk all day at my job. I have been actively working on this injury for about a year and I can say that while it has greatly improved, there is still a long way to go.

After she explained how the “pec” muscle connects to the other arm and upper back muscles, and that I should keep this in mind for certain motions that I might be doing at work (using a mouse with my right hand, answering the phone with the same hand…) I casually mentioned that I was leaving this injury-causing job at the end of the month. We began chatting and I ended up learning about her own personal journey that led her to massage therapy. “I actually got a business degree, mainly because I didn’t know what I wanted to do.” I nodded, secretly ashamed of myself for assuming that any massage therapist was not likely a college graduate. I sincerely try to actively fight the prejudices that I’ve been brought up with or inherited, but I won’t lie–this was not one I had thought to question before.

“I was in the corporate world for five years,” she continued, explaining the cut–throat world where one has to find ways to make co-workers look bad so that oneself may rise to the top. She hated the office politics, yet felt that this career path must be the right one for her due to the degree she had picked. “Then I was laid off. I took it as a blessing rather than a curse.” For the next three years, she worked methodically through every personality test she could find, taking each possible career match for a trial run. Through this experiment, she discovered not to her surprise, that her personality indicators were not a good match for the corporate environment. “I needed a less structured work place,” she explained, “And I’d always wanted to feel that I was helping people in some way, without a bureaucratic entity in the way.”

A good friend of hers was also helping her in this process, suggesting possible careers that he felt she might be a good fit for. One of his suggestions was massage therapy. She rejected it immediately. After months of ignoring her friend’s advice, she found herself at an open house for a massage therapy certification program. “I gave myself an attitude adjustment and I talked with the director, knowing that he would try to get me to enroll.” She agreed, only to be given her first assignment: Write a three page essay on what she could bring to the field of massage therapy. Her reaction, as she described it, is exactly how I would have felt. “What I would bring to it? How hard can this be??” When she finally sat down to write, she discovered all kinds of parallels in her life, mostly on how she enjoyed helping others help themselves, immediately seeing how this connected to massage therapy. She hand delivered her official application and essay, asking the director to always require this essay assignment for future students.

I could tell from the way she recounted this event that she didn’t blame herself now for not accepting this suggestion quicker; instead she had focused on why she rejected the idea. “For me, the thing that I am fighting the most is usually the thing that I most need to do in order to grow.”

Stories like this give me hope. People discover themselves at all ages, and many people go through several careers throughout their lifetime. By my estimates, my massage therapist did not begin her obviously successful career/business until she was around 35. I did not feel it would be appropriate for me to ask if she was married or had children (not that this is any measure of success or happiness for a woman!) but I would be curious to know how she felt she was able to balance all the aspects of her life. I am so grateful that she felt she could open up to me. In truth, I often find that I put people at ease and allow them to feel comfortable speaking openly with me. This is something that I hope to find in my own career path.

I hope that if I stumble upon an opportunity or experience that I have never considered before, I will be strong enough to follow through with it to see where it will lead me. She assured me, “California will be all about your process!” San Francisco here I come!

Needless to say, I had a fabulous day off.

29 days left in Pittsburgh: I’m tired

I spent most of today making a decision about tomorrow: Should I take a vacation day with my job or not?

From previous mathematical calculations, I knew that any given work day is worth approximately $90. As in, that’s about how much I earn at my job. To be fair, I am salaried, so every Saturday and Sunday I’m making about that much when I am not working (sometimes…). In the grand scheme of life and groceries, 90 bucks is not that much anymore.

The next item to consider was whether I deserved a day off. I am using vacation days throughout the month of May, so every week after this one I would not be working a full 5 day week. Vacation days can be tricky. You get to sleep in, then you start thinking about all of the things you could get done during the day. What a joy to not have to wait until 5:30 to run errands or walk the doggies! The next thing you know you look at the clock and it’s already noon, lunch time already and not a single “to do” has been done.

Alright, I reasoned with myself. If you’re going to take the day off tomorrow you have to get stuff done. By stuff, I am referring to my impending list of moving projects. Things like picking out which file folders I need to take with me (birth certificate, tax stuff, creative writing that I did in undergrad) and breaking down some heavy duty plastic shelving units in my basement. In other words, boring.

So, tomorrow, instead of being at work I will be taking one car-load of my stuff to the storage unit. It’s a 45 minute drive and my car gets approximately 16 mpg. It’s okay Ethel, I still feel mutual respect for you.

Coincidentally, Ethel was also the name of my class hamster in sixth grade. She was dark brown and nobody wanted to bring her home to take care of her over the summer. I volunteered, assuming this would gain me instant popularity and many friends. It did not.

30 days left in Pittsburgh: Almost May

Today I walked around like a zombie. My mind is so focused on May and everything I have left to do that it has been difficult to force myself to function. So much of my Big Plan has been delegated to the month of May, it’s become it’s own entity. I still have a lot of furniture to sell on craigslist, an entire kitchen to dismantle, and of course figuring out if everything I’m planning to pack in the car will actually fit!

Moving has been a regular fixture in my life. I’ve lived in Dallas, East Lansing, Detroit, Tokyo, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh. The cycle of weeding out, packing up, transporting, and unpacking has come so frequently that I often start to feel anxious if I’m NOT planning on moving somewhere. This combined with my need for efficiency and fear of not making a correct choice have created this monster of a month: May. And it starts tomorrow.

To be fair, I have already moved many boxes and six bookshelves to a storage unit out by the Pittsburgh airport. The items in storage are essentially things that I valued too much to give away, but were not worth the risk and expense of moving across the country for a short term stay. This leaves my current house in an odd state of holding both the things that I value the most and absolutely MUST take with me to California (shoe collection, doggies, toothbrush) and things that are easily replaced and therefore must be sold to come up with more moving money. And the kitchen, but that’s another story.

One of the things I’m trying to sell is a wooden dresser. There’s nothing particularly special about it; It’s a solid oak dresser with four drawers. It was once housed in my Grandparents’ cottage in Clear Lake, Indiana. (Coincidentally where the band Creedence Clearwater Revival got it’s name from.) When they passed away, my Mom ended up with the dresser, which made it’s way to my high school closet. It has held socks, undies, sweatshirts and a variety of coloured stockings over the years. It’s something that I’ve had for a while, a staple in my bedroom setup. Nothing is wrong with it, and even better, I like it.

The process of moving really forces you to look at your stuff in a different way. Is the dresser worth paying $10-$20 a month to sit in a storage unit for a year? Is it worth renting a truck so I can move it to another state? No. The reality is, I could probably find something similar at the Salvation Army. And just like that, the history of that dresser, and moving it around to all my different places in Pittsburgh all comes down to a simple Craigslist ad: Dresser for sale, $55, must go by the end of the month.

As a sidenote, my awesome hairdresser just called and she’s opened up her own salon starting tomorrow. I guess May is bringing changes for a lot of people! As a final act of rebellion, I will be getting a non-natural colour put on some of my hair. Exact shade: to be determined.

Puppy Timeline Part 1

There has always been a Sheltie in my life. When I was really little, we had Gallie, an oversized Sheltie with an overbite. When I fell down a ditch into a riverbed, she ran back to our house barking at my Mom until she followed Gallie to my rescue, Lassie-style. Turns out ‘Gallie’ was short for ‘Galleria,’ as in the mall. When I discovered this I felt genuinely bad for her.

Then there was Misty, aka Moose. I was in 6th grade and my biggest wish was finally coming true– my parents told my sister and I that we could each get our own dog. I had my heart set on another Sheltie, while my sister was debating between a Beagle or a Jack Russell based solely on the cuteness of their faces. My Mom, sister and I drove out to the first breeder we’d gotten in contact with. She bred show dogs, and had one puppy left from her latest litter of champions. I remember sitting on her couch, listening to the sounds of about ten Shelties barking at us from outside, when she placed a tiny Sable Sheltie into my lap. The breeder began to explain that she was the runt of the litter, and that she would probably stay pretty small. I looked down and the puppy had fallen asleep stretched out across my lap. I sensed this dog and I had something special, so I whispered to my Mom that we didn’t need to look anymore. Moose was my “soul Sheltie,” like a soul mate only fuzzier.

While I was still in college, Moose had sudden kidney failure and passed away at the young age of 10. My sister’s puppy pick, Snickers, was depressed for weeks. At meal times, she kept waiting for Moose to sneak up and steal her food. She looked for her in every room. When I graduated from college, I became the only family member that was in a position to take Snickers. I moved her down to Pittsburgh, happy to have a dog back in my life. But the idea of having another Sheltie was always in the back of my mind.

After several phone calls, emails, and begging, I finally found Meeko’s breeder at Merlyn Kennels. She had a litter of Sable puppies due at the end of October 2011. There were five total, three boys and two girls. We started visiting the puppies once a week in December, not knowing which of the two girls we would get.


Meet the dogs!

This reflects their personalities perfectly

HI. I’M MEEKO. I am full of mischief. I like to find paper and then tear it into teeny tiny pieces. I also like to chase things. If it moves, it’s a sheep. Soccer ball? Sheep. Human feet trying to go down the stairs? Sheep. Snickers? Sheep.

OH! That’s right, this is Snickers. She is my big sister. Except we’re not related. But we do everything together, and she’s showing me how to not go to the bathroom inside. She makes this face at me a lot, like I’m bothering her or something. WHY WON’T YOU CHASE ME??

I just chased my first herd of ducks. That’s why I look so pleased with myself. At first they just waddled away from me, but then I ran and barked and then they all shot up in the air and that was a little scary. Jackie laughed at me. My feelings were hurt but then I forgot.

Now it’s naptime.

Deep Z's
I don't always sleep on suitcases, but when I do, I tuck my feet and nose into the handles.


33 days left in Pittsburgh

There are officially 32 days left until I leave Pittsburgh. It’s strange how much this city has become home to me. It’s now in second place for “Longest amount of time living in one general geographical area”. First place is still Western New York, though I would argue that Amherst, East Amherst and Lockport(-ish) are all so different that it shouldn’t really count.

I came to Pittsburgh as a freshman at Carnegie Mellon University in the Fall of 2010. Now I have 32 days left in my life as Assistant Director of Admissions at CMU, living in a row-home and shopping at Giant Eagle.

As my first entry, this is my official declaration to the world that I am going for it. After two years of living a fairly average and socially acceptable life (for a humanities major anyways) I realized that not only was I unhappy, but the one thing that took up most of my time (my job) was preventing me from doing anything about it. After being rejected from all nine MFA graduate school programs that I applied to, I knew I needed to take drastic action.

In 32 days, I will finish selling off my furniture, pack up what’s left into my car* and drive across the country from Pittsburgh to San Francisco where I will be living with my boyfriend and working exclusively on writing stories for my applications. I hope you will join me and see how it all works out!

Also, my name is Jackie Sizemore.