Blogs tagged with "job"

Cleveland winters usually keep me training inside
(this was my front yard yesterday)

I've been struggling for weeks to write this blog - mainly because of a lackadaisical attitude towards training for many weeks. I've started my training for Ironman St. George, but I haven't been at all excited about it. Being stuck on the bike trainer for many months was easier - and much more fun - last year than this year, and even though I'm not skipping or skimping on workouts, I just haven't been really enthusiastic during most of them and I've been wracking my brain to figure out why. Here's what I came up with.

January was my month to be wholly unmotivated. I now believe that the reason for this was, simply, my job. I love my new job, and the time I've been putting into it (mentally) has taken me away (mentally) from my other great passion, training.

It's ironic that the reason for my return to racing in 2008 after a four-year hiatus, was also, simply, my job. That job (at the Zoo) had become a source of disappointment when I learned that hard work and dedication was irrelevant to my opportunities for advancement. I was "stuck." Eventually, I came to terms with it - because, fundamentally, I loved the work (and it's true, if you love what you do, it's not really work at all). But as always, I needed an outlet for the energetic and goal-oriented side of my personality and I already knew that racing could satisfy that urge. Recommitting myself to Ironman finally paid off three years later,  when I was able to make good on my nine-year-old promise from 2002 to one day return to Kona.

For the last three years, dedicating myself to training was easy because, like clockwork, something coincidentally disappointing at work would happen in January or February and reignite the passion to be a better athlete. But this year was different. This year there was no need to recommit because of work woes. This year I find myself in a very rewarding position at The Cleveland Museum of Art. I am surrounded by like-minded, energetic, and hard-working cohorts. Some of them are also athletes. And instead of fueling my passion for training and racing, my coworkers and supervisors have fueled my passion for my work. I am once again fully engaged in my job and spending more time at it than necessary - not because I "have" to, but because I "want" to.

And because I'm one of those people who can't do anything half-assed, this has once again become a curse as I desperately try to create balance among all the things I want and have to do. I just can't DO everything with maximum engagement. Upsetting the balance this year has actually created a new level of anxiety and stress that I'm currently having trouble coming to grips with.

Since the beginning of February, I've worked to put motivation back into my training but new stresses are revealing themselves. Now that the motivation is back, the gains do not seem to be coming. Or maybe it's too early to tell. I have always worried about a point at which my age becomes a major factor in the "hard work pays off" ethic, and I'm worried I may be reaching that point. In the past three weeks, I'm not seeing gains in power on the trainer despite working myself to exhaustion. The same is happening in the pool. The only place where my training seems to be paying off is on the treadmill where I've seen gains in speed over time by doing intervals. Based on the other two sports, I reason that my running had become very slow to begin with so it's no big deal that I got faster.

The question I keep asking myself is: how much longer can I keep it up if I don't see more positive results? In contrast to my worried assessment, my husband Jim (usually the voice of reason) keeps telling me I said the same thing last year. All I can say now is, I hope he's right.

It's over when the lemur sings.
(AKA: my last great photo as a Zoo employee)

I'm going to veer off my usual topics of training and racing to write about one of the other big aspects of my life. Yes, I'm going to write about "work."

Even though I don't write about it much, my work has always been an important part of my life. I've been through more than one career change (from engineering to art and design to programming to marketing and back to programming) and many employment changes in my 46 years on the planet. The employment change I'm going through right now has been the most stressful and heart-wrenching of them all.

As of yesterday, I am no longer employed at one of my favorite places in the world, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. After five years of working in the Zoo's Marketing department, I've accepted a position as a web developer at the Cleveland Museum of Art. With my background in art history, the museum is, perhaps, the only place in Cleveland for which I would have left the Zoo. It is also, perhaps, a better fit for me -- to be in an information technology environment as opposed to a marketing environment.

For five years at the Zoo, I had hoped to make a difference. A difference that would be noticed by those who loved animals as much as I do. A difference that would be obvious to my employer. And for five years, I felt like I was banging my head against a wall. As a web marketer, I kept trying to push the envelope, and I kept getting my butt kicked for it. I was in a constant state of stress about what I was doing because I never quite "got" the role of being a marketer. I struggled to compete with news organizations for my own news. I begged to institute new technology in an organization that was saddled with the inertia of an outdated mindset and I was tired of hearing everyone use the expression "baby steps." And I finally gave up because I was stuck. I wasn't going anywhere. My supervisor once said to me that we worked in a place that "rewarded mediocrity" -- and in the end, that just wasn't good enough for me.

However, I don't want you to think I don't respect the organization I worked for. I have a deep respect for the institution that is Cleveland Metroparks and Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, and I feel that with the new executive director, the future is wide open and bright. There are positive changes going on internally, and I'm sad that I won't be around to benefit from them. Five years ago, when I accepted the job offer at the Zoo, I was beyond thrilled to have a coveted position working for a place that was, is, and will continue to be, a great source of civic pride. For those reasons and more, leaving my job at the Zoo was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make.

In my five years at the Zoo, I had an opportunity to learn about animals from the people that love them and work with them most, the animal keepers. Working with keepers to photograph and videotape animals was the most personally rewarding work I have ever done. It became my mission to show the world what a great Zoo we have in Cleveland. And it was my mission to connect people with animals. But I didn't ONLY learn about animals.

In my five years at the Zoo, I learned about people. I made friendships that will stand the test of time, and I found out what true friendship is all about. When I announced my resignation, instead of being sad to see me go, my friends at the Zoo were happy to see me break free of my shackles and hopefully prosper in a different location. I will miss being close to them on a daily basis.

But in my five years at the Zoo, I also learned there is no such thing as the perfect job. I had thought this was it -- to do what I love in a place that I loved. But marketing wasn't the best fit for me -- a passionate idealist who wears her heart on her sleeve and cannot lie. The Zoo's animal care staff dubbed me: "the most non-marketing person in the marketing department." To state it simply, I found the "hard work pays off" ethic does not work in a marketing environment. It was one of the hardest lessons I ever learned. And to this day, I don't think it has truly sunk in.

I leave behind work that I can hang my hat on. I was able to institute several projects that received positive feedback from our Zoo visitors and audience: blogging, video podcasting, a big social media presence, and an iPhone application. I was also able to utilize and refine my creativity with writing, photography and video shooting and editing. I leave knowing that I can visit the Zoo (and my friends there) anytime I want, and I will continue to support its programs though membership and donations.

Now I look to a future in which I may finally reconcile my two seemingly divergent passions (and college degrees): art and computer programming (via engineering). Giving up a marketing position for an IT position will send me back behind the scenes. I made peace with it by reminding myself that my job is not the only creative outlet in my life. I'm also hoping that less stress at work will translate into less stress out of work -- and thus, less stress in my ironman training. And although money was never part of the equation, with increased wages (and a real salary for the first time in ten years), I will be able to afford some of the things I couldn't before -- I may even feel less stressed out when traveling to races because of the huge monetary expenditures they require.

Finally, one of the things I am looking forward to most is getting back into the art world. Being around great art has always been a source of inspiration for me. And I can finally stand up and tell the world (and my parents) that my art degree was not a waste of time.

It was a very round-about way of getting there, but I think I may finally be there.

Many of you may know that I work in a Zoo marketing department. And as many of you have noted, I don't fit the marketing "mold." The closest I had ever come to marketing was in marketing & communications, and before my current position, I was a web applications developer at a university. It could have been a disaster in the making.

My Zoo job description started out as website updating, sending email newsletters, writing press releases and assisting (and managing) Zoo events and media opportunities. When I took the job, I was terrified of the second half of that sentence (the event and media stuff). I saw my goal as a way out of a boring going-nowhere programming job and a way into finally using my web skills -- graphics, design, writing, programming, etc. -- at an organization that can change the world for the better. I never thought I would launch a whole new career.
I now find myself doing things I never thought I'd do. Filming and editing and photographing behind the scenes at the Zoo. I meet the most amazing people who dedicate their lives to caring for and learning about animals -- to save them, not to exploit them. I also get to fuel my love for the ever-expanding web by maintaining the Zoo's presence in many social media outlets. What's better than loving your job and getting paid to share it with the world??
And believe it or not, I have survived a disaster or two while doing these things. I've broken a rib slipping on ice, been bitten by a domestic cat, and ... well actually, that's it. All of my own doing (would you expect anything less from the disaster magnet?)
The realization came the other day. I was in a boat on a lake going to film with the keeper of our summer lemur exhibit - on an island. I could pretend I was in Madagascar filming on location. Until the lemurs saw us and gathered on the shore... anticipating their morning feeding. So, well, it wasn't REALLY in the wild. It was EVEN BETTER -- and I can't wait to share it.
Here are a few lemur photos I took with my still camera - awesome animals. If you ever get to see them in the wild, don't pass up the opportunity:

job, lemurs, zoo
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