Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Old and Cresty

Lately, I’ve had to add a step to my potty break routine at work. Whereas before it was simply flush, wash hands, dry hands, fix hair; I now have added check mirror and rip gray hairs from scalp. This addition really hasn't bothered me all that much. I have a very distinguished friend who was going gray while we were still in college. I always thought he looked dignified… especially when he was running around in a pink skirt on the frisbee field - yes, that's the word for it. Dignified. And maybe that's what I'll be, too. But today I found like 6 of them all at once - too many to handle.  It was like coming across a family of mice sleeping in your dresser drawer in the heart of winter. Such circumstances for either scenario evoke a complicated smattering of feelings: a sense of violation of your most intimate space by unwanted invaders; the whisper of cosmic harmony in your ear telling you that maybe these little gray invaders have nowhere else to go and you must share your territory; appreciation for the present balance of nature that makes its own additions to your fibrous, warm fortress; disdain for that which doesn't automatically belong. Naturally, I plucked the little suckers out one by one. 

As of Friday, I am 26 years old. When I told my friend that I now have to claim that I'm officially in my mid-20s, he looked me dead in the eye and said, "Face it, Rachel. You've crested."

What if I'm not ready to "crest"?! What does cresting look like? Well…I guess going gray, duh. The first crush of my whole life from 4th grade is married with a child. My dear friend from high school will be in academia probably forever, either in the student's seat among hundreds or behind the podium holding the power-laden pointer thingy. I have friends working in department stores, cooking meals on Bunsen burners in a village in Honduras, making their way across Mongolia in a lobster-mobile (true story), working for corporate America with a 401k larger than my annual salary, starting businesses, serving as presidents of organizations, finishing up grad school and searching for jobs, starting grad school and searching for inspiration, wandering in circles... 

So again, I ask: What does it mean to be in your mid-20s? Is there a formula?  This question reminded me of a conversation I had with my friend in Mexico whilst overwhelmed by the erratic lifestyle we’d chosen for ourselves. While many of our friends were entering the job market in some form, we were working 10am-4pm some days, 7am-10pm others and none at all on occasion. I was creating my own learnings and pick-axing away at my own path; but I was also concerned by the non-traditional nature of the trajectory I’d chosen. Instead of late nights at the office, I was sleeping over in the village for Catholic festivals, waking up early to help make tamales. I was learning about the patterns of immigration of every family in my neighborhood, and the Mexican government’s reactions to protests, but not about how to write a grant or do a mail merge; and certainly not building a nest egg for my retirement or even my return. Were we doing it right? Were we making the right decision to opt out of the system? I think we concluded “fuck the system and do what feels right!” or something to that effect. We were emboldened by our gumption to venture into our mid-20s with nothing but an idealist’s compass. As I stare at myself in the mirror, a graying 26-year old in a pencil skirt with heels clicking on the tile floor of our 16th floor bathroom, I remember that blazing passion that has illuminated the roads connecting the chapters of my life that eventually led me to this, um, bathroom...er,you know what I mean.  No life decision I've made so far has been made out of fear. And I think that that's the only formula anyone needs.

As much as society around me (cough: Facebook) tells me what cresting looks like, I do think it’s different for every person. I’m not sure if it’s the adventures (or the process of finally learning a mail merge – that was a doozy), or the philosophizing about the adventures that’s giving me the gray hairs. But they seem to serve as reminders like wispy white flags of surrender to the present in honor of the past. Perhaps I’ll let the invaders stay for one more day.
…Mmm, at least the ones I can’t see.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bleep You, Mercury!!

I wonder if you curse Mercury, if it can hear you. That even in writing its name, it’s able to send its retrograde forces splooshing over your home and everything else you touch, like when Mickey gets carried away wearing the wizard’s hat in Fantasia and all the mops take over and wreak havoc…or something like that. I think that’s what happened to me today. I was speaking, perhaps a little too loudly, about how Mercury screws everything up and my concerns for the election (phew!), and I think it caused Mercury to take revenge on my new office phone.

First of all, let me just preface by explaining that our new work phones are state of the art and all connected over the internet. You have to do a retina scan just to change the time and date. I wish I were kidding, but it wouldn’t recognize my eyeball through my contacts or something, so even when I did my last resort cure-all turn-it-off-and-back-on-again, the screen still said 2AM on January 7. That is not correct. At all. But what turned out to be infinitely more upsetting was that someone left me a message.

Over the course of 2 weeks, we have received 3 elaborate emails, an e-vite to a formal training and 2 PDF files on how to operate our new phones. But the only piece I could find on how to access my voicemail was under Article 4, Chapter 7, Section P.3 of the 2nd PDF file in the fine print: “To access your voicemail you must visit the media mailbox center hosted on your server platform linked to the framework’s IP address and plug in the pass code given in the upper right hand corner of the screen that blinks on your phone when you type in the code hidden in the tongue of your IT representative’s left shoe.” Being the open-minded modernist that I am, I had slammed on the brakes just after plugging the damn thing in. I needed time to congratulate myself for entering the 21st century…and to scrounge for food in the kitchen. Needless to say, I had not set up my voicemail yet.

So when a colleague called and I missed it, the phone beeped at me to indicate that I had a message. What a lovely feature! I hit the Message button and a woman’s voice said “Password”. Her tone made it impossible to determine if she was jabbing me for information: “Password?” and holding out for a response; or bracing me for top secret information “Password:…”. The answer was made clear when she broke the long pause that followed by yelling at me: “No password detected!” Rather than problem-solving, or trying to reason with her, I got frazzled and hung up.

But the phone wasn’t done. No matter what I did, I couldn’t track down the password. It continued to bleep at me every 20 seconds or so – just long enough to let the idea that it wouldn’t beep again fester in my brain. Then bleep! Augh! It was like Chinese water torture killing me slowly. I knew the professionals down the hall could hear it and were cursing me just as I had cursed the venomous red planet. I unplugged my phone and plugged it back in. I remembered a Furby that I had when I was young. It too was possessed and would come to life and say “OOOhhhhhh” even after we took its batteries out and taped its eyes shut. Actually, I think it’s still in my old house somewhere because my mom clings to the delusion that it’s a collectible; or she’s just saying that and keeps it around to torment me with its creepiness). The constant bleeping and Furby flashbacks were too much, and it’s quite possible that I started to develop associative PTSD. Bleeep! Augh!

The kicker was that I already knew who left the message and why. Maybe if I called her back the phone would be smart enough to know that the whole issue was taken care of. I called her back…lovely chat….bleeeep!

My knight in shining armor came masquerading in the form of our IT man who finally called in from the motherland (also known as San Francisco). I would like to tell you that the password was a code as complicated as the time and date setup…so I think I will leave it at that in the name of whatever sliver of respect for my intelligence and dignity may be left.

But see, it’s not my fault. It’s actually Mercury in retrograde. If you buy into astrology (and even if you don’t), Mercury regulates intelligence, truth and education and governs transportation and communication issues. The questionably credible website Astrozone.com (ie the first site to pop up in my Google search on Mercury in retrograde) had this to say: What happens when Mercury retrogrades? You miss appointments, your computer equipment crashes, checks get lost, you find the car you just purchased during Mercury retrograde is a lemon. (Or, you hate your haircut, the lamp you bought shorts out, your sister hates her birthday gift.) There will be countless delays, cancellations and postponements--but know these will benefit you in the long run. Don't fight them, although your frustration level and feeling of restlessness will be hard to cope with at times.

See? Totally not my fault. I don’t think I’ve ever had a birthday in retrograde before, so we’ll see how this works out. I may just stay in bed straight through my special day until Nov 26, when the planet rights itself again. Whatever I do, I can assure you it will not involve the office phone.