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Thirty-Three (Acts of Kindness)

Birthday Wish

Today is my thirty-third birthday.

I have made it to 33, and I’m better for it. If that’s not something to celebrate, what is?

And I want YOU to help me celebrate.

I don’t normally use this space to ask people for anything, and I’m really not in the habit of asking for things. Today, however, I am asking for something that requires a bit more effort than your standard Facebook birthday wish. Don’t get me wrong, I totally appreciate the Facebook posts, but I would rather you focus your energy toward something even better. It may make you a little uncomfortable, but I promise that it’s worth the effort. Do you think you are up for it?

Let me begin with a little background information that may shed some light on why I’m starting this new birthday tradition.

I doubt that when people think about me that the first thought that comes to mind is how kind I am. Most people probably think that I’m antisocial or rude. That’s really not true. I am shy so people often mistake that for my being antisocial or rude. Really, I am just trying to avoid being the center of attention as much as possible, or I am waiting until I have really thought out what I’m going to say. I wait until I have something to say before I speak.

You may hear me say, “I hate people,” when I’m having a rough day where I have had to deal with a lot of unfriendly people, but the truth is that I honestly love people. Yes, I said it. I don’t like to be around them all the time because it is exhausting for me as an introvert, but I love people. I like learning what makes them tick and what lights them up. One of my absolute favorite things to do is to have a conversation with someone about something that they’re passionate about. You learn so much more about someone when you can get them talking about what they love. Seriously, try it.

I believe that there is good in most people, and, if you respect them and show them kindness, you will have a chance to see it. I try to show people (and animals) kindness whenever and however I can, and I try my best to leave things a bit better than I found them. I truly believe that the best way to make someone’s day a little bit better is to be kind to them without expecting anything in return.

This week, I want to make the world a little bit better and a little bit kinder, and, in order to do that, I need your help. For my birthday, I want to see if, together, we can perform at least 33 different random acts of kindness.

This is something that I do regularly, but I rarely share the details. I don’t need praise from anyone for doing these things, and, to be clear, that is not why I’m writing this. I will continue to do this whether or not anyone reads this or participates. I do these things without expecting anything in return other than the personal satisfaction that I tried to make someone’s day a little bit better. I’m hoping that maybe this will inspire you to do the same.

Here are a few of the acts of kindness that are a regular part of my routine:

  • Adding an extra item or two to my Sam’s Club order to donate where it is needed: paper products, feminine hygiene products, soap, shampoo, etc. for the local women’s shelter or pet food and cat litter for the local animal shelters.
  • Buying the order for the next car in line at the drive through – especially if it is a veteran or an elderly person.
  • Returning carts to the cart return for elderly customers or parents with children tagging along.
  • Offering to take group photos for strangers or suggesting to a parent that I can take their photo for them so that they can actually be in the photo with their kids.
  • Always, always, always waving back to a child that waves to me or says hello.
  • Asking someone that looks like they need help if they actually do need help – they look lost, they can’t reach an item on a high shelf, etc. Most people won’t ask for help but really appreciate it if you offer it.
  • Acknowledging others: say hello, say thank you, congratulate people for everyday accomplishments.

These are small things, but small things can make a big difference for someone. You can never be sure what someone is going through. You could save someone’s life by showing them kindness. Your kindness matters. Think about that.

So, what do you think? Will you help me make the world a little bit kinder by performing one act of kindness to help me celebrate my birthday this year?

It isn’t a huge commitment, I promise. You can do something small. Every little bit of kindness counts. Go out of your way to be extra kind today for kindness’ sake.

Be kind. Always.


If you do choose to participate, and I really hope that you do, please let me know how you are sharing kindness by commenting here or sharing your random acts of kindness on social media by tagging me and/or using the hashtag #BirthdayBeKind.

If you’re interested in participating, but you’re at a loss for what you can do, here are some places to find inspiration:

Running Is My Church

Running is my church.

I’m not a religious person, but, if I had to describe myself, I would say that I am a spiritual person. I believe that there is something out there that is nudging us in the right direction. I’m not sure what it is, but my gut tells me that it’s there. I don’t need to go to a church every Sunday to know that it’s there. I don’t need to pray to it to thank it for the life that I’m living. That’s not what I need, and it understands.

Becoming an adult is hard. If you’re lucky, you made it through your childhood in one piece and with a sense of what your future holds. Then you’re on your own as an adult. You have to take care of yourself and nothing is what you expected it to be. Even if life seems fine, without warning, you can feel completely lost and overwhelmed.

Before I started running, I was in a lonely, uncertain place. My life seemed OK on the surface, but I was not happy. I wasn’t quite sure why, but I knew that I needed to figure out what was happening to make me feel that way and where I was heading. I was asking myself what I was doing with my life and why was I doing it. I felt lost.

It took me awhile to find running, but, when I found it, I found my answers and myself. Running didn’t (and doesn’t) come easily to me. When I started, I hadn’t run since high school. I had to start from scratch. I had to focus on every movement, every breath. It hurt. It sucked. And I loved it.

They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.

— Tom Bodett

Running helps me to understand who I am and why I am here. Running helps me to connect with the world in an unplugged way, and, for that, I am grateful. With each step, I build confidence: I am doing this. With each new distance achieved, I reinforce that I can achieve anything that I set my mind to do. With each run, I get faster and stronger and better. I am doing this.

Running allows me to let go of whatever is bothering me. It allows me to focus on where I fit in the Universe. When I run, I am in the moment and everything seems clear. When I start to feel lost again, I remind myself that I need to reconnect, I need to run.

Most days, I struggle with admitting that I am a real runner. I feel like I don’t run frequently or fast enough to be considered a runner, but, of course, if you run, you are a runner. No other qualifications are needed.

Running will forgive me for turning away from it, and it will welcome me back when I’m ready to hit the road again. It will remind me why I am here. It will remind me of the person that I am and the one that I am becoming. It will remind me that life is good and great things are on the horizon waiting for me. I just need to be patient and take it one step at a time.

It is time to go back to church.

Unpause

Sunset on 99

In December 2010, I participated in the first and only Reverb. Through daily writing prompts, Reverb encouraged reflection on the past year. One of my favorite prompts from that activity was, and still is, “one word.” For this particular prompt, you choose one word or a simple phrase to help shape and guide your actions in the new year. I have chosen a word for each year ever since. I cannot, however, tell you what my words were for each year or if they helped in any way.

Clearly, choosing my “one word” for the year has worked very well for me. Ahem.

2011 was the Year that Started out Kind of Awesome then Started to Suck. 2012 was the Year of Suck. 2013 was the Year of All the Awesome Things. 2014 was the Year I Hit Pause. 2015 was the Year Everything Remained Paused then Quickly Fast-Forwarded at Warp Speed to the Present.

For 2016, I wanted to choose a word that encompasses my overall goal: to stop living on hold, to get back to business in the health department, to resume living normally, etc. At first, I tried to choose a word that was clever. No luck. Then I tried to choose an action word. They all sounded false or forced. Then I realized that I had already chosen my word for this year way back at the beginning of last year when I was extremely frustrated in my job search. My life was paused while I waited for anyone, anywhere to hire me so that I could get back to my normal life.

2014 and 2015 were paused, so it should be no surprise that I am choosing to unpause in 2016.

Yes, I know that, technically, unpause is not a real word. I also, technically, don’t care. It’s my word.

Everything has been on hold since the day I found out the company I was working for was closing in eight short days. At first, I continued to live normally because I really didn’t think it would take 16 months to get a full-time, permanent position. Oh how naïve I was. I am well educated. I have a lot of professional experience. I have great references. I also happen to be overqualified for the majority of the jobs available in my area. And I was afraid – afraid of making the wrong decision and hating my job, afraid of ending up at another company that would close only a year after I was hired.

As time wore on and I remained in (un)employment limbo, I began to subtract. I stopped planning to do anything that required knowing what I’d be doing in the next month, six months, or year. I tried to spend as little money as possible, knowing that savings accounts are not infinite and feeling guilt with every dollar spent. I stopped taking care of myself beyond the bare minimum because it, too, made me feel guilty, like I was wasting time and money that could be better spent.

Fast-forward.

At the end of June, I finally accepted a job that didn’t make me feel like I was making a huge mistake. Now it is five and a half months later, and I am still living as if my life is paused.

And that stops now.

Do you choose a word to help shape your goals for the year?

2015: My Year in Photos

2015
2015.

From unemployed to temporarily employed to happily, permanently employed. A career change that has included presenting at the Department of Defense and setting off the metal detectors during my first visit. Lots of commuting and making the best of the little bit of downtime I have. A little bit of running. A lot of hockey, including one appearance on the Jumbotron. One banged up car due to a distracted driver and one banged up foot due to a poorly timed Charley horse. Three fur faces: one human, two feline.

Not my best year but definitely not my worst. Here’s to hoping that 2016 continues the upward trajectory.

I wish you lots of love, happiness, good health, and great adventures in 2016. ♥

Paused

I feel like my life is paused.

For the past year, give or take, my life has been paused. It began last year with the sudden closing of the company that I worked for and it continues with my searching to find a job.

Searching for a job is hard work. There are many jobs posted daily, but you have to carefully sift through them to find viable options. First, there is the spam: HubPages and VistaPrint need to be banned from posting job openings anywhere, ever. Then there are the mislabeled jobs: Engineering is not marketing and road design is not graphic design. Then you have to figure out exactly where a position is located: Sure, Pittsburgh is Pittsburgh, but listing the actual neighborhood/region would be more helpful to a job seeker. And a few organizations need to consult a map and locate Pittsburgh on it before they list a location as Pittsburgh. Ohio is not Pittsburgh.

Then you start to feel guilty and nervous and like you’re not doing anything right.

Am I doing enough? Did I apply to enough jobs today? I did laundry this morning instead of applying to jobs, maybe I missed something? There weren’t any positions that are suitable for me today, should I apply to something random anyway? I took yesterday off, now I’m never going to get a job. I applied to this job two weeks ago, but they just reposted it. What does that mean? So-and-so wants me to design a brochure for them for free because “I’m not doing anything.” I applied to this position that I am 100% suitable for and my resume and cover letter clearly show that, but it’s a month later and they still haven’t contacted me. What did I do wrong? Why doesn’t anyone like me? I’m a terrible human being and no one wants to tell me, right? They wanted applications by January 1, but it’s two months later and they haven’t even begun to review them? Why did I promise them my first born and swear a blood oath if they’re going to make me wait six months before talking to me? 

And so on…

So, what have I learned? 1) Being overqualified sucks. There is no elegant or polite way to say it: it just sucks. I understand that being overqualified for a position makes a person seem like a flight risk after a few months, but it is still disappointing to hear over and over and over again when you want to go back to work as soon as possible. 2) I needed to expand my job search area to include options where I will have to relocate if I accept an offer. I tried to avoid it, but now I’m 100% onboard with it. 3) I know where I’m willing to relocate and where I’m not. 4) I hate having my resume and contact information posted publicly. I want to be able to stop answering every phone call from an unknown number “just in case.”

Thankfully, I’ve had a few great interviews, and I’m in the running for a few great opportunities. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting. I completely understand that I need to be patient, but I am more than ready and willing to get back to work.

The one thing that bothers me more than anything else about this situation is that I can’t plan anything, and I am a born planner. I know that once I receive and accept an offer, I will have a million things to plan, but right now everything is paused. I know what I’ll need to plan for but, without details, it’s not necessary.

I know I’ll have to plan for how to arrange my routines so that I can commute to work while I’m figuring out relocation/moving plans. I know I’ll have to plan to search for new housing. I know I’ll have to plan to coordinate the actual move. I know I’ll have to plan to settle into the new housing and community. I know I’ll have to plan to get a few things back on track that have been on hold due The Unknown. I know that I’ll finally be able to plan out a training plan and follow through with it without feeling guilty or like I’m doing something unproductive.

Soon, The Unknown will no longer be an excuse. Fingers crossed. It is a valid excuse, but it’s not one that I like. I am looking forward to having a sense of what my life will look like in a week, a month, or even a year. Not being tied to a schedule is not as freeing as one would think. Not having semi-concrete plans or a life framework to function within kind of sucks.

So, for now, I remain paused … but hopeful.