I learned: Out of Office Emails

Out of office emails are very helpful if they are put up at the right times. They tell people when they can expect to hear back from you and to assure others that you are not just ignoring them. This has happened a couple times and has unfortunately while nothing was technically done wrong, people’s feelings can get hurt and/or feel like you are bad at your job.

When I first started I was bad at evening remembering to set my out of office email. especially when I would only gone for a day at the top of the week. Once I got a hang of remembering to turn on the out of office… which took a minute ( I have been in this job for over two years). I was still have frustrated people trying to reach out to me while I was gone, even when my out of office email went on first thing (6:00 am) the days I was out.

What I learned is that you have to turn on your out of office (or at least for the people I work with), while you are still in the office. At least the last half hour you are actively working. My goodness the grace it gives people when they have received an out of office and you respond whenever, versus when they don’t and you just respond as soon as you can is astonishing. So that’s what I am going to keep doing for now. How do you approach your out of office?

Morning Person

I am not a morning person. Every person that has been with me before 9 am can tell you this, any roommate, sleepover friend from elementary school, family member, you name it. I am in every sense not a morning person. I do not wake up well, it takes me a long time and I fall immediately back to sleep at least once. Then once I am up I am groggy, forgetful, clumsy, and often grumpy as heck for a while. Because of this I need to wake up early.

Honestly, it feels really counter intuitive because I hate the morning, but the days I wake up early are my best days. It feels odd because I don’t do anything with my extra hour or so, but my regular hours feel better. Basically I started waking up at 6 or 5 totally on accident because I was falling asleep so early after work and was waking up accidentally after so many hours. Now I have started waiting up at 6 intentionally.

I still get to be groggy and have the time and space to fall back asleep, slowly drink coffee, check my phone, etc. The mornings aren’t better but I totally get to enjoy a large portion of my day. I also get to be less stressed about figuring out if I am able to start work and talk with others without feeling as overwhelmed or rushing into reboot mode for the day as the same time as work mode. I feel like the morning allows me now to become a person and wind-up for the day.

Are you a morning person? If not, what do you do?

Validation – I need it

Today my boss pulled me aside and told me that some of the volunteers in my committee had approached them, saying that they were denied information and were left out of an event. My body clenched. I fully was prepared to go into defense mode. Explain the history, the precedent, my communication strategy. Before I could even open my mouth, my boss told me that she was so confused how they could forget a meeting that they were at and that it was incredibly unprofessional that all the feedback was coming through communications thread but not directly. to me at any point. My muscles relaxed,

All of a sudden. I didn’t feel in defense mode. Not only had my boss been there but my boss believed me. I wasn’t over reacting or taking things personally. It wasn’t something I needed to guard against. It was something that I shouldn’t have to deal with. It was such a relief not just to know the way I was feeling or responding were valid, but that my standards were reasonable and I wasn’t just misinterpreting things.

While I think eventually it’s easy to come to the conclusion to you need to have and express the feelings you are feeling. It is another to understand that your standards are normal. The way that you are experiencing the situation should not be happening, but is.

I think especially in professional or collegial settings it can be even harder because there is a certain amount of decorum expected, especially in group settings. Being new to something and everyone having a poker face, I never know if I am misinterpreting something or that my assumed standards coming in are different than reality. You will put up with so much for a pay check and if you don’t know that you shouldn’t. Please if there is something happening that shouldn’t be and someone you work with isn’t bring it up. Bring it up. Validate their experience. They probably think it is something should be dealing with or because no one else is reacting that they are overreacting.

Anyway. Validation is lovely.

Makeshift Tuna Noodle “Casserole”

Making meals is hard and planning ahead when grocery shopping can feel really overwhelming. This a quick and easy one-pot meal that tastes delicious, costs minimal amounts while being made of mostly pantry staples, and is a relatively balanced meal. Let me know what your go to easy meal is!

Servings: 3

Ingredients:

  • One box shell noodle Mac&Cheese (store brand: $1 per box)
  • One can tuna fish (roughly $1.50)
  • 1/2 a cup of frozen peas ($1.50 per package)
  • 1-2 tbsp. Butter
  • 1-2 tbsp. Mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 tsp (2/3 shakes) dried Thyme
  • Pepper

Steps:

  • Boil water for mac and cheese and cook noodles according to directions. With 5 minutes left on cooking time add the frozen peas to the pot.
  • Strain noodles and peas into colander. Pour back into to pot add butter and coat noodles and peas.
  • Add in tuna, mayo, and lemon juice and combine well.
  • Pour in cheese packet from box, thyme, and add pepper to taste.
  • Enjoy.!

College applications for the introverted

I have been giving a lot of college search and application advice lately and I just thought it would be a good idea to share out wider. Specifically, my advice is geared towards the introverted or those that maybe anxious during this time. But, why you should even listen to me? I am an introvert who successfully went through the college process (with many introverted friends who also went through at the same and different institutions). My parent worked in the scholarship and financial aid office and has imparted a lot of stories and advice across many years at multiple universities. I work, give advice, and write recommendations for youth going through this process. I am intimately familiar with social anxiety, depression, and selective mutism.

  • Create your common app or any application accounts early. This gives you more time to ask for any recommendations , write essays, etc. without having to put it all into the same timeframe.
  • Email the teachers, coachers, and advisors for recommendations before the school year starts. As long as your account is open they will be able to submit it. It makes less sense and is more awkward NOT to ask in person after school has started for the year and you are seeing them on a regular basis. Plus, this gives the impression you are on top of it.
  • Remember, that commitment over time, volunteerism, and any expansion of responsibilities (babysitting, work, tutoring, etc.) are all demonstration of leadership skills.
  • Look into the institutions dining programs and make sure there is always a pick-up or carry-out option. There are always going to be times, when you want eat alone, need to work, don’t want the chance run-ins, etc.
  • Don’t just look at University population, also look at the size of the departments that you would want to be in (Chemistry, English, etc.). The official website should give you a list how many professors you could be working with or stuck with. You may also be able to find how many graduate with that major. This will give you an idea of how many you would regularly be in class with or working with across your time there.

Vacation First Aid Kit

Hooray! We can slowly start doing things again (in a safe and reasonable manner). I know my partner and I love to travel and take small weekend trips, but since living together have had very little opportunities due to my work schedule and a global shutdown. Personally, we like to pack light, but I also assume disaster is waiting around every corner. So this is the basic first aid kit I pack anytime we go anywhere at least overnight that I feel covers all our bases.

  • Aloe: In case you burn
  • Melatonin: In case you can’t sleep in a new place – most people can take this and doesn’t conflict with many medications
  • Acetaminophen: For pain – I feel comfortable knowing I likely can’t take too much, but personally I also find it to be more fast acting
  • Benadryl (topical and oral): Allergies baby! I am allergic to a couple things (I do not go into full anaphylaxis it is a lot of pain and a bad situation). I can’t necessarily control how often I come into contact with them on vacation and eating out. I like to have these on hand.
  • Band-aids: For injuries of all kinds
  • Alcohol wipes:: Same as above especially when in a new place, you gotta clean it.
  • Antibiotic cream: Ditto

I lack follow through

So I as a person love making lists and tracking different obscure things. However, because I enjoy making them so much I often don’t go back and follow up. So recently I have been really stressed at work so I went back to try to relax and make some new lists based off of old ones.

Last year before the pandemic I made a list of all the narrative (not reality) TV shows I had seen at least one season of on ListChallenges.com. There was about 260 shows. I freaking love TV, understand I have a problem, and cannot reiterate either enough. So, what fun, I thought I would make a list of TV shows I have seen every episode of guaranteed. It is only about 80. That is 30%!!!!

I have done a lot of stupid stuff in my life but I was incredibly disappointed in myself when I saw this. And so many of them were shows that were cancelled early and only had one to two seasons. WHAT EVEN IS THAT?! I love television how can I not have seen through so many of these shows. Now some I have seen all I intend to see because of decisions that were made for the last season (ie. BBC’s Robin Hood, Once Upon A Time, That 70’s Show). But so many are just shows that I cannot explain why I never finished, especially when all episodes are available on a streaming service that I HAVE.

So anyway, I cannot figure it out beyond the shows that are still airing or I don’t have access to. I really feel like a quitter but completely on accident. I am going to try to complete a couple more, but considering how much I love television I am definitely feeling really upset with myself about this revelation. I am going to attempt to complete 5 more shows by the end of summer.

Wish me luck!

On having COVID

So I have COVID, yes I got it at work and yes, I am furious. I first went to get tests 10 days ago, a day and a half after my exposure (we are pretty sure), and right after I had a fever. It was a PCR test. The lab they sent it to marked the collection date wrong (confirmed via email). I didn’t get my results back until Wednesday night instead of Tuesday morning. In the meantime I was getting sicker and sicker and of course decided that it was the flu. The first test came back negative, but with the timing of infection, the mix-up, and my worsening illness it was recommended I get a second test. I really needed to know for work and for my own sanity so I got a rapid COVID test and flu test and the urgent care next to my apartment.

I had COVID, obviously. They made me wait to get the results because it was a rapid test and it was obvious to everyone except my delusional self that I had COVID. I had fevers, coughing, was nauseous, could no longer take deep breaths. I had to tell me work immediately, because I had been in person running event when I contracted the virus and contact tracing had to happen ASAP. My partner luckily had had their first vaccination so if they did contract the virus we weren’t seeing major symptoms (though he is still quarantining the full two weeks).

Now I know I have been luckily in that I haven’t been hospitalized, but it has been absolutely miserable. I couldn’t keep any food down for a majority of the time, and have just been attempting to stay hydrated. My body aches. It hurts to walk and talk for long periods of time. I have been falling asleep throughout each day. I felt amazing today because I could walk for 5 minutes without needing to take a breathing break, stayed awake all day, and ate more than once. I have been using a Pulse Oximeter, to keep track of my oxygen levels like the doctor asked (below a certain level you have to go to the hospital ASAP). However, it also watches your pulse rate. Today is the first day in almost a week that it was below 100 and my oxygen rate is back above 95.

I am going back to work tomorrow virtually, but I am really nervous about how long recovery is taking and how much I am actually going to be able to do.

Anyways wish me luck in recovery and please get vaccinated if and when you can!

Going back in-person

My work has just started going back in person. Both within our organization having small scale in-person meetings or days of work and hosting small outdoor programs for groups. This started once our state did start opening back up again but not once everyone had access to vaccines. To be fair our events are for youth (5-13) who are not eligible for vaccines at the moment.

Anyways for the most part while scary everyone has been pretty responsible. You are only allowed to use communal equipment with gloves, everything is sanitized, masks, etc. However, our area keeps fluctuating in cases and we are not working or running events in pods. The children go to different schools. We are all doing individual lives. However, we all have to do health assessments before entering any property. There are also resources and every meeting has a safety officer.

Unfortunately, not everyone can take it as seriously and we all make assumptions that everyone is being as careful as us and children are not carriers. Week 3 while filling out my health assessment before a program I took my temperature at it was a hundred. It might be a pandemic or it might be that I haven’t been near other people and immune systems in over a year. In the times past I would get sick really easily. So I got a COVID test today and regardless if I have gotten COVID or something else. Everything has to be put on hold and I have to report my status to everyone and everyone has to be kept more fully up to date with my health which makes me un-comfy though it is understandable.

Anyway wish me luck staying safe and healthy!

Job Update: 2 Years In

I have been at my current organization for a little over two years. Honestly, it feels a little crazy as it doesn’t feel like that long because we have been in the pandemic for half of that time. I also was recently promoted into a Manager position. It was really nice to feel recognized, especially considering the year it has been. I also had likely taken on an additional job since our RIF (reduction in force). I feel much more relaxed now that job is officially mine and because of the promotion I am being compensated for that and able to start to balance back my schedule.

While it is nice to feel compensated, it also feels a bit like an accident. I was in place to take over this position because 2 months into my job with the organization the person I have replaced (they left) had back surgery. Due to the fact I had just started I didn’t have a lot of responsibility and was able to take over part of their paperwork. When she came back in that fill in debrief process, we became friends. Due to that, I was asked to join the volunteer committee I now run. Basically I accidently slid into a position where I was already in place to take over when they left at the beginning of the pandemic last summer.

It also feels awkward. There is a huge culture at my organization that loyalty and time are the most rewarded. There are many members of the staff that have worked here years if not decades longer than me. It feels a little awkward to break that culture and be promoted ahead of some of my direct peers to become the same staff level with those who have been here 10ish years. I also feel guilty. We had a huge RIF in the fall (25% of our staff). Many of whom were friends and people I admired. It feels odd to have had the money to promote me because of this,

However, I feel like this is a space I would be willing to stay in moving forward. I like the work we do and I like my position. I also like most of the people I work with very much. What comes next will be interesting to see!

Wish me luck with my new position!