Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Movin Right Along

I'm not sure I'm really footloose and fancy free at this point, but I am most certainly on the road to being a real, honest-to-goodness trained travel agent. I am now all set to attend a week of intense training in Dallas at the end of June. It's the last week of school, so I'm missing a school play and at least one end-of-year party. So much for working from home so I can be with the kids when they need me most.

That said, Young MC threw up at school yesterday and I went and got him. I brought him home, snuggled a bit, then got right back to work. Perhaps I will miss some important things, but I am still here far more easily and often than I was in the past.

I can tell my learning curve is just beginning. Every time I've changed jobs, it has taken me a year or so to feel comfortable in the new role. I don't expect things to be any different this time. Granted, it's a larger change than ever... opening my own business. I have more responsibility than ever and less experience than ever. I need to stop writing this paragraph before I terrify myself.

It has been just over a month since I become "funemployed" and I have not looked back. I see the library every day, and now it seems like an item from a distant past. The new manager hasn't started yet full time, so my old office still sits largely unoccupied. I am looking forward to going back in another few weeks and seeing her there and my presence erased. Life is funny like that. Something that was once the center of your existence can be relegated to the back of the attic in no time at all.

I am working on a small booking already for friends and although the commission won't be remarkable, it will be a commission and more immediately present. While I work on this, I realize that my CRM will have to be REALLY good. I am hoping to get some good tips on best practices for tracking clients and staying on top of their bookings. I can see how easy it would be for something to slip through the cracks.

But for now, I will keep on learning and plugging along. I have taken one or two Disney trainings now and one Universal training. I figure the easiest thing is to start with what I know. Plus, it's not like those tests aren't also helping me plan my own immediate vacations...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

It's Alive!

This week is not even halfway over and it has been quite exciting for me. My Tax ID arrived first thing Monday morning, and that has started the boulder rolling down the hill. Monday afternoon brought a new bank account for Outlander Travel LLC and today, I started the process of signing on with a host to get access to large group discounts, computer booking systems, and most importantly at this point, training. After they do the background and credit check on me, I should be good to go. My first training will be in Dallas at the end of June and when I return from there, I should be quite ready to handle most inquiries. Best of all, I am signing on for a larger split than I thought. More money in my pocket right away! Yay!

This whole process has been very interesting. I am very concerned with having all my ducks in a row, although it would seem that many people enter into this without that. I am looking forward to learning more to see if that is really true, or just an impression I get from the reading. I will say, it is a lot to do and it is not giving me as much time to do projects around the house.

Some of that is because so many things are backed up. There have been several things I needed to do for months (even years) that I kept putting off. Gradually, I am working through those. It seems to be taking forever to clear that backlog, but in reality, it has just been a little over three weeks since my last day at the library and I have really been quite productive. I am hoping that once more of that is cleared out, I will have more time to work and get through the daily routines. I also hope that starting a business is as top-heavy as I think it is, meaning a lot of this ground work will make for easier days once things are moving right along. A lot of what is taking up my time right now are tasks I should only need to do once... Or at least less than once a year.

At this point, it looks like my target date of July 1 is going to be spot on!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Enter Sandman

So three weeks at home has given me an excellent amount of time to transition from elation for finally starting to work to make a lifelong dream happen and move into paralyzing fear for the same reason. I've been scared ever since before I made the decision to leave my day job. In fact, fear was the biggest factor in keeping a day job for so long. But now, all signs point to "do this" and even so... well... scary!

It doesn't help that filing the legal mumbo jumbo to get things moving is a slower process than I had hoped. Add that anxiety to the fact that I have exactly zero training in this area and will need to do quite a bit of that before I can even hope to make my first sale and suddenly, the fear magnifies. A sane, logical person such as myself is left wondering why the hell someone with no experience or knowledge of the inside of the travel industry would venture down this road at the ripe old age of 40.

But then I remember that I am not the first person to change careers midway through life. In fact, I've interviewed a lot of career changers for library jobs. And I've hired them. And frankly, they work out seriously well. A mid-life change is often far more thought out than a fresh-from-college career. You've had time to think about what you truly want and value in a career, and you've learned what working is all about. It's a serious advantage.

And still scary as hell.

Sometime next week (hopefully early) I will have a Tax ID number and I can proceed with getting my training started under my new company name. I believe that alone will help allay the fear a bit, as most of my fear is based on what I don't know. There isn't a job I've had that I've walked into knowing much about beyond my education and previous experience. Each one brought new challenges and new things I had to learn to succeed. The key difference was that I was going to get a paycheck while I learned. Having my own business isn't like that at all.


Still, I feel good about everything and have no regrets. I have heard from my colleagues back at the library and frankly, the stories they tell do nothing to make me pine for my old office or my old computer or my old to do list. Laundry and cleaning out cat boxes win hands down. And that's saying something.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012


Life has a rhythm. We have patterns and routines we do everyday. We build our lives around those routines. And then, sometimes, we change them all.

So far, I have only been home for two work days. It's really rare that I took a day off of work to be home like a staycation, but I often had a day off in the week when I worked the weekend. So it's not like being able to get things done around the house is foreign to me. So here on Day Two, I am still feeling like I am on a sort of vacation. I am getting tons done, but I haven't quite grasped that this is life will be like from now on.

Today, I brought the laundry into the mix. I had to beat it into submission a bit, because although Chris is an excellent doer of laundry, he doesn't go looking for trouble. He lets trouble find him. Translation: Athena had about two weeks worth of dirty clothes crammed into her closet. This explains why she keeps saying she has no pajamas to wear when I know I just bought her several sets only a few weeks ago.

Since these first two weeks are all about cleaning and getting organized, the natural rhythms of the weeks will not really form right away. I can't form routines around rooms that are not as they should be. At work, I would be putting out fires that sprung up in already orderly and normal routine. But here, nothing is normal and everything is far from ordinary. Although I put a good three hours in on Athena's room today, I only feel that I have done about half the work required in it. Fortunately, her brother is not nearly as slovenly, so I will be able to put three hours into his room and have it organized, neat, and have all the books cataloged complete with metadata and subject tags. Seriously.

The reward I will feel when these two weeks is over, even if I am not completely finished, is going to be significant and profound. That seems ridiculous, but so be it. We have lived in a constant state of frenzy and disorganization for way too long. I am so excited to have the chance to finally wrangle it in at least a bit. I know that things will never be perfect, but I also know that we can definitely improve things by a large margin.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Identity Crisis

When a person makes a major life change, there is an often unexpected phenomenon that occurs. The identity crisis. The surprise is not in that it occurs but in that we are caught by surprise at all. After all... Isn't this what a major life change means? Changing our identity?

Still, the feeling of emptiness is overwhelming. As I left the building yesterday, I had nothing hanging over my head from work. I had shredded every personnel document in my files. I cleaned out my email of any pending work. I even left my grad school text books on the shelf in my office for my successor to deal with. As I left, there was no doubt that I was no longer a librarian.

No. Longer. A. Librarian.

I have been a librarian for about twenty years now. That's longer than I was a student. Or a wife. Or anything else in my life, really. I have yet to be ANYTHING for twenty years other than a librarian with the exception of being a daughter or a sister. It has been my constant. And now, I am something else.

Since I haven't truly begun learning how to be a travel agent, this means that my primary roles at this moment are mother and wife. And interestingly, both these roles were very difficult for me to accept to begin with. I have a pretty bad fear of commitment, so the two years after our wedding were filled with serious anxiety and panic on my part. (Chris, thank goodness, is cool as a cucumber and held my hand through the whole ordeal.) Then, the first six days after giving birth, all I wanted to do was put her back to cook longer. I was so not ready for her to be dependent on me. And I was so uncomfortable with the title of Mom.

Now, however, both titles are points of pride for me. As was being a librarian. And now I am not. For the next few weeks while I focus on our house and my health, I am wife and mother and friend and sister. But I am not librarian. As this leaves me a little empty inside. The future is exciting and limitless, but still, I mourn the end of the past.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Today I Quit My Job

Well, technically, I suppose I quit two weeks ago when I submitted my resignation letter. But today is the last actual day that I enter  the library as a Manager and leave a regular patron. It is beyond odd, as I have only been in this library as an employee. My job required me to try to see it as a patron would so that I could make it as friendly and welcoming as possible, but in reality, I still knew everyone there by name and saw more than what a stranger saw.

Now, when I go in to borrow a book, I am a stranger. Not RIGHT now, of course, but in a year or two as staff turns over and they finally hire to fill the vacant Library Assistant positions, I will walk into a building of strangers. Odd.

And so begins a new chapter of my life. At age forty, in the middle (hopefully past the middle) of an economic downturn, I am willingly leaving my good government job to pursue a dream. Starting a business in something I love. It's true that I love libraries, but it's not the same as my passion for travel. And making that situation even better, I can work from home.

It is odd that I, the same woman who tossed her six-week-old daughter into daycare to return to work, is now feeling an undeniable urge to stay at home and take care of her children herself. I took my son to soccer practice two weeks ago for the first time in 18 months. Other parents there knew him and cheered him on. I have no idea who they were, never mind who their children were. Humiliating.

And our home... To say it is a bit messy is to say the Taj Mahal is a house. This place is huge and with both of us working and chasing kids around, it gets away from us. My first priority is to clean this place up and get my personal act together. One hazard of being a working mom is that you do so many things that it is nigh impossible to do any one of them really well. My hope is that by allowing my personal life to blend with my work life, I can consider that all one thing and I can do it really well. Yes, I understand work/life balance, and honestly, the two things will still be separated, but now I will control them all.

Now I sound Fascist. I am not. I simply would like to ensure that if my kids' homework isn't done, it's not because I couldn't find a pencil, and if the cats' water bowl is empty, it's not because I haven't entered that particular room in a week and so I hadn't noticed.

So here I sit on the edge of something new, uncharted, and extremely exciting. Let's just see what happens here...

Monday, January 17, 2011

New Year's Resolutions and Other Hooey

I never make resolutions anymore. This is mainly because I know I will never keep them. And also because it's somewhat arbitrary to decide to do something just because everyone else is doing it. However, this year seems like more of a fresh start than most. In 2010, I lost my mother and then a month later a very dear coworker died suddenly. Then Chris lost his job and then I learned that the libraries were reorganizing and my job would change somehow. I'd have to go through a round of interviews to find out. Lo and behold... a promotion, just when Chris found a job...

That he hated.

So we moved. Then he quit. Then he accepted Job 3 of 2010. Then Athena changed schools.

The only thing that could have made the year more stressful is if we'd had a baby or gotten a divorce. Fortunately, we did neither. My head might have exploded.

So, in walks 2011 and I says to the Year, I says... "Year, you better not suck even 1/4 as much as last Year did. And really, that still gives you plenty of suckage allowance. And Year, can we do something about making me feel less like a blobby waste of protoplasm and more like the Wonder Woman I felt like two years ago? Maybe?"

And the Year said, "Well, you COULD make that same diet resolution that everyone else makes. That's always good for a laugh."

And I said, "As much as I'd like my failures to amuse you, Year, I know better than to do that. Any other thoughts?"

And we thought, and we thought, and then we thought some more. And then I looked over and saw this book. I had no idea who this celebrity chef was, but I was intrigued by her formula. Three meals each week, designed to flow with the seasons somewhat, that are easy to make and actually can build off one another so that you can use leftovers almost immediately in a different dish. Seemed very similar to my experience with Dream Dinners, which is now, sadly, quite out of business in my area of the world.

I bought this book last year because it held promise of a way to get me in the kitchen more and in a more organized fashion. It also would, by default, be healthier because it would provide me some variety without being too complicated. She leans heavily toward Mexican and Asian cuisine, which are two areas I've done VERY little cooking in. But now as Year and I looked over at it, I realized my resolution could be way easier and more concrete than "Diet and Exercise." Now my resolution could be simply, "Cook everything in this book, in order, whether you think you'll like it or not and see what happens."

So that's the deal Year and I made with one another. So far, so good. I've done two weeks of her recipes and all have gotten better than a C grade from the spouse and myself. We don't ask the kids. Although Athena has been pretty pleased so far. Marcus may actually starve to death. We're watching.

I'm using ingredients I've never even held in my hand before (habanero peppers and hot sauce to name a couple -- and not in the same recipe, thank goodness) and I've made dishes I normally wouldn't want to eat even if I'd been served it at someone else's house (zuppa di pesce -- I don't like tomato-based soups in general). I am finding that my taste buds are more adventurous than I gave them credit for and I've probably eaten more vegetables in the last two weeks than I did in the entire Year of 2010. Take THAT, evil Year.

I did make two other resolutions. Read 30 books (three more than last year) and write more. One book down, one blog post down. Boo yah!