Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Trader Joe's Moment

It goes without saying that the employees at the local Trader Joe's are an interesting, bright, colorful, fun, upbeat group of people. Last September, I was hired to work for this wonderful company, and I felt lucky. On one particular day, I celebrated what I call a Trader Joe's Moment, and I must share it with you. This little excerpt gives you a peek into the fun that I called "work."

I'm sitting in the break room which consists of a small, single room at the back of the store. I'm sharing a table with a co-worker of mine named Bee (names have been altered). We are happily eating lunch. Bu, another co-worker, is preparing his lunch at the other table in the room behind me. Food is always a conversation piece in the break room- What are you eating? Did you bring lunch? I'm craving a bagel from Towson Hot Bagels. What are you heating up in the microwave? That smells good.

Well, on this particular day, I'm eating my standard cream cheese on toast, with the all-healthy bag of chips, a can of root beer, a bowl of cinnamon apple sauce, and a granola bar. Bee is eating yogurt, as usual, and that's all. So, I begin my regular conversation with him about how he should eat something-ANYTHING more. He laughs and scoffs at me. Then I smell it...this funky, gamey, vinegar smell. Someone throws open the door and yells, "Oh my God! What is that horrible smell?"

I turn around to see Ti and Tay walk into the break room. Tay walks over to the bank of lockers where employees keep their swag and grabs a toothbrush and toothpaste. This is when I notice Bu's lunch, and it's hard to ignore. Ti moves in close, leans over Bu's lunch, and takes a big sniff. "Boy, that is an awful stink! What is that hot pile of meat you're eating, Bu? You frighten me." Bee laughs and so do I. Bu, not bothered by this remark, says, "I'm eating a bison meatball sub. Duh." This particular meatball sub consists of 6 bison meatballs sitting atop a piece of white bread with a slice of yellow American cheese and then an additional 6 bison meatballs finished with another slice of yellow cheese and the final piece of white bread. Remember the scene in The Breakfast Club, where Ally Sheedy's character eats a sandwich with Cap'n Crunch and pixie stix sugar? This is a similar situation.

In the meantime, Tay applied toothpaste to his toothbrush at the sink in the corner and began brushing. He walked around the break room and hummed as he brushed his pearly whites. Both Bee and I watched as Bu attempted to take a bite of his 10" sandwich. It was scary to witness. Both Bee and I wished Bu all the best, chuckled and went back to eating our minuscule lunches. Ti commented on Bu's impending indigestion and sauntered out. Tay finished with his teeth, put his cleaning supplies away, and left the break room smiling with fresh, shiny teeth.

Now this episode may not seem like much to others, but it was special to me. I can't explain it, but seeing everyone in their comfort zone around me made me feel "inside" and included, like I was a part of something great. It was a lot like being at home. It reminded me of when I was in architecture school at the University of Florida. I was surrounded almost exclusively by guys, and they are SO different than girls, especially if they feel comfortable around you. I felt lucky to experience this chance moment at work. Maybe you've had a similar experience at some time?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Take A Chance on Change

I stoop down in front of the aisle to see what's missing. All I see is cheese: white cheddar, brie, fontina, bleu cheese, goat cheese, gouda, swiss, parmesan, asiago, the cheeses seem to go on and on. I look at the first of 40 or so racks of cheese that I will be putting on the shelf. It's havarti, and it looks delicious. My stomach rumbles. I look at my watch. The time says 6:10am. Better get working. I put my earbuds in my ears, turn on a compilation of music, and begin mentally studying for my molecular biology test that is in 4 days.

I woke up this morning at 4:45am to make sure I had time to prepare for work: make lunch, eat breakfast, fix hair, apply makeup (what little I wear), and dress properly (I work in a refrigerator, you know). My work "uniform" consists of running pants worn under my jeans, two pairs of socks, a long sleeve shirt, a turtleneck, my sweatshirt, and a pair of gloves. Two days a week, I work at Trader Joe's, a wonderful grocery store that specializes in unique, well-priced products. Two other days a week I'm in school, taking pre-requisites toward a radiology program. Last semester I took "Math For the Health Sciences" that consisted mostly of word problems relating to nursing, radiology, and radiation therapy. I studied very hard and did well. This semester I'm taking Molecular Biology, and I have to say that it is certainly harder, albeit interesting. I still write book reviews for the Children's Literature Comprehensive Database, and I am finalizing my edits on my manuscript. My kiddies have sports and dance at night and lots of homework. So most of my studying occurs after they go to bed or when I wake up at 4:00am. This is not easy, but if I can get past the pre-requisites, get into a residency program and complete it, the rewards will be great. I plan to do this.

My life is very different than it was just 7 months ago, which is largely why I haven't been blogging. Studying takes up most of my free time, but I'm going to work hard to blog again because there is SO much to talk about.

Previously I worked one, 12-hour Saturday a week, managing weddings. As much as I LOVED this job, I knew that there would not be an opportunity to expand the position. I was interested in pursuing a career that required a specialization, where I could work more hours, and where there was a true need. My husband suggested that I look into the medical professions. I laughed at first thinking that I could never do this, I mean, my background is in the arts. How could I possibly be successful pursuing something that involved tons of science? After doing the research for almost a year, I decided to pursue the career of a radiologic technician (the person who takes your x-rays). There is a need for these types of jobs, there is opportunity to grow and broaden (mammography and sonography is possible with additional courses). I don't laugh anymore at this option. I'm actually really excited by the prospect of working in a hospital. Yes, it's true that I have two other degrees- a Bachelor of Design in Architecture from the University of Florida and a Master's of Science in Marketing from Johns Hopkins University. Yet finding work in either of these professions has proven to be difficult, and I discovered two things in the last few years leading up to when I turned 40 last year:


I have to remind myself that it is possible to do it all, and there are a lot of people that have told me that I either can't do it or I'm wasting my time, but I know they are wrong. Who knows? Maybe they are jealous that I am pursuing something that will lead to something greater than what I have now. A lot of moms I know are fumbling around trying to figure out who to become now that their children are of school age (I get it. I was there for a few years myself). I have to be focused and very structured with my time, and I am very lucky that my husband supports me, even encourages me. Again, in the end, I will be helping him and the family financially, which benefits all of us in the long run. It's hard to keep that in mind sometimes. I do get frustrated and tired sometimes, but I know I'm making the right decision.

Are you going through this as well? I know there are others out there that want to change their lives, or have changed their lives by going back to school, or have changed their lives by changing careers. What do you think? What's your take on all of this?