Waiting to Fail – Advice from A GenXer

I’m a GenXer…raised in the 1980s. The generation of “Latch Key Kids.” We didn’t wear helmets when we rode our bikes, or elbow pads when we roller skated, if we had done so, our friends would have laughed at us. Our parents didn’t hover over our grades, they didn’t blame our teachers when we failed a test. We got our driver’s license the day we turned sixteen and had a part time job the very next day. We drove used cars, usually the cast-off family car, and we didn’t have GPS. We used a telephone and if we wanted to have a social life, we had to actually got OUT of the house to create one.

And we failed. A LOT.

Somewhere along the line, and I’m not really sure where, because there are still a bunch of us trying to raise our children the same way, things went haywire.

Somehow, we were convinced that our kids needed to have it easier. It started with “time out,” and making a child think about what they did wrong instead of paying a consequence.

And then we decided that if they weren’t doing well in school, it was the teacher’s fault for not teaching them. I’ve raised my kids in two different school districts, so I can attest to the fact that not every school district is created equal. Our current school district is far more superior than our previous district. But that comes with different pressures too. If you don’t fit in the “STEM” box , you’re going to have a tough time in school.

We decided that it wasn’t possible for teens to both have a job AND go to school at the same time. We made it harder for them to get real life experience. Having a job early on allows you to learn responsibility, with showing up and with your money. It’s also the ONLY time in your life you will get to PLAY with your money. You have no debt to pay off, you have no real bills. My first big purchase as a teen was a pair of black suede boots that reached just over the knee and laced all the way up the back. I still remember that they cost $135.00. I put them on lay-away at “Wild Pair” (an awesome shoe store from the 80s) and paid them off little by little until they were mine. And then I took care of them because I worked so hard to get them.

I had several jobs when I was a teen (at different times) because I could change the job when I got bored. I wasn’t locked in. If you wait until after you’ve gone through college, and trained for a career (which is a great plan), but then can’t change the job because you can’t find another one and are locked in because you owe so much on school debt, then no wonder you’re miserable. You never had the chance to PLAY with your money and fail. You can’t afford to fail now.

We had friendships and relationships and realized what it meant to have a good friend that would stand by you no matter what. That would get into trouble with you (in a good way, of course), but you knew what to expect from them, because you had created a face to face relationship. Your friendship was tried and tested. You cried through the bad times and laughed through the good. I know, I’m old and I don’t understand, but on-line relationships don’t provide that same closeness. They just don’t! I have “on-line” friends, to some extent, and they don’t measure up to the friends who have hugged me through break-ups and loss, who have celebrated births and marriages and achievements. It’s different. Read the research. This on-line generation is one of the loneliest, depressed and anxiety-ridden generation of all time. That’s not just my opinion.

“But you don’t understand,” is what I hear. You’re right. I don’t. But you also forget that we were young once too. I grew up under the fear of nuclear war. It was a real fear. But instead of withdrawing, my friends and I made a plan that in the event that they dropped “the bomb,” we would all go outside, put on our sunglasses, sit in our lawn chairs and watch the fireworks. It was how we coped…with sick and twisted humor.

And financially? We get it. My family was caught up in the Aerospace crash of the 80s. My dad was an Aerospace Engineer and had a pension plan. He was set for life…until the aerospace companies crashed and took away everyone’s pensions that they worked for their whole life. My family was devastated. I get it.

But I think the biggest lesson that GenXer’s we’re good at was “failing.” We learned skills to cope with failing. You get up, dust yourself off, and keep moving. It was just a given. Was there anxiety? Sure. Was there depression? You betcha. But that was just a diagnosis, not an excuse. We figured out how to deal with things. We didn’t have time, nor was it acceptable, to give up. “Just Do It” was what we lived by.

My advice to the younger generations?

Work now, so you can play with your money.

Get a job, so you can figure out what you like and don’t like before you get all the way through college.

Get out of the house. For goodness sake, get a gang of friends that really know you. Go to concerts (and DON’T RECORD THEM), just enjoy them. Go bowling, go hang out at a friend’s house, go to the mall, and talk to each other.

Pick up a phone…and CALL someone. Don’t just text them.

Do something for someone else…maybe even one of us “old” people. Do it for the human contact, not because you need “volunteer hours” to graduate.

Be still. Sit in awe and wonder at the world around you. Know that you can make a difference in someone else’s life.

And don’t be afraid to fail.

“I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison.

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Life Isn’t Fair

I won’t go into what sparked this post because to do so would stir up controversy and anger (mostly mine), and I consider this blog my happy space.

“Life Isn’t Always Fair.” Four simple words that I think we’ve forgotten in this day and age.

Nope. We’re too “awoke” to sometimes let things go and move on. We all “want ours.” But our past doesn’t have to dictate our future and sometimes trying to make up for the past only stirs up more hurt and division.

Some things I hope my children (and a LOT of adults) would remember:

  1. You may not get the job you feel that YOU deserve. Sometimes things happen that are beyond your control. Sometimes God (yes, I said God) has a different plan for your life. And though it may not seem like a better plan, He has His reasons. Maybe your dream job would lead you down a life of dependence and despair. Maybe He’s sparing you from that.
  2. You may not get the apology you think that YOU deserve. You can’t make people apologize. Not everyone thinks like you. Learn from the past, forgive, and move on. You’ll save yourself a LOT of grief over time.
  3. You may not get into the college that YOU want. No matter how well you do on your entrance exams, how high your GPA is, or how many extra-curricular activities you’ve been a part of, there will always be someone smarter, luckier, quicker at applying than you. It’s a fact of life and human nature. That doesn’t make you “less than,” it makes you who you are.
  4. You may not get the boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife that you think YOU deserve. We all have a plan, and sometimes those plans don’t work out the way we want them to. Sometimes the gorgeous guy or girl turns out to be a real loser. Again…forgive and move on. There’s no better “vengeance” than living well, and not letting the memory of “what could have been” control you.
  5. Speaking of vengeance…getting even is never the best option. Sure, it feels great in the moment. But it’s been my experience that YOU will waste way too much time and energy worrying about how to get even when the other person won’t even remember who you are. Although, I do have to admit, that when I saw the girl that tortured me throughout middle school and high school at my 10 year reunion and I pretended not to know her, it felt really good. But I wasn’t plotting that moment for 10 years…it just sort of presented itself. I never said I was perfect.
  6. People will disappoint you…it’s part of the human condition. The only person you can (and should) control is YOU.

The common denominator in all this is YOU. You have the power to change what you can, forgive when you should, and no amount of stomping your feet will make up for anything that life, the past or the present, has done to you. Sometimes life just isn’t fair. Sometimes you have to be the bigger person. The forgiving person. The loving person. The one who is willing to rise above the noise and see through the distractions to live as best you can.

So, when life isn’t fair, don’t despair. Get up, brush yourself off, and look for the positive in every experience that you can.

Everyone Has Something…

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(This post was originally posted in 2016)

As a society, we’ve become masters at “labeling.” We know all our disabilities, all our flaws. We’ve given them names and can diagnose them earlier and earlier. But I’m not so sure that’s always a good thing. Sure, early diagnosis can help, even save, a large amount of people. But sometimes giving it a label predestines a person to limit themselves, to limit their life in ways that they may have pushed through had they not been labeled. Because here’s the thing: Everyone has something. Everyone!

Next time you’re in a crowd, even a small crowd, look around. Statistically speaking, EVERY SINGLE PERSON in that crowd has something in their life that they find challenging. A limitation. Sometimes they wear their challenge on the outside and it’s easy to spot. But more often than that, it’s hidden. It’s under their clothes, it’s under their skin, it’s in their brain. And it’s unique to each person.

Even the people that appear to have it all together, they too have something bubbling just under the surface. No one is immune.

One of the most valuable lessons we can give to our peers is to learn to push through challenges. No matter what life has dealt you, you can use that experience to build or to tear down. And everyone has something.

I think our beauty comes from those “flaws,” from those experiences, and from those challenges.

I think it’s our job, as parents, as teachers, as mentors, to help our children and those around us, with our flaws and our challenges, but don’t stop there. It’s our RESPONSIBILITY to show them how we push through our challenges and don’t let them limit us. To show them that even though we have a disease, disorder, or disability, it doesn’t have us.

People watch our every move, our every reaction, especially our children. They look to us for examples of how to handle the stuff that makes up life, both the good and the bad. A parent with a challenge has to shine through their disability, and show their children that it’s not something to stop them from doing what they want in life.

Even when we think our challenge is too big to get over, we can still show our kids what it means to HOPE. But hope isn’t necessarily proactive. Being hopeful can change your state of mind. The lesson is in how we ACT on that hope.

Think about some of our most inspiring people. Why do they inspire us? Usually it’s because they’ve achieved something IN SPITE OF or even BECAUSE OF a limitation. They’ve overcome and made things better for themselves or for those around them.

Everyone HAS something, but not everyone will DO something. How are you going to use your limitation to inspire those around you?

People Hate Change

As a whole, the human race doesn’t like change. How can I make such a generalized, blanket statement like that? Because I’ve seen and experienced it, first hand.

A little background first:

I work in the dairy department of a grocery store. And as such, I have the opportunity to observe a large slice of humanity: different cultures, different socioeconomic backgrounds, different age groups from the very young to the very old, both male and female and anywhere in between. I see a little bit of everything because, well, everyone needs to eat. It’s quite a place if you every want to observe fellow human beings.

My place of employment is going through a remodel, and instead of closing down for several weeks and doing one grand reveal, they’ve chosen the route of remodeling the store department by department. That means that on any given day, the toilet paper is not where it was yesterday, and the dog food is now where the shampoo is, or the peanut butter is where the baby food was two days before.

People are wandering through the store with a look of disgust and frustration on their faces. Most have no problem vocalizing their frustration to the employees, who, because of the abrupt and daily changes, don’t have any idea where most of the items are either. It’s a mess. But it’s going to be beautiful! (they say).

The dairy department, where I work, is mostly one aisle, and it happens to be the first aisle on the right after you’ve gone through the produce department. So, my department is generally the first to hear people’s opinions about the changes. (Lucky me)

This week, they remodeled the dairy aisle: took out the clunky displays in the center of the aisle and replaced our old shelves with an enclosed refrigerated area complete with doors. And it does look beautiful. Oh, and they rearranged the entire aisle: the yogurt is where the cheese was, the cheese is where the sour cream and cottage cheese used to be, the juice is on the other side of the aisle where the creamer used to be, and the eggs have moved to the end of the aisle.

Today was the first day everything was the first day that everything was in place. As customers came around the corner and gazed upon our aisle, they were pleasantly surprised…at first. It’s visually pleasing. And then they realized that things were moved and rearranged. Change had occurred without their consent or input.

Some of the comments today:

“Ooo, look at this! Wait…where’s my creamer?”

“Oh, God…everything is moved! I’ll never find what I need!”

“Why can’t they just leave things alone?!”

“I’m too old to start over.”

“I don’t have time for this! I don’t want to have to hunt for my groceries!”

“Every time I come in here things are different!”

The best part was when they would ask me where something was, in my own department, and I had to take a couple seconds to figure it out. I mean, I work there! It’s my department! I should know, right? Wrong!

Fortunately, most people were patient and understanding. And I thank those customers for that. We’re doing the best we can.

So, here we are back to my initial statement: People don’t like change. Not one person came around that corner and exclaimed, “I love it! Thank you for changing everything around!” or “I can’t wait to find out where my brand of yogurt got moved!” or“ At last! Changes that disrupt my life, even if it’s just for a moment!” Nope. Not a single one. Though I did hear in a consoling tone, “It’s going to be beautiful when it’s all done.”

So, though change may be necessary, change is rarely easy. Change is rarely welcomed. No matter what someone tells you about loving change, I believe that kind of change is circumstantial in nature. The kind of change that people welcome is the kind of change that is self-initiated. And even then, it can be filled with anxiety, even pain.

But change is necessary for us to learn and grow, even if it means having someone move the eggs when you weren’t expecting them to. Or discontinuing your Dragon Fruit Yogurt because you were the only one buying it. Sorry if that was you, by the way.

What about you? Do you welcome change? Or do you run from it?

The Secret Life of an Indie Author

When I first decided to pursue novel writing, I had no idea what it entailed.

As most Indie Authors, I started by pursuing the “Traditional Publishing” route. I had lofty dreams and no idea what I was getting into.

I had this idea for a novel swimming around in my brain for about fifteen years before I pulled my notes out of the drawer and put keystroke to keyboard. The kids were finally old enough to entertain themselves for a few hours while I pecked away at the next great novel. I was able to finish it in about six months. I was impressed with myself, I must say. I didn’t think I could do it, but the words just sort of came tumbling out of me. After all, only something like 30% of people ever finish the novel they start out to write. I was ahead of the game.

I tried the traditional route, not knowing that first novels should NEVER see the light of day. But at least I got rejections. The worst is when you send your blood, sweat and tears off in an email and all you get back is the sound of crickets. The not-knowing is the worst, I think.

Fast forward a few years and a couple novels later (also not in print), and I decided to go the “Indie Publishing” route. I had done a lot of research and read countless blogs and agent advice. I didn’t expect to become an overnight success, but I, again, had no idea what I was in for.

The Biggest Secret? The Indie Author wears many hats.

An Indie Author is first and foremost a writer. That’s a no-brainer, right? You would think so, but it isn’t. Again, I turned to research and the internet to write the best novel I could. There were terms I had never heard before, and I was an English major. “Head hopping?” What the heck was that! It’s when you change point of view mid paragraph. But even editors and authors can’t agree on what exactly head-hopping is. Give the same paragraph to several different people and you’ll get several different responses as to whether it’s head-hopping or not.

An Indie Author also plays the role of “Marketer.” Most writers are NOT cut out for marketing. They are the creatives, the idea makers. But marketing? To a lot of us it’s like speaking a different language. Not to mention, in my case, my last job was in marketing and I’m somewhat traumatized by being on the end of rudeness and cursing and yelling by the people I was approaching. And I was one of the nicest people you could talk to. So, the thought of pandering to my “friends” to purchase my books strikes fear in my heart. It’s something akin to a pyramid scheme where your friends are your victims…uh, clients. I can’t do it. It’s physically and emotionally painful for me.

But it doesn’t stop there. The Indie Author is also the Head of Advertising. If they want to be seen among the 750,000 books listed on amazon.com (and I’m sure that’s a conservative statistic), they must engage in some sort of advertising: GoogleAds, Facebook ads, BookBub campaigns…the list goes on forever. And all those things cost money. You’re already dipping into reserves that you haven’t made yet and may never make. I know that sometimes you have to put something in to get a return, but I truly wonder how many Indie Authors NEVER see a return. I don’t have that money to invest. I just don’t.

The Indie Author is also a Social Media Expert. Again, to be noticed, they need to engage with potential readers on Twitter, Facebook, their own website (if they have one – another investment), Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn…and I’m sure I forgot something. All of this “engagement” takes time away from writing. Because for most Indie Authors, writing is not their day job. Even a lot of traditionally published authors don’t write a book and watch the profits roll in. They make a lot of their money from speaking engagements. But people want to hear from “famous authors.” From the Indie Author? Not so much.

The Indie Author must also be the Gatekeeper. What do I mean by that? I mean that there are a whole lot of scammers out there wanting to “help” with your marketing. The scammers have figured out how to sell “10,000 books their first year without even trying” and they’re willing to show you how…for a small fee or for the price of their e-book. Yeah, I’m not falling for it.

The Gatekeeper also screens out bad advice. The truth is there is no “right” answer. It’s hard work. There is no “quick fix.” It’s a long and arduous endeavor.

Some Indie Authors are also Graphic Designers. They have mastered formatting of their novels. They’ve learned the rules to make their books compete with the traditionally published counterparts. The talented ones can make covers that look professional.

So why do I do it?

Because I love to write. I love my fellow human beings. I want to connect with them. I want my stories to say to them “I get you. I’ve been there.” I want people to find a little bit of themselves or their friends or family members in my characters. I want to leave a legacy of some sort, an imprint on the world for when I’m gone. Even if only five people read my novels, I’m okay with that. I don’t plan on getting rich from them, that isn’t my intention. I know I should do more to put myself out there. I should make a bigger financial investment than I have up until now. And maybe when I don’t have to budget for braces or college or car repairs, and I’ve managed to retire on the MidAtlantic coast in my tiny paid-for home then I’ll have that option. But until I’m living the dream, I will continue to write and write and write. And I’m eternally grateful for every reader I’ve had.

What about my fellow Indie Authors – what’s your Indie Author Secret Life look like?