Friday, January 21, 2011

The state of my running (or lack thereof)

So, first of all, a quick but heart-felt THANK YOU to the handful of you still out there in blogland! I'm honestly blown away that anyone even bothered to finish that long and tedious post! But seriously, thank you. Y'all are the best.

Now, onto the state of my running. Well, let's just say that I haven't been lacing up the running shoes as often as I ought to be, considering this is the only season in Central Texas where you can run without sweating buckets! Sadly, the motivation to run just hasn't been there. I'd be willing to bet this lack of motivation stems from the fact that I have approximately ZERO races penciled in at this point. Don't get me wrong, I still LOVE and dearly miss racing . . . it's just that Wilson and I really can't justify paying (ever-climbing) race fees at the moment, considering our financial situation. We still make it out to run every once in a while, but not nearly often enough.

So, I am wondering . . . does anyone else find it all but impossible to get motivated without races
on the horizon? If so, what do you do to snap yourself out of it? I'd love to hear any strategies you might have to offer . . .

Monday, January 10, 2011

Another Year Gone . . .

Well. It looks like I *ALMOST* managed to make it an entire year without posting; not that I'm proud of that fact or anything. But in my defense, life HAS been kind of chaotic as of late. Looking back, I'm pretty sure that my hesitation to post stemmed from the fact that I REALLY wanted to wait until I was sure things were on the upswing before admitting to some of the crazy stuff that has gone on over the past year. After all, who doesn't love a happy ending? But last night (as I lay wide awake at 5 a.m.), I had a thought: Maybe I should be posting about this stuff NOW. After all, I'm pretty sure there are quite a number of folks out there in similar situations. And who knows? Maybe--just maybe--it would help those people to know that they aren't alone. Then, there's the fact that I'm pretty sure that Wilson and I MUST be approaching some kind of turning point in life; and if that turns out to be the case, wouldn't it be nice to have a record of it? So, here I am . . . back from the blogging dead (again). I'm not quite sure whether anyone is still out there; but if you are, prepare yourself for the longest post in Irish Cream history!


Where do I even start? Well, I guess we should start with the point at which I left off: I had some exciting news to share (man, what a cliffhanger!). Well, the big news was that I had been offered a job at an upscale, big-name gym, just a few blocks from my apartment in Brooklyn. My instructor at school (who had brought in a recruiter from the company to interview any of us who were interested in the possibility of working for the gym) basically guaranteed me that it would be a great place to work. It was a dream come true!! Or so I thought . . .

Instead, the job turned out to be a disaster from the very start. Lets just say that the gym's management left a little something to be desired (understatement of the century, but whatever). Now, in all honesty, I probably should have known this would be the case when one of my potential managers scheduled a final interview with me and then didn't bother to show up to work that day (or when the same thing happened AGAIN upon arriving for my scheduled appointment to fill out new hire paperwork) . . . but a) I was really trying to keep an open mind, and b) hindsight is 20/20, isn't it? Well, I made it about 3 months before I got sick and tired of not getting paid (my minimum wage rate) on time (or at all), and figured I owed it to myself to call it quits before I got into another situation like I was in at the law gig. So that was that.

At that point (early May), knowing our lease would be ending in a little over two months, Wilson* and I had a decision to make: Should we sign another 12-month lease in one of the most expensive cities in the world, despite the fact that neither of us was gainfully employed? Or should we attempt to make a move somewhere else (preferably less expensive) in the world? We grappled with this question for quite some time; but in the end, we decided it was probably time to move on and start our lives over elsewhere. After all, I had saved up a pretty huge sum of money while working in law . . . but, if worse came to worst, we knew that large sum would go MUCH further somewhere cheaper than NYC.

So Wilson began applying to animation companies wherever he could find them . . . Vancouver, Seattle, Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Austin, Jacksonville, Greenwich, CT. Our Plan-A was basically to go wherever he found employment (after all, I can do what I do anywhere; but there are only a handful of cities that offer animation gigs). Of course, aware that the economy was sucking, we also knew we had to make a Plan-B (in case Wilson didn't find a job before we had to vacate our Brooklyn apartment). So, after much deliberation, we decided Plan-B would be to move to Austin, Texas. Austin was a place we'd visited a while back and had simply ADORED (see here). Not to mention, we knew it was a popular spot for video game animation (an area Wilson wasreally interested in pursuing). Well--whadyaknow--six weeks passed without Wilson finding a job, and we eventually came to the conclusion that it was time to move forward with Plan-B. So, we got in touch with an apartment locating agency in Austin (thanks, Yelp!) and asked them to find us an apartment within our (rather low) price range. Well, bless our apartment dude's heart . . . he found us some really fantastic options!! And after stalling for as long as we could (on the off chance Wilson was offered a job elsewhere, at the last minute), we eventually signed a lease at one of the complexes, sight unseen.

Once we signed that lease, we considered Austin to be a done deal. Wilson changed his job search focus to Austin alone, and I worked diligently, trying to figure out all of the rather complicated details that a cross-country move entails (this was especially time-consuming considering we were attempting a cross-country move out of NYC--without a car--and on a pretty tight budget, to boot). We sold most of our worldly belongings (HUGE pain in the butt, btw). We packed the rest (our couch, books, kitchen stuff, and clothing) onto a moving truck in 100+ degree weather, without so much as an ounce of food or drink.** We ate dinners on the floor of our apartment. We visited all of our favorite NYC hang-outs one last time. We sipped champagne out of plastic cups.*** We ate, drank, and partied with great friends until the wee hours of the very morning we were scheduled to leave (always a BRILLIANT idea when you have a 14+ hour drive ahead of you . . . but I don't regret it for a second!). And when all was said and done, we bid farewell to NYC on the morning of July 31, 2010.

So long, NYC!

Now, in an ideal world, we could have driven straight to Texas, stopping for a night or two on the way. Unfortunately, though, our apartment in Austin wasn't being vacated until August 15. This meant we had to find a place to stay for a couple weeks until our new apartment would be ready. Thank goodness my parents are saints and generously offered to let us stay at their winter home in South Carolina during this gap! Otherwise, I'm not quite sure what we would have done . . .

Our stay in South Carolina was relaxing and fun. For the first time in several months, we were able to decompress a bit and truly enjoy ourselves. We swam in the lake behind my parents' house as often as we could, caught up on episodes of our new favorite TV show, Breaking Bad (SO GOOD!), grilled out, watched scary movies, went to minor league baseball games in nearby Greenville, spent a fair amount of time cuddling (schmoopy, I know), and we even got to spend a few days with my older sister and 5-year old niece (who came up from Beaufort to stay with us). Needless to say, our time in SC was pure heaven after all the craziness of attempting to orchestrate a cross-country move.
Me, enjoying a "big boss" (aka, delicious hunk of meat) at the Greenville Drive game

After two glorious weeks on the lake in SC, it was time for Wilson and I to continue on our journey. On the way, though, we made a brilliant decision to stop for a couple nights in New Orleans. Neither of us had ever been . . . and we found some REALLY cheap hotel rates (it was the SWELTERING off-season, after all). Plus, we figured it would break up the 18-hour drive from my parents' place to Austin quite nicely.

Oh man, did we have fun in New Orleans!! We managed to fit in a RIDICULOUS amount of deliciousness . . . drinks ranging from pimm's cup, to hurricanes, to hand grenades, to absinthe . . . and eats ranging from muffaletta, to cajun fried chicken, to shrimp creole, to seafood gumbo, to rabbit & sausage jambalaya, to red beans & rice, to alligator and crawfish po-boys, to beignets & chicory coffee from Cafe Du Monde.**** We also managed to fit in a very fun Russian vodka bar, dueling pianos at Pat O'Brien's, a lot of exploration/photo time, and a really cool ghost tour. Needless to say, we loved it and made a mental note to return to NOLA ASAP!

Cute photo I took of Wilson, trying to find some shade while exploring New Orleans (it was HOT!)

Enjoying my first ever hand grenade on Bourbon Street

We were sad to see our time in New Orleans come to an end; but at the same time, we were VERY anxious to get to Austin and check out our new digs.

Crossing the Texas state line!!

After an 8-9 hour drive, we arrived "home" to our apartment in Austin . . . and it was perfect. It wasn't the newest or most luxurious complex in town, but the location was FANTASTIC. It was about 100 yards from the Barton Creek Greenbelt (a great location for trail-running, hiking and mountain-biking); not to mention, just a mile or so from Zilker Park (home of Austin City Limits) and a few minutes drive (or a quick bike ride!) to downtown.

The Barton Creek Greenbelt, our new backyard!

More greenbelt . . .

And still more greenbelt . . .

AND? Our apartment (which worked out to cost just over ONE-THIRD of what we paid for our place in NYC) included a dishwasher, a nice kitchen with new-ish appliances, a linen closet, a big pantry, a good-sized balcony (with storage closet), a HUGE walk in closet, a community pool, tennis courts, sand volleyball court, a small fitness center, and on-site laundry (none of which was available in our shoebox apartment in Brooklyn!). We immediately wondered why the heck we hadn't thought to leave NYC sooner!

Of course, everything wasn't 100% peaches and cream. We had no internet (nor smart phones, nor a phone book) for several days, and we had to figure out how the heck to get around a city we were new to. Um, for the record? This is hard, y'all. We ended up calling parents, siblings, friends, etc., and begging them to look stuff up for us ALL. THE. TIME. We were SO annoying. Also annoying? The fact that we had to unload all of our crap from the truck we'd packed it on (again, from a sketch moving terminal) and transfer it back to our new apartment. And since we'd gotten to Austin on a Sunday (moving terminal = closed on Sunday), we had to sleep on the floor for a night (OUCH--I am seriously too old for that crap).

I will say, unloading the truck was a million times easier than the loading part (which was great news, considering it was 109 degrees outside the day we did it). I think we also must have learned a thing or two from our experience on the front end . . . because we somehow managed to unload the truck using just THREE trips back-and-forth (as opposed to the FOUR trips it took us to get the truck loaded in the first place). Granted, our strategy in Austin involved crushing me under massive boxes and haphazardly tying our couch cushions to the roof of the car (we like to call this strategy, "whatever the hell it takes to get this sh*t over with ASAP") . . . but hey, the important thing is that we got it done fast! And at that point, we were more than ready for the move to be OVER (I mean, we HAD been at it--in some form or another--for almost a month by that time!).

Hiding under a stack of (heavy!) boxes. The 20 minutes it took to get to our apartment from the moving terminal seemed like an ETERNITY!

Once unpacked and somewhat settled, we spent the first several months in Austin exploring our new city.
Enjoying a cold beverage at Bat Fest, a super fun street festival dedicated to the colony of bats that lives under the South Congress Bridge in Austin

Wilson, sampling chicken fried bacon at Bat Fest. I had no idea such a monstrosity existed . . .

Me, at Bat Fest, with my chopped beef sandwich (with extra jalapenos, of course!)

Wilson and his ice cream at Bat Fest

Showing off my new cowboy boot koozie

First trip to Salt Lick (best barbecue EVER)!!

You know you're in Texas when . . .
Entering the Round Rock Express minor league baseball stadium

Wilson and I at the Round Rock Express game

Enjoying a drink on our balcony

Wilson, chillaxing on the balcony with his g&t

Nico (our cat), trying to steal Wilson's string cheese

Me, rocking out in our apartment

Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas!

My cute boyfriend, lounging around at the Gruene Music & Wine Festival

Me and Laura (one of my college roomies who currently lives in Dallas) at the Gruene Wine & Music Festival.

Texas friends (Me, Wilson, Laura, Chelsea & Michael) at Salt Lick BBQ after spending the day at the Gruene Music & Wine Festival

The Zilker Park Christmas tree

Wilson and I inside the Zilker tree

Throughout those first months in Austin, we also had a TON of traveling to do, including:
  • A trip back to Chicago/NW Indiana/SW Michigan to a) help my parents move, b) attend a Notre Dame football game, and c) run the Chicago Half-Marathon (the day after having tailgated my face off--worst/most bad-ass decision EVER!)
  • A good friend's wedding in Massachusetts.
Wilson and I, dancing the night away at Megan & Noah's wedding . . .
  • ANOTHER cross-country driving trip (our third in 9 months) back to NJ to return Wilson's father's car, which he had generously allowed us to borrow to move down to Texas
  • A Thanksgiving trip back to my parents' place in SC (where we also picked up an old car of theirs to borrow until we purchase a vehicle of our own . . . thanks, Mom & Dad!!).*****
WHEW. Considering we had all that stuff going on, we were not exactly in a huge hurry to secure jobs. We figured it best to wait until things settled down a bit, seeing as how it's not exactly ideal to go into a job and immediately request all kinds of time off. But still, we kept an eye out for any opportunities that might be too good to pass on.

During that time, Wilson DID secure an interview with a pretty great video game animation company in the Austin area; but sadly, they ended up giving the job to someone else. This was a bit of a bummer, but we figured there were better things to come. Shortly thereafter, Wilson DID end up receiving job offers from one place in Seattle and another in Dallas, but considering neither of them were ideal situations (no relocation package offered, short term work, lower pay, etc.), we figured it better to stick with Austin.

I received a job offer in Austin around Thanksgiving, but I ultimately declined it, since it was WAY below the salary-range I was looking for (almost to the point of being insulting) . . . and I just wasn't sure I could deal with working alone with the ONE individual I would be working with. Plus, it was one of the first jobs I applied to. I (erroneously) assumed that if I had landed an offer that quickly, I should have no trouble finding something else.

WRONG-O. Fast-forward a couple months to the present. Wilson and I are desperately spending just about every minute of every day searching for jobs . . . and it's exhausting. I have done everything I can think of: whoring myself out to the Notre Dame alumni network, "connecting" with everyone I know on Linked in (and even upgrading to a premier membership), applying to job ads, sending out cold resumes, submitting my resume to temp agencies. I even found an ex-supervisor and a fellow ND alum with connections in Austin who were both kind enough to look into opportunities for me. But sadly, nothing has come of it.

I wish I could put into words how demoralizing this whole process has been. I have had friends and family tell me over an over again that I am an intelligent, talented individual and that my trouble securing something says nothing about my worth . . . but rather, makes a more general statement about just how bad things are out there. I know they're probably right . . . but still, it's exceedingly difficult to not lose hope and/or confidence in your abilities when it's THIS difficult to find work. I do have a couple side projects I have been working on (a couple shops I opened on, including one where I sell some of my photography); unfortunately, they just haven't brought in much income.

Wilson has been receiving unemployment since he was laid off about a year ago . . . and he has also managed to find a few days of freelance work, here and there. Besides that, though, we have basically watched our hard-earned savings dwindle down to a fraction of what it used to be. Now, don't get me wrong . . . I feel super blessed that we had a decent net of savings to fall back on. I know many people haven't been that lucky. At the same time, though, we were hoping to put that money towards a house . . . and a wedding . . . and children. And now, it just feels like we're moving further and further away from those things each day that we don't find work. It sucks, to say the least.

All this being said, I do want to reiterate that I am still REALLY glad we made the move down here. We absolutely, positively LOVE Austin, and we are quite excited about the prospect of raising a family here (way down the road, that is). I have no doubt in my mind that once we figure this job stuff out, we will be happier than we've ever been. And I am also confident that we will bounce back quickly from this rough patch. We have gotten so good at spending only what is absolutely necessary that I would imagine it will take us no time at all to get our savings back (and then some). But right now, things are just really hard, not knowing when this crazy period of our lives will end.

The one good thing I will say is that (minus a few stupid squabbles, which I think are inevitable given the stressful financial situation we are in), my relationship with Wilson has remained strong--and I would venture to say that it has actually gotten stronger. I am not sure how he's dealing with me at the moment, seeing as how I seem to teeter back and forth between complete & utter despair and giddy optimism. But I'm sure glad he puts up with me!

Alright, well I think I'm going to cut this off for now, as it is already way too long. But I'm sure I will have more thoughts to share soon. Maybe I will even talk about running--gasp!! In the meantime, though, please keep your fingers crossed that something works out for one (or both!) of us soon.

I hope you are all well. I can't wait to get caught up on the great things y'all have been up to once things finally settle down a bit!

Hugs to everyone!

*I should mention here that Wilson lost his job in NYC back in January, 2010.
This was a pretty huge bummer because he had served the company very loyally for 3 years (too loyally, if you ask me--they never once offered him a raise or promotion of any kind) . . . and also, because he had been led to believe that they would hire him on as an animator when he graduated from animation school in June, 2010. Instead, they informed him that his services were no longer needed within an hour of arriving to work one day. They claimed that he had "lost some of his enthusiasm for the job." My question for them would be, "who wouldn't lose a bit of enthusiasm after doing grunt work for 3 years and receiving no discernible reward?"

**Because of the location of our apartment in Brooklyn, bringing a moving truck TO us just wasn't a possibility (there was nowhere to park it). Therefore, we had to make a bunch of trips back and forth, between our apartment and a super-sketch moving terminal, where our truck was parked. We had one day--and one day only--to do this. Unfortunately, it took us MUCH longer than we had planned (packing a truck and tying stuff down is NOT an easy task). This meant no time to stop for lunch . . . or even to refill our water bottles. UGH. In the end, we got our truck packed up with about 5 minutes to spare before the place closed; but let me just say, it was seriously one of the most grueling days of my life . . .

***We had been saving it for quite a while, thinking we would drink it once we had something to celebrate. Well, 1) we were moving and had to empty the 'fridge; and 2) what could possibly deserve celebration more than embarking on a cross-country journey with your best friend in the world and starting life over in a brand new place?

****When I posted this on facebook, I think my friends and family were horrified by the amount of food they assumed we had consumed in our 60 hours in NOLA. Sooo . . . I should mention that rather than eating 6 meals a day (as it would appear), we actually accomplished this by splitting things and ordering sample plates whenever possible!

*****On a side note, I should mention that I FINALLY got to meet Lindsay, of Chasing the Kenyans, while we were in town! We chatted, drank delicious coffee drinks, and even got to introduce our men to one another. It was so wonderful to finally get to meet her (and J!)!