A Cloak Called Anonymous

The idea of writing a blog filled me with excitement and anticipation many years ago, when blogs first appeared. I had been writing in a journal for years and years already. Spirals fill shelves and plastic storage boxes.  The one thing that I knew was that I would likely want to keep the blog a private affair between myself and the blog audience which to me would be mostly strangers. There was a safety involved in knowing I could be truly free to express myself, include honest impressions and reflections of the world around me. The chance to share my hopes and fears, without concern over dismissal, disapproval or judgment. As time went on, I considered lifting the privacy mode of my posts and actually inviting family, friends and good acquaintances, to read it. That is I would open it up by invitation and whether they read it or not was up to them, but the door was now being left ajar. People I know personally can peak in and see parts of me.
Throughout my life, I have felt hidden. Mostly. There is my exterior personae that suggests that I am just fine. No matter what happens in my world, I smile. I don’t let on that things are not perfect. I attempt to promote a positive attitude, pull myself up by my bootstraps and press on. Smile and the world smiles with you, is the expression one hears from time to time. No one wants a Debbie Downer around. At least those were the messages I heard in youth and they carried over to adulthood. There was something noble about hiding pain and shame. Perhaps it is my Norwegian side, the stoic part of me.
So, for many years, I have talked to myself through my writing, mostly about the stuff that would be considered less than positive. I wrote in those spiral journals. I wrote through my youth, the many relationship disappointments both familial and friendship based. I wrote about my pain in losing my brother in a car accident and the suffering of surviving him while watching my parents in despair, knowing in my gut that it was my fault. He wouldn’t have gotten into that car if it hadn’t been for me. I wrote through my two bad marriages and divorces. I wrote through my spiritual journeys- ups and downs. I wrote through the rape. I wrote through my loneliness. And, I didn’t share it. And in many ways, this process was the one thing that helped me carry on. Being able to write it out, talk it through to myself, that was the balm I needed to keep going. There have been times that I have thought about burning my journals for fear of anyone finding them in my death. Earlier in life, I had tried counseling both in childhood and twice in adulthood, and those sessions were less than fruitful. I do better writing than I do talking. I tend to keep quiet about my past, my experiences, my emotions and my life in general. To others, I might seem surface. But the truth is, most people have not earned my trust.
So the door has been opened now. There are three souls that I know personally that are now reading my blog. And, I am hoping that I don’t change my method of writing knowing that they are in the background and might happen upon my entries, if they feel inclined on any given day to check in. I want to write not for approval nor for appreciation, necessarily. Although, the likes on WordPress are fun to see, and it is nice to view the countries from which views are coming. Kind of a cool aspect to the blog world. Seeing that someone looked at my post from places like Brazil and Australia, it brings the world in closer. Yesterday, there were 28 views from around the country and world. Not that big for some people who have hundreds if not thousands of views. But for me, it’s interesting and encouraging to know that there are souls out there reading my stuff. The World is really not such a big place. We humans all have these needs- each one of us. To be seen. To be noticed. To be heard. To make a difference. To participate in the web of life. And while I have been shy in my willingness to open up to the world that knows me, perhaps now is the time to take that step. And, in fact, I have. The temptation is to shut my site down. To close it up and start another anonymous blog. But doing that would be regression. And, I am ready this year to reveal myself- whatever the consequences. I am slowly taking off the cloak I have been wearing called: Anonymous.

Goodbyes

My parents have had their share of somber news this week. Earlier in the week, when I had just retreated to our home, I was greeted with a sadness which enveloped Mom. Her eyes had a look that conveyed pure exhaustion and grief. Her shoulders sagged a bit under the weight of all she had heard that day. “I have some news” she whispered “when you have unloaded your things and are ready, come back up and I will fill you in”. She walks back into the kitchen where she is preparing dinner. I follow her. “No, tell me now, Mom… what’s happened?” I come to her side. She looks down and shakes her head. “It’s Tom, he died this morning, in his sleep”. Her eyes move up to meet mine “just like that, he just died. He has been ill for so long… Marge called, she let us know that we would have news later in the week on arrangements”. Marge was Mom’s matron of honor all those years back, in the early 60s. Mom had worn Marge’s wedding dress because she didn’t have any money of her own for thewedding , having just come from Norway and on a meager income. Marge and Tom were dear friends from the early days of young adulthood; now- Tom was gone. “And in the same day, I learned that Aase is riddled with cancer, she’s in hospice care. Tove called to tell me. Aase has been sick too but it’s bad”. She falls into silence as she moves her wooden spoon around the pan to brown the butter and onions. I reach for her and place my arm around her shoulders and neck “I am so sorry Mom, that’s awful news, so hard.” We stand like that for a moment. I recall so many summers spent at Marge & Tom’s home on Bald Eagle Lake. The weeks and weeks of memories created over the years. The fun jumping off his dock and swimming to the float. His kids with whom I have not remained connected, we all going off in our own directions in adulthood. An era is fading. A time of family memory and reminiscence of softer times.  
The very next day, Aase passed. There have been so many funerals these past two years. Many friends that didn’t make it to the next year. My parents are at an age when friends move on from this life. It’s strange to me because, like them, I see the youthfulness of each soul. Their true self – not their shell. I see it in myself now too- that even as I approach 50, I feel more like maybe.. 35. Time rushes on.  
I recall comments from my parents when I was earlier, that they felt so much younger than their years, and this is a good thing. Not something everyone experiences. Some do feel their age, they have pain or they have burdens that weigh them down until they feel suppressed and compressed and this lends itself to feeling – old. I feel old sometimes. But most of the time, I feel young. And, I think about my parents as they have made it to the late 70s and mid 80s. They cherish each day with each other and in the world. And I cherish being with them. I moved in with them about five years ago to help Mom mostly in her emotional and physical experiences with Dad. Dad has had his share of medical reminders of the fragility of life. So, I am there to be a moral support, an emotional support and lately- a much more physical support. At times, it has felt that I placed my life on hold and one doesn’t know how long that will play out. There have been frustrations in my feeling of humiliation with others in this world who don’t understand. Hearing late night comedians on TV poke jabs at the “daughter living in the basement syndrome” or sharing with new acquaintances that I live in the lower level- feels embarrassing only for a moment as I attempt to explain my current circumstances. And, then I snap out of it. And I realize and acknowledge that in many ways, these are the best years of my life. I get to see them every day. I get to cook with Mom. I get to watch the news with them both and we enjoy Downtown Abbey together on Sundays, and seasonally Mom and I take in Dancing with the Stars. We spend time on a Sunday afternoon at a local Barnes and Noble sipping coffee and reading magazines.. a regular treat. And, I get to just focus on the memories I am making with these precious souls. And for them, they look forward to fun moments, creative outlets, connections with friends, moments of glory as they experience an amazing quartet in church or a hymn that fills them with peace. Beautiful meals to honor birthdays; two celebrations they have attended just in the past seven days.   
Births are honored, deaths are acknowledged. Life cycle. We all die someday. It’s the reminders of our mortality that put a jolt in us from time to time. That constant knock on the door that says: “Hey, there is a time limit on your life, you have an expiration date, what are you going to do about it?”     My answer for me: spend it with my parents, make memories, be creative, embolden others, support and encourage others, put my all in all that I do. Be more patient. Be more gentle. Live well. Yes. That’s it. Each day- try to live it well. Be mindful of living well.  

Why Should I Care?

On my commute into work today, leaving early enough to enjoy my coffee & breakfast & writing stop at a local coffee house near the office, I listen to Episode 5 of Serial. I have been waiting for two weeks to hear the next installment on the case of Bowe Bergdahl. Last week, I tuned into the newly downloaded Episode 4 only to learn that due to the massive volume of information currently flowing, ebbing and changing, the staff of The Serial decided to start doing these episodes bi-weekly. So Episode 4 was a short announcement to stay tuned until next week, January 21- for that next installment. When I had pulled out of my garage earlier, and got my self in order while idling in the driveway, I pulled the iPhone out to access the podcast and found that I had a 53 minute episode to listen to; fabulous, enough content for a roundtrip commute. The episode this time has various guests that are participating interview style. Two of them work in an office that handles P.R. (Person Recovery). Another one is a personal friend of Bowe Bergdahl who is listed on Bowe’s personnel file as a contact should anything go wrong with Bowe. During these interviews, many details are offered up on each person’s efforts in Bowe’s recovery. The women in the government office share one of the frustrations is the sheer lack of awareness on the part of many of these people who have gone missing. In one instance, these two women went to the effort of creating T-Shirts to draw awareness of Bowe Bergdahl’s status as missing, it was for a specific event for the community about Bowe and other hostages or missing in areas of combat or simply in countries that are experiencing conflict. On their way back from the event, as they approached the entrance to their own work building, they were met by one higher ranking Department of Defense individual that stopped them and asked: “who is that on your t-shirt?”. Really? They thought. It’s insane. But it’s common. There is this one couple that was captured in 2012, a husband and wife who were hiking in Afghanistan. The wife was pregnant at the time. And in that instance, the wife ended up giving birth in captivity. And few people could name her. Very few people have any idea that happened. It’s barely covered in the news. Her name is Caitlin Coleman, she was 28 years old when captured; her husband is Joshua Boyle. And they are still held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan; all efforts by US Government for their release have failed.
One of the things mentioned in The Serial by host Sara Koenig is the question of: Why Should I Care? She shares that a common sentiment among people listening to stories of capture, or reading these headlines, blame the victim. They were captured because basically they were asking for it. After all, who travels to Afghanistan? Who hikes trails in Afghanistan? Are they idiots? Duh. And so, these people made their own bed. They were stupid. The thing is is that in almost every single hostage case, there is a level of human error that has occurred in leading to their capture. Something they did without thinking it through. So should government or people in authority or leaders in roles that are meant to work on the release of these captors, should they just throw their arms up in the air and say: “whatever, they did this to themselves?”.
When I bring up Bowe and that I am listening to this interesting podcast that delves into his experiences and digs into his story, with some people – I can barely mention Bowe’s name without someone saying to me: he is a traitor, he walked off his post, he should be court marshaled. And in those instance, rarely do I see even one glimmer of compassion. It thoroughly smashes me down. I mean, the harshness of judgment on the parts of people who barely know the story except for the sound bite headlines, have cast their vote as if sitting in a jury seat and having only been read the line about why the defendant is on trial. No evidence has yet been rendered, no details of any significance. And for me, this reception of emotion from these individuals, I am on the receiving end having listened now to about 4 hours of data surrounding the when, how, what and in a way, why. I have a glimpse into the circumstances beyond the headlines. And, my heart breaks. I am not saying Bowe does not hold some guilt for having done a stupid thing. That he did not cause others harm and discomfort and for that, I recognize the dire circumstances and his, again, guilt. But I think about other victims of circumstance; the hikers up on a mountain that went up anyway even though the weather indicated caution. The woman who married the abusing boyfriend who is now held hostage in her own home for fear of retribution if she leaves him; or harm to others if she leaves him. Do we just ignore those who need help because they did it to themselves. So much more to say and think about on this topic. I want to care, I want to know, I want to understand. I want to not judge.

State of the Union

Last night I listened to the State of the Union speech while working the CNN poll from my iPad (a first for me) and I only participated because the ticker line at the bottom of the TV screen tempted me to do so and I thought at the moment: why not? I realized throughout his speech that in the pollster’s effort to get me to select whether I agree with the President’s at the moment or not – on any given point, that my finger was pressing the agree button far more than the disagree button. If there is one thing that stands out with President Obama is that his speeches are usually quite appealing to the general population. He makes these statements of fairness, and justice, and safety and promise. Who wouldn’t agree? And as I listened, I watched the new Speaker of the House: Paul Ryan, as his face had this quizzical if not amused expression throughout the speech. While many are applauding, he sat there looking at the back of President Obama’s head as if what he was saying was sheer nonsense. Of course that is my interpretation of a valiant effort on the Speaker’s part to hide his thoughts. But the fact is that Obama didn’t specify many details on how he would accomplish whatever it was he was mentioning in any given moment, just that it was a “good idea” to tackle whatever issue it was he was addressing at that moment. To get along. To think of the future. Sure. It’s a good idea- but how, and have you attempted in these efforts in the past, Mr. President? And from what I understand, throughout your entire presidency, you have avoided many one on one sessions with congressmen and women.  
Why is the congress always so deadlocked? Could it be that the devil is in the details? My father’s position is that on a regular basis, the democrats bulk up on nonsense in the bills and legistlation process, filtering in plans that would hurt the country especially in the economics arena. So while the crux of the bill might have passed, it’s the tendrils surrounding the crux that cause the disagreement. This is still so general for me and evasive. So I dial down – and I commit to dig in to web sites that might give me what I need to better understand; I , an average American that focuses more on my personal and work life than the political climate at hand. What does all of this mean, and where do I stand? Elections are less than a year away, and this time around, I want my vote not only to count but I want it to mean something more deeply in our free process of electing leaders and moving our country forward.  
Where he lost me in a certain layer of cynicism was his comments on war and cancer. “When you come after us, we’ll come after you- it may take time.” Our military is working hard, no doubt. But in so many instances, it ha felt that the acts of terror against innocent civilians has not born out much retribution. It’s leadership and direction and guidance that I am concerned about. As a citizen, I have to trust that many terrorist efforts against our nation have been thwarted, intelligence is doing its thing and we are protected. I can’ help but wonder if our government and military are truly doing everything possible- as cells of violence grow. A cancer all its own and in many people’s view, untreatable. And then there is his declaration of America curing cancer. The fact that in this last year of office, the US will cure cancer with VP Biden’s help conjures up in me a vision that what is really going on here is that he wanted his last speech to knock us off our feet in optimism. Of course, he means our initiatives and our work will lead to a cancer cure eventually, but his statements are so full of air. Really? He wants to leave office on a high note, expressing to the nation what he wants to accomplish – not necessarily what he can accomplish. It sounds much like a political candidate’s promises during an election year that in the end, amount to not much of anything. Bah- who am I to say all of this? I wonder what most citizens came away with after last night’s speech. Hope? Confusion? Renewed fear? In my circle, I don’t know that many that even listen to the political climate, presidential speeches and election banter. I know several who claim that they just don’t have time to listen to any of it. Too busy. Bury the head in the sand and continue to “do life”. Does it matter? Does an individual’s opinion and vote matter? I want to believe that it does, and if this is the case, an informed vote is essential. Not just voting party line – but voting one’s conscience. So, I look to my own duty and commit to seeking out answers, reading everything I can get my hands on that addresses both sides of the aisle. This will be a different election year for this voter.

For The Love of St. Paul

Renewed impressions of St. Paul, MN flooded me on an day in early October 1991 as I enterred the Twin Cities on Highway 35 northbound coming from California via Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Missouri and Iowa. It was a job offer at Northwest Airlines that had me driving a couple of thousand miles of highway alone and spending two overnights at roadside motels. The first glimpse of brilliant blood orange, yellow ochre and moss greens offer a full spectrum fall palette which appeared right around Albert Lea. I continue my journey north to the exit I am meant to take: 7th Street. Once there, I travel east towards the capital city, my goal was to just take in some initials views.
The last time I had been in St. Paul was about twelve years prior. Back then, I had been a child traveling by station wagon with my parents from our home in a Chicago suburb for summer visits to good friends on Bald Eagle Lake in White Bear. This time, driving down 7th St for the first time since reaching adulthood, I consider this place now as my first official home out of college. Most “kids” my age find jobs in their own towns, closer to parents and do not launch themselves half way across the country from a sunny climate to what could be a frigid winter existence. For me, it was about claiming my own destiny and future. And the truth is, I didn’t seek out St. Paul. It found me. In a myriad of interviews in California post-college, there were very few jobs to be found in the early 90s. The one job offer that came my way asked me: would you mind relocating to Minnesota? I didn’t hesitate for one second. Absolutely. Minnesota. Home of some of my best childhood memories. I recall that on those summer vacations, I enjoyed the occasional quick visit to downtown from White Bear to enjoy museums or an elegant lunch for the girls with their mothers at Dayton’s River Room. Everything about St. Paul helped me to reconnect with those places in childhood that I loved the most. Having lived in a suburb just outside Paris from age five to ten, I breathed in all the charm of St. Paul with its lamps that evoked an era of gas lamps, its bridges, all the historic architecture, it’s compactness, cobblestones and spires, parks and river. It was a glorious assault on my sense of place. This is where I must live.
When I finish my drive about through the city and feel properly convinced of my future new home, I continue north to White Bear for my initial overnights with family friends. My first few days in my new job, I live with this family with whom I had spent many summers until I connect with the relocation services to which I was referred by my company. I make it clear to my agent that I want an apartment life in the center of St. Paul somewhere. One of the apartments on her list is Park Side Apartments on the corner of Wall and 5th. And it’s perfect. The entry offers a domed entry with a set of five steps that rise from the sidewalk into the Art Deco styled lobby reminiscent of the 1920s with soft mauve walls and pale blue furnishings and a maple desk with two side tables that book end the sofa. There is an exotic silk floral on the hallway table. At the time, I am completely delighted. The building is primarily studio apartments, and the elevator takes me to the top floor where the currently vacant unit awaits my inspection. I enter the unit finding a corner studio apartment with vaulted ceilings and beams, open space and tall windows with enough ledge that I can sit and overlook the streets below and glimpse Mears Park under construction. During this period, the park was in progress, so there was little beauty just yet, but it would come. The studios were set up so that the initial entry offered an immediate right turn down a short hidden hallway that lead to the walk in closet and bathroom, tucked behind the open kitchen for better privacy. The kitchen had a counter that opened to the living room and the living room was big enough for a kitchen table set up on one side and my futon on the other, with coffee table and dresser in the corner. This was exciting; the idea that I could live in the very midst of this quaint historic city.
Returning to St. Paul as a resident after all these years was such a rush. I had never lived in St. Paul, but had visited many times during my childhood. My parents met in St. Paul in the early 1960s; they got engaged at The Lex on Grand Avenue. Mother is from Norway and she met my father on one of his many business trips into the Twin Cities from Michigan. He had friends here from his bachelor days that belonged to the Uler Ski Club, and Mother also attended events through this club with her fellow Norwegian friends. Landing in St. Paul as my first official adulthood foray into responsibility and life path was satisfying and a comfort.  I have a piece of my parents with me each day as I imagine their lives intersecting all those years ago.  And, I accept that I came home to where it all began.

Visionary Creative

What a rush. This feeling that swept through me last night as I retreated from the library’s meeting room and headed for my car. It felt as if I had been infused with the best kind of oxygen on the planet. I was floating.  
There have been meet-ups in the past, but none that compared to this simple evening of conversation centered around creativity. It was a short meeting; well, short in the sense that we only had an hour and a half. We were a mix of fourteen souls sitting around a large square table introducing themselves with the goal of sharing their creative outlet and identifying one of the dozen or more paintings on two walls that framed us into the corner of the library. Identifying one painting among these which drew us in or spoke to us and why, was our wrap up share moment for each one of us, a way to pass the baton to the person to our right. Some folks shared longer than others, and that was fine. I sensed no impatience. Each person was able to express where they were at creatively; whether painting, drawing, learning a musical instrument, singing, music therapy for others, writing, or even something as simple as lettering. All of these forms of creative outlet were honored. And it truly felt like all souls were focused and attentive to each person’s share. And learning. At the end of the introductions which took up more than half our time, we focused on the topic of Creative Rededication. How and in what ways could we creatively rededicate ourselves, and did members of the group find themselves annually or regularly rededicating themselves. The dialogue began and people shared moments of discovery and offered ideas on how to begin the process of regularly rededicating to a form of creativity.
This meet-up follows a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron; a book that helps creative people focus on tapping their creative self. It’s meant to be a twelve week journey. This meet up is a simplification, offering a once a month check-in and using the book as a launch for good discussions. A source of fuel for moving into a place of creativity. And, I just loved it. After this first session, I dedicate myself to being a part of this group which has been meeting for five years now; led by two women who are coaches for creative expression and healing.    
The group met my needs last night because the souls gathered, each one, resonated with my own inner longings for honoring my creative side in both fiber and in written word. My desire to make that part of my life more dominant and for reaching a place where my life can honor this need. Now, I dip into the creative before work and after work. I need to find ways to layer my creative self into my work life more- allowing that part of my life to be more satisfying as well.  
One of the discussion threads last night was about having a word for the year. I had never come across this concept before, but many voices sprung up in the discussion vocalizing their chosen words for past years. Trust. Joy. Open. A word chosen as a focus for the year, a meditation in a way, a direction and a permission to learn and grow from that one word. Evidently there are workshops on this topic, websites and coaches that can help people find their word. One only needs to browse the web with the search: Word 2016 – and one can find many results on how to approach “The Word”. Sounded intriguing and I will be exploring that idea as well. One person in the group shared that she had found her word for the year: me. For her circle of friends and family, they would know that this word was important because her modus operandi is generally focused on everything for other. So this year, she needs to listen to what she needs. She wants to try to prioritize her desires and goals and allow herself permission to focus on her self, in all its layers.
What is my word this year? The answer to that question is a project in the coming days.
I signed up for a workshop this weekend: Vision Mapping. Taught by one of the leaders in the meet-up last night. A way to shape my year into what my deeper self needs me to learn, do and grow. Should be fun and informative.
2016: A Year to Tap The Creative in Me. Honoring my deepest self so that I can better in and for the world.   

A Company Exodus

Last night was an emotional evening with friends. Many expressed their feelings openly. It was a time to share experiences and individual truths relating to the exodus. And, there were a few people there last night which continue to work for Company XYZ, and are listening and witnessing the deep emotional scars of those that left. And, sharing the continued underlying problems of Company XYZ. I feel for them as they seek to continue to work there with dignity in their hard work and hope for their own futures. I think about all that went wrong and continues to go wrong with that place. And the saddest part is that everyone (for the most part) that left, had a strong connection with the place, in many cases because of the vision of the work. In our business, when you find a niche or market that fuels you with passion and purpose, it’s an amazing thing. I had that with Company XYZ. When I entered their doors as a new employee, I rejoiced at my good fortune. This was going to be it. I was surrounded by fellow lovers of a specific geographic location that warmed my heart, I would be helping create dreams of custom itineraries for the independent traveler throughout the countries of this glorious region. Finally, instead of being a travel agent that could offer the entire globe, I was now dialing down to a specific place on the planet which had my heart singing. And, I would be traveling to this collection of countries myself to network with our ground handlers, guides, business partners in travel to develop our products of hotels, sightseeing, transportation and more. I thought I had landed my dream job. I could use my language skills for specific countries relating to my mother’s homeland. And, for the first few years I felt I had made the right decision. The perfect decision.

However, underneath the joy there was also doubt as I watched strong personalities bump heads and saw decisions made that in my view negatively impacted the company; but then, what did I know, I was merely a worker bee. They must know what they are doing, right? I glanced occasionally at my paltry bank account balance and justified my poor financial status in life to the fact that – after all, I work in travel. Everyone in the industry knows that travel doesn’t pay. If I had wanted money, I should have chosen another field; like law, or medicine. I chose travel because, honestly, I love languages and exploring the globe.  In this field, my bank account has been pathetic for most of my career, particularly someone in my age bracket.   The truth is it’s an accepted standard in the industry which makes living single almost impossible without some creativity in sourcing options.   What I didn’t know at the time was that this didn’t have to be the case.   During those years of meager income, I benefited from staying in the most luxurious places in the world and continue to enjoy the most high level services just about everywhere I go.   All on someone else’s dime. So, to properly evaluate my income, I need to remember to add what those items would cost to my annual figures. One year, a ten night trip through Norway staying mostly at historic deluxe inns owned by families that have been running the place for generations; sitting on my balcony with the fjord view. Of course, I would never have the money to personally pay for those ultra luxurious trips while working in this business, but the more that I sell certain things, the better chance at a familiarization excursion to test those services out myself; whether paid by my company or paid by the supplier itself. If paid by the company, the trips cost minimally as the suppliers organize these trips to showcase their offerings for our clients. It’s a perk, for sure. I don’t have to save up for a trip, I just wait for the glorious announcements of which suppliers are sponsoring the upcoming FAMS, and then learn who in the office gets which cherry assignment. Usually, these occur once or twice a year and in the fall season, when things slow down a bit for the average agency and certain destinations.
So what happened at Company XYZ?
So many abuses of power and many moments of poor leadership in general. When almost half the staff exits in one year, the management must look at their practices and consider what they may have done to contribute to the discontent. Was it wages? Poor direction? Financial struggles? Overall disrespect and disregard for the work produced by its workers? Common blatant overuse of criticism and infrequent praise. In Company XYZ’s case, all of that and so much more. Management’s recurring poor decisions in every aspect of running the business left the workers feeling devalued and irrelevant. At the end of my tenure there, I recall sitting at my desk wearing fingerless gloves and a billowing scarf around my neck to take the chill off my body as I tried to type on my computer; the recent move the summer before had been into an old building in a tiny strip mall that backed up against a motel known for being both a whore house and a narcotics headquarters for the local druggies. But our general manager moved us to this location because, I am sure, it was cheaper than the alternatives. So there we were freezing because of poor insulation and not permitted to use too many space heaters at once because it would overload the circuit breaker. Hun? This is where you work?

 

That summer move was a nightmare as they smooshed 10 of the staff in one department into a small walk in closet like space with industrial folding tables and folding chairs, wires coming out of the ceiling and landing behind our computers so that we could plug in.  No filtered water, just the bathroom sink so we filtered our water by hand for coffee using one of those tiny pods.  This placed into question for me each day, how sanitary is this? The thought going through my head was, maybe I am making too much of this.  The management tried to encourage by suggesting how great the space would be once finished next door.   The construction project took several months.  While we attempted to discourage in person client visits, and suggested we were not available for walk in services, some clients would pop in anyway to drop of payments for their trips or to talk to our consultants. Seeing them standing in the doorway of our closet made me wonder, how can they have confidence when they see how our working conditions look? And even if the new space was meant to be great- how could they not see the questionable locale?  It was embarrassing. But we were cheerful, we’re moving- pardon our mess.   When the move was completed, we had another surprise from management- all those heavy filing cabinets in the back storage of the temporary space- yea, those; they shall be moved by staff.  No moving company.    There I was with two damaged arms from previous injuries, being asked to buck up and move heavy furnishings from one space to another, while upper management GM is in Belgium sipping a brew with her hubby.  Yes- she opted to take a vacation during the worst part of the move.  And while it might be true that her trip had been scheduled earlier in the year, prior to the anticipated move- how ultra convenient for her that her trip fell in the busiest season of our business and during the worst part of the move.    Management was missing from that move and after several hours of heavy labor, I sat in a chair talking to myself in my head- this is the ultimate in horrible management.   No regard whatsoever.   Complete and utter nonsense and so unprofessional.  Workman’s comp anyone?  This is not acceptable.  And, they are clueless on how to handle staff.

 

After the move, it was the financial strains that sealed my decision later in the year. Supplier bills were not being paid and it was making it highly uncomfortable to reach out to these same suppliers now to request future bookings for our clients; whether hotels, guides, luggage services or transport. How can I ask a supplier to confirm a booking for me when we had not paid them for bookings from five months ago? And our fears and concerns are batted away and a legitimizing comment is made with venom if we questioned it.

 

So I was the first in the domino effect. When my opportunity came with a strong agency, financially at the top of their game, with solid opportunities for growth and an increase in pay my first year that would be infuse hope that the poverty standards of a travel agent did not have to be my own reality.   This new company was suggesting incentives and pay opportunities that would reward my efforts.  I would have been an idiot to say no.  So, I said yes. And, I left. And then, within a year- 9 are gone from Company XYZ; and they blame us. They hate us. They unfriendly us on FB. They speak perhaps poorly of us and our betrayal. To me, the betrayal was theirs. They either didn’t care, or if they cared- they were too proud to do anything positive to change the current mess. And, the place continues to struggle. And, my heart goes out to it, because deep down, I loved Company XYZ, and wanted it to be my final stop on the career track.
Now, a year later, I am thriving. My productivity at new Company ABC is right on track. And, it feel good. It feels good mostly to be acknowledged as being a positive contributor, of receiving praise for efforts well done. For being paid fairly. And, for knowing that my future has hope and promise.