Tag Archives: job

The Almighty Bucket List

No matter the struggle, Nikki Bear ALWAYS wants to cuddle.

No matter the struggle, Nikki Bear ALWAYS wants to cuddle.

Piecing together a new bucket list is one of my biggest goals for the month of November. As I may have mentioned if you’ve seen me or my social media since September, I wrote a book. It’s a cocktail book (surprising, I know), but it’s not the book I’ve wanted to write. I’m still trying to figure out what else I want to do with my life, but that’s still to come. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • Write a helpful book. Hello, vagueblogging! Recipe books are awesome, but I want my work to have a positive impact.
  • Write a fun cocktail recipe book. This one will be a collaboration with a dear friend and extremely talented artist. Again, details to come.
  • Successfully pitch The AtlanticMarie Claire, and Fast Company. I’ve written for The Atlantic‘s CityLab, but I’d like to write for the publication itself. As for the others, I’ve got the byline bug, and want to see my name in other publications I admire.

Every time I think about quitting writing, my brain immediately starts the “But what would I do instead?” Literally every time this happens, the first 1,283 thoughts that come to my brain are ALL writing-related. As in, “Oh, I could go back to school for anthropology. Discover would LOVE me!” or “Bama has a great MLS program. Library work is so conducive for writing and reading.”

Seriously, brain?

The farther into this internal debate I get, the more I think that writing is not the issue. In fact, writing has become a non-negotiable part of my life. Perhaps the lesson here is that the life of a freelancer isn’t for me. For someone who values her independence and mornings, the lack of structure, benefits, and regular work also makes me anxious. But changing careers costs money, and the money has to come from somewhere. Unless something drastic happens, that, for now, is my way forward.

This month, I’m attempting to blog my way forward by writing every day as part of Blog Like Crazy.

1 Comment

Filed under BlogLikeCrazy

Expert Drinker

Photo credit to James Martin. Pic first appeared on his blog, The Sipologist.

Photo credit to James Martin. Pic first appeared on his blog, The Sipologist.

At this time two years ago, I was wasting away in an office job to make money. It was what I thought a career had to be — grunt work with a generous helping of boredom and convoluted power structures.

When I got the chance to bartend, I jumped on it. From the outside, it seemed both nerdy and glamorous, and I wanted to be part of that culture. To catch up, I studied drink and product flashcards every day. I asked bartenders I knew for book recommendations, and read them all the time.

After a little while, I started writing about what I’d learned. It was easy and challenging all at once: I’d become passionate about cocktails, so I wanted to do their stories justice. It was a topic I’d come to know well, so it was sometimes hard to translate my knowledge into an accessible story.

But explaining product and cocktails are both parts of bartending, so I used every shift to refine my narrative about a certain drink or a technique or an ingredient. Once I started practicing, it became easier and easier to explain it out loud and in writing.

As an adult, I’ve had trouble owning up to what I am and what I want to be. It took me a long time to call myself a writer, and a few months of bartending full-time before I would call myself a bartender without a qualifier. Even now, I’m not a drinks expert. What I am is an expert drinker. I’ve developed a palate, know how to balance and re-balance a cocktail, and consult the Flavor Bible enough to figure out what liquors play well with what flavors.

I’m still learning, and I’m still putting off reading the stack of cocktail books I keep by my bed. With writing, tutoring, and regular bartending shifts, I can make time to read an article or two every day, but I’ve had a lot of trouble keeping pace with my drinks library. To become a true drinks expert, I’ll have to dive back in, and soon. I’ll start on it tomorrow.

5 Comments

Filed under BlogLikeCrazy, See Clair Mix

Fiercely feminine

Mercedes is one of my knitting friends who designs knitwear! Check her out here.

Mercedes is one of my knitting friends who designs knitwear! Check her out here.

Being a woman in the South isn’t easy. Social pressures build the image of the perfect woman as demure, witty but not too smart and permanently happy. As the daughter of teachers, I was brought up to believe that living fully required the pursuit of knowledge. Though I was taught respect, I wasn’t taught to suppress my opinions to garner public favor or to act any less intelligent than I am. I was brought up to be a nerd, and it’s now a comfortable part of my identity.

When I started my first office job, being a woman wasn’t easy. Within a month, I had found out that raises and promotions were scarce, and for women they were almost nonexistent. Most of my female coworkers had gotten married straight out of college and their lives revolved around their work and husbands. Yes, there was a significant age difference between us, but our interests rarely overlapped. My main point of connection with the others was through the knitting group that met twice a week. Even though I kept quiet for most of the time to avoid offending anyone, knitting became my camouflage.

Outside of work, knitting has always been a way to befriend other women. I’ve spent hours detangling yarn over wine while talking about breakups and childhood and friendship and knitting and sometimes nothing. These sessions have taught me patience, grace and meditation. My gentle friends have helped me to relax through and in knitting, teasing me about my tight stitches (seriously, it was ridiculous) and giving me room to adjust into a more comfortable technique.

Most importantly, knitting has taught me friendship. After a rough breakup, one of my friends sat with me while I untangled a lot of yarn. I wasn’t talking, but she was showing me a very deep love by being there. As another friend says, “That’s what friends do. They sit.” For me, knitting with others is sitting. It’s a way to be there without the pressure of conversation or convention. It’s a space to relax into the motions and to sort out the tangled threads of thought.

Recently, I haven’t been knitting. I haven’t been spending time with my support network or the beautiful women who taught me so much. It’s past time to pick it back up, but time and financial constraints have restricted my ability to do so. With the weather getting colder, there will probably nights in the near future where I curl up with a mug of tea, blanket and my knitting for some well-deserved rest, but for right now, I’ll just nap.

4 Comments

Filed under BlogLikeCrazy

Do or do not. There is no try

Photo c/o Shutterstock.

Photo c/o Shutterstock.

Since I graduated college, I have resisted defining myself by my job title. After being raised to be the author of my own story, the idea of describing my identity with others’ words makes me feel like some manic pixie dream girl. Once I quit my day job to bartend and freelance, I have fewer reservations about shaping titles like these to fit my life.

Not using these titles became an excuse. Denying that I am a writer and a runner gives me the slack I need to put off blog posts and speed drills. Not admitting these parts of my identity gives me the room to fail without fear of consequence. If I’m not a writer, having a pitch ignored or rejected is just part of being an amateur freelancer. If I’m not a runner, spending the afternoon on my couch instead of the sidewalk isn’t neglecting a training routine, it’s personal care.

The truth is that I am both a writer and a runner. My spreadsheet of story ideas and markets won’t pitch itself, and I’ll never be able to run 3.11 miles if I don’t lace up. Pretending that I have no responsibility to these titles won’t cut it anymore. I simply can’t ignore it anymore.

Tonight I work my first solo bartending shift at Octane. Though I haven’t been too hesitant about calling myself a bartender, I qualify the title by adding “baby” or “in training.” Truthfully, I will be learning new parts of the craft during every shift I work. If I keep using a qualified title now, I may never stop, further hindering my ability to hone my skills.

Needless to say, the denial and qualifications stop now. I am a writer, runner and bartender, and should direct my energy to develop these abilities instead of denying them. It’s about damn time.

Today’s title comes from Yoda’s speech to Luke.

4 Comments

Filed under See Clair Mix, See Clair Run, See Clair Write

An ordinary life

Behind the bar at Octane. Photo credit to Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark.

Behind the bar at Octane. Photo credit to Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark.

A year is a surprisingly long time. At the beginning of August last year, I was on the verge of starting my first non-temporary office job. I had never seriously considered a career as a freelance writer, personally blogged or mixed a classic cocktail.

After spending several months in a cubicle, I was restless, lethargic and generally miserable. Tutoring and freelancing were the only paid gigs that reflected what I’d learned during my time in school, so I focused my energy there. At a certain point, it was too much. I’m pretty good at pacing myself, but six hours of sleep couldn’t replenish the amount of energy burned each day.

Then I got an offer I couldn’t expect — a chance to learn the art of craft cocktails from one of my favorite bartenders in Birmingham. Two years’ experience writing about cocktails had given me a taste of the industry, but not the deeper knowledge I needed to cover the topic in depth. My full-time job wouldn’t accomodate this change, so I put in my two weeks’ notice.

Yes, I quit my job to tend bar. Yes, it may sound like a quarter life crisis. No, it was not a bad idea.

So far, it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I have learned how to properly stir/shake a cocktail, explain a bar’s worth of product and actually taste wine/beer/liqueur/liquor. Historical cocktail books became my reading materials, and my drink flashcards became a permanent fixture in my purse.

I love it. I love it all, and through it I’ve become part of the up-and-coming food and drink scene in Birmingham.

With my recent career and lifestyle changes, I’ve been considering splitting this blog into sections: writing, mixing and running. All three are topics I love, and each brings a part of my life into balance. However, the division into three separate blogs might be out of reach both financially and time-wise. For now, I will categorize posts based on these topics.

Today’s title comes from a yoga instructor’s discussion of the importance of an ordinary life. Obviously, my definition of ordinary has drastically changed over the past few months.

8 Comments

Filed under See Clair Mix, See Clair Write

Split a decision with long division

FEED ME

FEED ME

When I landed my first big girl job, I panicked. Taking over responsibility for my health and car insurance payments seemed more daunting at the time than finishing hundreds of hours of physics research. I had budgeted my time and money before, but needed more support and clearly outlined goals. I needed to invest money in envelopes or time in finding a web-based service.

My first instinct was to go back to Mint. I had first adopted this service two years ago after researching quite a few budgeting and business apps for my first freelancing article. Though the Mint app was free, its interface was anything but intuitive. To this day, I couldn’t tell you how to set a budget or savings goals on that website. After a few months of bill reminders and weekly spending reports, I abandoned that account.

Instead of revamping my Mint account, I started googling. Several articles later, I stumbled across LearnVest. The web-based service was still in Beta testing, but the interface was clean and the budget center easy to navigate. In 20 minutes, I had set a budget, marked financial goals and enrolled in a budgeting boot camp.

I spent several hours surfing their Knowledge Center section. Reading stories from others in their 20s, 30s and even 40s who were starting from scratch has been a powerful motivator. The daily e-mails about articles and service updates keeps me engaged and reminds me that my money and debt exist. It also reminds me that I am not alone.

Since then, LearnVest has introduced an app that miniaturizes most of the services available on the website including the articles. Using a combination of the app and online services and the envelope system, I reached my first savings goal last month. At the same time, we have built up a vacation fund by saving loose change and using a rewards-based credit card for all grocery (6%) and gas (3%) purchases.

Even though money is tight, a modest beach weekend is on the horizon with plans to travel to points further afield this summer. None of it would be possible without a budget and a plan.

Today’s title is from Bo Burnham‘s “New Math.” Full disclaimer: I did not receive compensation for this review.

2 Comments

Filed under See Clair Write

Can you just be whelmed?

Signs, y'all.

Signs, y’all.

As I have said several times before, one of my biggest struggles is balancing my schedule and making time to be mindful. Right now, my hamper of clean laundry is overflowing and dust bunnies are breeding like…rabbits in my house while a shameful number of unfinished blog posts languish as drafts. To top it off, I have now gone four days without a workout and have not cooked a full meal since last Wednesday.

In the midst of it all, I went through my first week in a new position at my company. The switch has forced me to closely inspect all aspects of my future goals. Financially, I found I would be living paycheck to paycheck if I did not tutor and freelance. No matter how I crunched the numbers, I cannot currently afford to leave the apartment unless I work past 5.

Over the past week, I have been pitching stories like mad. Though some of these ideas will be unpaid, I will still get to gain experience in the field and possibly cultivating larger future projects. I have also started putting together a master list of potential, likely and unlikely publications I would like to write for.

Since all the my public school tutees returned from spring break, my schedule has been steady. Even then, I have started reserving at least part of one weeknight to visit with friends and family. The small amount of mental health space that this move has created keeps me saner and more centered.

The combination of my schedule and the new social media policy at work has left me with little time for online interactions. That said, I’ve still managed to geek out over Doctor Who all over the Twitterverse, hang out with a new friend and write out some (very modest) resolutions for the new season.

I will be introducing a new editorial feature later this week and another at the beginning of next week. The first will be website and app reviews for services that I have found to be incredibly helpful. The second will spotlight people in Birmingham who are harnessing social networking tools to foster growth, development and general awesomeness in the community. I will also begin sharing some of my favorite entries from Birmingham Box Set as I get them posted.

Hang on, y’all. We’re in for a ride.

Title today comes from 10 Things I Hate About You. “I think you can in Europe.”

Leave a comment

Filed under See Clair Write