Writer’s Block

So I realize that I haven’t posted since August…

oops.

Seems like I had a bad case of writer’s block. I find it funny that finally, after four years of strenuous amounts of homework and time-consuming meetings and shifts that I would be writing more than I used to, now that my schedule has really opened up. Since graduation–and especially since my last post–I’ve noticed myself becoming more introspective. Without major time commitments filling up my day planner, I have had plenty of opportunity to reflect on my life and the choices I’ve made. And because I was so consumed by my own thoughts, it never struck me that I write them down and publish them, as I have been over the past couple of years.

And to be honest, I hate it.

Now, that is not to say that I regret anything from my past. I am not the type of person to have long-term regrets. If I feel bad for something I have done, I immediately ask forgiveness. It’s the only way I prevent any regret or self-anger from building up and causing much greater long-term effects.

So while I don’t regret anything I’ve done that has led up to this present point in time, I recognize the effect my choices have had on my current situation. And I realize that, while I can’t erase the past, I can write my own future, on my own terms. I’m not afraid to admit that my current situation is by no means ideal (in some respects), which is why I can only hope that any choice I make from here on out will positively affect my future.

“Everyone here has the sense that right now is one of those moments when we are influencing the future.” ~ Steve Jobs 

I know I am not the only one out there. To my fellow recent graduates, I know it’s tough. It’s tough to admit that a degree didn’t come equipped with a career; that we make our living off part-time retail and food service jobs; that the student loan companies will soon be flooding our mailboxes and inboxes; that it feels like we’ve been climbing the social ladder all through college, just to be knocked down to the bottom wrung again after graduation. I know, because I’m right there with you.

So all we can do is hope for the best, and prepare ourselves accordingly. There are no two ways about it

Party Poopers

So, we’ve got an election coming up. It’s that important time that rolls around every four years, flooding voters’ ears and eyes with political campaign messages persuading them which candidate should be holding political office. Along with election time comes the need to self-identify with one of the political parties. Doing so makes us feel comfortable, and makes our decisions on whom to vote for a little less difficult.

Those of you who know me (and have read my numerous posts on Facebook) know how much I despise Michele Bachmann. Never in my lifetime did I think I would have more disdain for a person than I did for Sarah Palin, but Bachmann definitely proved me wrong.

But it is not for the reasons you may think. While my views tend to sway a little more on the liberal side, I do not identify as a Democrat. When people assume these labels, they are committing themselves to a set standard of beliefs that they may or may not agree with. Plus, when Democrats get bashed on FOX or any other conservative network, they get defensive.

It’s not because Bachmann is a Tea Party Republican that I don’t like her. It’s that she talks about how firm she stands in her beliefs, but then fails to be honest and stand strong for what she believes in, as shown below:

When voting for our next President, I don’t want someone who is going to be wishy-washy. Even if I completely disagree with a candidate’s stance, I would be more comfortable with them if they stood for what they believed in and never thought two ways about it.

And while I may have liberal beliefs, I certainly haven’t limited myself to the liberal media. In fact, I’ve strayed away from some of them because they were constantly pointing fingers at the Republican party for everything that has gone sour in our political system.

I recently removed myself from an email list that encourages people to sign petitions for certain causes. When I started off reading these emails, I felt good in the petitions I signed, for both a local, statewide, and national level. Yet soon, it turned in to a Republican-bash fest that made claims about how Republicans were wrong, even in non-partisan issues. After about a month or so of these types of emails, I decided to opt out.

As Americans, we need to drop these identities for our own sake. When we identify as Republican, Democrat, or whatever else is out there, we are limiting ourselves to the perspectives of others, and fail to see what is actually happening in our political system.

Did you know that after our government finally finished bickering over the national deficit, they formed a “super committee” consisting of six Republicans and six Democrats. Their goal is to find how to save our country $1.5 trillion in the next ten years. While it may seem fair to have an even amount on both sides, we know one thing is for certain: none of them pay as much in taxes as we “normal” people do. Each of them makes at least $174,000 per year, meaning they are well past the exemption for paying Social Security taxes. If they didn’t get that tax break, then our generation and the one following us might actually be able to use social security after retirement. Shouldn’t the American people, the ones who actually pay the taxes to keep our economy barely functioning, be the ones to decide what should and should not be cut? Or are we just going to rely on a bunch of individuals who don’t want to sacrifice their three precious homes and luxury cars for the sake of the American people?

So when you approach the polling station this election year, don’t just vote because someone is a Democrat or Republican. Do your research on the issues, read up on the candidates, and make sure you are voting for someone who is in it for you.

America is relying on YOU to do the right thing. So get out there, and make a difference.

Only Tourists Look Up

Last week, Ben and I decided to make the trek up to the Galleria mall on one of our mutual days off to use up one of his gift cards. As we made the drive north on Vandeventer to get onto I-40, I had a shocking realization: That intersection we had stopped at provided an incredible view of the downtown St. Louis skyline. We caught a breathtaking image of the Cathedral Basilica, and the other architectural beauties surrounding it by simply looking beyond what we are used to seeing.

When the light turned green, I suddenly felt a different type of emotion; one of freshness, or renewed perception. It is the same feeling I had when I first visited Denver, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and New Orleans, all of which invoked that emotion simply when I looked up at the skyline. So even by looking up in a city I am all too familiar with, I had renewed my love for it.

Even despite the painful job market right now, and all the woes that come along with it, I still manage to stay a generally happy person. Why? I exercise, eat right (as best as I can) and, most importantly, change things up once in a while.

I am not ashamed to admit that I am one of those people who would prefer sticking to the familiar and routine. Once I find something that works for me, I would stop at nothing to keep that consistency. But with that consistency comes a little feeling we all know called boredom. What some people might view as contentment with their surroundings and routines, could be mistaking it for boredom. Myself included.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Dead Poets’ Society, starring Robin Williams. As a more open-minded professor in a high-brow conservative private school, he encourages his students to stand up on his desk to see things from a different perspective. His purpose was to spawn new ideas and fresh points of view on the same tired old subjects.

O' Captain, My Captain

 

This became a theme throughout the entire movie, and the key reason why it is one of my favorites. The movie inspired me to continue to look at things from different angles, even if they happen to be the angles I’m not familiar, or comfortable, with.

This new life philosophy has made a lasting impact on my life. When it came to planning events or discussing major issues on campus with other students, I knew I had to break through my own personal boundaries and biases to have a unique and successful outcome.

So every once in a while, I will change up what I do just to keep things interesting. Sometimes I’ll take a new route to work or the store, sometimes I’ll sit on the floor instead of the bed or couch, and sometimes I’ll stop myself from getting upset over things that usually bother me. It’s all about new perspectives, and it makes me feel like a new person each time I do it.

This could be the solution to our everyday problems. Let’s take the time to stand up on our desks once in a while, and take in the unfamiliar. By adopting that “tourist” mindset and looking up, we can uncover new perspectives, and become more open-minded and well rounded people as we go about our lives in this otherwise humdrum world.

Don’t Be a Dining D-Bag!

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about this blog–it’s purpose, the meaning of “Dunne That” and what direction I’m headed. I’ve realized that, while not a whole lot is going on for me professionally (yet), I still have a job waiting tables, and there is plenty for me to talk about. Especially after last night.

Mondays are fickle where I work. Some Mondays we get swamped, others are totally dead nights. Thankfully, it was right there in between. I had a family of five, plus a baby, come in and sit in my section of the dining room. Everything seemed to be going well; the family was friendly and patient, and (seemingly) understanding of the fact that we were out of our highly sought-after dinner rolls. Yet once I brought the food out, everything seemed to blow up in my face. The eldest man of the five immediately began complaining about the size of his salad and the fact that his onion rings hadn’t arrived yet–which was my fault, and I apologized for it.

But it only began there. He also blew up on our manager, complaining how the service was slow and how his crispy chicken salad just looked like a salad with chicken thrown on top (uhm…duh?), among many other things. When I went back to check on the family, this same guy said, “I don’t want to see you again until you bring us our check.” Needless to say, the manager took care of the rest.

This is not a common occurrence where I work. 95% of our customers are regulars at varying degrees, and tend to be easygoing, friendly and empathetic when it comes to delays. I found out later that this same guy has had incidents with other veteran servers who had been at the restaurant for many years. That’s when I realized that this guy is probably like this everywhere he goes.

Anybody who has ever waited tables before will tell you it is by no means an easy task. It is multitasking at its finest. And, because we are all human, we make mistakes sometimes. It is understandable that you may have a complaint when something is wrong with your food or service, but that is still no excuse to act rudely to someone who is simply doing their best to provide you with quality customer service. Acting like a civilized human being and politely addressing your issues with your server will most likely yield a new meal and maybe even a discount or free dessert; but all you have to do is ask.

When you are rude to your server and causing a stir, you are not only causing problems for the staff, you are also disrupting other customers. When this gentleman and his family left, my other three tables in the room told me I am doing a fine job, even despite one man’s steak being undercooked, which I immediately had fixed in the kitchen without any further problems.

Because this is my first major incident with a customer, it made me really think about proper dining out etiquette. While the standards may vary among different types of restaurants, there are some basic rules everyone needs to follow.

  • Ask questions. If you don’t understand a menu item, ask your server. This is especially important if you have dietary needs. Don’t waste your server’s time after they deliver your food by telling them you’re allergic to something you ordered. Actually read the menu item, and ask any questions. You also don’t need to lie. If you don’t like tomatoes, don’t make up some story about how you’re allergic. Just say you don’t want any.
  • Be polite. Yeah, you are the one receiving service. But you should still be polite. Rudeness and snide remarks and comments will only stress your server out, and make them more likely to forget something you need. It won’t kill you to say “please” and “thank you.”
    Also, don’t go out to eat if you’re in a bad mood. If you absolutely must, don’t take your problems out on your server.
  • Be patient. Pay attention to how busy the restaurant is. If you bring a big group of people without calling ahead during the middle of a dinner rush, don’t expect to get rapid service. The majority of the time, your server knows you’re there and will be with you as soon as previous customers’ needs have been met. You will get your food.
    If you have a time commitment after dinner, make sure you leave enough time. Don’t come in an hour before your movie starts and expect the full service cycle to happen within that time. It likely won’t happen, unless nobody else is there.
  • Tip. A lot of servers get paid less than minimum wage, and rely heavily on tips. When you don’t tip, you are cutting out a large portion of your dining costs and causing serious harm to your server’s personal finances.
    Tipping is simple. Unless the service was absolutely horrendous and nothing was done to fix it, you should always tip no less than 15%. If you can’t do mental math, that’s $3 for every $20 you spend on food. It’s easy.
Just remember, when you are going out to eat, you are not the only one. Behaving irrationally like the guy from last night will only hurt your chances of getting good service, and make other people around you think you’re just another dining d-bag. Going out to eat is supposed to be a fun experience; acting out will only ruin it for yourself.
If you know someone who is a dining d-bag, don’t be afraid to speak up. Real friends are honest with each other, and are unafraid of pointing out when others are being rude or obnoxious. It will only make things better for you and for other customers.

Learning from My Mistakes

Two weeks ago this Friday was the last official day of work at my “big boy” job. Am a moving to a new one? Well…I was.

See, what happened is an immediate result of one of my biggest flaws: indecision. I am the type of person who has eclectic interests; I like so many things that sometimes it inhibits my ability to stay dedicated to one particular thing.

While my current job had great pay, and I got to work with great people, I got tired of sitting at a desk for seven to eight hours a day. Even though it was only a month into my employment, I was looking for something where I got to be up and moving and working with clients and customers. That’s when I found this:

Ad I found on Craigslist. Note the compensation.

So with the promise of better pay and customer service, I sought this opportunity, had a couple interviews, and got hired. I realized it was door to door sales, and didn’t have too much of a problem with that. But it wasn’t until the day after I signed my paperwork that I started to have questions. Through my curiosity I asked my “team leader” what my base pay would be, and never got a direct answer; just more talk about commission and bonuses that I had heard several times already. That’s when I realized the nature of this business: sales jobs like this contains some level of deception and gimmick, and that’s exactly what happened to me with this employer. So I made the conscious decision to back out…

…but this came after I had already resigned at my current job. When I told my boss I wanted to continue to work, he said he already hired somebody to replace me.

Needless to say, I was distraught. I was–and still am–left without a full time, “big boy” job. Let’s just say, I’m really glad I picked up a second job waiting tables last semester and held on to it.

Yet here I am back at square one. While I may not have an established full-time job, I am no longer upset or scared. Rather, I see this as an opportunity to do something new. Now that I’ve had a desk job, I now have a better idea of what I want to do with my life. I want to work with people, meet strangers, provide them with high quality service that I am confident I can provide. Even if it means going into retail or waiting tables more often, I know that it is a job that I am going to be happy doing.

One of the biggest qualities I learned from my mother was perseverance. No matter what may be troubling you at the present point in time will eventually be resolved if it doesn’t kill you. Rather than wallowing over the consequences of my stupid and clumsy mistakes, I see them merely as lessons learned. Rather than seeing it as losing a job, I see it as gaining an opportunity for reinvention.

Maybe I’ll continue looking for a full-time job.
Maybe I’ll go back to school for my Master’s.
Maybe I’ll finally start up my own business.
Maybe I will finally start on that book I’ve been wanting to write.
Or maybe I will just continue waiting tables in the evening and enjoying the fact that I’m 22, an age where I can still have fun and be a little crazy sometimes.

All in all, I am very happy right now. Nothing is going to drag me down, even if it causes me some temporary stress. Losing my job hasn’t killed me, so I have no choice but to continue down my own path, whistling and enjoying the view.

And, because I want to share my lessons learned with the younger folks who follow me, take this into consideration: Avoid answering ads on job sites or Craigslist about entry level sales and marketing. There are a lot of companies in St. Louis who do this that expect you to do 100% commission based work for 10 hours a day, but won’t tell you that from the start. It is a legitimate industry, but is strenuous and often gimmicky work. Just be careful when job searching. The more you know…

Why I Blame Technology for Ignorant People

Okay, this is a quick post, as most of my opinions on this subject are expressed in the video below.

Since I started my new job here in St. Louis, the Central West End in particular, I have dealt with some of the most ridiculous drivers. Now, I will say it’s not nearly as bad as driving through Jackson, Mississippi, but those people were just crazy. What I’m talking about is ignorant drivers, which seem to breed on the streets of St. Louis. Every morning I see other drivers swerving or driving really slowly and, when I finally get next to them, they’re texting while driving.

I will admit that I was once one of those people. Until I got a new phone with swipe texting, which requires full attention on the phone. So I no longer do it.

So on top of that, I am also tired of seeing people on their phones during concerts. Why do people do this? I don’t want to remember watching one of my favorite artists through a lens, but rather through my own eyes. Plus, with my camera or phone up in the air to capture the moment, how am I supposed to dance and have fun? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

A few semesters ago, I made this video for my Intro to Interactive Media course, in which we had to write an essay and create a video on a topic of our choice. I did mine on how ignorant people are when it comes to using their mobile technology. Hope you enjoy it!

Warning: this is me at my snarkiest.

Edit: Just found this article. A movie theater in Austin, Texas, threw a customer out for texting after she was warned twice. She left the theater a voicemail, which they now use as part of a PSA.

Brilliant.

Check it out here.

Forgiveness, Vengeance, and Karma

Let me start you off with a quote:

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~Gandhi

I think I can speak for everybody when I tell my story. I have lived a life full of challenges where the odds have been against me in so many ways, which you can read about from my last post. But in addition to my circumstantial challenges, I have also met a lot of people who have hurt me, double-crossed me, and stabbed me in the back. Some of the insecurities and moments of doubt I have about myself can be attributed to a certain few people who seriously did, or tried really hard to, ruin my life.

Yet, in the face of all these hurdles, I have still learned to forgive those people.

I will honestly say, as an agnostic, I do not fully understand religion of any kind. Though I was brought to a few different types of churches as a child, there were a lot of things that I didn’t, and probably won’t ever, understand. But one of the messages I took away from going to church as a kid was who Jesus really was.

I’m not talking about who different people identify him as, I am talking about who Jesus was solely as a person. Jesus forgave. Plain and simple. Even in the face adversity, having to deal with literally thousands of people who thought he was a raving lunatic, he never held a grudge. Even as he had nails plunged through his palms and feet, he still was forgiving.

Now, for a country that boasts that more than 75% of its citizens identify as Christian, I fail to see the message of forgiveness actually being carried out among our society. Instead, I’ve seen it more in the way that I approached history classes as a kid. I sat through class, listened to the lectures, took notes and memorized all the important parts. But when it came to using it in real life, I couldn’t spout out a thing because I didn’t feel it was important enough.

When Osama bin Laden was killed last month, I saw exactly what I’m talking about played out. I witnessed comments on articles and posts on Facebook, all rejoicing in the death of a human being. I realized that we are living in a society not of forgiveness, but of vengeance. Whether on the national level, or down to the individual level, we live among people who condone celebration on behalf of someone else’s death.

Now, do I believe bin Laden had it coming? Absolutely. But not for the same reasons as so many other people.

One of the many lessons my mother taught me was what goes around, comes around. It’s called karma, and whether or not you believe in this concept, it is something you should take into consideration when going about your daily life. The concept is simple: if you do good for someone, good will come back to you. If you do bad against someone, that will also come back to you, sometimes worse. This is the philosophy around which I have based my life and everything I do.

We cannot continue to live in a society of vengeance, because no good will come of it. Sure, vengeance feels good, but at what cost? Most of the time, vengeance requires us to go out of our way to go “return the favor.” In the time that it takes for us to get back at our adversaries, we could have spent that time doing good things for other people, and generating good karma.

Bin Laden’s death at the hands of our military was his karmic return. For the pain and suffering he caused not only for Americans, but for people all over the world, he got his. If the United States hadn’t done it, someone or something else would have done it. We waited nearly ten years for it to happen, but it eventually did. We just needed to be patient, as we do with our individual lives. By simply letting go the people who have crossed us, they will eventually get theirs for the pain they cause us. It might not be immediate; we cannot expect karma to work immediately. We must be patient and have faith that those individuals with cruel intentions will see the error in the suffering they cause.

This is why I am encouraging everyone to consider their karmic contribution to our world. It doesn’t matter who you are or what religion you claim, your words and actions have an effect on the rest of the world and yourself. If Mohandas Gandhi, a follower of Hinduism, and Jesus Christ can agree on the same concept of forgiveness and nonviolence, then so can the rest of us.

It’s time to take this seriously. We are losing our sense of other-ness and it is ruining our society. Vengeance has only ever cause the need for more vengeance.

It’s time to forgive.