JAEMIE.com

a story in progress

Running Is My Church

Running is my church.

I’m not a religious person, but, if I had to describe myself, I would say that I am a spiritual person. I believe that there is something out there that is nudging us in the right direction. I’m not sure what it is, but my gut tells me that it’s there. I don’t need to go to a church every Sunday to know that it’s there. I don’t need to pray to it to thank it for the life that I’m living. That’s not what I need, and it understands.

Becoming an adult is hard. If you’re lucky, you made it through your childhood in one piece and with a sense of what your future holds. Then you’re on your own as an adult. You have to take care of yourself and nothing is what you expected it to be. Even if life seems fine, without warning, you can feel completely lost and overwhelmed.

Before I started running, I was in a lonely, uncertain place. My life seemed OK on the surface, but I was not happy. I wasn’t quite sure why, but I knew that I needed to figure out what was happening to make me feel that way and where I was heading. I was asking myself what I was doing with my life and why was I doing it. I felt lost.

It took me awhile to find running, but, when I found it, I found my answers and myself. Running didn’t (and doesn’t) come easily to me. When I started, I hadn’t run since high school. I had to start from scratch. I had to focus on every movement, every breath. It hurt. It sucked. And I loved it.

They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.

— Tom Bodett

Running helps me to understand who I am and why I am here. Running helps me to connect with the world in an unplugged way, and, for that, I am grateful. With each step, I build confidence: I am doing this. With each new distance achieved, I reinforce that I can achieve anything that I set my mind to do. With each run, I get faster and stronger and better. I am doing this.

Running allows me to let go of whatever is bothering me. It allows me to focus on where I fit in the Universe. When I run, I am in the moment and everything seems clear. When I start to feel lost again, I remind myself that I need to reconnect, I need to run.

Most days, I struggle with admitting that I am a real runner. I feel like I don’t run frequently or fast enough to be considered a runner, but, of course, if you run, you are a runner. No other qualifications are needed.

Running will forgive me for turning away from it, and it will welcome me back when I’m ready to hit the road again. It will remind me why I am here. It will remind me of the person that I am and the one that I am becoming. It will remind me that life is good and great things are on the horizon waiting for me. I just need to be patient and take it one step at a time.

It is time to go back to church.

Unpause

Sunset on 99

In December 2010, I participated in the first and only Reverb. Through daily writing prompts, Reverb encouraged reflection on the past year. One of my favorite prompts from that activity was, and still is, “one word.” For this particular prompt, you choose one word or a simple phrase to help shape and guide your actions in the new year. I have chosen a word for each year ever since. I cannot, however, tell you what my words were for each year or if they helped in any way.

Clearly, choosing my “one word” for the year has worked very well for me. Ahem.

2011 was the Year that Started out Kind of Awesome then Started to Suck. 2012 was the Year of Suck. 2013 was the Year of All the Awesome Things. 2014 was the Year I Hit Pause. 2015 was the Year Everything Remained Paused then Quickly Fast-Forwarded at Warp Speed to the Present.

For 2016, I wanted to choose a word that encompasses my overall goal: to stop living on hold, to get back to business in the health department, to resume living normally, etc. At first, I tried to choose a word that was clever. No luck. Then I tried to choose an action word. They all sounded false or forced. Then I realized that I had already chosen my word for this year way back at the beginning of last year when I was extremely frustrated in my job search. My life was paused while I waited for anyone, anywhere to hire me so that I could get back to my normal life.

2014 and 2015 were paused, so it should be no surprise that I am choosing to unpause in 2016.

Yes, I know that, technically, unpause is not a real word. I also, technically, don’t care. It’s my word.

Everything has been on hold since the day I found out the company I was working for was closing in eight short days. At first, I continued to live normally because I really didn’t think it would take 16 months to get a full-time, permanent position. Oh how naïve I was. I am well educated. I have a lot of professional experience. I have great references. I also happen to be overqualified for the majority of the jobs available in my area. And I was afraid – afraid of making the wrong decision and hating my job, afraid of ending up at another company that would close only a year after I was hired.

As time wore on and I remained in (un)employment limbo, I began to subtract. I stopped planning to do anything that required knowing what I’d be doing in the next month, six months, or year. I tried to spend as little money as possible, knowing that savings accounts are not infinite and feeling guilt with every dollar spent. I stopped taking care of myself beyond the bare minimum because it, too, made me feel guilty, like I was wasting time and money that could be better spent.

Fast-forward.

At the end of June, I finally accepted a job that didn’t make me feel like I was making a huge mistake. Now it is five and a half months later, and I am still living as if my life is paused.

And that stops now.

Do you choose a word to help shape your goals for the year?

2015: My Year in Photos

2015
2015.

From unemployed to temporarily employed to happily, permanently employed. A career change that has included presenting at the Department of Defense and setting off the metal detectors during my first visit. Lots of commuting and making the best of the little bit of downtime I have. A little bit of running. A lot of hockey, including one appearance on the Jumbotron. One banged up car due to a distracted driver and one banged up foot due to a poorly timed Charley horse. Three fur faces: one human, two feline.

Not my best year but definitely not my worst. Here’s to hoping that 2016 continues the upward trajectory.

I wish you lots of love, happiness, good health, and great adventures in 2016. ♥

Paused

I feel like my life is paused.

For the past year, give or take, my life has been paused. It began last year with the sudden closing of the company that I worked for and it continues with my searching to find a job.

Searching for a job is hard work. There are many jobs posted daily, but you have to carefully sift through them to find viable options. First, there is the spam: HubPages and VistaPrint need to be banned from posting job openings anywhere, ever. Then there are the mislabeled jobs: Engineering is not marketing and road design is not graphic design. Then you have to figure out exactly where a position is located: Sure, Pittsburgh is Pittsburgh, but listing the actual neighborhood/region would be more helpful to a job seeker. And a few organizations need to consult a map and locate Pittsburgh on it before they list a location as Pittsburgh. Ohio is not Pittsburgh.

Then you start to feel guilty and nervous and like you’re not doing anything right.

Am I doing enough? Did I apply to enough jobs today? I did laundry this morning instead of applying to jobs, maybe I missed something? There weren’t any positions that are suitable for me today, should I apply to something random anyway? I took yesterday off, now I’m never going to get a job. I applied to this job two weeks ago, but they just reposted it. What does that mean? So-and-so wants me to design a brochure for them for free because “I’m not doing anything.” I applied to this position that I am 100% suitable for and my resume and cover letter clearly show that, but it’s a month later and they still haven’t contacted me. What did I do wrong? Why doesn’t anyone like me? I’m a terrible human being and no one wants to tell me, right? They wanted applications by January 1, but it’s two months later and they haven’t even begun to review them? Why did I promise them my first born and swear a blood oath if they’re going to make me wait six months before talking to me? 

And so on…

So, what have I learned? 1) Being overqualified sucks. There is no elegant or polite way to say it: it just sucks. I understand that being overqualified for a position makes a person seem like a flight risk after a few months, but it is still disappointing to hear over and over and over again when you want to go back to work as soon as possible. 2) I needed to expand my job search area to include options where I will have to relocate if I accept an offer. I tried to avoid it, but now I’m 100% onboard with it. 3) I know where I’m willing to relocate and where I’m not. 4) I hate having my resume and contact information posted publicly. I want to be able to stop answering every phone call from an unknown number “just in case.”

Thankfully, I’ve had a few great interviews, and I’m in the running for a few great opportunities. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting. I completely understand that I need to be patient, but I am more than ready and willing to get back to work.

The one thing that bothers me more than anything else about this situation is that I can’t plan anything, and I am a born planner. I know that once I receive and accept an offer, I will have a million things to plan, but right now everything is paused. I know what I’ll need to plan for but, without details, it’s not necessary.

I know I’ll have to plan for how to arrange my routines so that I can commute to work while I’m figuring out relocation/moving plans. I know I’ll have to plan to search for new housing. I know I’ll have to plan to coordinate the actual move. I know I’ll have to plan to settle into the new housing and community. I know I’ll have to plan to get a few things back on track that have been on hold due The Unknown. I know that I’ll finally be able to plan out a training plan and follow through with it without feeling guilty or like I’m doing something unproductive.

Soon, The Unknown will no longer be an excuse. Fingers crossed. It is a valid excuse, but it’s not one that I like. I am looking forward to having a sense of what my life will look like in a week, a month, or even a year. Not being tied to a schedule is not as freeing as one would think. Not having semi-concrete plans or a life framework to function within kind of sucks.

So, for now, I remain paused … but hopeful.

In Lieu of an Ice Bucket

Anna Mae Furgiuele

I get it. Some of you are growing tired of the videos. Many people don’t get it: Why are people dumping ice on their heads in August? Where’s the challenge in that? Some are getting annoyed: How does dumping water on your head help people with ALS? You’re wasting clean water? Quit showboating and just donate! Others are (ignorantly) angry: Maybe if this was for cancer or something serious, I would see the point. (While I wish I were making up that comment, I read that as a response to someone asking what the deal is with the Challenge on Facebook.)

But, to me, to my family, and to many others like us, this is important. We are an ALS family. Sure, the whole dousing yourself with icy water instead of or as well as donating to the ALS Association is a bit silly, but who cares? The Challenge is raising awareness by encouraging people to talk about ALS. People are looking up information about the disease to find out what it is and to find out why spreading awareness is important. The Challenge is also raising an unprecedented amount of donations ($22.9 million so far) for the cause.

This matters. A lot.

21 years ago, my family and I lost my grandmother, Anna Mae Orris Furgiuele to ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I was ten years old, and I wasn’t able to fully comprehend what happened at the time, but I knew that my grandmother had been sick. I wasn’t quite sure what kind of sick she was, but I knew that it was rapidly taking pieces of her.  In a few short years she had progressed from being mobile to using a walker to using a wheelchair to bed-bound in a nursing home. She had gone from living on her own in an apartment to living with my aunt and uncle to living in a nursing home.

Anna Mae Furgiuele

One of my last memories of my grandmother is happy-sad. My mom and I had gone to visit her in the nursing home like we did a few times a week. I always hated going to visit her in the nursing home. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see my grandma, it was because nursing homes are slightly terrifying to an 8-9-10-year-old. I’m sure they aren’t fun for the residents either. The nursing home always smelled like urine. A resident was always yelling or crying or screaming loudly. Someone who wasn’t fully in touch with reality always thought that you were someone that they knew or that was there to see them.

My mom and I were in my grandma’s room for a bit before my mom went to talk to the nurses at the desk. There was always something to complain about or confirm. I was 9-years-old, so I’m not quite sure what was going on, but I knew that my grandmother didn’t always get the best care. The nurses didn’t seem to understand – or care – that my grandmother was still there mentally and fully aware of what was going on. I’m not saying that my grandmother always had subpar care, but I know that it was quite a battle for my family to make sure that she had the best care and treatment.

My mother left me and my grandmother alone for a few minutes, and it wasn’t a big deal. I was used to spending time with Grandma. The television was on, and we communicated the best that we could. At that point, it was getting difficult for my grandmother to speak clearly enough for my 9-year-old self to understand. I struggled to understand the message she was trying to convey to me. I knew it was important because she was determined to get the words out. She spoke slowly and kept repeating words. She mentioned her engagement ring, that she wanted me to have it, that she wanted me to wear it, and something about my wedding. She made me promise that I would take the ring and wear it. It took awhile for me to understand what she was saying. I know that she said more than those bits, but it was upsetting for her and she was crying, having difficulty breathing, and she sounded almost angry, almost yelling as she was explaining this to me. I know that I was getting panicked. Nine-year-old me was afraid that I had done something wrong and that I had upset my grandmother. My mom came back to the room, and my grandmother calmed down, but this memory sticks with me.

As an adult, I can understand that in that moment my grandmother knew what was happening to her body and she realized that she wouldn’t be around as I grew up and got married. I remember the look in her eyes as she struggled to get out a few sentences and how frustrated she was that she couldn’t tell me what she wanted to without scaring me. It’s a memory that gets sadder with time because I’m old enough now to realize what that moment really meant. It’s a happy memory, too, because my grandmother wanted to be sure that she could share something with me to hold onto into my adulthood.

If you have participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge, if you have donated, or even if you have just taken a moment to understand what ALS is, I want to thank you. No matter how silly or annoying this is, it is important to someone. It is definitely important to me.

I challenge you to take a moment today to read the information I have linked in this post, and I encourage you to join me in donating whatever you are able to donate (time, money, etc.) to the ALS Association .

Anna Mae Furgiuele