Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Moving on...?

The e-mail's subject line read "Moving On...." It was from a work colleague, Roger. I dreaded reading the contents of the e-mail, wholly expecting a goodbye message from another co-worker, who has been laid off. About 100 people at the company have been laid off since December. I really like Roger and my heart sank thinking he had been another victim of corporate downsizing. I pointed my mouse cursor and clicked on Roger's e-mail. "Hi, I'm sure you have already heard, but I just wanted to let you know peronally that I have turn in my resignation and my last day will be April 9th. My new contact information is ...." I sank back down in my chair and stared at the screen. At a time when there is record high unemployment in the state of California and national economic crisis, why would Roger just up and quit?

I yank at the phone and immediately ring his extension to obtain the details. "Hi Roger. I just got your e-mail. No, I did hear you were leaving. I guess I'm out of the loop. So far out of the loop, I didn't know there was a loop! Where are you going?" Roger's chipper voice responds, "I'm leaving Los Angeles. I'm moving to Mendocino County. Bought a bank owned home for 250K. It's a 3 bedroom, 2 bath, overlooking a ridge. I completely changing my profession too. Going to be working in the food and beverage industry. I am so excited!" I quickly google "Mendocino County". It's a county in Northern California, above San Francisco. Population 88,109. I try not to sound too perplexed. "Wow, Mendocino County. That sounds really pastoral. That's a big move." Roger doesn't skip a beat, "Yes, it is pastoral. I needed space. I got tired of living in Los Angeles. I had an opportunity to move north and since the timing was right, I decided to take that opportunity and start a new life. I'm closing on the home which I bought based on photos on the internet, so it's been very stressful. Lots to do in a short period of time."

Ah yes, haven't we all thought about starting a new life? Picking up and moving somewhere different from where we are now. The opportunity to start over again, new job, new home, new friends, new love life, just new. Lots of people I know are dissatisfied with living in a big city. They come here for opportunity and instead find cold callus disconnection. People steaming anonymously past each other, focused on their destinations, steadfastly avoiding eye contact. All they find is concrete, noise, crime and pollution. Relationships are always in question. What can you do for me? Are you my ally or my enemy? Are you going to be my BFF or a casual acquaintance? Are you the love of my life or just Mr. or Mrs. right now? Are you lifting me up or shoving me down the corporate chain? Yes, moving to a small town in a pastoral, sparsely populated county sounds very appealing, doesn't it? It's like shedding an old uncomfortable, complicated life and trying on a new, stripped down one. It feels a lot lighter.

Perhaps in this economic down turn, with layoffs and corporate reshuffling, people are being forced to reexamine their current state of existence. Instead of seeing this as a time of crisis, instead it is a moment of opportunity. History had proven that strife and hardship are the catalysts for change. Before every major shift, humans have become uncomfortable with their current circumstances. When all needs are being met, people seem to be lulled into a state of complacency. When needs are lacking, and people become uncomfortable, then they are motivated to produce a change. They strive for a better existence. Sometimes it's a group effort akin to the American or French Revolution, and other times it's a very personal revolution, like Roger's.

I admire people who can pick up and move somewhere unknown. As a native Los Angeleno, I have never lived anywhere outside a 15 mile radius. I have actually lived at only 3 addresses, my parents' home, my first single girl apt. and my current residence. My lack of moving experience is rare in a city as hugely populated as Los Angeles. I have met people who have moved here from all over the planet. I quietly marvel at their bravery in moving from Chicago, New Jersey, London and Tunsia! My goodness, I think, they have left everything behind, their family and friends, to start something new in a strange, foreign metropolis. Sometimes it's not even the distance that one travels, people surprise me for how they have radically changed professions too. From ballet dancer to nurse, from lawyer to nature photographer, from actor to police officer, from high power stock broker to stay at home mother of three. So Roger, I wish you the best in your big move up north. It's time for you to take a leap, in search of a better life. Your own personal revolution. Moving on indeed.

Copyright Romy Schneider 2009. All Right Reserved.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Confessions of a Contest Junkie

I love contests. If I am reading a magazine and an advertisement mentions a contest like "Win a Tip to Maui" at http://www.whymilk.com/" or watching a local new and the anchor says "the secret word of the day is 'surfer' got to our website at http://www.kabc7.com/ to enter our wake up and win contest", I find myself compelled to enter. This is not a recent addiction. When I was younger, before the convenience of website entry forms, I would enter contest by filling out standard size postcard and sending them to a p.o. box frequently destined for Burbank, CA or Ansonia Station, NY. I would decorate the postcards with stickers, hoping that an extra splash of color and creativity would better my chances to be selected by the contest organizers. Even at county fairs and trade shows, I have to fill out those free entry forms with the little yellow golf pencils. They call to me, "fill me out, you may be a winner." It doesn't matter what the prize is, whether it be a new washer and dryer (which don't fit in my apt.), a free trip (to a place I am not interested in going), concert tickets (for a band I don't like), a free portrait (for a family I don't have) or a lawn mower (for a lawn I also don't have), I sign up for it. I know that most contests are all about creating customer lists that can be sold to other companies that will result in really annoying and useless solicitations filling up either your mailbox, in-box or voicemail and in some cases all three. But yet I am still undeterred. What is it about contests that draws me into their vortex?

Is it the promise of getting something free in life? Is there comfort in thinking that you could obtain something of value, which requires so little work or skill except to know how to fill out your name and address and contact phone number. A 6-year old could do it, except most contests require you to be at least the age of majority, (a requirement surly imposed on the contest sponsors by state and/or federal law, and not any sense of corporate morality). Just think of all the time and energy spent earning a paycheck. The hours spent commuting to your office, then the hours in front of the computer, on the phone, sitting in meetings, navigating the office politics, dealing with your demanding boss, just to get in the car to commute home again. That's of course if you have a desk job. Think about the energy spent by a construction worker, a police officer, a grade school teacher, a brain surgeon, a farm worker, a short order cook, etc. It's both mentally and physically exhausting earning a living. But the chance of winning a $50,000 cash prize or a fabulous 7 -day trip to St. Lucia (meals and airfare included) and all you have to do is fill in a couple of blanks on a website, or slip an entry form into a clear Plexiglas box, well that is something that can't be passed up. You would be a fool not to enter.

Or is it a more ethereal sense of destiny. Let's face it, intellectually everyone knows that the odds of winning a contest that thousands or sometimes millions of people enter are very slim. But then you rationalize the reverse. Somebody has to win, right? Why not me? Then as you are filling out that entry form, you think, "Ok, this time it's going to me! It has to be me. I'm the lucky one!" I'm sure this is the same rationalization that goes through gamblers' minds in Vegas. These next cards will be a royal flush. This next throw of the dice or spin of the wheel will make me a big winner. Of course the difference between contests (with no monetary entry fee) and games of chance or lotteries, is that when you enter a contest, the contestant is not giving up or risking anything to win. There is no entry fee or skill involved. It's more random. If you get picked as the winner, then such achievement is purely fate. A calling from the universe that you, of all the people who could have won, are special. It was your destiny to win. Aah, what a nice sense of validation. If you win a contest, then that proves you are special. You are a lucky person. The fates are smiling down on you.

Perhaps I will never fully understand what fuels my drive to fill out those entry forms. I know that if I actually win a trip or a car one day, I probably will not end up liking it. I know that I will have to pay more taxes that year based on the cash value of the prize. I know that I will get more junk mail flooding my already too small mailbox, more spam in my in-box and more annoying phone calls in the middle of dinner. But none of these will deter my dream of actually being called one day by the disembodied voice of a contest god telling me that he is giving me something for free and confirming that it was my preordained destiny to be a winner!

Copyright Romy Schneider 2009. All rights reserved.