Category Archives: Jobs

The Reasons

Sometimes it’s so hard to do this job. Some days are so bad I can’t sleep. The horrible things I see every day – the cruelty, the neglect, the lack of empathy, the ignorance, the disregard for life – make me wonder if I can keep my sanity. I wrote about all of this before, in this post. But then I do what I did tonight. I walk through the shelter and look. Really look.

At the faces. At the names. I make eye contact. I reach through the cages and scratch them. I talk to them. I watch their reactions. And I smile again.

Yes, it’s sad seeing them like this, behind bars and glass. But I know their stories. I know where they came from. In some cases I’ve been to where they’ve come from and seen just how bad it was. Some of them I watched hobble in on the end of an officer’s leash, barely alive, skin and bones, starving, beaten, left out like trash. But then I see them after treatment, after plenty of medicine and food and hugs, and they are happy. And it feels a little bit better.

They are the reasons I keep doing this. The tears I cry when no one is looking are for them. I try to remember them all. Like Sparkle, who I wrote about here. Sometimes I feel that I am the only one who will remember them when they are gone, and it is my mission to do it. They all matter. They shouldn’t be forgotten.

When I wonder if I made the right choices in life, as I discussed in my last post, I can pull out their pictures in my mind. This is not an easy life, or one that will make me rich, or powerful, or bring me admiration. But it’s one I can be proud of. I may not be able to change the world, but I can do what I can. Most of the time it doesn’t feel like enough. But I know that I helped change the world for some of them. And for right now, that’s okay.

These are the photos I snapped tonight. I will remember. Will you?

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Weighing My Options and Making Decisions

Over the past month I have faced a gut-wrenching career choice. It is the reason I’ve been so out of touch with this site, and for that I apologize. But I’ve finally reached a decision and feel ready to write about it.

Because of a contact I made at a forensics conference this year, I was offered a position at the company for which he works. For privacy purposes I won’t disclose the name, but suffice it to say it is one of the world’s most impressive forensic labs, and that is no exaggeration. It was an amazing opportunity, and one that I thought I would never have. And the salary matched the prestige of the position I was offered – the whole package was mind-blowing. I was honored and more than a little flattered. I almost accepted.

Perhaps a more career savvy person would have jumped at the chance. Perhaps I should have. But I chose to remain where I am, with a significantly lower salary, much less stature and prominence, and a very shaky future. Why? Because of the things I consider important.

For some, money and stature are the ultimate career goals. But for me they have never been as important as doing something I am passionate about and personally invested in. I made a commitment to this field because I care deeply about it and see a great future for it, and I’d like to continue to be a part of it. Maybe that will change somewhere down the line and I will move on to something else, but for the time being I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything close to what I set out to do, and the thought of abandoning those goals at this point in my life made me unbelievably sad.

There are many challenges I face on a daily basis in my current position, some of which seem insurmountable at times. But I don’t want to be a quitter – not when so much is personally at stake. I want to give it my best shot. I want to be able to look back and say I tried, even if things don’t work out. I have to swallow my fear and charge ahead.

This decision has been the toughest one I’ve faced in my professional life. It caused me countless sleepless nights and horrible stress, and I know I was a terribly unpleasant person to be around during the whole process. And I still struggle with the choice I made and probably will for awhile. Did I do the right thing? Was this a smart move? Or was it another rotten mistake? Maybe I’ll never know. All I do know is that I have to move on and take my parents’ advice and not look back. Focus on the good things: I get to stay close to family, be in a city I love (love to hate, at times!), and work with animals. I can have the satisfaction of keeping a job I fought tooth and nail to get, despite all of its problems (and there are many). I can be a trendsetter and a pioneer. I can start things that have never been done before. I will not have to be just another nameless cog in a wheel.

The frustrations will be many and there will be lots of times I just want to give up – this I know. But I won’t. I have ideas and enthusiasm for this. Whatever this becomes will be a direct result of what I make happen. I am determined. And I have a lot to learn. I am scared, but I will survive (I think).

I thought I’d close this post with a video that sums it all up. Those who know me know I am a Phillies fan for life, and hold a special place in my heart for legendary sportscaster Harry Kalas who left us far too soon. He was an amazing person, and hearing his voice reminds me of summer nights as a kid with my dad, watching the Phils battle it out. Kalas is well known for singing a song called “High Hopes” by Frank Sinatra, and whenever I struggle with sadness or frustration, it is my go-to mantra. It is a very fitting song for this occasion.

Onward and upward.

Click the link below to sing along 🙂

http://youtu.be/PzpJisfYNKA

Next time your found, with your chin on the ground
There a lot to be learned, so look around

Just what makes that little old ant
Think he’ll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can’t
Move a rubber tree plant

But he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes
Hes got high apple pie, in the sky hopes

So any time your gettin’ low
‘Stead of lettin’ go
Just remember that ant
Oops there goes another rubber tree plant

 

Not Older, Just Better…

No matter how you tell yourself

It’s what we all go through

Those eyes are pretty hard to take

When they’re staring back at you…

 – Bonnie Raitt, Nick of Time

Click the play button below to sing along! :

I’m digressing from the normal themes here for today.

It’s been a crazy, unpredictable thirty-something years. Like a roller-coaster careening out of control. My past two birthdays have been extremely hard, with a lot of pensive, morose thoughts, regrets about things in the past and fear of a dwindling future. I don’t know if that’s part of a so-called mid-life crisis or just the cranky, Maxine-like old lady version of me that sits on my shoulder and shouts rude things in my ear (for more curmudgeonly thoughts, see my post: Bodies of Work, Plastic Flowers, and the Bitch on Your Shoulder).

Personal revelation alert: my biggest fear is running out of time. Time to accomplish career goals, time to try new foods, time to learn, time to pursue passions and hobbies, time for the bucket list, time to get my pilot’s license, time to read ALL of Hemingway’s books, time to spoil my dog, time to see the world and get back to Africa, time to appreciate family and friends, time to be the voice for those that cannot speak…

With each birthday I feel my biggest fear materializing. Time is my nemesis, always hiding in a bush just outside my door, laughing quietly, waiting to pounce when I least expect it, no matter how organized and focused I may think I am (as in this post from last year: When Life Kicks You in the Ass).

When did the choices get so hard?

With so much more at stake

Life gets mighty precious

When there’s less of it to waste

– Bonnie Raitt, Nick of Time

But this year’s birthday came and went without incident. You know what? I had fun. I actually didn’t mind it, beyond the normal fretting about age and mild panic about my wasted twenties and rushing to make up for them. Maybe it’s the beginning of an acceptance of who I am and where I’ve been. Or a teensy bit of maturity. Or… a new optimism?? (Gasps, clutches chest in horror)

Whew. Happy thought passed. Thank god that’s over. Back to normal.

In any case, I kept the wolves of time that crouch in my head at bay this year. But I know they’re still there. They’ll always keep me uncomfortably aware. But that may be a good thing, in a way (there’s that disgusting optimism-thing again).

For now, I will enjoy the rest of the roller-coaster, hands in the air, screaming all the way  🙂

Happy birthday to me.

thoughtsfrommaxine.blogspot.com

 

Bodies of Work, Plastic Flowers and the Bitch on Your Shoulder

I subscribe to a number of blogs. I like getting the emails in my inbox whenever the writer has published something new. But they are not blogs about animals or forensics, they are blogs mostly about personal finance, self-improvement, and career inspiration.

It’s been a rough ride lately. My job transitions in 2011 – from financially stable and employed to unemployed and obsessed over money (largely because I didn’t have much) to employed at a significantly lower pay rate – have been anything but easy. I’m trying to see everything in a positive light, but it’s a struggle sometimes. Many of my friends are going through the same things. Call it a quarter- or third-life crisis (we’re all still too young for the much feared mid-life crisis), but many people I know are struggling to find themselves, or happiness, or career success, or what they want to be “when they grow up”. The pressures from society, family, friends, and especially ourselves, don’t help much either. Reading the blogs that I do gives me a fresh perspective and much needed help dealing with life issues.

Over the past few weeks, many of the blogs I read have all published articles about letting go and being yourself and ignoring the naysayers in one form or another. Everyone must have had the same mindset. They all really hit home with me and I wanted to share them here in the hopes someone else could benefit.

Trent Hamm writes the blog The Simple Dollar, which describes many ways to save money, get out of debt, and live a non-consumer lifestyle. His recent article, Plastic Flowers, figuratively describes how some people choose to fill their lives with dandelions and weeds, nothing fancy, just things that are simple and personal to them, while others have nothing but plastic imitations of roses, all shallow, showy pieces solely to impress others. He says: “you’re better off being proud of being a ditchweed than trying to be a rose and merely being a plastic imitation of one. Stop caring what other people think. Be passionate and proud of who you are and what you enjoy and stop spending a dime of your money or an ounce of your energy trying to be something you’re not“. Really good advice, don’t you think? I like weeds.

Another great blog that I read all the time is called Escape From Cubicle Nation by Pam Slim, and it’s all about breaking free of the corporate grind to do what you are truly passionate about. She recently posted an article called  Blow Up Traditional Careers In Favor of Bodies of Work. What she means is, build your foundation not on “a singular work path” like being a successful lawyer, CEO, accountant, researcher, Tahitian pearl farmer, whatever, and start thinking about using your talents in multiple ways: “Focusing on a body of work will give you more freedom to choose different work options throughout the course of your  life. So you won’t have to say things like ‘I am throwing away 10 years of studying and practicing law if I start a yoga studio. ‘(Don’t worry — your relatives will say it.) Or ‘I am undermining my potential if I take a job as a barista’ after you get laid off from your corporate job as a highly-paid creative“. Just because you’re a barista doesn’t mean you can’t still be creative (I love the picture Pam posted here of the frothy designs in a cup of cappuccino) and bring happiness or inspiration to people. Hmmm… sensing the theme I’m trying to get at here??

Finally, The Write Site is a blog about, well, writing, by New Zealand author Philip Bradbury. He is hilarious and motivational, and his post How Do Writers Write? Rule #7 – The Bitch on Your Shoulder is absolutely PERFECT for those of us who are wayyyy too hard on ourselves, who constantly find reasons NOT to try things, who always feel that we suck at everything while everyone else is so much more talented, successful, beautiful, smart, etc. It’s that bitch happily perched on our shoulders maliciously chattering all these reminders of our ineptitude who is so much easier to listen to than our own shaky self confidence. His article describes an exercise that he participated in where everyone had to introduce themselves by saying their name and the phrase their own personal bitch whispers most frequently: “Hello, I’m Shirley and I’m too fat. Hello, I’m Shirley and I’m too fat. Hello, I’m Shirley and I’m too fat … or Hello, I’m Michael and I’m not bright enough. Hello, I’m Michael and I’m not bright enough. Hello, I’m Michael and I’m not bright enough … You might imagine the mirth in the room – it was rocking with our laughter. You see, once you get that silent, snarling conversation out of your head, through your mouth and over to someone else, you realise just how stupid it is.” Why do we listen to this woman?? Brush her off your damn shoulder and tell her to scram.

Sorry this post is so long, but with so many people going through some of the same things, I thought sharing these blogs may help. Whatever your path, build up your body of work, fill your life with weeds, not plastic flowers, and don’t listen to that bitch. I’m beginning to accept that my career path has never been traditional. And just because I choose to do one thing right now, it doesn’t mean I can’t try something else somewhere along the way. Animal forensics? What is that? Who cares? What makes you think you’re qualified? It doesn’t even really exist as a field of science, so what do you think you can do with it? Shut up, woman! My career will be what I make it. And that’s okay.

Getting Back Out There – The Post A Week Challenge

I know I haven’t posted in quite some time and for that I apologize. Back at the beginning of April I was on a roll, posting almost every day. I really enjoyed it. Then a comment was made that really bothered me, about the fact that it was obvious that I didn’t have much going on in my life since I was able to write so much. For those of you who missed it, I was laid off in January. You can read about it here. I thought I was handling it all with grace, if I do say so myself, until about two months ago, and then the reality of it all hit me like a ton of bricks. When you’ve built your life around being a professional and having a career, however frustrating that career may be, and then it gets yanked away from you, suddenly it feels as if the bottom fell out. And when that comment was made I didn’t realize that it would bother me so much, but it was like pouring salt into an open wound.

So I stopped writing. Not just because of what was said, but because I let it get under my skin. It made me think too much, and the negative thoughts just kept piling on top of each other in my mind. But truth be told, I DID have a lot going on. I was completing my master’s degree. I was continuing my job search (which finally paid off – I start a new job, IN THE FORENSICS FIELD, in less than two weeks!!!), and I was taking on odd jobs in the meantime. But in my day to day sadness none of that mattered. I felt like a failure. Maybe some of you out there know what I’m talking about or are going through it yourselves right now. It sucks, doesn’t it? Even with the massive amount of people dealing with this issue, it’s a VERY lonely place to be.

Things are slowly turning around. I graduate soon. I will be starting a new job. I have other exciting things coming up. I’m beginning to pull myself up by the bootstraps, but it ain’t easy. Like one of my good friends told me, it’s hard to get out of a funk. I have good and bad days. But I can’t let it keep me from the things I care about, like writing about the issues that matter to me. So I’ve decided I want to get back to it! Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now. I will be posting on this blog once a week for the rest of 2011. More if I can manage. It’s a challenge, but I’m up for it. The topics that I write about need exposure. The more awareness I can spread, the more excitement I can generate, the more of a difference we can all make. I hope you will continue to follow along with me, and feel free to write or make comments. I see great things coming in the future – not just for me but for forensics and the amazing things this science can achieve.

Stay tuned – it will be a fun ride. I will also be publishing guest posts by others in the near future; a fantastic aspect of this that I didn’t anticipate! And for anyone else in the same boat that I am, stay focused, stay strong, believe in yourself, and try to ignore the negative (especially when it comes from yourself).

When Life Kicks You in the Ass

So, it’s funny that two of my last posts, especially the one on January 6th, involved thoughts on my goals for the new year ahead. I was looking forward to a lot of great things. But yesterday, seemingly as a smack back into reality, I was laid off. Slam, went the door in my face.

All that remains of my career for the last 4 years

That sad-looking box of stuff is what I carried out of my company for the last time. It constitutes a huge portion of my life for the past four years. That stuffed elephant stared at me from the top of my computer every day. Those pictures reminded me of family and my dog and of good times. I even have a sports bra stuffed in there from when I would go running on my lunch break. It’s all I have to physically show for many years of a three-hour-per-day commute, many headaches and stress, and much learning and growing. And I haven’t been able to bring myself to empty it yet.

Sounds strange to listen to myself say that overused, cliche statement “I never thought it would happen to me” but I really didn’t. As much as I disliked my job and even said that I sometimes wished this would happen, it really SUCKS when it does. It’s a huge loss – a loss of not only a paycheck and a title, but a loss of confidence, security, and self-respect. A loss of a lot of freedoms and things I took for granted.

I have been rather aimless today as the reality sinks in. I am now an unemployed graduate student. That is my new title. But it’s only temporary, and I realized last night as the phone calls and text messages came in that through it all I was able to leave a legacy, however small. I made some good friends who care and who are sad to see my empty cubicle, or “hamster cage”, as I used to call it. That means the world to me. Over the past few years I have begun to realize the importance of those relationships. They will sustain you when the well seems like it’s run dry.

It’s not the end of the world. End of an era, yes. But not the end of who I am. I even mentioned in my post on January 1 that I was going to attempt to venture into new realms this year. At the time I had no idea this would happen (a bit of foreshadowing, perhaps?) and I had no idea the concept may be forced upon me. But this could prove to be a true turning point. Who knows. For sure it is a learning experience. NEVER take anything for granted. I’m glad that I was somewhat ready in case it happened, although it was still a bit jarring. It’s like I’ve been taught in all of my forensics courses, when you think you’ve found all the evidence, think again. Don’t be over-confident, because just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, i’s dotted and t’s crossed, you can accidentally turn over a chair on your way out the door and find a bullet casing you missed. Okay, maybe a silly analogy, but you get the point. Your great ride can end in a New York minute, and you can find yourself staring at a tiny box that holds the last few years of your life.

Let the new journey begin. This brings about a lot of changes that I wasn’t completely expecting (although I did have a sneaking suspicion it may happen), but it will be okay. Perhaps this wasn’t a giant slap in the face or kick in the ass, but merely a tap on the rump in the direction of a new beginning.

For any of you out there going through a rough time, keep this in mind….

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

Read the rest here.

Onward and upward, my friends.