Monday, July 28, 2014

When Skin Revolts

I like to think that I'm not a vain person, but this week I realized that even I have my limits. I don't know if it was the stress, or the change in climate from my move, or some terrible karma having it's way with me, but I had the worst breakout I've had since I was fourteen. It was like some small country decided to take up residence on my face, and no amount of coverup short of a prosthetic face could hide it.

This sketch is to scale. The zit was huge, I swear.
I tried my best to camouflage the invading forces with treated makeup but it seemed like all that did was make my normal skin paler giving the acne the opportunity to really stand out. I realized that this was a result of me never having learned how to properly apply concealer, but at five o'clock in the morning with a zit the size of Mount Everest above my lip the most I could do was I regret my lack of education immensely. 

The worst part of this outbreak was that I wasn't going to see people who had known me for years; this was my second week on the job and I was still meeting people who would think that the normal state of my face was total disaster. They will probably think I am totally unkempt and dirty. I thought as I continued to slather concealer on my face.

After about five minutes, I finally gave up. This happens to everyone sometime, I assured myself. I had put on acne spot treatment that promised a reduction in my problem by lunchtime. Everything would be fine.

But when I got to work I realized that not only was this my second week of work, but we had important people visiting from our corporate office to conduct an audit. And not only were there important people visiting from our corporate office, but I was scheduled for a random evaluation with them. For whatever reason I wasn't worried about the interview itself, just the disaster on my face... the miracle zit cream wasn't working at all! It seemed like if anything my problem had gotten worse. What if they don't realize this is just the worlds worst zit? They might think it's a cold sore and think I have some sort of STD...

By the grace of science, my evaluation slot was double booked and while my supervisor apologized to me for the "lost opportunity" a wave of relief washed over me. It was only then, as my panic was waning, that I realized how ridiculous my response to the entire day was. Why was it that something as simple as a completely temporary blemish on my appearance felt like the end of days? Why was it that I felt like people would be so distracted by a few zits that they wouldn't see my engineering prowess? Would a man give it a second thought if he were in my position? I felt terrible that I'd let myself get so distracted by something so trivial.

I know there is a dialogue today encouraging women to go natural and embrace their beauty, but what about some of our less beautiful days. Does the "natural look" still apply, or does it only apply when you are so flawless that makeup wouldn't make a difference anyways? I am not saying that I have all the answers, but I can't help but think that our society has not made it past the point where something as shallow as a horrible zit can impact how people think of you. It's hard to be comfortable in your own skin when it's covered in acne. Even in a profession like engineering, where it really shouldn't matter.

What do you think?



Monday, July 21, 2014

On Quitting Your Job

So if you are wondering why there has been this awkwardly long hiatus in posts, it's not because we forgot about you. It's because we have all been going through major life changes (perfect for new posts!), that made it difficult to catch a moment to just sit down and write. "What kind of life changes?" you may ask. Well, for starters, I quit my job.

I'm not going to lie, I fantasized about quitting my job countless times. About throwing down my papers and saying "YOU finish it!" when my bosses gave me an assignment they wanted finished by yesterday. About not coming back to work with clients who just spent the day cussing each other out. About telling clients what I really thought when they told me that if I ever considered a career change I could always be a really great secretary. In my mind my quitting was nothing short of spectacular; filled with drama and high emotions like a telenovela breakup scene. But in reality, it was something quite different.

I was in the midst of working as technical lead on multiple projects, all of which were reaching a critical point  in their development. I knew that the timing was terrible, but I'd received a much better offer and I needed to switch. But part of me felt laden with guilt at the fact that that I'd be dooming these projects to which I'd devoted months or years of my life, and I still cared deeply about the projects and the clients.

As I was on my way back to the office after turning over one of my projects, I got a phone call from my new employer-to-be telling me that they had picked my start date and that I needed to put in my two weeks. As soon as I got back to my desk I opened the resignation letter that I had saved on my desktop. Should I just email my boss, or should I hand it to somebody? I figured I should woman up and hand it over in person. Otherwise they have to figure out how to come over and approach me, and this will already be weird enough without making my boss approach me in my cube. Should I hand it to my direct supervisor, or my manager or somebody else? How do I even bring this up? What happens if somebody sees this on the printer before I get there?

I glanced around the corner and noticed the printer was momentarily unhampered by its normal onslaught of drawings and regulatory documentation, so I quickly printed two copies and sped-walked like an old woman on an early morning mall workout to grab them while they were still hot.

I stared at the words "I hereby resign my position" and thought Oh fuck, I'm actually doing this. I took a deep breath, wiggled the nerves out of my shoulders, and screwed up the courage to see my manager. On my way to his office the lights flickered and went out with the unmistakable moan of a hundred computers slowing down, and I stopped in my tracks. Of course there was an electrical storm today.

My manager saw my silhouette lurking outside of his door, "Vanessa?"

I can't do this in the dark, that's too weird. "Darn power out again," I chuckled nervously and turned on my heels. Okay, that was weird too. BE LESS WEIRD, Vanessa! People quit all the time, get over it.

I laid the resignation letters face down on my desk and nervously phantom typed on my keyboard as I stared at the dark screen and listened to my coworkers' cries of anguish about the unsaved work they had lost. The lights flickered back on and I swiped the letters off of my desk and walked to my manager's office again.

"Can we talk for a minute?" I asked, tentatively.

"Sure," he replied. I closed the door and sat down across the desk from him.

"So, I don't know how to say this. I was offered a job with significantly better compensation, and I'm going to take it." I placed the resignation letter on the desk, and he sat in a stunned silence for a moment.

"Wow," he finally said. "This is a huge loss for the company, Vanessa. Have you made up your mind or is there anything I can do to keep you?"

He offered me an increased salary, other jobs, and I told him I was sure I was taking the new job. He kept repeating that this was a huge loss, and that he knew I'd be a hard one to keep. Honestly I felt kind of terrible, like I was abandoning my old company. I kept having to remind myself that I was seriously unhappy there, and that my leaving was about me finding a better job.

In the end, I left with two weeks on the clock and an open offer to come back if I ever changed my mind. And while there weren't fireworks and I didn't tell anyone off, I think that that's perhaps the best way to quit a job. What do you think?