Smile

In high school my friends would often tease me because I almost always had a big smile on my face.  There was no particular reason, I was just a happy person and the smile was natural.  This morning while driving to work I was already feeling stressed and down, but decided to try dispelling my not-so-great mood with a simple smile.  And it was soooo hard.  That’s when I realized: some things have to change.

Change 1: Be More Positive

What happened to the overly-optimistic person I was in high school and college?  Technically I consider myself a realist since I realize life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies, but I’d always leaned towards the glass half full group.  When did I change?  Was it the fall out with Marc?  The 3 months of unemployment?  The constantly switching schedules and unrealistic expectations without due reward from AAA?  Perhaps it was a combination of all three.

Well, you know what? I’m sick of being constantly down.  I need to start focusing on the positives again. I have a paycheck, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food in my fridge.  I have an amazing family and a few really good close friends.  I have the economic means to travel and a bright future ahead of me, no matter what I choose to do.  Some people would kill to have my “problems.”

Change 2: Don’t Let Them Win

Related to change 1, I need to stop letting work get to me.  We (Mark, Brian, and I) always joke about how everyone who’s been in claims for a few years eventually turns into a mean-spirited, bitter person.  I can see why, and I need to stop it before it gets any worse.  There are things you can control and things you can’t.  Ignoring the problems in our unit is not going to make them go away, but I’ve brought them to Shelley’s attention, she doesn’t get it, nothing’s going to change until things go wrong and she finally understands, and there’s nothing more I can do to change that, so I just need to let it go.  Same thing with being asked to do all this extra work for the under-performers.  I’ll do my work first, do the other stuff if I can, but I can’t let anger or annoyance consume me so that I go home at the end of every day happy that there’s no one waiting for me because I’d probably just take my irritation out on them.  Karma will come back to bite the slackers and mean-spirited people eventually.

I’m only human, so of course I’m going to get stressed/annoyed/ticked throughout the day, but I need to do what I have to do to deal with it – be it ranting with Mark and Brian, taking a nice hot shower each night, listening to classical music while blogging…whatever it takes to relax and realize that it’s just not worth getting gray hairs over.

Change 3: Be More Social

That doesn’t mean forcing myself to go to parties and/or bar crawls that just aren’t my thing, but I need to be closer to my non-work friends again.  Take EK.  I’ve been consciously aware for almost 2 months that she hasn’t blogged since December 27th (fix that NOW EK!!!!) but whenever I want to text or email her, my mind comes up with half a dozen excuses not to- usually that it’s late and I’m tired and not in the mood for human interaction.  I only go out with Natalie and Kim about once a month each, and now that Emily’s in Champaign I see her once every two months if I’m lucky, with little contact in between.  Not cool.  It also wouldn’t hurt me to get out and date a bit, if only for the stories 😉

Change 4- Smile More

Self explanatory 🙂

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Between our two 15 minute breaks and 30 minute lunch, Brian, Mark, and I probably spend a good 40-45 minutes each day complaining to each other about work.  It’s not that we hate our jobs (claims adjusting is, at the very least, not a boring position) and it’s not that we hate our coworkers (though there are a few we could do without), it’s that we’re completely, blatantly, and openly treated like the bottom rung of the ladder.

Brian and I are the best on Shelley’s team (technically, we’re probably the best of all the 13 other adjusters).  I’m not saying that to brag, I’m saying it because it’s true (even Shelley’s told us).  We’re the only two consistently on top of our work managers and if Shelley has a question she’ll come to one of us (usually it’s a question that we should be asking her, not the other way around, but that’s a whole separate issue).  And yet, for being her star employees, she treats us worse than everyone else under the guise of treating everyone equally.

Case in point – she expects us to get into the work managers of 3 under-performing employees on our team (there are only 7 of us…) and literally do their work for them because they can’t handle it.  Approximately 85% of these claims are completely screwed up, requiring literally hours to fix.  And what do we get for this extra headache?  The knowledge that 2 of these 3 employees are making more money than we are…..

What’s worse is that she doesn’t even pretend to care or really acknowledge the extra burden she’s putting on us.  She also doesn’t acknowledge that we’re not all like her — she transferred out here for a 2 year assignment.  She has no family or friends in the area, so work is literally her life.   She doesn’t understand why we want at least 2 weeks notice before schedule changes or why we’re upset that we can’t plan our lives beyond the next month because who knows what the schedule will be like then?  When we raised these concerns in a team meeting, she told us point blank that our lives outside of work didn’t matter, we need to be flexible for the company, the company needs to be our top priority, and if we don’t like it, there’s the door…..

Personally I’m hanging on until I can get a letter of recommendation from her in October, but I know Brian’s looking for an escape right now, and as soon as I get that letter, I’ll be on the market too. I’d always assumed it was common sense that treating your employees like cogs in a machine and overloading your stars without providing a reward or incentive in the name of making your overall unit look good was a recipe for disaster.  Guess I was wrong…..  Maybe she’ll figure it out when we all bolt at the first opportunity.

RIP

RIP Halifax.  ?/?/1994 – 2/16/2012.  We didn’t have you for your whole 18 year life, but the 13 years you were with us were amazing.   I’m so happy you held on long enough for me to get home, say goodbye, and hold you at the end. You’re the best cat I could have asked for and I’ll miss you so much, but I’m glad you lived a long life and now you’re not in pain anymore.

Roller coaster

For single people, Valentines Day can mean many things.  For some, it’s a time to brood about and mourn their single-hood; for others, it’s an excuse for a girl’s night out filled with copious amounts of alcohol; for others, like me, it’s not even a blip on the radar.  Tuesday ended up being an emotional roller coaster of a day for me, but it actually had nothing to do with the Hallmark holiday.

The workday started like any other Tuesday.  That is, very slowly.  About halfway through the day I found out that they’re changing the schedule again (keep in mind that this is the first week of the new schedule…).  Within this new schedule, I was offered the position of relief adjuster, which means that I work a Monday – Friday schedule for the next 6 months and my primary responsibility is to field angry calls on other people’s claims and return voicemails when they’re out during the week.  I work 8-4:30 Mon – Thurs, and 10:30-7 on Friday.  Not crazy about those Friday hours, but it’s a small sacrifice to have a steady schedule for 6 months and it should only cause minor tweaking and cramping of my routine.

After this, I was…content, if not overjoyed.  Can’t say I’m looking forward to primarily fielding complaint calls, but it is what it is, and everyone else wanted it, so I’m certainly not ungrateful that I was offered it first.  After work I went home, worked out, and decided to pull the trigger and buy some (amazingly cheap) plane tickets for a trip to Seattle/Vancouver that I’d been hemming and hawing about taking.  Then I watched the hockey game between the Rangers and the Bruins.  After 2 periods in which we had dominated, I was having a pretty great day overall and was using the intermission to scope out things to do on my trip.  Then I got a voicemail from my dad to call him back about Halifax (my 18 year old cat)….

I immediately thought the worst and when I called back he told me that mom was probably going to put Halifax to sleep the next day if I wanted to come say goodbye (there was no preamble to this…he just laid it all out…thanks dad). While I’ve been expecting this for a couple years, I just saw Halifax a couple weeks ago and he seemed fine, so it was all rather sudden.  5 minutes later I calmed down and called my mom to get the details.  She told me Hali had been having kidney problems and was in the hospital, but that she wasn’t planning to make any decisions until at least Thursday, so there was no need for me to take any time off work or anything just yet.  That’s a little different than “mom’s putting your cat to sleep tomorrow”! Oy.

After that came the last period of the hockey game, in which we completed our domination.  Talk about your ups and downs…..

Oh the stress

This week was the first week of the new schedule, and it’s been a bit …. grueling, to say the least.  I was off January 31st and February 1st (Tues and Wednesday), worked that Thursday through Saturday, was off Sunday the 5th, and then worked Monday – Friday.  Wednesday was horrible.  I was soooo bored.  Thursday and Friday were marginally better because some estimates started coming in and people were calling back, but there was still almost no point to my being there.  Normal work weeks work for normal adjusters with a normal workload.  Those lucky people get 3-4 new claims every day, and usually cap out at 15-18 per week.  We get at least 15-18 over the weekend, are expected to make first contact and get most stuff done by Monday, and then have the rest of the week to tie up loose ends.  Not quite the same…..  And in a cruel twist of fate, I can’t even enjoy my time off right now because I was first on the list to be “on call” on the weekend.  Since they only have 9 adjusters working weekends this month, they’re terrified it might be too busy, so every weekend one person on the M-F schedule is on call.  Luckily I didn’t get called in yesterday (and knock on wood I won’t get called in today, because Sundays are usually pretty slow), but work is constantly on my mind and I have to plan my whole weekend around it (ex- I couldn’t do my laundry during the day yesterday because I couldn’t just leave it if I did get the call).

 

To say I’m getting fed up with the “flexibility” required by AAA would be an understatement.  Especially when management is constantly getting on us for not living up to unrealistic expectations (like checking and returning our buddy’s voicemail every 30-60 minutes on days that they’re gone, regardless of the fact that we may, amazingly, have our own phone calls and work to take care of).  I understand that a lot of people are down on our unit and our management gets the brunt of that, but what did the company expect when they put 2 managers with no management experience (and no auto claims handling experience!)  in charge of 16 adjusters with no adjusting experience on a brand new schedule that is a customer-service killer even in markets where they’ve been doing it for years with experienced adjusters?

 

But….I think I’m going to have to stick it out for a bit longer.  My big plan was to try to get into management consulting once I got accepted into U Chicago, but I’ve done a little research and a lot of the firms hire people with only undergrad degrees for the entry level analyst positions. I had initially decided to spend this weekend applying, but as I learned more about the interview process and read reviews of past interviewees, I came to the painful conclusion that I’m just not ready.  I need a lot more practice in case study interviews and need to brush up on the math I learned in finance again.  It’s hard for me to admit limitations, but I know that if I got an interview next week, I’d blow it.  Instead, I’ll probably spend the next couple months prepping before I apply.  That’ll also give me time to draft a killer cover letter. Not saying I’ll get the job before at least an in-progress MBA shows up on my resume, but I’ll at least be able to give it the old college try with the confidence that I’m as prepared to ace the interview as I’ll ever be.

 

(Side note: My coworkers and I are always joking that the stress of AAA is aging us, but yesterday I got carded at the mall to make sure I was over 16 since I didn’t have a parental guardian with me…. not sure how I feel about that. It’s one thing to be carded for alcohol, it’s quite another to be carded to make sure I’m at least a sophomore in high school… Makes me think of our family pictures around Christmas where the photographer couldn’t tell who was older: me or my 13 year old brother….)

Diet? Hate that word

My manager is about to start yet another diet.  Her last one lasted a couple months but apparently didn’t give her the results she wanted, so she’s signing up for this new one which comes with a book and daily instructions and everything, all for a very nice price (nice for the manufacturer, that is).  I myself have never been on a diet and don’t understand the whole dieting trend.  In my mind, if you call it a diet, you’re implying that it’s a temporary thing.  Isn’t it better to make a lifestyle change?  Instead of severely depriving yourself of certain food groups (this new diet requires my manager to cut out all beans, fruit, and carbs and gradually add back in some fruits and veggies), why not just each a balanced diet every day?  Seems simple enough.  I eat carbs (I love pasta and sandwiches on whole wheat bread and either cereal or oatmeal for breakfast), along with cheese and lots of fruits and veggies.  I also eat a little chocolate each day and have hot chocolate (skim milk + unsweetened cocoa powder = 90 calories of healthy bliss) for dessert.  Sometimes I’ll mix it up with eggs and/or chickpeas or other beans to make sure I’m getting enough protein, and while I don’t pig out on unhealthy food often, I will go out to eat with my friends a couple times a month.  If I’m hungry, I eat, and my weight has never suffered because I haven’t completely eliminated bread, pasta, cheese, any form of sugar, and certain ‘unhealthy’ fruits from my meals.  Of course, I also work out 40-60 minutes a day, which my manager does not.  I realize my life is pretty darn easy compared to other people’s – I don’t have kids or a significant other, so any free time is mine and mine alone to do what I want with – but I make exercising a priority.  If I have to cut certain things out of my day because I have other plans, exercise is the last thing to go.  No one’s so busy that they can’t find even 20 minutes a day 4-5 times a week to do some kind of workout.  Being healthy isn’t complicated.  No fad diet is going to work magic (if it does, it’s probably not healthy).  Anything worth having (and a healthy body is certainly worth having) takes work.  Healthy diet + exercise = healthy body.  Doesn’t get much more simple than that.

Super Sunday

Despite the fact that words cannot describe how uninterested I am in football, I am extremely excited on this Superbowl Sunday.  Why, you may ask?  Because the superbowl is like a pseudo-holiday and, like all holidays, provides an excuse to hang out with the people you love while eating some good food and watching (hopefully) entertaining commercials.  It doesn’t hurt that I’m off work today due to the schedule transition.  I’ve already gotten in a workout and a little of my language work.  There’s a hockey game at noon (thank goodness- the last one was on Wednesday, but that seems like an eternity ago), after which I’ll swing by the library before heading home to play with the sibs for a couple of hours before quality family time begins in front of the television. Life is good 🙂