Fear of an office job: Allison Day interview

Sometimes I feel that half the people I know online I’ve met through Men with Pens, which considering how awesome they are, is a good thing. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I met Allison through the Pen Men’s Escaping Reality writing/gaming site. Allison is wonderfully supportive of everything and everyone and she’s a joy to talk to (plus her food blogs make me drool).

Who: Allison Day of Fridgg.com and Sushi Day
Allison is a food blogger who works for herself, developing websites and programming software that she hopes will someday benefit the communities that she participates in.

Name one moment in your life when you threw a pity party for yourself and the reasons why you felt you weren’t able to achieve your goals. Were you feeling stuck? Had you felt you failed? What wasn’t working in your life?
First a little history.ย  I began learning the programming languages I use two years ago.ย  I’ve never taken any sort of computer class, and I’m entirely self-taught as a programmer.ย  On the other hand, Son (my boyfriend and also my business partner) has a Master’s degree in Information and Computer Science, works for a very well-known internet company, and has been programming for over ten years.ย  Obviously he has a ton more experience than I do, but at the same time he expects me to be just as good, if not better than he is.

Because of the gap between our levels of experience there are things that may not come as naturally for me as they do him, because I learned on a need-to-know basis rather than being required to learn good coding practices and theory as course requirements.ย  So every now and then, he (understandably) gets frustrated with me because I make amateur mistakes that would be very stupid if I had his experience.

And then comes the pity party.ย  Generally I get very frustrated and overwhelmed by the enormity of the project, and how much there is left for me to learn.ย  Though I don’t get a feeling of failure, I do become very intimidated by the problem that happens to be holding me up at the time, and I have a huge fear of what will happen if the project I’m working on doesn’t become successful.ย  The what-ifs really get to me, and then without outside intervention I will procrastinate like heck to avoid having to face the problem (which usually ends up not being all that bad after all.)

Even our lowest moments fulfill a need in us or express our desires. When you threw yourself that pity party, what did you hope to gain? What need did you fulfill?
Although there is nothing I consciously look for when I throw a pity party, I think unconsciously I’m looking for reassurance that I am good enough.ย  Being able to code for myself and work on the projects that I want to work on, I’m pretty much living my dream.ย  So there’s always that terrible fear that I won’t be able to create applications that people will want to use or pay for, and I’ll have to go get an office job.ย  Unfortunately, this fear often paralyzes me, so I do need to be reminded sometimes that I can do it, and that I’m good enough to succeed on my own.

Tell us what you did to break up the pity party. What actions did you decide to take? Did someone help you buoy your spirits? Push you along?
Thank goodness for Son.ย  As well as being my biggest critic, he is also the person who believes in me most as a programmer.ย  Whenever I get to the point where I throw a pity party and freeze up, he knows how to calm me down, lift my spirits, and give me enough of a push in the right direction to get past that pity party.

Luckily, there are several things I can do on my own to avoid the pity parties.ย  My problems usually involves not knowing how to code something or use some new database or API, and I get overwhelmed and become paralyzed.ย  Instead, I’ve learned to break down the big problems into teeny-tiny, extremely manageable steps.ย  Thus I avoid the pity parties, avoid the procrastination, and keep from getting needlessly overwhelmed.

Can you look back on that moment and tell us how you felt when you did decide to take action? What results came about from your decision to take charge and move on?
Relief.ย  There’s always relief when I get past my hold-ups, and sometimes even a sense of silliness when I realize that the big monstrous problem that was scaring the bejeebers out of me really was more of a tiny kitten – the claws can still scratch me a little, but it’s actually kind of small and cuddly and not going to eat me alive in one bite.ย  In every case the solution has been much easier than I expected, and I get an enormous sense of accomplishment when I end up whizzing past the problem and getting a ton of work done.

Everyone has a Someday problem hiding deep inside, even little ones. What variety of the Someday Syndrome do you currently harbor? What would you like to achieve but haven’t yet?
My preferred flavor of the Someday Syndrome is definitely “I’ll Get Around To It Someday”.ย  All my life I’ve been a huge procrastinator, and though I’d love to say I’ve grown out of it, that’s definitely not the case.ย  There are a lot of things I’d love to do someday – learn Japanese and Vietnamese, travel, become healthier, start a family.ย  While for some things I believe it makes sense to wait until someday, when such-and-such happens (for example, someday when I get married and can settle down, I’ll start a family), for others I’m just plain procrastinating (there’s no reason why I can’t get healthier right now, or learn a new language.)

Of course on a smaller scale there’s always the, “yeah… I should do that.ย  But this distraction or other thing I need to do over here is so much more interesting…” and I procrastinate on everyday things.ย  Like responding to these interview questions when I actually should be working or doing laundry.ย  Oops…

Examining your Someday Syndrome problem, what are you currently doing to resolve it and eliminate it from your life?
Just like with my pity parties, it’s the baby steps that really help.ย  For example, ever since I was young I dreamt of being a professional ballet dancer.ย  Unfortunately, after a bad car accident and subsequent changes in goals during my college years, this lifelong dream got relegated to a “someday” dream.ย  This is where the baby steps came into play – first I started getting back into dance by just doing mini work-outs at home, then I started taking actual ballet classes at a studio near me, but at a level lower than I used to dance.ย  This way there’s not the pressure to immediately be at the level I was before my accident, and I can work my way back up to it without stressing and worrying about not being good enough.ย  Now, I’m rehearsing for an upcoming show with my old dance school, where I get to have lead roles in a couple of mini-ballets, and do one of my all-time favorite pieces of choreography.ย  While this may not be the professional dancing I had dreamed of, I still get a huge sense of achievement from working my way up from near nothing to making a modified version of my big “someday” dream into a “now” dream.

Many people suffer the same problems you do. You’re not alone, and neither are they. What would you tell people in your situation right now to help them avoid what you’re going through?
I know everybody says this, but break things down into steps.ย  With both my pity parties and my “Someday” dreams, I always, always procrastinate more when it’s a huge intimidating problem.ย  And in every case, I’ve been able to overcome my procrastination when I broke the problem down into super easy, itsy-bitsy steps.ย  Sure it takes some time to figure out how to break things down into such small steps, but it really is worth it.

If you could ask for one thing, right now, to help you overcome your Someday Syndrome, what type of help would you ask for?
In all seriousness, more hours in the day.ย  There are never enough hours in the day for everything I want to do.ย  If I had more time, I could take time to pursue the dancing dream further, and take more significant steps to accomplish other “someday” dreams that I have, without taking time away from the potentially profitable projects that I currently spend most of my time working on.

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15 thoughts on “Fear of an office job: Allison Day interview

  1. My best takeaway point from the post – “And in every case, Iโ€™ve been able to overcome my procrastination when I broke the problem down into super easy, itsy-bitsy steps. ”

    I get my best work done in this fashion as well.

    Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach´s last blog post..Bricklaying Fitness from 1901 using Therbligs

  2. There’s something I see very clearly here, and I see it because I do it myself:

    We get frustrated with people when we *know* they can do better than they are, try harder than they are and achieve what they want to do. We get frustrated when these people let their fears and insecurities get in the way of themselves.

    So while some might think, “Son’s an ass! He’s not patient!” I’m sitting here thinking, “Son’s awesome. And Allison knows it – he’s tough on her because he *knows* she’s holding herself back. And that’s frustrating.”

    Boy, if I could change the world today, I’d wipe fear out of it. (Well, okay, to some degree. Fear has its valuable place.)

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens´s last blog post..What a Rotten Roof Can Teach You About Your Business

  3. Allison Day says:

    Barbara – It’s a great strategy for getting things done and achieving your goals… I just have to remember to do it before I get overwhelmed by the enormity of the projects. ๐Ÿ™‚

    James – Exactly. I’m the same way with my siblings and the girls that I dance with – it’s frustrating when I see that they could be so much better but they’re either holding themselves back (in which case I push them harder) or just plain don’t have any desire to be better (which is even more frustrating, but in that case I give up on them.)

    Fear… yeah it does have it’s place, it keeps me from doing some things I know I’d later regret. But sometimes it’s just plain ridiculous… it took a huge kick in the butt for me to get over my fear of talking to you and Harry. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Allison Day´s last blog post..Candied Citrus Peels

  4. @ Sushi – Bah, I know. I scare people. Ogre, really ๐Ÿ˜‰

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens´s last blog post..What a Rotten Roof Can Teach You About Your Business

  5. Allison Day says:

    James – Oh yes, terrifying. You and Harry both. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Allison Day´s last blog post..Candied Citrus Peels

  6. Brett Legree says:

    Darth Sushi!

    (you so totally have to make that)

    A very interesting interview today (thanks Alex for interviewing Allison) – fear is an interesting thing, isn’t it.

    Though I don’t really “fear” much in a real sense, if one were to fear something, I’d suggest it be looking back on your life at age 80 and thinking, “dang – I wish I’d tried that!”

    Doesn’t mean I don’t procrastinate though! because I certainly do. Hey, I’m human ๐Ÿ™‚

    But you’re well on your way.

    Office jobs – hmm. There are maybe a few I’d consider.

    Google perhaps.

    You hear that Google? Hire me.

    Brett Legree´s last blog post..full circle.

  7. Allison Day says:

    Brett – So much sushi to make, so little time! But yes, I’m getting there. ๐Ÿ™‚

    When I was younger, there were a lot of things that I didn’t do because I was afraid, and I regret them now. But now I’m starting to realize that most of the time I don’t have much to lose by ignoring that fear and just taking the leap, and I don’t regret that at all.

    Before I graduated someone from Google was talking to me about possibly getting me an internship there, and for a while I considered it. But then I realized – sure I could be an intern for Google, maybe get a full-time position someday, gain experience and learn how a big company works, or I could take the opportunity that Son was giving me to work on the projects that I wanted to work on, and perhaps someday have a company to call my own. Based on Son’s experiences with Yahoo! and how much I’ve learned working for myself, I don’t regret my decision one bit.

    Allison Day´s last blog post..Candied Citrus Peels

  8. Friar says:

    @Allison

    Heh heh!

    Nice T-shirt. I’m wearing exactly the same kind, ,as I write this! (It’s red, too!)

    Great interview.

    Computer Geek/Dancer/Sushi Guru. You’re certainly well-rounded.

    Like Brett, I agree, that not all office jobs are bad. I actually had one, once, for a few years. But those are few and far between.

    My goal is to find one again (too keep my going, until I start publishing enough books and no longer have to work for a living).

  9. Melinda says:

    Ugh, Fear. I’ve fought it all my life and finally feel that I’m getting over it. Hate fear with a passion.

    I’m a terrible procrastinator too, and like you I get overwhelmed and need to break it all down into manageable chunks. I write a lot of lists, some days right down to the simplest tiniest task.

    Allison I’m scared of James too. LOL! Thanks for posting this, it’s nice to know more about you!

    Melinda´s last blog post..Seven Facts About Me (That Most People Donโ€™t Know)

  10. Paul D says:

    The fact that you want more hours in the day is good…I think some people wish there was less hours in the day so they wouldnt be expected to accomplish as much.

  11. Allison Day says:

    Friar – What a coincidence! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    The closest I’ve gotten to an office job was helping one physics professor with research and another with making a website one summer at university. They were pretty good jobs – the people were nice, the work was challenging but not unpleasant, I got paid a decent amount of money for a student… but the one thing that really got to me was having to be around people all day. While some people thrive in that sort of situation, it actually made me so nervous, stressed out, and unproductive, that with permission I actually began working from home a majority of the time. I’m a huge introvert, so it actually works a heck of a lot better for me to work for myself, where I don’t often have to deal with people.

    Melinda – Thanks! Frightening, isn’t he? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Paul – Really? Wow, I can’t imagine wanting to limit myself like that, why would anyone want less time? (Not arguing with you, it’s a very valid point… it just shocks me that there are people who would want that.)

    Allison Day´s last blog post..Candied Citrus Peels

  12. J.D. Meier says:

    Really good point on breaking things down.

    It’s all about the incremental hurdles. If the hurdles too big at first, chop it in half. Still too big, chop it again. I think momentum is a key success pattern in life.

    On the more hours in a day point … can you trade your profit for your passion or is there a way to “combine”?

    J.D. Meier´s last blog post..Finding Your Values

  13. Alex Fayle says:

    @Barbara
    Small steps definitely key – for me, however, I can’t look at too many small steps at once or I freak out and get overwhelmed by details.

    @James
    The trick is in finding the fine line between pushing and goading and being controlling and not listening. Not that you have a problem – you’re very good at walking fine lines. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    @Brett
    I’ve thought about office jobs and there’s seriously none that I’d take right now. Um… well.. Nope. None.

    @Friar
    There’s a great quiz over on http://hollylisle.com/ about making a living from fiction (scroll down on the right side of the page).

    @Melinda
    I’ve learned to use fear as a guide – where I feel fear the strongest, that’s where I’m supposed to go. It’s turned fear from an enemy into a friend.

    @Paul D
    I remember my grandmother reaching a point where she wished she had fewer hours in the day – she had very few community connections and so spent a lot of time alone, plus she was a doctor who had Alzheimer’s and so knew what was happening to her. Not a place I’d like to be.

    @JD
    I agree with your comment about trading and combining to make the day seem longer…

    @Allison
    Remember that we can’t do it all right now – and remember to take time to not just play but to totally do nothing – and that might mean giving something up, but your body and your mind will thank you for it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. Brett Legree says:

    Yeah, but Google gives you free food and they do your laundry and dry cleaning for you (or at least they did, before the financial crisis hit…)

    Brett Legree´s last blog post..full circle.

  15. Allison Day says:

    J.D. – That’s an interesting point, and I’m interested to hear more about what you mean by it. Unfortunately my passion (dance) is not really profitable for me (I’m not *that* good), but luckily I’m nearly as passionate about what *is* profitable for me (programming and writing about food). ๐Ÿ™‚

    Alex – Thanks so much for interviewing me! I still feel so honored that you would want to interview me. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Heh… that’s a good point, not being able to do it all at once. Too often I try to do it all, then get overwhelmed or burnt out. And I definitely don’t take enough (or any) “do nothing” time (unless sleep counts ๐Ÿ˜€ ), or even any “play” time… unless you count ballet rehearsals as more play than work. That’s something I need to consider more often, because just today I had to take a day away from dance (I filled my day with work instead) because my body was giving me all kinds of signals that I needed a break.

    Brett – Yes, and then you can kiss your family goodbye because you’ll never see them again with all the hours you’ll be working… ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Allison Day´s last blog post..Candied Citrus Peels

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