Fast food for thought.

I was browsing my Facebook feed and am shortly heading out to the supermarket, but I felt compelled to share this article someone shared on my feed.

“What I Learned From 4 Years Working at McDonald’s”

This article resonates with me in a strange way. I’ve helped out my friend as a Virtual Assistant for a year or two now, and I’ve shied away from telling people that this is what I’d like to be doing for many, many years to come. I am met with statements like “Don’t you want to get a real job?” or “Why not start your own business then?” and many other comments of that nature. Every time people say these things, I feel like I’m being told I’m too good for such a job. Too smart. I can do better. It feels like nobody considers this a ‘real job’.

The thing is, I know the work I do for my friend is valuable to her. We’re both anxiously waiting for my living situation to improve so that I have a stable connection and a quiet place to work from so I can up my game and work more and work better. Being an assistant is not something you should dismiss as a job for an unskilled person. If I were to ask half the people who make snide remarks to please do these tasks I was assigned, they wouldn’t know how to do it. They’d be surprised at how much time it takes even someone who works fast to do half the things I do. They’d feel lost and unsure what to do.

At this time I’m not interested in running my own web development business. Maybe in a couple of years that’s something I can and would love to do. But I’m mentally too unstable for that responsibility and I’d rather work for someone who works with my shortcomings than struggle and burn myself out in a week’s time. I love the glowing feeling I get from taking weight off my friend’s shoulders. I love the gratitude I get. I love that I get paid for feeling useful and valued. Why in heaven’s name would I want to give that up and be one of those people who posts on Clients from Hell?

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Good Feels

Life has been going fast lately and I feel a little blown away by… Well, everything. Good or bad? Definitely some of both!

For starters, I’m having a moderately good grip on my blood sugar levels. They crash pretty quickly when I do some moderate exercise, but I still have weird and unexplained peaks every now and then. (That might be my pancreas struggling.) Overall though, I noticed my own tests’ averages have gone down from 9.5 to 7.5 (mmol/l) which includes fasting values and peak meal values. Not too shabby!

I still have bad days where my mental state just breaks down and I get stuck in my downward spirals. Unexpected events still do a big number on me and that sucks. Doing too many things (even just shopping) tires me out so badly I’m down for a couple of days afterwards.

The good news is I’m able to focus on positive tasks again! I had a meeting with my friend/client to discuss the future of my VA job with her and we struck a compromise. I got the equivalent of a promotion with the condition that I can take sick days when needed as long as I properly communicate this to her. She has other assistants for backup in case I get overwhelmed so I can still do my tasks and have the other assistants pick up the overflow. The great thing about this is that the small projects that come in become my projects so that she can focus on the ever growing number of large projects that focus more on programming. She’ll take care of all the client communication to avoid the stress of dealing with clients (the main reason I only want to work with professional freelancers are the regular clients).

All of this is pretty damn exciting! She never really put pressure on me in the past, but I did feel pressured by seeing ‘no way out’ when I had too much on my plate and I felt horrible putting a dent in her project progress, which became a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy as it stressed me out. I dropped projects and hid in a corner feeling ashamed and inadequate. There’s a noticeable difference in my coping ability now that I know there are people in the background who’ll pick up what I can’t do so that the projects don’t end up jeopardized. I’m breezing through the tasks she has for me and it feels awesome.

I feel so incredibly lucky and fuzzy that she stuck with me through thick and thin and works with me to make everything work out. Anyone else would have found this to be bothersome and dropped me (like all of my previous employers) but she likes my work so much it was evidently worth it to find a balance. I’m so thrilled I can help her and help myself at the same time!

The joys of being a Virtual Assistant

‘Why do you want to be a virtual assistant?’ is something I’ve been hearing often since I started working as one. It’s one of the most common questions after ‘What is a virtual assistant?’.

The what is easily explained by throwing a link to the Wikipedia page your way and hoping you enjoy yourself. It’s a versatile profession, but the article gives an overall good impression.

The why is very personal. If I had to narrow it down to a single sentence, I have to say: “Because there is no greater fulfillment in life for me than helping people and making them happy.”

It’s funny how sometimes a career opportunity just falls into your lap. Over the years I’ve dabbled in many different would-be occupations. I designed and coded websites for fun, I was drawing constantly, I was writing and roleplaying, mastering the English language to the best of my abilities, I nudged and poked programming languages, I got involved with communities in moderator/admin positions, I volunteered for customer service type positions… Among many other things. I tried to pursue a career in IT management, and although I love messing around with hardware and do problem solving and maintenance for software, that just wasn’t it. I got a job in a call center and that wasn’t it either, although it provided me with much needed telephone service skills.

After being stuck at home, unemployed for over half a year and in dire need of money, a casual chat with a good friend of mine brought up the subject of assistants. Or, more specifically, virtual assistants. She had seen all the things I could do; my versatility and wide range of knowledge had prompted a joking suggestion that I should start a freelancing career as a VA for lack of other jobs to do. A week later I got a message in my inbox. “About that VA thing… Would you consider doing it for real?”

So started my adventure as a freelancing VA. My friend, an exceptionally busy web designer and developer with a million and one hobbies on the side and numerous independent community websites, couldn’t find anyone who met all her professional needs. If one assistant had exceptional social and management skills, they were too inept to cover the technical aspects of her job. If one assistant kicked ass in the technical department, they lacked the drive and social skills to cover those grounds. As it turned out, I could cover both and anticipate her needs perfectly.

If I don’t know something, one or two sessions is enough to teach me what I need to know, but only if I can’t find it on Google first. I ask a lot of questions, but only relevant ones that help us both work at much higher capacity. I code a team-friendly HTML/CSS framework from an image one day, and write articles and manuals the next. One moment I transfer content between two sites, the next I am responding to emails and moderating forums.

It both sounds versatile and incredibly boring, doesn’t it? For someone with supposedly so many different skills, why am I basically doing the dirty, simple yet time consuming work?

Because it literally helps my friend sleep better at night.

It’s not the difficulty or the uniqueness of the tasks that make this work rewarding for me. I’ve seen how stressed out my friend gets by the workload of her job. There are so many aspects to consider when one is a web developer that it’s easy to forget that the simplest tasks are, indeed, time consuming. Time that she doesn’t have if she wants to get the really big and important items checked off her list. Yet even these simplest tasks are important in the big picture, so they need to get done one way or the other.

Being able to take over responsibility for these tasks is not about what I can do to prove myself, but about what I am doing for her as a person. To some I may just be a lowly assistant, but to her I’m the reason she can put balance back into her life – and that is why this is my dream job.

I’m currently still in a recovery phase. My health got in the way of building up a solid client base in the past year, but my friend has been graciously accepting of my conditions and worked with me to keep me in the game. I am studying an official course that covers web design and development among other things so that I have a certificate, and I have my friend’s recommendations to make my future dreams possible.

Jumbled update

“Hong kong has been cancelled. I’ll let you know as soon as I find when / where our first port visit will be.”

I think I might cry.

This whole eating thing is more difficult than I thought. I don’t have an eating disorder, but I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum as far as emotional eater goes (is ’emotional faster’ a thing?). When I’m upset or depressed, I don’t eat. My appetite just vanishes and I don’t feel like eating anything, not even delicious sweet or fatty things that aren’t good for me that I usually do enjoy.

No, it’s not fun or a good thing, so I hope that  nobody will comment “Omg I wish that happened to me”. I will rub your face on a cheese grater and wash it with lemon juice.

I thought that when my boyfriend left, I’d spend all my time playing The Sims so I could distract myself with pretending he’s still close and doing things with me. Instead I just find myself playing Skyrim endlessly with my Amazon (Nord) lady who married a chick and hates men, so she refuses to be nice to guys or even take male followers (it’s a character, not my views, I like to roleplay). It’s proving to be entertaining so far.

Since last week I’ve begun picking up work again for my sister-like-friend-who’s-also-my-client (I can say this is the best work relationship I’ve ever had). There have been many angry rants about ridiculous clients with more ridiculous demands that are fit to go straight to Clients From Hell. There’s also a whole lot of fun stuff such as writing articles and making pretty graphics. It feels good to be back to work.

One of my cats has a hot spot on her back leg that she manages to get to despite wearing a cone. My boyfriend gave me money for a vet visit but so far I’ve been unable to get an appointment made, so I’m holding on to that for the time being. Stupid ultra-flexible cat.

I don’t want to do dishes.