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Joy In The Little Things


I’d be lying if I said things have been easy around here lately. I spent most of last week laid up in bed with a high fever and the better part of the weekend acting out the final scenes from Moulin Rouge, except with more coughing and less corsets/duets with Ewan McGregor. When I’m sick, I become an everything-is-wrong-with-everything pessimist, so I also picked a few unnecessary fights with Michael and had one fever-induced meltdown on the couch while elbow-deep in a bowl of Velveeta. Suffice to say, I needed Amanda‘s post today. Because as someone who tends to get bogged down in all the things going wrong, it’s important for me to remember that it’s in these moments when I usually find myself most clearly. And finding the joy in the little things often leads to being the big things that bring me joy.

Maddie

Joy In The Little Things | A Practical Wedding

The last three and a half years have been full of huge life changes. I became a vet, I moved countries (for the third time in my life), I got married, I lived in a farm, I helped deliver calves multiple times and stayed awake waiting for cows to give birth, checking for signs of labor at regular intervals, which meant almost no sleep. I interned at a small-animal clinic and worked as a research assistant at a virology lab as well as at a call-center and at the web content department of a very big hotel reservations company.

Joy In The Little Things | A Practical Wedding

When I put it that way you would not be able to tell that I have been dealing with unemployment or underemployment for about as long as I’ve been in my adopted new country, and how awfully hard it has been. I have two scientific degrees that took lots of work and time to earn. In these three and a half years I have not stopped applying for jobs, and I haven’t been sitting around waiting either. I have been busy with internships or working at the random jobs I have managed to find. Just two weeks ago I heard I did not get a PhD position that was a perfect fit both with my studies and my experience (working with cows, in reproduction, both subjects that fascinate me), and I was told I was among the best three. It’s not the first time I get that feedback. How are we supposed to get experience if no one gives us a chance, takes a risk on us?

Joy In The Little Things | A Practical Wedding

A few weeks ago, in desperation, I went to several placement agencies to look for anything, maybe customer service. (I am after all, fluent in four languages and I understand quite well another two.) I was told there are very few positions and employers are getting very, very picky.

I always thought we should fight for what we want. I was taught that if you do what you love, if you do your best, the opportunities will come, that it was possible to love your job, to do what you like, that you should not limit your dreams. Maybe I am living in fantasyland. Maybe it is stupid to keep hoping to work in my field of study. I wish I had a magic ball, I wish I could see the future. I wish someone would tell me when or how this will end. I wish I could know that if I wait long enough I will get there. Or that no matter how long I wait, it won’t happen. I do not mind working a “different” job, though there is a part of me that feels it would kill my soul, and I feel like I am dying a bit already. But this is real life.

Joy In The Little Things | A Practical Wedding

If you add to the equation the fact that we have been dealing with what the medical community refers to as infertility (though I refuse to use the term) for two and a half years now you’ll understand how often I have felt like I am failing at being a woman on all fronts. I don’t have the career (or am anywhere close to getting there) and I don’t seem to be able to accomplish the most feminine of tasks (according to societal expectations), namely, making people.

Joy In The Little Things | A Practical Wedding

And yet, life is good. This long period of time has made me question everything. It has made me very aware of who I am, and has made me realize, as cliché as it sounds, that joy really is in the little things: cooking, walks in the park, inviting friends over, babysitting for our neighbors’ kids, traveling (and you don’t have to go far away…it’s about discovering new places, many of which are hidden gems, close by). It has made me discover my creative side—realize that I am not defined by the diplomas I earned at university, that I am valuable for much more than that. I have been able to take the time to explore and discover new passions: photography, baking, painting, writing. More than anything I am learning that we only have to take it one day at a time, that living in the moment, being present is always within our reach. And that hope, loving each other fiercely and actively searching for the little happy moments in the little things of everyday even (or perhaps more so) at the hardest moments, will get us through all of this—even though as of right now I don’t even know how our story will end.

Photo from Amanda’s wedding by Fotoflex; photo with the cake by Erika Gallegos; all others from Amanda’s personal collection.

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  • http://smittenimmigrant.wordpress.com pluis

    Amanda, you are wise and kind. Thank you for your post. You have, through our contact in person, but also through your blog, taught me a thing or two on how to be gracious and positive when the going gets tough and one’s closest held goals seem so far out of reach. I hope that when I encounter hardship in my life, I can follow your example.

    I really hope and wish you get everything you want and more. And may you always find much joy in the little things.

    • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

      Thanks so much :)

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    Great post Amanda! :) I’ve said it before, but I adore your attitude towards life and you truly are an inspiration.

    • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

      <3

  • Becca

    I am a vet student who is more than a little scared about my ability to get a job after school. I too have worked hard to get where I am, have struggled with my own medical problems, and have gotten passed over for various programs. We should be friends :)

    “realize that I am not defined by the diplomas I earned at university, that I am valuable for much more than that”
    This. This. This. This!
    I feel like so much of my life has been focused toward getting this degree, and used to feel that my happiness would be based on my being a vet. I know that is incorrect now, and thank you of reminding me of that.

    • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

      I really hope it will work out for you… I know in general for vets it is hard, and in my case I think the fact that I did not study where I live (though the diploma is recognized) plays a role. Best of luck.

  • Meredith

    “More than anything I am learning that we only have to take it one day at a time, that living in the moment, being present is always within our reach. And that hope, loving each other fiercely and actively searching for the little happy moments in the little things of everyday even (or perhaps more so) at the hardest moments, will get us through all of this—even though as of right now I don’t even know how our story will end.”

    THIS. I am currently experiencing a similar situation. Enjoying the “little happy moments” and the love I get to share each and every day get me through the hardest moments. I know everything will work out in the end, because I have him, and he has me, and that’s all we really need. The rest is just icing on the cake.

  • Rosie

    Your determination not to give in to tough circumstances and your wisdom is inspiring! I hope you continue to find joy in all areas of your life.

  • Lily B.

    Is it just me, or does the bit about (supposedly) not being able to accomplish “the most feminine of tasks” being immediately followed by a picture of the author decorating a CAKE seem to say NO, YOU’RE STILL AWESOME…? Because I think so.
    Amanda, you’re awesome.

    • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

      Oh thanks so much. I hope the APW won’t mind if I advertise myself a bit… I just recently took the plunge and started a business in hand-painted cakes (let’s see how it goes).

  • http://byjacki.com Jacki

    What a wise, thoughtful outlook you have on a challenging period of life. I particularly liked the ending, “More than anything I am learning that we only have to take it one day at a time, that living in the moment, being present is always within our reach. And that hope, loving each other fiercely and actively searching for the little happy moments in the little things of everyday even (or perhaps more so) at the hardest moments, will get us through all of this—even though as of right now I don’t even know how our story will end.”

    These are important lessons, but sometimes hard to learn. We’re in a challenging stretch of time too and it’s the little, simple pleasures and seeking out the moments of joy that gets me through. Wishing you all the best!

  • http://theengineerswife.wordpress.com jenn

    That last paragraph? That is ME. That is my journey, and right now I am really wondering how you got into my head.

    But sometimes, I forget that. Forget the good things that have happened, and the small things I love. And then, man can life be hard… Thank you for reminding me of this side of life.

    I wish you all the luck in the world on your journey to a family, but am glad to know that your life is going to be awesome no matter what the outcome.

    x

  • NTB

    As the daughter of a vet, I give you major props for going traveling down the very difficult road of becoming a vet and going to vet school. My father teaches at a top vet school in the country and many of his students struggle to find employment. It sounds like you have a tremendously positive attitude in regards to the challenges you have faced in the last couple of years.

    A few months ago, I was in a similar situation. I graduated with my MLS in 2011 and worked odd jobs and part-time, on-call jobs for 2 years before I landed my current position, which I love. It was worth the wait, but those were dark times. It took every ounce of strength for me to keep getting up in the morning and fill our applications over and over again. My new husband sat by and watched as I picked myself apart with each and every job rejection. All of this was compounded by the fact that I was recently married and feeling like a total failure because I sucked at cooking, I sucked at cleaning and keeping our home looking presentable, and i sucked ROYALLY at controlling my temper and my moods. There we were–newlyweds–who were supposed to be enjoying our new life together, but instead we fought and cried every night because I was so miserable without having steady, full time employment. My employment situation made everything difficult, and it was hard to keep the faith.

    In my experience—both with personal health challenges and job stuff—is that the tables will turn eventually. You are a beautiful, brilliant, deserving woman with so much to offer this world, and there’s something out there for you that is wonderful—and it IS waiting for you, I promise you that. xo thinking of you and wishing you many blessings.

    • Class of 1980

      Why is it so hard to be hired as a vet? Do we really have enough vets? They seem to be swamped all the time, so surely there is room for more vets.

      Personally, I think we need some vets that specialize in pet nutrition. That’s an area that is horribly lacking in vet education. I adore my vet for medical issues, but not when it comes to nutrition.

      Also, traveling vets that make house calls are a need for some people. We have a mobile vet in our area and I think it’s great. He does spays and neuters right in his vehicle for the local rescue groups.

      • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

        This article that was recently published by the NYTimes might explain the issue. Vets are becoming like lawyers now–too many of them, and not enough jobs (this article also focuses significantly on the debt incurred which isn’t really the point the original poster here was trying to make, but it is also worth considering): http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/business/high-debt-and-falling-demand-trap-new-veterinarians.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

        Hope this helps answer your question!

        • Class of 1980

          Sigh.

          The whole student loan debacle is unacceptable.

          Yet we accept it.

        • Becca

          This article is incredibly inaccurate!! It is not the reason vets are struggling to find jobs. Yes, student debt is increasing and vet salaries are not, but that is not the only focus. While many Americans are willingly spending hundreds of dollars on “day care” and cute toys, they view veterinarians as money grabbers. The majority of people struggle to pay veterinary bills, and veterinarians try to charge as little as possible to bring in clients. In addition, online pharmacies and Walmart are bringing income from prescriptions from the clinics (I have no issue with either, it’s just a fact my profession has to deal with, and find new ways to create income and value to our services). Low incoming money, paired with the current state of the economy leaves many vet students looking for jobs in big cities without luck. Plenty of jobs are available in rural areas and with programs like the USDA. 8 years ago, students from my school had 3 job offers EACH. Times have changed.

          If I was mobile (the fiance has a solid job, so I’m going to him), I would not be worried; however, there are 10 clinics in the entire county I’ll be looking in- 2 of which I couldn’t stand to work at, 3 others that have recent hires.

          Sorry for the rant, but that article really irked everyone at my school. Here is a response from a student at Cornell (not my school): http://www.cornellsun.com/section/opinion/content/2013/03/08/parandekar-working-bear-staying-aware-vet-school-problems

          • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

            Oh yes Becca you are so right… I would love to work in a rural area, but as it is, Mark is the one with the job right now, and it would be very hard to find a place where both of us would find a job. The jobs for him (he is an engineer, works as a project manager) tend to be near cities, the ideal jobs for me are… at the other side of the country. Not being so mobile, and trying to enlarge our family being priority number one, makes it complicated.

            (And yeah, people do not feel like paying for a vet is worth their money, they tend to complain, or want “advice” for free, they feel asking for a proper / adjusted vaccination plan adjusted to the lifestyle and specific conditions of their pet, or other, similar (eg nutrition, etc) advice is not worth paying a consultation .Someone suggested I start a “consultation” online. answering all of this questions on an email-based basis, and I was like what! Anamnesis and a proper exploration are basic. You have to see, touch, feel the animal)

          • Becca

            Trying to reply to Amanda: my fiancé is an engineer too! Working as a mechanical engineer, looking to become a supervisor in the next year.

            I wish you the best of luck conceiving. I hope all of these good thoughts from this post float your way and help you out!

            And I can’t imagine an online consultation! What a crazy (crazy bad, not crazy good) idea.

          • Sarah

            The flip side to your comment about rural vet positions abounding is that the rural places are struggling to find large animal vets, which is often what we need. I’m a cattle rancher and the two vets are around both 60 plus. Many of the people we know who go on to be vets pick small animal, because they feel its much more lucrative, and with student loan debt, they need the money. We can keep up with the day to day vet stuff ourselves, but man oh man do I wish there was a large animal vet around here that was under 60! I’m not sure what we’ll do once they retire.

            Best of luck, Amanda!

      • NTB

        In a place like CO, where we have a top vet school, there are lots of graduates which makes it more challenging to find a job. When my dad graduated vet school in ’83, there was a shortage of jobs. He worked three part-time positions to support our family. Many told him that he would not be able to ‘make it as a vet in Denver’ because the market was over-saturated.

        …But nearly 30 years later, he has many successful years of being a vet and owning his own business. He ignored the naysayers who told him it couldn’t be done. It was hard in the beginning but he stuck with it, and despite the economy and many other factors, he succeeded. I am really proud of him. I think one of the things that helped him was defining his own specialty and being more of an entrepreneur about the way he approached vet science. But everyone is different. As one person pointed out, lawyers and other professionals are coming out of school with absurd debt. How are we supposed to make it? I don’t have any answers, but I know it’s becoming more and more difficult for may different kinds of professionals in this ‘new normal’ economy.

      • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

        Well, there is the “issue” mentioned by NTB… the market seems to be oversaturated.
        Already for that reason it is hard to get into vet school at all.

        @Class of 1980, I have also been playing with the idea of starting a mobile vet service working on call, or from 5-9 which is when people that work are at home. But for that I would need to work together with a clinic (and it seems impossible to get in a clinic at all).

        And to specialize you need a few (1-2) years of clinical experience or a rotation at a hospital (both very hard to get if no one gives you a chance). The alternative is leaving to a country like Turkey or India and working in a shelter to get all that experience fast, but it is difficult to prioritize doing such a thing while trying to conceive at the same time…

        You are right, nutrition is a very important and interesting field.

  • http://thevanillabride@blogspot.com Sonarisa

    As someone who has been looking for long-term full time employment for the past couple years, I really appreciate this post. Thanks for reminding us that the little things shine, even when life seems rather dark. I’ll send thoughts your way! Enjoy the journey!

  • http://landlockedlove.com Kelly

    More than anything I am learning that we only have to take it one day at a time, that living in the moment, being present is always within our reach.

    This is one of those things that–intellectually–I understand. But I struggle so much putting it into practice in my life.

    Wishing you joy in all things, big and small.

    • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

      Oh it is a process…. and it took me a while to get there, it is like these struggles have made me aware of our blessings. And of course I still have days where I need to get a good cry. But it is also a matter of actively choosing to notice the things that are here today. It’s not always easy.

  • Class of 1980

    Amanda,

    You are clearly multi-talented and can do many things. Look at that cake!!!

    But I hope you do get a chance to become a vet.

  • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

    Lovely. When I begin to consider applying for a job working the beverage cart at the golf course because there aren’t any jobs in my field here (and then worry that I can’t even get that job), I will read this again. And I’ll remember to find joy in making dinner (I have so much time, I can even make the really chopping-intensive things on weeknights!) and being able to learn my way around Okinawa and practice my Japanese in all of my copious amounts of free time.
    Wishing you fulfillment, whatever form that takes.

  • http://juliahalprinjackson.com Julia

    Amanda, I love this. Your attitude and approach to life is truly inspiring. Congratulations on all of your achievements (how many languages do you speak? and you are trained as a veterinarian? how cool!) and best of luck to you.

  • Granola

    I really needed this today. Thanks for the eloquent and wise perspective.

    *hugs*

    p.s. is that the Ali Hussein Mosque outside Cairo? I love that place.

    • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

      It’s actually outside the Blue Mosque in Istanbul… it’s beautiful. We haven’t been to Cairo (yet :p )

  • Julia

    “I always thought we should fight for what we want. I was taught that if you do what you love, if you do your best, the opportunities will come, that it was possible to love your job, to do what you like, that you should not limit your dreams. Maybe I am living in fantasyland. Maybe it is stupid to keep hoping to work in my field of study. I wish I had a magic ball, I wish I could see the future. I wish someone would tell me when or how this will end. I wish I could know that if I wait long enough I will get there. Or that no matter how long I wait, it won’t happen. I do not mind working a “different” job, though there is a part of me that feels it would kill my soul, and I feel like I am dying a bit already. But this is real life.”

    ME TOO. :-( My fiance and I, as well as more than a few friends our age, are underemployed despite being well-trained and experienced. It is hard to appreciate the less tangible aspects of our lives as markers of a different kind of success when you have been raised to equate your career with your sense of self, but you are totally right that we need to pay attention to the things that are going well. So often, we judge people’s lives by the external markers of success, such as having a “good job”, but we never know whether that’s the only thing going well in their lives! We do have great support systems, and we still have hope (although I had a bit of a breakdown last week, where I was sure that we will never move out of my mother’s basement because we live in an expensive city, we will never get full-time jobs that take advantage of our extensive education, and I have to have a kid sometime in the next 3 years, and then what would be the point of over leaving? Not my finest hour.)

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  • http://www.verhext.com tamera

    <3 Thanks for this. You have accomplished so much & I hope your path gets smoother soon. I try to remind myself that "success" can be measured so many different ways.

  • Rebekah

    “How are we supposed to get experience if no one gives us a chance, takes a risk on us?”

    Yes. I feel you here.

    But your overarching attitude is so beautiful that I just want to keep reading your post over and over and absorb it as my own. Thank you.

  • http://Weehermione.blogspot.com Hayley

    “And that hope, loving each other fiercely and actively searching for the little happy moments ” — you’re so right when you mention the need to actively seek out the good. Too often I’m passive about it, and my default state is definitely Not Happy Not Thankful Eff All Joy. Thank you lovely lady.

    • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

      I know… it gets hard. I used to be very down about all of this, but then… I don’t know it’s like I saw that I could continue to wallow and be sad or I could start focusing on our blessings…

  • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

    Thanks to each and everyone of you for your kind comments and support :)
    I really appreciated reading this (I was out the whole day and just arrived home). It means a lot !

  • Asya

    I truly identify with what this post says and I feel like you just wrote the very words within me! Who are you? What’s your story? I can’t wait to find out more!

  • Percy

    Thank you so much for this post. Although my circumstances are different, I too wish that I had a crystal ball; it’s not that I expect life to be trouble free, but it would be good to know how long the tough times will last. My husband described it as being in prison for an indeterminate sentence – could be three months, could be three years. And I think that’s the hardest part of it all, not knowing how much longer you have to be strong and keep grinding it out.

  • Judy

    Thank you so much for this post today. I’m at the beginning of my annual 5 (6? –who knows) layoff and while I love my field (theatre costume crafts) I am starting to feel like it will never get me anywhere (other than being perpetually broke). I’ve tried to move into other fields, but there seems to be so many people looking for work, no one seems to be willing to take a chance on a career changer like me. I’m going to have to keep this in my back pocket and pull it out when I start to forget the small joys–which there are many….they just can be really hard to see sometimes.

  • http://www.koruwedding.com Koru Kate {Koru Wedding}

    Love & appreciate this post! SO much.

  • Trena

    Wow. I needed this. I am currently unemployed, and being in a unique field (interior design) has proved to be a hard employment battle. I’ve been trying to take it day-by-day, but I still find myself suddenly blubbering to my fiance about feeling like a failure. I truly believe that you can achieve your goals, no matter how far-fetched they seem, so I believe we both can still do it, along with so many other people who are having a hard time with this.

  • http://www.asafemooring.blogspot.com Kirsty

    Amanda, this is a lovely, thoughtful post. I hope so much that the future brings you good things, and I’m glad that you’re finding joy in the way things are now.

  • Kara E

    Joy in the little things is a Big Thing, indeed. Best of luck on finding the big, but I hope you never lose sight of the joy in the little things.

  • http://rebekahwolf.com Rebekah

    I completely identify with your story. It can be so hard to remember that we aren’t one-dimensional, we aren’t defined by our careers. And it’s difficult to keep going down a road when you aren’t sure where it will lead you. Trust your instinct and keep going! You will make it.

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