No Jacket Required [ 2004-03-01, 5:29 p.m. ]

Spring is here. Forget the calendar, the groundhog, or the lingering piles of gray snow and dirt that buffer the curb and refuse to melt. Spring is here, and I have proof. On Saturday I had my first tank-top sighting of í04.

In New York, a tank-top in late February is grounds for Ė if not exactly celebration, per se, well, at least a conciliatory head-nod of appreciation for the good showing. I mean, it was February 28th, and this gentleman (yes, it was a man-tank. An issue to be addressed shortly) was proudly sporting his white, loose-fitting tank-top. At 55 degrees that afternoon, no sleeves were needed, no jacket required.

That the tank top was white with a design on the front of an angry guinea pig and the words ďGerbil Defense LeagueĒ is beside the point. As are the manís pasty white arms, acid-washed jeans and red high-top Converse sneakers. Instead of the potentially cringe-worthy fashion disaster he could have been, I prefer to welcome him as a harbinger of the impending vernal equinox.

Later that afternoon, the first Tank-Top Sighting of í04 was followed by the first Shorts Sighting of í04, the first pedicure-flaunting, and my first allergy attack. Trees will be budding, flowers blooming, midriffs bared and bikini lines freshly waxed in anticipation of beaches and spring flings. Sweet jesus, it is time.

And tank-top-wearing middle-aged man? I salute you. I am sick of the cold, sick of my enormous winter coat and my gloves and my runny nose and I am sick of chapped hands and sleeping in layers to stay warm, and I am sick of hat hair and slipping on icy sidewalks. Saturday was the first day I have worn a non-sweater top in ages, and as I walked down Atlantic Avenue basking in the semi-warmth, you reminded me that more sunny days lay ahead of us. You also reminded me of the German exchange student that came to my high school in 1989 and wore girlsí jeans with his yellow high-top Reeboks, but thatís beside the point. Rock on, tank-top man.

Spring means spring cleaning, or at least it should. As much as I would like to turn our apartment inside out and start fresh, for me spring cleaning is more metaphorical. This spring, I am cleaning out my cluttered closet of intentions and career ambitions, and attempting to re-launch myself into the job market. I have spent the better part of a year taking time ďoffĒ (if you can count working full-time in a busy store a break), and now itís time for me to sort out my goals and ambitions, and hopefully hone in on a more focused career path.

I hate the notion of a career path with my entire being, hate it for all the lack of risk-taking and lack of exploration and limited room for mistakes it implies. I hate the notion that a career is a path Ė linear, allowing one to move forward or back. The only other option being to step off the path, where the sceneryís great but the pay sucks. I hate that there are so few resources for people looking to change careers, save for graduate school. Entry-level jobs abound for new grads, but it seems almost counter-intuitive to offer jobs (and career ďpathsĒ) to 21-year-olds, when it often takes years and more than a few job changes to get a sense of what job functions and career fields are most appealing. Our 20ís should be about eliminating what we donít want (the wrong jobs, bad men, toxic friends, stupid t-shirts with dumb saying, body glitter) so that we can embrace our adult selves and spend our 30ís, 40ís and 50ís living the life we most desire. Is it naÔve to think this?

Because I don't consider myself to be a naÔve person, but I really, truly, honestly do not understand why it is so hard to change careers. But for whatever reason, hard it is.

And Iím jumping into the water, calling and emailing old contacts, meeting with anyone who has time for me, and hoping something will turn up. Itís exhausting and terrifying and frustrating, because just like all of you, I know that if given the chance, I could kick ass at the right job. Itís finding that person to give me that chance that has me stumped.

So Iím trying to get organized, focused and fueled for the spring. As much as Iíve loved working in my boutique, I need a little bit more right now. I need more structure and opportunity for growth, more career development, a more regular schedule and frankly, more money. Itís not just me anymore, which means that if my marriage is to remain a priority (and it is), I need a job that is more compatible with Kentís schedule. We need weekends together, and holidays off. And I need to make enough money so that he has room to step off the path and enjoy the scenery for a while, whenever heís ready.

So Iím job hunting. Thank god spring is almost here. Because I need a margarita.

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