(Almost) Birthday Reflections in Hanoi

I often like to pretend there’s an alternate reality where I never went on Remote Year.  I never saw the Instagram ad, or thought it was a hoax, or maybe even applied and was rejected.  It allows for good perspective when I imagine what Alternate Casey would be up to right now, right this very minute.  Sometimes it’s easy, routine, like a Monday morning where I’d be driving to work instead of walking along a lake in Vietnam, dodging motorbikes.  It’s especially easy watching videos of my friends’ weekends, Oh for Halloween I’d be in Hoboken in a last-minute costume dancing like a fool and probably drinking too much vodka, as opposed to being at Dracula’s castle in Romania in a last-minute costume dancing like a fool and definitely drinking too much vodka.

I thought about Alternate Casey today, as I make birthday plans (or rather, my best bud Josh makes our joint birthday plans, and I am just a pain in the ass).  What would she be doing on her 30th birthday?  How would she be feeling?

I came up with a few likely scenarios.  One, she would be in Pennsylvania, at work at my old job, getting ‘surprised’ with cake (but more likely fruit salad) in the mail room by my amazing team, and receiving a singing birthday call from my Nana and Granddad.  I’ve had that birthday before, and it was very pleasant, and I’d end up getting dinner with some friends and going home to my cold apartment (heat turns on in January) to snuggle my cat.  Not exactly the stuff of birthday legend, though I miss that cat fiercely.  Alternate Casey might be feeling mildly content but probably a little lonely, probably with a suspicion that something is missing.

Another scenario would be what I’ve threatened to do for years: drag my best girlfriends out to Las Vegas for a blowout.  The reality is that Vegas, while still one of my fave cities (true), is cold in December and the pools are closed, so it’s not an ideal time to visit.  So I imagine I’d have a handful of quite chilly drop-dead-gorgeous ladies in tow, walking the strip in impractical heels.  This would make for some funny stories, but perhaps would not be the most fulfilling birthday.  PSA to those girlfriends: my hypothetical bachelorette party IS happening in Vegas.  You have years to plan for this – no excuses.

But if I’m honest, Alternate Casey is probably about to celebrate her birthday with Mom and Dad, and maybe Austin, Tori, and Erin.  The Carr-Jones family.  With beef burgundy, some really nice cabernet sauvignon, an apple crumble pie for dessert, and a heartfelt rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ on a call with my grandparents.  This is probably one of the only times I would like to temporarily swap places with Alternate Casey, just for the day.

Just for the day.  Because truly, the real me is more comfortable with turning 30 than I ever thought I would be. No house, no kids, freelancing and entrepreneuring (yes I’m making that a word) instead of a full time job, living out of a suitcase and thoroughly depending on a group of people I met only 6 months ago.  Not exactly a scenario I ever had in mind, but it appears to be exactly what would cure me of the keeping up with the Joneses blues.  I’m half Jones, so how’s about you try keeping up with me??


Cambodia Saturday!


P.S. The best part is, no matter where I am on December 1st, I can count on Nana and Granddad to call and sing.

Sometimes I like working in a cubical

Confession time: Sometimes I really like working in a cubical.


Silly huh?  I break free from the confines of a structured corporate job, have the ability to work from a variety of different places every month, and yet: cube.

In the two and a half months I’ve been traveling with Remote Year, I’ve worked from a dorm room, several cafes, my living room, an airplane, a terrace, a rooftop, the beach, a park, a Gothic castle, and three different coworking spaces.  And yet, in my current coworking space called 7AY, I have chosen a cubical over the long communal tables of the first floor or the highly coveted couches and cushions underneath a berber tent on the roof.


I’ll give you that it’s a nice cubical.  Not 3 solid walls blocking all light.  I picked one by a window.  It’s clean.


So I have to conclude that the stigma against working a ‘desk job’ isn’t about the desk itself.

So what is it?  What makes a ‘desk job’ a desk job?  Plenty of jobs physically have a desk.  CEOs have a desk but I don’t think they’d ever refer to their work as a desk job.  Teachers have desks, though they rarely sit at them.  So it must imply something else.  A ‘desk job’ seems to symbolizes grunt work, isolation, and a lack of independence, but I don’t think that’s necessarily true.  We should rename them to be Jobs-that-are-physically-performed-while-sitting-at-a-desk-but-have-nothing-to-do-with-said-desk.

I admit that, unlike some of the other Remotes, it wouldn’t kill me to go back and work an office job again after this.  The act of ‘going to the office’ isn’t what bothers me.  A commute doesn’t bother me.  Waking up early doesn’t bother me.  Repetitive conversations with coworkers about weekend plans don’t bother me .  Actually I really like those conversations.  The community of colleagues and interaction with others is what draws me to a job – me working in isolation on my couch would never work out.

I hear people say they hate all desk jobs.  Do you?  Do you really?  Have you tried them all?  What’s with the generalization?  The desk job isn’t about the desk.  It’s about THE JOB.  It’s about the tasks you perform; it’s about independence or collaboration or both.  It’s about getting satisfaction and pride from your work.  It’s about your boss and your coworkers and your work/life balance and feeling appreciated and respected and treated as a professional.  That’s what you’re looking for, that’s what you should prioritize, and that’s how you find a job you love.

What drew me to this remote lifestyle – and what would bother me about going back to an office job – isn’t the ‘lack of desk’ remote-ness of it all.  Apart from the travel, I joined Remote Year for the push to find professional freedom — the opportunity to be my own boss, set my own hours, and directly impact my own income.  And not just the ‘opportunity’ do to so – I am forcing myself to be successful only because I have no other option.  Make it work, or go home.  Get in or get out.  If I want to stay with RY I have to hustle.  This week I launched my own business in addition to working on several other projects.  It’s a resume review business with a service-minded approach: for every resume I review for a fee, I will turn around and provide the same service to a military vet for free.  This idea has been floating around in my head for THREE YEARS.  I created the website a year ago, and still it just sat.  Sat and sat and sat and made me feel guilty every day for not having the time (MAKING THE TIME) to roll it out.  And now, I’ve launched it.  Now the hustle really begins.

Just because I’m not tied to a desk doesn’t mean I don’t play by the rules.  I work, sometimes on weekends, sometimes from a desk, and sometimes doing work I don’t particularly feel inspired to do at the moment.  But my boss is a hardass, and she says I better get moving.  I’d tell her to go jump in a lake, but then I’d have a back and forth conversation with myself and for everyone’s sake it’s best to avoid that.

Tomorrow I might go with the floor cushions, but in the end I have work to do and it doesn’t matter if it gets done on a floor or a desk or in the middle of the Sahara.

Today, I chose a cube.



***With 7 years of Human Resources recruiting experience, I’ve launched http://www.JumpStartResume.com in order to provide professional resume review services while at the same time giving back to those who’ve served our country.