The Widening of the Hips and Other Ailments

I am an administrative assistant by trade. My “trade” was referred to as a secretary once upon a time. That is no longer acceptable. I don’t know if it’s politically incorrect or demeaning, or what. But don’t call an administrative assistant a “secretary.” Or you might get punched in the eyebrow.

I have a secretarial “degree” (aka “certificate”). I went to a secretarial school. Now they are as extinct as the pterodactyl. It seems these days you need a degree to be a secretary.

Ahem…an administrative assistant.

Some companies will only hire you if you have a two- or four-year degree. While others will hire you based on experience. You know, as long as you started working around the time Eisenhower was in office.

But then you’re too old.

Vicious circle.

I got lucky. I found a wonderful company to work for. I have no four- or two-year degree. And I’m kinda old. Ok, so maybe not dinosaur old, but I’m no spring chicken either. My twenty plus year secretarial/admin experience is acceptable.

Anyway, my profession has its perils, believe it or not. And I’m finding out quickly what those perils are.

Back in the day, people would complain and warn me about the dreaded “Secretarial Spread.” It sounds obscene (don’t google it, because what popped up would have made even Hugh Hefner blush). But it’s not what you might think.

The official definition according to Urban Dictionary:

“Secretarial spread means sitting down for a long period of time while the hind-end spreads outward in order to accommodate the chair. “

Sounds awful, right?

Well, it is.

Back in the day, I didn’t worry about it too much. I was young, I exercised and moved a lot. I wore high heels and ran in them.

No, seriously. I did.

Now if I so much as put on a pair of heels that measure higher than half an inch, I run the risk of being hospitalized.

Fast forward 30+ years and there are all kinds of reports and studies on what can happen if you sit all day. In a nutshell, it reduces your lifespan. The instructor at the gym referred to sitting as “the new smoking.”

The only time I touched a cigarette was back in 1982. And I didn’t even inhale.

I swear. 

No, I wasn’t hanging out with Clinton.

Since working back in the profession for which I was trained after a very long respite, I’m comprehending what they meant by the “Secretarial Spread.”

I’m comprehending big (no pun intended).

When I wrote the first draft of this post months ago, I was sedentary.

“Sedentary.” A word I never thought in a million years I would use to describe myself.

But yet, that’s what I was.

I got up to go to the bathroom or the water cooler during the day.  When I got home, I took off the bra, put on my “non-yoga” yoga pants, and moved my ass to the couch.

That was it.

Ok, so I still get home, take off the bra, and move my ass to the couch. Because I’m tired. I’m just TIRED.

But during the day, I’ve been exercising. I go to the gym at work, I do stretching exercises, planks, push-ups, what have you, in the morning before I leave for work.

And it feels great.

But the sitting has caused me to develop hip flexor problems. Oh.my.god. Does that hurt! Had I not been “sedentary” for so long, I don’t think that would have happened.

This hip flexor situation has since given me lower back pain. You know, because my back is compensating for the job my hip flexors aren’t doing.

I think. I mean, I’m no doctor, but this makes sense. Right?

My abdominal wall is also weak. Which is not helping my cause. But I’m working on that.

I’m working on getting myself to a good place health-wise. It’s time. I decided a wheel chair, or even a cane, would not be a good accessory for me.

I mean, I don’t really accessorize anyway, so why start now?

One more thing…

The second part of that definition, according to Urban Dictionary:

“It can be changed with exercise, and activity away from sitting down on one’s spread for too many hours a day.”

I had this thing called a “Veridesk” installed on my desktop at work. It has levers and allows you to lift the thing up so you can stand while you work. It’s a pain in the ass to pull up, but the way I see it, I’m also getting some upper body strength training in.

Getting into shape at work. That brings the expression “multi-tasking” to a whole new level.

If I save one person from the dreaded “Secretarial Spread” then I have done my job.

You’re welcome.

Times They Have a-Changed

That Bob is one smart dude.
That Bob is one smart dude.

There was a job posting yesterday. For an Administrative Assistant/Receptionist position.  Here’s the job description, in a nutshell:

  • Greet guests
  • Answer the phone
  • Sort and distribute the mail
  • Order supplies
  • Receive and distribute faxes
  • Stock the printers with paper
  • Maintain calendar and contacts
  • Print crap
  • Order lunch
  • Keep the reception area “tidy”
  • Type some letters

Would you like to know what the prerequisite was?  A College Degree.  To order lunch and keep the printer full of paper.  Really?  Because that right there is some important shit.  And apparently, the only way to learn that important shit is to spend thousands of dollars on a 4-year degree.  By the way, I had no idea that there was a class called Receiving Faxes 101.  Who knew?

The way I see it, Experience seems a bit more important.  Let’s see…keeping things tidy, maintaining a calendar, ordering lunch, answering the phone and opening mail is something I’ve been doing every single day since the day I moved out of mommy and daddy’s house 21 years ago.

The rest?  I have a resume with about 15 years of hard experience.  I worked as an Executive Assistant for almost half of those years.  And I acquired these jobs without a College Degree.  Then I quit to raise a child.  I have since come to find that 98% of the postings I see, require something much higher than a high school diploma.

A fellow dance mom that I know came into my Retail Job last week.  She was surprised to see me working there.  It turns out, she is in the same boat.  She is now working in a retail environment.  Like me, she has an administrative background and used to work in an office.  She quit her job to become a mom.  This is what she said, “I am being punished for raising my children.”

I’m not sure we are being punished so much as the rules have just changed.  A lot.  But I do have to say it gets my goat a little.  I’m sorry, but it takes experience to book extensive international travel for your boss without major-league screwing up.  It takes experience to balance several schedules and to talk to some pretty major heavyweights.  It takes experience to be one step ahead of, well, everything, all the time.

If I ever get into the door for a job interview, I may bring along this attitude.  Think it will get me somewhere?  Sure, as long as I bring along a sandwich.

Go To School

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Except I can spell. I really can.

I have been looking for a position that utilizes my skills as an administrative assistant for a long time.  The problem is, there doesn’t seem to be anything available.  I was starting to feel a little self-conscious.  Is it my age?  My lack of work experience these past few years as I was home raising my child?  Or the fact that most admin positions I applied for required at least an Associates Degree?

My parents always said my nonchalant attitude about school would bite me in the ass.  I can still hear their voices — “You really should try to do better in school, you’ll be sorry one day.”  “You are wrong and I don’t care” was my generic response.  I was having way too much fun cutting class, getting into trouble and well, having fun.  Who needs an education?  It turns out I needed an education.

I feel like I am limited to what I can do because of my lack of education.  (Unlike Paul simon, my lack of education is hurting me some.  Too bad I can’t sing or take good pictures.)  Hence, I have spent the last 15 years shoving the education thing down the kids throat.  I made a game of it.  Up until her first day of pre-school I made her believe it was The Most Fun Ever.  Going to school to learn was going to be better than playing a game of Cherry-O’s.  Me, the girl who bragged if she got anything higher than a “D” on a test, was telling her 4 year old that school is better than a ride at Disney World.

And she actually believed me.  She takes school pretty seriously.  As for me, I know it’s not too late.  My bestie — mid-forty something — just graduated from Nursing School.  I am in awe of her.  She is my hero.  But I shall live vicariously through her.  Because even though I may preach it, I do not want to practice it.  For me, I have missed the boat.  For me, school is not a ride at Disney World.

So, I found a job.  It is not an admin job.  I’ve kinda given up on that for now.  I’m doing something I haven’t done in close to 30 years.  And it’s called Retail.  Stay tuned and I’ll tell you more about it.  Just so you know, that’s why I haven’t been blogging.  Because I’m exhausted.  So go to school kids.  You will need that education.  I get the feeling you will need it for everything.  And I mean everything.