Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hiding places

Today was the second-to-last day at my job.  By the time I post this, it might be my last day.

In addition to finishing up last projects and creating a sort of roadmap to everything I'm leaving behind there - all written out in crisp bullet points - I went about the ritual of cleansing my computer.  This computer was with me through it all - the hope that this job would be the right fit, the bursts of stress and activity, the long stretches of boredom and quiet solitude, and the growing knowledge that this job would never ever work well for me.

Today I went about erasing the evidence of my hiding places.  Anyone with a job as solitary and dysfunctional as mine would need to develop some coping tools outside of frantically searching the help-wanted ads.

Most of my hiding places were blog addresses I had bookmarked.  Lots and lots and lots of them.  (I have not yet jumped into blog-readers or whatever it's called where you subscribe to a blog.)  I went through the list and  recorded some addresses for safekeeping, and let others go.  It's strange to follow a blogger's life for over a year and then today I decide not to keep the address, knowing I will never look into her world ever again.  

For some of them, the deletions were freeing, like getting a hair cut where you feel yourself getting lighter.  No I don't need that healthy eating Paleo runner's blog.  Or that one from when I thought I'd get really serious about weaving.  Or that blogger who is talented but keeps posting pictures of herself modeling outfits.  For others, I knew I needed to keep that connection.  For those special gems, I thought of how much I've enjoyed their stories and want to know what happens next.  It's strange but I actually care about these people I've never met, who without knowing it acted as a refuge in a strange part of my life - my coworkers in a weird job where I've had almost zero coworkers and almost zero supervision.

Tomorrow I need to finish the computer-cleansing by putting on a jump drive the files I'd created about what was to be my escape plan.  I was going to start my own editing and writing business, with its own blog.  This blog you're reading was supposed to be that, but somewhere in there I realized I just wanted to tell quirky stories - I didn't want to be a brand or run a business.  (Though wow there are a lot of people out there trying to make money off of unhappy people who want to quit their jobs and be bloggers. E-books galore! SEO webinars! The clunky word of doom - monetization!)

At the time I made the never-launched website for what was to be my "business," I didn't know what the next chapter of this story would be.  I was poking around in the dark, trying to find the way forward.  Now I know that, at least for now, this is the next chapter: I am not starting a business. I am not pregnant (yet). I am quitting my job.  I've gotten a new job, as a grantwriter, fairly similar to the job I had before I went to grad school.  The job promises to be non-solitary, and the impression I have so far is that there will not be time to read multiple blogs per day.  This could be really good for me.  I hope I like it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Box of Rain

Dream last night: I'm in a grocery store and my first-ever boyfriend sees me and asks if he can put me down as a reference for a job he's trying to get as a school-teacher.  His voice and the cadence of his speech is spot-on to real life.  I notice in shock that he only has one arm - his right arm ends below a thin bicep.  I don't ask how he lost an arm.

The book I'm reading this morning - Wild, a memoir by Cheryl Strayed (excellent so far) has a chapter called Box of Rain.  And I remember that old phase of my life, when I knew all the words to a song like Box of Rain. When it seemed significant that the Allman Brothers had a song containing my name.  When I wore long skirts and burned incense and dated the much-older hippy guy who thought so many things were beautiful and said so.

Yesterday the ring I've worn every day since 8th grade (minus a brief re-sizing at the jeweler) broke as I was doing laundry.  The prongs caught and the garnet gemstone rocketed out and has not been found.  It left an empty socket of a ring with only prongs.  It looked like a weapon, or a sea creature.  The ring was a gift from my grandmother who's been dead for many years.  In eighth grade it was the nicest thing I'd ever been given, and I felt like a princess wearing a real gemstone.

I had feared the gemstone got displaced when I resized the ring and they persuaded me to buy a new stone.  The old one was too scratched, they said.  The new gem was a garnet like the old, but the ring looked different when I got it back.  I had asked the jeweler to look at it again and make sure it was secure, and she told me it was.  I knew it was not secure.  I could have taken it in to get fixed but I never did.  Do you want to know how absurd women's relationships with their bodies are?  In the midst of a wave of terrible thoughts about The Ring Incident, I had a flash of self-hatred where I told myself that if my fingers and whole damn body hadn't gone and gotten so big and fat since eighth grade, I never would have had to change the ring and its stone would have been secure and I would still have it on my naked finger that I keep touching in distress that something's missing.  I quickly reminded myself that it is absurd and sad to think that anyone would or should stay the same size they were in eighth grade.  My right hand is smooth and strange to me.

Two more days at my current job, and then a whole new phase will click into motion like a new gear on a ten-speed bike.  I kind of want to buy an opal and put it in the old prongs.  Maybe it's time for something new.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

So You Think You Can Dance makes me cry

It hasn't been taking much to make me tear up lately.  But man, some of the dancers on So You Think You Can Dance just - bam! - make me start crying.  It's just so beautiful.

Is there any other show that highlights real art and beauty and compliments people for the gorgeous thing that just came out of their soul?  I can't believe what people can do - how strong and gorgeous people are - how they hold the pose just one beat longer because they know it will break your heart.  Sometimes I think this is the most spiritual show on television.  I mean, it's stupid and silly and contrived too, but when it's good, it's good and there are these gorgeous moments that don't even feel right on TV. 

And you have gangbanger-looking tough kids doing art that makes the old, white judges cry and cheer and swear.  It makes me love young people and the diversity of this country. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wanting and knowing

Had a dream last night that I've had before and which highlights an odd thing about being married.  I am somewhere, and there's some vague guy, and I just know he's into me.  I can feel it in the air.  He wants me, and I know it, and he knows I know it.  It's those moments before anything at all even happens when it just hangs in the air like when you know it's going to rain.  And that's the whole dream. 

I wake up knowing that I am happily married and remembering that that is a feeling I've had in my past.  I don't get that feeling any more, ring firmly on increasingly-chubby finger.  I'm thrilled to not be dating.  But it's kind of nice to visit that feeling in a dream.  Few things are like that feeling.  Love is stronger and more important, but it doesn't feel like standing on that precipice.

The last time I had that feeling in real life was on my first date with my husband.  If this were a fairy tale, we would be having these dreams about each other, but I guess that's not the way it works.


Postscript on my recent "Invisible" post:

I go home, act like a freaky jerk to my husband, he thinks I'm mad at him and he can't figure out what he did wrong (since he did nothing wrong), we're weird until finally I cry, explain that I don't know why I'm upset, and then he's really, really nice to me.  The end.

In the midst of me finally crying - which I had been needing to do all day - it was revealed to me why I was so upset.  *snot-gasp-sob* "I feel like I'm shaming him..." *wah-boo-hoo-snot*.  It's amazing how sometimes you need to let yourself break open to discover what the truth is.  I've been feeling that, even though of course I have the right to quit my job, it seems like my leaving has exposed to others what really goes on here.  I feel like I'm revealing a secret about my boss to the world and that it is shameful.  He may be dysfunctional, but he's also been very kind to me, and I guess I feel bad about this.  My subconscious is volunteering to torture itself on his behalf to compensate.  Healthy!


This morning I discovered that I have a two hour conference call related to volunteer work that I need to participate in when I am supposed to be on vacation.  boo.  This is the worst-planned vacation ever.  We still have no idea where we're going or what we want to do.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Bad thing: This morning at the college where I work for exactly five more days, the coffee shop was closed.

Good thing: My boss volunteered to drive to Starbucks and buy me a coffee.  (Okaaaaaay, thanks.)  Internal monologue: Is he acting weird because I'm leaving, or is he just being nice?

Weird thing: He returns with my very nice coffee.  He ran into someone there who works in my hallway but not my program.  Turns out, this guy - a man who I have said hello to each time I've passed him in our hallway for over 12 months - never knew that there was another employee working in this office.  That feeling I've been having here, of invisibility? It is not an illusion. No one even knows I'm here! 

I remember my first week here, when I was waiting for my boss to take me around and introduce me to everyone in the hallway.  Slowly, it dawned on me that he was never going to introduce me.  After more than a year, I still do not know most of the people in my hallway.  And now I'm leaving, and they will not even know the difference.

Good thing: When I email a woman who had been hard on me in a previous meeting to let her know I will be leaving soon, she replies that she is truly sad I am leaving, hopes we can still work together somehow, and was impressed with me.

Bad thing: I realize that when I thought she was being hard on me in that meeting, she was really just being wary of my boss, who she knew previously.

Bad thing: Spent lunch break bounced around in the robot phone system of my health insurance.  Told them my birth-date and address six times.  After 25 minutes, when I was near tears, I was told that I need to ask H.R., not the health insurance.

Bad thing: Realized the one month of COBRA I need to buy so there is no gap in my health insurance is $330 more than the already-high cost I was anticipating.  I think I need to just suck it up and buy it, but spending money makes me feel crazy and out of control.

Bad thing: Realized that if I had tacked on two more days to the day I declared to be my last day of work here, I would have had insurance coverage with no gap and no extra cost.  Those will be an expensive two days.  We were supposed to go on a trip.  We still might, but on Friday my husband has an unexpected day-long meeting that is screwing everything up.  I'm stressed out about trying to plan a trip this quickly.  We can't decide where to go.  I made a chiropractor appointment and have already cancelled once.  I think I need to cancel again as we shift our travel plans back another day.

Good thing: Had a meeting with someone who gifted me a book she wrote, which is something I am interested in reading.

Bad thing: She only gave me the book to smooth over the fact that she was backing out of the project she had agreed to do, which had been her idea in the first place.  Nothing gets done around here.  Nothing.

Bad thing: I'm having this gloomy feeling that I am doing leaving wrong.  That I resigned wrong, am inquiring about insurance wrong, etc., etc.  This is stupid, but it's there just the same. It's that part of me that likes to feel like everyone approves of me, and I feel like I'm being a bad girl in quitting my job.  Oh, this damn guilt, will it ever leave me be?  I deserve this, I know I do. 

Yesterday, my boss told me he had thought our program would run itself.  That is absurd, and really validates that of course I need to move on.  A whole new thing awaits me.  I'm sipping the cold Starbucks coffee from this morning, wondering what lies ahead.

Friday, May 18, 2012


After much hand-wringing, yes, I am starting to get excited about getting the new job.  Why do I have to lose my shit before allowing myself to be happy?  This could be really good. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

change is weird

The feeling in the air is so heavy.  Or maybe I'm just imagining that.  Yesterday I got the job and called my husband crying, so he couldn't even tell if I was happy or sad.  I can't tell if I'm happy or sad.  I'm so worried about what if it seems like I'm screwing over my current situation by leaving.  So weird to tell people.  I don't know how much I should say on a blog.  Suffice it to say that right now things feel heavy and complicated.  At least yesterday's pregnancy test was negative.  But wait, maybe I wanted it to be positive?  Oh man I'm so confused.

Fashionista Reality Check

Monday's CBS News had a segment about how, in this economy, it is challenging for recent college grads to find full-time employment at a level appropriate for their degree.  Many are living with their parents, working part-time, unemployed, or working in jobs that don't require a college degree.  I get that.  Times are tough, and it's really hard to land that first job out of college.

My quibble is with who they chose to interview for this story, a 23-year-old English major who is living at home with her parents while trying to get a full-time job in the fashion industry.  She is working as a part-time intern for Fashionista and working part-time at another website.  Despite her college degree, she makes $300 a week. 

The Fashionista website has a recent article about unpaid interns in the fashion industry which concludes with this sentence: "Still, these interns put in 80-hour weeks for free. With pleasure."  Aw, bless their hearts!

The problem is not that the fashion industry is not hiring due to the poor economy.  The fashion industry is structured around unpaid intern labor and an extremely high bar for entry.  Unlike, say, human resources.  Or accounting.  Or computer science.  A different way to look at it is, certain industries only grant access to those who have "paid their dues" in a way that is only realistic for members of the upper-class.

Here is what the real story here is: Young college grads from privileged families are able to do what it takes to pursue the dreams that their college degrees were supposed to give them access to (according to *The American Dream*), but those who are not able to live rent-free producing no income for years of unpaid internships are unable to fulfill those dreams despite having the same degree.

It's preposterous that CBS News picked someone trying to break into the fashion industry, who did not go to fashion school, on the east coast, as an example to represent the impact of the economy on college students nationwide.  The sacrifices required to break in to certain industries often depend on either luck or really wealthy parents who are untroubled by their offspring's much-prolonged journey to adulthood.  So essentially, a college degree often does little to overcome the barriers presented by social class.

This leads me to wonder, what would my dream have been if the barriers to breaking into an industry, however high, were completely manageable due to my social class and parental expectations?  Break into publishing as a book editor?  Be an artist unafraid of hunger and failure?  Start my own nonprofit knowing I have an endless safety net if it doesn't work out?  Take three years to write a book or start a business that may or may not allow me to ever fund a roof over my head?  Try to be an Oprah, or have my own magazine, or become a top freelance writer or consultant?

Some dreams I'm just too scared of, and that's my own issue I need to work on.  For some dreams, I value independence and my lifestyle too much to attempt.  But other dreams, well, I just am not and never have been in a place that allows for doing years of unpaid internships in order to gain access to not even the dream itself but just to the road to start to attain it. 

I was an English major, same as the woman who they interviewed.  Maybe I should do an internship to try to be an astronaut!  Here's what actually happened: while in school, I had a grantwriting internship that I balanced with my classes and part-time paid job at a furniture store.  After graduation, I worked full-time in a mind-numbing job as a legal secretary before getting a full-time grant-writing job (which, granted, I felt very fortunate to get).  I was horrified to work with some 20-year-old interns recently who had never had a job - just a series of internships and summers full of debate camp or international travel.  Class inequality in this country seems to get more extreme by the day. 

Ace blogger and controversy czarina Penelope Trunk has a lot to say about the questionable value of a college degree, and she suggests scrapping grad school altogether.  See here and here.  I mean, essentially, if we've known for some time that the voice of the American Dream that is telling you that a college degree will get you what you want is often lying, why do we keep listening to it?  She makes me want to start my own online business, and even though I often doubt her sanity I admire her writing ability and unique perspectives.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


After playing Plants Vs. Zombies on my phone before bed, I literally had dreams about the plants and the zombies and the music.  That slow, plodding zombie walk in my head all night!  Plan: tonight, I read a nice novel before bed and dream of more buffaloes running through flowers.

In other news: I seem to have, um, asthma.  Just not enough air in my lungs these days.  I should probably do something about this.  And I woke up with my ovaries hurting, so now I'm paranoid there are cysts acting up.  I know, you were just dying to know that.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Picture found when googling "hinge." Cool original jewelry by Kelli Horrigan.

Everywhere I look, it's a crossroads, a fork, a hinge.  I'm all hinge-y.  I don't know what job I'll have, who will be president or governor, if I'll get a summer vacation, if I'm right this very second pregnant (probably not).  It's quite unsettling. 

I soaked up massive gobs of Vitamin D this weekend, and though I'm massively allergic to this lush spring air, it is still lush.  Is there anything more hopeful than planting literal seeds in the dirt and watering them, and then checking each day to see if they're poking through? 

I was going to write "at least the seasons still work," but then a dark part of me said, "No, we've even broken that - the weather is broken."  Gah!  I wish I could shut up this mind of mine sometimes, especially when I am trying my damnedest to be hopeful.  The seeds WILL come up, and I will be ok, and the earth is not broken.

And just look at this amazing picture I came across for my silly little blog post.  Not sure if it's OK to post here or not, but God, just look at that woman!  I want to be her.  It's so comforting to know that there is art in the world.  Women wearing feathers on their shoulders and strange artistic hinges around their necks.

The best part of last week was going to the (free!) Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, WI with an old friend and seeing the art of Carol Prusa.  I haven't been so moved by art in a while.  I loved the female imagery and forms - like making art on big pregnant bellies, or orbs that represent the universe/globes/eyes/brains.  I loved the old technique (silverpoint) with the modern technology (fiber optics).  I loved the meticulous, meditative process thrown in with a haphazard graphite wash that dripped every which way.  I loved the slightly gross anatomical shapes being cast as beautiful and repeating like the hum of creation itself.  It was like peering into the daydreams of God, or whatever created us and our galaxy.  She is so cool.  (Why am I not an artist? WTF am I doing in this office prison?  shit.)

P.S. If anyone asks me to take down this photo, I am happy to - I don't know if it is copyrighted.

Monday, May 7, 2012

What we're worth

I just had to email someone my "salary requirements."  I am so nervous.  How do you say how much you think you should be worth?  I changed my numbers like three times, couched them in polite sentences, and finally pressed "send".

Google sources pretty much told me to blow off the question with a B.S. politician's change-the-subject sort of answer, but I think that is disrespectful.

Nothing is happening at my job.  It makes me feel not worth very much.  But looking at new opportunities, refining my resume, and creating a portfolio of professional writing samples kind of made me feel like my services could be worth a lot, and that I deserved more.

I'm scared that she will see the numbers I wrote and think, "Who does this girl think she is?  I could get a hundred people to do this for cheaper than that.  She doesn't deserve that, and she's BAD for thinking that she does."  I know, I sound like a 5-year-old.

But then I think of how happy I would be to work very hard for an amount that felt fair, and that pushed me to be worth it, to add value and make a contribution.  I want to be challenged.  I want to feel good about myself.

You always hear that women don't get paid much because we are too scared to ask for raises or to negotiate salaries.  What if I internalized that and now I just asked for too much?  Like to compensate for all the women who don't ask for what they're worth?  eeek.     

What if I am influenced by my husband's promotion to think that such jumps in rank and salary are the natural way of things, when really they are rare and only happen when you have connections that I don't have? 

What if I missed my opportunity for a happy, healthy work environment by emailing the wrong numbers?  What if she asks what I'm making now and is appalled that I asked for such a jump in numbers?

What I really want to say is that if I had a crystal ball that told me your organization and job were the right fit for me, and that I would make work-friends who I could talk to, and I would feel useful and competent and healthy, and I don't have to be afraid if I get pregnant or need to deal with endo at work, then I don't care much about the money, just please please be the right fit!  But now I'm in the game and I've got to play the game until it's over.

In my workday, I feel like I'm incubating secrets like a fat hen sitting on breakable eggs.  I'm terrified of having three jobs in a row that are a bad fit.  Currently stewing in number two.

I'm also scared of what a hard job plus potential pregnancy/kids plus husband's hard job could mean.  We are not that great at managing our household as it is...  Is this all too much?

Did a walk-a-thon this weekend and my hamstrings and hips were so tight.  Because all I do all week is sit crunched up in this chair like a bored zombie zig zag, staring at a screen all day five days a week.  Sometimes I opt to use the bathroom on another floor and it's like - ooh!  an outing!  stairs!  Then I come back and sit down again in this never-ending silence.  Which makes me wonder if I should have said I would work for anything for my freedom.  Instead I wrote down bigger numbers than have ever applied to me before.  Shit.

Sorry for the freak-out post.  Hopefully will return to normal programming soon.