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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

REPROOF (Sisyphus Shrugged)

I am now convinced that nothing on earth would make me work in Human Resources. This morning, urged by a friend’s former colleague, I phoned the head of HR for a prestigious institution of higher learning. Now, I am not so sure that she wanted to be as cold and brusque and unhelpful as she was – but that, in her position, with everybody looking for jobs, I’m pretty sure that she really HAS to be mean and dissuade people from bugging her and the HR dept.

“—But Mr. so and so thinks that you really ought to talk to me about my credentials and how I could—“

“Well, he hasn’t been in the hiring loop for quite some time. Now everything is done electronically. It’s more efficient that way. You have to apply online—“

In almost a whisper I replied, crushed: “But I’ve applied four times in the past year online—“

“Then you don’t have the qualifications that we’re looking for.” I really don’t get what she’s saying, because I really make sure that I am fully qualified for every single job I apply for, AND I tailor my resume to the job I’m seeking each and every time. Is it that these jobs are being posted just because that’s the law – and they are all promised to an applicant in advance? Is it that the rest of us who are interested and qualified don’t stand any kind of chance? What could it be? I really want to know.

My heart sank and the tears started to burn my eyes. I muttered, “Thank you,” curtly, and hung up. I couldn’t move for a minute. I just stood at the kitchen counter and sobbed. I had very dark thoughts for a while. I picked up Mister Kitten and hugged his warm soft fur, looking into his big, unthinking eyes.

Either I be victim to the callous ways of the hiring pool, or I am going to be the victor. It’s going to take a lot of persistence, cunning, and a whole lot of luck – right place at the right time kind of thing. I’m very sad and overwhelmed at how unwanted I (and many others, my husband Matt included) am in this job market. If they only knew how much we can and do contribute! It’s almost unfathomable.

I just want to cry, privately, sometimes. I don’t want pity, I don’t want to cry on somebody’s shoulder, I just want to cry to heaven – and then create something so awesome and beautiful that the world’s heart skips a beat, just for a second.

So maybe that’s the grand scheme of things. . . inspiration to create while we roll the figurative boulder up the hill, day after day. Sisyphus isn’t just a myth, it’s a state of being for every one of us, the New Reluctant Leisure Class.

God bless us, every one, in our Sisyphean jobsearch labors – and god help those HR trolls!!

10-13-10

COOLEST PLACE ON EARTH

Having read the entertaining and interesting book, The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner, I realize full well that I’m living in the wrong place! From the sound of it, I am an Icelander in my soul. Oddly enough, I have always wanted to go there (and nobody believes me!).

The reasons are too numerous to list right now, but one of the best aspects of life there (besides it being really cozy when the darkness and cold rule the wintertime) for these true descendants of the Vikings has to do with employment. Another reason is Bjork, but that’s almost besides the point, now.

I know that bliss can be found there, viz: “Iceland consistently ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world.” (Ruut Veenhoven, Happiness Research Expert) Actually, it’s a land of Happy Melancholics; contradiction is implicit in everything and everyplace, these days.

The thing about Iceland is, they celebrate failure. It’s Happiness in Failure!

To explain: “We like people who fail if they fail with the best intentions. Maybe they failed because they weren’t ruthless enough, for instance.” (Larus, p. 162, The Geography of Bliss.)

AND, the people of Iceland tend to change jobs and professions easily and often. You can try and fail, try and fail again and again. Also, Icelanders adore writers – and they are very creative and work together to create. Then again, they are all related, it being a small population with an almost undiluted gene pool. . . so the nation takes care of each other, and the unemployment rate never exceeds 5%.

So hang on, Iceland, here I come!! Wheeee!! Later for those tropical paradises – I’m going to the dark side (hee hee hee). Anything to be near my attitudinal peeps!!

So long as I don’t have to eat that national dish of rotting shark meat, harkarl. . .

10-12-10

Monday, October 4, 2010

PROOF TO WHOM?

Last week I had an amusing thought that I’ve been going around telling everybody: "It's exhausting, spending all day proving to utter strangers how awesome you are--" in reference to job applications and applying to festivals etc. as an artist.

Of late, life is being ceaselessly funny and interesting. . . but sure would like it to be a little less interesting and more peaceful (it couldn't get funnier, trust me!).

It’s like that ancient Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” How much nicer might it be to live in peaceful and contented times?? But then, as my friend Alicia points out to remind me: challenges build character. Nowadays, so many of the characters that I know are challenged almost to the utmost. But have they built character? Are we all better off for these trials and tribs?

These trying days, I know I need to bolster my well being frequently. I need positive feedback. I need support. Without employment, I need a lot, emotionally (not to mention monetarily). Every time I replace the kitchen garbage bag, I think, “By the time this box of bags is empty, will I or my husband be earning a living wage?” There are 50 bags left; we use about three bags a week. So, in 16 weeks (give or take), if the “bag oracle” works (I also do this with other household items just because my hope springs eternal), we’ll be back to work or otherwise in good shape? Wouldn’t that be a relief!

Last week’s fortune cookie read, in its edit-worthy wisdom: “The nearest way to glory is to strive to be what you wish to be thought to be.”

Aha. Or, uh huh. A few interesting words to digest out of the factories producing little white slips of two-sided paper (LEARN CHINESE and Lucky Numbers included on other side of fortunes). Reminds me of the I Ching Hexagram for “Biting Through,” Shih Ho -- #21: “This hexagram represents an open mouth with an obstruction (in the fourth place) between the teeth. As a result the lips cannot meet. To bring them together one must bite energetically through the obstacle. Since the hexagram is made up of the trigrams for thunder and for lightning, it indicates how obstacles are forcibly removed in nature. . . .” That is, the image of a thunder and lightning storm dissipating the ambient tension.

I do love a thunderstorm, and I do love the I Ching, though these days I don’t study it so much as I can remember some of the tao’s wisdom, which is pretty universal. In a nutshell (a very nutty shell), I define that as the concept of much good fortune is found in misfortune, and vice versa (“the seeds of misfortune are found in good fortune”).

Therefore, if we always keep to the middle way – which is really the core of Asian philosophy, getting neither excited nor excessively sad --emotions can’t overcome our logic or wellbeing. And then, life is good. It’s like the Greeks in the days of ancient philosophy: moderation in all things serves humanity best.

Anyway, it’s something to strive for when you tend to be a mood swerver and let everything bug you. As my favorite philosopher, Epictetus, said time and again, self control is the only thing we have control over, and that includes attitudes. Especially our attitudes; we control them, and the world is our oyster (unless you prefer clams).

So. As an unemployed, all-around or versatile/diverse individual with more and more transferable skills – AND as a talented music and word artist – I do spend many of my days on the computer, PROVING to utter strangers how awesome I am. That would, hopefully, lead to more jobs for me, perhaps a decent day job (ideally at a large institution, like my U.N. job, where they let you know exactly what’s expected and think the best of you rather than look for ways to cut you down because then they could fire you or not have to give you a raise).

I hardly dare muse on how proving my awesomeness to the right stranger(s) might lead to more exposure for my life’s work, my creative projects in writing and music. I barely dare think how life could – would – be if I really succeeded in proving my worth to the world and then having it come back to me in monetary and other rewards.

Those recent MacArthur Fellows program award recipients, or “Genius” awards, where people in diverse fields were awarded half a million dollars, no strings attached, to facilitate further creativity? I want one. Lookee, I know I have what it takes: (from website) “exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.” Now, doesn’t that sound JUST like me? And how about that Nobel prize? Gimme!

All right, I’d settle for a Pulitzer – that works for me. Or, maybe I could get another Grammy Nomination (which happened to my Contemporary Folk group some 20+ years ago, The Washington Squares) and actually win a Grammy? I wouldn’t rule that one out, uh uh, not at all.

Proving awesomeness is kind of a 24/7 job until everybody who needs to know that about you, knows. It could take a lifetime.

But ultimately, if I don’t believe how awesome I am, nobody else will. Hence the wisdom of that fortune cookie, exhorting one to carry on acting “as if,” just fakin’ it until makin’ it. Yup, that sort of works. So like the Television song, “Prove it!” I’m not good with hard cold facts, but I sure love to turn a phrase and can write circles (and songs) around almost anybody.

Lastly, is it true: “Better late than never?” The proof, inotherwords, comes from inner confidence, in the heart and in the mind. Meanwhile, I need a nap: it IS exhausting!

Oct. 4, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

FIT TO BE TIED!! SUCKY SIDE OF FREELANCE WRITING

All right. Freelance writing is a war-torn wasteland where intelligence is deceiving and the smiling bastards are lyin' to ya everywhere. At least, that's how I feel today. I wrote (and re-wrote "9 ways to Sunday" -- actually did about 10 drafts) a 1200-word piece for a local color glossy magazine -- a supplement, actually, to a major newspaper based in New Haven -- because my editor requested it. "Get to me ASAP -- on deadline!" I read her emails. And I rewrote and rewrote. And I went back to the ferrymen (for the piece is on the Chester-Hadlyme ferry in the fall), and I interviewed them. And I transcribed and typed up the interviews. Then I even went back TWICE and took video footage so that I could do a video feature for the website!! (which is done and on YouTube - will try to attach)

I can't count the hours I spent -- happily! -- working away on a quality piece for an editor who has been kind to me. I did favors for her, and for her boss, the General Editor. And on top of that, I begged a friend who's a very high end and in-demand photographer in Chester to do an emergency shoot with the ferrymen, for FREE, as a favor to me and my editor.

This week, I sent several emails to my editor, asking about when the article was coming out. I didn't hear back from her. Well, apparently, no news is bad news: I picked up the publication at the usual place (in the vestibule of the CT River Museum) AND. . . lo and behold, my piece was NOT there.

Now, because my LAST article for them wasn't even mentioned in the table of contents (which I am STILL annoyed about), I had to page through the slippery 41-page publication to be sure. Well, my rage, hurt, disappointment -- so many negative feelings -- welled up in me so fully that I nearly was afraid to get into my car and drive.

But I drove to my favorite (nearby) Canfield Meadow Woods and took a fast, angry walk, fuming, steaming, talking aloud, making a really nasty imaginary phone call to my editor. "THANKS A LOT, BITCH!" was only the start.

And look, even though I am choking-full on vitriol hours later, I STILL can muster up a feeling of compassion for the poor woman who has to work like a dog (bitch, dog -- geddit?), doing the work of many others who were laid off, letting freelancers know they are getting less and less money for their writing (as it happened in August -- my editor had to send an email to all her freelancers -- and there are NO MORE staff writers at her weekly paper). I know she can't be happy, doing that.

And I don't think she was happy, cutting my piece at the last minute. But, hey. She kept asking for rewrites and photos. Why couldn't she just say it didn't make it into the pub at the last minute? And why can't people give KILL FEES any more??

I know at least that my editor is getting a paycheck, and I am not.

Now I am out all that time and getting no money at all for it. Oh well. Live and learn. As Matthew suggests (with his level headedness), I will try to sell it, elsewhere. No reason to cry over unpublished work, and no reason I shouldn't LEARN from this piss-off experience! THANK YOU, UNIVERSE -- help me get those better assignments (for better pay in better places)!! Love, take care, Lauren