dith.er

I don't know which way to go. Any advice?

Why I Loathe Phone Interviews, II

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I’ve written before about how much I detest phone interviews, and after just bombing one, I am more certain than ever that they should be banned, along with unpaid internships, dogs in strollers and spandex as pants. The phone interview is a guaranteed bust if the interviewer is on speaker phone, monotone or all business. I can’t work with these things. Can anyone?

It’s extremely difficult to insert your personality into a phone conversation with a person you’ve never met unless said person is warm and willing to actually have a conversation with you.  If this is the case, I can talk for hours, in articulate, well-formed sentences without looking at my cheat sheet. But usually, the interviewer is simply there to ask you, in a series of mundane questions, to repeat the resumé she has in front of her back to her. But you already know my work history?! Can’t you ask me what I could do to make your website more user-friendly? Or what I’ve accomplished in previous roles?

Also: The-what-makes-you-want-to-work-for-unspecified-company-question makes me want to poke wooden skewers through my eyeballs. Why do they even bother asking?

These days the answer is always the same: Frankly, I’m not sure I want to work for you, but I need a job! You may have noted the giant gap on my resume that coincided rather perfectly with ’08’s economic collapse. Do I need to spell this out for you? I’m desperate. Beggars can’t be choosers, so let’s not pretend that the reason I chose to apply to your business is even relevant.  PS: Regardless of whether I want to work for you or not, I will do a damn good job, because that’s what I do, which you would know if you took the time to a. ask me more intelligent questions, b. met me in person, or c. (and this is a wild thought, I know) asked for my references and then actually called them.

Imagine if all the capable, intelligent, hard-working unemployed were hired tomorrow based, not on phone interviews or resumes or cover letters or even an in-person interview, but actual dialogs, multiple conversations and reference checks.  Actually don’t bother; you’re brain might explode.

Written by ditheringmiss

February 10, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Caution: Unstable Moods Ahead

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Oh dear. I think the instability of my current circumstances may be rubbing off on my emotions.  

Exhibit a. Tuesday I woke up with what’ll I’ll gently call an “easily-irked disposition.” It was one of those moods when pretty much no matter what anyone says you’ll find it offensive, irritating or just down-right dull. Mike might say, “You look pretty today.” And I’ll think, “What’s that supposed to mean?” (The key is to think it, not say it. Saying things like that leads to arguments — the kind that go no where fast.)

Thankfully, I was alone in the apartment all day so most of my frustration was directed at inanimate objects. Until my mom called and asked me about my weekend. Then I was reminded of the Saturday night meal with my dad and my step-mom, in which she continuously went on about how my younger sister “is a real writer, and she reads all the time; isn’t that special?”  Gee, that is. And it reminds me of someone. Oh yea, ME. Do you even remember me as a child, Step-mom?!? And by the way, do you get that I’m actually in school for writing? DO EITHER OF YOU EVEN KNOW ME AT ALL?

My poor Mom took the brunt of the tirade, but she was a real trooper and said something nice like, “It sounds like you’re having a hard time dealing with the world today.” Too true.

Exhibit b. On Wednesday I wrote a thousand words, and I worked, and I ran errands, and I was given some very kind words from one of the people I work with, and I went for a lovely night run with a good friend, and the world was my oyster.

Exhibit c.  Today I woke up at 9:30 am and considered staying awake. Oh look, it’s raining, I thought. I can sit in the window and read. But the bed beckoned. Look how snuggly and warm I am, it said. So I climbed back into bed and slept until the embarrassingly late hour of noon, and now I’m considering a cat nap for good measure. I feel a little guilty, but not particularly sad. Maybe even content? But also still guilty, and lazy, too.

Who can say what tomorrow will bring?  Here’s hoping for a little peace of mind.

Written by ditheringmiss

February 6, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Posted in Life, Me, Thoughts

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Everybody’s a writer

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One of the strangest things about publicly admitting that you “write” is that other people who write start coming out of the woodwork, flooding underneath your doors and banging on your windows. When I first started my creative writing MFA back in fall of 2007 (yikes), I felt quite silly telling people that I had the rather grandiose idea of fancying myself a could-be, would-be writer. I do not come from an artsy parentage; math, English and hardwork were what mattered, so for me announcing my post-undergrad venture felt a lot like telling people I wanted to be a musician or an actress or any of those artistic, one-in-a-million-chance-to-actually-be-successful jobs that people scoff at. But of course, as often happens in life, my fears were (mostly) unfounded. In fact, I have induced far more jealous cries than bitter scoffs.  Because: everyone wants to be a writer.

Often I find this comforting. I am so thankful to have other people who I can talk to, who get what a painful and exhausting undertaking all of this is. But sometimes, if I’m going to be completely honest, it bothers me. Not in a competetive way; after three years taking classes with a multitude of talented people I’ve pretty much nipped that issue in the bud. No, it’s irksome in a much more personal way.  Imagine if all your life you had had this secret inside you. Not a bad secret, but a special one. And maybe one day you got brave enough to own your secret, only every time you told someone, they said they had the same secret, too. You feel silly, like a fraud or, I suppose, just like everyone else.

Still, for every time I feel bothered, there are five more times I feel hopeful and inspired by one of these writerly-types. And amused. To think that there are all these people dying to write, to publish, to be read, while the publishing world is drowning and day after day news reports come out warning us that it’s only a matter time before books are obsolete. It’s a such a strange phenomenon and seems to illuminate the fact that far more people want to be writers than actually sit down, open up a legitimate book and read, page after page, word after word.

So I’ll say this: If you think of yourself (or would like to think of yourself) as a writer or there’s a writer out there that you love, please go out and read something, many somethings, if you can. Don’t just write. READ. Like your life depends on it. Certainly your not-so-secret dream does.

Written by ditheringmiss

February 1, 2010 at 8:06 pm

How to be a stay-at-home girlfriend

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The past week has brought on a shift in mine and Mike’s relationship. This is how the last three years have gone down:

We both had jobs.

He became a stay-at-home boyfriend, while I continued working.

We both entered the dismal world of unemployment.

I got a contract job; he went back to being the stay-at-home boyfriend.

He’s working, and I am now (*shudder*) a stay-at-home girlfriend.

I know that there is at least one person reading this who’s thinking, “Gee, that actually sounds nice.” But the thing about being the one at home while your other half is out in the world is that a. you are bored and b. you are expected to do stuff, like domestic stuff.

Let’s look at this a bit more closely: One might suppose that if you’re bored, the natural thing would be to keep yourself busy with said “domestic stuff.”  It’s completely logical. Only it doesn’t work that way (at least not for me). Instead, you consciously avoid cleaning, cooking, errands, and then, then the guilt sets in. Now you’re not only bored, you’re lazy and guilt-ridden. And it’s really dawning on you why your parents always told you how important it is to establish your independence, particularly as a woman.  And you’re thinking that you never thought you’d be here at 26, but you’re like, “Where did I think I’d be?” And the truth is you have no idea, because you never really thought this far ahead. And then you might, if you’re in a particularly sad mood, start wondering if you’ll ever be able to get married or have children, because right now it doesn’t seem like your life will ever provide you with the stability, financial or otherwise, to make either of those things logistically possible.

It’s a classic case of the I-Suck-Spiral .

Only this particular spiral is a tad schizophrenic, because in the next minute you decide to blast your iTunes and have a solo dance party in your living room just because you can. And you think, I am alive.  And you think, what does stability provide me anyways? A false sense of security? And you’re reminded of the Madeline L’Engle quote you heard last night:

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability . . . To be alive is to be vulnerable.”

So maybe you already are the grown up you’re simultaneously terrified of becoming and not becoming. And maybe you need to get off your ass, get dressed and go through the motions of living until you get it down. And while you’re at it, try forgiving yourself because at least you are aspiring, which is more than you can say for most people, and remind yourself that you are loved. You are lucky.

There is still hope for you, yet.

Written by ditheringmiss

January 27, 2010 at 12:39 pm

Lauren v. Mess

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Are any of you completely overwhelmed and amazed by the effort it takes to keep your home in order? I grew up in a very orderly and clean home. It was cluttered as hell, but grime was wiped away promptly, high tread areas of carpet were vacummed multiple times a day, and regardless of how many growing piles might be accumulatng, my mom always knew where everything was and kept things completely organized.

Now I have my own home, and I’m haunted by ants in the kitchen, dust in the living room, and mildew in the bathroom. It’s like Lauren v. Mess around here. Somedays I feel like I’m fighting the fight of my life, and I’m always one step back and one man down. The thing is, both Mike and I are actually pretty clean people (some of us more so than others), and yet, it feels like there is always, without exception, something that I should be cleaning.

Another problem: I detest clutter of any kind. I’m sure this is a result of my childhood home, which as I mentioned, is infested with excess. See, my mom grew up with seven siblings and a motley crew of foster kids and step-siblings roaming the house — there was never enough to go around. In response, she keeps her home, well (uh, how should I put this?), like it’s a Costco. Twelve bottles of Hidden Valley Ranch, eight bottles of Newman’s Own Ceasar Dressing, three French’s Mustard, five Best Foods, twenty-five packets of Chicken ramen, two bottles of Tapatio, dozens upon dozens of canned soup, I can’t even talk about the number of cereal boxes without getting shudders. There’s also an entire cupboard devoted to extra bozes of ziploc bags (in every size), plastic wrap, and tin foil.  The three-car garage fits one car (snugly) and a few hundred rolls of toilet paper, dozens and dozens of boxes of tissues and an innumerable amount of paper towels. Last time I was home the refrigerator broke because, according to the repairman, the freezer was “packed to three times of what it should have been.”

“Get an outside freezer,” the guy told me.

“We already have one,” I said.

Have you seen Hoarders? Okay, it’s not that bad. And like I said, it’s actually extremely clean and hygienic. But . . .

It’s no wonder I can’t stand clutter. I don’t allow more than one toothpaste, box of tampons, or shampoo and conditioner. When they run low, I buy new ones. You get the idea. My mom doesn’t.

“But what if you run out before you have time to get a new one?”

“Then I don’t brush my teeth that night.”

“How do you live on the edge like that?”

“I’m wild, Mom. I’m a real rebel.”

The truth is, I am no rebel. I just want things clean, without, you know, cleaning every day. Why is this so hard? As a kid I pretty much got that there were certain things in adulthood that would be difficult: working, marriage, kids, crazy relatives, having enough money, etc. . . But no one ever mentioned just how difficult it is to keep house. Is it a. that our incredibly hardworking, working mothers made it look so easy that we didn’t actually get the effort it must have taken? b. because we only actually care now that it’s our own home? c. I’m just lazier than a person who wants a clean house should be? or d. none of the above.

Yea, I picked ‘c,’ too. 

Related topics of interest: Pack Rat Syndrome; Intervention; Why Mike Doesn’t Care About This Shit And I do (Damn The Patriarchy)

Written by ditheringmiss

January 19, 2010 at 6:36 pm

Beginnings

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I spent last night working through my entire book collection reading the first line or paragraph of every novel on my shelves. Why? you must be wondering. I’ve read so many books throughout my life, yet, when it comes to writing my own I am completely flustered, panicked and overwhelmed. How do people do this? And well, too?

I am an organized person by nature and for me, free form writing is for blogs and notebooks, not novels. Alas, my own’s lack of structure is completely distressing. Particularly, this: Where do I start? Literally.  So I took to the shelves. What I found from this completely scientific and analytical process (ahem, cough) was that the most compelling openings are those that put you directly into the story or the protagonist or narrator’s psyche. Something my own does not do.

Take for example, Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred: “I lost an arm on my last trip home. My left arm.”  Wow, if I hadn’t read this, I’d totally want to now.

Or Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex: “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. ” An entire story created in one line!

And in Barbara Kingsolver’s Pigs in Heaven something less dramatic, but no less compelling: “Women on their own run in Alice’s family. This dawns on her with the unkindness of a heart attack and she sits up in bed to get a closer look at her thoughts, which have collected above her in the dark.”

I am absolutely certain my own first line(s) will not be so masterful, but at least it’s clear where I’ve gone wrong, and that, my friends, is a start.

Written by ditheringmiss

January 13, 2010 at 9:00 am

Blog Fright

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I think I have blog fright. Lately, every time I even think about posting to my blog, I start to feel irrationally anxious. What do I have to say that’s even remotely interesting? Am I being to negative? Am I not being genuine enough? Will I offend someone? Having spent an embarrassing amount of my life dealing with fear and anxiety,  I know it’s when I most worried about something that I need to confront it head on. So here I am.

I’ve been overthinking things as of late. When I think too much, I can’t write. All I can do is think about writing and it’s terrible. As a friend of mine recently described it, it’s like “self-imposed writer’s block.” When I find myself in this situation I find that one of the most motivating excercises is to read through old pieces of work. Although it’s usually a reminder that I have a long way to go in my craft, it’s also a good way of remembering that I have the ability to be creative.

To that end, I found the *experimental* piece that follows while undergoing this process today. I’ve mostly kept my fiction writing off this blog (and the Internet in general) a. because I don’t want anyone stealing something I might try to publish one day and b. because my fiction writing somehow  feels even more personal than this personal blog of mine. But the piece I’m posting here is not one I will ever try to publish. It was actually an excercise for a class I took a year ago and it’s more of an effort in the unconventional than any kind of representation of my “typical” style, so I suppose that makes it feel a bit safer, too. 

Like I said, when fear grips, it’s time to dive in head first.

L.O.V.E

1. Quickly and vigorously mix one cup of obsession with equal parts expectation and lust until just smooth. It should be the color of poppies with the glossy sheen of a television screen. Dip your pinky in, and place a drop or two on the buds of your tongue. That’s satisfaction.

2. In a separate container, whisk together a third of a cup desperation, one and a half cups of childhood trauma — including, but not limited to, fear of being abandoned, unjustifiable need for attention and affection, tears of the mother — two tablespoons damaged tissue and plucked heart strings, and two servings of ego, lightly beaten. Keep a close eye out for shards of self-esteem; they will be round and black, like small pebbles. Remove and toss (or can be saved for later use).

3. Combine both mixtures using broad strokes. Be sure to beat out any lumps or distinguishing traits. When thoroughly combined, the resulting mix should be dependent, elastic, and lost, looking like two bodies in the throws of a passionate sexual encounter in a dark room on any old Saturday (Tuesday) night. Give it a good sniff; you should be able to pick up strong scents of disappointment and determination with a tangy hint of passive aggressive non-confrontation.

4. At this point the mixture can be refrigerated until later use, slowing the process indefinitely, but resulting in the same final product, nonetheless.

5. Finally, turn up the heat in your apartment as high as the thermostat will go. If you do not have heater, stand in your bathroom with the door shut and the water on as hot as possible. Once you can no longer bear the heat, and your skin aches and pulses with bursts of sweat and stick, use both hands to cup the mixture. Rub it into your body, into every follicle, crevice, orifice. And onto every shadow, freckle, scar, and wrinkle. Squish between each toe from big to little, and behind the ears, in the ears. Smash into your eye sockets until your eyes burn.

6. Let dry.

7. Using fancy body wash that smells of ginger and lilacs or maple syrup wash the mix off your body. Don’t be afraid to touch yourself; find new places you’ve never even heard of before. Sing a Beatles song or Phil Collins. Tell your knee caps that you love them, and your knuckles, too. Lick the last bits slowly off your fingers. Rinse and repeat if necessary.

Written by ditheringmiss

January 12, 2010 at 7:34 pm