As I was sitting in front of the computer screen today, following ethereal job leads willy-nilly all over the internet, two things dawned on me:
I have never really had to conduct a legitimate job search before.
I really, really don’t know what I’m doing.
Not even counting high school babysitting jobs, where neighbors literally came knocking on my door, every single job I’ve ever had in my life came easy. From summer jobs as a teenager to certified teacher positions as a professional, the process was always the same. I looked for a position I wanted. I filled out the application. I went in for an interview. I was hired. I showed up for my first day of work. That’s it. Simple.
I’ve never used job search engines (holy crap, they are a nightmare for someone with even a whisper of ADD tendencies). I’ve never sent out résumés (I have one, but I’m pretty sure it sucks). I’ve never applied to more than one job at a time (I’m not good at saying no, so what do I do if they all call for an interview and all want to hire me?).
I’ve never not been called for an interview. Until now. It’s demoralizing. It’s confusing. It’s disheartening. It’s stressful. I’m not having fun.
It’s still early days, and my head knows that. I assume that the more time I spend searching and applying, the better my skills will become. I’ll be better at finding truly suitable positions and better at talking up my skills so that a prospective employer feels compelled to call me for an interview. I don’t need my phone to be ringing off the hook. I just need one call. Please.
I usually watch the evening news with one eye and half an ear, because there is only so much nonsense I can stomach. If the American media weren’t so determined to give the idiots, miscreants, and sociopaths their fifteen minutes of fame, I would be more inclined to pay attention. But what I see most evenings saddens, disgusts, and embarrasses me, so I’ve taken to tuning it out.
But last Friday evening, one story snagged my hopeful attention. At the top of the broadcast, with that half an ear I normally use, I heard Anne Curry (sitting in for Brian Williams) mention “ancient treasure,” “Boy Scout leaders,” and “caught on camera.“ I was eagerly anticipating an uplifting, feel-good story for a change…possibly some previously undiscovered wonder that would now be known to the masses because of selfless action by the Boy Scout leaders.
Ten minutes into the program, that naïve expectation was literally crushed by a giant boulder.
Maybe you saw it, too. In the haunting landscape of Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park, scout leader David Hall sings, “Wiggle it, just a little bit” and rolls tape (okay, he shoots a cell phone video) while his massive friend Glenn Taylor throws his bulk around and finally manages to topple a boulder from the pedestal it’s rested upon for the last 170 million years. Hall, Taylor, and Taylor’s teenage son, proud that they have “now modified Goblin Valley,” whoop, dance, laugh, and exchange high fives after their blatant act of vandalism. Then Hall, ignorant heedless of the Boy Scout principle “leave no trace,” uploads the video to Facebook, and the men are subsequently baffled by the public outrage that ensues.
They claim that they are heroes because their action has saved some little kid from imminent death. “It’s all about saving lives,” they smugly boast.
I call BS!! In fact, fighting back tears of utter fury, I screamed it repeatedly at the TV screen Friday night (only I used the unabridged version). BS! BS!! BEEEE ESSSSSS!!!
They destroyed the goblin simply to prove they could. Why else would they record it and post it on Facebook?
That boulder has stood there for 170 million years. ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY MILLION YEARS!!!!! What are the odds that it was going to just fall over and crush some unsuspecting kid now? The deputy director of Utah State Parks and Recreation said in his 22 years on the job, he’s never known a goblin to roll off its pedestal. Ever.
Look at the video. Look how many times Taylor had to hurl his sloppy several hundred pound self at that rock before it finally broke free. No “stiff wind” was going to blow that sucker off. I suspect small children could have safely passed by that rock for another million years before it posed any real danger. If and when it was ever identified as a safety hazard, the park service should have been the entity to deal with it—its employees are quite skilled at erecting barriers around things you want to touch but shouldn’t.
I would have been angry about the vandalism regardless of who caused it. It’s just another example of how our society has gotten off track, with individuals so focused on their own wants and desires that they completely ignore common decency and disregard previously sacred norms of acceptable behavior. But, right or wrong, I hold Boy Scout leaders to a higher moral standard than the average dude hiking through a state park. Back in the day, my brother was in Scouts, so I know that they teach (or used to teach) the value of natural areas, and how to properly respect, conserve, and protect such treasures. How did these yahoos miss such an important tenet of Boy Scouting?
I cannot even bear to imagine the havoc these guys and their troop would cause on an overnight camping trip, in some ordinary woods that were not part of a protected state park. “See all this dead brush? Those poor neighboring towns are just one lightning strike away from being toast. It’s all about saving lives; this brush has got to go. Let’s light it up, boys!”
Driving in England for two years was an excellent refresher lesson in how to properly and politely use the highway. The last two months of driving up and down I-95 have clearly demonstrated that this knowledge has been forgotten (never learned?) here in Virginia, so I’d like to pass on a few pointers. However unrealistic impossible, all of the following assume multi-lane highways, with free-flowing traffic (no accidents, no construction, no military convoys) and ideal driving conditions (no fog, no rain, no snow, no ice, no sun glare).
1. Know before you go. Highway speed limits in the US generally range from 55mph to 85mph. If your vehicle is not mechanically capable of achieving the posted speed limit, or if you are too timid to navigate the roadways at that velocity, choose another route.
2. Slow traffic keep right. If you are only willing to go as fast as the posted speed limit, the right lane is your home. Stay out of the other lanes. If you are comfortable driving somewhat above the speed limit, you might be able to drive in the middle lane, depending on who’s out there on the road with you. No one, and I mean NO ONE should be traveling in the far left lane. It is meant as a passing lane.
3. If you’re gonna pass, pass. Regardless of whether you choose the middle or right travel lanes, you might come up behind a vehicle moving slower than you. In this case, you will need to move one lane to the left in order to overtake the slower driver. Make sure you have a large gap in traffic on your left before changing lanes, then step on the gas! Do not move into the left lane if it is going to take you five miles to finally overtake the slower car. As soon as you have safely passed the slower car(s), pull back into the lane to your right.
4. Be the other driver. Put yourself in the other guy’s shoes. Anticipate what he wants. If you are in the center lane and he comes charging up behind you, so close that in your rearview mirror you can read the barista’s notes on his Starbucks cup, he wants to get around you. If he does not have room to move left, you might need to speed up until he can find his window of opportunity. Or maybe, just maybe, you could be courteous and move to the right.
If everyone on the interstates would adhere to these few simple guidelines, driving in the States could be just as civilized as driving in the UK. So please, sir–yes, you in the rusted out Civic–lead, follow, or get out of my way.
My hubby might possibly be the only married man in the Western hemisphere without a wife-generated Honey Do list haunting his every weekend. In nearly eight years of marriage, I’ve never penned one and he’s never questioned why. I even have a Honey Do notepad, handed down from my mom, but it’s only ever used for grocery lists.
How did the hubby get off the hook? Credit for his good fortune can be traced along several branches of my family tree.
First, let’s climb the tree to my paternal grandmother. She and my grandfather divorced when I was a wee one, so my memories of her were always as a single woman. She lived alone in the house my grandparents once shared until well after my college graduation. She was very financially savvy, she kept a spectacular yard and garden, but she couldn’t (wouldn’t) do a damn thing for herself around the house. Dread absolutely oozed from my parents whenever it was time to go to Grandma’s, because she was inevitably waving a mile-long Honey Do list at each of them before they even had both feet out of the car—once we were of a responsible age, my brother and I got lists as well (it was my job to wash and polish the crystals on the dining room chandelier). I don’t remember a single time when we went to Grandma’s just to sit and visit. In high school, I discovered the true depth of her dependency when I learned that she called the neighbor over twice a year to reprogram her thermostat for daylight savings time. For reasons I can’t explain, that single revelation eclipsed all of her previous “I’m just a poor helpless female” antics, and my theretofore-dormant feminist hackles went up. I swore in that moment that I’d never, ever, ever call a man, be he family, friend, or professional, for simple home maintenance chores. Hence, no Honey Do list for the hubby.
Next, we can swing over to my maternal grandfather’s branch of the tree. I did not inherit much from my mom’s side of the family, but the few traits I did get are worth their weight in gold. The most valuable is Granddad’s willingness to tinker. I’m not sure there was anything the man could not build, repair, redesign, or improve. I have some physical reminders of his ingenuity…an aluminum pot that he made from scraps at work on his lunch break, a set of roofing plans that he sketched, a level from his basement workshop. But better than that, I have his curiosity about how things work, his creativity to overcome obstacles, his common sense to plan a solution, and his mechanical aptitude to carry out the plan. As a result of my granddad’s influence, upon returning from a TDY the hubby found his wife had installed brand new tile in the entry rather than writing an entry on a Honey Do list.
Finally, we can climb back down the tree to my parents. There was a Honey Do system in place while I was growing up. Mom, unlike my grandmother, was willing and able to do a lot of the day-to-day household maintenance that cropped up. But she was busy taking care of two kids, and there were just some things that she felt Dad should do, so they went on the list. Problem was, Dad’s priorities and timeline didn’t always mesh with Mom’s priorities and timeline. Unfinished (unstarted) projects caused tension. Tension occasionally escalated to anger. I don’t like tension. Or anger. I knew that whenever I got married, no matter how wonderful and willing to work he was, my type-A personality would likely mean disparity between my priorities and timeline and my husband’s. For the sake of marital harmony, I’d rather just do things myself. If I am the one procrastinating, or taking too long to finish a simple job, I can’t be angry at the hubby. So the Honey Do system has never been implemented in our house.
Sometimes I wonder if the hubby is glad to have a self-sufficient wife (possibly even proud that she has her own drill and knows how to use it?), or if it hurts his feelings when I get out the ladder and replace the air filters myself instead of asking him to do it. Personally, I like that the absence of a list means our weekends can be spent doing things together rather than me micromanaging supervising while he struggles to complete designated tasks before his beloved Patriots play on Sunday. So unless he asks to join the ranks of the Honey Do husbands, I’ll continue to lean on my ancestry to preserve our harmony and his freedom.
I’ve always been a sucker for unique antiques. Anything unusual, in purpose or design, catches my eye. I like to imagine its history, its story, then envision ways I can repurpose it. So when I saw a hand-painted blue and white porcelain benki (squatty toilet) at an antique vendor’s stall in Japan, I just had to have it, even though I wasn’t yet sure whether it was going to become a planter or if my cat was going to have the world’s fanciest litter box.
When we got ready to move from Japan, I had the benki, encased in a plastic bag (it was once a toilet after all), stored in the spare room. When our belongings arrived at our next post in England, I expected to find the benki among the other miscellaneous junk I was unpacking from boxes that originated in the spare room. Imagine my surprise when I pulled it out of a box of dishes in the kitchen! I was incensed.
It was a Japanese toilet. The packers were Japanese. They pulled it out of the plastic bag before packing it, so they had to know what it was. People who change into completely different slippers when entering the bathroom so as not to contaminate their house slippers surely would not pack a toilet in the same box as dishes. What were they thinking? Did they think I didn’t know what it was, so I wouldn’t care that a toilet rode 5900 miles next to my dinner plates, separated only by a few thin layers of packing paper?
Apparently, even if it wasn’t hygienic, they knew what they were doing, because the benki arrived in England intact.
The packers in England, despite never having seen a benki, instinctively knew not pack a toilet with kitchen items. They wrapped it in bubble wrap all by itself. It went into a crate with boxes and furniture and a bike, and had no chance of contaminating my dinner plates on its 3600 mile journey to the US.
Apparently, even if it was hygienic, they did not know what they were doing, because the benki arrived in Virginia in pieces.
I am very sad. Not just because I now have neither a planter nor the world’s fanciest litter box. I’m sad because I equate buying antiques to rescuing unwanted pets from an animal shelter. When I choose a piece and make it mine, I become its guardian, its voice, its guarantee of continued existence. I once held a very unique piece of Japanese porcelain in my hands, prepared to show off its beauty and tell its story to an audience on a whole new continent, and I failed to protect it. I feel as guilty as I would if a cat I adopted ran out into the street and got hit by a car.
Around here this week, it means we’re standing smack in the middle of two deliveries of household effects. The items we left behind in storage when we headed out of the States five years ago were delivered yesterday. By mid-afternoon today, we’d unpacked the majority of it, and it was kinda like Christmas. We had to stop every few minutes to hold up something we’d unwrapped from layers of packing paper and say, “Hey, I remember this!”
On one hand, it’s nice to see some of these things again…many of them family treasures (Grandma’s china, Dad’s toy car) or souvenirs of our respective and collective pasts (the hubby’s tennis medals, my high school yearbooks, our Lions Club awards) that we were either afraid to move because of their fragility or reluctant to take because they would not fit comfortably in a Japanese-sized house.
But on the other hand I have to think, “If we forgot about these things in the five years they were out of sight, how important are they really? Do we truly need them?” Of course, I know the answers. But it’s so hard to take sentimentality out of the equation. We’ll see what happens in the coming days–the math could get significantly easier with the next delivery.
The stuff we actually humped around the world from the States to Japan to England and back again (to which, ahem, we might have added one or two things in our travels) arrives tomorrow, and there’s twice (three times??) as much of that as there was in storage. Sentimentality may finally be trumped by frustration practicality as we try to find a place for everything.
It is very unfortunate timing that the community wide yard sale is planned for this Saturday…if it were being held a week later, I would probably be out there selling off the excess. I wonder if Goodwill makes house calls?
Months ago, the hubby and I made a pact that when we returned to the States and got smart phones, we would not use them while eating. We’d seen couples, and even entire families, sitting around the table in a pub, fish and chips growing cold and soggy on their plates, completely ignoring each other as they scanned sports scores, checked emails, and texted friends. We vowed that as a couple, we would not let technology undermine common mealtime etiquette or rob us of civilized dinner conversation.
As discouraged as we are at the way smart phones seem to be encapsulating individuals in their own private bubbles, tonight we were privy to a most annoying alternative.
The couple seated behind us in Applebee’s placed their order, then whipped out a single iPhone, on which they proceeded to watch a movie. Seated on opposite sides of the table. At full volume. Competing with the restaurant’s satellite music channel, the bartender using her decidedly non-inside voice to explain the computerized ordering system to a trainee, and the screaming toddler banging her mother’s cutlery on the table all the way across the restaurant.
I’m sorry. If you want to watch a movie while you eat, call ahead for Carside-To-Go and enjoy your meal in front of your big screen AT HOME. Because I did not come here to listen to your movie.
I wanted a relaxing dinner. I wanted to spend some quality time with the hubby. I wanted to talk to him. And hear his responses.
We couldn’t have held a conversation if we’d tried. Maybe we should have used the time to check our email.
I want to be a writer, yet Henry David Thoreau's cautionary words echo in my brain: "How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." Knowing I have promised to blog daily for the coming year, I am committed to living the next 365 days to the fullest by seizing new opportunities, making old routines less mundane, and immersing myself in the details of ordinary situations. Building these habits will be key to convincing myself that I can legitimately sit down to write a future bestseller!