Simple Questions

March 10, 2015 § Leave a comment

It’s rare for me to be at a loss for words. Normally I’m armed with a sarcastic wit at the very least, or a solid “Holy shit” ready to go as a response. On Saturday, I was asked two questions that left me speechless, staring vacantly with a bewildered expression and nothing in my mouth but a slightly dry tongue. The questions weren’t even challenging but they caught me at a weird moment in my life, in my personal history.

“Are you happy?”

I’m sure you can understand how even on a normal day I would struggle answering this question. There are big things in my life that make me happy — my nuclear family of Jason and the girls, my blood family, my friends at work, etc. — but am I happy? Am I happy? Generally, I would shrug and say a noncommittal “sure” but on Saturday, I just gaped at her. She asked me this within five minutes of meeting me for the first time, so it was certainly one of the last questions I was expecting to explode out of her mouth. I noticed the seconds ticking by as I stared at her but the only thing I uttered to break the silence was “uh, no.” which wasn’t really the best response.

Why can’t I answer simple questions like that to strangers I’ll never see again? Why can’t I just be a normal person and say “Of course! Aren’t you?” and keep the conversation light and moving along to other superficial topics? I was having a tough day already, teetering on a depressive episode as a result of my dual rejection letters from UNC and my lack of progress on the job front, so faking Normal wasn’t really in the cards anyway. But still, any reaction would have been better than the one I had. A few weeks ago, when I was still feeling hopeful and excited about my future, I would have answered wholeheartedly Yes.

“If you could live anywhere, where would it be?”

I wasn’t even a part of the conversation really. I desperately latched on to Jason at the first opportunity to get away from the condescending and intense “Are you happy?” girl, so I was more relieved to be free from talking than excited to be in their discussion. I wasn’t paying attention to Jason and Chris’s topic of conversation so when Chris addressed me directly with a loud “If you could live anywhere, where would it be?” I was caught completely off guard. I handled it about as well as the “Are you happy?” question, staring at him with a slight deer-in-headlights expression and only mustering a mumbled “…what? I don’t know…”.

I’ve never really had a solid answer to that question. If you ask Jason, it’s Key West. No question. Boom. There’s his dream town. But for me? I’ve never really been happy with anywhere I’ve lived. There are things I love about places I’ve lived, but they were never perfect or ideal, they were never everything I wanted. I loved DC but travel was exhausting, just to go to the grocery store was an all-day complicated affair, and the winters were long and brutal. Tourist season was enough to make me want to hold a gun over my head and scream for them all to go the fuck home if they can’t figure out how to function in the city. The city itself was gorgeous, though, and I loved the energy of it, knowing that important things were happening there and great minds were convening. The diversity was refreshing as well, particularly for a girl from Alabama. I get sick of seeing white people en masse and I get just as sick seeing blatant racial divides like you find in Birmingham.

Enough about DC. Where would I go if I could live anywhere? Truthfully, I don’t think an ideal place like that exists for me. I need warm weather but I love old cities. I like walkability as well as drivability. I love trees and greenery. I hate strip malls and chain restaurants. Dog-friendly, diverse, strong interest in the arts and more intellectual pursuits, locally-focused, liberal. Is that a place? Does that exist somewhere? I certainly don’t know of it if it does. I fit in so well with New England in my desires for a place as well as my personality (type A, driven, intellectual, liberal) but that damn weather is never going to work for me. I just can’t do that kind of cold.

I don’t feel I have the luxury to think about things like that. There was a similar question floating around somewhere on the internet asking what would you buy first if you got a big raise/promotion/new job. What would I buy first? What would I buy? They listed things like a new car and designer clothes, a new house or a second house on a beach, etc. I can’t think of anything sexy or exotic that I would buy, even with a million dollars. I feel like paring down the stuff I have already because so much of it is just excess baggage. I love my car now, though it does need some work. New tires, actual CRX seats (it has civic seats now and they’re not the right fit for the car), and I’d like to build a custom dog seat for the girls in the back since the seat back that came with it is broken (and too small in the first place).

And student loans. I would “buy” off my student loans. Pay them off as quickly as possible so we can start looking for a house. Not a McMansion or anything stupid like that. Who needs so many rooms? You’ll just have to fill them with more shit you don’t need and hire a maid to clean them all. We’d like a unique fixer-upper in a walkable neighborhood with a big yard and a great school system.

Is this adulthood? Or is this what happens when you live paycheck to paycheck for so long? Will I ever be in a place where I think $6.99 is too much to pay for a shirt at the thrift store?

Such simple questions, I can’t answer a single one.

I met with a temp agency today and of course they’re first question was “What do you want to do?” ::blank stare:: I got nothing. I don’t know. No clue. Just give me a job and I’ll see where it takes me. They seemed to like my edited resume (strictly one page, no grad school listed, limited work experience) and were excited about me as a prospective candidate, already listing some positions they think I could be good for. So maybe something is in the works, the universe is gearing up to break me out of this stagnant, boring, inane, and meaningless position and opening a door to a whole new world, a new industry with new people and new things to learn, that might lead me somewhere good, somewhere I can feel useful, helpful, worth something.

I really need to feel worth something. Sometimes I think it’s a total fluke that anyone loves me at all.


Resembling Square One

March 4, 2015 § Leave a comment

You know my track record so it probably comes as no surprise that I was rejected from both programs at UNC Chapel Hill. The MPA program didn’t even want to interview me, that’s how much of a non-candidate I was. I don’t really have any regrets because I literally did everything in my power to get in, including campus visit, attending info sessions, talking to the director, and so on.

With two rejection letters to show for it. I wish we got refunded for our application fees when we’re rejected. Might take the sting out ever so slightly.

Hopes and dreams of a new town and a new career dashed, now what do I do? Admittedly, there’s no way I could have justified taking out $60,000 more student loans (honestly, between the two programs and living expenses, it would have been more than that), but I still would have liked to get an acceptance letter saying “You’re on the right track, kid. You’ve got potential.”

Instead, I’m left wondering what the hell I’m going to do with my life. I’ve been pretty depressed lately, not only because 2015 has been pretty rough so far but because I don’t have any idea about my future. My experience is all so arts-centric, I can’t seem to convince people to hire me outside of it. I even applied to a couple jobs that I interviewed for last year that are open again but so far no response. I’ve pared down my resume, stripping it of internships and my graduate degree in the hopes that I’m shaving off anything intimidating that might say “overqualified.”

I feel desperate, floundering, frantic, damn near hysterical.

What do I do?
What do I do?
What do I do?

What *can* I do? Have I doomed myself to a restaurant career? Have I doomed myself to being a receptionist for the rest of my life? I can’t convince anyone to give me a job. I can’t even get temp agencies to call me back. How am I supposed to survive like this? It’s like throwing darts in the dark. I feel crushed and overwhelmed, trapped by my own history and decisions.

I would feel better if I were making more money. I don’t care what the job is, just give me steady hours and a decent paycheck. If I can get my finances under control, I can focus more on building relationships and developing new skills through volunteering, which will hopefully lead to a new career. Somewhere. Doing something. Who knows.

I have a lot of free time now only working 30 hours/week, but I’m in such a constant state of anxiety that I find myself unable to use my time productively. Instead, I spend my time sifting through job openings online and saving positions I’ll likely never get around to applying to because I’m so sure it’s a waste of my time, I’ll never get the job.

I emailed Special Equestrians about volunteering. It’s a nonprofit south of Birmingham that offers riding therapy for disabled people, adults and children both. I love horses, always have, and might be good at taking care of them within that context and aiding the riders in their therapy. It’s something I would enjoy for myself and feel good about doing, so it’s worth pursuing, especially if Jason and I are staying in Birmingham. That’s unclear though, since he’s still tossing around different schools to apply to, so I’m not sure if we’re actually staying here or if we will be moving out of state by the end of summer. That’s a whole other level of anxiety.

I know these things:
I like cooking.
I like cleaning.
I like organizing.
I like turning trash into treasures.
I like animals.
I would like to be more involved in the Bham art scene.
I would like to be more involved with community revitalization.

But how to channel those interests into a career, into a livelihood? They’re disconnected and constantly being shuffled around in my rather selfish priorities. I’m very inward-focused right now, worrying about my weight and my finances above all else.

I’m almost done with my AmeriCorps application for a position here in Birmingham, but I’m not sure I really want it because the pay is so minuscule and they prohibit outside work. Not totally sure what that means exactly, like if that would prohibit me selling art or flipped furniture, or if that just means you can’t have a part-time job in addition to your full-time job with them. The experience would be huge and would definitely put me on the right path towards a career, but can I make it another year being so anxious about money, being stuck on survival mode? That makes me feel panicky just thinking about it. Why is there not an alternative option? Why can’t I get a job like that with decent pay? Why can’t someone just give me a chance?

What can I do to make someone give me a chance. How desperate am I? How much should I let that desperation show? I need a new path, a new job, a fresh start. How do I get that. And why do I feel like I don’t deserve it?

Where Am I?

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