1 Comment

So there’s this thing.  And this thing is soul-torching and reawakening, and like a breath of fresh air.  And yesterday Joel grinned at me on the couch and said that he always knew I wanted this (professionally), that he knew it two years ago, and he was surprised I hadn’t realized it myself.  What do you mean, I implored, what are you talking about?  How did you know?  He said he knew when I dedicated my time and energy to it, and behaviorally all of my actions pointed to it, but verbally my words were not corresponding with my efforts.  I was excelling at this thing, while in the same breath, explaining why it wasn’t for me right now and that I wanted something else.  And I didn’t know I wanted this – so soon – and as I was preparing all of my materials for highly-qualified people to pick over and analyze, I was struck by two feelings – absolute freedom and sheer terror.  Terror because not only do I have to show my materials (my portfolio, if you will) to all of my previous mentors for feedback, but I have to put it out there to people that I don’t know and I’ve never met and hope and wish they see something in my portfolio that convinces them, “We need to talk to this person more.”  Freedom because Joel was totally correct – this thing, it fits me really well.  The lifestyle, the focus, the persistence and drive, it all works.  It’s like opening a door that I thought was sealed off and only accessible (by my own misgivings and plans) until much later and discovering that I totally want to see more if I’m allowed to step beyond the doorstep.   So for the last seven days, I huddled against my computer, the opportunity spelled out in words before me, my fingers trying to type words and adjectives that match what the opportunity says and doesn’t say.  Regular job ads – the ones I’ve been meticulously applying to and documenting with precise cover letters and shiny resumes – don’t have the same effect on me as this one has had.

This ad shakes me to the core, made me feel passionate and alive again, and oh-so-hopeful.  Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve felt like that?  That feeling like, if-I-don’t-get-this, I-might-crumble-and-collapse, but-I-know-I’ll-get-it-that’s-how-right-this-feels kind of feeling.  I haven’t felt like that since I began applying for graduate school the first time around.  When I hoped and wished and dreamed for an acceptance letter from my first choice program.  And I didn’t get a letter, but a phone call, that said, “Congratulations, you’ve been accepted” I swear I melted into a puddle right there on the floor of my internship.  I can remember the smell and time and place I was at when I got that phone call.  My mentor would later say I sounded so professional and so confident, but in reality, I was tucked away in a back office hoping no one would notice I was away from my desk and taking a personal call.  My voice issued low tones of calm, but my mind was racing with excitement and possibility.  But that was the thing, back then:  for the most part, college was a breeze.  I mean, I certainly didn’t finish with a perfect 4.0, and I had the requisite college major change, and I considered a good time to be out on my balcony finishing a book, and I had but a handful of friends, but there was nothing ever terribly hard for me in my undergraduate work.  Big fish in a small (intellectual) pond (at a school of 30,000+).  I could achieve ANYTHING.  I worked my ass off and became a Registered Yoga Teacher.  I applied to the University Honors Program and got in.   I applied for a semester abroad at Oxford University and found myself there.  I wanted an apartment, I got my first choice.  I applied for grad school – I got into my first choice.  I successfully completed my masters, loved my program and my colleagues and faculty, and applied to PhD programs and got into my first choice.  You see where this is going.  And although I haven’t exactly encountered huge setbacks or personal tragedies by any means, the last three years during my PhD program have been difficult.  It was little things that I was responsible for too, I’m not trying to cast blame around, especially after it is all said and done – but it was mistrust, dislike, frustration, irritation, and disappointments.  Suddenly, being me didn’t mean much.  It meant that I finished the program in near record time, but I left behind this trail of hurt feelings and wistful thinking and disappointment.  I didn’t get along well with my fellow graduate students (with the exception of a very few) due to interpersonal conflict and misaligned goals.  I didn’t establish strong connections with most of the faculty (again, with the exception of a few) and published with none.  The alumni network is not strong.  I didn’t appreciate much of what the school stood for (the university itself was rife with controversy the entire time I was there:  plagiarism, firings, misappropriation of funds, on and on).  As an undergrad for four years (ah, hell, my whole life prior to that, too), I could get anything I wanted because I was smart, motivated and competent and usually in a good financial position (thanks, parents!).  Cliché, but the world was an oyster and I kept finding the pearl every time I looked for one.  Relevant side note:  during horse camp one summer, I went swimming in a backcountry freshwater pond and stepped on a clam. I fished underneath the muddy water with my fingers until I found it, and pulled it up above the surface.  I pried that sucker open and I, amazingly, found a pearl.  I stuffed it into my jeans pocket and fingered the pitted surface for the rest of the day (real pearls generally aren’t perfectly round).  Anyway, back to the point, if I could apply my mind to it, I could achieve it.  Then for the past three years, I have struggled with impressing anyone and was baffled when hard work really didn’t do anything besides make the less-motivated people mad at me.  I was confused when I was the star performer and turning in good work, and I was ignored.  The people that were making mistakes, fumbling around, not making good progress – those were the people that got the attention and (strangely enough) the praise.  I excelled at teaching.  No one really cared and instead forced me into taking a teaching prep class in order to follow a newly-designed rule – this was after I was already teaching and demonstrating competence, and others were allowed to get out of it.  Just unfair.  And I know that if anyone were to read this, they would hold their finger up and say, wait a minute, that’s not how that happened, and I would say:  that is EXACTLY how it happened.  I demonstrated I was good at research, and I did an umpteen amount of projects, papers, and manuscripts during my “free” time and prided myself on working really hard, when everyone else was proud of themselves for doing one research project that was part of their assigned assistantship.  Did any of that get acknowledged?  No.  I was left alone and ignored.  I know I’m sounding bitter and remorseful and gripetastic, but hey, as my old friend Val would say, “That’s what’s up.”

    My point being, I survived with a huge backpack filled with cynicism on my back.  I earned the degree and now I have three letters behind my name.  I guess that’s an accomplishment in and of itself, but it doesn’t feel like it.  I feel like I just ran a marathon and then no one was at the finish line to congratulate me (I mean, besides the obvious cheer squad – family and select friends).  I finished and all I have to show for it right now is sitting at home in front of my computer in my pajamas for four hours every morning until I bother to get dressed, applying to job after job after job.  Resume, cover letter, online application, rinse and repeat.  I keep telling myself that I have loads of projects to work on, and I do, but really, I’m just counting down the seconds until I’m employed.  Until I find a different kind of purpose.  I’m not complaining too much.  But I feel like I deserve to, just a little.  It’s heartbreaking and discouraging to put in 4+2+3 = 9 years of degrees and school only to be told, “The economy is tight right now.  We’re going to hire the person that has had 15 years of experience for this entry-level, bachelors-degree-preferred job you are applying to.”  My occupation is a bit of a niche field, and the type of work I do is influenced by who is in the field at any given moment.  And heck, I know that I’ve only been on the job market for about a month now, and that’s nothing when compared to people that lost their careers and are starting over, or have been unemployed for six, eight, twelve months.   I know. 

This long winded post, all to say, I found something that I have a decent shot at.  I have meticulously prepped my portfolio, expressing my competence and enthusiasm, trying to express – I AM THE PERSON YOU’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR.  Look no further!  It has renewed my enthusiasm for doing what I do, and spending 7 days with it occupying my thoughts gave me a chance to feel inspired, invigorated, hopeful…THIS is how I felt ALL the time as an undergrad!  Whatever I wanted, I reached for it and I succeeded.  I am doing nothing but thinking about the positive side, the possibilities that this would result in, imagining successfully interviewing for it, everything like that – because that’s what I used to do.  I used to be a positive, happy, ENTHRALLED individual.   The last three years sucked my motivation and positive thinking out of me, but I think I found it again.  I don’t feel cynical about this.  I feel good about this.  And any terror or jitters I am feeling is in direct proportion to NOT wanting to feel cynical anymore. I want to prove that I can do this.  I want to prove and show that for once, after a weird three-year hiatus, that I CAN do something when I set my mind to it.  And if it doesn’t happen?  Well, that’s another blog entry I guess, but for now, I’m hopeful.  And I couldn’t ask for more than to feel that way again.

10/12/2010 12:15:13 am

The spirits rise
optimism soars
confidence peaks

all food tastes good
gingerale is wine

hope is substance
(better than air)

I'll cross my fingers for you.


Leave a Reply.