Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Greetings to all on this hot and sunny Memorial Day and to all of the men and women in the armed forces- thank you for everything that you do and sacrifice for all of us!  I’m not sure if it’s the day or the time of year, but I find myself asking the question- what is a good decision?  Now, I will fully admit that I make bad and good decisions for all of the right reasons.  You see- I am an over-thinker.  As many of my loved ones will attest, I put way too much thought into things that any normal person would take at face value.  Have you ever asked yourself, why did that person just say hi to me (saying in your head- they never say hi to me), what is it that they are trying to do?  Well, I have.  It’s not that I’m paranoid, I’m really not, but I tend to want to know what all of the possible reasons for something could be so that I don’t get caught off guard and feel like a jerk.

My brother, he’s not so much like me.  He’s actually my hero at this point.  He didn’t finish college and when everything started to go pear shaped at home, he decided to move.  When he got tired of that, instead of planning and preparing (as I do), he packed his stuff and moved to San Diego.  Sunny, breezy, beautiful San Diego.  He knew a few people there, so it wasn’t a totally blind move, but really?!  It took him nearly 2 months to land a job, get an apartment and get on his feet, but he did it and has been there ever since and as happy as he’s ever been from what I can tell.  I like to think that he’s found his home and the people that will inform the rest of his life, but I’m just not there enough to say for sure.  So I ask- was his a good decision?

Me, on the other hand, had to have a potential job waiting and a place to live before I moved to DC and it was going fine.  I was in over my head, though I didn’t want to admit it to my family, but I was doing it, until I got laid off.  Then everything went wrong.  For all intents and purposes, I followed the decision making rules and it truly didn’t turn out well.  Was mine a good decision?

What makes a decision good?  The process that you use to get there or the ultimate outcome?  If you look to any place that is giving advice, they always start with a criteria of questions and general ways that you should answer to indicate if you are right or wrong in your assumption, but what do they know?  I’m beginning to think that no decision is good or bad- it simply is.  This does not mean that I will stop over-thinking (I’ve tried, it’s a losing battle), but I wonder if maybe I should let me heart make more decisions than my head does.  My head told me to get a big girl job and be independent.  My head told me not to worry my mother by telling her that I was up to my eyeballs in debt just trying to live in DC.  My head told me- you’re too busy for a relationship, there’s no point in looking for one.  And all that this listening to my head has gotten me is a job that pays less than half of what I had been making, while struggling to pay the rent (thank you mommy), living alone with my two cats and hours and days away from everyone that I love.

Here’s an interesting video from TED that is worth hearing.

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Inspirational Quote from Ira Glass- ’nuff said

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

— Ira Glass (via nefffy)- quote taken from NPR’s Fresh Air tumblr

Exercise #23

Time for the next exercise!  Only 4 more left and yes I am continuing to ignore number 21 for the moment.

Exercise #23-  Write about the best vacation you ever took.

It was one of those trips where anything that could go wrong, did.  We were 2000 miles from home when we realized that we’d forgotten the camera.  It was day 2 when my purse was stolen with both of our wallets in it as we gazed upon the leaning tower of Pisa and tried to get the angle just right for Russ to look like he was holding the precarious tower aloft. Day 4 was where that we spent the entire morning and afternoon in a waiting room at the US embassy in Rome, playing rummy and waiting for our new passports to be issued.  Day 8 was the second day of our two-day drive and we were meandering our way through the Black Forrest in Germany on route to Paris when one of the tires went flat and we realized that there was no spare.  Day 9, we had finally made it to Paris and the view from atop the Eiffel Tower was breath-taking.  The gleam of delight in Russ’s big blue eyes was the reason why I’d agreed to go and once he’d seen the sprawling city before him, I could see that light slowly dimming and his step getting a little slower.

On day 11, when we arrived in Venice, Russ was getting tired and we decided to take a leisurely gondola ride with a small booklet of postcards that had some of Canaletto’s most famous portraits of the waterways so that we could see what these places truly looked like, busting with activity.  Day 12 was the day that I told Russ I wanted to stay in and we spent the morning reminiscing about the first day that we met, our first date, and our first kiss.  It was 9am on day 13 when he took his last breath and I said good-bye to my love.  He had gotten up early and brought me breakfast from a little cafe just outside of the hotel and on the balcony to watch the crowd.

And- I’m sorry, but none of that is true.  I don’t even know anyone named Russ, but I really don’t have any wonderful vacations to share with you.  I welcome any of my two loyal readers to allow me to live vicariously through them and their stories of joy 😀

The Appeal of Vampires and Other Supernatural Beings in the Modern Day

Before making my way to bed this evening, I watched the first 20 minutes of Interview With the Vampire and began to feel all nostalgic.  As a young girl, I read everything that Anne Rice had ever written (yes- everything) and was enthralled with the Vampires and the Mayfair Witches- more so the witches I think.  This got me to thinking- why?  What about these series was the factor that drew me in to loving them?  I then began to ask myself- why has the supernatural made such a literary comeback in pop-culture over the past decade?

All good questions for which I’ve not done any research, so I googled- yes, googled- and found a very interesting article by David Dvorkin (no, I don’t know who he is either).  He’s mostly analyzing the meanings of Dracula to Victorian society and the fact that modern culture no longer fears the dark of the forest.  I also read a few other good posts, but they seemed to be saying the same thing- we love them because they are more than human, they are hyper-sexual, and they don’t have to follow any of the rules.  For most of the people trying to explain the appeal of the vampire, they first go to the flexibility of the characters and then to sex, which makes sense, but then they ignore the rest of the supernatural beings that have made a popular resurgence. 

Can you honestly say that the werewolf is sexy?  The werewolf is hairy, violent, and prone to killing you in an uncontrolable fit of rage, but WAIT!  The wolf is a powerful creature and in human form often described in the same terms as a body builder, but apparently also has a heart of gold.  OK, I’ll play along with that for argument’s sake.  The vampire is always super sexy, super strong, and über conflicted about its own darkness.  Sooooo, apparently as a society we are really attracted to exceptionally dysfunctional people and relationships.  In a way, that makes sense.  I mean- a stable, happy, healthy relationship is just kind of boring literarily- there’s no way to grow a character.

The appeal to me, as a writer, of these supernatural beings is that they have their own built-in plot device.  You don’t need to create a mythos about how they came to be, you don’t need to tell the reader anything more about your creature than you feel like changing in the commonly understood history.  They can be normal people with abnormal problems, just trying to get along, or they can be over the top devils a-la Dracula.

One theory that I’ve also been toying with, and I will state for the record that I have not done any research or poling on this, is that these creatures have become more appealing because as a whole we are feeling more helpless than any generation since the depression.  Before 9/11, supernatural fiction was reserved for the D&D playing, black coat wearing, nerds and computer geeks.  The respectable novels to see on a plane were the Robert Ludlums, Tom Clancy’s, and even Daniel Steels.  Somewhere in the last 10 years, it has become perfectly normal to see a person reading one of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series novels and lets not forget the Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Twilight phenomena that has hit young and old readers alike. 

The main correlation that I can see with these books is that they are an escape to a world where there is something more powerful than men, more influential than government, and that could swat at terrorists like they were gnats.  We are coming up on the 10 year anniversary of the attacks on New York and DC and I still remember those days like they have just happened.  I can only believe that the surge of interest in this genre that I’ve loved since I was 10 is due to the need for people to be a little escapist.  The feeling of security we had prior to that day will never come back and we know in our conscious minds that there is no real Captain America who will swoop in and save us, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t pretend in those few minutes between point A and point B in our real lives.

David Dvorkin’s Essay on the Allure of the Vampire

Career Musings from Gen Y

I can honestly say that I’ve never been comfortable with the moniker of Generation Y (or any other variation for that matter), but, like it or not- I am.  Maybe it’s the full moon or maybe not- I have been coming back around to the debates that I was having in my head in 2004 when I first graduated from college with my BA in International Relations.  The question- now what?  There has been a huge focus in the media on the thousands of graduating seniors this season who are entering a very soft job market and my sympathies for them are limited.

When the financial crisis hit and the housing bubble burst, I was an entry-level manager in a hotel.  When I was laid off- I was unprepared for the transition to another field and I was alternately under qualified and overqualified for most entry-level positions that were available.  Needless to say- it’s been a bit rough.  It doesn’t help that my head wasn’t in the right place after the lay off.  It was a blow to my ego and has had my questioning my abilities ever since.  Please don’t delude yourselves that in a layoff situation with a multinational corporation- if they (ie – the people making the decisions) like you and feel that you are an asset, then you won’t be laid off.  So, knowing full well that my boss was not my biggest fan, I did not wonder why this had happened to me.  It was my own stupid fault and I’ve learned an enormous and painful lesson from it.

That being said, here I am, 2 years later and working in a retail environment- yes as a manager- asking myself the question, what now?  The ideas that I had back in 2004 are oddly appropriate to the current environment.  Option number 1 (the one that I took) was to move to DC and work on getting a position in one of the agencies with the intention of going back to get my Masters Degree and advance a career.  Well, that one didn’t work out to well- I ended up in hospitality.  Option number 2 – continue on with a Master’s Degree and figure out what career to chase when I finished.  This option is a bit behind the times having been out of college for 7 years now, but it’s still an option if I can figure out a way to pay for it.  Option number 3 – find a way to get perfect scores on the Civil Service Exam (called the Foreign Service Officer Test) and see where that takes me.

I’m not as assured of my own success as I would have been even 3 years ago.  The applicant pool is just as impressive and, as I believe many people do, I feel as though I’ve yet to properly show the world what I can do.  It also doesn’t help that my own personal feeling that my best assets are my writing ability and quick mind are not exactly rare abilities.  So I come back to the question- what now?

The graduate programs that intrigue me the most have been in Journalism and Writing.  Neither of these typically pays very well and I am afraid that if I take on the necessary student loans to pay for these degrees that I will be once again drowning in debt.  I’ve just gotten out from under that cloud, which seemed even bleaker after being laid off and trying to figure out how to make the plan I’d enacted to deal with it work.  My book has been coming along slowly and my co-author has very soberly reminded me that even if we finish (and we will if only for me to publish one copy for my own shelf) and even if we are able to publish the manuscript- there is no guarantee that it will sell.  I do hold a secret confidence that we will be successful in this endeavour, but I’m realistic about the timeline and know that I need to have a career option in the meantime.

I’ve thrown my name into the pool for the FSOT and I do feel that I can do well, but also do not hold out hopes that I’m their ideal candidate.  Hell, this blog might just disqualify me from the selection process!  But, since there seems to be no chance of getting a work visa with a hotel at this point (my secret plan numbered M) there seems no other way for me to be able to experience the world and cultures that were the main reason I took my degree in International Relations.  Now, at the age of 30, i find myself asking the same questions as the newly graduated with one big difference- I’ve been in the work force and am no longer as appealing as a new grad looking for an internship/entry-level job program.

How many of Generation Y are in this same position?  Those of us who did not study engineering, IT, or one of the hard sciences are small fish in a large pond where the few open positions are available to those who know a guy who knows a guy.  Employers are in the best position at this point, able to pick and choose the cream of the crop or those who have strong recommendation from others that they know and trust.  This is not a new situation, but it is more important in the current job market.  As many news outlets have reported, resumes go into a deep dark void of computer screening and not even the tried and true method of chasing after an employer will do anything more than irritate the hiring manager and hurt your chances for scoring that interview.  This is all assuming that the position hasn’t been posted for posterity’s sake when they already know to whom they will make their offer.

As normal, I feel as though this is a rant, but for once I can say that this is simply my observation of the world around me.  I have options- not happy ones, but options all the same- that many others don’t have.  I cannot imagine being a person without the support structure that I’m lucky enough to be blessed with trying to navigate a career death like the one that I’ve been fighting to avoid.  I will leave you with a very interesting report from NPR’s Ira Glass with Planet Money-

NPR’s Planet Money with Ira Glass

“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.” Mark Twain

Listening to NPR this morning- this quote was running through my mind.  Today is the start of the WSJ’s predicted 11 week countdown to the US Government defaulting on its debt and I can’t honestly see the politicians in DC playing nice with each other.  I get that the newly knighted Republican Tea Party members would like to make sure that the government is cutting the deficit and not increasing it, but these are people who seem to be living outside of reality. 

Let’s run this scenario logically as I have gleaned from the incredible amounts of news coverage- they take their stand, they don’t get what they want from the President and the Democrats in the House and Senate, and then what?  The US Government defaults on loans and we go back into an even worse recession with a downgrade from Moody’s on our treasury bonds.

OR

They stand their ground, blackmail The Whitehouse and Congress into agreeing to things like cutting social services instead of raising taxes and extending tax breaks to the wealthy and privatizing social security in order to make it solvent (because 2024 is just around the corner you know!).

I’m not a big fan of the TEA(bagger) party- I find their agenda to be short-sighted and ignorant for the most part- and this situation once again leaves a rancid taste in my mouth.  How in the hell can this country get back on its feet when you’ve got this partisan BS playing out by the very people who claim that they can fix the problems that are looming over this nation?  The second part to that bad taste is that I’m sure that there IS a more cooperative tone to the discussions taking place on capital hill right now, but due to peoples desires not to alienate their constituency’s before an election year, cooperation isn’t happening.

There is a reason that we have a representative democracy- it’s because some guys in Pennsylvania decided that we would over 200 years ago.  That being said- I stand by the idea that you will never satisfy everybody.  What should we do now?  We’ve got a country screaming for austerity plans, but unwilling to compromise the excesses that have led us into this situation (austerity may not even work that well- just look at Ireland right now).  We’re still languishing in the slowest economic climate in a generation and we have reached the limit on the credit card.  Declaring bankruptcy isn’t an option. 

There has got to be some kind of solution here that doesn’t involve anyone in Congress stomping their feet on the floor and screaming, “no, no, no” like a 3-year-old because they don’t want something.  I know that people have been adamant that compromise has been happening too much and it’s gone too far, but guess what- compromise is a part of communication.  No one person has all of the answers and is always right.  Life IS a collaboration that includes compromise.  If you want to have it all they way that you want to have it- move to a desert island and declare yourself the President, until then- do your jobs andwork on finding a solution.