To Have A Job

After I graduated from college in 2009, I was lucky enough to land an internship at a corporate communications firm that allowed me to work between 8 and 10 hours per day in exchange for a monthly train ticket that would get me from my hometown, to which I’d returned in order to live with my parents, to Grand Central Station. I usually got to the office before most of the salaried employees in order to monitor media for high-profile clients, spent the day working on a variety of projects that were, when they were explained to me, given the importance of something like the development of a life-saving vaccine, and left promptly at five o’clock, as I felt it was my right to do. I arrived home each night exhausted, irritable, and ready for the weekend, when I could finally hang out with my friends.

I knew there was an opening for a junior position at the company. Over the course of the summer, I developed crippling anxiety as I realized that I both needed the job badly and didn’t want it at all. It was driving me insane. I could barely keep up with my personal life then and I wasn’t even getting paid. What would happen when they did pay me? And there was the much bigger question that had started forming somewhere in the back of my mind, which was, “Is this what I want to do with my life?”

Certainly it would have been helpful if I’d thought about that earlier. College would have been an excellent time for that. But I must have decided long before I graduated to stick to the easiest path, which was to move back to New York, get a job, and make money. This wasn’t a bad idea. It’s just that once I was commuting every day, I wished I had explored other options. Why hadn’t I taken my history professor seriously when he’d encouraged me to apply to graduate programs? Why didn’t I move somewhere a million miles away to teach English? Why hadn’t I used any of my talents to do anything worth anything?

The answer to those questions is simple. I had been afraid. And I was still afraid.

So, I stuck with the internship and chased the job. I had coffee with more senior people at the firm and told them how much I wanted to work there. I almost never surfed the internet or checked my phone. I did good work and I always got positive feedback on my projects. And then I didn’t get it.

The day after my twenty-second birthday, my manager informed me that she’d offered the job to a male candidate with a graduate degree in communications who she’d been in contact with regarding the position since April. And because of that, she had to hire him, she said. This was all extremely interesting to find out considering she’d allowed and encouraged me to jump through hoops all summer in order to get a job that was never going to be mine. But I was polite and thanked her “for the opportunity.” She told me I could keep interning for as long as I wanted, but I declined her offer on account of the fact that I was not being paid. The next day would be my last.

When I walked out of that office for the last time, I felt relief. Of course, the Type-A part of me felt a degree of disappointment and humiliation because not getting the job was also like losing or failing, which is not something I was used to. But I really felt like I’d dodged a bullet. There was no way now that I’d be stuck in a job I didn’t like.

I planned on taking the next few months to figure out what I wanted to do, after a brief period of relaxation. I thought that in the near future, I’d go on a few interviews for practice, start a writing class that my father had very nicely offered to pay for after I had a miniature nervous breakdown about never having seriously tried to write and feeling like it was too late to start, and work on my family’s genealogy project. I was going to get in shape. I thought maybe, if I got really desperate, I’d get a job at a restaurant or a bookstore or something. But in the end, I was going to make a plan for ultimate fulfillment in work and life – and follow that plan!

Then I went on my first interview a week later and ended up getting the job. I’ve been working in advertising sales ever since.

Seriously, that’s what happened. Sometimes I wish that I did have those few months off to think about what I really wanted to do. However, I don’t think I would have found the answer I was looking for. I loved my first job. I’ve felt, variously, hatred, ambivalence, and a sort of mild keenness for the jobs I’ve had subsequently. None of those jobs were or are “what I want to do with my life,” but I think the collective experiences have helped me know myself – a self that no longer defined by academic achievement – and understand that no job is ever going to be “what I want to do with my life.”

Having a job that pays me means that I’m able to live comfortably and do whatever I damn well please, including writing, in my free time. Of course, I don’t write as much as I’d like to write and I find it hard work on any of the projects I start. I know this is because I’m still afraid. I’m afraid of failing and judgment and not being comfortable and having to do things the hard way. But I’m confronting those fears gradually. I believe I’m learning from my experiences. And I know that all of this will lead to something. I don’t know what that something will be, but I’m a lot more patient now than I was a few years ago. I’m willing to wait and see.

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Another Music Monday: tUnE-yArDs, “Wait for a Minute”

 

I had ignored this song, a B-side from the upcoming tUnE-yArDs album, until today. (It was officially released a few weeks ago.) And then for no reason at all other than I remembered that there is a tUnE-yArDs album coming out, I played it and it felt like the exact right thing to keep on repeat for the rest of the day. That’s probably because the song is about worrying about what the future will bring and wasting time and being alone with one’s self. It’s not necessarily the best representation of a tUnE-yArDs song – see Nikki Nack’s proper single “Water Fountain” – but I don’t mind hearing something more subdued from Merrill Garbus when it resonates with me so immediately.

Nikki Nack will be out on 5/8 on 4AD, but you can listen to it right now over on NPR.

Seeing Old Friends Is Nice, I Think + Other Super Deep Thoughts, Probably

Last night I was at a bar, the kind of bar with lasers and throngs of sweaty people flailing and spilling their drinks and screaming at the top of their lungs to pop songs. Not my usual scene, as you can imagine, but one that I’m not unfamiliar with. I was there to celebrate my friend Sara’s bachelorette party. I wore mardi gras beads and drank gin and tonics and blew a penis whistle a few times. Sometime around when Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” came on, I looked around at the group of people I was with and realized I’ve known many of them for close to a decade. And I’ve probably danced and scream-sang Whitney Houston with all of them at one time or another during that time. And that is a really nice thing.

Today I am in a rare mood where I feel like being earnest. I got to see people I’ve known for a long time (but don’t see often) several times during the past week and I’m just really happy about it.

This started on Wednesday, when I had dinner with my brother Jim and my sister Tori, who I don’t get to hang out with (just the three of us) all that often, even though we live in the same city. While hanging out at the bar with them after dinner, I ran into people from a few different life stages – grammar school, high school, my first job. It was a bit surreal but I guess sort of an omen(-ish thing) of what was to come this weekend.

I went to a fundraiser cocktail party on Friday at the Bowery Hotel to benefit Elizabeth’s Hope. I knew in advance that I’d see many, many people I’d grown up with there and I felt a certain amount of anxiety about that. But my sister and her friends helped to plan the event. And I feel strongly about the cause. So I went. And yeah, I had more than a few moments where I locked eyes with someone I knew or recognized and then didn’t say hi to them because seeing people from high school surfaces literally every insecurity I have. But I also – with the aid of approximately 867 cocktails – got to catch up with old friends, parents of old friends, a few former enemies, and a teacher or two. Oh, and my parents, who I think had a better time than I did. It certainly wasn’t the same as hanging out with my usual crew, but the novelty of the event made it interesting and memorable and a lot of fun.

Even though I had a particularly vicious hangover yesterday, I managed to do some writing in the afternoon, get myself ready to go out and then actually go out again to do some bachelorette partying, which is another thing I don’t do very often. I’ll see everyone again in three weeks at the wedding, but it was nice all the same to have a night of dancing and silliness that reminded me both of sorority events and my early post-college days in New York. (The excess of penis paraphernalia made last night a little bit different, but still.)

So. I’m not sure what’s going on cosmically that made this week as odd but satisfying as it was, but I hope it continues for a little while longer.

Five Things I Liked This Week

1. Excerpt from Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records by Amanda Petrusich (Pitchfork)

It’s no secret that I’m a little obsessed with The Anthology of American Folk Music and everything that went into and came out of it. (See here and here for proof.) This excerpt is all about Harry Smith, the record collector who created the Anthology.

You can read more about the book, which will be released on July 8th, here. (I pre-ordered it earlier this week.)

2. “Descent” by Fear of Men

 

 

Their debut album, Loom, is out now on Kanine Records.

 

3. “Wake Up”/”Escape From the Citadel”,  Adventure Time‘s Season 6 Double Episode Premiere

I loved it. Here’s the Cartoon Network promo:

 

4. “Carry On” by Esme (Rookie)

Or, a detailed account of an obsession with/personal experience of death and life and stuff.” (It’s a comic, but that shouldn’t stop any of you.)

 

5. “Time of the Season” by The Zombies

Yes, I know that “This Will Be Our Year” ended this week’s episode of Mad Men, but I’ve had a different Zombies song stuck in my head this week. I’m working on a sort of “life soundtrack” project for a friend and I put this on the list of songs I’m considering because it makes me think of a very specific summer I had as a teenager and gives me some serious sad/happy feels.

 

Emphasis On: Gone Home

I just finished playing the first computer game I’ve played since…I dunno, whenever The Sims 3 came out. It’s called Gone Home. It’s fantastic.

You play the game as Kaitlin Greenbriar, a 22 year old returning from an extended European adventure to her family’s Oregon home on a dark, stormy night in June of 1995. Kaitlin finds the house deserted and must explore every room (and secret passage!) for clues to piece together where her family has gone. The main “mystery” involves Samantha, Katie’s younger sister, who narrates a series of notes, short stories and journal entries to help tell a thrilling and emotionally-charged story. Even though I was basically picking up objects and reading documents for most of the game, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. (Actually, I was just sitting in my bed kind of tensed up, but whatever.) Gone Home only takes a few hours to play, but I think it’s an experience I’ll remember for a while.

Oh, also! There’s lots of riot grrrl stuff! And I’m a fan of anything that heavily integrates Heavens to Betsy.