gall and gumption

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Tune Up

What I shall call a harmonic convergence of the Gods of Money enabled me this weekend to get new memory and a new OS installed in my little machine here. I really ought to call this computer Kia II. I went to the place with the cute Spanish guy who doesn't seem so cute now; I have a sneaking suspicion that he is the owner of the Humvee parked next to the shop. And that puts him completely beyond the pale. It was amazing really how this one errand -- a fifteen-minute drive from home -- managed to eat up so much of the day. Part of the reason was that I was booked for the evening. Mark P., and his wife M. invited me to go to a party with them. He called me Thursday about this and I agreed with a promptness that I regretted for every waking moment until I was actually dressed and in my car on my way to meet them.

What is that, anyhow?

I was very glad I went to the party, as it happened, it was a fundraiser in D.C., and interesting people were there, and I did a teeny tiny bit of good, and best of all I got in some talk with Mark P., who knows me so well that it is eerie. Many of the people who were at this thing were working on various causes. I was aware that I'm not working on any causes. I always feel such a frivolous person at such gatherings. But then this woman who works at NPR was there and someone was talking about why they don't listen any more and I said "I used to be a faithful listener. Now I can't listen because I get so angry I start swearing at the radio." Which is the gospel truth by the way. She said "Well, it's good that you engage with it." It was the sort of of crowd where people said "engage with" a lot. You see, I never use an expression like that. I think that proves that I'm illiterate. And then the others chimed in and when there was a pause I said well, rather a mouthful. Intellectual dishonesty of pundits, why did they hire a fundy creationist science reporter? I said it wasn't a matter of hearing opinions that I disagreed with, but a basic corruption of judgment that was beyond agreement or disagreement. These people got things wrong the same way week after week, and now they had a Creationism-flogging science reporter: "Why can't anybody figure this out? How hard can this be for the biggest public broadcasting news organization in the U.S.?" And that's when she ran out of the room. So much for my networking ability.

But for the days before this party all I thought of it was how it would disrupt the flow of my weekend. My weekends are not exactly a work of art, as regular readers well know. Usually the high point is the dog walk. But between the dog walk and the nap and the Noteobok writing sessions (at least two per weekend day) it does get filled up. And yet last week I went quite happily to that dance concert. So what was the difference? Some of it was social anxiety, the apprehension of going to a party with a whole bunch of people I don't know. I start out, as I do when searching for jobs, with the assumption that no one there would want to have anything to do with me. Which sort of almost guarantees that I will just be anticipating misery. This is what happened on July 4 as well, when my cousin took me to a party on the waterfront to watch the fireworks. I didn't want to go, but my dad, who was also invited, wanted to go. It was on a boat, and being a water rat he was curious, and to tell you the truth, anything that can give my father any pleasure in life in this barren exile he lives here is not to be refused. So we went and everybody was happy and I was a bit bored until the fireworks came on, but -- and this is important, people -- I wasn't bored and resentful.

Anyway I do feel the pull of my habits, and I find it rather surprising that I have habits. Pleasantly surprising, mostly. I feel like it's my highest aspiration in life to have a routine that makes me happy and enables me to work, not necessarily in that order. If I'm working I don't worry about whether I'm happy. I'm pretty much OK till I lift the pen from the paper or close the laptop and have to look about me again. I think there's supposed to be something more, though.

I could stand a little more financial security. I'd like a day job that was, like, a real job, i.e., had some relation to my abilities and interests. I'd like to get out more and meet more people and see more art and hear more music (provided they don't interfere with the writing habit) and there really are things I have to do that I'm finding it difficult to do now. I miss my friends. I miss all those books in that storage unit in California that I can't get to.

I wonder how come I'm not working as a journalist or as an academic. Where did I go wrong, is how that question comes to me sometimes. That diffidence, that conviction that I would not be wanted anywhere, is a big part of it. It's like I keep trying to squeeze myself into a smaller and smaller space. I think I am living inside my laptop, on the pages of the notebook, and at the end of the dog leash. It's a sort of defiant submission, it's fatalism. But maybe I'm missing something.

For example. A couple of months ago when I was working at the gummint, a friend here gave me a job listing for a BIG MAJORLY AWESOME editing job. Senior editor at a Very Important Quasi-Gummint Institution, the money was unbelievable, too, and my mother would be bragging about me for the rest of her days. From the job description I knew that I was qualified, it was the same subject matter I'd been working on for the past year, a little bit technical, a little bit legal, a little bit economic. I knew that I could do the job, but I did not believe that I could persuade anyone that I could do the job. So last week I learned that this same friend (who has a pretty good gummint job except he's overworked and it's a bit of a madhouse) applied for it Senior Editor job and got an interview. And what he learned at the interview was that, in his words, "It was more what you do than what I do." He anticipated a rather steep learning curve.

I'm not saying this a bit resentfully. I was delighted that he felt adventurous and got the interview. When he expressed some doubt about his ability to do it I assured him he could learn everything in a few months. I don't think I convinced him of this but I tried. I mean, if I had got the mere interview for this job I would be able to believe that I was a plausible candidate.

At my own suggestion, my mother now calls me her Idiot Child. And when I told Mark P. the story he said, "Do you have some kind of death wish?" Well, to be fair, when I was depressed I did. But I haven't been depressed or experienced anything quite like that since the night I had to actually fight someone for my life. It was kind of a life-changing experience. I've been sad and angry and anxious and tired and fed up and disgusted, lots, but not depressed like I used to be. I was pulling out of my last depression just before the attack, oddly.

I do great interviews. I can only remember one really bad interview in recent history, and it was for a job near where I live. I didn't really want the job. My friend Tomar had called me and told me not to even bother. "You'll hate it," she said. I knew she was right. I didn't like the guy who interviewed: the number of men I can stand the sight of in a yellow polo shirt is very small. I mean, if I love you you can wear just about anything, but if you are an unprepossessing stranger the yellow polo shirt will drag you down. I believe it may even have had some sort of golf-related heraldry on it. Which puts you right down among the Humvee owners, frankly. Anyway I chattered on, aware that I was losing the guy and really unable to do anything about it. After about five years of this conversation I made my escape. Even when I interview with actual humans I have the suspicion that they don't want someone who is quite so much of a human as I am.

I just don't want to enter a fight I believe I have no chance of winning. It feels like added trouble when I've already got enough on my hands. But I realize that the flaw in this is the conviction that I don't have a chance of winning. I've got to overcome this, not in some totally non-reality-based way, but enough to make that little bit of an effort to actually play so I can actually find out what will actually happen. Attention to this is required.


At 11:53 AM, Blogger L7 said...

If there's a fight, my money is always on you.

At 10:32 PM, Anonymous phil said...

Your talents are obvious in every paragraph. You don't have to fight for a brainy job, just show up, talk and bring a writing sample. Jeez, it is not like you can conceal your ability. When they round up the intellectuals, you are on the list, on it already.


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