Friday, July 29, 2011

Organized Chaos

I have to say that these past 6 months of unemployment have been exactly what I needed. Admittedly, this time hasn't been all fun and games (just some of it). It's been stressful and scary and occasionally shameful, but I've recently realized that I like the chaos and unpredictability of my life right now. I'm 26 years old and I will admit that I don't know what the fuck I am doing. There. I said it. Why is it so hard to admit that we sometimes don't have a plan, or don't want a plan? (And by the way... if my life ever does become regimented and predictable you have my permission to shoot me- you know... with a gun). This affectionate attitude towards disarray is not to be confused with complacency. I am here, in the thick of it, brawling against my own insecurities and society's judgements- fighting like hell to figure out what I want to do with my life.  I ask myself over and over- what is my passion? What would I do if I could do anything?

And, in the midst of all this confusion, I have discovered that there is something so wonderful about not taking the shortcut. There's a personal transformation that can only occur while your knee deep in your own insecurities and fears. I've been presented with 2 perfectly respectable job opportunities since I've been laid off. But both felt like a cop-out. Both felt like I was giving into the fear of unemployment and taking the easy way out. I know I made the right choice by sticking this out. I have decided to give myself the gift of chaos and I give myself permission to take the scenic route.

The most insane part of all of this is I do know what I want to do. I've known for a long time, it just took me this long to admit it. I want to be (brace yourselves... or yourself I should say... I think I only have one 'regular' reader... Heyyy Nat)..... a writer. As in I want to write. Professionally. Preferably for money at some point. Not because I feel like I'm unstoppably talented or anything. Nor do I think that the sweet lord has bestowed upon me a gift and it is my duty to share this gift with the world (Nat, feel free to disagree with any of this). I just feel that if you are drawn to something, and something feeds your soul in a way that is new and exciting, don't you owe it to yourself to see what it's all about? 

I have this image- nightmare I should say- of myself at 35 sitting at my desk at my fancy, formidable, nod-worthy, career-type job and I'm just a little bit dead inside. I have shaped my life in a way that many people respect and would expect of me. Maybe I needed to take the job because I have a husband and a kid (ugh again, permission to shoot me DEAD if this happens. The kid part. Not the husband part. Love you babe) and I felt like it was the right thing to do. And I always wonder what would have happened if I had the balls to try writing? What would have happened if I really went for it? What would have happened if I had been able to put aside my fear of failure and embarrassment? (Just a note: I am tooootally mortified to admit that I want to write. I sort of feel like the asshole who comes to LA and thinks they're going to become an actor. Or someone who's mom told them they were pretty one time too many and now they really believe that they are going to become a model. And who knows? People come to LA and successfully model and act.... and write... all the time. But, I mean, come on. This is just slightly less humiliating than the time my brother walked in on me masturbating with a sock when we were kids). So there it is. My nightmare. Sitting at my desk in the future always tormented by asking 'what if?' 

Since I've presented my worst nightmare... I suppose it's only fair to confess my deepest dream when it comes to writing. I think that everyone, myself of course included, have a deep desire to really be seen and understood. I love authors who write about their experiences, their flaws, their insecurities. It’s an unnerving and exhilarating experience when you can find a book or author who can speak for you. Raw honesty is the best part of reading, and presumably, writing. So that's the dream. I unveil parts of myself through writing and people are somehow moved by my experiences. 

Oh and since we're dreaming, I also want a HUGE rack. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Losing Youself

Perhaps it has shown through my writing that I am in the process of trying to find myself. I cringe even typing the words "find myself." It's so cliche and frankly I'm disappointed that I have the same problems as everybody else. I realize that sounds bad, but isn't this why I went to a good college? I like to think I'm resourceful and intelligent, I'm not afraid to crack the occasional joke, I feel something when I pass a homeless person on the street. Basically, I'm trying to say that I'm not a total shit person. And you know... while looks aren't everything I was hoping that my Kate Moss figure and Zooey Deschanel charm would be my ticket to the top. I've been led to believe that this is the winning combination that leads to unparalleled success. I feel totally duped. 

A common discussion amongst my friends and I is how we felt so ill-prepared when we were shoved out into the real world at 22. No one told us it was going to be hard. Seriously- no one. Everyone just fucking lied to us for 22 years. Our parents, our teachers, our relatives, our modeling coaches. So now many of us are struggling with the "wait.... so am I NOT special after all?!" dilemma. And it's a bitter pill.

BUT once we realize that our shinning career isn't going to be delivered to us overnight via FedEx, we now have the opportunity to discover what it is we're meant to do. We will stumble and fall over and over. But we get back up because we, as a generation, are resilient. We don't want to settle. Most of us don't want to be in a cubicle with florescent lighting and EOM goals. We want freedom and choices. We want to be our own bosses. We want to live.

This article was just presented to me and it definitely spoke volumes about what I am talking about. I found it inspirational- hopefully you will too.  David Brooks, a columnist at The New York Times wrote,

"Over the past few weeks, America’s colleges have sent another class of graduates off into the world. These graduates possess something of inestimable value. Nearly every sensible middle-aged person would give away all their money to be able to go back to age 22 and begin adulthood anew.

But, especially this year, one is conscious of the many ways in which this year’s graduating class has been ill served by their elders. They enter a bad job market, the hangover from decades of excessive borrowing. They inherit a ruinous federal debt.
More important, their lives have been perversely structured. This year’s graduates are members of the most supervised generation in American history. Through their childhoods and teenage years, they have been monitored, tutored, coached and honed to an unprecedented degree.
Yet upon graduation they will enter a world that is unprecedentedly wide open and unstructured. Most of them will not quickly get married, buy a home and have kids, as previous generations did. Instead, they will confront amazingly diverse job markets, social landscapes and lifestyle niches. Most will spend a decade wandering from job to job and clique to clique, searching for a role.
No one would design a system of extreme supervision to prepare people for a decade of extreme openness. But this is exactly what has emerged in modern America. College students are raised in an environment that demands one set of navigational skills, and they are then cast out into a different environment requiring a different set of skills, which they have to figure out on their own.
Worst of all, they are sent off into this world with the whole baby-boomer theology ringing in their ears. If you sample some of the commencement addresses being broadcast on C-Span these days, you see that many graduates are told to: Follow your passion, chart your own course, march to the beat of your own drummer, follow your dreams and find yourself. This is the litany of expressive individualism, which is still the dominant note in American culture.
But, of course, this mantra misleads on nearly every front.
College grads are often sent out into the world amid rapturous talk of limitless possibilities. But this talk is of no help to the central business of adulthood, finding serious things to tie yourself down to. The successful young adult is beginning to make sacred commitments — to a spouse, a community and calling — yet mostly hears about freedom and autonomy.
Today’s graduates are also told to find their passion and then pursue their dreams. The implication is that they should find themselves first and then go off and live their quest. But, of course, very few people at age 22 or 24 can take an inward journey and come out having discovered a developed self.
Most successful young people don’t look inside and then plan a life. They look outside and find a problem, which summons their life. A relative suffers from Alzheimer’s and a young woman feels called to help cure that disease. A young man works under a miserable boss and must develop management skills so his department can function. Another young woman finds herself confronted by an opportunity she never thought of in a job category she never imagined. This wasn’t in her plans, but this is where she can make her contribution.
Most people don’t form a self and then lead a life. They are called by a problem, and the self is constructed gradually by their calling.
The graduates are also told to pursue happiness and joy. But, of course, when you read a biography of someone you admire, it’s rarely the things that made them happy that compel your admiration. It’s the things they did to court unhappiness — the things they did that were arduous and miserable, which sometimes cost them friends and aroused hatred. It’s excellence, not happiness, that we admire most.
Finally, graduates are told to be independent-minded and to express their inner spirit. But, of course, doing your job well often means suppressing yourself. As Atul Gawande mentioned during his countercultural address last week at Harvard Medical School, being a good doctor often means being part of a team, following the rules of an institution, going down a regimented checklist.
Today’s grads enter a cultural climate that preaches the self as the center of a life. But, of course, as they age, they’ll discover that the tasks of a life are at the center. Fulfillment is a byproduct of how people engage their tasks, and can’t be pursued directly. Most of us are egotistical and most are self-concerned most of the time, but it’s nonetheless true that life comes to a point only in those moments when the self dissolves into some task. The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It’s to lose yourself.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Head Nod

You know the feeling when you're having a really "adult" conversation?? You have your big girl panties on, you opted for a full-bodied pinot noir instead of a beer, and the eye contact is direct and intense. Perhaps you're talking to your boyfriend's mother's successful 60 year-old Persian friend, or your Dad's lawyer wife, or your old boss from when you were a marketing intern in college (all completely made up examples by the way).  The conversation will go to the usual places- How are you? How is your family? Isn't this place nice? Oh I see you're having the pinot as well... ugh you should know that I'm not really listening and even though I'm maintaining strong eye contact, I have wickedly powerful peripheral vision and I'm looking for a way out.

The conversation will inevitably turn to profession. Now... my boyfriend has a job that old people fucking love. When they hear about his job, you can tell it's the closest they've come to an orgasim in years. Young people too, but octogenarians are really his demographic. He gets the head nod every time. You know... when he tells people what he does the other person is nodding their head up and down, their eyes light up, and you can see the excitement growing in their expression. He has about 500,700 head nod points from this year alone. He has the type of job that comes with the best health insurance, 401K,  great title, long-term stability, ability to grow within the company, company jet, free dry cleaning, he's called sir at work, porn isn't blocked on his computer, blah blah. Yes, of course, I'm proud of him and he's worked hard- whatever. When it comes down to it I'm just raging jealous of the head nods. When I tell my story do you think the older Persian lady is brimming with excitement? Umm no. I get the awkward pause followed by a 'reassuring' pat on the shoulder. And then a part of my soul dies forever. 

As much as I drown in my own self-pity and despair within the corporate world, I would be lying if I told you I don't miss the head nods. It's like heroin. Once you've felt it, you always kind of want it again no matter how much pain and self-loathing is involved in getting there. The feeling of acceptance and accomplishment is addictive. But the reality is, there is something exhilarating about not knowing what I'm going to do with myself. I feel more alive than I did sitting, starring at a computer for 9 hours a day. Oh fuck... and never having to make a cold call again in my life is worth giving up head nods forever. 

So to all those people out there fighting to figure out their destiny, clawing their way out of corporate America to find something that feeds their soul not just their ego, I raise my beer to you... and to you I nod my head. 

(I just told this guy that I'm unemployed)