Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Surf Spinning

Originally uploaded by Martina.
When I was a girl, I used to go on trips to Gleneden Beach to visit my friend. The food at her house was terrible. Her mother would buy meat off the clearance rack in the butcher's section, then bring it home and freeze it for later use. After a couple of bouts of being sent home early with mysterious stomach ailments, I quickly learned to adapt. When necessary, I temporarily converted from "omnitarian" to staunch vegetarian. I became a champion of us kids taking trips to town, so we could eat out or I could at least discretely stock up on non-tainted snacks to sustain me, since I wasn't really eating dinner. I couldn't tell her mom I didn't like the food (or that I didn't want food poisoning), so to save her feelings, I let her think I was just one of those kids who don't eat much. It was probably the only time in my life that someone thought I was anything but a hearty eater.

Despite the gastronomic challenges, I lived for these visits, because they were an adventure. My mom would take me downtown to the Greyhound bus depot and deposit me on the coastal express and my friend and her mom would pick me up at the bowling alley/bus depot in Lincoln City. Once we got to their place, I'd throw down my overnight bag, and H. and I would head to the beach.

We would spend hours splashing around in the surf, playing the sorts of childhood games that are delightfully fun and recklessly dangerous at the same time. One of our favorites was to march out into the not too deep water, then sit down cross-legged in the sand, waiting for the tide to come in, so the undertow could spin us around while we laughed and laughed. Never once considering that the same undertow could easily sweep us out to sea, we found this activity to be the height of good times. If my mother had only known, I think she might have killed me herself (or at least have reacted in the same way she did when she found me and two other friends repeatedly jumping off the top of their small barn and into a huge pile of hay. That was not a good day for base jumping.)

That's the thing about being a kid, though. They're fearless. They know what is fun, they know what they want, and they just DO IT. Where is it along the way that we lose that certainty?

I ask, because on Monday I went to what was almost the weirdest job interview I have ever had. The weirdest job interview I've ever had was the time I was invited for to interview for a position because the interviewer had calculated my age based on my high school graduation dates on the application and wanted to check me out, because he felt there might be a date prospect in a young woman, who had an MA and spoke a few languages. Apparently, I passed the test, because he invited me for dinner. I declined.

Anyway, back to Monday. Monday I headed downtown to interview with an agency for a position as Executive Assistant at an international import company. The encounter started with me being asked to take some tests that involved typing and alphabetizing things on a computer screen while an odd little bleach blonde, with leathery skin tanned to the color of a crisply burnt sienna paced back and forth outside the window. Good news! All those student loans paid off! The results are in, and there's no doubt that I know my alphabet! Woo hoo!

The test did tip me off that the interview might not be the success for which I had hoped. Ever curious, I decided to stick it out. I was already downtown and would have had to wait around for my lunch date anyway, so I headed off to meet with the owner of the agency. Instead of an interview, what I got was a counseling session and discussion about whether there were any Director level positions I could apply for at my current company. At some point in the exchange (and I use the term "exchange" loosely, since I really wasn't allowed to do much talking), I found myself tuning out and just nodding politely as the recruiter spewed platitudes like "go where the money is", "look at the people in the positions you want and dress like them", or "find out who to suck up to". I don't know if she thought I was younger than I am (people sometimes do), but she seemed to position herself in the role of seasoned professional offering a youth life advice. In her own way, I think she thought she was being helpful. The meeting ended with the her telling me to think about it, then assuring that she would put me in for some jobs if that's what I "really wanted" and me questioning what the hell it is that I was doing in the first place.

And here I sit, still wondering and wishing for the days when it was all as clear as "spinning in the sand is fun". I know I'm never going to be some great corporate success story. Before anyone thinks that is self-esteem talking, let me make clear that I know I could be, if I set my mind to it. The thing is that I don't know that I care. I don't care "where the money is" and I don't suck up. Whatever it might be, I make myself good at my job. As a result, even in my current position, which is almost sub-terranean on the corporate totem pole, a lot of the VP's and SVP's know me and have even encouraged me to aspire to greater things within our organization. It is not like I'm a professional loser. It is more that I haven't (at least professionally speaking) found that thing that stirs my heart and gives me a passion for what I do.

The things that do stir my heart are the ones where I find most of my insecurity. Despite the interest I have in things like writing, singing, taking pictures, most of the time I feel like a creative wannabe, a dilettante.

The thing is that when I look around, there are a LOT of people just like me. I meet them every day - friends, acquaintances from church, at work, at volunteer orientations, etc.). They're not always the people you would expect them to be either. Sometimes it's the people who look most successful who have the biggest holes in their souls.

What does this all ultimately mean? I don't know, I'm still thinking about it and trying to fill my time with the things that are meaningful to me and that do make me laugh. I have one theory that says that with the right attidue and some self-discipline my non-demanding job could be turned into the kind of day job that leaves me time to write, sing, and create things. On the other hand, it seems like there should be more to my professional life than being micromanaged into oblivion by a high strung boss who has no trust for her employees. Somewhere, somehow, I need to find a balance. I don't want to drown, but I do still want the exhilarating feeling of spinning in the undertow and laughing just a little.


Leslita said...

I know exactly what you mean! I was getting bored to tears by my low level job while people in the company encouraged me to climb ladders and stuff. But they weren't ladders I was interested in at all! I was on the fence between "what am I complaining about? This job is virtually stress-free now and I can do whatever I want with my evenings, which always end at 5pm or earlier!" and "My creative soul is crying and there must be some job that I could get that might make my heart sing!". Luckily for me, it turns out that there are jobs at adidas that have more creativity and don't require dressing a certain way or talking like an asshole to get into and I happened upon one. Even though I am now overflowing with stress and don't leave at 5 or have time to do everything I want (yet), I still think it will ultimately turn out to have been a good decision. I hope that you can find some similar balance in a future job! The hard part is not knowing what that is or you could just go for it! Sounds like you're trying hard in your search - good for you!

Jen said...

!!! Man, I read this right before I read the horoscopes in WW. You need to read your Free Will Astrology for this week, which I will include here to save you a trip:
Pisces Horoscope for week of September 14, 2006

Millard Fillmore was President of the United States from 1850 to 1853. He was the last holder of that office who was neither a Democrat nor Republican. Let's make him a symbol of freedom from the rigged con game that is America's two-party political system, as well as an inspiring image for those of you who aspire to rise above every either-or dichotomy. Fillmore will be your mascot as you declare your independence from the dualistic ways of thinking that threaten to ensnare you. He'll be an emblem that rouses you to transcend the simplistic arguments spewed by fanatical devotees of the Us Versus Them racket. Escape the vise, Pisces.

I thought it was good, anyway.

Jen said...

And now that I've just left my borrowed Words of Wisdom there with virtually no context, I see that I sound like an obnoxious blowhard. (sorry)

I just want to commiserate with the difficulty of finding that balance, and maybe, just maybe it's not an either/or situation. Maybe we need to keep looking for that elusive Other Way that will bring maximum happiness without having to sacrifice professional or artistic ambitions.

Martina said...


I was going to answer these in the order they came, but a blogographic emergency has caused me to throw seniority to the wind!

It may just be the pain talking (but probably not, since my knee and I have struck an accord - if I don't hold my leg in certain positions, it won't hurt), but you don't EVER sound like an obnoxious blowhard. I actually LIKE the horoscope, so thank you for sending it.

I think the biggest float in the suck parade, is that even though I am sure that this isn't doing it for me, I don't know what will make me happy. I like to think that it's just not been the greatest summer for me and that fall will bring new clarity about life in general, thereby making that one little part about the job better too.

Anyway, I say maximum happiness for everyone!

Martina said...


I can't tell you how good that is to hear. Sometimes when you feel stuck, it helps to know that other people have been up the same creek and are managing to swim out.

There are some possibilities even at my current company. The most immediate one would be great, if it weren't for one little thing that I would only maybe have to do, but know would tax my freak out levels in a big way. The rest of the job, however, has quite a bit of promise and could actually be made FUN. I suppose, if I were going to follow the Jen commandments, I would "Just say yes!", but I'm following the Way of the Wishy-Washy and floundering back and forth.

In closing, I just want to say that Jen's horoscope must've influenced me, because I'm finding my language laced with fishy things like swimming, creeks and flounder and that I'm feeling particularly regional today and pronouncing Creek in my head as "Crick". I could even live with sporting the West Coast Dude "R" in most cases, but if I start calling Washington "Warshington", I'm counting on you and Jen to make it stop!