Hello…and Be Right Back!

I have so many boxes around me that my place looks more like this Amazon warehouse than a home, only less orderly…ah, the fun of moving!

I have so many boxes around me that my place looks more like this Amazon warehouse, only less orderly…

I haven’t blogged in a while nor have I kept up with reading the blogs I follow and exploring ones that are new to me, all of which I feel bad about.

BUT! I have a good reason, which I thought I should take a moment to share here so that no one assumes I’ve stopped writing and reading:

I’m in the midst of preparing to move and to start a new job; either one of those would be a lot, but both at once means my time is quite limited. What with getting boxes, tossing old stuff, packing, making calls to arrange logistical details and also preparing for work, I have been swamped!

So, I apologize if:

  • I have stopped reading and/or commenting on your blogs (this delay will only be temporary, as I miss this so much!);
  • I don’t respond right away to any comments you make here (but I will eventually, I promise — I love comments from readers and fellow bloggers!);
  • I don’t post much over the next month or so (but I already have post ideas and drafts ready to work on once I get situated).

I just wanted to explain where I’ve been and that I will be back very soon! Thank you for your understanding, and I hope the new year is off to a great start for you. 🙂

My History with Inhibition

I’ve always hated how inhibited I can be in certain settings, and it all started at a young age.

Mental rehearsals

In school if we had to methodically go around the classroom introducing ourselves, or if I was anticipating giving an answer to a teacher’s question during the lesson, I’d feel sick until my moment was over. This happened even when I was sure I knew the right answer, or when the activity was nothing important, like a fun icebreaker at the start of an afterschool club.

I know people say public speaking is a top fear, but to me it seemed I had a heightened internal reaction to even the most minor instances of speaking to a group. I mean, beyond the usual hand clamminess, dry mouth, and flushed face, my body would even tingle. And not in the butterflies-in-the- stomach way, which I’d felt for more minor episodes of nervousness, like if my mom asked me to call information for a phone number (back in the dark days of landline phones and no Internet).

No, this sensation was like I was buzzing all over with fear. It’s hard to describe it even; the closest thing I can think of is how it feels if you get a minor electric shock. I’ve experienced that and this feeling was similar, only it lasted much longer!

To deal with my nerves, I’d rehearse in my mind what I would say over and over until I spoke, whether I had seconds or minutes until it was my turn. Having a longer period to mentally prepare was actually worse, since that gave me more time to repeat in my head whatever I had to say over and over and over. And the big moment was usually something as simple as, “Hi, I’m Becky. I’m a freshman. I like to write and my favorite color is purple.”

Why was I getting so worked up over something like that?

Freezing on the piano

I was inhibited early on in other ways, too.

When I was trying to learn to play the piano as a child, a process I actually enjoyed, I’d be making good progress until my mom would come in to admire my work.

Suddenly all kinds of discordant tones would emanate from my fingers on the piano keys.

Timing was off.

Tunes I knew by heart were suddenly forgotten.

“What’s wrong?” my mom would ask, and initially I’d say something like my fingers had gotten stiff or a key had stuck. But since it kept happening over and over, I remember finally admitting I couldn’t play if she watched me — and she seemed hurt.

“But why? I think you’re doing great! Besides, I’m not watching to criticize how you’re playing, I’m just so proud of you!” she said.

I understood, but that didn’t help me when it came to playing and being observed at the same time. I just couldn’t do it. My hands didn’t allow it, even if mentally I wanted to continue.

The school choir incident

Then there was the time in school when I was in a choir because we had to take some kind of music class as part of my school’s curriculum. When the teacher evaluated my singing ability, she told me I was a pretty good singer. She surprised me even further by classifying me as a soprano. I was proud of that, since I’d assumed I had a more limited vocal range.

Despite all of these fun surprises, come the night of our big performance for the school, I actually found myself only mouthing along.

Yes, ­lip-synching, like a teenaged version of Milli Vanilli.

I just couldn’t bring myself to sing. And I knew I couldn’t just opt out of the performance once I was there with everyone and had family sitting in the audience. “No thanks, I think I’ll sit this one out,” would just not have been accepted by anyone.

But I felt so ashamed afterwards that I never wanted to sing again once that choir class was over. It still bothers me, actually. I know I was young and there are worse things I could have done, but I feel like I defrauded everyone that night, including myself.

I did tell my mom and one close friend about it afterwards, in the hopes I’d feel like less of a fraud. They were very understanding but I still felt so…wrong. Why was I so bottled up in these ways?! I actually liked singing! (Side note: I think a few members of the choir had done the same thing that night. At one point, the teacher leading our choir kept telling us to be louder and asked if everyone was singing. You’d think that would have jolted me into joining in like I was supposed to, regardless of whoever else may have been basically cheating, too. But no; now I felt locked into my charade, like I’d be discovered if my voice was suddenly audible in a way it hadn’t been before.)

No sprinkles for you

This inhibition would pop up even in minor social interactions, as it did one summer during my high school years when I went to an amusement park with my relatives.

At one point, I got on a vendor’s line to buy an ice cream cone while my family stayed at the table we’d all been eating at. While waiting, I noticed two boys on line in front of me; one looked to be about my age and was talking to a boy who appeared to be about 5 or 6. They looked alike and I was pretty sure they were brothers.

I heard the older boy tell his little brother that he didn’t have enough money for him to get sprinkles on his cone after all. I don’t remember how much more he needed exactly, but I remember it being very little — it was definitely under a dollar.

This seemingly insignificant memory has stayed with me, for two reasons: I’d been impressed by the way the two brothers got along and how caring the older one seemed to be towards the younger one; plus the thought of offering some of my own change towards the child’s sprinkles had popped into my mind. I knew the little boy would appreciate it and I found him to be an adorable kid, so I really felt moved to do this small, random act of kindness.

But what did I do?

You guessed it — nothing.

As I witnessed the little boy look disappointed but good-naturedly tell his older brother he was okay with not getting sprinkles, I was fighting an internal battle.

You have extra change — if you feel like offering it, do it! I was telling myself. I knew how it felt to be short on money and be unable to afford something; I wanted the little boy to not have to forego the sprinkles he’d clearly been excited about and the older brother not to feel bad for being unable to get them for him.

Yet I felt funny saying something because I didn’t want to look like I’d been eavesdropping (I couldn’t help but hear them, since they were right in front of me) or that I liked the older brother and was trying to get his attention. I didn’t even find him attractive, and besides, I wasn’t the type to do things just for show.

So, as the line moved closer and closer to the ordering window, I stayed silent — except for the debate raging in my head.

I watched the boys order their cones, sans sprinkles. And still I said nothing. They paid and left, then I ordered my own cone — and that was that.

I know I wasn’t wrong not to pitch in; my point is, if I felt like doing so, why couldn’t I? Why was I allowing myself to be held back like this?

Loved my dance classes…to a point

Curiously, I wasn’t too shy to avoid doing things like taking dance classes as I got older. For some time, I took African dance classes at a studio that featured live drummers (which has since closed, sadly). And I loved it.

As the classes drew to a close, the students would break out of the orderly arrangements we’d been in and casually surround the drummers. Individually, dancers would then move forward closer to the drummers and dance any steps they felt like doing to the beat of the drums.

The drummers would begin with a basic beat and then time their rhythm to what they saw the dancer doing, and the group watching was always so supportive of the dancer and his or her inspiration and creativity — ego wasn’t part of it. The dancer wasn’t trying to impress anyone; this was all about enjoying the rhythmic drumming.

To me it also seemed like a way to show appreciation for the work the drummers had done throughout the class providing the music for our lesson; now the dancers were dancing for them as a thank you. And on a larger level, the process seemed almost sacred, like a ritual to honor music, culture, life, and each other.

After a few seconds of the individual dancers either using steps we’d just learned or improvising ones they were inspired to use, they’d then return to the group to applause and cheers of appreciation and respect. Then another dancer would come forward to perform his or her own personal dance for the drummers. It was a beautiful experience.

Yet for all my time taking those classes, I hesitated when the opportunity arose to dance in front of everyone on my own that way.

I’m not even a bad dancer; that wasn’t my issue. I’m not humble-bragging here, mind you — I’m no dance expert, but I’m not terrible and I want to explain that that wasn’t my reason for not coming forward.

Besides, I knew skill wasn’t the focus here — dancers of all levels were readily welcomed and appreciated in that class. It was all about the spirit with which you danced — a value I loved.

Class after class, I enjoyed the creations of the other dancers, the camaraderie I shared with fellow observers, and the music — and each time, I felt moved to step forward and share my own love for the music and dance.

Maybe next time I’ll work up the nerve to do it, I’d tell myself.

I never did.

It’s odd, considering that I wasn’t too shy to go to the class in the first place. It didn’t even bother me that the studio allowed anyone who wanted to watch the classes to do so from the side door or through a window on the back wall of the studio adjoining the main entrance. I was fine with that because I was just one person out of many who were doing the same steps.

But when it came to standing out and having all eyes on me? Not so fine with that.

Not so good at a concert, either

I’ve had a similar reaction when I’ve attended concerts. Although I may be moved by the experience, I just can’t physically lose myself to the music the way I’d like to during a good live performance — the way I see others do with ease.

Instead I’ll stand there and observe the band or singer with only the occasional head nod to the music and applause at the end of each song. But beyond that? I don’t do much else.

I know to some it might look like I’m not having fun, but I am. I wish I could let myself engage a bit more in moments like these, especially since I know no one’s even going to be paying attention to me — but I still can’t seem to.

Hanging out with friends

The same thing has happened to me when my friends and I have gone to a lounge. I’ve often heard a song I love, actually joined them on the dance floor, but then proceeded to dance in the most “safe” way possible. Basically it involves me just barely moving to the beat, using the same couple of moves over and over. Meanwhile, I get such a thrill seeing people who can dance freely and joyfully. The way I do at home when no one’s around. Then, I dance!

One time I did that involuntarily hearing a song I liked while a friend was at my place, and she caught me. “You should dance like that when we’re out! Why don’t you?” she asked, surprised. I didn’t have a good answer for her. I still don’t. I felt pleased by her compliment, yet that wasn’t enough to be able to unleash that side of me in public. The few times I have been a little more free usually involved a drink or two. Not just me being me.

Part of it involves not wanting to look like I’m performing. I’ve seen some people who seem to want attention. I’m the opposite of that and I’m like this even with petty things, like if a friend asks me to tell a funny, but lengthy, story to a group of people at dinner. Having all eyes turn towards me expectantly, with the prospect of having to speak to them for minutes on end as I relate the requested anecdote, results in me shortening the story to a ridiculous length.

Like if my friend asked me to tell the story about the time we got lost in Brooklyn, I’d probably summarize it to, “Oh right, we didn’t know our way but then we eventually figured it out.” Leaving out all kinds of pertinent details that make the story worth telling in the first place.

My goal with this over-condensed version of storytelling in front of a group is to just get it over with as quickly as possible, but I neglect to realize it’ll only provoke more questions since I’m being so confusingly concise. I don’t know why I hope that people will think the story is complete and accept it as is, boring and all; it never works.  Inevitably, someone else at the table who can also tell the story will jump in to fill in the hundreds of gaps I’ve left. In those moments, I gladly let them take over and act like I just can’t tell a good story, as if the details I’d left out were an oversight — but in reality, I don’t want to tell the story. At least not face-to-many-faces.

I don’t do it to be mysterious or to be private. I just freeze when a group of people are watching me do anything.

Things are different in other settings, though

What confuses me is that I’m usually not inhibited like this when it comes to one-on-one conversations or meeting new people — even if they’re famous. I think it’s because a dialogue with someone is a shared experience in which neither person is really the main focus; it’s an exchange that feels more real and natural to me.

Yet I’ve also held many jobs where I’ve had to conduct group training sessions for employees, run staff meetings, and host social events. How is it I can do those things which involve people (and en masse) watching me do something, without feeling my usual anxiety?

Perhaps it has to do with the fact that in these situations, I’m fulfilling a somewhat set function that’s outside myself. For instance, the meeting or training has to cover certain information; the focus is on sharing that knowledge. It’s not about sharing the inner me. I’m not the only one who can do this, either; anyone can run that meeting, train that staff or host that event, theoretically.

Even though I get slightly nervous in those settings, to me it seems like a more “normal” case of nervousness. In fact, many people who see me fulfill these functions would be surprised I get nervous at all and am very shy in other settings.

For example: at one place where I worked in the past, we were asked to fill out an assessment quiz before a group discussion on personalities and teamwork. We were talking with one another as we filled out our forms and I was struggling with the first question — whether I was an extrovert or introvert.

I knew I felt very social and liked interacting with others, but since I’ve experienced so many moments of anxiety like I’ve described here, I figured I must be an introvert. While talking with a coworker about our answers, others heard me and emphatically said I was an extrovert. When our supervisor became aware of what we were talking about, she laughed and said, “Extrovert! You are DEFINITELY an extrovert!” As if there was no question about it.

I’ve since come to know, however, that your personality is not just what you display to others but who you feel you are inside, so now I would choose introvert. But it’s still interesting to me that many people were convinced I was the opposite.

I also got a sense that it wouldn’t be as “good” if I identified as an introvert. No one said it, but that’s the vibe I felt. Plus I know that culturally, being an extrovert is seen as admirable. They’re the go-getters, the deal-closers, the entrepreneurs.

But I know I’m not an extrovert.

Where writing comes in

The only way I feel I can act in a more extroverted way and share the real me with less trepidation is when I write. I may still be shy at times, but writing helps me engage with several people without getting overly anxious about it. So I’ve written a lot over the years, both publicly and privately, and am trying to broaden the types of writing I do — hence this blog! I’m so happy to have started it and connected with so many other bloggers via the WordPress community. That actually is another major reason why I love the Internet.

Getting Out — the Right Way

I’ve become an expert at “getting out.”

When I’ve held jobs in negative work environments — I got out.

When I’ve been in relationships that weren’t right for me — I got out.

When I’ve had friendships that turned out to be one-sided or unfulfilling — I got out.

When I’ve been asked to a social event or other kind of optional obligation that I either didn’t have the time or money for, or wasn’t interested in — I got out of it.

I hope these examples don’t make me sound like someone who jumps ship constantly — that’s not me. For instance, I’ve held most of my jobs for years at a time; I have a circle of friends I’ve been close to for over a decade; and I do go out! It’s just that now I know what kinds of jobs, people and social situations I prefer — and which I don’t.

It’s all a function of getting to know myself and read situations and people better than I used to when I was younger. I’m in my thirties now and no longer feel compelled to join in on events or pursue professional paths that others flock to, if I know they’re not a match for me and my values. Same goes for the people I spend time with.

So I’m an advocate of “getting out” whenever the situation calls for it.

I do believe, though, that it should be done after much thought, and with consideration and compassion. That means:

  • If I’m in a job I hate, I usually stick it out for a while to be sure I’m not being premature in my decision to leave. When I do resign, I give the proper amount of notice (in some cases, even more than the standard two weeks) and do the work that is expected of me until my very last day; in other words, I won’t leave them in the lurch or slack off just because I know I’ll be out of there soon enough. That’s just not right.
  • If I find that someone’s not as good a friend as I’d thought, I again wait it out to be sure, and then I either talk to the person about my feelings or recognize when we’re just fundamentally incompatible. For example: if a close friend has done something to hurt me, it should be aired out to clear up any misunderstandings. Or, if the person is someone I don’t view as a good friend but they’ve begun seeing me as one, that’s not fair to them either — this has happened to me with some co-workers, and I had to eventually distance myself from them. I didn’t feel right having them believe I was a close friend, when I knew we were too fundamentally different to be close outside of work. I’ve applied the same principles to relationships — either talk it out, or end it if you know things are not right.
  • If I’m invited to an event I know I’m not interested in, or can’t afford time-wise or financially, I tell the person as soon as possible. I won’t say I’m attending and then be a no-show. Even if I’m sick, as happened one New Year’s Eve when my friends and I had plans to go out to a lounge but I had a case of food poisoning; I told them as soon as it happened and paid my friend for my ticket, despite his compassionate offer to cover it.

Ultimately, my point is, if you’re in bad situation for you? Get out — just do it the right way.

Note: This post was created as part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday, organized by LindaGHill; this week’s writing prompt was “getting away, or getting out.” Checks out the links above to find out more about it!

Why I Love the Internet: E-Learning Edition

We’re so lucky to live in this era, what with the vast array of technological gadgets that exist, our access to the Internet, and the ability to watch a live feed of a spacecraft launch by NASA online.

While most of us recognize this on an abstract level, it can be hard to fully appreciate and make use of these advantages to improve our personal lives in the long run, beyond sending emails and using social media.

See, sometimes I’ll fall into a pouty mood and wish I’d learned more practical skills in college and grad school; the programs and courses I took were more theoretical, focused on the history of communications or the evolution of higher education. Why didn’t I take courses in business or computer programming? I sometimes wonder regretfully. (You see, writers and educators don’t make a lot of money. Ahem.)

But then I have to remind myself that I really have no excuse not to learn about any one of these subjects right now. It doesn’t even have to cost me a cent, thanks to the wide range of courses we can take online for free.

So, in researching some of the options out there, I thought it might help others if I shared the information I found. You may know about some or all of these resources, but if not, take a look — especially if you’re contemplating a job/career change. As an advocate of finding work that fulfills you, I wholeheartedly encourage this; it’s never too late to learn something new or add to your skillset.

If you did already know about these options, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them. Or if you knew but haven’t used them yet — what are you waiting for?! Let’s do this!


I love Coursera’s description of itself and its mission on its website:

“Coursera is an education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide, to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where everyone has access to a world-class education. We aim to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.”

What I like most so far about Coursera is its eye-catching, user-friendly layout. Right on the home page you’re asked, “What would you like to learn about?” I did a test search for “computer programming” and got many matches, which I could then further refine by language, institution, certification eligibility, and more. From my initial look at it, Coursera looks like a great option.


According to the edX website:

“EdX offers interactive online classes and MOOCs from the world’s best universities. Online courses from MITx, HarvardX, BerkeleyX, UTx and many other universities. Topics include biology, business, chemistry, computer science, economics, finance, electronics, engineering, food and nutrition, history, humanities, law, literature, math, medicine, music, philosophy, physics, science, statistics and more. EdX is a non-profit online initiative created by founding partners Harvard and MIT.”

Note: MOOC stands for Massive Online Open Courses. Taking part in one as an auditor means you have access to the same information and resources as official students in the class from the host institution do — the upside? As the edX site states, “You decide what and how much you want to do.”

I find edX’s interface to be similar to Coursera’s in terms of its visually-appealing design and user-friendly interface. On the home page, you can use a drop-down menu to search for the topic you’re interested in, or you can browse through icons with descriptions of courses.

Open Culture  

Here’s how Open Culture describes itself on its website:

“Get 1000 free online courses from the world’s leading universities — Stanford, Yale, MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, Oxford and more. You can download these audio & visual courses (often from iTunes, YouTube, or university web sites) straight to your computer or mp3 player. Over 30,000 hours of free audio & video lectures, await you now.”

While I found Open Culture’s website layout a little less visually appealing and easy to navigate than the others, it still seems to offer a lot of decent options from which to choose. Definitely worth a look.


The mission statement on Udacity’s website is very compelling:

“Education is no longer a one-time event but a lifelong experience. Education should be less passive listening (no long lectures) and more active doing. Education should empower students to succeed not just in school but in life. We are reinventing education for the 21st century by bridging the gap between real-world skills, relevant education, and employment. Our students will be fluent in new technology, modern mathematics, science, and critical thinking. They will marry skills with creativity and humanity to learn, think, and do. Udacians are curious and engaged world citizens.”

I’m a total believer in this kinds of hands-on, experiential education.

What also really stood out to me about Udacity was the fact that their courses are “taught by industry leaders excited to share their expertise from companies such as Google, Facebook, Cloudera, and MongoDB,” according to its website. While I’m all for university courses, I also like to learn from current professionals in the field, so I think it’s great that Udacity does this.

I did a quick search for computer programming again, and found many matches; it helps that Udacity is focused on technology. The results even indicated which courses are appropriate for each student level, from “new to tech” through “advanced.”

From what I saw, though, some courses are only free for a two-week trial period; the one I looked at would cost $199 a month otherwise, but also includes services such as verified certificates as well as feedback and guidance from coaches.

However, a little digging can produce free courses such as an “Intro to Java Programming” course I found on the site, offered in partnership with San José State University.

I think I might start my e-learning adventure with Udacity — especially because I like how they refer to their students as “Udacians,” which to me sounds like a term referring to the residents of a recently discovered planet with a thriving civilization.

Getting to learn online and sound cool and science-fictiony at the same? Just another reason why I love the Internet.

What I’d Really Like to Say in the Body of a Cover Letter for a Job!

Writing the body of a letter is always hard for me, particularly since most letters I write today are formal; actually, most letters I’ve written have been cover letters as part of job applications. (I mean, who really writes letters anymore otherwise, right? Sad but true.)

Although I’ve held decent jobs over the years, I’ve always felt that the process of being hired for them has been unnecessarily complicated. That’s why cover letters are hard for me. I know that social convention requires that I say certain things and omit others, yet sometimes I want to write something completely different — but for the sake of being professional, I don’t.

But I figure now is my chance to get years’ worth of frustration off my chest, particularly regarding the times I’ve written to employers who are less than courteous. So, here’s what I’d have liked the body of my cover letter to have said in those cases instead:

Dear Prospective Employer,

I’m writing to apply for the (insert job title here) opening as posted on your website.

I know I could, and should, use this letter to further demonstrate my skills and expertise — but I hate doing that. Most of it is all on my resume that’s included here, plus I know all of that info will be asked for all over again on the web-based employment application that’s also required to be considered. I hate typing that info in for every job I apply to, so I definitely don’t want to bore myself (and you) with expanded, yet similar, details a third time in this letter. Besides, that would take time away from me Googling random info you ask for on your application, like my high school’s exact address and phone number. I always mean to store those details somewhere but somehow never do. This is why I love Al Gore for inventing the Internet.

But I digress. What I’d rather use this letter for is to tell you what I think of the job opening you’ve announced and why I’m applying to it anyway. You wrote that you’re looking for a conscientious, motivated employee — that’s me. You wrote you need someone who can (list specific job functions here). As you can see from my work experience, I’ve already done that, and more. You also mention this employee needs to be open to regularly working evenings and weekends in addition to standard business hours. This is less than ideal, but I know I’m not allowed to ever say that or even think it. It’s not that I’m not a hard worker or willing to work late sometimes, it’s just that once it becomes a frequent thing it kind of ruins my efforts to keep  up with my laundry or shop for groceries. Oh wait, I forgot — I can do all that by cutting back on my sleep and fun. Silly me, expecting eight hours of sleep a night and maybe some free time for playing the latest Professor Layton release for my Nintendo 3DS. (Yes, I do still play select video games sometimes. Why can’t I admit that? I swear I read a lot of books, too.)

Apparently, I’m supposed to want to sign my life away for a job that will likely underpay me and micromanage my work, despite the fact that I’m a mature professional who went to graduate school in an attempt to better my life and be able to use some discretion in my day-to-day tasks. I suppose this is why some people dream of going into business for themselves; I’d like to also, but I know I shouldn’t say that either or you won’t hire me since I might be a flight risk.

My point is, I’m applying to your opening because I know I have the skills and traits you’re looking for, and, to put it simply, I need the job. That doesn’t mean it has to be my passion in life, or even fun for me — just something I moderately like and am capable of doing well for you so I can bring in an income and pay my bills.

That means I would appreciate hearing back regarding my application, as opposed to the all-too-common scenario of applying and getting no response. Not even a “thanks, but no thanks.” Sure, I know you’re busy and get tons of applications; I do get that. I’ve hired employees before and know what goes into it. But I always made sure to at least send something to the people who took the time to consider the job I was looking to fill and went out of their way to jump through hoops to apply for it.

I won’t mind a standard rejection email; what I do mind is spending a couple of hours tailoring a letter to you, completing your detailed web application, submitting the required references list and contacting those reference sources to foolishly/optimistically inform them they may hear from you (it’s only right to give them a heads up) — and then getting nothing but crickets and tumbleweeds as my “response.” Considering that I am also applying to jobs other than yours (yes, I shouldn’t have to pretend you’re my one-and-only), it’s very demoralizing to not hear back from multiple employers.

I’ve heard it said that no response is a response — but am I crazy to think that’s just too rude to be acceptable, especially when it involves something important like a job application? I’m not sure when it became okay to ignore people in this way; I mean, if I called you or came into your office, you couldn’t pretend you don’t hear me talking to you, could you? (Don’t worry, I won’t call or come by — your job announcement makes it very clear that’s not welcome.) So why is it okay to ignore me when I email you in response to you putting it out there you have a position you need to fill? That’s like me starting a knock-knock joke with someone, but when they answer with the requisite “Who’s there?” I say “SHUT UP! I DON’T WANT TO TALK TO YOU!”

OK, maybe it’s not exactly like that — since you don’t bother to say anything to me in response. But that’s how the silence feels. Like the ultimate bait-and-switch. “We want someone with all the skills, interests, experiences and knowledge you have who is willing to devote most of their time to us and can also complete steps x, y and z. If that’s you, contact us! Oh, that is you? And you and you and you and….? Eh, screw all of you, except for maybe three of you who will be contacted for an interview.” And who knows if the two interviewees that you don’t hire will even hear back after that.

I know as an employee you’ll pay me, not the other way around, so that makes you feel you have the upper hand. Sadly, especially in today’s economy, you usually do; but that doesn’t negate the fact that your employees perform hours and hours of work for you which will, in turn, bring money in to your operation by allowing it to run successfully. So could you at least acknowledge and appreciate the fact that I’m offering to fill that role for you? I know out of all the applicants you’ll hear from, especially those with qualifications similar to mine, that I may not stand out. But just tell me. That’s all I ask. Especially considering the fact that you didn’t even list many benefits for the employee in your ad — not even the salary you intend to pay! — yet in good faith, and in need, I applied anyway. Think you could at least say something in response? Given the extreme imbalance here, I don’t think that’s asking too much.

I didn’t mean to go on for so long about wanting to hear back. I know I’m not supposed to expect or admit that either. I’m supposed to divulge personal details to you about my background, passions and goals but be okay with being contacted only at your whim. I apologize for sharing my true feelings about this, but I have to break it to you — I’m a human. With feelings. Not just a prospective employee robot that has no pressing needs and can mass-produce job applications in seconds like an emotionless automaton. (Why does your application even ask me to fill out that verifier to prove I’m not a bot? It seems to me like that’s what you’re actually looking for.)

So I just couldn’t write one more letter begging for a job without stating some of my needs as a person. I don’t think that’s so unreasonable; I have grad school loans I took on to get the qualifications for your job (yet have been disillusioned to find that my education is rarely ever utilized regularly in these positions that supposedly require it, but that’s a whole other letter), so if you’re not going to hire me, the least you can do is tell me. It might make me feel a bit better when my next loan bill comes in and I have to scrape together the funds to pay it. Maybe as I resort to selling some of my stuff online to make ends meet I can take a quick break to read your rejection email and think, “Well at least they got my application,” as opposed to wondering if maybe it never even made it to you or that perhaps I’m invisible.

In closing, please take a look at my resume and consider me for your job. I know, and I’m pretty sure you know, that I can do it — and do it well. But if I’m not a match for you for whatever reason, I’d still appreciate hearing from you. I’m an adult and so are you; we can both take it.

I know a rant cover letter like that would not get me a job. But it was satisfying to write here —  so thank you, LindaGHill, for choosing the word “body” as this week’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt. Now the chip on my shoulder is a bit smaller and lighter!

Why I Love the Internet: NASA Edition

I follow NASA on Twitter and happened to see a Tweet from them this morning about a launch happening just a few minutes later, which was going to be broadcast online via NASA TV.

Now, I must admit I had no idea about any launch until I read that Tweet. I only recently began following NASA on Twitter and although I wanted to be an astronomer as a kid, sadly I have not been staying on top of current happenings with them like I should. But boy was I excited to read that a live broadcast of a launch was about to happen within a matter of minutes! I quickly went to the NASA TV website, figuring I could learn more about the launch as I watched it and after it was done (and I did, which you’ll see in a bit).

Here are a few screenshots of the live feed:

The spacecraft awaiting its 5:56am launch.

The spacecraft awaiting its 5:56am EST launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

NASA employees preparing for the launch. I wish I had a job that was half as cool as theirs.

NASA employees preparing for the launch. I wish I had a job that was half as cool as theirs.

Another shot of NASA staff hard at work pre-launch. Doesn’t it all look so cool and important? Like the set of 24, only REAL!

Another shot of NASA staff hard at work pre-launch. Doesn’t it all look so cool and important? Like the set of 24, only REAL!



The spacecraft’s path (which was narrated by NASA Flight Commentator Steve Agid).

The spacecraft’s path details (narrated by NASA Flight Commentator Steve Agid).

Another computerized depiction of the spacecraft’s progress and status (all was reported as good and close to schedule).

Another computerized depiction of the spacecraft’s progress and status (all was reported as good and close to schedule).

Wow, look at that view!

Wow, look at that view!

The spacecraft separates successfully and begins flying on its own!

The spacecraft separates successfully and begins flying on its own!

NASA staff members congratulating one another once the spacecraft had separated successfully and had begun flying on its own.

NASA employees congratulating one another once the spacecraft had separated successfully and begun flying on its own.

More post-launch congratulations between NASA staff members.

More post-launch congratulations between NASA employees. I was happy, too!

I really enjoyed seeing all of this, from the launch itself to the NASA computer screen with all its technical-looking info on the side. I felt like I had a secret peek into their operations, offices and equipment (along with countless others who were watching, of course).

During the live feed, I also got a kick out of hearing all kinds of official NASA-speak, complete with them activating different systems on the spacecraft and saying “roger” this and “roger” that. Couple that with the ongoing countdown to launch time and I was as excited as if I were at a geeky New Year’s Eve party — and I mean that as a compliment, because this is exactly my kind of party!

By the way, throughout all of this, I did learn about the launch itself: it’s called OCO-2, which is NASA’s first dedicated mission to provide scientific data regarding greenhouse gases in search of clues to climate change, according to NASA’s narration of the launch. (More information on it can be found on NASA’s website here.)

Overall, watching the live feed and hearing all the commentary made me feel like I was really part of the event, as opposed to just watching a short rebroadcast of the launch on the news without all of these added extras. Being able to hear about, and then witness, the full launch online was oddly thrilling.

And so, this is just another reason why I love the Internet.

Do I Sound Like the Goldilocks of the Job World? (Stream of Consciousness Saturday–“LIKE”)

I like a lot of things, to the point where I sometimes feel it’s held me back in life. By that I mean, my interest in so many subjects and activities has made it hard for me to choose a career path throughout my adult life so far. I’ve often felt paralyzed by the sheer volume of the options out there based on my varied interests.

For example, I like to read. I like writing. I like foreign languages. I like travel (although I can’t afford to do it as much as I’d like). I like exploring issues in health and holistic/alternative medicine. I like learning. I like educating others and working with young people. I like a wide range of music. I like dancing. I like animals. That’s just a sampling, and there are countless subcategories in each of these areas; the list goes on and on.

Although I have been lucky enough to work in jobs that are related to these interests of mine, they’ve turned out to be not quite what I was looking for, so I haven’t wanted to make a long-term career (yet) out of any one of them. By others’ accounts, though, I’ve been moderately successful in my life so far, with a good résumé to show for it. But by my own account? I’ve never been fully satisfied for long by the work I’ve done. Let me illustrate what I mean with some examples:

  • I have worked at various colleges and educational institutions in administrative roles involving hiring employees and enforcing campus policies. I did this for about 12 years but eventually felt like I needed a change; the work was too bureaucratic after a while.
  • I worked at two different medical offices for years, but my role in each involved handling paperwork, billing, insurance claims and more.
  • When I was in college, I worked for a while as a dog-walker and pet-sitter, but the pay was abysmal and the work was not predictable since it varied based on owners’ constantly changing schedules and needs (in which case my pay suffered even more).

My point is, I have always tried to follow my passion as “they” always tell us to, but have still had a hard time making a go of it in a way that is both financially stable and fulfilling to me. When the work was more in line with what I enjoy, I usually had a hard time making ends meet. When the work was more reliable and secure, like my many long-term, full-time jobs, the work was not as personally satisfying; other times, the job wasn’t quite what it was initially described as and the tasks I was hoping to do more of (like writing) turned out to be needed infrequently.

By now I’m worried this post will come off as me being the Goldilocks of the job world. This one is too boring. This one is too intense. But I have to say, I really am a hard worker, and usually stick it out at a job for quite some time before jumping to any conclusions (too long sometimes, in fact). So I’m not one to make rash decisions and be impractical or unappreciative. But I can’t help but feel I do need to pursue work that allows me to use my talents in a way that will not only be enjoyable and significant to me, but helpful to others. The one that is just right for me.

I mean, even Goldilocks eventually found the bed she was looking for, the one that was just right for her. That’s what I want — only, I want it to be mine and to be able to stay in it, and not be chased out by bears the way she was!

All jokes aside, though, my current plan is to take my destiny into my own hands and not look for an employer to do it for me. Maybe that’s what Goldilocks should have done — make a customized bed that was truly her own, not relying on finding it elsewhere. And who knows? Maybe it could have turned into a business for her: Goldilocks’ Custom-Made Furniture.

Note: This post was created as part of the awesome Stream of Consciousness Saturday initiative organized by LindaGHill — this week’s prompt word was “like.” It was a lot of fun to do, since it forced my brain to think of something to write about that I may not have written about otherwise. I also really like how the prompt isn’t too specific, so you really do have a lot of freedom as to where to go with it. I plan to do it again; I encourage you to check out the links above and try doing it too! 

Your Work Shouldn’t Make You Miserable

I recently read Ali Wentworth’s book, Ali in Wonderland: And Other Tall Tales, published by Harper in 2012. It’s another entertaining read, since Ali is a very funny storyteller and shares interesting accounts of her childhood, her marriage to George Stephanopoulos, and much more.

Ali Wentworth book from Amazon

One humorous comment Ali made really stood out to me, when she’s describing a job offer she received and turned down. Her reason?

“…I make it a point not to mix business with non-pleasure.”

I liked that phrasing! And it started me thinking about how, too often, many of us do the opposite, equating work with drudgery and then suffering through miserable jobs when we shouldn’t — sometimes for years and years! It’s one thing to stick it out until you get a better job, but sometimes we resign ourselves long-term to our present circumstances because we think, “Well, this is what work means. The way I’m feeling is how everyone feels.”

What’s funny is, that’s not true — and it certainly doesn’t have to be the case for you! That kind of thinking would be like saying, “Oh, everyone gets a stomachache now and then,” and continuing to eat rotten food.

We do not have to eat rotten food and suffer the consequences!

Now, there is some truth to the fact that work is work; it can’t be all fun and games. But there’s a difference between occasional stresses on the job, and a bad workplace causing you true unhappiness day in and day out. Below are a few of symptoms experienced by me, and others I know, during periods of deep unhappiness professionally. I’d say if you have more than 2 of the following, you should probably re-evaluate your job:

  • You find yourself watching the clock at the end of each work day just waiting to get out of there.
  • You feel despondent on Sunday nights as the new work week looms ahead (if it starts on Monday for you). The dread may even start as early as Sunday afternoon. The effect is magnified tenfold when you’re returning from vacation time off.
  • You find yourself crashing the minute you get home, or throughout most of your weekend, because you’re too mentally and emotionally exhausted during the work week to do much else in your free time.
  • You sometimes actually hope to get sick so you can miss work for a day or two without having to lie about needing a sick day.
  • You find yourself staring longingly at parks and other outdoor spaces you see on your commute to work, wishing you could be one of the people spending time there and not on your way to your own personal hell.
  • You find yourself unexpectedly having flashbacks to happier times; say, you’re at your desk and suddenly an image pops into your mind of a beach you and your family went to years ago.
  • You bitterly resent any “mandatory fun” events your job requires you to attend, like office lunches; haven’t you spent enough soul-crushing time there already to earn a meal to yourself?
  • You devise and cherish ways to steal some time to yourself while at work, whether it’s taking a longer-than-necessary trip to the bathroom, or coming in late on a regular basis when you know it won’t be noticed. You feel like these stolen moments help you get through each day.
  • You find yourself irritable with everyone close to you, particularly when they seem upbeat and cheerful. It’s not that you want them to be unhappy, but you simply cannot match their energy or enthusiasm, so you end up sounding short with them when you don’t mean to. You may not even be able to keep up with their calls and invitations; all your efforts are focused on getting through the workweek and trying to avoid being a downer around others.
  • You find yourself self-medicating with food, alcohol, cigarettes, or excessive amounts of time spent on video games, gambling, online shopping and mindless TV — whatever will turn your mind off and clear it of work dramas and stressors for a while.
  • You’re experiencing more physical ailments than you used to, like headaches or getting sick a lot. You might also have insomnia, or on the flip side, be unable to wake up easily no matter how long you sleep.

This is by no means a complete list; everyone’s reactions to work misery will vary, and one person’s response may differ depending on what phase of the I-hate-my-job situation they’re in.

I know one tell-tale sign for me was getting emotional in public, since I’m not really one to cry, and certainly not in front of others if I can help it! But one day while taking the subway home from jury duty, I actually found myself crying about my particularly miserable administrator job (due to unpleasant co-workers, tedious work, company-wide inefficiencies, a difficult supervisor and a long commute, in case you were wondering). What’s more, I was crying because I’d been happy to be picked for a jury duty case, since we’d been told it would likely last 2 weeks. I was thrilled about the sanctioned break from my miserable job, but suddenly, on just the second day, the case was abruptly settled out of court and we were dismissed.

Losing that 2-week reprieve was the final straw. My mind just couldn’t reconcile having to return to work so soon. On the train ride back from the courthouse, I started crying and couldn’t stop, surprising even myself. This was so not me, and it seemed ludicrous! Who cries about their jobs, and in public, I thought to myself. And who gets sad when jury duty ends? Most people want to avoid it all together! I seriously reacted to the sudden end of my jury duty service the way I imagine some would act if they’d lost their job.

I also felt bad because some people can’t find a job when they need one — I’ve been there and so have many other people I know personally. So I felt like an ingrate. Plus it’s not like my job was back-breaking. Like maybe construction workers would have the right to hate their jobs — have you ever seen them doing intense work outside on a 100-degree day? I don’t know how they do it! Or firefighters. Or waiters and waitresses…hotel housekeepers…you get the idea. They have hard jobs; from the outside, mine could technically have been viewed as a “cushy” office job, complete with air-conditioning and a comfy chair.

But with the help of a good friend, I soon realized what matters is what I feel — not what I should feel. To use another food analogy (I think maybe I’m hungry?), it wouldn’t make sense to tell a lactose-intolerant person they should enjoy a flavor of ice cream that other people have said is delicious. They’re just not made to be able to enjoy it — they either need to find a non-dairy ice cream replacement, or find another dessert option all together.

And that’s what we need to do with our jobs and careers when we know we’re not a match for the kind of work we’re currently doing, or the environment in which we’re doing it. We have to find another way. It’s not likely to magically get better if we stick it out or try to improve it.

Comedian George Wallace made an excellent point along these lines in his book, Laff it Off! (published by Chaite in 2013):

“There ain’t many things that start out crap, then turn out diamonds. You take a crappy job? That job will be crappy till the moment you leave it….Simple rule: if it starts out crappy, it probably ends up crappy.”

George Wallace book from Amazon

He’s so right. Don’t waste months and years in a futile attempt to make your job better if you’re profoundly unhappy there. I don’t just mean minor dissatisfaction; everyone dislikes certain aspects of their job, like maybe the commute is long, but otherwise you’re generally content. Plus in a scenario like that, you might be able to negotiate one day working from home; although that hasn’t been possible on most of my jobs, a friend of mine actually managed to get 2 days working from home for her employer.

No, I’m talking about when multiple problems exist, and the majority of them aren’t in your control, especially when you don’t enjoy the work you do or make use of your strengths on the job. George Wallace makes a good point in this area as well:

“If you find a job that doesn’t honor your essence, you’re going to hate it. You’re going to phone it in. You’re going to leave it or lose it….”

Transitioning into another job or career before you start phoning it in is important. Otherwise, you risk harming your reputation and your chances of getting a good reference later. Don’t let yourself suffer twice over for a job you hate, now and in the long run!

In the case of my miserable job that made me cry over the end of jury duty, I chose the “leave it” route. I never regretted it, even though I actually quit without another job lined up right away. I’d never done something like that before. I knew the Suze Ormans of the world would lambast me for my decision, but it had gotten to the point that leaving was a matter of self-preservation. I figured I would find something eventually, but even if I didn’t, I would have rather moved and made other tradeoffs just to be able to avoid going to that soul-sucking place for another day. I’d been there about a year but had known since the second month it was completely wrong for me. If anything, I regretted waiting so long to leave — and still regret it. Those are months of my life I can never get back. Although I was lucky enough to land another job I was much happier at soon after, I would have never questioned my decision to quit even if that hadn’t happened.

I encourage you to trust your intuition when you too are facing a miserable job; at least spend some time exploring other jobs and career paths you may be able to try. I once heard someone say that people spend more time planning their vacations than they do planning their lives and careers, and I think that’s crazy — yet true. Let’s not do that anymore.

In future posts, I’d like to cover this topic more, particularly more on how we can go about making a change like this, since I think it’s so important. Hopefully you’ll agree and find it helpful!