A Cloud

Blue and I had an extended stay in New York City to celebrate Thanksgiving with our family and friends. We had a great time staying in Queens with Jessica and Colin and lots of fun visiting my parents in Soho. But apart from that, I experienced a knawing discontent that made me surprised at my own intolerance. We spent an afternoon at MOMA, for instance, where I fell into the grip of two paintings. But that's it. Two paintings. (Both by Klimt, in a surprise.) There are some terrible curatorial decisions being made over there. I expected the kind of feeling I get at Mass MOCA, where the wind gets knocked out of me everytime I see a tiger seized by an white arrow, or photographs of an achingly lit suburban landscape, or Paul Auster's typewriter, or, of course, nine exploding cars.

MOMA, however, seemed to try to deem bad art as cool, because, you know, it's New York, so they can deem things cool. But the line drawing of a single daisy---I'm serious---fell a tad flat for me. And so did just about every single other piece of modern art. Also, a billion dollar renovation might have delivered the invigoration of, say, the Stata Center at MIT (still the most fun building I've ever been in), but it didn't offer anything even nearly as imaginative. It was more like a mall, except painted all white. There's one area where you can look down five floors and see people, and yeah, that gave me some vertigo, but otherwise I couldn't see what was engaging about the MOMA.

Unfortunately, this highly critical observer also found other things, like familial conversation, falling flat. Perhaps it's just the nature of holidays. My adult cousins seem to have the same crippling, self-imposed problems that they did as adolescents, a fact I found as irritating as my brother's actions of also repeating destructive behavior from high school (too hung-over to say goodbye).

My own intolerance reached some kind of flash point at the annual Thanksgiving movie trek, this time to see Walk the Line. I know many people I respect really like the movie, and that's why I suggested the whole party see it, but for me, it was boring. What pushed me over the edge was the lengthy drama of Cash withdrawing from drugs. I mean, it's 2005. We've seen the withdrawal scene about a hundred million times. Lots of people have traumatic childhood events, and it doesn't mean you have to take drugs. I have no sympathy for drug-addicted rock stars, especially. When an adult who otherwise has access to support and resources decides to cripple themselves, I feel frustration and not much else. Wrapping up an intense few months of volunteer work with impoverished and often abused African-American women in Boston, I almost can't have polite conversation with privileged white adults who cultivate alcohol addictions or eating disorders. I think that's very narrow of me, very un-compassionate and unlikeable, but I just can't handle it right now.

Blue wisely pointed out that I'm in (yet again) a time of huge transition, and I only got shoved out of my complacent life when I got laid off. He's right; had I not gotten laid off, I could have just cooled my heels, too, and I think I would have been a lot less critical. People make their own choices; that's certainly no reason to be aggressively judgmental about them. When I think of myself last June, I remember a person who was contented in a way that could have used some shaking up. So it's good I got shook up.

This is my last week before I start my new job.


City Girl Heads to Jungle

Blue and I leave for Peru in less than four weeks, so I went to MIT (my temporary insurance provider) today for a series of shots that will protect me in both mountains and jungles. I got a vaccination in each arm, one for yellow fever and one for Hepatitis A. The doctor, who was tremendously antisocial, in fact, a borderline sociopath (which so far descibes an unusually high number of the people I meet at MIT, stereotype or no), didn't tell me which arm got which shot, but I feel aches and pains in only one of my arms, so I'm guessing that's the one chock full of live yellow fever virus. Yum! When I got home, I popped a typhoid pill (the first of a series of four) and plopped a bag of pills on the counter: Ciprofloxacin, Diflucan, something for altitude sickness, Immodium A-D, Peptobismol, and then of course the malaria pills, just in case the Deet isn't working.

The pharmacist rang me up for about $90. I gasped; that's a lot of money when you don't have a job. "Is that with insurance?" I asked. "Oh yeah," he said. "If you didn't have insurance, this would cost a fortune."
Job Search Tally #2

OK, make that 5 offers and 2 rejections. Tomorrow I expect to accept an offer, right after the interview with my 43rd person in 65 days. I want to complete the interviews scheduled for today and tomorrow, just to make contact or, I suppose, in case I'm spectacularly grabbed by one of the jobs. Perhaps in that case I should pencil in a crisis for the early part of this week. Ah well...you can't plan for everything.

My in-laws visited us last week. They seemed glad to be here, and I was grateful. I even got to see the giant ocean tank in the New England Aquarium, with those beautiful massive turtles. Not to mention the awesome stillness of the seadragons. An evolutionary marvel, they sure look like plants with eyes.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Scenes from a Really Good Weekend

It was a great affaire. An Equine Affaire.

Those last two just about killed me...a five week old miniature donkey, for one thing, which is well beyond the word "cute." The ears, the big eyes, the tiny-ness. Killer. The other is simply My Sweetie; he was only about six months old, for sale, and in a stall by himself. He was covered in wood shavings from rolling in his pen. I petted him for a very long time.


Beyond Supportive

And thank god for Donna. And Jessica. And Jen. And my parents. And all those people who have made time to talk with me about their life decisions. But even beyond all the talk, worry, weighing of decisions, trying to figure out the nuts and bolts of the decisions made behind closed doors, I am profoundly grateful for my husband. He's seen me through four jobs and innumerable side projects, demonstrated nothing but faith and trust in me, always been upbeat and grateful, even when I got laid off or got passed over on a good job. Even when I'm tense, he's sweet and loving; even when my finances seem tenuous, he holds so much faith in my employability that he merges his financial future with mine; even when I'm regretful, distracted, he's like a light, illuminating the growth I've experienced, the gains I've made, my skills, my potential, the people I've met, experiences I've had.

Last night I lay in bed, saying that I was afraid of taking a job that was so mediocre that I would become a mediocre person. Uninteresting. Unremarkable. "You, unremarkable?" he said, full of energy, laughing kindly, his arm around me in the dark. "You could never be unremarkable. You're a Cedar!"
The Cat Stays In The Picture

The other day I finished sewing my office sunroom curtains. I was very proud. So I took pictures.

They have cranes on them.

But someone else wanted to be in the picture.

Until the curtains went tumbling down.

And then someone got scared and hid under the desk.
But just for a second.


What's Obvious

TGFT! (Thank God for Tara!) I am feeling an increa---oh, the phone just rang and it was a job offer from MIT. Real-time blogging. As I was saying, I'm feeling an increasing need for advice from my friends. Priorities are getting hazy, pathways to new opportunities are completely obscured. Gosh, I literally just now got an email telling me that I was turned down for my top pick of all possible jobs (at a top business school, for those keeping track). This is such an eventful fifteen minutes. Good thing it's being recorded for posterity.

Tara noted that out of the three jobs still on the table right now, two of them are classic opposites: one offers good salary, work environment, opportunities for promotion, perfect commute, but while the work itself is OK, I'm not passionate about it. Not even especially interested in it.

The other job offers probably a comparably lesser salary, benefits, and work environment, but work that is creative, interesting, and draws on my passions for story, education, art and kids.

Oddly, by the spring, both of these jobs will be located in the same building: a SuperFund site located 4 minutes from my home by car. (No offers from either one yet, but I am hopeful, at least on the first.)

As Tara said, the question is, do you want interesting work? Or flexibility and a good salary? And, she continued, that's all too often the choice.

I want interesting work, but I also want the flexibility and salary to work part-time in the future if I choose. The uninteresting work offers that, as evidenced by the number of working mothers happily employed there. That's a crucial element of this time in this culture that I wish would get more attention: women take uninteresting but flexible work because they want to support and enjoy their families.

The thoughtful clarity she provides is so incredibly valuable to me. What are my priorities? Why is this so angst-ridden?

The job search previous to this one, in the spring of '04, happened over five months while I was planning my wedding and my fiance was preparing for his thesis defense. I was busy, and by the time The Perfect Offer arrived, I had another one. I remember agonizing over the two offers. For days, I spent long phone calls with my friends debating the merits of one job over another. But in retrospect, I simply can't see what the issue was. Obviously I should have taken the job with the higher salary, and the amazing people, and my own office near my home. And that's just what happened. So this time I'd like to make the same kind of choice, only without the agonizing. It's weird how it's hard to tell what's obvious.

As of today, I've interviewed with 41 people over 10 weeks. Written 25 cover letters. Gotten 3 offers. 2 rejections.


Into Place

Cancer. You will have a much wider view of the possibilities being presented to you. Don't stop short of getting everything you want. If you hold out just a little longer, everything will fall into place.
On a whim, I bought the Boston Globe today, worrying uncharacteristically about getting newsprint on my Ann Taylor interview suit, and sat in my car, in the sun, drinking a decaf cappuccino and reading my horoscope. Everything will fall into place. That would be nice.

I had a two-hour interview this morning with a nearby children's software developer. It was very interesting, very good, and I have serious doubts about their benefits, but few doubts about the job itself, and I want an offer. I gave a good interview. We spent a lot of time together. It was my third interview and they've talked to all my references.

But I felt, and this could just be me, that there was a certain "sheen" missing from my end. Last month, I was much sunnier, funnier, sharper, wittier. In the past week and a half or so, my interviews have been quieter, more of an effort, a little painful, and not in a good way. I'm more preoccupied, more worried about my options, less excited in general to interview. I don't even know if it's obvious to my interviewers, or if it's just internal, an awareness that something has shifted, and I'm tired of interviewing. I want things to fall into place.

In the next two weeks I have more interviews, more volunteer work, more training to teach a boxing class, a lecture at Harvard (true!) and a meeting with my former boss and the Radio Rookies, a very cool WNYC youth media initiative. Blue's parents will visit, I'll try to finish more curtains, and we'll start planning our trip to Peru. Also, I have a fledgling side business as a web designer for local authors, and I'm also the editor of the first admissions blog at a certain very prestigious law school down the road. So I spend a lot of time editing podcasts (MP3 files) and rewriting blog entries and chasing down tech guys who don't think prestigious law schools should have blogs.

Now would be a great time for things to fall into place.

On Identity

I have a friend who mentions my status as a former smoker so much that it's clear that it unseats her. Another, newer friend seems deeply uncomfortable with the fact that I have been mostly vegetarian my entire life. I rarely talk about either choice, so I tend to treat their discomfort as oddly impersonal; not about me, really. An new friend recently acted like she knew me very well, and then revealed she'd Googled me, which is fine, of course, but I've never Googled her. The things that stand out about your identity, whatever that is, sometimes create an imbalance in a friendship, make it harder to connect, and nowhere is that clearer than in job interviews.

I've worried many times about my public writings, the extent to which I'll regret anything published online, not to mention the amount of work I hide from the world because of how much it reveals about other people, mostly the people I love and the people they love. In the end, I tend to think that if what's already out there is good art, then I shouldn't worry; the right people will be glad it's meaningful/interesting/honest. But when a great marketing job recently cooled off its hot pursuit of me, I immediately worried they'd caught a glimpse of a poem I'm proud of, about a topic loaded with stigma. Good art, iffy subject matter. It tears at me a little that an aspect of my identity that I keep largely out of conversation could still rile someone, for some reason.

More recently, I've wanted to get a tattoo. Again, of course, it has to be easily hidden from professional life, but then I think tattoos look bad on hidden places. At the Black Eyed Peas/Gwen Stefani concert on Monday, girl after girl trounced by with hip or belly tattoos poking out of their actually-unflatteringly-low belted pants. I think probably not for me.

The obvious tattoo would be another fact, though, that would be oddly and uncontrollably pertinent to someone, somewhere. Beyond the affirmation of physicality, a different interaction with my body from smoking or food choice, it would carry meaning that I couldn't manage. And they don't know even know my actual opinions (now more than ever, I am dying, DYING to put a bumpersticker on the car that reads "Militant Agnostic: I Don't Know and You Don't Know Either," but it takes a willingness to make people continually mad, and maybe I have better things to do), and for me it's opinions, feelings, what people find interesting, how much empathy and creativity they have, that tells me who they are, something more than a poem, an addiction, a tattoo.