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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What Are Your Long-Term Plans?

I had a job interview today, the first one in over a year. I didn't sleep well the night before and my stomach was all kinds of nervous throughout the day. I arrived at the mall (the job is in a store right next to the mall) an hour before my interview just so I could walk.

Because, God, I needed to walk. I was brimming with nervous energy and I just picked some stores in the mall to visit. I took a gander at a few clothing stores (there was a Hawaiian shirt sale in one, I had to resist) and peeked in at a few novelty places.

I was dressed up. Not super-dressed up (not a suit), but I was in a nice shirt and a pair of dark khakis. I even brought my Penguin umbrella.

I'm going to tangent slightly on the Penguin umbrella because it's important to understand this item and what it means when I bring it along. The Penguin umbrella dates back to my high school days when I was much larger and much less secure in myself (which is odd that I was less secure then because I'm pretty insecure now). I had dressed up as the Penguin for a Halloween dance one year and I repeated the costume the next year.

I don't repeat costumes but the Penguin was special. I could pull him off and I got an umbrella for it. You have to have the umbrella to pull off the Penguin and I felt like I owned the world with that umbrella. I felt like a badass, frankly.

I don't use the umbrella often. Not because I don't like it, I do, but because it's special ... it's an accessory I bust out when I really need that BA feeling. When I really need that confidence.

And when it looks like it's going to rain. Well, it looked like it was going to rain so I brought out the umbrella.

Strolling around the mall with that umbrella was an experience. I felt ... better. The walking helped but it was significantly improved thanks to the umbrella.

And then came time for the interview. I showed up five minutes earlier (I could have been ten minutes, but decided not to be too early) and I stood around and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Thirty minutes later I was finally called in and the interview process started. There was going to be a set of interviews and this one was the first one, the 'get to know you' interview. They'd tell me about the company, about what they did, about what their status was, and I would tell them about myself.

Those that know me know that, when it comes to telling about myself, I have a tendency to ramble. As I do here. As I do in conversation. I have a bad habit of explaining every little detail and volunteering too much information.

This habit has cost me jobs and opportunities in the past. You'd think brutal honesty about one's self would be appreciated, but as I've come to learn it's really off-putting to most people.

So throughout the interview I was repeating one phrase in my mind: short and sweet.

If I could keep it short and sweet, I wouldn't screw this up.

Because, man, I didn't want to screw this up.

The last two years have been great from the standpoint of my life experiences. I've met people, I've made friends, and I have more family now than I did before. People I would take a bullet for and give organs to without hesitation. I'd go to whatever distance was required and do what was needed.

But from a societal standpoint, I have been isolated. The fault in that lies with me. I isolated myself to begin with because of how overweight and ugly I felt. I lost the weight but felt like I didn't lose enough, so I kept going. I was good at losing weight. I kept at it.

I was searching for a purpose. I still am, really. My plans, as loosely defined, are not concrete. They're not solid. They exist but aren't really there in the way we define things as there. They can't be touched or felt, they're ... more feelings than plans. Abstract than concrete.

It's confusing, I know, and it confuses the hell out of me, too, but my plans aren't really plans.

Anyways, I remained isolated even after I hit 140. I don't know what to do with myself in a social situation and I kinda hate myself in them because, honestly, I don't be myself. I just pretend to be something and I sometimes do a decent job at it. Other times I suck at it and end up being just a piece of furniture.

I don't want to be isolated. I don't want to be the guy who runs up to his room and sits at the computer to write. I want to be that guy but not ALL THE TIME. Which it seems, increasingly, that I am.

My main problem with technology is how isolating it is in a real situation. I shouldn't be more comfortable talking to people on Skype or on Facebook than I am talking to them in person ... but I am most of the time.

I feel, socially, I have regressed.

And part of my problem there is that, the last two years or so, I haven't had a job that society deems 'valid'. Being a nanny is a great job and I loved every second of it, and I will forever cherish it. Children are, by far, the best thing ever.

But it's a job that removes you from the adult playing field a lot. It's not socially acceptable.

And my job interview today kinda drove that home. They called my previous job a 'family care specialist' which really made me feel ... small. I was honest on the application, I was a nanny. I used the word 'nanny' and they couldn't bring themselves to say it.

The first manager was cool with it, I felt. He was a nerd/geek like myself. Glasses, tall, and big on Batman. We dished on the recent Batman news for a few minutes before we started the interview proper. I liked him and I think, were it just up to him, I'd probably get the job.

But manager two was not a geek. He was a very former football player type. Might have been a linemen, he was a big fella, and reminded me of an unshaven Fred Flintstone. He had a rough five o'clock shadow and the guy looked clearly stressed.

He was worried. He was tired. He looked beat.

He was the big manager and he asked a very direct question: What are your long-term plans?

So, I told them. I wanted to work full-time for at least two years, I wanted to save money, and I wanted to get back to college. Finish my degree. Along the way there would be other expenses, of course. Life would hand me some unexpected ones, no doubt, but I made it clear I was looking to get back to college.

But he didn't really like that answer I felt. He kinda rubbed his face (dude was sleepy, was yawning a few times in the middle of it) and asked this: What are your long-term plans here, at this work place?

I stupidly blurted out, "To get a job."

He liked that, kinda smirked, and I elaborated that I wanted to work somewhere where I could count on being there awhile. I didn't want a place where I'd get let go after six months, I wanted a place I could stay a good bit of time.

The other manager took that opportunity to refocus the conversation on the growth of the company. They're a growing retail chain, and are looking to open over forty stores next year likely. They're expanding and the company strongly believes in promoting from within. Both the managers came up through the company over the last four to five years.

They referenced a few time my youth and how that was a positive.

I pounced on that and told them that, if the going back to college proved undoable (possible) that I'd like a place where I could advance if I so chose. That seemed to make the Flintstone guy a bit more pleased.

But the question stuck in my craw even after the interview was over.

I can't predict what life has in front of me. Honestly, disaster could be right around the corner. The next day. The next hour. I don't know and I worry about it, don't get me wrong, but I'm frustrated at the fact that I don't know.

A few of my most trusted friends/family members have told me that, yeah, they don't know either. But they do what they have to for those around them. Their children, their husbands, and their wives. Those that they love.

My cause is not so noble. I'm in a position to help out family and I will, have no doubt of that, but my wants are first. I hate to say it and, honestly, it isn't a very good feeling. It's selfish I think.

But also unselfish, in a way. I can justify it by saying that. Making money and going back to school, or staying at a job and working my way up, or getting trained to be a pipefitter (that's another story entirely) isn't about just me.

It's about ... well, it's about the mysterious future. The future I want to include a wife and kids in.

It's been said to me that settling for the white-picket fence dream is not within me. That I don't want that and I don't think I do anymore. It offends me, that dream. I hate it but see it as a likely natural progression. It's the path of least resistance.

As many of you know, the path of least resistance and I don't get along. I do things the hard way almost all the time.

I do want a fence, but I don't want a white one. Red would be nice (my first color choice for anything) or maybe a shade of orange ... gold perhaps ... or maybe I'd just stain it and make it look nice and woody.

But I'd like a place of my own. Some place to call home, marry, and raise a family. And it seems so far away and it seems impossible to achieve.

The question hangs over it. What are my long-term plans?

I guess all that. A college education helps in that, though maybe by the time I get enough money for it I'll be making more as a working stiff.

Part of me is afraid my life is about to get sucked away. The Flintstone manager seems to be held together through sheer will alone at this point. The guy looked beat and I don't want to be that beat. He had kids, family, and he was going to miss his daughter's game (he had to take a phone call in the middle of it and took it there, with me right across from him).

I don't want to be that guy. I don't want to have to miss my daughter's game because I'm stuck at work. He didn't sound too sad about it either. It was just a common thing.

But you do what you have to to provide for those most important to you, for those that you love, and you have to make sacrifices for that. I get that.

Still ... a possible ghost of Christmas future for me I guess.

I was afraid going back to college might make me lose my soul, you know. That it'd suck away what made me, me, and I'd be a lifeless walking husk.

I'm afraid now that being a full-time working stiff is going to do that to me.

Thanks for reading folks. See you on the flipside. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

I'm Scared

*I'm in a profane mood. Be forewarned*

You ever have that movie that you know you have to watch but can't bring yourself to actually watch? Usually, this type of movie is the kind that makes you jump from your seat or sick to your stomach. Usually, these types of movies are legitimate scary movies.

The movie I watched tonight was not that type of movie. It was scary because it just reminded me too much of my life ... of my wants.

I've been looking at this movie, Timer, for what feels like years. I have no idea when it actually appeared on Netflix the first time but I've been avoiding watching it for a long time now. The synopsis of it made me uneasy. Not because the movie would be bad or seemed bad, but because the movie would undoubtedly make me analyze my own feelings on the subject matter of love.

Of waiting for love. Of wanting to be loved.

Of being tired of being alone.

And this movie did exactly that. It was written well, it was acted well, and I enjoyed it. But throughout it all I was sitting there and measuring myself against it ... in a lot of ways I felt like the main character of the movie, Oona. Everywhere she went people were with their 'one' the person whom they would spend the rest of their lives happily with.

The movie makes you think about the nature of love. Of the different kinds of love and how they manifest themselves. More than that, more than anything, this movie made me feel like Oona. Constantly waiting. Constantly wondering. Being disappointed and being used to the disappointment.

Looking, enviously, at everyone else around you and wondering how they managed it. How they got it right and why you can't.

This movie scared me. Because Oona was approaching her 30th birthday and her Timer (the device implanted into her wrist to tell her when she met her true love) hadn't even started counting down. It was just sitting there, staring at her blankly. She'd gone about and made a bit of a life for herself.

But it was incomplete. She'd look at that Timer on her wrist every day and every day it stared back at her, blankly. Despite being surrounded by friends and family, she was alone.

I feel the same way a lot of days.

This week has been a particularly troubling one from a personal standpoint. I've made some decisions that are big changes for me.

My time in Virginia is coming to an end. I'll be leaving soon for Ohio and I'll be entering an entirely new situation. Familiar in some ways but very different in others. Picking up and leaving after spending the last 14 months here in Virginia isn't easy.

I don't know what's after this, really. I have a plan but I don't like plans. Inevitably they backfire on me.

I'm going to take a few years, earn some cash, and go back to finish my degree. I don't know if it was ever the right decision to leave in the first place. I want to be mad about it, I want to scream at the top of my lungs, but I'm done with it.

I fucked up.

It's over.

I will refuse the notion that the last two years have been a waste, because they haven't. I'm in the best shape of my life. I've been graced with not just one new family, but another. People I would take a bullet for, give any organ they need, and do anything for.

I won't regret any of that.

I'm 24 going on 25 in October.

And, much like Oona in the movie, my start in life is late.

Maybe it's the way it had to be. Maybe it's the way I demanded it to be because I'm stubborn beyond reason.

But I'm scared. Every decision, every movement, from this point on ... it's crucial. It can't be fucked up.

I'm also counting on things that, up to this point, have been reliable. My car not having an unexpected major issue. My health not taking an unexpected turn for the worse. My life not being impacted by some left field shit.

And if even one thing goes wrong ... if one thing falls apart ... this could all collapse on me. Everything could fall on top of my head and I don't know what happens after it all falls.

I have the honor and pleasure of knowing some brave, strong people in my life. Some have overcome messy divorces. Some have overcome cancer.

They are my examples and I only hope I can be a little like them. They've overcome. They've dealt with life and they deal with it every day. They don't case themselves in a bubble and hide from the world.

Not like me. I don't like the world. I don't like what happens in it. I don't want to like it and I don't want to be a part of it most days.

But I am a part of it and life is coming for me. It's a giant maw, waiting to swallow me whole if I'm not strong enough.

And I'm not.

I took that personality test this week and discovered I was an INFJ. Basically, it's this. I put it to a vote to some friends and I trust them ... they said it fits me very well. And I want to disagree with them and scream that it doesn't but damn it, it does fit me well. I read through it all, every bit of research I could dig up on it, and I just sat there dumbfounded.

It was like a checklist and I was checking all the things.

I'm not pleased about it now. I was less pleased earlier in the week but now I'm getting used to the idea. It's me. I'm me.

I hate being me some days.

And I'm scared of that INFJ. What exactly does it mean? It's the way I'm programmed, apparently, and I hate to be programmed in such a way that I can't change.

But I've tried hard to change these last two years. Physically, I'm a completely different person. But my personality is still largely the same. I have more control now, I don't get as mean and vindictive as I was before. I'm proud of that.

But I still have those thoughts and those feelings. I still want to sit there and say the meanest thing I can to a person, to crush them, if they piss me off. I don't anymore but I think it.

How can any of that be good? A story bit a friend of my wrote recently echoed something similar, where her character had a dream that she felt guilty over.

It was only a dream. Only false memories. But it felt so real ...

I have those all the time. They play through my head in the night. Dreams I feel horrible about. Worse case scenarios. Fantasies (of various natures, but THAT kind for sure) about people that are married, or involved, or are my friends.

How can any of that be good? How are you NOT supposed to feel guilty about it? Because, frankly, I don't know how. Dreams are dreams, right? But I fuel those dreams. They come from my mind and my twisted human desires.

The dreams are my fault.

Maybe this is why I'm alone and lacking in love. My life is a fucked up mess in a lot of ways. But I have a lot of people that love me. I don't know why and I don't understand, which frustrates the hell out of me. I want to understand, I need to understand, but I don't.

I'm a stubborn mule. I take years to see what people determine in a far shorter time period.

Maybe I'm missing it. Or missing some vital component.

I'm incomplete and this feeling is echoed in so many of my favorite characters to read (written by other more talented authors) and characters I write myself. I KNOW this feeling. I live with it and I hate that I live with it, but it's familiar.

I like the familiar. I like routines. I like habits. Change is tougher for me than most.

I'll put off change for as long as I can.

But I can't put it off any longer. My life is changing and I don't know what the future holds. The movie scared me because it reminded me of that and so many other things.

How far have I really come?

Not far enough I feel. Not even close.