An Honest Confession

Call it narcissism, pride or just the plain, old fear of humiliation… but I have been withholding information. Real-life information that I could be writing about instead of waiting for either divine inspiration or for Lee, the neighbors or Stanley the cat to do something blog-worthy.

I have shared all sorts of embarrassing, self-deprecating information here but for reasons that I am not entirely sure of, I have been avoiding the subject that is probably weighing the heaviest on my mind as of late. My job search. I HATE looking for a job. I know, who in their right mind enjoys it anyway, right? But seriously… I really do hate it. And I feel like I have had a lot of experience in this arena, given that I have moved exactly four times in seven years.

I am frustrated that my phone is not getting blown up by every ad agency, retailer, newspaper, magazine, publisher or corporation to which I have sent my resume. But every day as I ritualistically rush to open my email, checking for word that I am indeed the most desirable graphic designer in the Greater Columbus area… Lee reminds me that I’ve been looking for less than two months (to be exact) and that I WILL find something when the time is right. He also smiles, tells me to stop worrying and chill… And then we watch the latest episode(s) of Wicked Tuna on Nat Geo or Real Time with Bill Maher. Thankfully, Lee is the calm and cool to my cracked-up and crazy.

Even though it has taken me exactly 258 words thus far to get to the REAL point of this post, I felt it was imperative to share with you my heartfelt frustration over the job search and just get that part out of the way. See, this entry is not actually about my feelings over the failure to secure kickass employment at the moment. But rather about WHY it is I’ve been so reluctant to share those feelings at all.

I guess it is one thing to share a story about the simultaneous appearance of acne AND crow’s feet or how I managed to ruin something as culinarily simple as mac and cheese. But it is entirely DIFFERENT to write about something of actual concern to me. There really isn’t all that much fun in appearing weak or vulnerable and admitting that something actually (and not in a fun way) kind of scares you.

I think the biggest reason that I’ve been afraid to put my admissions of fear “out there” for the world to read is that, as a woman (sorry ladies for what I’m about to say… but it is often true) I have been party to juicy conversations, discussions, gossip-fests, etc. regarding the misfortunes of others. For reasons somewhat unbeknownst to me, other people’s misfortune can oftentimes be a source of happiness to some.

Now, I’m sure there are deep-seated sociological and psychological implications in said behavior such as finding one’s own worth to be greater only when basking in the blueish cast of another’s less-than-stellar circumstance. I’m sure it’s quite similar to what your mother taught you about people who try to keep other people down in order to build themselves up. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that it is there. And that has been enough. Enough for me to be hesitant in sharing the truth about a real concern regarding my future.

Yet my hope in writing this is to once and for all peel back the covers on my own insecurity, step in front of anyone—friend or foe—who may or may not have my best interests at heart… and keep right on writing anyway. I’ve been withholding now for far too long.

Greener Grass

I was jealous of a woman that I passed at the grocery store last week. It was around noon and I clearly remember thinking that she was probably on her lunch break by the way she breezed by at an alarmingly high rate of speed. She was tall, thin and attractive… but surprisingly her beauty was not the object of my scorn.

No, I was envious of her because it was obvious that she had a job. A real, professional job. One with paid vacation, full medical (probably dental too) and a 401k. She was very well-dressed in a crisp, white blouse tucked into a smart pencil skirt paired up with some killer heels. And she walked with purpose — a woman on a mission.

Once upon a time, I knew that mission well. The object is to get through traffic to the store, gather everything on your list as well as something halfway decent to eat, get back through traffic and slide into your parking spot in 60 minutes or less. After all, the day is now half over and there are STILL calls to be returned, emails to respond to and deadlines to meet.

Yes, cruising by her in my khaki shorts, flip-flops and loose-fitting summer top I had plenty of time to take in the scene. I had no where specific to be. I got up at ten, fed the cat, watched Hoda and Kathy Lee conduct a few “ambush makeovers” on the plaza during the Today Show, showered and threw on something I found laying at the bottom of my closet. I had no list. My mission was simple: To procure some bagels and OJ.

But I found it to be quite a curious thing—my jealousy of this woman—because whenever was working, I envied all those women dressed in khakis, flip-flops and summer tops. They always shopped at a leisurely pace, flip-flopping their way around the store… taking time to sniff and squeeze the produce and casually wait for the sorts of food that needed to be sliced, trimmed, weighed and wrapped.

I often fumed at the notion that these privileged women obviously enjoyed the luxury of having no schedule and certainly nothing that even remotely resembled a deadline as I would tensely zip straight to the freezer section, filling my cart with armloads of Lean Cuisine and frozen (not fresh) veggies. After all, my “smart pencil skirt” was riding up, my “killer heels” were giving me blisters and as for my “crisp, white blouse” — there was a strange, unidentifiable smugde on the collar.

I have lived on BOTH sides of this fence and every time—no matter which side I seem to be standing on—I ask myself why it is that the grass really DOES appear to be greener on the other side. Why is it that I am never fully content with my own yard?

While watching a Sunday morning news program one day I heard a scientific explanation of why grass literally does appear to be greener on the OTHER side of the fence. When looking over the fence at your neighbor’s grass, you see only the sides of the blades of grass which look like a sea of green. However, while looking straight down at the grass beneath YOUR feet, you see the grass… but you ALSO see the patches of dirt in between. You’re acutely aware of all the natural flaws and imperfections.

Apparently, vantage point makes ALL the difference. Where we are standing at any given time has a direct effect on how we see the world around us. Literally and figuratively. Perhaps I’ll try to remember that the next time I go to the store and see that working gal. Perhaps I’ll look close enough to notice her frazzled, white-knuckle grip on the cart handle as she heads for frozen foods. And perhaps I’ll pick up an orange or an avocado, give it a squeeze and then casually flip-flop my way over to the deli counter.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

How is it that children see things so much clearer than we do sometimes? Perhaps it is because their brains aren’t as cluttered with all of the crap we adults tend to carry around. We underestimate their ability to comprehend, process and understand what we deem to be “adult information” and we often overlook how tuned-in they really are.

Three summers ago when I moved back to Ohio from the southwest and began my job search, I thought FOR SURE I had stumbled upon or been led to the perfect job for me. It all came about so easily and so quickly and I pridefully thought to myself: This is really going to work out much better than even I had planned. The job was near Cleveland, the pay was great, the company seemed solid and well-established, and the work was creative & diverse. The HR Director had even used these words: “We really think we have a good fit here” while referring to me as a candidate for the position. All 4 of my interviews with the various “suits” had gone well and I felt fairly confident that this thing was all sewn up.

I’m sure you can tell where I am going with this by now… I didn’t get the job.

The rejection letter came, a charming form of correspondence with which I would later become very familiar… and I came unglued. I mean REALLY unglued. Unfortunately, my then 12 year-old nephew, Cameron, was at the house at the time.

I should mention that for about 6 or 7 years now I have struggled with depression and anxiety… and I was in a bit of a fragile state of mind at this particular time anyway, so this letter was the last straw. In an attempt to protect the innocent as well as whatever is left of my credibility with whoever may be reading this, I won’t go into detail about HOW I came unglued. Let’s just say that the wheels pretty much flew totally OFF my wagon.

My mom and dad tried comforting me, all the while my nephew is in the other room, hearing terrible things spew forth from my mouth as I am screaming and sobbing and raging about all sorts of things that I’m pretty sure were not even remotely related to this “You Suck” letter. And I’m ashamed to admit it, but Cameron overheard things that no child should ever have to hear from an adult whom they love. Scary things.

A few days later, when I had gained some composure and perspective, in addition to a refill of my medication… it’s OK you can laugh at that… I took Cameron out to lunch, just the two of us, and I apologized to him and I asked if he had ANY questions he wanted to ask me about what he’d heard me say that day. Cameron is an extremely bright and mature child, therefore nothing was off-limits. I wanted him to know that it was ALL out on the table in front of us. He expressed his feelings of sadness and concern that I was so upset, but I believe he genuinely understood that everything was going to be OK… that I was going to be OK.

I wish that at the time, I had had the confidence in myself that my nephew had in me.

Fast forward 10 months.

It is 5:30 p.m. on a weekday. I am home from work and I pull my new car into the driveway of my house. Because my family has practically established a 2-block commune in our little town of Minerva, it is quite the norm for a stray child to appear out of nowhere with a hug and a bright “Hi Aunt JoJo!” And on this particular day… it was Cameron.

He gave me a huge bear hug and asked how my day was. I hugged him back, locked my car, gathered up my things and started toward my parent’s house to say hello. But Cameron stopped me. He put his little arm around my waist and turned me to face my house. And he said, verbatim: “Look at you now, Aunt JoJo. Look at how far you’ve come.” At first I thought he was just being silly and sarcastic and I smiled and hugged him again. But since I was not completely certain what he meant by that, while we were still hugging one another, I asked him: “What exactly are you talking about, Cameron?”

He lifted his chin up to meet my gaze and he said to me: “Your car. Your house. Your job. (And he nodded in the direction of each of those things) Look at all you have now. And to think that just a few months ago you wanted to give up.”

I was speechless. I started to cry. I squeezed him tighter and I cried harder. All I could do was nod in affirmation. At that point in time I was so overcome with emotion, that his small 4-foot-something frame was supporting ME. I held onto him for dear life and I have never felt a bigger knot in my throat.