''As I have written on here before, my recent job rejection has really turned out to be a much more manageable experience than I thought it would be and that is primarily due to the lovely coworkers (who also happen to be the people I interviewed with) who took time out of their day to talk to me and reassure me that I was genuinely the person for the job....until this other person came around at the last minute. This person whose experience is not better than mine, but simply different. Who is to say that the knowledge I possess of the position would take anymore to learn than for me to learn of the experience she has over me? All I can say, or have been told rather, is that her experience is...shall we say...more "desirable" than mine. Enough said.
But this same reassurance is actually the very same reassurance I had been given this summer over a different position I applied for in a different department of the same organization; they truly wanted me, until someone with "the exact" experience they wanted came along.
Moreover, I have heard this reassurance echoed throughout my entire life. Most prominent amongst these "echos" are:
1.) Being told I deserved a solo I really wanted in elementary school music, but that my voice was prettier in the lower range and since there were no alto solos,cane wanted to highlight my dancing and narrating instead.
2.) Not making it in show choir two years earlier because there were too many first year seniors that should be given the opportunity since I had many more years to be in it.
3.) Not getting leads in musicals because they needed a strong dance lead instead, or because someone's parents are so involved with the boosters that they needed a role to keep the parents happy.
Now these three I can quite easily see someone saying, "Well, maybe you weren't good enough, but they didn't know how to break it to you....," but I was never given these reasons until I was older and asked for the cold hard truth when I was considering a music major for the first time.
4.) Not receiving first chair in marching band because I needed to, "learn to be a follower before I could understand how to be a leader." I was told to follow the tradition of seniority until I could earn the right to be first chair.
5.) Not getting the lead in community theater because I am not well enough known to decide if I would be good to work with over their friends.
6.) I received the highest score in geometry fair, but was told that my project was too advanced for high school, so it "had to have been plagiarized from the internet." I DIDNT HAVE INTERNET! I read books and created my own project, but was told AFTER I lost that I should, "become a teacher because I am clearly brilliant and speak with such Ouse that I can keep the attention of a classroom."
7.) I was on course to be salutatorian in high school, but with a tied GPA with other students, the school opted to go in alphabetical order. I ended up fifth in my class even though I had more extracurricular activities than the other students and the valedictorian combined.
8.) My closest friends in school often drifted away from me because I was "too smart" and made them "feel stupid." I found out later this was because I "used big words" and the reason they came back was because they realized that even though I was smart...I was loyal and trustworthy. Second best to friends too, but that least they came back around.
These are the things that have stuck with me the most,but there are countless other examples where I "should have been" first, but ended up being second. The reason I don't harbor resentment to these occurrences is because they really helped to build the person I am today. Not getting leads meant I could be more versatile with the multiple roles I played in the chorus. Not getting first chair made me work to understand the exact definition of, "One band, One sound." Not winning geometry fair made me realize that sometimes respect for intelligence is more important that money and medals. Waive ring friends helped me weed out the phonies and left me with the best friends a girl could ask for. And my class ranking never effected my college entry or scholarship eligibility, so it really didn't matter. In all honesty, there are still several things that I was chosen first for, and please know I do not forget them! 5th in county history fair in fourth grade, 1st in 8th grade science fair and 2nd in the State for the same project, Westfall's worthiest and National Honor society, given the most scholarships in high school, 8th grade essayist winner for the trip to Williamsburg, and chosen as captain, chair, or officer for most clubs so long as it wasn't popularity based....lord knows I never most popular!
But going back to the resentment part, I said I have never felt it to those occurrences BEFORE. I'm in the big time league now. It isn't just a lead that I am being chosen second for, but JOBS. My livelihood. What good is being told you are "so talented," "so creative," "so energetic/enthusiastic," "so dependable," "so knowledgeable," "such a great team player," and most of all, "so BRILLIANT,"etc. If you are never given the chance to exercise these traits! Being "recognized" for these things is great, but if they aren't enough to get me where I want to be, then what are they worth? Why not have money, connections, family power, and apathetic bureaucracy instead? I mean, I am learning more and more that so and so is a friend of theirs and they trained at such and such and their parents are blah di blah....WHAT DOES THIS I HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH APTITUDE OR ABILITY TO DO THE JOB!? I mean seriously, no where in a job description does it say, "Must have inside connects and desire to pursue acceleration in business regardless of deserving it."
I guess what I am trying to say is that I am someone who is intrinsically motivated and therefore extremely sensitive and hard on myself. Just because I say, "Oh! It's okay, I understand!" And wear a big smile doesn't mean that I am giving permission to be chosen second time and time and time again. As a professional, I would never scream, "That's not fair!" Or "I won't accept no for an answer!" Or "give me a month to prove that my desire and ability to learn will FAR EXCEED any previous experience the other candidate had!" But damn do I want to. Every day I find myself muttering, "just give me a chance....I promise I won't let you down." But so far...no one has. I am so proud of having to arrange my student teaching in England and complete my training in Music Education at Otterbein because both were situations where FOR ONCE my tenacity and determination laid off TENFOLD. I thank god for those people who gave me a chance every day. Now I just need to replicate them. ''
I can certainly sympathize with these sentiments. There were many times growing up where instead of being the star I was literally second-best, or runner-up for some reason, or ”honorable mention” in a contest, or not picked because of seniority or not “paying my dues” (which seems to happen quite a bit in the educational, performance and dramatic realms, which dovetails nicely with the whole union thing…). Part of the problem, I concluded, was poor timing – like being born the wrong year, for example, or trying to achieve something a year early (or, more precisely, a year earlier than was expected or typical). In hindsight one can always formulate regrets and consider counter-factuals of course (“If only I had done this, things would have been different”), but with time even these dissipate and you can make peace with how life turned out. And Jen hit the same roadblocks with her career – despite high ratings and the highest “value-added” scores in the Columbus School District, this didn’t save her position from being cut, nor did her talent assist her in garnering an acceptable replacement position.
Story time: I had a friend in H.S. that was the most talented musician the school had ever seen. He was enthusiastically supported by his parents, tutored by a first chair of the Cleveland Orchestra, got scholarships, got his B.A. and M.A. in music, etc. He spent over ten years after graduation – and quite a bit of money - trying to get a permanent position in an orchestra to no avail. He flew all over to try his luck at various auditions – New York, Toronto, San Francisco, Montreal, etc. After getting second place in three auditions in a row, where the winner was someone who had an inside track meaning that the entire audition process was just a formality and for show, he finally decided to hang it up. He wanted to start a family, and needed stability. He gave it his best shot, but it didn’t turn out. I sat down with him almost exactly a year ago, after not seeing him for 20 years. He is the head of an IT group for NetJets in town. He regards it as a satisfactory career, and looks forward to further advancement. He doesn’t really regret not persevering with music. And out of all his fellow music majors, only two ended up sticking with the field (performance): one who had a job he loved but was only getting paid $32,000 a year at the age of 40, and another in New York who made pretty good money but just played the triangle in the percussion section and was bored witless!
What is the point of all this? Namely, that such frustration seems to be more common than we are led to expect. As I always like to say, “misery loves company”. Your travails probably make you feel singled out by Fate somehow, but rest assured you are part and parcel of a vast throng of talented, perhaps naïve people who anticipated that ability and hard work alone were sufficient to achieve their long-term goals. But no such meritocracy exists, it seems. How does this help you at all? Good question. In responding to your lament, some people are going to start talking about “God’s Plan”, others will start talking about things being “meant to be”, or some variation of this line of magical thinking. However, I am an agnostic, and I don’t really believe in the concept of fate, or destiny, or some purpose that our lives are intended to fulfill. Similarly, I do not conflate desire with entitlement, and there is nothing inevitable about the purposes we devise for ourselves and assign to our productive years.
As time goes on I have discovered that a lot of dissatisfaction in life arises from things “not going the way we wanted or planned”, and it has lead me to conclude that we must stop wanting so many things, or perhaps, things that are too specific. If only one outcome is acceptable out of a thousand possible/probable outcomes, unhappiness is almost assured, even if we can slightly influence events to make them less random. Garrison Keillor would agree with this viewpoint, as he often speaks of things in life only needing to be “good enough”, as opposed to perfect or ideal. I don’t want to come off as a Buddhist here, but this notion I have been taken with – that discontent often arises from the frustration of our tidy plans and obstruction of our noble goals - has had the long-term effect of making me very suspicious of my own desires. It has lead me to try to be more open in looking for the benefits and advantages hidden within the other almost infinitely variable outcomes that the future bequeaths to us instead of the single one we wanted. This has given me solace even as the less-than-ideal aspects of my life have made me humbler as the ego takes a beating. I now know that I am not special and am not owed my envisioned triumph, regardless of the intensity of my yearning and the force of my struggling. But you know what? Life could be a lot worse, and I am better off than many other people. There are fine components in this life of mine, and I appreciate them all the more that I do have them. This is surely fitting to consider so close to Thanksgiving.
Some people will insist: “Keep Trying.” But the wise man also says: “don’t beat your head against a brick wall”. Am I telling you to give up? No, but I think you need to set a limit where you state that a given particular dream has an expiration date, and if it isn’t achieved by that time, then you cut your losses and move on. And furthermore, that you have a Plan B to fall back on if and when you do move on. To close, I would say: No, we are not that special, and though we can want things, we must be prepared to accept – and even embrace – the things we get instead.
And her reply:
''I have never in my life had someone speak so clearly to my heart and soul. As you may have seen, the abridged version of this caught some of the "God's plan" response that you spoke of, and I do believe a lot of what I put in my reply back, but only really as an attempt to be the good Christian I so want to be. That being said, my mind has always sought more philosophical and scientific (or even. Buddhist, as you put it) approach to life and reflection. You have always been someone who can put reason and logic into thoughts, be in mine, yours, or anyone who is lucky enough to receive your advice. I am speechless and drawn to tears to have someone just..."get it." No judgement, no melodrama, no patronization....just plan understanding. I don't know how to thank you for taking the time to read my late night musings and respond with the amount of thought and time as you have. Just, thank you.''
Its good to be heeded and appreciated by those in need of wisdom.
Not ready for this yet! But the front yard was undeniably magical, which I got to enjoy for about 30 seconds before I left for work…
I remember seeing Clerks for the first time – must have been 1995 or so. It had just come out on cable or DVD. At first glance, it shouldn’t have been appealing to me, as I was diametrically opposed to the lifestyle of the main characters. I was in graduate school, toiling away in classes and in the lab, where I was conducting research for my thesis. I was a rather dedicated, if not stellar student. I had goals, a plan. I intended to go places. I was not in a dead end job, working weird hours at a convenience store like the hapless heroes featured in the movie. Yet here these genial if vulgar slackers tapped into a well-concealed reservoir of doubt and discontentment within me. I saw that despite the jocularity between the characters, uncertainty always lurked beneath the ribbing and the jests, the banter distracting from the aimlessness afflicting them. When the protagonist Dante cries out in frustration “I’m not even supposed to be here!” I smiled and nodded. Sure it was whining, but it was also poignant – an admission of failure and a plea for mercy. For like Dante I also was too much in a rut to “stick it to the Man”, lacking the resolve to “escape the system”, so I was deeply sympathetic to that slow-motion floundering that characterizes the lives of so many 20-year olds, regardless of achievement. And as someone in my early 20’s at the time, I felt a kinship with these slouching, unmotivated wisecracking ne’er-do-wells.
Then there was Gross Pointe Blank, with its quirky, glib, but deadly protagonist reluctantly returning to his hometown for his ten year high school reunion (as well as to carry out a conveniently located assassination contract at the same time). The reckoning, the taking stock, the awkwardness, that surreal confrontation between the man you’ve become and the protean, larval version of you that still lurks in the minds of one’s peers were all perfectly on display there, only slightly augmented by the inclusion of gunplay and hand-to-hand combat. No, I was nothing like the protagonist, really. Neither a borderline sociopath with a talent for violence nor a loser in high school, I nonetheless shared that same wistful questioning, the equivocation of if I should make a change and embark on a different path. Sure, unlike the slackers in Clerks cruising on autopilot, the two of us had committed to something – but was it the ”right” something? And was there still time to alter course?
And currently, The World’s End, which when it came out on cable I watched three times in the first week alone. It features a group of middle-aged men who have made their choices and stuck by them. But a certain Gary King, played by the charismatic Simon Pegg, has apparently made the wrong choices, and belatedly realizes that he has paid a price for it. His internal crisis is mirrored by an external crisis where the characters’ hometown is taken over by aliens who have displaced the original inhabitants and assumed their identities. Part of the genius of the film is how perfectly everything is mirrored and distorted – faulty recollections versus actual occurrences, childhood versus adulthood, aspiration versus actual achievement, duty versus liberty, the freedom to do versus the necessity to conform, etc. As a 42 year old man this cannot help but resonate deeply within me. The movie challenges me to consider my circumstances and pick a side, to choose a course, rather than merely follow the path whose route was laid out years before by a rather uninformed young man and not well-scrutinized since.
I have not had, nor do I think will have, a proper “mid-life crisis” (something for which the Wife is keenly grateful). Mind you, I’m not ruling out any kind of break-down accompanied by drastic change inspired by some tragic, life-altering event, but the mid-life crisis thing is something I shall not fall prey to, principally because the inspiration for it – the sudden realization of lost youth and a new appreciation of one’s mortality – is something I have been constantly aware of at least at some low level my entire adult life. So I have been inoculated against it, as it were.
But the struggle between obligation and freedom, and what to DO with the freedom that one does possess, are topics that I certainly find compelling. To overcome the wistfulness that comes from self-indulgent reminiscing, leave the past in the past, and instead of wallowing, embrace the future and determine to shape it as best as I can to my liking – THAT is my current challenge. Sadly, there is no one who seems qualified to advise me on this matter.
What do I want? “I want to be free, to do what I want to do.” In a very real sense this yearning – and the awareness of our mortality - are what elevates us above the animals, believe it or not.
"My sense of indignation is becoming palpable."
“OK, stop. Now you’re just embarrassing yourself.”
“Don’t you ever get tired of being wrong?”
"I'm currently attempting to conceal my intense disgust. Is it working?"
“Make me proud. Or at least, less ashamed.”
“Now, now, I didn’t say that to patronize you. I’m just trying to establish the boundaries of your ignorance.”
“I just wanted to take this opportunity to say that I hate you all, and hope you die by drowning in the blood of your loved ones.”
Consists of racing towards
(And through) yellow lights.
I have a long, somewhat troubled relationship with the classic rock world. For decades I have likened listening to rock radio to panning for gold: sifting tediously through tons of dross to get to the actual precious material. So for every “Sultans of Swing” (Dire Straits) there are 10 songs like “Take Me Home Tonight” (Eddie Money). The hope is that the pleasure I derive from a chance broadcast of something like “Time” (Pink Floyd) will outweigh the crushing wave of “meh” that all the other songs played during the same hour inspire. I realize that people have different tastes, and mine are a bit more rarified, but my primary objection at this point is not only do I not care for most of the songs played, but my antipathy is magnified by the fact that I have heard these songs many, many times before, and continued exposure to them is like an allergy where each contact produces a more progressively adverse reaction until hospitalization is required.
The sad part is that a certain portion of the songs that I now regard with distaste are, objectively speaking, actually good songs. Take “Hotel California”, for example. It’s not just a good song – it’s a great one. The structure, the mood the piece evokes, the groove it settles into, the slightly surreal and disquieting lyrics, and the guitars; I’ve seen the sheet music, and there are literally eight different guitar parts, tastefully arranged and superimposed.
But I’m OVER it. I’ve just heard this song so many damn times that hearing it again makes me gnash my teeth and roll my eyes. In fact, somehow I have heard it three times just in the last month. And it was so played out that even in high school it was cliché, as evidenced by the fact that the entire busload of my classmates returning from the infamous 1989 Junior Year Washington D.C. Trip sang it all the way through, regardless of social status or musical predilection.
The most regrettable aspect about this is that it makes me hate the artist that produced the song, rather than the real villain here, who is the radio station or the musical industry it serves as a mindless minion. I mean, Deep Purple might be a fantastic band, and some of the things I’ve read about them make me believe I might even dig some of their material, but when all one ever hears is “Smoke on the Water”, how would one come to know that? Why can’t you hear other selections from their catalogue broadcast on the radio? I mean, it’s not like the radio stations are all still using the original vinyl singles with an “A” and “B” side, are they? They must have entire albums on compact disc. How about broadening the horizons a bit? Maybe instead of counting on some nostalgia-based and diminishing pavlovian response of their listeners by playing the same crap over and over, the stations could expose people to thousands of great songs that have remained effectively undiscovered. But in order to do THAT, you would have to strike some of the overplayed pieces from rotation forever. And so I composed a list of just such songs. The followings songs from the 1970’s should never be played by radio stations ever again, on pain of dismemberment:
Margaritaville (Jimmy Buffet)
Hotel California (The Eagles)
Radar Love (Golden Earring)
Smoke on the Water (Deep Purple)
We Are the Champions (Queen)
It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (The Rolling Stones)
Fly Like An Eagle (Steve Miller Band)
Layla (Derek and the Dominos)
Any Way You Want It (Journey)
Cold As Ice (Foreigner)
Dust In the Wind (Kansas)
Reelin’ In the Years (Steely Dan)
China Grove (Doobie Brothers)
Ramblin’ Man (Allman Brothers Band)
Give a Little Bit (Supertramp)
Sweet Emotion (Aerosmith)
Go Your Own Way (Fleetwood Mac)
What’s Your Name (Lynyrd Skynyrd)
Roxanne (The Police)
Turn the Page (Bob Seger)
Two Tickets to Paradise (Eddie Money)
Just The Way You Are (Billy Joel)
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (Diana Ross)
This is merely a healthy and necessary culling of the herd. So you could still occasionally hear “Life in the Fast Lane” by the Eagles, and “Night Moves” by Bob Seger (if you must). I dare you to debate the inclusion of any of the above songs, and I welcome suggestions for additions to the list (there should probably be several more by the Steve Miller Band in there). And certainly, another list could - and should - be compiled for the 1980’s as well. And I can tell you right now, Billy Idol, Bryan Adams and John Mellencamp would definitely be represented on it.
Summer of ’69 (Bryan Adams)
Take Me Home Tonight (Eddie Money)
White Wedding (Billy Idol)
Hurts So Good (John Mellencamp)
Janie’s Got a Gun (Aerosmith)
Free Fallin (Tom Petty)
Born in the U.S.A. (Bruce Sprinsteen)
Sharp Dressed Man (ZZ Top)
Girls, Girls, Girls (Mötley Crüe)
You’ve Got Another Thing Comin (Judas Priest)
Karma Chameleon (Culture Club)
Hit Me With Your Best Shot (Pat Benetar)
Danger Zone (Kenny Loggins)
Here I Go Again (Whitesnake)
You Give Love a Bad Name (Bon Jovi)
Sweet Child o’ Mine (Guns N’ Roses)
With or Without You (U2)
Maneater (Hall & oates)
Sussudio (Phil Collins)
Invisible Touch (Genesis)
Addicted to Love (Robert Palmer)
In Your Eyes (Peter gabriel)
All Night Long [All Night] Lionel Richie
Total Eclipse of the Heart (Bonnie Tyler)
Don’t Stop Believin’ (Journey)
Panama (Van Halen)
We Built This City (Starship)