Sunday, May 27, 2007

Life as a Modest Megalomaniac

It’s a tad off-putting to go into your documents folder and find that you have over fifteen different versions of your resume –functional resumes, chronological resumes, resumes for office Administrative work, Public Relations work, part time, full time, internship and volunteer, none of which are up to date.

I called my mother yesterday to whine and complain about the long and grueling process that is job hunting. Her being an excellent person to whine and complain to is just one of the many reasons why I love her. She rewarded me by asking what the hell I’ve been doing with my time and strongly encouraged me to be more productive.

This morning I went for breakfast at the restaurant where I could have been working full time were it not for scheduling conflicts with my other part time job. My friend, a delightful waitress asked if instead of cooking I’d mind serving. I said sure. They were only hiring full time cooks but perhaps they would be looking for a part time server. She said she would talk to the owner. Although I want to do more than serve people food as my next coveted dream job, if a part time job opened up there, I’d take it.

I sometimes wonder whether there is a certain point in people’s lives when they decide that they are only going to do and get things that are perfectly suited to them. They decide they are no longer going to settle for anything anymore. They acquire zero tolerance for hassle, for wrinkles, for static, for having to walk places etc. Then I try to imagine what life like that would be like and I realize that my dishes would never get cleaned. And people with attitudes like that would be repulsive anyway.

What is my tolerance for rainy, underproductive days?

Most days are decent these days, if only because the weather is so beautiful and the trees smell fantastic.

Even though it’s hard finding a job in my field, I still manage to get inspired in my recreational life. For example, today I watched an interview by Sarah Hampson with one of my favorite poets: the living Canadian Leonard Cohen. My dad used to listen to Leonard Cohen so I was exposed to him from a very young age. Cohen (to paraphrase) was talking about aging and how we might look back and wish we hadn’t done certain things while it seems at the time that the way we’re living is just the way we’re living and we don’t really have a choice anyway because we have this sense of ourselves that we just go with. We are who we are. He quoted himself:

"no pride when the world affirms you, no shame when the world scorns you"

I thought that was pretty profound. On the other hand, all of us get a little caught up in the present -feeling good about ourselves when we’re on top and beating ourselves up when we’re down and out. That is our struggle.

Sometimes at night before falling asleep I come up with wild schemes that are going to make me rich...but I never write them down. In dreams I sometimes feel like I’ve figured everything out, like I have this decisive eureka moment and everything makes sense but then when I wake up I can’t remember what the questions were that I discovered all the answers to.

I think I am starting to sound like a broken record when I say to myself: "It’s about time you find employment that’s related to your education, something that is both challenging and rewarding and will take you places."

Driving by the church the other day, amongst the graffiti, someone had written:
"My bicycle takes me places education never could."

I identified with that. I went on the most glorious wooded trail the other day after getting my inner tube replaced last week.
Aside: I did pay for that inner tube with the money I earned working at a job I could never hold, were it not for my French immersion education).

Playing music is becoming like a full time job except that I don’t get a pay cheque. My band and I practiced for about six hours today. I have blisters on both my index and middle finger from playing the bass. (I usually play guitar but sometimes alternate). We are playing a bunch of blues covers and now the words keep on playing over and over in my head:

"Going down to Dallas. Gonna take my razor and my gun." (Johnny Winter)

I think our music is getting better all of the time. It’s good to do that which you enjoy, even if you don’t get paid for it.

Speaking of guns, at least I can be thankful my job isn’t being a soldier. I watched a documentary about soldiers and the medics treating them in Iraq. I saw them bleeding after being blown up but IED’s. It made me realize that jobs aren’t always out there for our direct enjoyment. Some jobs are just jobs and someone’s got to do them. So the snippet of the quote that they had at the end of the documentary just seemed to sum up everything I’ve been thinking about:

"The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry." –Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Snowbirds of Prey

Just imagine:

4pm on a Friday afternoon, you’re driving through Montana and you stop on the side of the interstate to watch an airplane stunt show.

The planes are flying in circles and divots in what are dubbed “routine maneuvers”.

Suddenly the one plane’s wing folds over, caught by wind. It dangles like a piece of tinfoil and the sky seems to crumple. The whole plane plummets to the earth, making a thud, just before exploding into flames.

It leaves behind its black cloud and stench of jet fuel, through which unfallen comrades fly.

The young pilot was “Unfortunately…my son” said Ken McCaughey, someone for which his team will have to take an extra “operational pause”….a pause to remember what perhaps we forgot. Repeated histories prompted, prompted too regularly, too routinely.

Will he be remembered only as our Prime Minister acknowledged him? As "a positive role model and goodwill ambassador who truly personified the professionalism and dedication of all the women and men who make up our Canadian Forces."?

A faceless pilot who fought no war.

This smacks and jars the senses of men and women.

He never had time to self-eject.

To think: he was to be married next month in Montreal.

He'll never live through this weekend.

Click here for Globe and Mail article related to this piece.

News reviews

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Learning Process

Let me just apologize for falling into somewhat of a blogger coma for the past few weeks. I'll explain why:

There are just some things people can't do.

For me, it was memorizing different policies for provincial and state park reservations. Memorizing where 76 of them were on the map was no problem but knowing which ones had alcohol bans and which ones required fly in permits, Remote Area Border Crossing permits, which sites had a three-day change window, those that were reservable all year and those that charged a 10-50% no show fee for the nights reserved -that was tough.

Getting up at six in the morning to go to training all day turned me into a scatter-brain. It seemed like I was starting to lose everything else -my keys, my sense of direction, my brain itself!! I was concurrently trying to learn the ropes of this job while working and just getting used to my other job at the other call centre continue to work. I got frustrated fumbling for mnemonic techniques, jingles and rhymes to help me learn the new information about one campground while forgetting about the last one I had just been tested on. And it was belittling to feel "dumb".

The whole thing opened up an old wound from when I had trouble starting out in elementary school. I was a "slow learner". I remember my parents taking me to get my hearing checked because my marks were suffering. They were suspicious that perhaps I just couldn't hear the teacher's instructions, not that I didn't know how to follow them. It turned out that my hearing was quite acute and I could almost pick up the frequencies of a bat screech. But I was a rascal. The other thing I remembered about school was that I always had to work really hard and study for longer than other people, asking questions throughout class just to "get it". In university as well, I struggled to write sentences which were grammatically, actually sentences but then in my final years I excelled at the top my class. In the arts, concepts and critical thinking came naturally to me but try to explain something like derivation in Calculus? Forget it.

Being out of school for a whole year has made my automatic recall suffer. I looked around me with envy as coworkers (all current university students) played silly games in order to grasp the information with ease. I hated having PowerPoint presentations drilled into my head because they just. Wouldn't. Click. We had to write 2-3 tests a day and get 80 percent or else our score would be considered a "fail". Yesterday I was ready to quit, not happy that the stress had started to manifest itself into a nasty neck crick and a return attack of the hives. But my boss and I were apparently in sync because she called me in for a little "chat" on my performance and it wasn't like I was surprised. I had already "failed" two tests.

So my job as a call agent for provincial and state campsites has come to a close. My May-long weekend just got longer. While I will miss the people I trained with and those I worked for, relief washed over me like a thermos of Gatorade at a football game as soon as I walked out of those doors. It was like being able to push a large desk off the edge of a high precipice, watching as all the stacks of paper fly away. My employer gave me encouraging wishes of finding another good job, we shook hands and I parted.

What I learned throughout this process:

1)I'm not such a memorizing-trivial-information kind of guy.

2)When I go back to school again I'll definitly need to have a regular study routine involving solitude in order to succeed.

3)Memory techniques are a good thing to learn; it's good to know how to learn how to learn. I was starting to get back in the habit of making acronyms and associating answers with the experience of learning them but this needs more work.

4)It is possible not to be good at something but still have a good experience and grow from it. Know your limits.

5)I needed to acknowledge that this job was not for me in order to motivate me to find something else.

6)That the quote "There can be no transformation of darkness to light, of apathy into movement without emotion" (Carl Jung) has a lot of resonance for me. Life can beat you up and turn you inside out but it's good for you. I'm proud of myself for trying. I suppose it's just another way of saying "no pain, no gain".

8)There is a reason everything happens. I see myself getting more interested and involved in photography, drawing, writing, composing etc despite not finding the job that relates to my education. I feel things are going in a progressive direction. I really need to put my extra time now towards regular mental and physical exercise and accomplishment, my goals being: completing a professional recording of my original music which my friends pledged to help with, more biking, hiking and squash.

9)You have to find a way of having fun no matter what you're doing because you can't learn without it and let's face it: most of us are stuck doing something other than our dream job. If you get bored, frustrated or apathetic you'll just drag yourself down. So learn to adapt, amuse, make games and lighten things up when the air gets thick. There's a reason we tend to like the things we're good at: we're good at them because we find them fun.

10)Surround yourself with people who help you. People who chattered or simply whined about having to learn demotivated me and brought me down. I brought myself down for putting myself in their presence. I found that if I was with others that had good learning techniques, my scores started to go up as well.

Personal Diegesis
Who Links Here