The Friend Zone

This was my response to a post some guy on FB made lamenting his supposed constant ‘friend-zone’ status:

Allow me to impart some wisdom from a woman’s perspective here: 

1.) Being what YOU would describe as a “nice guy” is not enough to get a woman to want to date you. You don’t get brownie points for not being a jerk. That’s just the standard. And what you personally think is “nice” may just be “okay” for her. 

2.) Complimenting me is not “special treatment”. Yes, I’d expect a potential romantic partner to positively acknowledge when I’ve done something to improve myself.  Then again, my co-workers do that too, and I’m not seeking to marry any of them. I’m not going to get that you want to date me from you telling me that my dress is pretty.

3.) I don’t care how nice or cool or awesome you may THINK you are: if I don’t feel SAFE with you (whether that means understanding that you will protect me from harm, or trusting you to not harm me yourself), it’s a no-go. Point blank, period. Plain and simple. Fun fact: this is why girls will go for the tough guy or bad boy types and try to get them to love them. Take a defense class. Hit the gym. Learn how to scan your surroundings. And before you start: yes, I take my own advice and exercise regularly, eat well and try to attain optimal health.

Here’s a tip: if I as a woman notice you have a tendency to whine or complain about things instead of DOING something, I’m going to think you have no ability to take control of a situation or be decisive (weakness). Also, complaining/whining is SO un-attractive, regardless of gender, but it’s ESPECIALLY un-masculine.

4.) If you’re the kind of man that constantly gripes about being in the ‘Friend Zone’, take a look at a few things:

  • Consider the types of women you are being ‘friend-zoned’ by and WHY it is you keep going after them,
  • Observe the manner in which you are ‘friend-zoned’.
  • What it is about yourself that gets you ‘friend-zoned’ (again, you can’t use the rebuttal of ‘nice guy’. I’m sure women of the world are not only getting married to people they think are idiots or d-bags).

If you’re looking outwardly and blaming others (read: women) for not finding love, guess what? that doesn’t make you such a ‘nice guy” does it?


5.) Personally speaking, I have a lot in common with my guy friends (hence the fact that we’re friends). But that doesn’t mean that I will ever date them. There are three big reasons for this. 
The biggest is their lack of FAITH in God. If you’re so worried about being in the friend-zone you’re not focusing on your relationship with God, who you’re supposed to be trusting to send the right woman your way, don’t be surprised when you lose out. Fail#1.
COMMUNICATION: How the h— am I supposed to get that you want me if you don’t say, “Hey girl, be my girlfriend!” or something with a little directness or clarity?! Women like when a man is confident in his abilities (but still humble enough to know when he’s out-classed or wrong) and straightforward. It’s what we expect. Straightforwardness (not to be confused with RUDENESS, VULGARITY or LOUD, BRASH, COCKY behavior) is a testament to the type of character that we instinctively rely on (see #3). Don’t be an insipid punk; subtleness is for office meetings. Fail #2.
CHEMISTRY: I cannot stress this enough. Nothing is going to induce me to accept your hand if the thought of being in your personal space for the rest of my life feels even the slightest bit forced or awkward, I don’t care how “nice” you are. Ultra big fat mega-Fail #3.

6.) Lastly, and to piggy-back off #4, if the only reason you are nice to a woman (compliments, opening doors, doing favors, etc) is to get close to her, don’t be surprised when we don’t date you. WE’RE NOT STUPID! We pick up on this stuff. “Women’s Intuition”, remember? And is just having a woman’s friendship and only her friendship REALLY such a punishment? Real, genuine long-lasting relationships and marriages are that way because they GENUINELY wanted to be friends, wanted to be around each other and get to know each other more and more each day. If the woman you’re pursuing is just not interested, why not MOVE ON instead of snubbing all women for one telling you she just wants to be friends? She’s not indecisive, she just ain’t that into YOU, bruh!

Do you actually want someone dating you because they feel sorry for you, or so they don’t hurt your feelings? That’s manipulative, petty, immature, selfish and a breeding ground for an eventual failed relationship and a lost friend. It’s almost borderline rapist mentality. Are we just objects for you to “win over”? You really want to be that guy who persuades ladies for a date? STOP IT! Nobody wants someone like that (face it, you wouldn’t be attracted to that either). Grab a bottle of water and stop being so daggone thirsty!

Thirty Things Learned in My First Thirty Years

Today, April 16th, is my 30th birthday. And Easter Sunday.

People make the age of 30 sound much different from what it actually is. Then again,
I’ve only been 30 for about 20 hours or so… (4 1/2 at the time of writing this, if you wanna get technical).

Time spent without having learned anything is time wasted. So, I’ve been thinking about some important things I’ve learned in life so far that might help someone else.

1.) Listen to your mother.

Sometimes, mother doesn’t always know best. But, let’s face it: those times are very rare and often insignificant. Obviously, there are exceptions to this, but your mother is your biggest ally in this world. There are so many times in life where I wish I’d just listened to the Cliff Notes of life my mother tried to impart, rather than dismissing her as though the advice were somehow irrelevant to me, thus learning the lesson the hard way.

2.) It’s okay to be wrong.

There’s a difference between being righteous and being self-righteous. Defending erroneous actions is just silly. Just admit it when you are in the wrong and learn from the mistake.  Move forward and become better. Besides, nobody likes a know-it-all.

3.) Sometimes, the 4th time’s the charm…

…Or the 5th, or 6th, or 46th. The Wright Brothers (one of whom I share a birthday with!) didn’t quit after a few failed attempts.

4.) Speak up.

You never know who is thinking or feeling the same thing you are. The whole world can change because of a “stupid” or “crazy” idea.

5.) There are times when you have to suck it up and be ‘okay’.

Life isn’t all about you. There are 7 1/2 billion other souls on this planet, and at any given time, they’re all going through something, some worse than what you’re going through, and smiling bigger.  That paper you have to turn in, that money you have to make with overtime, that deadline you have to meet, etc., will NOT RSVP to your pity party. Suck it up, buttercup.

6.) There are times when it’s okay to not be ‘okay’.

On the other hand, you are the only one living your life. If you need to take a personal day to grieve the loss of your dog (I’d be taking at least a few), if you need to escape to the bathroom to cry, turn off the phone and delete social media for a month, do that. Which brings me to my next point:

7.) Your (spiritual/physical/mental) health is paramount.

You only get one shot at this life. Some people don’t even make it past childhood before their time on Earth is over. Why be miserable? Why be in pain? Why live everyday in a depression, or anxious, or desperate to escape when there’s a better way? Talk to someone, get exercise and eat healthy, stay on top of your check-ups. Do your research on  what spiritual path best aligns with your view of the world. Do what you have to do (within reason) to make life truly worth living.

8.) Life will BREAK you.

But, it’s usually because you need to be put back together the right way.

9.) Sometimes, a shitty job is better than none at all.

Because you’re an adult. With responsibilities. And an empty fridge. See #5.

10.) Bullies are the biggest bitches.

Oftentimes, they are hurting you because they have so much pain within themselves and have no other outlet and are scared to do anything else. A lot of them do it out of boredom (read: empty mind). Ultimately, they are only hurting you because you allow  them to.  Don’t be a victim. End the cycle.

11.) Personality doesn’t get wrinkles.

Real talk. People get better with age, even though our bodies deteriorate. Though some people are able to age very well, good looks WILL fade away, butts and boobs sag, thighs meet and fall in love and six packs give way to a whole keg. Even when outer appearances don’t fade with  the passing of time, they melt like sugar in a teacup in the mind of a person who knows what their insides are really like. But a sharp mind, a good heart and a beautiful soul are always attractive. Your experiences and what you do with them build your character. And that’s something makeup and nice clothes can’t hide.

12.) Cars depreciate. People don’t.

Piggybacking off of the previous point, I’ve seen so many people around me hurting because someone used them like an object. Sometimes, it was to get something material. A few times, it’s been a petty squabble about a possession that was taken or stolen or borrowed that exploded into something bigger. The end result is that you have this thing that is worthless in a few years time, and you’ve lost a friend or lover or family member over it. People are meant to be valued. Every person that comes in to our lives has a purpose, even if it’s small.  Our lives intertwine that way so intricately that the design of it all cannot possibly be overlooked.

13.) Get to know lots of different people.

Variety is the spice of life. Make a new friend from a different culture, learn more about how they live their lives. Try new foods, learn a few phrases in a different language, talk to someone who practices a different religion. Open yourself up and you will enrich your life so much. There are so many wonderful little things you can incorporate into your day-to-day from other cultures. For example, I find it much easier to beat eggs or turn over food in a  pan with chopsticks.

14.) Time is precious. Be focused.

You can replace clothes, furniture, cars, houses. You can get a job and earn more money, if you should lose it. But, you will NEVER get your time back. Suddenly, scrolling on Instagram doesn’t seem like such a priority, right?

15.) Words are powerful. Be kind.

Who the French dressing came up with that stupid “stick and stones” saying?! One unkind word can be enough to discourage someone from pursuing the career of their dreams. You could think you’re being witty and sarcastic by saying something off-color and wind up ruining your entire marriage or other relationship. Saying something nice, on the other hand, that you don’t think much of can literally save someone’s life (I’ve been there). Furthermore, with this in mind, once your words are said, you can’t take them back again. Choose carefully.

16.) Save a little money.

You never know what life will throw at you. Your future self will thank you.

17.) Violence is not to be tolerated.

When I say violence, I don’t just mean punching, hitting, shaking, etc. When someone punches your wall, throws something at you with no real intention of hitting you, destroying your personal property, or even makes a threat to do any of the above, this is still violence. Just like harm to your person, it is meant to instill fear, because people who are afraid are easier to manipulate and control. When I say ‘not to be tolerated’, I don’t just mean from other people. I mean from you towards yourself or other people as well. You need to find a constructive outlet for your emotions, or it will cost you a price you’re not willing or prepared to pay.

18.) Know thyself. Spend some time alone.

It’s generally thought healthy to want to have interactions with people, but everyone should take time to be completely alone. Some people cannot stand to be by themselves, and would rather maintain toxic relationships than deal with just themselves. BUt, when you know yourself, you understand your place in the world more. You know what kind of people you need in your life, and what people should be let go. When you know yourself, you can love the loveable parts, and change the not-so-loveable parts. and when you finally like yourself, your whole self, the right people will start liking you, too.

19.) Know your limits…

… And don’t let others push them. The people who do will need to get cut from the team during the annual review.

20.) Trust the process.

All of my cohort friends and family members seem to either be married, have kids, a four-year degree and a great career, are homeowners, or some combination of the above. I don’t have any of that yet. Maybe I wasn’t meant to. Or, maybe I wasn’t meant to yet. I’m just now stabilizing from a major setback, and I look forward to finishing my degree and embarking upon that great career, and I’m relishing my time that is truly mine to work on myself, not devoted to kids or a spouse. Everyone’s journey is different. It’ll happen when it’s meant to. In the meantime, enjoy the meantime.

21.) Failure is a part of success…

…And a part of life. A seed can’t grow unless it’s buried. Last year, I read Failing Forward by John C Maxwell, and it detailed how so many of the great scientists, businessmen, and other legends seemed to be ‘behind the curve’, lacked in resources, started over and over again, or started too late to ever be successful. Vera Wang failed to make the U.S. Olympic figure skating team, but she’s not a failure. She didn’t design her first dress until she was in her 40s! As long as you’re on this side of the ground, it’s never too late to begin.

22.) When (not ‘if’) you lose everything, you will gain so much.

Like, knowledge of who is really in your corner, strength beyond what you ever dreamed you could possess, empathy, humility, wisdom, etc.

23.) It’s okay to be mad at God.

He can take it. Besides, you won’t be angry for long.

24.) Pick your battles carefully.

Learn to discern what is worth your time and energy and potentially losing something valuable over, and what isn’t. Some battles, the stakes are too great and are doomed from the start (see #s 2 & 8). Really delve deep and decide for yourself what your deal-breakers are, and what are merely just opportunities for compromise.

25.) Healthy food is called ‘healthy’ for a reason.

As recent as 50 years ago, we were using certain types of food as our medicine. People in the old days rarely got sick. In the 90s, they started putting all these chemicals in our food, and eventually got to the point we’re at today where we have food that has no actual food in it, and every other person has allergies to anything with protein in it. Cancer is rampant, and diabetes is epidemic. It’s all preventable! Just because you don’t feel the effects of a poor diet and lifestyle right now doesn’t mean you won’t later (See #7 again). Just because your baby isn’t born with its arm where its naval should be doesn’t mean that eating crap during pregnancy has no consequences. It all adds up, and can rear its ugly head in a heartbeat. You may save a little money on the cheap food now, but you’ll have to pay big time when the medical bills pile up and the doctors “can’t figure out what’s causing it”.  Take care of yourself; you only get one body.

26.) Your family is the people who love you the best.

My family is a bit dysfunctional. While I love my whole family, there are many family members who I no longer talk to, simply because they’re too damn toxic. The ones who I like definitely know who they are. I don’t believe in nurturing relationships simply because of blood relation. There are members of my family that aren’t related to me, who I love as though they were.

27.) Pray.

Even if you feel like your prayers aren’t heard, just keep doing it. It may not seem like it’s getting better, but at least it’ll make you feel better. Which brings me to my next point:

28.) Define your spirituality for yourself.

Ultimately, it’s YOUR relationship with God. Don’t let anyone else tell you how to pursue and maintain that relationship, or any relationship, for that matter.

29.) Just take the damn compliment.

Most people these days are so self-absorbed, they aren’t going to say something nice to someone else unless they mean it. Don’t insult a person and discourage them from being nice in the future by refusing to accept their good gesture. Even if you don’t particularly feel cute or pretty or smart, just say ‘thank you’ and move on.

30.) Trust yourself.

Especially your gut. A person can lie, but their vibe can’t. A situation can be hazy, but your intuition can always see through it. If you notice a pattern, if you see the signs, DON’T IGNORE THEM! And don’t ever sell yourself short because you think you’re not good enough, or that you’ll make some monumental mistake and ruin everything (whatever ‘everything’ is in that moment). Own it, be confident and make those mistakes: they’re opportunities to grow  (see #21).

 

 

 

 

 

Chain Of Command

There are many Millennials, in this country at least, who will tell anyone who will listen about how much they hate their jobs. Contrary to popularly upheld belief, however, their concerns are not material. Most complain about not being able to find work in their field of choice, which is a legitimate concern. No one with their wits about them would want to go tens of thousands of dollars in debt for a quality education that they were promised for the first two decades of their lives would give them an advantage in the workforce and secure their future, only to have menial, slightly better than minimum wage jobs available to them that won’t even cover the essentials. Worse still is the conundrum of knowing that your education qualifies you, but that all the companies who are hiring want someone more ‘experienced’, but to get the experience, someone has to hire you.

Some of us, like myself, are luckier than those, and chose instead to enter the workforce earlier to get experience (I use the word ‘chose’ loosely here). Still, with all that experience and acquired knowledge comes something more daunting: we are all scraping by in an economy where no one can afford to retire. The result of this is that the working population ages, no one new gets hired in, outdated processes and policies stay in place because “that’s the way it’s always been done”, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, and other bullshit phrases designed to dismiss trivialize solutions to legitimate issues abound to frustrate the champions of progress. And, of course, to increase the average age of fast-food workers to 29.

In November, I started working at a freight carrier (I won’t say which) which specializes in less-than-truckload shipping services. Before I started there, I was warned away by someone who had worked there for some years who had some unsavory experiences with the treatment of employees: favoritism, low wages, long hours, lack of respect and unsafe practices were some of the general complaints. I, like a dunce, chalked it up to being the habits of another area of the company, and assumed because I would be working in another area of the company, that my experience would be different. To be fair, it has been different. Still bad, but a different kind of bad.

Generally, it is assumed that adults in a work setting are able to work together toward a common goal without conflict, and should conflict arise, that it be settled in a courteous, respectful manner. Y’know, generally.
I just had to spend the first hour of my day in a meeting with two managers and another employee  I have been assigned to work with regarding workplace harassment for the second time in a month, and ended up being gaslighted yet again. Each day, I have to send emails to agents who work for my company to make sure they are doing their jobs so I can do mine, sometimes catching them trying to swindle our customers by attempting to get paid for additional services they are not performing, and shirking the ones they are supposed to, thus angering our end customers and causing them to call me or my teammates and curse us out for their folly. I actually have to punch a timecard. A fucking timecard! I was told just today that only five short years ago, the payroll process was still being done by hand on an actual paper timesheet. Tip of the iceberg.

The training process is one in which you sit next to someone at a desk, and they explain what it is they are doing, and you get to listen to them talk on the phone, and you somehow have to absorb this. If you’re fortunate, the office supply closet has sticky notes or a notepad and pens in case you forgot to bring your own. What the person you’re sitting with is doing may or may not be what you will be doing later, so you’ll have to tweak what you’ve learned to fit your workflow. And heaven forbid they neglect to tell you something….like, something that is essential to your daily job function that you will get written up for months later, because it’s no one’s fault but your own that you didn’t ask questions that you didn’t know you needed to ask. While my train is on the passive-aggressive track, I’ll impart that this will be yet another skill you must master to successfully negotiate office life. Also, you’ll need to greet every person as though they are a manager, head of the department, VP of the company, etc., because NO ONE will tell you who is who, or who you should talk to until it becomes comically relevant for them to point it out to you at the exact peak moment of embarrassment potential. I’ll explain:

Let’s say after about a week,  your ‘trainer’ gives you a task to complete to give you some practice with your shaky, newly acquired skills (read: test your competency). Some random person comes over to you after some minutes and asks how you’re doing and if you need help, and oh, by the way, their name is _____. You tell them that you’re doing okay, they let you know you can ask them questions if you need anything. They do this a few more times throughout your shift, and you wonder aloud to your ‘trainer’ who this person is suddenly so keen on the aspects of your development. They respond, “Oh, that’s the manager of our department”.

Good to know, right? It’d also be good to know that the people I see walking up and down the halls everyday and smile at when passing and attempt to greet warmly are 2nd and third of command of our region, process our payroll, manage our benefits (or will after we’ve been there over a year and can have more than two personal days per year allowed), etc. Meh, apparently not.

Maybe I’ve been spoiled. I’ve worked in companies where the on-boarding process was structured in such a way that no one is allowed to do any essential work or interact with any customer until they learn every basic thing that is needed for them to successfully carry out the various duties of their employment. “Setting up for success” is the term I like to use. I’ve worked in a business where I knew the names and faces of all the managers, heads of department, even the VP and CEO/Founder of the company, because they took a few seconds out of their busy schedule to pop their heads in to say “Hello, I’m _____, pleased to have you aboard!” I’ve worked in companies that not only welcome, but encourage new ideas, suggestions, and voicing of concerns or frustrations that will make the workflow and company better overall. So, knowing this, it shouldn’t come to me as a surprise when, after asking why it is that the cleaning crew has to start vacuuming right in our workspace while we’re on the phone with actual customers, asking us to get up so they can clean, and who we can complain to about their aggressive behavior (seriously?!), that I am literally left with an overwhelming need to vomit at being met with pushback. “We’ve tried that, it doesn’t work. Just do your best to ignore it”, is the response I got met with. My response was to ask who it is that is in charge of facilities, and if I could just send him a quick email or note to let our plight at least be known.

Maybe it’s just me being hypercritical, but I happen to think that it’s rude to vacuum when someone is on the phone, or to disturb people at work in general. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive at being told that if I were to go above the chain of command to talk to someone about making what I feel is a positive change,  that I’ll get fired. FIRED?! Really? For wanting to simply talk to someone about a problem, real or perceived, I stand to lose my job? Perhaps THIS is the reason why I didn’t know who they were until earlier this week: I’ll get canned if I so much as talk to them.

We Millennials get accused of being spoiled quite often. But, is it really such a bad thing to want transparency in the workplace? Is it really such a tall order to want to know WHO IT IS and WHAT we work for? That the PTB will listen to us? To want to be better, to improve and grow, and be conscientious? To want to know, or at least feel like the things that we do – that we ourselves – actually matter in the grand scheme of an organization? To not just exist as a number, punch a card, be perpetually chained to a desk via headset cord, to be just another replaceable cog in a machine chugging along aimlessly? Is it really so wrong to want to be the weak link in the chain of command that inevitably binds our progress as people?

Don’t Complain About The Mud If You Prayed For The Rain and Didn’t Wear Boots.

  Surfers understand better than anyone how life works. If you resist the waves, you wipe out. If you learn to adapt to the ebb and flow of the ocean, you’ll catch a good wave and even enjoy the ride.

God allows everything that happens to happen for a reason. Growth, after all, comes with growing pains. I worked so hard at finding a job last year, working odd jobs in between to supplement, prayed, cried, threw plates, burned incense, read Law of Attraction books,  everything I absolutely could just to keep my independence, just to keep my apartment that I started dreading coming home to every day because I couldn’t stop thinking about the insurmountable debt in rent and late fees that was amassing, trying to keep up the $15/hr, 40hr/week lifestyle I’d created for myself coupled with the months of missed bills due to exhaustion of unemployment and savings all on a $11/hr, 30hr/week income. When I finally got too mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted to keep trying, finally surrendered it to God, spoke out into the Universe my willingness to accept and adapt to whatever happened next, I got evicted after only my second month of late payment. That same day, I landed an interview for a full-time job with benefits and overtime, and got hired on the spot. His timing is swift, isn’t it?  I felt a strange sense of relief at being kicked out and forced to get rid of the majority of my stuff, something I had dreaded for the previous four years of living alone more than any other one thing in my life. Not even ashamed to write that I played ‘Let It Go’ on Spotify on repeat for almost a solid week.  I was so grateful to no longer have the insurmountable debt looming over my head that I didn’t have the nerve to fix a complaint on my tongue at having to move back in with mom at age 29. But, these are my problems. The country at large is and has been for some time in far greater turmoil.

I was telling my manager a couple of nights ago that everything happening right now is our own fault. She expressed fear and concern for her future (because she is a part of what we will term a “marginalized couple”).  We all got too complacent – too comfortable – too easily pacified and self-soothed with the mentality of “it can’t possibly happen here”.
Well, things sometimes need to be taken from us for us to realize how badly we need them. History is a lesson that repeats itself until we’ve finally learned it. I’ve been saying for literal years now that the coxcomb in the White House is just a perfunctory red herring, and the political parties and other labels we assign to ourselves and other groups of people with differing ideologies are just as illusional as they are divisive; it’s the 535 quacks in Congress that have created this mess, and We The People put them there – and have kept them there – with our apathy, with our pettiness, with our vitriol: shouting terrible, hurtful things across the aisles, blaming and shaming ‘the other side’ while neglecting to check our own ugliness that reveals us to be no better than the people we profess to be superior to (ironically, a good deal of us claim to be followers of Christ).

Where has it all gotten us?

This time LAST YEAR was the time for the protests, for the outrage, for the vigilance and for the eloquent speeches by prominent figures. It’s sad that we didn’t heed the warning from the Brexit fiasco, didn’t sense the urgency and precariousness of our situation, haven’t cared enough about the values we claim to hold dear yet take for granted until the time came that it was too late to protect them. We’re all in the same boat, and a good boat-rocking has been long overdue.
Only real question now is: are we gonna take up an oar and start paddling this thing in the right direction, or take up a drill and expand the hole in the bottom?

Better Days Ahead…?

In ‘The Wizard Of Oz’, during the scene where they’re all traveling through the Dark Forest, the Scarecrow mentions that the forest will more than likely get darker before it gets lighter. I’ve found that traveling through life is no exception.

I woke up today so depressed, I couldn’t get out of bed until sunset.This has been a TERRIBLE year, for myself and others I know. I’ve suffered setback after setback financially, I’ve worked seven (yes, SEVEN) jobs this year trying to stay afloat, only to have just found a full time job on the day I got evicted. I’ve been to more funerals in this one year than I had in my life previously, lost so much and had to remove quite a few people I found out the hard way were toxic (not you, if you’re reading this!), moved twice within a month, my whole life has seriously been turned upside down, and now I’m literally back at square one. But, I did have some nick-of-time blessings along the way, and became closer with my loved ones, and even made new friends. I guess the beautiful part of having to start over is that I can rebuild bigger, stronger, better than when I first started out, because of all the lessons the hardship taught me, all the compassion I learned through the heartache, and all the strength I’ve gained during the struggle. There is a kind of relief in failure, a kind of victory in defeat. Here’s to a fresh start and a clean slate, and hopefully, a clearing at the end of the dark woods.

Better Days

I feel like the world’s biggest fool.

When I get upset, and my state of distress has lasted for a long time, it’s as if my problems are the only ones in the world. They all have been stewing and fermenting in my head until I just explode this bitter, foul vitriol that leaves  everything in my wake damaged. I turn into a child, stomping her feet and throwing a temper tantrum because she didn’t get sprinkles on her ice cream. And then, my sister has to come and help me vacuum up the pieces once the anger sharks in my head swim away. I’m working on this, I promise.

What are ‘Anger Sharks’, you ask?

Of course, I know that it’s only human to lose hope, and rant and whine and complain sometimes when times are hard and obstacles are the only thing we are able to see on the horizon. But, for some of us, depression can make life and all its intricate circumstances seem like the cloud that hangs over that one person while everyone else enjoys the sunny skies. Times are tough, and with our generation supposedly experiencing more stress in one month than our forebears dealt with in a 10-year span, there’s no wonder why we feel like the light at the end of the tunnel is really the headlamp of an on-coming train. Depending on one’s life and relationship choices and ability to judge character, having friends, family and significant others can either ease the strain or add to it. The things we do to our bodies both before and during times of turmoil can impact stress levels as well (speaking from experience, comfort eating, hitting the bottle harder and starting smoking again wrought havoc on my weight and made me feel sick. For a while, I couldn’t fit into my interview clothes). The choice that makes the most difference out of them all, however, can be the hardest for even the most positive, happy person to make: outlook.

The other night, I got up after tossing and turning for hours thinking about my dire situation. My unemployment is exhausted, I still owe about $650 for this month’s rent, my insurance got cancelled because of a data entry mistake that the Healthcare Marketplace made, and I’m still out of a job. What will I do? How can I pay my bills? Will I have to move? What will I do with my dog? If I have to go back to my mom’s, where will I put my stuff? It’s all second-hand, so I can’t sell it for anything. How will I afford gasoline to get to interviews? Why is no one hiring me when I’ve gotten jobs so easily before? Why is it that my background check with that one employer took a whole month before I was even able to start, but the guy that got hired after me got on board and started working in the same week? Why did I get let go from that other job over the employee who was always late, always left early, didn’t know what she was doing and constantly made the same mistakes over and over, was completely rude to her co-workers, was always on her phone or tablet during working hours, and would even put patients on hold to answer her cell? Why is it that my last boyfriend dumped me for wanting to lose weight, get healthier, and go deeper with my spirituality, for wanting to better myself? Why did I get bullied all through school when I minded my own business and left everyone else alone?

I got to thinking about what a horrible time I had in school with that last one. In middle school, I started having suicidal thoughts. I would purge my food, and collect things to hurt myself with. Luckily, I was in a school district with an open-door policy among their guidance counselors. Frequently, I would visit a counselor just to winge about how life was so hard (hilarious to me now what I thought back then was a ‘hard life’), and express feelings I wasn’t tough enough to snap back to the classmates who bullied me. One of my counselors told me the story of how her husband left her for a woman of another race he had been cheating on her with for several months (a very common and very hurtful experience within the black community) while she was pregnant, and even shortly before. She lost her home, her family wouldn’t contact her back when she tried to reach out to them because she chose him over them. Ultimately, she had to go into hospital one day and schedule a delivery for her son, who had already passed away while in utero. She lost everything dear to her in a matter of weeks. The reason I thought back to this was because this woman was one of the most cheerful and pleasant people I can ever remember meeting. Back then, even though religious education in public school was technically illegal, she would share her Christian faith, would explain to her students that faith was the only thing that kept her going when she felt like digging her own grave and giving up. Because she had no one to comfort her during her difficult time, she decided then to become a guidance counselor to help young people who need a sense of direction, or, like me, someone older and experienced with life to talk to and help put things into perspective.

The last I heard, that counselor remarried, bought a new home in a better part of town, and had twin girls. The jerk who dumped me gained all the pounds I lost. Some of the kids who picked on me can’t find work either, but some of them, unlike me,  have criminal records to contest with in the hiring process, and families to take care of. The company who took forever with my background check but not with the other guy’s came in about $9 million over their company budget for the second quarter, and maybe might have to start making  cuts soon.  My mother, who is also unemployed, bought me groceries and gasoline with her severance pay.

Is it too late to take back all those awful things I said? Is it too late to ask God to forgive me for being angry? Am I going to be punished even now for still not being sure about my faith or whether I want to be a Christian? Can I still love God and not assign myself a label just yet until I really figure it out? Now is the time I want to focus not on what has gone wrong (because SO much has gone wrong), but on what could have gone wrong, but didn’t, and on what I thought went wrong, but actually turned out to be right after all. I have no children, unless you count the four-legged, fur-laden, barking variety. I have no husband, and my mother and sister are both able-bodied. I’m not totally alone in the world, and no one depends on me to care for them. I have about $13,000 in student loan debt and $500 credit card debt, but I don’t have a car payment, so no one can come and take it away. Alfred (the car. Yes, I named my car) needs work, but he’s dependable and not too expensive on gas or repairs.  For now, I have food in my fridge, a roof over my head, clothing in my closet. Clothing that fits again! There’s soap and toilet paper and running water in my bathroom and lights and air conditioning and other things we take for granted until we don’t have them anymore. If the power goes out because I can’t pay, I have candles and a portable stove. Most of all, I have my health to be able to get out and work once I get a job. I have family and at least three or four good friends who won’t allow me to be homeless if I get kicked out. I will work again. I will smile again. I will get out of the desert and stop circling Mt. Sinai one day soon. Even the longest monsoons have to eventually end. Until the better days arrive, I’m just gonna have to learn to dance in the rain.

 

What is the point?

At some point in life, we all wonder why it is we are here, what it is that we are all grouped together for, why things happen (or don’t happen) to us, and what the point of it all really is. That is, of course, if you’re a normal person.

Coming to this point in life several times a day everyday for at least the last decade of my life has made me realize that I’m not a normal person.

So many terrible things have happened to me and my loved ones, most at the hands of other people. My family (mother especially) somehow can manage to plop on a ready-made shit-eating grin and sunny attitude and just keep crawling over broken glass like it’s fun. Personally, I say ‘Fuck that’, and express outrage about the fact that plastering on that smile and ‘staying positive’ is a load of steaming bullshit, since none of us are getting out of life alive, and anyone who realizes it and tries to explain this to people gets buried.

I tend to catch on very quickly, and see how things will end up before they even happen. The problem with that is that everyone likes people who do that until it challenges their existence in some way; when that happens, they do what they can to villify that person who essentially tried to do them a huge favor. Because of this ‘talent’, I reasoned out very early in life that it is much better to not waste time or energy and just try to end life as quickly as possible to avoid more pain and suffering, and family and society at large all said that I’m the one who needs medication and therapy, as if what I said was wrong.  Life is nothing but shit, fully of shitty circmstances and shitty people who gravitate to you so they can bite you and infect you with their shittiness like zombies. And I’m quite frankly tired of pretending that life is just one great big gravy train, especially with everything happening in this country, and the Western world at large. I’m really exasperated with being told ‘Oh, just trust God! He’ll make it better!’ when trusting God and not my own instinct is what landed me in this predicament in the first place. Life is only kind to those who are not all at once non-white, female, plain, overweight, of average intelligence (even less so to above-average intelligence level, really), poor, and NOT a cleft asshole who treats everyone like garbage.

What the fuck is the point? Why live life ‘to the fullest’ when even attempting to do so gets you shafted even worse than if you’d just kept your head down? Why exist in the first place when the good and the bad have to exist together in order for us to understand how good the good really is when we are only experiencing bad at a constant with no reprieve? Why am I even alive? Why is anyone, for that matter? Who decides that these awful people of the world get to live on top, and the most kind, sweet beautiful (on the inside) people have to be dumped on? Why is it that we all see this and do absolutely NOTHING about it to change it? Why is literally every virtue in this society backward and laden with double standards? Why do people without depression just tell people to ‘get over it’, as if they can help it? As if they ENJOY feeling this way? As if they could say the same thing to a person with schizophrenia or diabetes?!

What is the point of getting out of bed in the morning in an apartment you still owe $600 rent on that they could kick you out of at anytime, filling out 23 applications a day for positions that are ‘actively hiring’, and writing 23 different cover letters for each only to never get even a response, getting calls from temp agencies and recruiters who say they’ve read your resumé, only for you to realize 20 mintues into the call that they haven’t read your resumé, have only just scanned it through a word search app to pick up key phrases, and have wasted 20 minutes of both your time and theirs getting you to read it to them like a pre-schooler, because it’s not a requirement for them to be able to read to stay employed, frying my hair to make it appear straight because society says that’s more “professional”, stuffing myself in a suit with jacket in the dead of summer, driving all over creation in a hot car and wasting gas in an old car that could fall apart at any time and braving the stress and danger of the highways where NO ONE can seem to drive like they’re not psycho six times a week to meet some schmuck in a wrinkled shirt and khakis who has no idea what he’s really even looking for or why he had someone in HR (a department comprised of only 2 people) draft a completely contradictory job board posting for a position you miraculously have all the skills and qualifications for, who you completely blow away in the interview only to have them totally reject you, without even a ‘thank you for wasting your time, money, gas, makeup and perfectly clean pressed shirt so I could peek over the clipboard and barely acknowledge your existence for a half-hour’?

I’m just gonna let the idiots who think that perseverence is the key wear themselves out trying to guess the answers. I’m too tired to continue pretending to care.

I’m desperate

I had $353 in my bank account, and I wrote a check for that whole amount yesterday to give my rental office. My rent is $902. Earlier this week, I skipped buying groceries and instead paid $51 on my $91 electric bill.

I haven’t had stable employment since November of last year. My stressful non-profit job gave me the boot the day before Thanksgiving, telling me that  was not ‘assertive’ enough with the patients over the phone. I applied for jobs, but got no responses (except for scammers and telemarketers). I got a response from a temp agency, went on an interview and got hired, only for them to tell me that they gave the job to someone else over the Christmas holiday. It took a month and a half fighting with the unemployment office before I saw a dime of money, and my January rent was late. Then I got a lucky break and got a temp spot with an underwriting company, only for that assignment to end.  I got a job a month later working for some 50-something lawyer/professor/English teacher out of his (filthy) home while I dealt with his temper tantrums and lame “I’m better than everyone” jokes, until he swore at me, berated me and essentially blamed me for HIS character flaws a few too many times, and I had to leave to protect my mental health.

In the meantime, I tried to make a little money by selling my things on eBay, only for the girl who bought my stuff to ask for a return, claiming it was ‘fake’, whatever that means. I tried working per-diem jobs in between interviews, only to have unemployment shaft me out of $150 because I had the audacity to try and be self-suficient and work a few hours at $9/hour.

On my interviews, I am alert, present, ask all the impressive questions Forbes website tells you to ask to impress the hiring managers, I dress in crisp, clean, business professional attire (often times, I’m  dressed better than the manager!), I remember to execute all the key points and ‘WOW” factor  advantages and stupid 30-60-90 Day Plans and every other trick they tell you in those ‘how-to-get-a-job’ webinars.I’ve re-written my resumé and cover letter for each and every single goddamned position I’ve applied for to match their key word search for jobs that my skills and qualifications are a match for to let them know that I can and will do the work. I’m a damned impressive person. It’s like the universe is trying to punish me for trying harder to support myself. I’ve been on an average of 4 job interviews a week since June. Several times, I’ve gotten the 2nd or final interview round, been told that I impressed with my knowledge and skills, have a great personality, great work history, etc.,…only to not get the job. Or, I will get the job and the hiring manager will ‘forget’ to call me back, just like what happened with this shipping company I got hired for, submitted drug and background screenings for (both of which, were clear). This week, I’ve been on six interviews. All promised me a call by the close of business at the end of the week with an answer or an update. It’s now an hour past close of business. Not one call. Zero emails. Surprise, surprise: nothing.

During this, I had been trying to stay faithful, but the more bad things that have happened, the lower my faith got until it wasted away altogether. I’ve stopped praying and going to church. I donated all my bibles and Christian books, because reading them doesn’t bring me any peace or comfort. It’s just annoying, and contradictive, teeming with lazy answers and vague direction. I’d pray for financial stability, pray for the ability to manage money better, only to have some freak circumstance come along and clean out my already-meager bank account. “Just hold on! Your breakthrough is coming!” has been the same old song on repeat for literally months now. The only thing that broke through was my belly through the buttons of one of my shirts. I had gained over 20lbs from the stress.** If this is a test of faith, then I’m voluntarily taking the zero. What’s worse is that all my friends and family members are Christians. Every time they try to encourage me or tell me to pray harder and just believe and be patient and ‘stand still and know’ that it will happen, it takes every fiber in my being to stop myself from punching them in the goddamn teeth. I mean, seriously. If one good thing has come out of all of this, it’s that I finally woke up from my religious coma. Throwing 10% of my money into a pot every week did nothing but leave me struggling financially %10 more. Every time I’ve prayed for clarity, things got more and more confusing. Every time I ‘surrendered’ myself, I got steamrolled. Never has it been more apparent that “God” isn’t real, and thus doesn’t give a shit about the everyday goings-on of human beings. Looking at the state of human beings nowadays, I know I wouldn’t. Enough is enough.

I’m tired of trying and trying, and trying something different, and trying something tried-and-true, and trying again until it hurts.  I’m desperate. I’m at the end of my rope. I guess I’m also destined to fail at everything I do, and may as well end my life before it gets worse.  But, I’m done being a fool. When I do something, nothing happens. When I do nothing, nothing happens. But, at least when I do nothing, I don’t look foolish.

**Note: I’ve since lost the weight back again, and am losing more. Must be the lack of food. Or the nicotine from the cigarettes I’ve started smoking again killing my appetite. Whatever.

 

Lynette and Doreen: A Comparison

We all have days  in life that are less than pleasant, and days where we wonder why we even have to bother going on living. Some of us have these thoughts prompted by more pressing issues than others, while others suffer from ‘first-world problems syndrome’. Nevertheless, we all have experiences in our lives that make us more existential and world-weary than in normal circumstances. Sometimes, these unfortunate events are caused by other people, usually as a by-product of acts of selfishness.

In life, you’ll encounter two types of people:  we’ll call them ‘Doreens’ and ‘Lynettes’. Allow me to elaborate:

Doreen – she’s a fifty/sixty-something former sistah souljah, a pseudo-‘conscious’ airhead, probably with a superiority complex because she has dreads and – as is evinced by her accent, her abrupt manner and clipped communication (read: appalling lack of manners) – comes from somewhere north of the Mason-Dixon line, but for whatever reason, has had to take up residence and employment behind the checkout counter at Kroger on the other side of it among us hicks and yokels. She is the typical WOC** of a certain age who is not wont to showing courtesy or simple respect to persons young enough to be a child of hers; thus, she will make you feel like a child in a bad way; her sharp tongue and questionable manners go further untempered with you than with those closer to her age. Yet, despite her air of “I’m better than you”, she is, for lack of a better phrase…basic.

She will do things to demoralize you, waste your time and drain your energy, such as refuse to acknowledge your greeting, have a comical lack of coordination, speed and customer service skills,  ask you for your shopper’s card twice, ask you where your cart is to put your $3 bag of onions in when not 45 seconds earlier you handed her your shopping handbasket and said ‘thank you’ when she took it. She will ignore the prompts on her register that follow when you enter in your debit card information on your end until you stare at her blankly, silently (and admittedly in a passive-agressive manner) indicating that it’s her turn. Finally, when she makes an error resulting in your banking institution locking your card, she will smirk and take the opportunity to be exponentially rude to you. When you politely ask her to return your eco-friendly shopping bag you never seem to remember to get out of the trunk for shopping trips but remembered today, her volume increases as she snaps at you to be patient even though you’ve literally neither said nor indicated anything in the neighborhood of ‘hurry up’.

 

Lynette – she’s a tall, cool, forty-something business professional, tired to the bone from the hamster wheel she endured that day at the office. She’s picking up a few items for the house while waiting on her daughter (Doreen’s co-worker) to get off work so they can ride home and fix dinner before heading out to bible study later this evening. She’s in line behind you and just wants to get along. She reminisces of a time, maybe back in her college days, where she had to make a dollar out of fifteen cents only to be told she  owed $1.05. She understands the best is never good enough. She will say things that seem simple, but have so much depth, like ‘I been where you’re at’, and ‘I’ve had a hard day, too, girl’ as she whips out her MasterCard and swipes before you get a second chance to object, making you want to start crying like a toddler who needs a nap, complete with ‘whine – dramatic pause-deep breath-wail’ startup sequence. Finally, when you’ve acquiesced and thanked her as profusely as is socially acceptable without looking stupid in public, she will give you – a complete stranger – a warm church-lady hug that makes you feel like a child in a good way.

 

It’s imperative and essential to the shaping of our concept of what humanity is to remember that each of us is, will be, and have at some point in our past been either a Doreen or a Lynette to someone else. The two types of people in your life don’t usually come with the express intent to make it better or worse. Yet, through a choice or series of choices, those people can encourage you or try your patience. How we react to them is a topic for another blog post!  If you’re like me, then you have had the good fortune to have God send you a Lynette at the exact moment a Doreen makes you want to whip out your pepper spray, thereby saving you from a free all-expense-taxpayer-paid trip to the Chesterfield County Police Department.

Maybe I’m a little bit in my feelings right now, but I discern a life lesson to be taken away from this experience. Doreen, through being selfish in her way (manifested through arrogant, inconsiderate, impolite behavior, self-righteous to the point of shifting blame for her own mistake onto her customer) made things worse for those around her. If I were the type of person to summon energy necessary to complain to management every time I were wronged, it may have been made worse for herself by causing her to be written up on her job. But, ironically, I’ve sort of been where she is. I’ve made mistakes on a customer service job in the past that I immediately regretted after, because they could have cost me my employment, my ‘face’,  and my credibility, but for the grace of God and someone overlooking it. I was about to just take my belongings and walk away fuming…but I would have been walking away from both a bad situation and a blessing.

Lynette, through her selflessness, helped further diffuse the bad situation by being the blessing. She didn’t have to shell out money for a girl in line in front of her who she didn’t know from Adam. She didn’t have to waste a single thought about my welfare. But she did. That simple loving act of buying some onions for a financially-challenged girl’s Struggle Life dinner was enough to restore my rapidly dwindling faith in God and in humanity at a time when I needed it the most. I’m almost not even upset about the fact that I have to call my bank tomorrow behind someone else’s screw-up.

I made it to my car in time for the floodgates to open and be shielded from public view. My cry-face is a thing of nightmares, folks. At first, my mind turned to how bad and embarraresd I felt, then to how I would have been scared (read: another form of selfishness) to have acted the same way if I were in Lynette’s shoes, lest I piss off the person I was trying to help, leading them to follow me into the parking lot to slash my tires and break my other windows (my car got vandalized in March; it’s a long story).  Then I think back to all the times I’ve ever passed up an opportunity to be a Lynette: not speaking out against the bullies in middle school when they left off of me to pick on some other, more nerdy, less defenseless kid; every time I’ve passed a disabled vehicle, then a pedestrian who was no doubt driving said disabled vehicle further up the road and didn’t stop to give them a lift; not offering to at least try and help translate for the struggling Spanish-speaking immigrant at the checkout counter at the post office. I resolve with new fervor to be a Lynette whenever I am blessed with the opportunity from now on. Paying it forward, if you will.

It Was 50 Years Ago Today: Happy Birthday to My Mom

(posted from Facebook)
Fifty years ago today, the country was in the throes of the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, the Space Race, and Beatlemania. The first episode of  Star Trek aired, and Medicare was first administered in the U.S. Perhaps the greatest of all these events is that my mom was born 50 years ago today. I’m sure she doesn’t mind me saying it, since she doesn’t even look to be 40, has ONE little lonely gray hair and absolutely NO wrinkles.
           Now, I’m willing to admit that I may be exercising extreme bias here, but I happen to think that my mom is the best example of a human being I can think of (even when she drives me nuts), and that the world would be a beautiful and ultimately better place if everyone were to learn from her.
           From my mom, I learned how to read, how to cook, how to drive manual transmission, how to pray – all very important things that are at the foundation of who I am as a woman now. The best things she taught me, though, are the ones that she didn’t really ‘teach’ me. I learned from her how to encourage myself against every opposition, the most formidable opposition sometimes coming from the people who should be the most supportive.
           My mom taught me how to be resourceful when things don’t go as planned, or when that direct deposit doesn’t clear in time for things to work out the way that I want them to, or when the storm hits power goes out and there’s no way to heat/cool off the apartment. I learned from her how to rob Peter to pay Paul until Mary paid enough to eventually pay back Peter with interest.
          I learned from her how to kill with kindness when all I feel like doing is cussing a b—- out. She taught me that the hardest people to love are the people most in need of it. I don’t know who could be a better teacher on how to be supportive: not too many people will take in a disrespectful and emotionally difficult child AND her boyfriend AND allow that adult child to live under her roof and eat at her table without working while she attempts to finish school…during a major recession.
           I watched her struggle with weight issues that plague our entire family and watched her lose 50lbs through hard work and exercise (and despite lack of support from her then-husband).
           She consciously taught me how to care for my body and skin as a teenager with my struggles with cystic acne, but inadvertently helped me to learn to accept my flaws and inherited traits I didn’t like so much, to embrace my own unique femininity, and to accentuate and downplay features to both enhance my looks on the outside and allow my inner beauty to radiate. I learned from her that the only woman I should ever try and ‘compete’ with and be better than was the woman that I was yesterday.
           I learned from her that love DOES mean saying ‘sorry’ – and ‘I forgive you’ – again and again and again. If it weren’t for her, I’d have never learned the solid work ethic that a modern woman needs, nor the nurturing and sense of empathy of a traditional woman that the world is now so desperately lacking. Don’t misunderstand me; it’s so important now to be independent, but from her, I’ve also learned to be interdependent, as well as vulnerable and transparent.
           She taught me (and is still teaching me) how to keep praying and believing when it seems that God isn’t listening. She taught me how to keep it together and be strong when a man you loved with everything leaves you deflated and with nothing but sorrow, when one daughter’s life is threatened by cancer, and the other’s is threatened by her own hand. Even now, she is teaching me what it means to be important and significant as an individual, and as a small part of something bigger than any one of us can imagine.
 
          So here’s the hot topic of the hour: how do you celebrate 50 years of such a full and beautiful life? How do you show the love and the gratefulness and appreciation within you for having been blessed not only to know but to have come from such an amazing human being? Most poignant of all: how do you dare to ask for more time, for more lessons, for more love from someone who has given so abundantly?
 
And what kind of present should you buy befitting of such a lady!? ::sigh::