Archive for December, 2008

Academic Confidence

December 31, 2008

I saw a speaker last night gave a talk on Buddhism and schizophrenia. His slides are available online.

One of the things he said that made a lot of sense was that people tend to conform to their expectations. Students that were labeled bright and given no other intervention tended to be brighter academically compared with those who were labeled as being slow.

I was not labeled anything, but my grades were always pretty poor up until sixth grade. Someone told me that Alison was the top student. I told them that I thought I could beat her. I really don’t know where this confidence came from.

I never did beat Alison, but I did get mostly A’s. I was never perfect in school, but I was far above average.

This winning streak continued, for the most part. In high school, I realized that I wasn’t the brightest bulb, but I idiotically felt that if I continued to work really hard then I would get good grades. This was mostly true, but looking back, I don’t think it was worth the effort. I feel like much of my childhood and teen years were wasted in front of books learning stuff I mostly forgot so that I could have a lackluster career which was mostly characterized by fear of employers and crushing debt.

I wish I actually spent my time in high school watching porn and playing role playing games and messing with my computer. After high school, I’d have no choice but to find a job. I wouldn’t be in debt. There are many jobs one could get right out of high school that pay as well as I ever earned and don’t require a college degree. Government work comes to mind.

The point is that sometimes what seems good could actually be quite bad in the long run.


You can regret anything

December 22, 2008

I don’t know why I do this. I call it the regret game. It’s completely worthless, and it causes a lot of pain. But it can be kind of exiting like cutting yourself with a razor blade.

When I was younger, I made it a point not to regret my life, and I think that this was my first mistake. Trying to be overly perfect creates too much pressure on one’s life, and it leads to unnecessary stress.

My parents were of the ancient mindset that hard work got you places so I worked hard in school. I’m not blaming my parents for my problems, I did that yesterday, and I’ll probably do that tomorrow. Today, I’m just talking about what actually happened.

I remember it well, when I in fifth grade some kids whispered about how smart Alison was. Without blinking, I told them that I’d beat her. I had shitty grades before this, so I have no clue where I got such confidence. I’m pretty sure I did not beat her, but I did very well, and my parents assured me that I’d have success and a good income. I believed in the world of Revenge of the Nerds. The studios geeks will inherit the earth and the cool people will be reduced to being their servants and lapdogs. Again, I ask, where did I get this nonsense from?

I worked hard in high school as well aside from a few classes where I started off badly. In those, I pretty much threw in the towel. Giving up, I don’t regret. That was smart. I passed anyway. Plus there was less stress. Finally, there was a lot less work.

I spent the bulk of my grade school, high school, and college life holed up in my room studying my ass off. Since I seemed to be so good at it, and because it was the only thing that brought me any kind of success, I plowed forward making it a goal to be a doctor. This was a job I knew nothing about. The more I learned, the less I liked it. Therefore, I limited my contact with the actual field in the hopes that I wouldn’t change my mind before I got there.

I believed in delayed gratification. Getting there, might suck, but once I did, I’d be in some kind of Xanadu with a big house, a hot wife, and lots of people sucking up to me. I know where I got these ideas. From friends, family, and TV.

While on my way to fame and fortune, I got into debt, something else I regret. I _knew_ signing any kind of loan was a really bad idea, but I was assured by friends and family that I’d soon be able to pay it off. If I could do one thing different in my life, I would take the PHEAA application and burn it. If they kicked me out of school then so be it.

So there’s the story. It’s possible to do all the right things and wish you hadn’t. If I could have done it over again, I would have joined every club in school I was vaguely interested in. I would have cheated on every test so I wouldn’t have to waste any time studying. I would have taken more drugs and cared less about what people thought about me. I would not have done anything that didn’t give me an immediate payoff. I would not have worked hard. I would not have gone to church. I would not have taken any job where I wasn’t excited about it.

I probably would have regretted not “making something of myself.” So I guess the point is that no matter what you do, you can regret it. I often regret the things I did not do as much as the things that I did. Basically, I would have followed this code:

1. Experience as many new things when you are young because when you get older, you’ll just get too tired to care and probably tied down with baggage.

2. If something is boring or crappy don’t stick it out. The people who win the Olympics and other feats of endurance are not any happier than the average coach potato so don’t waste your time.

3. Talk to as many people as possible. Be nice to everyone EXCEPT

4. Don’t let people treat you like shit. Stick up for yourself. Nobody is better than you. If someone is a jerk then they are definitely beneath you.

Reading is one of the few things I did that I did not think was a waste of time. Only, I wish I read a more variety of topics instead of just Science Fiction, though the SF was worth it. I just wish I spent more time whining about women reading instead. I wish I spent most of the nights I went out to bars at home with a book.

I wish I spent more time skateboarding rather than studying Chemistry or Medicine.

But if I did, I’d probably have regretted it. I’m really good at regret. It’s kind of fun.

Nailed the Interview!

December 19, 2008

Executive Summary: Today, I went to a job interview at an organization that helps children. I nailed the interview.

Read no further unless you want to hear me brag about how great my interviewing skills are.

They had a group interview “to save time.”

“Great,” I thought, “I’m all ready a stressed and nervous person. Nothing like a little competition to make me completely crumble.”

How wrong I was. The interview actually boosted my confidence. For one thing, i have been working on my competition skills. I do think that competition sucks. I hate competitive people because they are not nice. Given the choice between kindness and acting like a jerk, competitive people will choose the latter. Then they’ll justify it by assuming that “everyone does it” which is nonsense.

However, I am running out of money here, and I need a job. Also, i don’t want to be a complete doormat. Surely there can be a middle way between taking the air out of people’s tires and rolling over dead at the first sight of conflict.

So I rubbed up my greasy hands and rolled up my sleeves thinking, “Competition is what you want? Competition is what you get. Game on!”

From the first question, I knew I had the interview sewed up. When they asked us our non-profit experience, I was the only one with ten years in the field. I was also the only one who had volunteered to help children. Nobody mentioned volunteering at all. Finally, I was the only one who told cute anecdotes that made them smile and nod knowingly. I am the master story teller. After all making up stories is my calling.

Some of the other candidates did do a good job. One of them knew Spanish which may clinch the job as it’s the only thing I don’t have that is required of the job. Another had a lot of computer skills, like me. She also had hospital experience and experience with confidentiality. I had that, too, but I didn’t have a chance to talk about it.

I was the first to answer most questions especially the one that nobody else was ready for, “Why should we hire you?”

Afterwards we were able to ask questions. I had ten ready, but they only had time to answer one. The only other person who asked a question asked, “Is this a non-profit?” Just give it up dude!

Unless there is something out of my control, I have this job. I think I finally found the secret HR decoder ring. I’m still going to work really hard on practicing for interviews and to applying to jobs because I need to be ready.

Interview Preparation

December 18, 2008

When I went for my first job interview, eleven years ago, I thought that I would just go answer some questions and they’d give me the job. That is totally untrue.

The interview is actually a way of weeding people out. The questions they ask are usually these BS HR style questions that are just there to see if you practiced answering BS HR questions. The answers are actually pretty surprising. For example, when they ask you about yourself, they don’t care about you. They actually want your work history and how it relates to the job in question. Why don’t they ask normal questions? Because the working world is like a secret cult where it’s up to you to figure out the answers.

Reading HR blogs has been good for me. I have learned some highly disturbing things about HR people. Many of them had the same mentality as the “cool kids” in high school had. It’s all about who’s in and who’s out. It’s all based on keeping up with empty appearances and following empty gestures and rituals.

However, unless you have friends or family to help you out, you have no way of knowing this. Luckily I was smart enough to marry someone who would coach me on my interviewing skills.

At her suggestion, I got a list of common interviewing questions and wrote down the answers. It was like doing a bunch of mini-essays. I heard that the most effective answers are the ones that tell a cute little anecdote. The best way to craft these is to take a flashback to the Reagan presidency when he would answer all his questions. Reagan could get hired for anything.

The surprising thing was how absurdly bad the answers were in the book. I’m not yet an HR expert, but I could tell how horrible these little blobs of text were. I can’t believe these phonies sell books on how to interview people that are so bad.

Their interview answers were highly generic, cold, and empty. At least I’m not going to make this mistake. An example asking the person to compare their oral skill vs. their written skills. The answer basically said, “I’m good at both.” Yea, I’m great at everything. Bullshit. I know that they expect something a bit more substantial. One of them even suggested to present themselves as “highly competitive”. Do these morons even think about what competition means? The competitive people I knew were liars and cheaters. This answer would be the kiss of death for me. I want to work with people who cooperate with me, not those who are trying to let the air out of my tires. I want to work with hard workers which is much different than those who think that they can scam their way through the work day.

To avoid poor answers in my interview, I have been continuously answering the same questions over and over again in front of my wife. Also, I rehearsed some of my answers like it was a part in a play. I found that my answers sucked, but they got a better over time.

These days, all the best jobs in every field seem to go to the best actor. For example on TV who were the most respected people in finance? Those who told the people what they wanted to hear. The ones that actually predicted the economic collapse were mocked. The shit heads that sucked up to the TV people lost their employers a great deal of money.

I’d rather have the right answers even if it means being mocked. That’s because if I lie, I’ll get the wrong kind of job, and I don’t want to do that again. I will, however, give them the secret insiders hand shake. If only I can figure it out.

Working Publically Vs. Laboring in the Dark

December 17, 2008

One of my wife’s suggestions was for me to volunteer in “following my
passion” so that I could more easily get a good job.

Clearly my passion is computers, especially Open Source Software like
Linux and Gnome. I also profess a love for writing, though I tend to
spend waaaay more time programming than writing. Therefore, she
suggested I do some documentation on Open Source Software.

Yesterday, I started using my usual method of looking for something I
want done, and working on it. “Scratching my itch.” In this case, it
was to write the API for libeel, an obscure library that is not
recommended for public consumption.

At the last minute, I stopped working on this, and looked around for
task lists. Of course, there were many. I was going to start working
on one of those, but instead, I joined a mailing list and offered my
services. They gave me three tasks none of which I would have figured
out on my own. Hmmm. Should I work on what I want to work on and risk
having nobody care, or should I start working on something that
people actually asked for?

I am choosing the later of course, but in the past, I would not have
thought of this. Working with others is not something that comes
naturally to me.

Anyway, I feel like Captain Obvious mentioning this, but I didn’t know
about this until now, perhaps there is someone else who could use this hint.

Pre-college planning

December 10, 2008

Long time readers know–OK, I realize that there are no long term readers in this echo chamber–I made a big mistake in my career early on and suffered a shitty career trajectory ever since.

This should be one of the better articles because rather than just whining about my lack of career focus/success, I’m going to outline the first step to a perfect career path.

I know that there’s no one perfect path for all people. Therefore, I’m going to make a few assumptions about the reader. If you don’t fit the assumptions, then you won’t get that much help from this article, but you can help the next generation. Pass it on.

I assume that you are 18 and below, and are not going to drop out of school. If you are going to drop out, then I’ll write something to help you, too. Dropping out of high school is not a great idea, but this is the real world so we need to be realistic. In fact, I’d say that as far as getting people into good careers, this world really sucks.

In fact, your first job stands a good chance at really sucking. It will be less challenging than high school, guaranteed. At best, your job will be a massive disappointment and an insult to your abilities. Don’t be shocked when this happens, realize that there are no perfect jobs. Even millionaire childhood stars have their off years.

Despite all this, you should still plan for the future. A lot. You are going to spend the rest of your life there. Planning will not ensure perfect happiness, but it will make your future career suck less than mine did. I promise.

Start planning your career when in middle school. Be honest. Brutally honest. Money will not make you happy. Working for nothing will also not make you happy. Therefore, you should avoid extremes.

When researching jobs, ask yourself, what’s the worst aspect of this job? If you can’t find anything then you need to do some more research. You’ll find something really crappy abou this job. The goal isn’t to find the best job, but rather one that is less crappy than all the others.

For example, doctors get over $100 an hour. If you like school, you may think that this is a great career because you can stay in school for a really long time. Fun! Then when you are done, you will get a lot of money and respect.

True, but you will also deal with blood and cutting up dead bodies. Also, the hours are really long. Something that’s a great time for a single hour can become a real drag if you have to do it everyday for long hours for years.

I suggest that whatever you pick, you should find someone who all ready does the job and interview them. I know that this sounds really difficult, but if you aren’t jazzed enough to do this about a certain position, then you probably don’t want that job. Also, I suggest volunteering to work around the particular job you want to do. Also, read about the topic. Subscribe to a trade journal and try to read the articles. If all these things don’t fill you with ecstacy, then you’re barking up the wrong career.

Once you have the ideal career, find out to get there as quickly as possible. Write down a year by year plan. This is going to be really tough, and it’s going to vary from career to career.

Note that the best way to get into a career is probably going to look a lot different than what your college advisor is going to suggest.

For example, the best route to becoming an accountant is NOT to start in college. Get a government job as a book keeper (yes you can do this with a HS diploma) and work under a CPA while the government pays for your education at night.

A scientist can take a similar path. You can get a technician job right away. You may need to leave your town to do this if you don’t live in a big city. Do it. Apply to all the technician jobs you are qualified for in the closest big city as soon as possible. Then you can see if you like it, and work your way through school.

A potential doctor can even do this. You should start working in a hospital right away. I suggest taking a job like an orderly which requires a college degree and working your way up to a nurse aid which is usually a 6 week program you can save up for.

Note all these examples have one commonality. They don’t suggest going to college right out of high school. Please don’t do this even if you have a scholarship. College is a BIG investment. Like all investments, it carries a lot of risk. Unlike other investments, the risk is iron clad. That is, the time and money you waste in college is gone forever. For other investments, if you get deep into debt, you can get out of it via bankruptcy. College is different. With college you will take that debt to your grave. So treat college like the riskiest investment you can possibly imagine like junk bonds or something.

Also, if you start working right out of high school, you get four years work experience ahead of the other smucks who go to college right out of high school. This experience is rewarded by higher pay. Also, you have four years to invest while other people are wasting their time studying the pottery of ancient Peru. You can always take out a book on South America from the library and read it, if you wish.

Also, you can still attend all the college parties, but you don’t have so much homework. So you don’t miss out on the stupidity that is the “college experience”.

If you go the “traditional route”, you spend 4 years studying something completely different from your job. When you get out you will be the same place as you were when you are 18, only with a lot more delusions and pride.

Faith is a Full Tank of Gas

December 8, 2008

We just moved to San Diego, CA without jobs. Why would we do this? I can think of a few reasons:

1. We are idiots. This goes without saying. We are unenlightened humans so we’re going to make mistakes just like everyone else.

2. We wanted to bike across the country. This is also true. We couldn’t do this if we had a job waiting because we couldn’t be sure how long it was going to take.

3. We are really, really frugal, and we have a lot of faith in our abilities to manage money and our abilities to get a job.

This is also true, but there’s a limit to how long we can wait. Strange enough, I feel _less_ worried than I did when we started even though we have less money now. Why?

I have no idea. I was panicking last night, and this morning. I woke up feeling waves of regret that I hadn’t planned things better.

I even thought about the ultimate in selling one self out: going back to school. Shhh! I know it’s really bad. I couldn’t help it.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but career plans are like changing channels on the TV. One day I’m gung-ho about something and the next, I am totally against it, thinking why did I ever want to do that.

This kind of vacillation keeps me from committing to a long term plan such as going to graduate school because I’ll change my mind a million times.

Long time readers will know that this is because I really would like to sit around all day and write and get paid for it. Anything that cuts into writing time pisses me off. On the other hand, I usually have little faith in my ability to finish and sell a book, and I don’t want to die as a loser who never did anything because he had this impossible dream that didn’t work out.

What’s the answer? I feel that faith is the way to go.

After meditating for a few years, I got this amazing gift. It started at the beginning of this year. I started to believe in myself. Not some other power just me. It’s not that I believed that I could do amazing things, either. I was still the same, ordinary person. I just started to get a little faith in my ability to deal with any situation.

Since I never had any faith of any kind in my ability to do anything, this is new. It’s also a reworking of faith. In the past, faith meant making yourself believe in things that are absurd. It’s the way to go beyond the rational mind and come up with a a way we can live forever.

That faith died while I studied neuroanatomy. If you can change someone’s mind by tinkering with their nerves then where’s the immortal soul that makes decisions? I had this big crisis that also tied into me getting mugged. I was also living alone in one of the worst ghettos in a big city for the first time in my life. Prior to this, I never lived alone. Plus I was starting medical school.

Now ten years later, my faith is back, but it’s completely different.

I’m sure I’ll go through a million more crisises before we get jobs. But at this moment, I have no doubt that I can handle the situations.

The Marketplace doesn’t care about your passion

December 6, 2008

There is this belief that each one of us is gifted with this one field where we are the happiest. If only we can find our passion, we can follow it into a job of our dreams. Many find this liberating, but I actually find this belief to be annoying and stressful.

I am 35, and I still don’t know what I want to do with my life. I don’t think I ever will. I feel that actually, the people you work with and your boss determine your entire work situation.

I didn’t know that when I first got out of school. I had a Chemistry BS and some Medical education. I thought that my dream job would be making new discoveries to change the world. At least I could do this for eight hours a day until it was time to go home and write the Great American Novel.

However, I had nasty bosses for years. Each time I moved on, it turned out that they really valued my work, but they thought that being nasty was the only thing to _motivate_ me. The opposite is actually the case. I’d move mountains for a nice boss, but with a nasty one, I’ll merely do the job while looking for a way out. I had the a nice boss for the first time in my life last year at a temp job as an administrative assistant. This made me realize that I’m actually a great employee and the only problem with my “career” is that I always had crappy bosses.

This leads me to just look for a nice boss no matter what the field. I keep reading about following one’s passion, but I don’t have one in the traditional sense. I want to write novels. But I have to feed myself first. Does this make me some kind of fraud like an illegitimate worker? When they ask me why I want this job, I feel like I’m lying. I can’t say that, “I’m just working here until my writing career takes off.” This fills me with stress.

At least at my last job, my boss was refreshing. He told me, “Of course your time sheet is important. Why else would you come here?” Yes! Why do so many employers create this charade that no matter how shitty your job is, this has to be the thing you wanted to do all your life. I hate it because it makes me feel like a phony. I made the mistake of telling one research boss the truth, and they canned me shortly after that.

Even though I was always made to feel that I had to pretend I had my dream job, I feel that most people are _not_ following their passion. They seem to be happier than the ones who actually were following their passion, the scientists I worked under. The scientists seemed to be bent out of shape at the smallest thing, while the passionless people seemed to be more relaxed sometimes they even seemed happy. At my last job everyone admitted that they’d rather be on the beach, but they weren’t so upset all the time.

Note, I’m NOT saying take a job you hate. I’m just relating what I have observed. People don’t realize that is that jobs are not created to give people fulfillment nor are they made to give people interesting things to do with their time. Jobs are created because people need stuff to get done. People need to eat so there are farmers and cooks, for example.

Still, I think that people should spend a lot of time thinking about what they want to do in life. I regret not thinking my own career out a lot more than I did. I was so caught up in actually becoming a surgeon, I never realized that surgery was a terrible profession for me. I don’t like to stand on my feet knowing that if I mess up, I could kill this person. Even if I don’t mess up this person could still die. Plus, I don’t like the idea of not being able to go to the bathroom when I have to go.

They should get into an interesting field with people are similar to them. Their job should challenge them as much as they wish to be challenged. But you have to look at the big picture, too. Often the most interesting subjects in school don’t lead to the most interesting jobs.

I loved Chemistry in college, but I realized that working in a lab would probably suck because I would spend most of the time dealing with smelly chemicals, which I hate, and very little time in the imaginary world of atoms which I love. Ten years later as a lab technician, I was right, it sucks. I’m clumsy so I often mess up my experiments because I make one tiny mistake or another. I prefer a job where all my mistakes can be fixed with the backspace key.

Therefore, I actually love the day to do of a routine administrative assistant which sounds dull on paper, but it can be a great time when co-workers have a good sense of humor and the work is light enough to allow daily blogging. So I suggest those still reading to not only think of their passion, whatever that is, but how they’d like to spend time day to day. Because that’s what a job is. Day to day. Most of the really cool stuff you do in school will never come up in the real world. Out of all the complex equations I learned in Chemistry classes, I only use one equation. It was taught in high school Chemistry.

Another example: Medicine might seem like an awesome subject on paper. Doctors look so cool in their while strutting around hospitals. When you think of the day to day, it kind of sucks. You wind up seeing a lot of people who are dying. People who have given up hope on life. People who want to abuse you because their stay at the hospital sucked. You wind up dealing with blood, pus, feces, and urine. Part of your day, you have to stick your finger up people’s assholes. Yuck!

Once you realize what kind of day you want, you should pick a major that will lead to this kind of job. I never saw anyone suggest this. If you want to go home at five PM then look into office jobs, but don’t become a lawyer.

Finally, if you find that your dream job is not all your dreamed, that’s OK. The dirty secret is that dream jobs are never perfect. There is always something missing; and there are always things you have to do that you don’t like. For example, for all the glamor, models have to look like their having a good time even when they’re not. If that sounds easy then try it. It’s much tougher and more stressful than something that sounds boring like office filing.

The best way to deal with life is to be happy where you are rather than chasing this elusive “passion.” If your job sucks and you hate your life, you should probably get a new job. But, if your job is tolerable and you can hang out with the people you work with and you get paid enough to live on, you are as much of a success as anyone who is “living their dream.”

A Focused Career for Artists

December 5, 2008

I have been often called a dilletant, and perhaps that’s true. My resume certainly looks that way. I a degree in Chemistry and in Nursing. I have half a degree in Medicine, which is actually not a degree at all, just a big waste of time and money. They don’t give out consolation prizes to wanna be doctors.

When I was a Senior in college, I read in a Zen book the advice that one should done one thing, only. I agree. However, how is it possible for an artist to only do one job? That is, unless one has parents who really believes in one’s art. I didn’t have that.

I was told that I should major in something that made big money. To do otherwise would be foolish. I wasn’t even “allowed” to major in something I enjoyed like history because I was told that my father had a history degree, and that just got one purgatory in retail.

Why didn’t I just disobey them? I don’t know, I was used to always doing what I was told. It took me a long time to learn that this is an express train to misery.

When I was about twenty-four, and I had lived by myself for a year–I lived at home during college, another mistake–I realized that all my life, I had really wanted to be a writer of fiction. So in between cramming for Microbiology, I wrote fiction. Surprisingly, my first stories were actually stories. I liked them, but I only had one friend who would read them. He encouraged me to write more which I did.

In the meantime, the people in my Medical School kind of looked weird when I talked about fiction. They were doing one thing and that was medicine. I needed to focus.

So I quit medicine. This was a mistake because I had no plans for a job. I had also just gotten married. So I did what people do in these cases. I took the first job I could get which was a bus boy at a resturant. This job really depressed me becaus I didn’t see the big picture. I thought that by dropping out of school, I had dropped out of any chance to get a good job.

Then I a friend helped me get a job in a lab. I hated that, too, but it was better than clearing tables for Ivy League students who’s conversations I could hear, but could not join in. No matter how clever I was, I’d be the loser who cleared tables, and they’d be above me.

I really sucked at research mostly, I guess because I didn’t want to be there, much like the fact that I didn’t want to be a doctor nor a table clearer. I wanted to be a writer.

At this point, I was twenty-five, and I had no education in writing. I was miserable, and I couldn’t figure out why. My counselor was no help either. What a mystery. You spend your life doing what you hate with people who treat you like shit, and you think you are depressed? Now I realize that was a response of a normal person who could pay attention. You do things you hate, you get upset.

So why didn’t I get a job as a writer? I had no clue on how to do that. I still don’t. Also, I didn’t even believe in myself. I felt I needed some education and practice in writing. How could I get that when I had to work?

In retrospect, there are much better moves that I could make, but that’s not the point. The point is, that in many ways, I really was stuck.

I had to work eight hours a day, five days a week to make ends meet. That left me with little time and energy in which to write. Compare that with someone who spends 40 hours a week writing. I’d never catch up unless I was one of those people who didn’t need sleep or something, which I wasn’t.

So here’s the dilemma. I still don’t know the answer to this; I’m just posing it as a puzzle. How does one go about focusing all their time on art when they have bills to pay? How does one start to believe in oneself when one’s friends and family think that art is a dead end?

Unlike medicine and engineering, writers can’t just take out a loan and get a degree in writing. Oh, you can get an English Major or something, but when you are writing papers, you aren’t working on your art which is a waste of time. Worse, at the end of college, what do you have? A degree and debt. Now you need money to eat everyday, but you don’t get paid for a novel until you have written it.

If you really believed in yourself, you could get a non-novelist job right out of highschool like a hotel clerk position. Then you could write while on the job. Still, you are spending part of your time as a hotel clerk and not as a writer.

I have accepted the fact that I’m going to be spending a lot of my time not pursuing my dream, and I’m happier because of it. I figure if you can’t do anything about it, you need to accept it.

My new problem is coming up with my second biggest dream job. I all ready have my dream, and I can’t pursue it right now until I get some rent paid. Worse, once I figure out my second biggest dream, I have to convince some employer that it’s actually my _biggest_ dream.

Subtle Pressures and the Quarter Life Crisis

December 2, 2008

While biking across the United States this last Fall, I was largely out of contact with my friends and family. We had only sporadic internet access and even cell phone access was not always available. During this time, I noticed that my mind changed a great deal on what kind of job I’d be happy in. This is strange because I had all ready spent a decade trying to jettison the beliefs that had been drilled into me. Why?

Well, I wasn’t happy. Now I realize that a great part of that had nothing to do with the values I had been given. If my parents were open minded hippies who taught me that the universe is love, and that I should pursue my dreams and not worry about money, I’d probably still be very angry with them at this time. Nobody told me, but there’s actually a crisis that occurs around 25 though mine happened at 23. During this time, one will question one’s career and their meaning in life. This questioning is important for growth and development.

It’s also largely bullshit. This is because all careers can be questioned and doubted. For example, if I am making decent money as a nurse, I can question whether my life would be better had I taken up a field that allowed me to become more creative. Perhaps I should give up nursing and become a comedy writer. If I am writing for a comedy show, I could question whether my job is actually making an impact on bettering the world. Perhaps I should give up comedy and become a nurse. This questioning is endless, and leads no where.

I didn’t really understand this until I read some Zen and began meditating. I didn’t do this until I was about 30 which is 7 years after the crisis. See, I am still dealing with the aftermath of the crisis I had when I was 23! While in a mini-crisis, where I had a job that included changing animal cages, I began to study Zen and meditate. While meditating, I was able to stop feeling sorry for myself for a second or two. This is when I learned that my situation was not real, it was just a product of my mind. Had I a great joy for animal cage changing and experimenting on animals, I would have been very happy in this job.

The point is, when you are in a crisis, most of your decisions are going to be bullshit, and you shouldn’t make them at this time. It’s best to wait until you are more stable mentally no matter how long this takes. Just keep reassuring yourself that you agitation is just agitation. This is waaaay harder than it looks, but it can be done. This day and age, the biggest danger is actually not that one will change one’s job, but rather that one will ignore their agitation. This is really easy to do today because there are many ways to block out one’s pain like anti-depressants. While these are good for people who are suffering from depression, I feel that they can be misused to block important cues from one’s environment.

I didn’t know this until I read a book called Artificial Happiness. This book was great because it taught me although feeling anxious feel bad, it can actually be a good thing. It’s just like pain. If you are in pain, that teaches you that you did something wrong like stick your hand in a fire. You can learn from this pain.
Similarly, when I was anxious, I felt like I needed to change something in my life. This introspection could be good. It teaches you to not take life for granted and to grow. Unfortunately, one can not conduct this kind of introspection at the same time one is trying to swallow from the fire hose that is studying medicine. Add a wedding, and this just makes things worse.

At the time, I was very ashamed that I felt disoriented and confused. I was questioning my faith and everything else I had been taught. Someone who claimed to be my friend relentlessly questioned my religious faith. Although it may have been silly to him, it could have helped me a little. I don’t know. My faith was gone due to my belief I had to create an air tight argument to “justify” everything I believed. My belief in hard work was gone because I had worked so hard my whole life, and I was unhappy. I wanted to break up with my fiance, but I didn’t want to hurt her. Worse, my faith in my parents was gone because my mother was a crazy alcoholic, and my father turned my back on me. Looking back, I am actually amazed how well I held up. But back then, it was a big blow to my masculinity to feel so lonely, scared, sad, and lost.

Turning to professional help was just another mistake for me. (STUPID LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Your mileage may vary. I’m not dismissing professional help, just describing, honestly, what happened in _my_ experience.) Anyway, getting the help of a professional meant learning that not only did my friends and family not care enough to help me or even listen to me enough to know who I was, but I couldn’t even PAY someone to pretend to care. This just depressed me worse. I’m sure that if I had a different counselor, things could have been different. Alas, I’m sure this asshole is getting paid well to sit around not helping people.

In a way, this nightmare is long gone. In another, it never ended because I still owe money for an eduction I am not using. Worse is that my failure paralyzed me from making _any_ career moves because I was afraid that it would end in misery again. Add to this the humiliating experience that is a job hunt, and you get a person who is highly intelligent, kind, hard working, and imaginative who can’t find a decent paying job.

Living on the road allowed me to mentally break free of many of the imaginary fetters that I had. Now I am living in a new city where I don’t know anyone. I’m so glad I’m here. My only regret is that I didn’t move here 11 years ago, when I was 24. The reason I didn’t move was because I thought it would be another mistake. I’d fail to find a job and become homeless.

I’m not afraid to be homeless anymore because during my bike trip, I _was_ technically homeless. I’m not afraid that I won’t find a job because I have faith now. I don’t talk to my friend who mocked my faith anymore. I don’t talk to _anyone_ who doubted me or who put me down. With these subtle pressures gone, I can see that my only problem in my life, ever, was a lack of confidence. That’s it. Just know that gives me a lot of confidence. My future success will give me even more confidence.