homecoming

A couple weekends ago I went to my alma mater’s homecoming. The air was cold but the sun was warm, and all the right people were there. The game was so lopsided (in our favor) I only stayed for half.

The food was good, the drinks even better, and it turns out I missed some people I never thought I would. I saw most of the people I expected to – the types that never leave. There was one or two people in particular I wanted to run into, but didn’t think I would. I know them and enjoyed my time with them in school, but we were never very close so we didn’t keep in touch very often.

One of these people – let’s call him Andy – did happen to be at the bar I went to. He was a friend of a friend that I had a few classes with senior year and I always loved hanging out with him. We did the usual “where are you now/how’s the job” bullshit type of conversation that you’re supposed to have. To everyone who had asked me this, I didn’t even try to mask that I wasn’t overly happy at my current job. When I expressed this to Andy, he said something to the effect of:

You’re too smart for that! I found a job I like, you just have to keep looking and keep networking. You’re so much smarter than me and you deserve to do something you love.

This was followed by the usual “I love you/I miss you” drunken conversation, but those words stuck with me. “You’re so much smarter than me, you deserve better”.

Andy is someone I barely know, who barely knows me! Yet, he knows and believes I deserve better (and he already has a girlfriend so it wasn’t like he had ulterior motives). Maybe I’m reading too far into a slightly drunken encounter, but how does this acquaintance of mine have more confidence in me than I do? I think that was the part that stuck with me more than the words themselves. If certain friends of mine had said this, I would have brushed it off as “oh they’re just being nice”. But because we don’t stay in touch, because we barely know each other, that somehow made what he said mean more.

On that note, I started applying for jobs again. I also turned down my first ever interview this week, because it would have been another job where I’d be unhappy in six months or less.

Finally, I got someone’s attention with some old writing samples. I’ll hear back next week if I get to interview with this tech company in a tiny nearby suburb I adore. The fact that it’s a tech company is terrifying, considering I don’t understand half of what their website says, but I’m excited about the fact that I would get to work on things I enjoy. Or at the very least, I could expand my knowledge and actually gain valuable skills – as opposed to what I’m doing now.

If someone I barely know has faith in me, at the very least I should have some faith in me.

Feminism in Limbo: Chapter 6

In college I took an Organizational Behavior class as part of the business school curriculum. The class was too easy; the grade based entirely on 3 multiple-choice exams that were based entirely on the textbook. I went to class anyway, because the professor was amazing, funny, and had wonderful stories to tell.

But one thing that stuck out from that class, was a chapter on gender and a very distinct difference between the genders I’d never really noticed before, but it made sense. (I’m paraphrasing a bit and it’s been awhile, so bear with me). Women, when they complain or have a problem, typically want sympathy or someone to listen to them. Men expect a solution. So when a woman is telling you about their awful day, and then this guy is trying to solve the problem, when all she wants is someone to empathize with her… or vis-versa, a man is telling a female about his awful day, and he wants the problem to go away, but this girl is just giving him all this sympathy he doesn’t want. You can see where this could lead to frustration.

The professor then went on to explain why this happens, why the difference exists (again, paraphrasing):

When a little kid falls down, parents (dads especially), will often treat a boy differently than a girl. If their little girl falls down, a dad will rush to the rescue, and make sure everything is ok. If a boy falls down, dad will tell him to get up and brush it off, maybe even say something like “dirt don’t hurt” and expect the boy to be on his way. This make girls accustomed to receiving sympathy when they fall, and boys are just told to get up, you’ll feel better, problem solved.

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My dad, seen in the picture holding me over a fence (which I’m pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to do) wasn’t that kind of dad. If my brother fell down, Dad told him to get up and brush it off. If I fell down, I was told the exact same thing. At times, I sort of hated him for this. If anything, my dad pushed me a lot harder than he pushed my brother – whether academics, or sports, or other hobbies – he was always telling me where I could be better. I got an A; he’d ask why I didn’t get an A+. My team won a soccer game; he told me I looked a little tired toward the end, and I should get myself in better shape.

This gets to be exhausting after awhile. I just wanted to be celebrated for my accomplishments, not told it wasn’t good enough. That’s what I heard, every time he would ask why it wasn’t an A+.

I didn’t hear “you’re smart enough to have the top grades in all your classes,” instead I heard “this isn’t good enough.”

Now I’m an adult and understand why he did those things. A lot of people I know now who are successful, had a parent who was rough on them and was kind of an asshole. By default, kids (especially smart ones) can be lazy. They know they can be. They don’t have to study for the test, or ask questions to understand the homework. It pisses people off, but it’s true. So without that constant effing nagging – they’d continue to be lazy for the rest of their lives.

I don’t think my dad knew the ripple effect of what he was doing. The bar wasn’t set at “you did well for a girl,” but it was “did you come in absolute first place, boys or girls?” He was going to set the bar as high as possible, and not bring it down just because of my gender. He knew I was a smart kid, and wanted to make sure I reached my full potential. I was the first child, and I’m sure that’s a lot of the reason the bar was so high. It didn’t matter to my dad that I was a girl. He wouldn’t have been disappointed if my brother had been a girl, either. Even though my dad was the last chance for carrying on the family name, and without my brother the name would have died, he didn’t care. There was a lot of pressure from the family for my dad to have a boy.

“I was too worried about having a healthy baby, I didn’t care what it was as long as it was healthy,” he used to tell us. But, to the satisfaction of my aunts, a boy was born. So now the pressure is on my brother, I guess.

Even more powerful, it wasn’t because I was a girl that my dad was a pain in my ass. It was because I was smart, because I had the potential to do something real. He understood I’d have to deal with a lot worse if I was going to be a smart, successful, powerful woman someday. But he did it because he wanted his children to succeed – boy or girl.

“So, what do you do?”

Every time I see someone I haven’t talked to since I got my job, of course we ask each other what we’ve been up to. I tell them I graduated, got a job, live in a different part of the state, etc. Then they ask “So what do you do?” and I tell them my title, which like most titles, essentially means nothing. Sometimes they actually accept this as an answer, which is awesome, and maybe they ask what company I work for. Which, again, most people haven’t heard of most B2B companies so me telling them means nothing. They’ve heard of the main client I work for, but I can’t exactly tell them that so I continue being vague. If none of this is acceptable, they then ask something to the effect of “Soooo what does that mean? What do you actually do all day?”

Here’s the weird part for me. I have no idea. I mean yeah, I know what I do on a daily basis. I know what my job description is, vaguely. But, for example, I don’t know what to put on my resume. I never do. I mean, I know the tasks I do and what they’re used for, and in theory what the client uses them for. However, to anyone not in the industry, anything I say isn’t going to make sense. So I either ramble out some jargon about panels, verbatims, reporting specs, and testing scenarios, or I just say “I sit at a desk all day.” Neither of which actually answers their question, and it doesn’t sound the slightest bit glamorous, but neither is my job. And I get that I’m entry level, I really do. I understand that I’m just a glorified intern. And yet…I constantly feel like anything I do has no significance, no impact, and no value whatsoever.

That’s not exactly selling myself, is it?

Maybe if I was less ambitious this would all be ok. I would sit in my cubicle, put in my time, and wait until it was time to retire. Follow the suggested path, keep my head down, etc etc. I just can’t do that, though. On the other hand, I’ll be the first person to admit I can be a lazy piece of shit. Motivation eludes me for the better part of the day and maybe even week – but only when I’m not interested. If I can find a task or project that is challenging and interesting, then I also find it motivating. What I do now, is neither of those things. Some tasks, occasionally, yes. Any new things that break the monotony of my normal job routine, I will jump at the chance to tackle those projects on my own and I’ll spend all day trying to figure it out and how to do it well.

But how do I do that on a daily basis? Where is this magical job that makes me passionate about my work? Of course I understand there will always be good days and bad, but where’s the job that motivates me to do more than just kill time in my cubicle?

I love that I know things about economics and I even appreciate that I had to suffer through a few accounting classes, but that is what I really wish they would have taught me in college. How to find my perfect fit of what I’m good at and what I’m passionate about. I don’t know even how anyone would have taught such a thing…but I wish someone had. How do I figure out what I want? Once I do, how do I get there?

“Give it time,” they say. Maybe patience has just never been my strong suit, because I’m only 23 and I couldn’t be more restless.