Finding Peace

When I was little, I carried the notion that by the time you grow up, you’ve sorted out all your flaws. I never thought there was such a thing as a “perfect” person, but I did think adults lived peacefully and weren’t plagued by insecurity, jealousy, or selfishness, etc.

This is probably due to the fact that I had a very self-confident mother who to this day never loses her cool. This is the same mother who, upon hearing any adolescent drama, would always say “they’re just immature.” This led me to believe that there comes a time when maturity is reached and all fights are nipped in the bud.

Then one 11th grade afternoon, my mother revealed some adult drama between her and the mother of another girl in my class.

“Adults can be immature?!” I wondered.

All those years my mother had been dismissing my friends as immature, and her friends were doing it, too! Maturity now seemed like a myth society propagated in order to comfort children. Like the “It Gets Better” LGBT campaign on YouTube. 

Some things don’t get better.

Since that 11th grade day, things have just gotten worse and worse. I keep discovering just how fucked up people can be. It’s like we go through life acquiring insecurities and sensitivities* and feverishly trying to rid ourselves of them lest our baggage get too heavy…cause you know ain’t nobody out there who wants to carry it for you. It’s a miracle we function as a society (and half the time, we don’t).

this times hundreds of millions of people

this times hundreds of millions of people

The biggest flaw humans share is not realizing our own power over others. I still remember when David J** told me in 7th grade to put my jacket back on because my skin was so pale and he didn’t want to look at it. Everyone has a story like that, and everyone has worse stories than that. We forget how deeply our voices can travel into someone’s brain. Those words and actions stay there forever, interconnecting us beyond the physical world. 

Seeing that it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow, it’s only fitting that I recognize my mother’s critical role in not fucking me up. I am blessed to have a happy, confident mom, who never pressured me to look, act, or eat a certain way. I used to resent not being signed up for soccer and ballet, but now I see that my mother’s hands-off approach empowered me to discover what it was that I wanted to seek out and be in the first place.

I want to be more cognizant of my influence on others. When I prayed for peace this morning in synagogue, I remembered that peace doesn’t come because you pray for it. It comes because you live it. I’ll try to keep my cool as well as you, Mommy.

 

*I wish I had understood this when I was studying acting in college. I would have been a much better actor if my base assumption was that humans could not break free from their flaws. (Instead I still carried my adolescent notion that we could overcome them.)

*names have been changed 🙂

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May 11, 2013 · 2:27 pm

Millennial Crisis

Guys, I got it. The meaning of life: God hates me. It explains everything.

In the past few months, each of the three most recent guys I dated have gotten into relationships.

Today, the first guy I really liked in a year can’t continue seeing me because he doesn’t have the time in his busy career.

AARRGGHHH.

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Exasperation aside, I believe that career vs. love is the crisis of my generation. So many relationships fizzle because someone has to move or someone has to hustle for a living 24/7.

Furthermore, we’re all tempted into unstable long distance relationships because Facebook turns a weekend vacation fling into something that feels tenable enough to fight for.

I’m the last person to suggest that anyone defer his/her self-actualization, but it can definitely come at a cost.

I turn 25 next week, and I know that that sounds young to people and that (hopefully) I have my whole life ahead of me, but when you think about it, most people get married or meet their spouses by now if not by age 30. It’s not premature to take my romantic life seriously, and I wish it were easier for us all to prioritize love as much as our careers.

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Unemployment

I moved to Los Angeles on July 11, 2012. It wasn’t until January 17, 2013 that I began a full-time job. When I got the call, I began to jump up and down and scream, and, after a victory dance, I began to cry.

I was unemployed for 6 months. I had no idea how hard it would be to find a job.

Before I moved, I called several casting companies and asked them for advice on how to become a casting director. Based on their responses, I formed a 3-step plan for how I was going to gain employment in casting:

  1. Intern at 2+ casting companies (unpaid).
  2. Apply for every casting job posting I saw while simultaneously hoping that one of my internships would turn into a job.
  3. Meet/call every single friend of a friend of a friend in Los Angeles

I thought it would only be 3-4 months before I found a job. After all, I had a B.A. in Radio/TV/Film from a college with a strong alumni network and a good reputation in the entertainment industry. I had been a working professional for 3 years, having most recently directed a film festival , curated an art gallery, and overall having a job that required a lot of initiative, responsibility, and creativity. Who wouldn’t want to hire me?

unemploymentAs more and more time passed, my plan didn’t seem to be working. It was clear that neither of the casting companies I was interning at was ever going to hire me, and I never heard a response from the casting jobs I applied to. I formed a backup plan: if I didn’t get a job in casting, I would become an assistant at a talent agency. There are a lot of talent agencies, and they all have a lot of assistants with high turnover. Through several friends of friends, my resume was submitted to some of the major talent agencies, and I got interviews at all of them. Some of the interviews were informational, so that they would have me on file when a position opened up. I interviewed for 5 positions at talent agencies during these 6 months, and didn’t land a single one.

After working in a casting office for a few months, casting wasn’t all that I thought it would be, and it certainly wasn’t worth being unemployed indefinitely. I opened my job search to event planning jobs like what I had done in Houston. I applied to over 20 events jobs that I was extremely qualified for and didn’t get a single interview.*

Every week I met with a new contact. Everyone just wanted me to intern for free. The more internships I was offered, the harder it was to make an internship efficient – if you’re only in the office 2 days a week, how can you make a good enough impression that they hire you? And at the same time, if you only have one internship, you meet less people, and are therefore less likely to make a contact that leads to a job. Furthermore, the more hours you work, the less hours you can spend applying to jobs. A cover letter took me an average of 3 hours to write; it’s very hard to apply to more than 2 jobs per day–and that’s on a good day.

In November I applied to work as a bank teller at several banks, and I also applied to work at several Whole Foods locations. No luck. I didn’t apply to work at a restaurant because in a city of actors and writers, getting that kind of job would be super-competitive and would require completely diverting my attention from my search for a job I actually wanted.

In early December, I finally got an interview for one of the event-planning jobs I applied to at a Jewish non-profit (I pulled major connections and got 3 internal referrals), and I didn’t get it because I was overqualified. For the entertainment industry I wasn’t qualified enough, and for a Jewish nonprofit I was overqualified.

At this point I was interning at a casting company and a talent management company. I watched as the management company fired and hired 3 people, and not once interviewed me for one of the open spots despite my explicit desire to work there. I didn’t even know there were open positions until they were filled. I can only assume that they wanted people with assistant experience, the typical catch 22. At the casting company, I watched the cleaning lady as she cleaned the office and realized that they thought she was worth paying but I wasn’t. That week I had been filling in for someone who was on vacation, and I had been doing his exact job. Let me tell you, it wasn’t any more complicated than what I had been doing for free for 5 months. 

It is utterly demeaning to work for free, and even worse, to be treated like all you deserve is to work for free. Just think for a minute what it would feel like. It’s slavery. When you’re a slave you are less than other people…so much less that your work doesn’t earn anything more than a pat on the head.

Internships have their place; I get it. I had 4 internships during college. And after working for several years and kicking ass, I expected to have to intern in LA, but I didn’t expect to be treated like I didn’t deserve something better. I learned fast that the entertainment industry only values experience in Los Angeles and “paying your dues.” At job interviews I would get asked about my internships instead of the job I had just held for the past 2 years. It was incredibly frustrating to have all the work I was proud of count for nothing, and all the work I took no pride in (because it was brainless) count for everything.

By the end of December, I was averaging an emotional breakdown every 1-2 weeks. My bank account was getting closer and closer to $0 – I had been living off my savings the entire time – and there seemed no hope in sight. I was doing everything I possibly could, and none of it was leading to a job. It was constant anxiety for 6 months; it was always on the back of my mind, a constant cloud that hung over me and was all-consuming. I couldn’t think about anything else. I couldn’t show consideration for others, I couldn’t fully relax, and planning anything in the future was a huge source of stress.

I went to see Les Miserables and bawled my eyes out. I was Fantine! I had been whoring myself. And when Fantine dies and you think, “well she’s better off than with that miserable life”…that’s how I felt. There were several moments where I contemplated how much easier death would be than the life I was carrying on. Yes, it’s melodramatic and really funny now, but come talk to me when you’ve been unemployed for 6 months and you have no idea how you’re going to eat next month and you count every single penny that leaves your wallet.

To sum up, one connection led to a small (underpaid) gig in early January, which then added valuable experience to my resume when I got called in for another interview at a talent agency. I changed my interview approach, and I landed the job. I’ve written some job hunt advice in my previous post that touches upon this.

I wanted to write this to document of an example of what it means to be unemployed. People who are unemployed aren’t  necessarily lazy or not trying. It’s fucking hard. And I took a 33% pay cut and I have a lot less responsibility in this job (although it’s 200% more stressful). I consider myself underemployed.

I could have stayed in Houston at a job that I loved, but I wanted to be in LA in the entertainment industry. It’s a whole other level out here – you have to be a hustler and put up with a lot of bullshit – and I’m really proud that I made it.

*I recently found out that one of these job postings received 700 applications and they only interviewed 2 people. Even with an internal referral, I wasn’t asked to interview.

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My Advice for Those Seeking Employment

I’ve just finished up 6 months of being unemployed. It sucks! The job hunt is different for everyone, but here’s some advice I have. (I write this assuming that you are already confident in your skills and you know that you have to hustle).

  1. Talk to people who have the job you want. Find out how they got there and what advice they have for you. This is your first step in assessing what will be most helpful in your search, including knowledge of the industry if you are switching industries.
  2. Be prepared for the job hunt to take a long time. Think to yourself, “If I don’t have a job in X months, I will consider X kind of job,” and on and on several months out. As a mental exercise, it’s good to consider that because it will help you assess your priorities and values in a job. You need to know what is “worth it,” which you will also figure out along the way (you may find that the job you wanted isn’t all you cracked it up to be). Watch your spending from the beginning; create a budget for yourself. I underestimated the amount of time I would be unemployed and found myself running out of money more quickly than if I had been more frugal in the beginning.
  3. Brand yourself when applying to each job. As hard as it is to lie or to cut yourself short, your interview and resume should fulfill one purpose only: getting that specific job. Think of the resume not as a history of your employment, but rather a demonstration of how your past experiences have given you the skills you need for the job you’re applying to. If people see a resume with diverse experience, they will be confused because they can’t put you in a box. Additionally, they will think that you won’t commit yourself to the position if you aren’t singularly interested in it. It was very hard for me to remove experience from my resume because I was very proud of it, but the sad truth is, nobody cared and they preferred to see key words that resonate in the industry.
  4. Meet as many people as possible. Email every single person who someone puts you in touch with. Ask questions – even if you already know the answers – just so that you are on that person’s radar. Follow up every now and then to update the person – wish them happy holidays, tell them where you’re interning, tell them if you worked on a project. Keep a spreadsheet so that you remember all the people you’ve been in touch with. If you get an in-person meeting, send a thank you email, or even better, a thank you note in the mail if you have their address. You are more likely to get a job through a connection than through responding to an online job post.
  5. Use every second of the interview to pitch yourself. Don’t assume that the interviewer has read your resume. Pick 4 adjectives to describe yourself (make sure these are the skills the job requires) and use specific examples of when you have been this adjective. If the interviewer says what he is looking for, validate his/her words and give examples of times that you have been that way. It may feel like s/he just wants to have a conversation, but don’t be fooled, your task is to sell yourself. As women especially, it is really hard to get into a room and talk yourself up, but the interviewer needs to hear that because it means a lot more coming from your mouth than it does written down on your resume. If anything, your confidence and forwardness will be admired.
  6. Interview: In addition to #5, anticipate the interviewer’s questions, your answers to the questions, and what questions you have for the interviewer. This link has a great set of questions that I encountered A LOT during interviews: http://www.fastcompany.com/1839723/10-job-interview-tips-ceo-headhunter. ALWAYS send a thank you note in the mail after the interview.
  7. Remember that it’s mostly out of your control. You can drive yourself crazy, as I did, thinking about what you’re doing wrong, but the biggest reason you’re not getting a job has nothing to do with you. It has to do with the fact that there’s a bad economy, all jobs are very competitive, and you might not be lucky enough to have the right connections. This is America, and it should be a meritocracy, but it’s not. Sometimes it just takes a while to get lucky or to make those connections that will lead to something.
  8. In the meantime, if money is an issue, find something that will keep you afloat that won’t make you want to kill yourself. I made some money leading High Holiday services, Bar Mitzvah tutoring, and teaching kids drama classes. Tutoring is an easy one if you have a college degree.
  9. Sometimes having a goal gets in the way of other opportunities that will make you happy. I don’t at all regret moving here, but I’ve realized that I gave up a lot of happiness in order to seek a goal that has turned out to be less fulfilling, less respected, and less challenging. You have to explore what you want in life, but I’ve seen too many people make the mistake of pursuing one thing to the detriment of their own happiness. You never know what what you want will actually be like, and with that in mind the stakes are a little lower: it’s not all or nothing. Be open to riding the wave.

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The Fantasy of Eating Cake I Don’t Want to Eat (and that probably doesn’t want to be eaten).

It looked good until he started eating it.

Recently, I found myself in a room with two men I don’t find attractive and to whom I’m attracted.

When I spoke to one, I wanted to be speaking to the other. When either of them was speaking to someone else, I wanted him to be speaking to me.

I am drawn to their intellect, their eye contact, their unique and starkly opposed personhoods. I am not confident that I would enjoy kissing them and I want them to want to kiss me.

Nice to meet you, I’m a woman, and the laws of attraction live largely in a shade of grey.

Grey is an infrequent color for me; usually I live in black or at least charcoal, or maybe a nice icing-inspired, incandescent white.

Grey confuses me, especially when it presents itself simultaneously and surrounding two completely different people. I couldn’t get enough but I had had quite enough. It was very difficult to keep my options open with both of them present while knowing that I would inevitably opt out.

The circumstances of the evening left me feeling guilty, dissatisfied, jealous, selfish, and excited. Talking to each of them excited me, and so did the anxiety of the entire situation. I want to have my cake and eat it too, but I know that that’s unfair, and I also know that the cake won’t taste a good as I imagine it to taste. Yet I still didn’t want either of them to withdraw his cake because he saw that I found the other’s just as appealing.

I connect to both of them in profound ways and I am struck by their incredible individuality. I want to honor how special they are with a desire that matches it. I lack such a desire but I enjoy the fantasy of its possibility, and I think they enjoy the fantasy, too.

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Sex and the American Male

I now live in Los Angeles, California with three men (or boys) in their mid-twenties.

It’s challenging. First of all, I’ve abandoned all aspirations to have a well-decorated and clean home. Second of all, I find myself reverting back to a college mentality of drinking every weekend.

Third of all, SEX.

The sex-drive of the male is no myth. I already knew that they think about, want, and have sex. What I didn’t understand about it was that it’s a modus operandi.

It is the journey and the destination. Very few factors get in the way of sex.

For them, a sexual partner qualifies if she is female and not too fat. If the person achieves any greater markers of attraction, it’s a sweet bonus.

Whereas a woman will refrain from or be disappointed by sex if she’s not over her ex, men purposefully engage in sex as a way to distract themselves from their pain. In this situation, sex is a coping tool for men. It has the opposite effect on women because women want sex to be intimate.

I know sex can be intimate for men, too, but what I’ve learned is that they don’t need it to be. For men, it can be just physical and still be satisfying.

I have been called out by men who say that a girl could just want to fool around, too. And while that is true, what these men are missing is that a psychologically stable woman still wants an intimate experience. She doesn’t just want to get it in and then leave. She wants to feel like she shared something with someone; she wants a bonding experience, even if it is brief.

I’ve always admired the men, usually great writers and artists, who value the traits that make women women; men who appreciate women for all the qualities men lack. I’ve always wanted to feel the same way about men. And I do admire their risk-taking, their drive to protect and to succeed. But I really can’t admire a disinterest in intimacy and the blindness to the humanity in the women who serve their sexual needs.

I will note that I believe this issue to be particular to American males; anecdotally, men from other Western countries are less afraid of the logistics of an intimate yet brief encounter.

To be clear, (American) men are ultimately looking for a partner. It’s not that they have no interest in intimacy, it’s just that they are very cautious about who to give it to. That’s why as an American woman, I’ve often found myself hoping that I’ll be the one who the guy finally grows up for, I’ll be the one who he’ll risk being intimate with. There’s something good in there, if I could just lure it out…I don’t known if other women have had that thought.

I hope I never have it again. If it’s gotten to that point, then I already have my answer. Unlike the scenario in a Hollywood romantic comedy, it’s not my job to get you to change your ways and treat me well. I’m here to be respected from day 1.

Living with guys has taught me that that’s not easy to find, but that’s ok. It’s worth my wait.

*I can only speak about heterosexual men because my roommates are heterosexual and most of my interactions with men are with heterosexuals.

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Knowing vs. Believing

I’ve found myself saying I know something but I don’t believe it, or I believe it but I don’t know it. So I started to think about what exactly it was I meant by that. Here’s what I got:

When I know something, I have deemed it true. When I believe something, I behave as though it is true (i.e. I act upon the assumption that something is true).

Here are some examples:

I know that I am right but I don’t believe that I am.

I believe in souls but I don’t know that souls exist.

I know I’m pretty but I don’t believe I am.

I find the distinction an interesting nuance so I thought I’d share. I would love to hear from you if you experience the same dichotomy.

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