Monthly Archives: February 2012

Home Nepot

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On Sunday, a winter storm came through the region, blanketing the higher peaks with a lovely dusting of snow. They even got snow in Williamsburg, where I used to live. That’s pretty unusual, since they’re so near the coast.

I myself got sweet nothin’.

This is not fair.

I did get rained on all day, if that counts for anything, and for a brief spell there was maybe some hail mixed in. I never did make up my mind on that point, though I had ample opportunity to do so — seventeen or eighteen miles worth of opportunity. I was hiking up a mountain, with “up” being the operative word: the trail had more than a mile of incline. It was in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, just north of Cherokee, one of the region’s more depressing tourist traps.

Today, two days later, my butt muscles are still recalling the incline. This suggests to me that I need to get myself in better shape. I suppose I’ll just have to get creative about finding time to do that, now that I’ve got a job and all.

Had my interview yesterday, got the job offer today. I am not clear on the particulars –something to do with interpreting reports and telling the people in production what to produce — but who cares? It’s a job, and I’ll get paid for it, which is more than I can say of my previous job, and if I have problems I can ask my mom for help.

I will be working as a temp in the same company Mom works for. I won’t be in the same department but I’ll be working closely with her.

(“You’ll be working a lot with your Mom. Is that okay?” asked my interviewer. “I have lots of experience interacting with her,” I explained.)

There have been many times when I, though better qualified for a job, did not get the position, due to my lack of social connections. In these circumstances, nepotism is wrong and immoral and people who practice it are no better than highway robbers, and also they kick puppies. No! Bunnies. They kick bunnies. In this case nepotism is fine and decent and, really, it makes so much more sense to hire someone when you’ve got a personal connection to them. Why hire a stranger? Strangers can lie in their resumes and during their interviews. Best not to risk it.

I’ll be able to live on the pay, albeit barely, but I still won’t have insurance and the position is only guaranteed through November. I still need to do some serious thinking about my future employment prospects, my options in returning to school, and my career goals as a proletarian. Generally speaking, here’s what I’m looking for:

  • A strong chance of getting a job, because being educated does not, in and of itself, pay the bills
  • A strong chance of getting a job, no matter where I may be living
  • A living wage
  • A sense of satisfaction, knowing that my work is meaningful and valuable and makes the world better, and/or….
  • A sense of intellectual challenge, because — with perhaps a few exceptions — jobs that don’t stimulate me make me want to claw out my own eyes
  • A low incidence of people yelling at me

Those of you who know me are welcome to chime in with “Why Jessica, obviously you should become a ________.” Go on! Don’t be shy!

I’m going to spend my last few days of freedom by working on some freelance writing and editing projects (which is sad; even after all these months I still haven’t quite got the hang of being unemployed) and by, um, going to a musical. More on that in next week’s post.


An unhappy medium

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At the start of my third year of college, feeling whelmed by my studies — not overwhelmed, but quite definitely whelmed — I decided to stop watching television. It was 2001. I recall this clearly because, a few weeks later, when the twin towers came down, it occurred to me that I may have been overhasty in getting rid of the television.

As I continued immersing myself in academic pursuits that would eventually prove to be both lucrative and practical*, I realized that I wasn’t yearning for my former source of entertainment. It started as a gambit to free up some time, but my sacrifice turned out not to be a sacrifice at all. I didn’t miss television or movies. I was startled to discover that I was actually happier without the medium.

*Me and my little jokes. Ha.

It’s never been about the content. People get confused when I explain that I don’t watch television or movies. It’s not that I think books are the superior vehicle. There’s good stuff and bad stuff on the page and on the screen. I just don’t care to watch my entertainment. I want to experience stories by reading them, not by watching them.

So when I tell you that yesterday I saw a movie in a theater, I want you to understand that I had no choice. It was a hostage situation — as in, a roomful of adorable, well-behaved Sri Lankan orphans were in mortal peril, and they were all going to perish unless I agreed to watch a movie. Normally I wouldn’t compromise my integrity like that, but it would have made for very poor press if I had let the kids die.

Alarmingly, this blatant violation of my principles comes in the midst of a reading drought that has been going on for four months now. This time last year I was reading a book every two or three days. Now I’m managing a book every two or three weeks. I have a lot of catching up to do if I’m going to meet my annual quota. Perhaps more importantly, I have a lot of catching up to do if I’m going to retain any feelings of self-worth as as human being.

I’ve been writing about books a lot recently, though, which ought to count for something. I’ve been doing a bit of writing and a bit of copyediting for the library database NoveList. It’s nice, since it’s my only source of income whatsoever. (The job that I had at the start of the year, I am beginning to suspect, is never going to come through with a check for the 27 hours of work I did. Which is illegal. La.)

I have continued to apply for jobs (and I swear, this is where all my time is going — job-hunting is a huge time drain), and jobs have continued to not hire me. A few weeks ago I applied for a couple of open positions in the local public libraries. One of them required a college degree, I think, while the other merely preferred it. It so happens that I have a master’s degree in the field, along with some formidable experience, but I have not been invited to interview.

What gives? “To rescue precious orphan children” might seem self-aggrandizing to some people, but I personally thought it worked nicely as an objective.

At any rate, this whole not-being-employable schtick is losing its luster. Absent any better plans, I am pretty well sold on the idea of getting a second master’s degree. I’m not wild about the idea. Or, to be accurate, I like the idea just fine — higher education is swell — but I do not much care for the thought of putting myself into student debt again. On the other hand, a bit of temporary debt sounds a lot more palatable than being unemployed for the rest of my adult life. Or, to be accurate yet again, I would love to be unemployed for the rest of my life. Think of all the books I could read, all the orphans I could save! It’s just that I need financial security and, absent any better plans, I am pretty well sold on the idea of paid employment.

Plus, gosh. It would be neat to have health insurance again.

Going to edit a cover letter now. Normally I charge $75 for editing a short document (and yes indeedy, I am a currently accepting new assignments, oh boy am I ever) but it’s for a friend, so that’s okay, and anyway it’s nice to feel grammatically needed.

Now is my discontent of our winter

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Part of the reason for moving to western North Carolina was to again experience proper seasons. In civilized, habitable zones of the planet, there are four seasons, arranged like so:

  • Autumn (September – October): Pleasantly cool temperatures. The leaves on the trees turn pretty colors as they enter their death throes.
  • Winter (November – March): Bitter cold. Ice, snow, wintry mix. Everyone in the region rails against the horrible temperatures, except for me. I’ll deign to close the windows but that’s as far as I’m going. I can see my own breath in my home.
  • Spring (April – June): Pleasantly cool temperatures. Bunnies hopping around.
  • Summer (July): A bit too hot for my tastes, but I can graciously endure for a few weeks, especially since this is the season when attractive people wear very little in the way of clothing.
  • Bonus season: August: obnoxiously hot, but that’s okay because I’m spending a week at the beach.

After twelve years living in flatter, hotter parts of the country, I finally move back, only to find that I’ve been outmaneuvered by climate change. Generally I enjoy fighting a worthy opponent, but in this particular game I would really strongly prefer to be winning. My personal comfort is at stake. (Apparently there are some other related, less-important concerns, like the melting of the ice caps and the rising levels of the oceans, but personally I think it would do Manhattan some good to sink into the sea. A bit of humility could teach them some valuable lessons.)

In my chess match with climate change, I decided to try a new strategy, hoping to get the other side to relent a little. I deliberately made plans for this past Saturday, announcing several days in advance my intention of going on a hike — not just alone, as usual, but with company. I am pleased to report a small but definite victory: the weather responded by trying to thwart my plans. I got to enjoy a day full of icy trails, chilly temperatures, swirly rainy wind, and heavy fog.

The mountain I conquered was Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. It is named after Elisha Mitchell, a UNC professor who plummeted to his death while trying to determine the mountain’s height. Tragic way to end a life, if you ask me. All these nicely maintained trails with helpful color coding on the trees, and yet Doc Mitchell manages to fall off a cliff.

I may need to re-conquer Mt. Mitchell. The fog was wonderfully eerie and atmospheric, and honestly I’m disappointed that I didn’t stumble across a corpse, but part of the thrill of vanquishing a really tall mountain is to enjoy the views. Besides, it’s a very uphill sort of mountain — lots of vertical going on there — which is exactly the right sort of geographical feature for developing muscle tone. Personal health is all well and good, but the more important concern is sculpting oneself so as to look svelte when summer rolls around.

I’ve got a dilemma, though: if I return to Mt. Mitchell at a time when there may be, for instance, visibility, other people might try to show up. Nothing can ruin a weekend mountain adventure like uninvited guests. If I do find unwelcome people crawling around on my mountain, I’ll explain that they’re in mortal danger of being pecked to death by songbirds. Being eaten by a bear is perhaps a more effective threat, but I didn’t see any bears when I was hiking, despite calling out “Here, bear! Here, bear bear bear bear!” every time I saw a cave-looking rock. Though perhaps they were hiding in the dense fog. I wouldn’t put it past them. Bears are sneaky.

I did my mountain subjugating on Saturday. On Sunday I spent my time with less sculpty activities, including but not limited to tuba subjugating and letter writing. What I did not do on Sunday was to watch the Superbowl.

Apparently there are only two people in America who do not 1.) care about the Superbowl or 2.) realize that it’s on. I am one of those two people. The other person is Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal, a man of fortitude and conviction. I say this in recognition of the fortitude and conviction he displays in not responding to my fanmail.

Onward, now, to an afternoon of editing and writing and spreading false rumors about the savagery of the animals who live on Mt. Mitchell and other mountains I may conceivably want to hike someday.