An Open Letter to Hiring Companies Everywhere

Hi there, employee-seeking world:

You don’t know me very well. I’ve only been perusing your fluorescent aisles for 6-ish weeks, so I realize that my forthcoming advice may be along the lines of those well-intentioned child-free friends who offer sleep advice to the parents of newborns. I hope you’ll listen, anyway. I really do have your best interests at heart.

See, those of us who wander through your vast digital expanse in search of gainful employment aren’t doing it because it’s particularly fun. We’re doing it because we have families to support and mortgages to pay, and we’ve chosen to abandon all hope of ever winning the lottery.

So we sit here, day after day, hour after hour, sifting through every job post that LinkedIn et al. informs us we’re qualified for to find the jobs we are actually qualified for.  Then we try to determine whether the job offers what we need to function on a basic human level. We appreciate the information you offer to us. “Benefits! 401k! Vacation!” It’s a great start. I do wonder, however, whether you really believe that a listed salary range of $30k to $100k is helpful to those of us desperate to join the ranks of the gainfully employed.

See, the thing is that for every job us lotto-failures decide to throw our hats into the ring for, we are sent through a maze hoops similar to the following:

  1. Find interesting position and decide it’s worth pursuing.
  2. Click on link for “Easy Apply!”
  3. Enter basic contact information into an online system
  4. Upload resume with the promise that all of the data within your detailed little bundle will be neatly imported into the system
  5. Sigh audibly as you examine the results of step 4, which includes articulate extractions such as: “2005-2007    CA      ; strategic    — variety.”
  6. Manually re-enter every single aspect of resume.
  7. Spend 30 minutes crafting a meaningful cover letter that really highlights your desire to surrender to indentured servitude.
  8. Answer–for approximately the 987659869876th time–the exact same questions about race, gender, military service, and disability status.
  9. Wonder how it’s even remotely possible that such information is being used for anti-discrimination purposes.
  10. Contemplate whether I should start identifying as a white male for employment purposes.
  11. Remember that I really don’t look good in ties.
  12. Although their dress shoes do seem dramatically more comfortable than any of mine.
  13. But then there’s the whole “stand to pee” bit that might prove to be problematic.
  14. Didn’t I used to have a a friend who had some kind of contraption she used to pee standing up at Burning Man?
  15. Eh. Screw it. Honesty is the best policy. If they don’t like me because I have a vagina, I don’t want to work for them anyway.
  16. Click submit.
  17. Lather, rinse & repeat.

When I finally emerge from the acid fog of human resources-related disclaimers, I hear a distant voice shout, “May the odds be ever in your favor!” I clutch my fistful of poison berries tightly to my chest because in this Hunger Games-style rendition of my imaginary reality TV show, Job Seekers, I will look that human resources drone in the eye, flash my berries and demand that she hire all of us or none of us.

You know what would make this easier for all of us? More information about the aspects of the job that seem trivial but are actually critical to human beings: What is the actual salary you are prepared to offer? Will I need to find a new primary care doctor? How much of the benefits do you actually cover? Will you be up in arms if I need to work from home because my daughter wakes up with a fever? How many ACTUAL hours a week do you expect the position to require? 40? 50? 80? If I can’t make the holiday party because the babysitter cancelled, are you going to mention it every time I see you for the next decade?

Seriously. Inquiring minds need to know.

Very Sincerely,

One Exhausted Unemployed Warrior

Tl;dr: Although you are in a position of power right now, it is exceedingly likely that someday, you will join the ranks of the unemployed. Treat us the way you’d like to be treated when that time comes.

Politics: It’s Relevant

45494906_10216950943113398_2678467452622340096_nOur current political climate in the United States is unlike anything I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’d imagine that many Gen X-ers and Millennials share in that sentiment. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve found myself questioning why I ever thought bringing a child into this cesspool of hatred and bigotry was a good idea. That’s the conundrum those of us who conceived our children in President Obama’s era of hope and change have been faced with as we sit slack-jawed watching our current President engage in name-calling worthy of a jealous kindergartner.

For a while, I participated in a parenting group on Facebook that seemed idyllic. Parents supported on another through their most challenging moments. We shared in each other’s joys and offered safe harbor on the bad days. It was a lovely space; a welcome reprieve from the harsh glares of strangers in the supermarket who think your overtired and overstimulated toddler’s chaos is a direct reflection on your lack of parenting skills.

The bubble burst for me when it was decided that politics had no place in a diverse group of parents. We could discuss practically anything except politics. Supposedly, political discourse doesn’t belong in parenting-related discussions. I could not disagree more.

Think about it for a moment. Is there actually anything more relevant to our children than the branches of government at work deciding their future? Our children are too young to vote. They’re too young to fully comprehend how these elected representatives are laying the foundation that will define many of the opportunities they’ll have in adulthood.

This goes far beyond the debate on abortion, vaccines, or LGBTQ equality. Laws made today will impact our children’s inheritance. They will affect the air they breathe and the water they drink. Legislators will decide whether many of our children can afford to go to college and whether the jobs they’ll work later in life will provide a living wage. They’ll even dictate whether our children can afford to seek medical care when they’re ill.

Do not tell me to pretend politics and parenting don’t go hand-in-hand. Don’t tell me that my political posts don’t belong on my Facebook page. Don’t tell me that political discussion doesn’t belong at the family dinner table. Don’t even tell me that I shouldn’t ask employers about the political leanings of the organization before I decide to spend the majority of my waking hours helping to line their pockets.

Parenting is political. Life is political. To separate ourselves from politics is to turn a blind eye on our futures as well as our children’s.

Dear Hiring Manager:

Looking for a job has been overflowing with both inspiration and defeat. It turns out that I actually do know what I want to do with my professional life, and all I really needed to do was buckle down and start reading the descriptions on job listings to figure that out. There’s a good reason why I was drawn to marketing communications throughout my career: I’m good at it. I also enjoy it. I just didn’t enjoy my previous work environment.

When I started this job search three(+) weeks ago, I was a bit picky about where I sent my resume. I focused on non-profits with missions I believed in or private firms who offered something important to better the world. There were national political organizations, health advocacy groups and clinics, environmental groups, schools, and even a large food bank. I felt uplifted by the sheer volume of opportunities available in my field that seemed like they might be fulfilling.

I’ve reached the point now where the rejection letters have overtaken my inbox and the vague sense of imposter syndrome I’d been fighting has become significantly less vague and harder to battle. I can’t tell you exactly how many carefully crafted cover letters I’ve distributed (4-5 a day for several weeks-ish), but I can tell you that my enthusiasm for writing them is waning along with my enthusiasm for the remaining pool of employers.

Today, I am taking a step back to try to re-frame my approach a bit. I don’t have to work for a non-profit to find fulfillment in my work. I simply have to find work and then make it fulfilling.

If you need me, I’ll be sitting here drafting cover letters in my pajamas, occasionally grimacing from a sip of cold coffee because I failed to realize that it’s been sitting there untouched for over an hour.

Communications Professional Seeking… Something? I guess?

I’m working on my resume because it’s officially time to find a job. Sitting here attempting to sift through two decades of work experience has been a bit like an awkward stroll down memory lane. When you work for a single company for 18 years, various positions and accomplishments are less easily definable. Things just sort of run together. I can barely remember what I did yesterday, so I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to remember whether I accomplished something in 2008 or 2012, but I’m trying.

More than anything, sifting through my resume has filled me with dread. It’s not that I’m not ready/willing to go back to work—it’s the idea of going back to work in Corporate America that I dread. I have spent enough years of my life shoving my feet into uncomfortable shoes. I’ve spent too many years sitting around sterile conference tables staring back at self-important white men in suits while they mansplain my own expertise to me. I’m done. I can’t.

For a number of years, I walked into an office that felt like a family. There was warmth and meaningful conversation. Employees had a voice and contributed to the decision-making processes that moved the company forward. We were invested not just in the successes or failures of the company, but also in those of each other. It was a place where people came before profit. Am I crazy to think that I can find a place like that again?

Does that mentality even exist in today’s business world anymore?

I guess I’m about to find out. Cross your fingers for me.

Waning Interest

My interest is waning in my own anxiety. I am so tired of thinking about this stuff that I’d almost rather just pretend it’s not an issue. Except it is, and I’ve spent enough time in therapy to know that denial is not my friend.

After the muscle spasms of last week, I was given the immediate OK to stop taking Wellbutrin. Not surprisingly, the spasms have lessened every day since I stopped. I still feel an occasional twinge, but it’s nothing like it was. I expect that the twitches will continue to fade away until they’re gone.

Now, I’m taking Buspar up to 3x daily in addition to my Zoloft. I’ve only had the meds for 24 hours at this point, so it’s too early to comment, really. Actually, that’s a lie. I do have a complaint. They should warn you that these pills are the size of a grain of rice because when I tried to remove the wad of cotton they plugged the bottle with, the pills stuck to the cotton and flew out all over my kitchen. It’s great to have random tiny pills hiding on your kitchen floor when you have two dogs and a preschooler. Let’s just hope I found them all!

Tomorrow, we’re attending an open house at one of the schools we’re considering for kindergarten next year (!!!!!), and you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m going to be popping one of those tiny little pills before I head out into the terrifying world of elementary school. (This is not my beautiful toddler… This is not my beautiful preschool… How did I get here?)

Thank you for the words of support on my previous post. Let’s hope these tiny little pills do the trick.

 

 

Wellbutrin – 3 weeks in

I had such incredibly high hopes that this combination of Wellbutrin and Zoloft would help manage my anxiety. Instead, it’s making me twitch all over like an addict going through withdrawal.

It started out so mild. I could only really feel the tiny muscle spasms when I was lying in bed at night and they were mostly in my legs. Over the last week or so, they’ve become increasingly stronger, and now the little spasms are all over and I feel them constantly. Today, the twitching is almost unbearable. I feel it as I’m sitting here writing–my arms are even shaky now.

When I saw my doctor last month, she told me it could take up to 4-6 weeks for me to notice a decrease in my anxiety, and believe me, I have been counting the days. It’s only been 23 days, but so far I have seen zero improvement. If anything, the twitching has made my anxiety worse.

I’ve emailed my doctor to find out what to do next. I’m trying not to feel too discouraged, but it’s hard. This sucks. I just want to feel better.

World Mental Health Day: What my teenage self wants the world to know

When I was 15 years old, I tried to kill myself by overdosing on the medication I took to control the seizures I’d started having the previous year. I regretted the action almost immediately. Just as my mother was heading to bed, I tearfully accosted her in her bedroom. I told her what I’d done, and watched as what I perceived to be a mix of rage and frustration flashed in her eyes.

We drove to the emergency room in absolute silence. I don’t remember much of the specifics of our visit, but I vividly recall forcing down an awful liquid charcoal substance. I also remember my mom negotiating with the doctor to stop them from keeping me there on a psych hold.

They did release me that night, and I was too afraid to ask my mom if I could stay home from school when morning came. She drove me to school in silence, and I stumbled through the day overwhelmed with anxiety and fear of what would happen once I got home that afternoon.

Looking back, it doesn’t take a genius to see that those pills I swallowed were a desperate cry for help. I was in the throes of teenage angst at its worst. For starters, I’d been diagnosed with epilepsy and I was taking meds that made me feel like a zombie. I resented every single dose I had to take. I desperately missed feeling like myself.

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That previous summer, one of my friends died very suddenly of cancer. One Saturday, we were sitting on the floor in my room listening to the Smashing Pumpkins and then she just wasn’t at school on Monday. It was that quick. I was supposed to visit her in the hospital on Thursday. I’d even picked up a bouquet of sunflowers—her favorite—to bring with me. The phone rang that morning, and the thin, tired voice of her mother told me that her daughter was gone. It was my first real experience with death. I will never be able to hear the songs from that album and not think of her.

When you compound those significant life events with the normal rigors of life in a high school where I never fit in, it’s really not surprising that my bottle of pills called to me that night. It was too much. All of it. I needed help, but I had no idea how to ask for it. I couldn’t put a name to my feelings. I didn’t have any appropriate coping mechanisms. My mom thought she was doing what was best by giving me space because that’s what I said I wanted, but as we know, wants and needs are two very different things.

Today is World Mental Health Day, and this year, the World Health Organization has chosen to focus on suicide prevention. Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide. 20+ years ago, I could have been a piece of that statistic.

I chose to focus on this story from my youth because I think young people today are at far greater risk than in years past. Bullying doesn’t just happen at school—now, it’s online and it can even be viral. Teens today aren’t sheltered from what’s happening in the world. The news could be avoided when I was young, but now, the news is everywhere people are. They’re watching us in real time as we refuse to take responsibility for their futures. Imagine the weight of that.

I wonder if I could have better memories of my teen years if I’d understood what depression and anxiety were. We never talked about it—not on a clinical level, anyway. Depressed meant sad, and anxious meant worried. I never realized that sometimes, those feelings were out of my control. Mental health and suicide weren’t things we talked about then. It shouldn’t be that way.

We cannot expect our children to be able to tell us how they feel if we don’t give them the words to describe their feelings.

We cannot expect them to share with us if we spend their childhood talking about mental illness as if it’s something to be ashamed of.

We cannot be their safe space if they’re worried about the repercussions of feelings they can’t—or don’t know how to—manage.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. If you need help, call 1-800-273-8255.

Wellbutrin: The First 10 Days

It’s been 10 days since I added Wellbutrin to my Zoloft regimen to hopefully better control my anxiety. As a reminder, my doctor warned me that the first two weeks on the new medication might see an increase in my anxiety, but that it should settle down after the first two weeks. Although the impact hasn’t been as severe as I anticipated it might be, it’s been severe enough to mess with me.

One day last week, I decided that I’d take a leisurely, lavender-scented bubble bath to help calm my nerves. Instead, the hot water made me feel like I was suffocating, and I had to get out after just a few minutes. So much for that.

I’ve been acting like all is well on the surface, but all is definitely not well. I haven’t done a single bit of schoolwork in a week, and I was behind before that. These are short-term courses (8 weeks), so being so far behind makes it practically impossible to catch up. After a tearful conversation with Catch this morning, I emailed my advisor for advice. Her reply is sitting in my inbox unread, because I’m afraid to open it.

I’m aware that my response to an email is completely ridiculous. What am I afraid of? I’m a grown-ass woman. Even if this academic advisor I’ve never even met is an asshole who tells me my only options are to fail my classes and lose my federal aid, I have certainly survived worse. I don’t know how to explain the paralysis this anxiety causes me. These small-ish obstacles that seem totally unimportant in the big scheme of things become giant monsters inside my head, and no amount of reason or logic will penetrate the fortress they’ve built. I feel like I’m drowning, even though my brain knows damn well we’re not even in the water.

First thing this morning, I sat down and made a list of BIG IMPORTANT THINGS I need to deal with. Things like our medical insurance, finding a job, and dealing with my educational failings this term. The list is helping to hold me accountable, but it’s certainly not foolproof. I’m trying, though. I wish I could say I’m doing my best, but I’m nowhere near my best right now. I really hope these meds sort themselves out soon.

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The Final Countdown

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What do you do when you are the breadwinner/benefits provider and you have 6 months to find a new job, but no idea what you want to do with your life?

No, really–I’m asking.

It’s been 18 months since I left my 18-year job in the dust. When I’m feeling scared about the future, I often try to take myself back to that day when I was leaving the parking structure for the last time. I felt free. I felt like the world was mine. Opportunity was there for the taking. Goodbye safety net, but hello happiness.

I went back to school, and spent a year (so far) totally immersed in studying and enjoying the classes. I volunteered to be room parent for my daughter’s class. For a year, we haven’t had to worry about who will take Charlotte to an appointment, or who will stay home when she’s sick. We’ve only had one schedule to consider about when we plan trips.

I love this life more than I ever imagined I would, and the thought of heading back into the patriarchal world of corporate America makes me physically ill. I can’t do it. I won’t do it.

Except that’s total bull because of course I’ll do it if I have to. I would never sacrifice the security of my family for my own benefit. It would negate the perceived benefit. We need my income. There is no way around that short of winning the lottery or inheriting a lot of money from a relative I never knew I had. What do you mean I had a great aunt Matilda who passed away and left me her sprawling farm and 19th century country home in Vermont?

So here I sit. There are a lot of things I love doing–and not a single one of those things will pay enough to cover our mortgage and preschool. There are a few things that I hate doing, but I’m pretty decent at. Those things require my butt in a chair in some concrete business complex where I work to help men in suits earn their bonuses and sacrifice every bit of flexibility I have now for the sake of a paycheck.

Doesn’t it seem like there should be some middle ground? There has to be, right? I mean, I could take a modest pay cut. Nothing dramatic, but we could manage with a bit less. Would the expectation of less money offer me more flexibility in my work schedule? Why should I have to expect to make less money simply because I’m the parent of a small child?

I don’t have all of the answers right now. Hell, I don’t know if I have any of the answers right now. I just know I need to pick a path, start walking, and hope I read the map correctly.

 

Vanishing Twin

I wrote a piece for PopSugar last month about my experience with Vanishing Twin Syndrome. I agreed to share this with them because I think it’s a unique issue that doesn’t see much coverage when conversations about miscarriage arise. My hope is that other women who have experienced Vanishing Twin Syndrome may read this and feel “seen.” It was published today as we kick off October, which is Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month.

Half a Pregnancy