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Posts Tagged ‘reinventing yourself’

I have to admit that my absence from my own blog is from nothing less than the mind-blowing discovery of Facebook. It has been over six months of searching and liking and commenting and responding to friend requests from people I haven’t seen in over 20 years. (And don’t get me started on the disgusting amount of time I’ve spent on Farmville.) People from high school are coming out of the woodwork;  they never spoke to me in school, yet here they are on my notifications list, even though my maiden name was never listed. It’s amazing – on so many levels.

It was hard for me to sign up for Facebook. I knew that, even if I didn’t want to be found, my associations would give me away. I have reinvented myself a few times since I was a kid – and by that, I mean I had to adapt to life-changing circumstances more than once. Now, I don’t even remember who I was as a child. I remember some things that happened, but I don’t remember me. In a way, I’m probably unrecognizable to some people from my past as well. Would that be a good thing – as in “fresh start” – or would people regret friending me because I’m not who they expected me to be?

I grew up in a small town and went to a school that consisted of two buildings which held classrooms for all thirteen grades. On the other side of the ball field was a corn field that went on for miles. Life in a rural farming community was peaceful enough. I would eventually learn what the rest of the country was like, but then I knew no different than small town life.

One man from that small town spoke up recently on Facebook. I knew of him, but I had never met him because he was older than I was. But what he posted last week really made me stop and think. He said, “Can you believe that I remember the name of everyone who made fun of me in high school?” Okay, now I remembered him – he has cerebral palsy, but he was simply known as the guy who walked and talked differently. For many of us, it was our first exposure to physical disability. I think most of us were kind or wondered what was wrong with legitimate concern, but I have no doubt that he was laughed at by kids who thought “different” was funny.

What really struck me, though, was the response to his post. All who responded were schoolmates. Some were sympathetic. Some went into the old “well, kids can be mean sometimes,” as if they wanted to be kind, but didn’t quite know what to say. One in particular (now a teacher himself) expounded on the need to move on from being hurt by such things. But the burn came when some chose only to emphasize the fact that “we’re all grown up now.” In my mind, it was like they were saying that his memories shouldn’t  matter, or they were denying him the right to remember how awful those times were for him. Tough shit. Life’s rough all over. Get over it.

I can remember feeling awful, too. I saw what those kids did. I was on the receiving end of it myself a few times. Over the years, I figured out that it wasn’t necessarily that they were evil, but that they were subconsciously taught to be uncomfortable with people who were different. Okay, I’m putting that way too nicely. But that’s what it boils down to. It may not be just in small towns, but in this one, people who were different got strange looks. They got laughed at. They were excluded from the community in one way or another, just because they walked or talked or acted differently. The peaceful life in a small town turned out to be undisturbed homogeneity.

Sure, we’re all grown up now. But some of us left school feeling extremely relieved that we weren’t going to be punished for being different anymore, some of us left school feeling completely worthless, and some of us bottled up the anger until we snapped. Those feelings don’t just magically dissolve because we’re outside the double doors of the school or because we’ve gotten older.

Personally, I’m glad he started that conversation. At some point, with all the indiscriminate Facebook friending going on, the air had to start clearing among the students who went to that small school. The whole thing has actually been sort of cathartic – maybe now I can just be myself instead of worrying about who is still ignorant and who isn’t. I still don’t have to go to the reunion if I don’t want to.

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Is it ever appropriate to write the sentence “You need me!” in a cover letter?

What do you say when you’re sending out your 400th resume of the month and you realize that your cover letter has to stand out among 4,000 others? Which line from the job search handbook actually works in real life? Successful job seekers? Hiring managers? Anyone?

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A lot of people seem to be trying to psychologically explain what happened to the economy.  Was it greed?  Impulsive risk instead of calculated risk?  How about the need to crawl back into the womb?

I don’t know about that last one, but even Freud would have acknowledged that the other two are getting a lot of press.

There is a certain perception of the people who control the financial markets.  We don’t hear their stories very often, so all some of us see  are guys and gals who dress up in fancy suits, playing an adult version of Monopoly with other people’s money, and thinking “what they don’t know won’t hurt them.”   It’s easy to attribute that to greed and impulsive behaviour.

Most of those guys and gals are probably thinking that they worked hard to get where they are, they are just normal people with nicer clothes, and in their business, they have to think fast to keep up.  If they take a risk and lose, that’s the way the game is played.  That’s why they call it RISK.  True, true, and true.

Perceptions aside, there’s one phrase that keeps popping up when the psychologists speak up:  human nature.

Scientific American ran an interesting article today about this, with a word or two by the author for those who think that the free market will work everything out itself. 

He’s not so sure about that, given the “what they don’t know won’t hurt them – and if it does, that’s the breaks” mentality.  He seems to think that completely rational behaviour isn’t as common as people think it is.

What do you think?  Are you feeling it?  Is it really that simple?

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I saw a lot of great articles on MSNBC.com this morning on reinventing America.  There were human interest stories, suggestions for coping with career change, the effect of job loss on colleges, which businesses are making the most out of the unemployment rate, and a call out to anyone who is in the middle of the crisis to tell their personal stories.

I have been dealing with this sort of thing since I was 19.  Twenty-five years later, I can say, “been there, done that.”

I grew up in a small town, and started my adult life with a baby, a trip three times a week to the local extension of Purdue University, and a lot of help from my family.  My first real job was as a substitute teacher, because my major at the time was education and I wanted to see what it was really like.  I had to learn to present myself as an authority figure, to dress like an adult (which was more helpful than I knew at the time), and to constantly hold the attention of all ages of kids.  I  was trying so hard to be a teacher that I almost forgot to look at whether or not I liked it.  I didn’t.

I went into retail – which really meant that I worked 35 hours per week at the mall for a while.  I had to learn to make small talk, learn about different products and sell them, and operate a cash register.  Retail management started to look good – you have a fun work environment, you can actually have a full-time job with benefits (which seemed like the top of the ladder at the time), and it was something I was good at.  The company was bought out, and went in another direction – and so did I.

After I switched my major to business, I got a job as a bookkeeper.  I thought, “This is great.  I can still earn money without having to talk to the customers!”  (I said I was good at it – I didn’t say that I liked that part of it.)  That type of job lasted a while – it turned out that I was very good with numbers and paperwork and computers.  I learned more through that type of work (thanks to my supervisors) than I did in business school.  Working for small businesses, I got a chance to write ad copy, write business documents, learn the language of contracts, set up accounting software, and design marketing and training materials.  I thought I had found my niche.  Unfortunately, with that small-town atmosphere everywhere within driving distance, I worked for one small business after another which was sold, failed entirely, or went back to being a ‘Mom & Pop’ for economic reasons.  I learned about some great businesses, but my experience didn’t do much good because, by this time, I looked like crap on paper.  Apparently, looking like a job-hopper was a bad thing.

I fell apart.  The last job I lost was the last straw.  My son was grown and on his own, so I gave up my apartment and went to live with friends for a few months.  I worked as a bartender, a campground aide, and a hotel clerk to make sure I ate and paid the rent without having to ask Mother for help (again).  It was hard to be enthusiastic about jobs that I had to take – they weren’t my first choice, and I was angry that my resume wasn’t doing me any favors.  You do what you need to do to survive.  You learn to adapt.  You learn that the only thing you can count on is that life will change once in a while, and either you roll with the changes or you get plowed over by them.

I’ve been pretty lucky in my life.  I did survive, and eventually the right opportunities came along.  Don’t give up.  Reinvent yourself if you need to.  Did you honestly like what you were doing – really?  Is there something else that  you always wanted to do, but never got around to it?  Look reality square in the face, put the stress aside for a little while, and think about your options.  Get your mind ready to try new things.  Who knows – a new, fresh approach to life might be fun!  You just might end up with a better situation than you ever thought possible.

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