Monday, February 22, 2010

Random Word Generator #2

Today's word is "Gift"

When I was six years old they started me in "gifted" programs. I had to leave my classes at a time dictated by my Pillsbury Doughboy watch (an Easter gift) and go to a different class. In this class, they spoke differently to us. They didn't slow down the reading so that... each... word... was... a... full... second... apart. They listened to our questions, they *really* listened, and they would answer us like a grownup would answer another grownup's question.

Apparently, my admission to at least one of these programs was based on a screening process in which I was supposed to read a list of words on the program coordinator's desk. Instead of the list, I read her telephone messages. Instead of "Aquarium, Extreme, Complement," I read, "Mr. Hudson called in regards to your Wednesday chiropractic appointment. Please call back to confirm by the end of the business day."

And this meant I was gifted.

I guess this status has created more problems in my life than it has created solutions. As a label, "gifted" is troublesome. As a reality, it's even more so. My current and most salient struggle is that I feel a deep-seated responsibility to this label. I can't get out from under the notion that this label has destined me for something more. And I am somehow letting them all down- the woman whose phone message I read, the teacher who let me play the film strips in that rarified world of the "gifted" class, every teacher who ever told me I didn't "apply myself," my proud parents who beamed when the news came that I had good enough SATs to be automatically enrolled in all state schools (at the tender age of 11).

I wish I could tell them all that somehow, someday, I'll make them proud. That someday it will have meant something that I was reading billboards before age 2, that I took National Geographic magazine to bed when I was 7. That they were right- I had boundless potential, and here... look here at what I'm doing now!

It's not a great time to be gifted, I don't think. But it has to get better.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pick a noun, any noun

Great domain name. And a new tool for me to attempt writing something every day.

Today's word: Match

There are couples that match like earrings. Every detail the same, and they adorn in the same way, symmetrically. We are not like such couples. More like shoes in a box- a left and a right. More like two charged particles.

I was trying to console my mom today, because we are both rather unhappy at the moment. I was trying to give her advice that I should take, an odd exercise in and of itself, but strangely cathartic nonetheless. I was trying to tell her a new philosophy of mine- that in my life, happiness has come from the unlikeliest of places and most often when I least expected it. So, I argued, it is not productive to try and imagine what would make you perfectly happy. It is better, I argued, to focus on the small, happy things we see in daily life and just know that every once in a while, happiness clocks you out of nowhere, from nothing.

Such was the case with us. Not a perfect match, but the necessary one. Certainly not the expected match. But I suppose little can be done about that. Denying happiness- no matter how imperfect, no matter how unusual or incongruous, is a fool's game.

I got my wedding shoes today. One- the left- seems to be almost a half size larger than the other. Perhaps it's just me. Or perhaps it's just- no pun intended- fitting that one should be just a little different than the other. Just enough to make it interesting.

I don't know why but I think a lot about my past and what I used to imagine my match would look like. He looks like Rivers Cuomo from Weezer. He brings me daisies and likes to eat Sushi with me. He couldn't be more different than the match I've chosen Well, except for the glasses. And the cute smile.

But like a small college in Iowa, like a grease-smeared job in a scooter shop, like the kitten I thought I should have taken back to the shelter, it's all turned out for the best. Bringing me happiness despite the fact that we don't match.

I used to think that yellow didn't match with gray. But then I saw the sun come out from the clouds.

Monday, February 15, 2010

It's a living. Sort of.

So I have a bad job. Everyone I know knows this. But there is one sentiment I keep running into, and while I definitely understand where it is coming from, I can't help but bristle when it comes up.

"At least you HAVE a job."

Yes, I know, I'm blessed to be working right now and I'm not going to argue that. Yes, I'm making a living, and no, it's not in a sweatshop or on East Colfax. I get it. But working right now is no picnic, either. When fewer people are actually employed, it becomes an employer's market. And in an employer's market, the "lucky" ones who remain employed still have a few significant causes for complaint.

As anyone currently working will tell you, everyone who *has* a job right now is actually doing their own job plus the job of four or five other people who have been laid off or, in a better economy, would be hired to help out. "Doing more with less" is the key philosophy in today's workplace, and it's hard for those of us left behind.

And it's not just taking care of, say, the jobs once done by your assistant or the middle manager above you. It's doing things like taking out the trash, cleaning bathrooms, and otherwise making up for the services your boss either can't or refuses to pay for. Not like I'm above cleaning a bathroom or taking out my trash, but the time it takes to do so is time I could be spending doing the job I was ostensibly hired to do. Those of us who are "lucky enough" to be employed are overworked, underpaid, and often times, our hours have been scaled back so we're not just trying to make up for missing bodies, we're making up for missing hours as well.

While all of us are working with less time and for lower pay than we're used to, we're also enduring worse conditions and a more hostile workplace. Employers are in a position right now where they're fully aware that they have a more or less captive staff. Workplace lawsuits are expensive and difficult to execute, and if you quit, it can be years before such a suit will result in a favorable ruling. If you leave due to what you claim is a hostile work environment, it must be proven before you can receive unemployment benefits. So what are you going to do? Endure abuse or endure poverty? Your choice.

So yes. I'm thankful I can put food on the table. I'm glad I'm working and I'm glad things seem to be getting better. It could be a lot worse, and I do realize this. I just think that it's important to note that when only a few of us are left to do the work, it's not always comforting to hear that we should be feeling lucky.