Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Humble Pie a la mode

Having joined the ranks of the unemployed again, I've returned to the full-time job of job-hunting. You know all those articles they keep running about employees being optimistic enough about an economic recovery to finally resign from their current companies? Yeah, I'm one of those. And my optimism level is falling about as fast as BP stock.

After hitting Craigslist and the classifieds, my next stop was going to be the temp agencies that I'd signed up with after I got laid off back in '08. The recruiters were usually impressed with my education, my technical skills and my references. But I guess there are so many highly qualified people out of work now, an intermediate knowledge of Microsoft Office doesn't even seem to rate anymore. And this one recruiter was very judgmental about gaps in my employment history, how it made me seem completely unreliable because I never seemed to stay anywhere more than a year. She hadn't even spoken to me for more than five minutes, hadn't spoken to my previous employers or references and she'd already dismissed me. It made me feel incredibly small and worthless. Even moreso than I did at my old job.

The thing is, that was my past and I can't really do anything about it now. I'm not skilled enough to spin it, and I certainly didn't do anything exciting or scandalous with that time off. I wasn't picking olives in Florence or building orphanages in Rwanda or doing a nickel at Attica. I was just...searching. I tried a job on, it didn't fit, so I moved to the next one. I tried a city on, until I ran out of money, so I moved on to the next one. I suppose on paper, it looks like a rather schizophrenic experience. But I can assure you that in practice, it's been far from fulfilling.

Nothing seems to fit. Nowhere feels like home. No company makes me feel comfortable. And I realize that's mostly on me. It's an insecurity that's plagued me since, well, puberty and I wonder if I'll ever be at home in my own skin.

The paychecks, the benefits, the five-year plan -- I know I need to worry about those things. But the primary challenge for me is being okay with who I am, even when temporary recruiters feel like belittling my existence. How do I stand up for myself when I don't really have a leg to stand on?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Put a Little 'Glee' in Your Heart

By now, you’ve probably been prompted by several people to watch Fox’s hit show Glee, which recently ended its first season and will be in reruns all summer on Thursday nights (not to mention the many soundtrack CDs on music store shelves). But maybe you’ve convinced yourself not to fall prey to this particular pop-culture zeitgeist. Have musical series ever worked on television? Does Lady GaGa even have enough songs to fill an hour episode? Didn’t Ryan Murphy hurt us enough with Nip/Tuck? These are all perfectly valid arguments. What I’m asking is that you give yourself permission to watch a show that is honest and heartfelt and makes you happy. A refreshing change of pace in the landscape of reality shows, 24/7 news coverage and smarter-than-you sitcoms.

You see, I was reminded of something this past weekend as I sat in the darkened Stevens Center watching students from Miss Joyce’s Dance Studio tap, twirl and tumble their way through the annual recital. I loved performing! The costumes, the make-up, the reactions from the audience. I still love performing, even though it runs counter to my introverted nature. Maybe it’s because there’s a script or choreographed steps to follow. Because I’m playing a character, not myself. And for those few moments of that performance, you’re part of something special – something bigger than yourself.

The kids in the McKinley High Glee Club face the same problems we all did in high school. And some that are not so same. Granted, the faculty have their share of faults to deal with as well. It’s a primetime drama; there has to be a bit of a soap opera (Fake pregnancies! Cancelled weddings! Scheming divas!). Even though the writing and the plots stumbled at times, there was always a sincerity to the proceedings. Finn having to choose between the jocks and the glee clubbers, Will and Terri trying so hard to make their marriage last, Sue Sylvester alternating between outright cruelty and touching compassion for her sister, Quinn wanting to do what’s best for her unexpected baby, Tina and Artie testing the waters of teen romance while dealing with a handicap, Mercedes struggling with her weight, Kurt and his father coming to terms with Kurt being gay, Rachel wanting everyone to want a shiny gold trophy as much as she does. But in the Glee Club practice room with its ever-present accompanist and backing musicians, everyone is safe. Everyone is accepted.

These characters may be so far removed from anyone you know in real life, but they walk the streets of Ohio. And you feel every ounce of their pain and their joy. So just one night a week, suspend your disbelief and sign up to join the “Glee” club. The cast and crew have worked so hard to make this show a unique experience. They do it with a song in their hearts to put a smile on our faces.