Sunday, March 30

Finding a cookie-cutter (home)

The past two weeks, I've been visiting my dad on spring break. My dad lives in Chapel Hill, which is a University town. There are a lot of smart people around, a lot of college kids, and a lot of expensive real estate.

Until recently, that last one didn't matter too much. But my dad's consulting business, vulnerable to the whims of the market, has been suffering for the past two years. Worse, most of his business contacts are retiring or getting laid off.

I feel bad for him. He's been applying to jobs for a year now and nothing has worked out. No one wants to hire someone who's going to retire in a couple years. And in this economy, nobody wants to hire anybody period. He's used up all his savings, declared bankruptcy , and is preparing to hear the big ol' F-word: "foreclosure."

Luckily, he's got my stepmom, and she's got a job. It doesn't pay a hell of a lot, but she can buy groceries and gas, and her credit is good.

This Saturday, they thought it would be "fun" to go looking at housing developments they're thinking of moving to. The more affordable ones. Unfortunately, that means moving out of Chapel Hill and into what my stepmom refers to as "hick." We spent four hours driving around the smallest little towns and then turning into housing developments that looked exactly the same. All the homes looked the same, with a tiny backyard and no sidewalks, the earth so freshly scraped that you could still see its reddish coloring under what would soon be well-manicured imported lawns.

I asked them why they wanted me to come, why they want my input. They keep telling me that my opinion is important. But from what I've seen it won't make a difference. They'll just be moving from a more expensive cookie-cutter house to a cheaper cookie-cutter house built next to another cookie-cutter development surrounding a town that will soon get a Wal-Mart. I want to tell them this, but they're so passionate debating the minutiae (Dad doesn't like the criss-cross windows, my stepmom on the lookout for landscaping details); I can see they really care.

And who am I to talk, anyway? After all, I'm about to start looking for somewhere cheap to live in New York City.

Monday, March 24

Don't work for "the man" (even if you like his shows)

With graduation approaching, I've been spending more time than ever searching for a job. I'm pretty savvy at finding jobsites and listings, and have found several summer jobs and internships this way. Looking for a "real" job, though, seems more scary.

I want to find the perfect job. I feel this incredible pressure for this job to be the "right" one, as though it will define me for the rest of my life. It's all right if it's entry level, but it has to be on some kind of path that fits with where I "want to end up" (which, by the way, I don't even know).

I struggle with this all the time. Do I want to be a writer? A director? Producer? Am I drawn to those positions because they represent creative control? It must be the ambitious capitalist in me that wants to reach to the top.

"Do you want to do high art or low art?" My dad asked me tonight, after I had vaguely explained the difference (think art films vs. broadcast TV).

"Well..." I faltered. "I want to have an impact on peoples' lives." A lot of 'high art', I imagine, doesn't get noticed or isn't understandable except to art or film history academics. Impact, in the sense of affecting people outside the elite art world, could be minimal. The trade-off: programs that aren't controversial enough to turn viewers off. Definitely not my style. But still...

"If more people are watching, I can impact more people in the world, right?" (So, sneak something controversial in without people noticing)

"Well, is that really what you want to be spending your time on?"

I pursed my lips. The idea of dedicating my life to something like Project Runway leaves me feeling empty. Sure, people enjoy the show; I was definitely hooked at one point. But I don't know if I want to spend hours upon hours making something about fashion and cat fights.

So, if I follow my dad's advice and work on things because I actually like them and not because I want to brainwash the world*... I feel better about myself, but a little less certain about a steady income.

*Kidding... maybe

Sunday, March 23

Procrastinating on one thing by getting down to work on another

Tonight I was reading a website about time management as a way of procrastinating.

I think that might be the equivalent of what hundreds of addiction memoirs refer to as rock bottom. (I'm being tongue-in-cheek here, but I actually am addicted to procrastinating, so I guess that wasn't too funny.)

Anyway, all pieces of advice on procrastination, no matter how sweet, had an underlying message: "Just freaking do it already!"

"FINE" I said. "But first I will write a blog entry." After all, I've definitely been procrastinating on that.

I recently had several tests done because I've apparently stumped the medical community (two communities, actually, since I'm visiting my dad at the moment). What three doctors had assumed were thyroid problems have been dismissed by a top* endocrinologist as essentially "not my problem, lady." Though my thyroid is 2-3 times normal size and has increased bloodflow, and my blood is full of thyroid antibodies, the doc (who, after waiting for bloodwork to be faxed in, probably wanted me off his back so he could see other patients) told me there's nothing wrong. Seems a little counter-intuitive to me, since earlier in the appointment he had told me that thyroid antibodies are an indication of Graves disease. But hey, he's the one with the degree. When I asked him about my symptoms, specificially the not being able to breathe, he sort of shrugged and said to see a lung specialist.

After admitting I might be going crazy and picking up a book called "Learn to Relax", I began to feel like I was making everything up. On one of the first pages, almost all of my symptoms were listed as results of stress: muscle pain, fatigue, decreased appetite, loss of concentration and memory... Ticking off my symptoms, I smiled as I remembered this last one:

A week before, a friend complained that a mutual acquaintance had called her at 8am (an ungodly hour for a college student).

"She called me too!" I said. "I was already awake for my doctor's appointment, but still... she didn't know that."

"What did she want?" My friend asked.

I couldn't remember what the call had been about. I must have looked like a nutcase sitting there, trying to recall a conversation that had happened only three hours before.

So maybe my symptoms are from stress. That's certainly better than Graves disease, although I've never heard of stress-induced thyroid antibodies. Now I feel a little sheepish about the fact that my "heart palpitations" are bringing me in for an echocardiogram on Wednesday. What if I imagined all of it? I wonder if "Faker" is inscribed on my heart. Sure, it'd be embarrassing, but at least I'd have my answer.

*Source: my stepmom