Monday, July 26, 2010


I've been interviewed seven times in the last few weeks. I've written twice as many cover letters -- all customized for the audience. I've made a daily ritual of checking the non-profit job boards.

I'm not fretful about having to job hunt. I'm fretful that I'm getting in too good of a groove!

To date, I've had to refrain from smiling at least once in each interview . . .
-when the exec said for the third time how much he thought of me but that he wasn't sure if the organization could look outside the box enough to hire someone with my limited qualifications in fundraising,
-when the staff was asked if they had questions for me, and they didn't
-when the board member asked if, in the chance that I didn't get the job, would I still volunteer my time (something I've been doing for 15 years!)
-when the two introverts and I were alone in a warm, white office with nothing but a few pieces of paper, a table, and the quiet between us
-when the young man with a list of questions he must have collected from his interview days asked me what my long term career objectives were (at which point I thought about my response to the older man who interviewed me for my first post-college position and said, "You know we only pay minimum wage, and you're getting your masters." To which I replied, "You know I'd like to eat.")
-when the gum-smacking admissions counselor apologized for the gum -- not for the smacking but for not offering me a piece

And the list could easily go on.

How interesting to be on this side of the desk. Reminds me of the many artists, editors and editorial assistants I interviewed through the years. I hope I always left them feeling heard and affirmed in some way. For the most part, that's certainly been true of my experiences this go around.

I've yet to try what one man pulled with me. He explained that I had to hire him because God had revealed it unto him. One of us was obviously not listening to the same God channel. He was pious, yes. He was NOT a good artist.

I am a good interview. I'm an even better employee. And someday soon, I'll be employed again. Until then, I'm still smiling.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day in the Life of a New Adventure

"What was you favorite subject in high school?" said the gum-smacking admissions counselor with the smoker's rasp.

"Anything to do with writing," I offered, smiling at the fact that the form she was filling out was based on the assumption that the person on the opposite side of her desk would be recently graduated from high school or a GED recipient.

"What was your least favorite?"


"I could have told you that was what you were going to say. Happens all the time during these interviews. If someone liked English or writing, they are going to say they didn't like math. So, if it makes you feel better, you're predictable."

"That maybe the last time you say that during the entirety of this interview."

She laughed, coughed, and smacked some more as we made our way through the form she was adapting on the spot. At one point, she apologized for the long pauses, noting that her usual intake wasn't with people as forthcoming as me. Seems that where she frequently had to pull replies from her candidates, I answered one question with enough information to fill half the application.

For instance, as to why I wanted to receive certification in massage therapy, I responded, "I love working with non-profits but they can't afford to pay me. So I need a skill that will allow me to have the flexibility of working with them -- and thus feed my 'habit' -- while at the same time, help to pay the bills. Also, I believe my life is about rest, restoration, and refreshment for others. I can't think of a better way for me to accomplish that than through the gift of touch."

I think that must have covered questions 6-9 on the form.

She continued to apologize throughout the interview and tour of the facility. Once it was for checking her cell phone. Another time it was for the gum -- not the 'chomping' as she called it (and correctly I might add) but for not offering me a piece. Then it was for the speed at which she talked, the scattered approach, the fact that she had to comply with state rules and tell me everything about the school's offerings, the speed at which she walked. Initially, I replied with "I understand" and "No problem." But after a while, I just let the apologies go.

By the time the tour was half over and I had been introduced to my third bulletin board of students in health professions, I knew I needed to call it quits. But I continued. When she couldn't show me the mall-based storefront where interns offer cut-rate massages and underscored twice that they had increased security after five break-ins in the parking lot, I was fairly sure, I didn't really need to talk to the financial adviser. But I did. The price tag sealed it.

I won't be going to this school.

A short ride later, I walked into a posh spa with the required bubbling brook sounds and water installations around every corner. Everyone was in scrubs. The place smelled of eucalyptus and lavender. The lights were muted. The music and water sounds created the score for the tour. Hydrotherapy, a waterbed massage table, and the fact that by becoming a student I would be given free membership to the gym, pool, and exercises classes sealed the deal. Oh, and the fact that though no financial aid is available, the cost was half the previous place and I get a massage chair when I am finished.

I felt like a snob when I resolved that I was choosing the spa over the mall. But if relaxation is what I want to be about, the decision wasn't a difficult one.

Now I await word from the fulltime position I interviewed for. If that job is offered, then classes won't begin for me until spring 2011 when the next round of night options begin. If the job isn't mine, then I can start in a few weeks.

Either way, I've settled that my next step is not a either/or option. I'm all about the both/and. And this time, I'm getting both learning and position, both education and atmosphere.

And I'm one step closer to that woman I am becoming. (No gum chewing allowed.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Matter of Perspective

I once had a maid, a yard guy, a house with a home office, and . . . the constant feeling that I was failing.

Today I dropped something on the floor and realized that if I didn't pick it up, no one would. A couple of days ago, I weeded the weeds on my front stoop and was satisfied that they looked close enough to wildflowers for me to let them keep growing (at least they are green). I'm typing on a Mac permanently stained by Tanzanian dirt and plugged into the wall because the battery died and I don't want to incur the expense of replacing it. And I am happy.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

New Life, the Sequel to the Sequel

Once July got here, the reality of my situation began to sink in. I'm leaving my job (for which I'm paid regularly) because I no longer want to work in that environment. However, I have no new environment on the horizon. So I'm listening to what others are saying and trying to pay attention.

"Karen, you should let people pay you to do that."

"We'd love to have your skill sets, but as a non-profit with no steady income, we can't afford you."

"You need to be in a creative space."

"Karen gets her energy from touch."

"You're not old."

As a result of comments like these and remembering the inspiring examples of my friend Cam and Larry who both stopped the road they were on and went back to school for a new one, I'm looking at massage therapy school. A program starts Aug. 23. I could be through in six months. I could freelance at night and on the weekends to try and make ends meet but I am also looking at whether I could use my retirement funds without penalty in order to go to school.

I'm nervous, excited, maybe a little worried, and ready.