Solipsism – 7

It just occurred to me that if I hadn’t put myself through the process of acquiring an MBA degree 15 years ago or if my graduate school studies had been free, I would have considered myself in a very happy place at this moment.

I am not questioning the worth of that degree but examining its full worth may be a futile exercise in hair splitting.  Because no matter how many things I put down in the column entitled “Pros”, the “Cons” would forever weigh down the scale, forcing the other side all the way to the ground because it has left me with what appears to be an unerasable debt.  I don’t have enough years left in my working life to be able to erase this debt.  It is almost like those asthma or COPD commercials for the drugs for these conditions.  They always show a lumbering elephant walking around the person playing the part of the asthmatic.  The person playing the part appears somewhat content having consumed the drug being pitched but the elephant never leaves the room, it follows her around at a slow but steady pace.  I suppose these commercials hint at the incurability of these conditions, suggesting that their drug will only temporarily relieve the onerous condition.

I spotted another commercial for a drug for gout a few months ago.  Here the gout afflicted person was initially carrying around a huge, unmanageable and unwieldy jar of bilious green fluid, balancing it on his person, on his car, living his life while carrying this thing around.  Then the drug got prescribed and the jar shrank in size until it was barely visible in his messenger bag.  Well, lucky are the consumers of this drug if the claims made in this commercial are valid.  In my case my various jobs have been an extremely inadequate pill for the bilious loan I am carrying around.

The degree was rendered inadequate in the Bush years, I suppose, and it has never regained its worth or adequacy, joining the ranks of all depreciated things – homes, cars, employable worthiness as a function of advancing age.  It is my elephant in the room or my big jar of gout.

I can ignore it.  I can go days and months without thinking about it, just sending an automatically paid, painful pound of flesh the way of a lender appropriately initialized as SM, every month.  I try to remember the most memorable television miniseries lines ever spoken, “when you are forgotten you cease to exist” [Merlin] and I think of all the wise men who say you can become what you pretend you are.  I’ve tried to visualize it crumbling to dust and disappearing, I have tried to forget it, I have tried to pretend I am debt-free but it sticks around like a big jar of gout or a dolorous, trunk and butt swinging elephant.  Perhaps that’s the big “Pro” – this degree keeps me from being trampled by the object of its own creation.  Circular reference rears it ugly head again.

So much for the enthusiasm of ones twenties when everything seems possible and all dreams are still alive.  Then on come the shackles, in some form.  There are worse shackles in other lives I suppose and again, what purpose will complaining serve? We’ll carry it around till death do us part from it.

I did intend for this solipsistic detour to be somewhat upbeat – note the first three lines where I say I would be in a happy place but for this thing – but I lose my smile when I think of this thing that I can’t possibly afford to not think about.  An extreme evil in the form of capitalized or compounded interest will be wrought on my person if I ever really forgot about it!

So we labor on, relishing momentary joys, doing what we can, never what we would love to do because forgetting it is simply not an option.

Solipsism – 6

Today I got to chat with a cousin who was like a best friend growing up.  She is just a couple of years older than me but on those occasions when we met we never ran out of things to talk about.  We often stayed up all night discussing everything under the sun.  I haven’t seen her since 1996.  But we reconnected on Facebook today.

Through a whole lot of small talk, when I got around to asking her about how other relatives of ours, who live in her city, were doing she said something that carries echoes and reverberations for me. She said that she really wasn’t in touch with anyone else.  She said, “Main bhi sab ki tarah shayad khud hi mein simat gayi hoon“.  That’s not easy for me to translate literally for non-Hindi speakers but it hints at the broad and all-encompassing nature of isolation that we all feel at some level these days.

It is sad to me, this isolation phenomenon, even as I too exhibit signs and symptoms of it.  I never pick up the phone to call anyone if I can help it, I am extremely telephone averse.  Even in the world of online chatting I am least inclined to take the initiative to greet someone unless I am absolutely certain about reciprocation.  I feel that if I greet someone it should yield a conversation, if it doesn’t it leaves bad vibes and niggling, circulating thoughts of rejection; lack of reciprocation being one of my pet peeves.  So a superficial, unadmired and unwanted part of my self prefers a state of protected self-containment.

What’s ironical is that this is not my preferred state.  There is a gregarious conversationalist who likes to talk, listen, laugh and trigger laughs, who is trapped within these solipsistic walls of skin and bone.  In fact I’ve never been able to heal this rift within.  When I look back at my childhood and early youth (because the present times would be my late youth – no doubt!), I was gregarious, and was often called witty and funny when I was in familiar and safe surroundings but I don’t recall a single day of going to school, or work in later years, where I was free of fear and anxiety.  I was scared of my teachers, my classmates, bad bosses, I never said a word in class, I never asked any questions, I never raised my hand.  I tried to render myself as invisible as possible, all the while wishing that this wasn’t so, wishing that I could be the same person I was at home.  Things eventually changed quite a bit, with some conscious effort, but I am still not the one resolved entity who is the person I like, who is trapped within.

But it is this person who answered my cousin in these words, “Mujhe to bahot curiosity hai sab ke bare mein. Kaash itna time hota ki India mein sab se mil pati, sab ko hamesha apne dayare mein rakh pati.”

I want to know about every cousin, every uncle, every aunt, every old classmate, every friend I’ve ever had.  I never want to lose sight of anyone I care/cared about.  That’s why I will never fall out of love with social networks. I am puzzled and confused by people who don’t find it worth their while to keep a permanent connection going with everyone they’ve ever known.  I am not capable of understanding it.  I am the one person who means it when she says, “stay in touch”, after a gathering or congregation of like-minded souls and perhaps the only one saddened by the inevitability of falling out of touch.

Well, the conversation with my cousin was one of the highlights of the day.  Nothing happened as I had planned last night, none of the things I talked about in “Solipsism – 5” came true.  The violin will still happen but the cooking, the baking or the tennis didn’t happen since the baby of the family decided that she would rather spend the day with a friend.  She went to the mall and came back looking like this:

What can I say! The person trapped inside her is a Hernando, sadly!

Hernando’s parents spent the day driving around listening to the music collection on my iPod and browsing at Target where Anil wanted to find an ottoman that would fit with ease within my workspace for the times when he wants to sit next to me while I work.  We found a good one at Target.  When he is not sitting on it, I can use it to elevate my legs for ideal blood circulation while working.

On the car ride back we were making random lists.  He made a list of women on screen who have epitomized the beauty ideal for him over the years.  It is a pretty unusual selection:

1) Nutan
2) Jennifer Connelly

3) Tanuja – only in that one 3 minute long song from Jewel Thief.  He says she had a very chipmunk-y face in most movies but in that one song she was magical.

4) Olivia Newton John

5) Believe it or not – Meenakshi Seshadri

He has apparently spotted something divine in all these faces.

It was my turn, and my preferences were based on the feelings that each one inspired early on, during a single viewing:

1) The actor who had a lead role in the movie Love Bug – Dean Jones.  When I saw the movie at the age of 13 or 14, he epitomized America for my America-addled brain.  I could have watched the movie a million times.

2) Bill Murray in his role in the movie Razor’s Edge.

3) The idea of Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind.

4) Michael Douglas in anything.

5) Robert Downey Jr., in anything, these days.

No Clooneys or Pitts on my list, they aren’t bad but they are too universally admired for my tastes.

Next, he started a list of a single most admired trait in anyone on screen and came up with the way Madeline Kahn giggled in all those glorious comedies and Jack Lemmon’s nervous laugh.  I thought it was an interesting list to compile, I agreed with his choices. I had never given much thought to a compilation of this nature but I would go with the following:

1) Jack Nicholson’s character and how he let his misogyny get tortured out of him in the movie, “As Good As It Gets”.  As a woman I should hate this scene, but I loved how he delivered it:

2) Also, loved the special ironic style Gene Wilder displayed in all his movies, especially this one, “Fuzzy Wuzzy was a woman?” – I never stopped laughing during this movie:

3) Alec Baldwin in 30 Rock, on SNL, even the Capital One commercials.

And tonight the list making will continue now that we’re bitten by the bug…


Solipsism – 5

Worked another thirteen hour day.  One thing kept leading to another.  Most of this work entails going down various rabbit holes to find the one thread that will connect all actions and consequences together.  I like following the logic and looking for the one thing that will tie all things together, neatly, with a pretty red bow on top.  I despise clutter and unholy messes of thought and action and I could lose myself in a succulent mess that needs straightening out.

But the longer I live the more the realization that a balanced approach to “work” and “life” is a pipe dream, at least for me, hits home.  Out of the two I’ll always tilt toward the one that engages my mind to its maximum potential and somehow “life” always loses while chasing this dream.

I’ll use the weekend to give life a nice head start tomorrow.  Starting with a full night’s sleep, cooking a healthy breakfast for everyone, baking stuff, exercising, playing tennis with the family, now that we found an indoors court.  A two hour violin practice session will do my soul some good too.  We’ll end Saturday with a movie or two and repeat all of the above on Sunday.  This still doesn’t account for any reading or writing time, that appears to be a luxury that is still somewhat out of reach.

With this much of a handicap, one hopes life can finally take the lead in this race.  Perhaps we’ll be able to restrict all work and all thoughts of work within the nine to five range starting Monday, one can dream.

Read everything I wrote above and now I am yawning with boredom! So yawwwwwn…bye for now.

Solipsism – 4

There is something to be said about writing, at least as far as I am concerned.  I have been successful in increasing the number of hours I devote to sleep each day, over the last three days.  This is a good way to throw down some sandbags and…take flight? Not yet.  Not quite yet.  We are still missing a target destination and perspective.

In other news, and in the vein of feeling heartsick about leeching any negativity out there through inconsequential thought meanders – tragedy struck very close to home today.

We live a few miles away from Budd Lake in New Jersey.  It has always been like our very own Lake Geneva.  Its beaches are a popular community destination in the summer time and in the winter people use its frozen surface for ice skating or ice fishing.  Our winters in New Jersey are not as harsh as they are in other parts of the country.  However, we do get a couple of weeks of deep freeze, never more.

This past weekend we were driving by the lake and, for Anoushka’s benefit, I pointed toward the lake, at some sailboats.   I couldn’t stare left too long. I was driving.  But she spotted several people out on the ice, walking.  We remarked at how confused we were that people could sail and skate in the same lake, at the same time.  Obviously some parts of the lake were frozen solid, some were not.

Last night we heard the news about two teenagers who had walked out on the lake over the weekend, about a 100 feet in, at 6:00 pm, when the world here is already pitch black, with intentions of ice fishing.  They never came back.  The body of one of them has been found by the divers, the other boy is still missing.  State police divers are doing their best and working around the clock to find him.

These boys were alive last week, this week their parents, their friends, their family are wondering how they will ever go on.  Some people heard them screaming for help, saying they didn’t want to die, but in the darkness none of them could pinpoint the exact location of the calls.  They are shaken, we all are.  But they heard the screams and couldn’t do a thing. There is no one to blame.

The difference between being here and not is just that one instant that was forever out of our grasp.

I’ve lived long enough by now to take note of people being there – living, breathing, laughing, expressing opinions, making plans, lamenting failed plans, envying others, sharing their successes, their lives, their loves through social media or through poetry scribbled on ceiling fans and walls and journals – one moment and gone the next, leaving in their wake all these things that they will never know about, severed from everything that was about to happen after that one instant that was out of our grasps.  The devastated people they leave behind, who hug each other around wreaths being laid and candles being lit, asking, “Why him? Why her? Why not me?” are the only people who feel death going about its sterile business, affecting only the living.

This moment is the only one that matters.  The past is important but irrelevant despite the best efforts of our minds trying to convince us it matters more than it does.  It creeps around like ivy, latching on wherever it can find purchase.

The future is an unknown abyss.  We only know this moment.  We won’t even be the same persons tomorrow that we are in this moment.  Despite this we spend our lives in the long and ominous shadows of memories taunting us with scars of abandoned dreams and abandoned plans, demanding a core consistency from all future endeavors, acting as the all-important arbiters of success or failure, wielding the choice and consequence baton, as we labor on enslaved.

And yet, what would we be without our memories, the single thing that stitches us together and keeps our changing, morphing, evolving selves strung together in an arrangement that passes for the face we present to the world.

Perhaps the right thing to do then is to reject these insidious demands of core consistency from our memories and shake things up a bit, live a little, view ourselves and present ourselves to the world as someone who acknowledges the past, takes what lessons it brings and uses these lessons as catalysts for our next iteration or next avatar.  Pearl necklaces are boring, I’d rather be a collection of carnelian, chalcedony, coral, turquoise and jasper. Why ever not?

Certainly something to think about.

Solipsism – 3

This was the third night of sleeplessness.  Once again it was unintentional.  I was on track with my schedule and tucked myself in at 11:30 pm but I was still gazing at the clock at around 4:00 am.  By the time I got sleepy it was time to wake up again to get Anoushka fed and ready for school.

I had made myself a list of things that needed to happen in order to get me back on track: workout, work, lunch, work, violin, dinner, some light entertainment (reading, television viewing) and bed.  Except for work, lunch and dinner I failed at everything else.

Tomorrow is another day, or so they say.

I’ll attempt going to bed at a reasonable hour again but I don’t know if oblivion will be easy to achieve.  The niggling thoughts last night took the shape of a visit, several years ago, with someone who calls herself a psychic.  The only thing she told me was that I carried anger within. I laughed it off at that time because I’ve never considered myself an angry person, certainly not someone who lets anger fester.  I laugh away too many of my failures to ever consider myself angry. 

But on sleepless nights when one’s thoughts are a convoluted mass of confusion, ugliness is well within the realm of possibilities.  I was angered beyond reason at the fact that I was a victim of cost-cutting twice within the last three years.  I was angry at myself for chasing dollars and leaving jobs that I never should have left.  I was furious at the people who make hiring decisions, appointing people in roles that would always be challenged in tough economic times and I couldn’t believe my stupidity in not questioning these hiring managers or asking them, during the interview, when they said, “any questions?”, about the potential longevity of positions in which I was interested.

I cursed out an old boss in this state of sleep deprivation for saying to me that they all felt stupid if I took a vacation, for saying that I was the voice of reason for them, for involving me in major decisions, for relying on my analysis for most of the cost-cutting decisions that were made while I was there and then for writing me out of the budget when I was the one predicting a budgetary shortfall.  I couldn’t stop thinking these thoughts in endless, unresolved loops.  I couldn’t believe I was so easily taken in, so eager to believe what amounts to nothing but the shoveling of copious amounts of bovine stercus by all concerned.

After I had spewed out all this ugliness from one part of my brain to another, my thoughts took on a post mortem aspect as I asked myself where I had gone wrong and whether I had ever made a decision of which I could be proud.  I thought hard.  I couldn’t come up with a thing.  There is something within that ensures a perennial falling short in the view of my sleepless conscience.

This is just what happens at night.  I tend to regain my equilibrium during the day as I tell myself that I am being too hard on myself, that it’s really as easy as marking down points A and B on a mental map and finding a way to span the distance.  It’s a shame that instead of contemplating the means to span this distance at night, just before falling asleep, my thoughts turn on me in attack mode.

So anger, yes, I probably carry some within.  But it is all self-directed.  There’s anger at particular circumstances and the bit players who played a role in the manifestation of said circumstances, but that’s all superficial.  I am mostly angry at myself for becoming a victim of that circumstance, at always being acted upon, rather than being an actor.  The rational “day time” version of me is determined to never become someone who is “acted upon” again.  But the nights are defined by self-flagellation and hair shirts.

And really how shameful is all of this? The only thing that’s keeping me anxious and awake all night is how I rehash job losses that don’t even have a bearing on my present circumstances.  I have moved on to a role where I am more in charge of my destiny.  Why then?

There are countless others with countless real problems.  Some are shivering in their cold homes because after Hurricane Sandy their power never came back, some lost their homes, so many lost their children to the guns wielded by a mad man, there are so many things that are worth contemplating, to which one can devote countless sleepless nights.

I know I am blessed.  Why then can’t I learn to act like I am?

Solipsism – 2

It’s almost 8 pm.  I woke up at half past noon after having stayed up till about 4 am in the morning.  No, I wasn’t working this time.  I gave myself the weekend off.  We were watching a movie – Of Love and Shadows – about the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.  Anil searched the entire Netflix library and came up with this one because it starred one of his favorites – Jennifer Connelly. He can’t pass on any movies starring Ms Connelly. 
Antonio Banderas was in it too.  I remarked at the radiant and dewy quality of his complexion.  In fact, he is the only actor whose poster I’ve ever had up on a wall near me (of course this was back in the early 1990s).  We agreed that there was some eye candy for both of us in this movie as we settled in to watch. Not a bad movie at all, even though it wasn’t as good as Isabel Allende’s novel.  No movie ever does justice to the novel on which it is based.
Well, that was the reason I slept in on Sunday and had to wake up with a start when I realized that violin lessons were starting again after a three week long break where I didn’t pick up my instrument even once.  I hadn’t missed a single day of practice until three weeks ago but the recent spell of lethargy has been so pervasive that I haven’t done anything that fit my former definition of myself…even though these occasional spells of lethargy are, unfortunately, a part of my personality.  
The main source of discontent is always about not having written something/anything down because that is the only thing that makes me feel good, that brings me a modicum of satisfaction.  As one can see, there isn’t much to write about.  Such is life these days.  There are no interesting conversations, no insights, no expectations, no grand desires, no newness.  
Some suggest one should write what one knows.  There was a time when I was learning and growing and seeking progress but I haven’t sought these things in quite some time.  Now I only know stagnation, it seems.  I don’t have a sense of what lies ahead and I don’t know what I should want from myself.  I used to think contentment was a vaunted ideal but I now think discontent and flux is a preferred state, it ensures an appetite.  
All I know is that these blog posts will appear with some regularity now.  The things that stopped me from living in my head, from showing how self-absorbed I am, through words on a blog, have ceased to matter.  I want to write about how I am feeling at the moment, after all, this is what Michel de Montaigne did in the sixteenth century when he documented every feeling, every want, every need, every experience, no matter how bland or irrelevant. He even locked himself away in a tower in order to write about his feelings! Why not make him a role model? 
These period dramas are really getting to me, making me seek role models from over 500 years ago!
I need to explore what this is, this place that feels like an island between happiness and unhappiness, a place of eerie, stagnant calm.  Is this it? Or can I get a boat ride out of here to a place where some goals and targets are still in sight?
And if anyone chances upon these posts and thinks I need some talking to, just think of these lines from a Billy Joel song, “When I’m deep inside of me, don’t be too concerned, I won’t ask for nothing while I’m gone…” 
These posts do not warrant a concerned phone call or a solicitous inquiry on Facebook.  Those should only happen when one is unhappy or depressed.  I am neither.  Like I said, I am in a contented, zero expectation, no happiness-no unhappiness state of being.  I have my moments of joys, sorrows, excitement but it all settles in on a flat-lined average at the moment.  
One day it will change.  For now I know I’ll sleep well because some black letters have crawled across the screen.

Solipsism – 1

A few days ago my Facebook cover photo displayed the image of a woman wearing her house.  It was the photograph of a photograph displayed at MOMA.  The idea was intriguing to me for several reasons.

For years spaces have given me something to think about.  I remember a house we used to visit as kids; the house of my late aunt.  She lived in what we used to think of as a posh Patna neighborhood.  The homes there were huge with lawns, balconies, porticoes and armies of servants, not something we were used to seeing in a barsati or a duplex in Delhi.  Without launching into the other materialistic attributes of my aunt’s house, let me just say that the house was her and she was the house.  One couldn’t imagine one without the other.  It was as if she shared her DNA with the house, it was so much a part of her.

What is a house except for a space enclosed within four walls, a ceiling and a floor, just bricks and mortar (or wood and metal here in the US)? I realized it was so much more when we visited the house after my formidable aunt passed away.  That home had lost its soul in a very palpable way even though she was the only member of her large family who was now missing.  Something, some crucial essence had left those spaces and even as a kid I could feel it and sense it at some indescribable level.

I felt another instance of this affinity for spaces when I spent a couple of nights at a friend’s home in Delhi.  I was there for just two nights.  I hung out in many different spots in her house – the couch in her bedroom where we shared a cup of tea, her porch that looked on to an immaculately maintained garden where we had our breakfast, the dining table where I chatted with her mother-in-law about some memories that could only have been considered shared memories had we lived in the same place at the same time but felt so anyway.  I felt welcomed in her house, embraced by her space.  Now when I see pictures of her home, her garden, the ivy on her walls, the Gurjari furniture on her patio, it all feels so familiar, so much a part of me.

Another such space is a retreat in the Berkshire mountains in New York.  I have spent a few days there, once with my husband, once by myself and once with my daughter.  The grounds there, the vegetation, the openness of design when it comes to the rooms and the meditation spaces gives me a strange sense of attachment despite it being someone else’s space, someone else’s home.

A picture that became a Facebook cover photo for me next was Van Gogh’s famous painting of a room – Bedroom in Arles.  One could stare at this bedroom in Arles forever and wonder about the artist.  The bed is situated at an angle that blocks the door.  Perhaps it hints at an aversion to uninvited intruders, perhaps it also hints at the occupant’s reluctance about leaving this room.  All he needs appears to be in the room, some food, some water, some clothes and what appears to be his life’s work, including a self-portrait.  It appears to be an attempt at fusing his identity with the space he inhabited during his Arles days. At least that’s how it appears to me.

There must be a million different insights into Van Gogh’s reasons for painting the bedroom in Arles.  I am simply thinking about my home as I think through everything I’ve said above.  I rarely leave it these days.  I think of things I wrote in the past where I referred to my town being a bedroom community.  I felt no connection to my own home those days.  I came home just to sleep.  Now I never leave home if I can help it.  I don’t want for a thing that is to be had outside.  The seasons don’t bother me; I couldn’t carry out weather-based small talk if I had to, it’s always 70 degrees Fahrenheit where I am.  My car doesn’t get started for days, I sit here day after day, my face lit by the fluorescence from the computer screen as I solve someone else’s problems with extraordinary zeal.

This “extraordinary zeal” hints at a surreal immersion, some form of narcotization or escape.  It’s as if some invisible force is blurring the lines that defined me, that made me feel distinct, things like a desire to express myself through words, to read what others have written, to sing, to play music, to even watch television, are distant memories  These days I just lose myself in work, completely.  When I do glance up the sun is about to rise again sans the sensation of a new day, new beginnings.

I am an entity that wears my house and loses some of its essence to an extraordinary zeal about something that probably doesn’t deserve such devotion.

The spaces that feel so familiar and so comforting are perhaps only so when one gets an occasional, tantalizing glimpse at what’s within.

Day 4

Christmas Day.  It’s a quiet day, a lazy day.  The one day of the year where there’s no agenda and one can just be, surrounded by family, food, hot cocoa, scattered and shredded gift wrapping paper and opened boxes.  It’s a day when it’s futile to worry about the silent phone.  No prospective employer would call on this day, so the phone can be comfortably silent; not feeling my eyes boring into its plastic shell, willing it to ring.  Tomorrow is Sunday, another day to just be.

If things hadn’t changed I would have been worrying about the snow we’re supposed to get tomorrow and on Monday.  I would have worried about my commute.  I would have worried about how I would look to my bosses if I told them I’m scared of getting out on the road when it snows and that I’d like to work from home.  Things like that used to gnaw at my insides.  So I am thankful.  Snowy days and Mondays won’t have the power to get me down for awhile.  I might even get to build a snowman with my daughter. 

I need to work on my resume…

Day 3

It’s Christmas Eve and I do feel the love.  I am surrounded by well-wishers.  Some say I shouldn’t be sad, some tell me to think of this as a much needed break that should be spent resting, relaxing and hugging my child.  It’s all good advice.  I need to hear what they are saying to me.  I am listening, absorbing and also waiting for the words that no one has uttered yet.  No one has told me not to worry, at least not with confidence.  The way I tell my daughter that a shot is nothing to worry about, that it will be no more than a pinprick and that’s it.  There’s no one around to tell me that.

I’ve taken a good look at how I feel about all this and I know I am not sad.  The misery is over, the misery of feeling like nothing but an expensive piece of furniture at work.  I haven’t felt more invisible anywhere than I did at this place.  I was quiet about my work, I knew no one except my next door neighbor.  I was able to amaze and amuse a few people with my caustic turn of phrase sometimes but otherwise I was suffocating in a pervasive state if invisibility.  I was spending four hours commuting each day just to go to a place so lacking in warmth, intelligence, a sense of community, goals, long term vision, effective leaders.  So sadness isn’t something I feel.  I had considered quitting and walking out like some others had before me; one had gone off on a “walkabout”, another had simply walked out one day, never to return.  I guess I play safe.

So no, I am far from sad but there’s a worm within and it’s eating at me from the inside.  There’s nothing I can do about it.  People can console you through your sadness and there are so many things in the world to be sad about, job loss isn’t one of them.  But what to do about worries?  How does one chase them away?

Perhaps it has something to do with age.  When I left home and traveled 10,000 miles to start a new life for myself as a stranger in a strange land I don’t remember being worried.  I had faith in myself, my self-confidence might even have been enviable to others.  It seems to have vanished now.  I don’t know if I can pull it off again.

Day 2

It didn’t matter that the Jimi Hendrix song released on May 12, 1967 was about an entirely different sort of experience.  It was an anthem of a generation that wasn’t preoccupied, not then, with the mundane realities of bosses, jobs, promotions and this very establishment concept of ‘experience’.  It still kept popping up in my aural and visual fields when I first got serious about a post-MBA corporate career in the year 1998.  As though hearing the song everywhere wasn’t enough William Sutcliffe even wrote a book called “Are You Experienced?” in 1998.  I started seeing subway and bus faces hidden behind the covers of this book.

I imagined baby-boomer bosses and hiring managers, now all grown up, sitting in plush chairs behind large desks and asking me in that classic Hendrix way, “Are you experienced?”

My resume could fit on one page in 1998 and because I wasn’t experienced enough the experts suggested I display my MBA education at the very top.  All I heard back then was “experience, experience, you need experience, you don’t have enough experience.”  When I discussed the futility of a day’s efforts with loved ones I used to complain about the dilemma of finding a way to get experienced without being experienced in the first place.

Like all desperate phases that phase passed and I was able to jump from one experience to the next over the next 12 years.  The resume went from a page to three pages, each experience leading to a job that was similar to the one where the previous experience was earned. 

I am older, wiser and more experienced now.   They can’t deny I am experienced.  Except as I stand here, one step poised at the threshold of a very crowded job marketplace, I am learning that “experience” is a perishable commodity with a set shelf life.  By the time you earn enough experience it’s already too late.

Almost like bananas.  You buy them at the supermarket when they still look green.  You leave them in your fruit bowl and watch them as they turn a lighter shade of green and a little yellow the next day and then you better eat them right away if you have an aversion to the overripe, very yellow and soft-on-the-inside kind, the kind that’s only good enough to be mashed up for banana bread.  Yes indeed, an experienced person is exactly like an overripe banana that no one wants…unless they love banana bread.

My friends in the recruitment industry are telling me that I am too old to sell myself based on education alone and selling myself on 22 years of steadily growing experience ages me and makes me look too old and too overqualified.  I am now asked to make some changes to the resume where I look as though I only have a few strong years of relevant experience.

Well, no problem.  I’ll get working on that right away.  I am still too young to become banana bread.  As I start trimming, restructuring, finding a young and smart looking font and selecting powerful keywords, keeping in mind that the keyword emphasis has shifted from action verbs to hard-hitting nouns during my years of gainful employment, I can’t help but wonder about the absurdity of it all.

There was an article in The New York Times today about a town in Alabama where true to financial predictions the pension fund for town employees ran dry by 2009.  Retirees here stopped getting pension checks.  Some went back to work in their late sixties and others became dependent on the charity of others.  They ran a race all their lives only to hit a dead end, a concrete wall at the end of their race with absolutely no way out.

This is life in all its absurd glory and I am willing to embrace it with all the joie de vivre I possess at this moment. 

Day 2 brought this realization home.  The draft of the new resume is open in another window on this computer.  That window is minimized for the moment, the task is a dreary one and there are too many distractions at home.   I might have to go to the sunny periodicals room of MOPL again to get this done.

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