Saturday, December 29, 2007

..and back to the job search

All right you HR people who have been out of the office in December: it's time to pick up that pile of resumes (or rather, open those computer files of resumes that have been emailed to you) and see mine. And contact me.

Staring into the abyss of no job at all in January has sobered me up about leaving the restaurant before I even have a solid temporary job to report to. So I'm going to go to an even more reduced weekend schedule in January, while I keep my weekdays free for office work. I just couldn't bear the prospect of not knowing when I'd ever be making a deposit to my bank account again. It was just too bleak.

But as soon as I either 1) land a permanent job, or 2) secure a long-term, temporary assignment, I'm outta there. As long as it happens before the Chinese New Year, I'm good. Working Chinese New Year in a Chinese restaurant is just too crazy hectic for me.

Why do people get so happy when someone tells them they're getting married?

Sometimes marriage is good. Sometimes marriage is bad. At least half of all American marriages end in divorce. Plenty of couples had no business getting together in the first place, especially to have children (poor children). I think many of us know how badly parenthood can go.

So why do engagements receive mostly positive responses? Even the most indifferent co-worker usually offers a "Congratulations," even if they could really care less. There's huge cultural pressure to participate in, or at least not oppose, the general good cheer and optimism that result when a friend or co-worker gets engaged.

If marriage so often goes badly, why do people get so happy at the prospect of another one?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Santa Claus, Why?

I was watching "The Polar Express" on Christmas Eve, which is the story of how a little boy goes from not believing in the existence of Santa, to believing. There are several movies and stories with the same plot line and I wonder why. Why is it important to make children believe there's a Santa Claus? It's such a blatant, almost cruel lie. No matter how hard a parent tries to make their child believe there really is a Santa Claus, there's no preventing the child's eventual maturity and realization that there really isn't.

Is it to make the child happy, believing in an unlimited source of toys and presents? Is it to enforce rules by evoking an entity who rewards good behavior? Is it practice so that the child will do well believing in God?

I think the ultimate disappointment that comes when a child learns that there is no actual Santa Claus isn't worth any of those motivations. And it is inevitable that every child will figure it out. There's only so long you can explain the multiple Santas at Christmastime, the impossibility of Santa's omniscience, the incredible accomplishment of hitting every domicile in the world at exactly midnight, local time.

Kids are gonna figure it out and when they do, it's gonna hurt. So why do parents bother? Just to be mean?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Paperwork

At the beginning of the dinner shift, the office manager called me into her office and told me, "At 7:00 tonight, you're going to get a party of six at table 84. Here's their credit card on file. Just charge their bill to this Amex." I took the paperwork and thought, "Great. A guaranteed six-top."

At about five minutes to 7:00, sure enough, a group of six people were seated at table 84 and I went to greet them. Unfortunately, they said the table was too dark and requested to be moved. Easy come, easy go, I thought. I handed the paperwork over to their new server and explained the situation to him about the credit card on file and moved on.

About fifteen minutes later, a group of eight was seated at table 84. I thought, "All right. Maybe this group will be even better than that other one." Sure enough, they cooperatively ordered bottles of wine and lots of food and even coffee and dessert. They ran up a huge bill and I felt happy that my other group had been replaced with this one. I was sure that the first group hadn't ordered nearly as much since they had eaten and left in little time.

As the restaurant closed, I dropped the check for my eight-top. The man who seemed to be in charge picked up the check and said, "I believe this is all taken care of right? You have our credit card on file?"

Oh, no.


I'm a professional, no matter the industry, so I only stared at him for a second before I smiled and chirped, "Oh, sure. I'll be right back!" Ahhhh! Manager, please!

Yes, we charged the wrong party. And that first group never even said anything when they were told that their bill was taken care of! Can you believe it? Thank god they only rang up about $150, as opposed to my table which really ran up a bill. Of course, we quickly removed that first charge from the card and got everything straightened out. I just have a hard time believing the first six people breezily accepted a free meal and walked out.

People!

Almost o-o-u-t

Yesterday I talked to the general manager about leaving the restaurant to go back to office work. I told her that starting in January, I'd be working with some temp agencies and would need my weekdays free, but I could keep working weekend shifts if they need me. She said they might not, which means I might be finished with waitressing at the end of the month!

What a sudden shift in my immediate future. I'm excited as well as nervous since, of course, I don't have a new job yet. But I have hope that one of these staffing agencies could be my connection to my next positon. Or maybe one of the dozens of companies I've been applying to will actually contact me once we're all done with wrapping paper and sugar cookies. Please let me start getting some responses to my resume soon!

Suckily, I'm scheduled to work dinner shifts on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, but I'll console myself with the knowlege that after these next few weeks, I will never wait tables again. Ever.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I Quit

If I'm quitting music, I might as well ask: so who wants to hear these songs I've been rehearsing and recording and trying to find a buyer for? I'll try to think of a fair price and decide if I want to just fling these songs into the world without a proper CD or copyright. Regardless of my failure, I can at least see if anyone wants to hear this stuff.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Quitters Win

(Part One)
Earlier today I was writing to a friend with whom I haven't spoken in months. I wrote him that I'm discouraged about my music. Again. I've had no luck with TAXI.com (the service that hooks up musicians with people who want to buy songs for film/tv placement or for another artist to record). But more disturbing than my failure to sell my songs, is my indifference to music. I'm disappointed at how driven I'm not. Years ago, I wrote songs as a way to deal with confusion and pain, a way to make sense of life and sort through how I felt about things. Music just came out of me without even trying. It was what I needed to do, like eating and breathing. That was my relationship with music. I knew I was a musician because it was just what I did.

Now I suspect that music was just a coping mechanism. I wrote, performed and recorded the most music when I was the most miserable. Now that I've finally (at the age of 41) settled into a wonderful, domestic relationship with a man who makes me happy, I just don't get the same high from making music. I don't even get the same pleasure from it. I rarely practice my songs, have no interest in performing and haven't written a song in - years? And I really don't care!

In September I joined a community choir and worked for three months to prepare for a Christmas concert. I should be at that concert right now, but tonight I'm sick and have almost no speaking voice. Singing is out of the question. Yet I don't feel very disappointed. I'm missing out on performing all this Christmas music with beautiful harmonies and a full orchestra and I'm like "Eh, so what." That's not how I'm used to feeling about music!

So I'm confused and feeling like I'm really not a musician. How can I be when making music seems so much a a part of my past? I don't know. Maybe I'm really one of those people who tries to enjoy their job (once I find one), but doesn't really have any true bliss in their life and feels dissatisfied, like something's missing, but doesn't know what to do because they don't think of themselves as an artist of any kind. Ugh.

(Part Two)
Later in the afternoon I picked up the January 2008 issue of Oprah magazine. It has two articles that feel relevant to my situation with music. In one of them, "Know When to Fold 'Em," Martha Beck describes how great quitting can be. I'll paraphrase. Psychologists Gregory Miller and Carsten Wrosch studied two groups of people: ones who hate to quit and ones who tend to give up in the face of what appear to be insurmountable difficulties. The second group had a lot fewer health problems than the first (such as digestive trouble and skin rashes -- my two lifelong burdens!) and had fewer signs of psychological stress. Miller and Wrosch found that people who try but don't succeed eventually become depressed at their ongoing failure. Those who give up earlier do better psychologically than those who keep trying and keep feeling like failures.

Quitters are better off than try-try-again-ers!

The other article seems to contradict the first and I wonder why the O Magazine staff put them in the same issue. In "The Willpower Myth" Stephanie Losee explains that the key to real change, whether it's adjusting diet and exercise to avoid another heart attack or getting off drugs and learning to keep a job, is having a mentor you can truly relate to. She writes that having a relationship with someone who's like you, but has succeeded where you have failed, has a powerful effect on one's self-image. In other words, if you're looking at someone in whom you can see yourself, you think, "If she can do it, I can."

This makes sense to me. If I hear that Carny Wilson successfully lost 100 pounds, I think, "Of course. Wealthy, famous people can do whatever they want. But I can't." The same will happen if I hear Bonnie Raitt's long tale of paying dues before she got famous. Her background and resources were so different from mine, it's not an inspiring story. It just confirms that I don't have what it takes to be a successful musician (and by "successful" I mean "paid").

But if I were to meet another middle class, Anglo-raised, Hispanic, older woman who had no musicians or musical resources in her family or environment, who spent the first half of her life having nothing to do with music, but who then changed her whole life to become a successful (PAID) singer, that might make me start to think there's hope for me. Specifically, I'd need hope that I someone will pay me for my songs and I can earn at least part of a living from music.

I've always regretted the lack of true role models in my life. I've never met anyone who served as a mentor for me, mainly because I've lived my life in the white, dominant U.S. culture and few people in that culture look like me. I've wondered what could be possible for me if I didn't always to have to forge my own path, hoping I'm getting things right.

After reading these two articles, I'm wondering: do I seek out a role model I can relate to and be inspired by, someone with whom I have enough in common that I can believe that what was possible for her is possible for me? Or just give up? I have to say, I'm not feeling very motivated to begin a big long search for a singer like me with whom I can forge an inspiring relationship.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Blunder

I'm so excited: my Christmas shopping is all done. I ordered some great things from Sharper Image for my boyfriend. I've been looking forward to giving them to him because they're things he wouldn't think of himself, but he totally needs them.

When we order things that are shipped UPS, we usually have them shipped to Bob at his work because it's so hard to be home when UPS comes by. I regularly tell Bob I have some packages coming to him, but he should just bring them home for me to open. Bob's not a curious person, so this works pretty well. Someone at work receives the boxes, then he gets them and just brings them to me.

On Thursday I checked the shipments online and noticed that two of them had already arrived, a week earlier. That was strange. They don't usually let boxes sit around without notifying the recipient. I asked Bob to check for them.

When Bob asked about the boxes, it turned out they had arrived, but no one had told him. Worse, the person who received the boxes had opened them, so Bob was handed the unwrapped presents. My surprises were ruined!

Now what do I do? I don't want to give him gifts he's already seen, especially when they got handed to him in such an unceremonious way. I can't believe someone opened boxes addressed to someone else and then didn't even inform the person the items were there. I'm so disappointed.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Repeal the 21st Amendment!

Hey, everybody, I just found out that today, December 5th is the anniversary of the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution, repealing the Eighteenth Amendment, which prohibited the sale and transportation of intoxicating liquors. Today is the anniversary of the end of Prohibition.

But since I don't drink, I can't celebrate this in the obvious way. In fact, I hate the taste of alcohol and have given up trying to like it. In fact, working in the restaurant industry has schooled me in just how idiotic people become when they drink, plus I regularly hear more about the harmful effects of alcohol, especially on women (the U.S. Department of Health recommends that women drink only one drink a day or LESS, in order to avoid health problems).

As I see it, alcohol is just bad: it tastes bad, it's bad for you and it too often contributes to people behaving badly. Why did the U.S. government ever repeal Prohibition? Bring Prohibition back! Ban all alcohol!

Monday, December 03, 2007

December, finally!

Last spring I had more than one dream that I was strolling down a street adorned with Christmas decorations, feeling so happy that my favorite time of year was here. But each time I would wake up to the disappointment of March or April or June. Maybe other grownups are thinking, "How can it be December already?" but I'm so happy that my long wait is over. It's December, FINALLY!

Thanks to everyone who has been encouraging me in my job search. Apparently it is impossible to be taken seriously as a job candidate during the holidays, plus companies are too busy to respond to applicants and set up interviews. So I'm sort of half-hunting at this point.

I'm shifting my focus from "gotta-find-a-new-job, gotta-find-a-new-job" to enjoying my favorite season of the year, and appreciating my final weeks at my current restaurant job because these ARE my final weeks there. There's no way in hell I'm working another Chinese New Year at a Chinese restaurant.

I'm going to accept that I'm not going to find a new job now and I won't be starting at a new position on January 7th (which I was imagining because in 2001 I DID start a new position on January 8th, so there!). Instead, I will relax and focus on all the great things December brings because come January all the twinkling lights and frosted cookies will be gone and that's when I'll resume my job hunt in FULL FORCE.

So Merry Christmas and may my New Year dreams come true.