How to Win at Life, from Some Chick in the Times

I have recently faced my demon (one of my demons?) that is a) my fear of failure, which is actually related to b) my fear of being rejected for the imagined expectations by the socioeconomic class of my upbringing. Yes: I am afraid of failure to meet non-existent expectations. Let me tell you, it makes that dark head space really entertaining.

For those who don’t know, the socioeconomic class in question is the socioeconomic class of doctors and lawyers and Wall Street investment bankers. Functionally, this meant I grew up with the innate social pre-emption that service = lower class = bad. So when I found myself in the service industry—which was fine as a high schooler, less fine but acceptable (and attributable to “taking time”) just after college, and now, at 25, causes me to hedge answers to “what do you do?” by leading with my occasional freelance work, only at the end adding the fact that, 30-40 hours a week, I sling joe. That’s right, nay-sayers. Career barista, right here. And, in case you weren’t clear, I dig it.

Soak THAT one in.

According to some people (like parents, who I am disinclined to believe because it is in their DNA to make me feel better no matter what), these expectations are imagined. But they’re not. They’re not necessarily expressed, certainly not in my household, but they are by my peers to each other, to my peers by their parents and mentors, and by society/”The Media” in every pop culture depiction of twenty-somethings. We are almost always depicted as being gainfully (read: non-service-industry) employed, and if not, in hot pursuit of that happiest of endings.

The fact that these expectations (which I may or may not imagine) make me feel terrible about myself on a daily basis is why this article, forwarded to me by my mother with pure intentions, made me so gosh darned angry.

Read it, and come back.

This girl makes me angry because THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH WHAT I DO. She is modest to the point of self-righteousness, normalizes the misguided expectation that all young people have defined career goals and passions (and, beyond that, know what those are), and is sickeningly optimistic. It’s a guilt trip on everyone who hasn’t done, or “achieved,” what she has. Harsh, perhaps. But really: “My heart has always been in Africa” just screams white guilt to me. Perhaps my daily discussions have just been so racially motivated that that’s all I can see, which might be unfair. Good for her, you know, good for her for knowing she wasn’t doing what she wanted to do, but I have a hard time understanding people like her.

Let me put it this way: I am not sure I trust anyone who, at 22, claims to know what they want to do for the rest of their life, or can claim with sincerity where their heart lies. Or perhaps it is closer to personal offense: that she, of my generation, has chosen to incidentally judge my choices and reinforce my own insecurities: I’m just not good enough.

One without the other

Tom Robbins apparently has the knack to succinctly and colorfully describe everything I find distasteful about controlling, patriarchal organized religions. Today’s quote:

“For those who would pray but not dance, fast but not feast, baptize but not splash, flog but not fuck, for those who would buy spirit but sell soul, crown Father but deceive Mother, those men found Herod’s Temple a threatening place at vernal equinox and under a harvest moon.”

(Skinny Legs and All, h/t Leah)

Punishment without celebration, male without female, obedience without thought. This phenomenon is a sad truth not unique to a specific time or place, painfully relevant both to ancient history and modern politics. Though the story here is lighthearted, the message is, undoubtedly, not.

Target tricked me: shame on them!

Ever since high school, when my curly haired sister got a hairdresser’s recommendation for appropriate shampoos and conditioners for our hair type, I have been using Biolage Hydrating Shampoo (or hydrathérapie for those in the know) and the matching Biolage (Ultra-)Hydrating Conditioner. I know, I know; matching shampoos and conditioners? But it’s my HAIR.

Biolage is thick and rich and smells like natural oils and soothing butters and is like delicious I-want-to-smell-your-head lotion for your mane. It is opaque white and creamy and is an altogether luxurious experience.

Anyway, my current bottle of said shampoo, which I had bought at Rite Aid (I know Biolage is for sale in salons only, but I’ve always bought it at Rite Aid and it’s always been the real thing), was almost out. Finding myself at Target, it seemed prudent to do my shampoo-shopping there. They didn’t have the normal sized bottle, only the big one, and after some waffling over the $22 price tag I got it anyway. I mean what was I supposed to do, get 2-in-1?

I finally took a shower using my new shampoo. But as soon as I opened the bottle I knew something was wrong; the scent wafting towards me was chemical and plebeian. As the inner liquid emerged, my world came crashing down around me: it was clear and viscuous, and reeked of underpaid Southeast Asian child labor.

I was appalled: how could Target DO THIS to me? ME?! I NEED this shampoo! My hair will be groty and pedestrian if I don’t have it! This is a scandal! This is uncouth! This is devious and manipulative and my god, what is this, knock-off Kate Spades on Canal Street?

Moral of this story: never ever buy anything at Target. It’s fake, probably stolen, and it will RUIN your HAIR. Also they sold me stale Sour Patch Kids.

(I am even going to connect this to OWS:

Isn’t it illegal for Target and retailers to sell, for example, the Paul Mitchell finishing spray that clearly states on the bottle: “Guaranteed only when sold by a professional hairdresser, otherwise it may be counterfeit, old, or tampered with?”

“It’s not illegal. We tried to get legislation passed a few years ago (to make diversion illegal) but we were not successful. So, what Target and other retailers are doing is not illegal.”

This questionable economy should be illegal; it harms the manufacturing company’s reputation and legitimate sales and it harms the consumer by unethically hoodwinking them into buying something that is stolen, fake, and/or dangerous. And smells bad. Anyway, the fact that diversion was never outlawed is clearly evidence of the damaging and oppressive influence major corporations, like Target, have on our legislative process.)

LSACscam addendum

Realizing I should further educate myself as to the logistics of applying to law school (since we all know this was pretty last-minute), further research on the LSAC website has led to the revelation that, in addition to the bull**** CAS and application fees, LSAC charges $16 for each school they send your custom-assembled credentials to.

It costs more money to have these hooligans assemble my credentials than, had I done it myself, my time would have been worth. From a purely my-wallet standpoint, the value of my time saved is less than what they value their service at. That is to say, if my time is worth $20/hour, and I’m going to be shelling out $200 to these fools, it would have to be for a job that would take me more than ten hours to complete to make it worth me paying them to do it. Somehow, I don’t think it would take me ten hours to electronically submit a collection of PDFs to, say, six different schools.

I’m sure my economics and logic are both faulty here, and we can throw in that I am (irrelevantly) terrible at statistics, but I don’t like this. I stand by my position that this is a cartel and a scam and they are preying on the weak and easily-coerced. Or perhaps everyone’s time is just worth more than mine and I should develop higher self-worth.

This is a scam.

Dear World,

Never, ever get it into your head that you might want to go to law school.

Here’s why:

1. You have to take the LSAT, which is actually not to terrible, except for the $130 or so price tag. But its horrors are exacerbated by the fact that kids-who-try-too-hard are spending hundreds more dollars and months, if not years, of their lives studying their insecure little tuchases off, which means that even once you shell out the sticker price you are still about to get f***ed because they had nothing better to do.

2. Because the law school admissions process is run by a cartel fondly known as LSAC (law school admissions council), every law school says you have to let them (LSAC) assemble your credentials, with a stupidly-acronymed service-for-purchase CAS (credit assembly service)…for another $124. I mean, come on, I think I am perfectly capable of coordinating a couple documents and sending them to the right place by the right deadline. But no; they’d rather test the depth of my pockets rather than my actual coping-with-the-world skills. F***ers. Look, if you want to be entrepreneurial and try to make money off of kids who are too lazy to assemble their own credentials, fine. But I think it’s akin to extortion to make it mandatory for the rest of us.

Yes, this is a true story.

3. THEN, you have to pay an application fee to each school. Which is pretty much okay, except they run generally about $75, which is high compared to undergrad. But it’s the combined costs of application fees, CAS, LSATs, and the fact that I can’t actually get in to law school because I chose to save my money and my time by not killing myself over my LSAT score that makes this just adding insult to injury.

This whole scheme is morally reprehensible. But the Catch-22 (because there always is one) is that I can’t do anything about it…because I have to use it to get into law school.

F. M. L.

I liked Margin Call.

I am thrilled to report I spent $9 of funemployment money seeing a movie about the financial crisis. I was thinking about seeing Blackthorn, the Butch Cassidy sequel, but decided Margin Call would be more appropriate to the zeitgeist: it was supposed to make me angrier at the world and propel me deeper into my anti-establishment ideologies.

But rather, it made me take a step back and think more deeply about the roots of this movement and some its major influences. It reaffirmed many of my criticisms of our society and my conviction that a portion of the movement is not being entirely honest with itself. (Incidentally, I liked the movie. It tells the story with more sensitivity and complexity than it’s being told otherwise.)

The most honest and expository moment of dialogue in the movie:

“Shit, this is really gonna affect people.”
“Yeah, it’s gonna affect people like me.”
“No, well, real people.”
“Jesus, Seth. Listen, if you really want to do this with your life, you have to believe you’re necessary, and you are. People want to live like this in their cars and their big fucking houses they can’t even pay for. Then you’re necessary. The only reason they all get to continue living like kings is ‘cause we’ve got our fingers on the scales in their favor. I take my hand off, well then the whole world gets really fucking fair really fucking quickly and nobody actually wants that. They say they do but they don’t. They want what we have to give them but they also want to, you know, play innocent and pretend they have no idea where it came from. Well that’s more hypocrisy than I’m willing to swallow so fuck, fuck normal people.”

Like all business, Wall Street operates on the premise of supplying a product for which there is a demand. We wanted, and Wall Street provided. How much can we blame the dealer for the habit?

Occupy Maine!

Monument Square, Portland, ME. Wed., Oct. 12, 2011.

Overcast and chilly, it was a real New England fall day. The crowd was small but dedicated, and more than willing to talk. We talked about Obama and Ron Paul, about minarchism and anarchism and socialism and capitalism. It was the most intimate Occupation I’ve attended, and though not particularly inspiring as far as the scale of participation it was meaningful to see familiar faces.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Occupy Maine felt a lot like most protests in Maine: small, ragtag, attracting passive support but lacking the overwhelming passion and dedication…

Maine is a divided protest. The daytime demonstrating happens several blocks away from the campout, lending to the public’s non-comprehension about what the Occupation is about, and the perception that it’s disorganized and lacks both comprehensive grievances and goals. Monument Square feels incomplete without tents and tarps, and Lincoln Park is a tented ghost town while its occupants are across town with signs and flyers.

I want people in Maine to care about Occupy Wall Street. Or Occupy Maine.

Monument Square, Portland, ME. Wed., Oct. 12, 2011

Maine is unique; in the event of a cataclysmic, apocalyptic political and/or financial meltdown, we are so locally-focused and so self-sufficient already I believe we will re-emerge relatively unscathed. But our insulation from potential economic disaster does not mean the issues at hand are not important. Maine is a poor state. Maine is a state with a generous welfare system. Maine is a state with struggling school districts. Though we are so self-sufficient, we are still affected by federal government policies. We are affected by state government policies, and having a pseudo-libertarian minarchist tea party governor doesn’t bode well for the future solvency of our people or our state.

We might be busy. We might be apathetic. But we shouldn’t be too busy to heed a necessary call for radical social and political change. We should recognize that, protected as much as we may be, we are not immune. We are affected by government cutbacks at all levels. We are affected by policy changes that damage and hinder the productivity of small (and) family farms and fisheries. The fights of Wall Street and D.C. are not only the fights of Wall Street and D.C. They are our fights, too. New England snooty pride aside, what happens in New York affects what happens in Maine. We are powerful when we want to be; the Buy Local campaign should be evidence enough of that. I don’t understand why we don’t want to be powerful now.

I spoke with several individuals yesterday who wanted to help but didn’t know how. With bodies, is the answer. It is always the answer. Supportive apathy, or apathetic support, is not enough. Donations with no body are not adequate. My documentation is not adequate. I know that. People, the public, want to be supportive. They know change is necessary and they want to help. They just don’t want to help enough. They don’t want to alter their comfortable routines in any way. Give money? Fine. Give goods? Fine. Give time, presence, body, mind? No, thanks, protesting isn’t for me. We are not crazy, and you know it. So join us.

Perhaps it is an inept comparison, but I fear too much apathy here could lead to an “and then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out” moment.

Change is never comfortable and it is never easy. That doesn’t make it less worthwhile.