I Am A Garbage Human

I’ve been working a lot more hours at my book job recently. In the beginning I was lucky to get one 4-hour shift for a week, if I got any shifts at all. This week, I’m doing short shifts, but I’m working 5 days this week. Plus I have the 4 days I work at the booze job. Unfortunately, there is not 9+ days in a week, which means I’m not getting days off and have a few days of running between jobs.

Of course, this also means working more out of uniform. For my booze job I have to wear plain black pants and shoes with my uniform shirt. As long as I keep it all clean, I wear the same thing every single shift and no one cares. It’s not the same with the book job.

Dress code here is a little relaxed, but still professional. Some people show up in dress slacks and blouses, others in tights and tunics. Some wear nice jeans, some wear a different dress every day. Some have a very corporate vibe to them, some a bit edgier, some have a majestic hippy flare.

And then there’s me.

I like cardigans, pockets, and black. If I could, I’d wear combat boots or sneakers every day, with a cute dress (with pockets, of course) and a bandanna. I could change it up in the winter with tights and kilts. Adding tights to an outfit is the only difference between my summer wardrobe and my winter wardrobe. Sounds professional, eh?

I’m really not good at this “dressing like a professional grown-up” thing. Many many years ago, when I had my office job, it was so much easier. We sat behind desks in an office, and didn’t really care what we wore. There was no personality to it, no real effort. It was just dark dress pants, collared blouse, and heels. Sometimes I’d throw a knee-length skirt or some dressy boots into the mix, but it was all pretty basic.

But here, everyone has their own look, their own vibe. We’re working directly with the public, and are a different bunch of folk. We’re all very bookish, many of us are a bit artsy, there’s quite a few writers and researchers, and one woman who always seems to have pictures of bugs laying around for programs. Our CEO wears tights and shirt dresses, my manager wears pageboy hats and khakis, and we have quite a few visible piercings and tattoos in our break room. Basically, everyone is somewhat expected to show a little personality in their attire.

But I am a garbage human who can’t manage to combine “looking like myself” and “wearing something appropriate” into one look. Is a sundress and cardigan appropriate? What do I wear on my feet? Is rockabilly work appropriate? Are high heels ok to wear on the quiet floor? Are ankle bracelets professional, especially when they’re locally made and we push the “support local” movement? What’s the deal with bare legs? Or arms? Or face?

I’m just not good at this whole clothing thing. And it’s not just at work, either. I had to go to a friend’s bridal shower this weekend, and stared into my closet for a good 20 minutes before throwing on a long skirt and tank top. Of course once I get there, everyone is in jumpers: bridal party, friends, relatives of the couple, everyone. I was surprised the groom didn’t show up in a floral jumper at some point. I didn’t know jumpers were the thing to wear, and would have no clue how to wear one anyway.

While we’re on the topic of that shower, I am a total garbage human because I had no clue what to do for the shower. I knew enough to buy a gift off the registry, and had it shipped right to the bride’s house ahead of time like she had asked. The friends I went with did the same thing. But then when we showed up, they had presents. Like, they brought secondary presents to go with the presents they already sent. Like a present for the present!

The whole day was somewhat surreal for me. Woman were sitting around talking about families and careers, showing off pictures of kids and grandkids, talking about high school reunions and retirement parties. And there I am laughing in my head because a coworker sent me video of someone pooping in our parking lot that morning. Throw me in a bar, and I’m social. Carnival, totally social. Walking around downtown while checking on my homeless friends, extremely social. In a room full of women talking about regular, everyday things; awkward to the extreme.

I don’t know how to fully human.

I don’t get things like bridal showers, baby showers, gender reveal parties, engagement parties, housewarming parties, or basically anything else that celebrates milestones. When my brother graduated from University, we walked around for more than an hour taking pictures of him all over campus. When I graduated a few months later, I took back my robes and left. I didn’t even bother going to the graduation for my second degree, because what’s the point? I know it’s a big deal and all, but I just didn’t know how to make it feel like a big deal.

These events make me feel so awkward. I know I should be excited to be there, to be helping someone celebrate something in their life. But how? I basically sat around all day saying stupid crap like, “Wow, these potatoes are crisp”, “my what a moist chicken” and other nonsensical food related crap. I skipped the gender reveal party I was invited to right after that, because I can only handle so much awkwardness in one day. And to me nothing is more awkward than forced conversation with quasi-friends while a young couple smashes cupcakes in each other’s faces to reveal what their unborn spawn’s genitals will someday look like.

**shudders**

I know these are all like basic grown-up things that we humans do. We dress ourselves appropriately, we go to social events, and we celebrate milestones. This all seems so basic, and I still can’t wrap my head around it. Much like Jenna Marbles, I only have three looks: booze uniform, flannel-clad and disheveled with ripped jeans and old tank tops, and “what the hell am I supposed to wear, let’s close our eyes and pull things from the closet at random and hop it looks professional”. I have no real clue what I’m doing, whether it’s dressing the part or not being a socially awkward emu in a room full of majestic ostriches.

I’m just garbage at this.

But you know what? I kinda dig being trash. All of the people I’ve run into lately who seem to have it all together, all just seem so off. I’ve talked to people who are beautifully dressed, who have interesting lives and ideas, who do nothing but complain about every little thing. I complain about the things wrong with my life, joke about the dumpster fire it is right now, but I set about fixing things and enjoying the things I do have.

Instead of sitting around complaining the guy sitting at the corner on my walk is always there, and needs to get a life, and that if he took the $8 he made panhandling and put it towards rent he wouldn’t have to sit there, I freaking talked to him. He’s a sweet guy, limited income, who just like to sit and talk to people and has no one to talk to in his life.

Instead of ignoring my debts, pretending like they’re not there, and just hoping creditors will give up on ever collecting payment from me, I’m tackling things head-on. It’s as stressful as trying to bone quietly while your parents are reading in the next room and there’s no lock on your door. But it means I’m doing something about myself, I’m working on improving things, I’m working towards something, no matter how miserable it makes me at times. Would I like to bury my head in the sand and just forget all about this? Of course! But I’m not a majestic ostrich, just an awkward emu who is getting shit done.

Am I garbage? Hell yes! Am I awkward as hell? If you met me once you wouldn’t even have to ask that question, it’s a definite yes. But am I living life, working on me, trying to improve myself and my situation, and taking control of my life. Will I someday be able to navigate social gatherings? Maybe. Will I someday have the put-together wardrobe, the ability to walk in high heels, and hair that doesn’t remind small children of Ronald McDonald? It’s possible.

Just remember: if you’re a garbage human like me, if your life is a dumpster fire, if you are literal trash, things can always get better little bit by little bit if you put some work into it. It’s called a garbage CAN and not a garbage CANNOT for a reason.

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This Adulting Thing is NOTHING like I Thought it Would Be!

So life has basically been throwing gasoline on this spiraling dumpster fire of my very being lately. Today has been especially bad, with one thing going wrong after another after another. Everything just seems to be falling apart around me.

This is nothing like I imagined adulthood would be like when I was a kid!

When I was a kid, my mother’s big thing was “no cookies for breakfast”. I didn’t matter how special a day it was, you could not even look at the cookies until well after lunch time. It may have had something to do with an unfortunate incident involving a family-sized box of Oreo cookies having all of their filling eaten while my mother was in the shower when we were little kids. She stepped out of the bathroom and into the middle of a pile of licked and soggy creamless cookies.

Naturally, I decided that making rules like this was the biggest part of being a grown-up. I would be the one who decides when to eat cookies, or when to go to bed, or what to watch on tv. Obviously being a grown-up was all about being free to do absolutely anything I wanted to do.

Well then work happened.

That was another thing that was nothing like I expected it to be. I was always told “You can be anything want, and can do anything you put your mind to.” Well right about now, the only thing I want to put my mind to is a damn pillow, because I’m on my 8th straight day of work out of 10 days scheduled, with multiple days being either splits at my book job or a split between both jobs. I thought I would end up a respected writer, or a teacher, or a counselor, not working two jobs just trying to get by.

The thing is, when you’re working two jobs and have a bizarre schedule like mine, you don’t exactly get to choose when to sleep. You can’t stay up all night watching cartoons, because you have to get up for work in the morning. And you can’t take a nap in the middle of the afternoon when you’re running on empty because you’re either at work, getting ready for work, or running from one job to the other one.

And all that running around means not a lot of time for cookies.

As I’ve mentioned before, one days like today when I have to run from one job to another without a real break, I grab a bag of random cheap burgers from McDonald’s. Right now it’s almost 3pm and all I’ve had in my belly is water, coffee, and half a can of Coke Zero. When I finish here, I have to walk across downtown (not as far as I make it sound, and definitely not up-hill both ways), change out of my grown-up disguise and into my uniform, and work a closing shift. I don’t have time to be running around grabbing a salad or a box of cookies or whatever else might backhand my fancy. McD’s is on my walk, and McD’s has McDoubles, so that is my food for the day.

So now I’m running back and forth through downtown, hanging out with my new homeless friends that I talk to on my walks, eating bags of cheap burgers and working 13 hour days between two jobs. I don’t have the time to check my ever-growing list of tv shows and movies I want to watch. Instead of going to the beach this summer and walking around in the sand, I’m walking back and forth between works. Instead of going to concerts, or hanging out with friends in coffee shops, or having an epic and confusing love life , or doing any of the things that TV taught me I’d be doing as an adult.

TV and movies made this whole adulting thing seem so glamorous. It hasn’t been so far though. What most of these things leave out is the fact that not only are there negatives to being an adult, but they don’t just magically go away after a few days. When Monica lost her job at the restaurant, she found an even better one in her field, with full-time hours and everything. Not only that, but she had a close-knit group of friends there to help and support her, a friend willing to start a business with her, and a brother who was willing and financially able to lend her money. She didn’t seem to worry about losing her apartment, going without food, or defaulting on her bills.

Same thing goes for Lilly and Marshal. She was being absolutely crushed by credit card debt and hid it from him. A few episodes later, and it’s like nothing had happened. There was only one brief mention of things like credit scores and financial futures for her family, and then it was gone. They both seemlessly moved through their careers, and somehow money just didn’t seem to be a problem for them.

This isn’t how the real world works though.

I have student loans hanging over my head. I built up a good chunk of credit card debit in the first few years after I graduated, just trying to afford things like food and rent. I rent a room in a house with two ex-boyfriends and a random stranger, instead of having the giant purple apartment with a balcony rent-control. I don’t have a revolving door on my bedroom, a walk-in closet full of stylish clothes, or a million followers for my blog.

But what I do have is the ability to see that, even though things didn’t turn out how I planned, I can just make a new damn plan. Maybe this adulting things sucks right now. Who says it has to suck 5 years from now? I can just keep on working like I am, doing what I do, and build from here. And if things don’t adult right in that plan? Move on to Plan B, or Plan C, or Plan W if I have to.

This adulting thing has a lot fewer cookies for breakfast, a lot less sitting in coffee shops with friends, a lot less having a super close knit group of friends to do absolutely everything with. But it still has me in it, and I can do whatever the hell I want with it.

Maybe I’m Just Not Worth It…..

So as a part of my book job, I have access to an unending supply of books. I’ll go through spurts, reading different things. I’ve had my graphic novel phase, cyber-punk phase, memoir phase, R.L Stein phase…….. I mean, I read these things normally in my giant book loads I bring home. But these were times when I was grabbing 6 or 7 of these books at a time and just reading them constantly.

Well right now, thanks in part to the spiraling dumpster fire that is my life, I’m in a self-help book phase. And oh boy, is it messing me up!

I’m reading through a few books right now. I won’t say what they are but I have the biggest urge to wash my face and not apologize at the moment. There’s some good advice in there, if you keep in mind that this woman has certain advantages that we average folk don’t. I mean, yes it’s very hard work to build up a social media empire and raise kids; it makes it a little easier if you can afford a nanny to help raise those kids though. I don’t want to demean the work she’s put in, it just needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

A lot of the advice I’ve read here so far is the same as what I’ve found in other books, just worded differently: you need to make time for what’s important to you in your life, go out and get what you want, and know that you’re worth everything you want. Somehow that got me wondering, have I not achieved the things I want in life because I don’t think I’m worth it?

I can remember reading in a few different places that when it comes to applying for jobs, men tend to apply if they think they meet something like 40% of the qualifications, while women won’t until they meet around 80%. I know that there were plenty of times I saw jobs that I really wanted and though, “Man, if only I had X, Y, and Z, I could totally do that!”. I passed up the opportunity to apply for dozens of jobs in my lifetime that I really think I would be great at.

Then I would start wondering how the hell I could ever get a job like that. If more education and experience was required, it just seemed impossible. How do you get case worker experience to qualify for an entry level position in that field, if you don’t have the experience for the entry level position? When it came to more education, I already have two degrees and know that I can’t possibly afford any more student debt to get any more.

This doesn’t just extend to job postings though. Everything from clothes shopping, flirtation attempts, writing projects, even apartment searching seems to come down to this feeling that I’m just not going to be good enough.

I’m an odd duck. I was once told that I march to the beat of my own drummer, and that drummer is tone deaf with no sense of rhythm. You can really see that at my booze job sometimes. When I work full doubles (full day at the book job, then closing shift at the booze job), I have to park my car at the store before we open and walk to the books. Then on my lunch break I have to walk back to the store to get my uniform and boots out of the car and throw them in the back room so they don’t either freeze or melt, before walking back to the books. I know, it’s a lot of walking and usually only leaves about 15 minutes to grab food and get back to my desk in time, but my booze job lets me park for free and they have security cameras in the parking lot. I don’t have time between jobs to get food, because I usually have 15 minutes between them.

My solution? A bag of McDonald’s burgers. I can order ahead on the app, pick them up at the McDonald’s near my book job on my way back at lunch, and then have them with me the rest of the day to either eat or give away in my sad attempts at flirting (It was just one time, but it still haunts me). I stand at my register sneaking bites of McDoubles (if I manage not to give them away), dancing to whatever crap is on the radio, and doing high kicks.

I’ve always been a bit odd, but trying to transition from the booze job to what I refer to as “my grown-up job” is extremely difficult. Now being in my book job, everyone says I fit right in. I’m still a bit more reserved and shy here than at the booze job, but it’s a much quieter environment. Still, when applying to other more “professional” sounding jobs, I get the feeling that I’m making a huge mistake.

I always jokingly refer to my office wear as “my grown-up disguise”. I guess because I always feel like I’m not a full grown-up. I’m not living that grown-up life I was always expected to. I don’t own a home, my car only works sometimes (and I can’t put anything heavy in the trunk for some reason), and I’m stuck working 6 or 7 days a week instead of going out and enjoying my life. A very big part of me always feels like the people at my book job are going to someday discover that I’m not a “real grown-up” and I’ll lose all this.

I’m starting to see that this has a lot to do with my dating life too. Truth be told, I was miserable with the X for quite a while towards the end of our relationship. Things were just falling apart so fast, and it was stressing me out so much. I really did want to try and work things out with him, no matter how much I was hurting because of him. Part of that is because I really didn’t think I could do any better.

I’ve had self-image issues for years, ever since putting on weight while sick with hives for 94 days straight. I’m a bit heavier than I wanted to be, but I’ve got a whole lot of muscle and an hourglass shape. I can wear the hell out of a sundress and carry a full grown man across my shoulders in a fireman’s carry while wearing heels. I’m strong, I’m cute as hell, and my hair right now is channeling Fairuza Balk in “The Craft” but in red. Add that to the fact that I hold down two jobs, pay all my own bills, don’t live with my parents at my age, have my own vehicle, once kept a plant alive for 74 days, can cook a freaking tasty chicken and make soup from the carcass, and can hold my own in the wine drinking department, and I’m a freaking catch.

But it seems like every time I find a guy attractive, all I can think is “I’m totally not his type! I’m too old/fat/much of a loser/immature/strange for him.” The thing is, deep inside, I know I’m the perfect amount of all those things. I’m just old enough for my age and fat enough for my weight, and enough of a loser over time to appreciate everything I have accomplished and have come to have. I’m immature and strange, but I revel in that and wear it like a badge of honour. So why is it suddenly a bad thing when some beautiful blue eyes or sexy tattoo sleeves come anywhere near me?

All of these self-help books I’m reading keep telling me to remember that I am good enough. The thing is, I already know that. I know I’m awesome, and I deserve people and opportunities and things that are just as awesome as I am. It’s when you narrow it down to one specific awesome something that I look all confidence faster than The Hiphopopotamus trying to free-style rap. I know I deserve to be with someone who is super awesome, whether it’s for a few dates or a few decades. But what if this one person is too awesome, or the wrong kind of awesome, or their awesome is so awesome that it cancels out my awesome? I deserve a job that I love and will work my ass off at, but what if this job needs more ass than I have?

See?

You can read all the self-help books in the world, take notes, make the changes they suggest. You can learn 37 different methods for being financially stable and responsible, and practice them all at once. You can chant mantras, polish your chakras, cleanse your diet, and go all natural with your hair. But if you can’t look inside you and find out ‘who am I too”, you’ll be in the position to make you feel so damn unpretty.

You’ll also wind up randomly quoting TLC songs other than the masterpiece that is No Scrubs.

I know I have things to work on inside my head. We all do. No self-help book is going to tell you exactly what you need to work on or lay out a map on how to do it. It’s all guidelines, and it’s up to you to figure out what’s in your head. In your he-he-he-head……….

…….zombies……….

Well, at least we know what’s in my head right now: the need to make a new playlist when I get home.

You Just Keep Doing You

The other night, the X went out for a big family event at The Keg and brought home some leftover steak to share with me. Decided to have a bit of that steak the next morning for breakfast with my eggs, and mentioned it online in a group chat.

I didn’t know I what I had just unleashed.

“You mean he went to The Keg? Without you? Did he ever take you to The Keg when you guys were still together? I bet he never thought to take you to The Keg. Why didn’t he ever take you to The Keg? Don’t worry, we’ll find you a man who will take you to The Keg!

Dude, I don’t want to go to The Keg. That place always made me feel uncomfortable. Looking at the menu makes me feel anxious. $37 for a chicken dinner? And chicken is the cheaper option!

I’m not a fancy restaurant kinda gal. Years ago, a friend came in from out of town and suggested we try out Ye Olde Steak House for a real grown-up meal. We showed up in shorts and sandals, ordered nachos and taco salads, and had pretty much every other diner there side-eyeing us.

Truth be told, I’m fine with a burger and fries. For me a great date would be the two of us cabbing it to the bowling alley so neither of us has to drive; then we’d have a bunch of drinks and laugh at each other’s sad attempts at bowling; we could end the night eating pizza and chicken wings somewhere. To me, that’s a great night out.

But people around me are very hung up on this notion that I deserve someone who will take me out to fancy places and buy me expensive things. They were always flabbergasted that the X and I were together more than three years and we never went on an expensive trip, he never bought me fancy jewelry, and we never went out for fancy meals. But I never wanted those things.

As much as everyone wants to set me up with these men ready to throw gemstones and steaks at me, I know those things aren’t important to me. I’m willing to give these guys a chance, but first I have to ask them if they’ll trade in their steak dinner for maybe some nachos and burgers. I’m not going to drag them out to a dive bar where they’d feel completely out of place, but I don’t want to feel completely out of place somewhere where the waiters uniform costs more than my wardrobe. If he’s willing to find a middle ground, then I’m willing to meet him.

Of course, this goes for all aspects of meeting someone. I need to find someone who will let me be me, and let me do what I feel I need to do for myself. I have spent too long living for others, and feeling trapped in my own life.

So now, I need to figure out what’s important to me in a lot of different parts of my life. What am I looking for in a romantic partner? How much time am I willing to dedicate to a relationship? What are my career goals, and how far am I willing to go to achieve them? Do I ever want to get married? Own a house? Have kids?

Some of you out there might have the answers to some of these for yourself. Some of you might have it all figured out. And some of you might have a list the length of your arm of the things you need to figure out. You don’t have to do it today, or this week, or even this year. The answers to things probably will change over time, and that’s ok too. You don’t need to know it all 24/7. You just need to be able to do you.

I don’t know where my career(s) will take me. I love both my jobs right now, and I love writing. Maybe one of these will become a full-time thing for me, or maybe I’ll wind up just doing all three of them forever. All I know is I love all of this right now, and this is where I want to be. So I’ll just do me, and keep doing what’s been working for me lately.

Get to know yourself, learn to love being yourself, and stay true to yourself Sunshine. People are always going to try and tell you what you’re doing wrong, even if it’s only in their eyes. People will have different ideals for how they want your life to be. Just make sure you’re doing what you need to do to be the youest you you can be, even if it doesn’t make them happy.

Life is Like a box of Chocolates…….

….it’s full of nut, sweetness, and that one random icky thing no one actually likes but is in every single box.

Things here at Casa Del Failure have been hectic. Basically the life we knew was thrown in a blender and put on “emulsify”. I’ll give you more updates soon, after I get a little sleep and am back behind a desk. But right now, I want to talk about something that was bugging me all day.

I took a quick break from the massive amounts of cleaning that’s been thrown at me here and checked out my Instagram. I was expecting some memes, random Degrassi pictures, maybe a few pics of of my friends on vacation. Instead, I was inundated with pictures of people that filled me with a rage that I didn’t anticipate.

For once it wasn’t the sexist, racist, classist crap I’m used to getting pissed off about. This was old friends with their kids on their summer break.

You see, I like kids. With my hair right now I look a bit like Molly Ringwold playing a clown, and kids seem to like that. I love when kids come talk to me at my jobs, or when close friends’ kids want to confide in me. I still watch cartoons, so I always have something to talk about with kids. I’ve never had any of my own, aside from the Not A Human Child Bowser Kitten.

Friends from my past seem to have small armies of kids. One friend tkaes those Pinterest-worth pics of her boys where they are all in some sort of theme and lined up by age and height. Another is just constantly posting pictures of her family in the pool, or at the petting zoo, or playing with Legos on a rainy day. Then there’s a dozen more who just post random pictures from time to time of them looking so damn happy with their little families.

When I was younger, I thought that by this stage of my life I would have a kid or two. I had always planned that I would be established in a career and writing books on the side while my little ones slept at night. We would have vacations up north to camp, days at the beach, visits with my parents. That was how I pictured my late 30s: a working mom with a loving family, living life to its fullest.

Instead, here I am at 8:30 on a Thursday night, drinking wine in my bedroom and blogging while my ex takes a shower. I’m working two jobs, driving myself crazy with my schedule for that on top of all the madness in this house right now. I don’t go out much, don’t have much of a social life these days, and don’t even have friends that I hang out with regularly. I just sort of exist.

Usually, I’m ok with this. I know that I’m in an awkward situation right now, but I’m working towards something. I have plans for the near future. I’m talking to people, making new friends, doing things on my terms, and examining what I need to do to make myself happy. I like the challenge, and I’m excited for the results.

But seeing all those pictures today just bummed me out for a while. It just seemed like everyone out there is living the life they had always wanted, and I’m so far behind I will never catch up. I felt like a failure, like everything I’ve been working for the last while is for nothing. If I can’t have the life I wanted for myself when I was younger, then what’s the use in trying?

But then I read the caption on a friend’s picture. She has two beautiful sons, and posts pictures of them constantly. She has a comfy office job, is married to a great guy a few years older than her, and is constantly working on updates to the house they own that was built in the 1950’s.

“Who would have ever thought I’d have this life? Some days I wonder ‘What if I had moved to Paris like I always wanted? What if I married my university boyfriend like we had planned? What if I had travelled the world like I swore I would as a child?’ But then I realize that if I had done those things, then I wouldn’t have this amazing life. I wouldn’t have all these beautiful men in my life, I wouldn’t have my record collection, I wouldn’t have the cutest house on the block, and I would have missed so much of my extended family’s life. Things didn’t turn out as planned. They turned out better.”

Holy crap Sunshine, that is exactly what I needed to hear!

I don’t own a home. I have no kids other than my fur baby. I live with two ex’s, drive a beat up Pontiac Pursuit whose traction control AND power steering regularly fail, and I work two jobs with crazy schedules that barely gives me time to write. But I still am putting time into what’s important now.

It’s taken me time and a lot of heartache to get to this point. I feel very alone a lot of the time, but I’m building up something that counter-acts that. I’ve met some amazing people through my jobs. I’ve horribly failed at flirting with the two most beautiful men I have ever seen. I have money in the bank, notebooks of writings and ideas, a box of red wine, and a bottle of whiskey. Things may not seem perfect, but they’re a hell of a lot better than what they’ve been.

I realized that I need to stop focusing on the “I’m so far behind everyone else” mentality that I’ve been stuck in for so long. No, I’m not living the life I had dreamed of. But I’m building myself up for something amazing.

I took a few minutes and jotted down things in my journal, things that I want to do for myself to make me happy and more fulfilled. And you know what? I’m at a point where I can accomplish most of those things if I really want to. I can finally afford to get the tattoos I always wanted. I can afford to trade in my car and replace it if I really want to. I can afford my own place, if I put a strict budget in place. And I can afford the good kibbles and litter for the Super Needy Bowser Kitten. I have food in my kitchen, booze in my bedroom, a roof over my head, money in the bank, and two jobs that I absolutely love. I may work 50+ hours some weeks, I may not have weekends off, I may burn out soon and need to take a few days to recuperate. But I’m doing that all on my terms.

I guess my point here is that I got so bummed out looking at what everyone else had, figuring that they wound up with the lives they had always planned. But I realized that we all have to roll with the punches. I may never get to marry David Arquette, or go to Ireland, or write a book that Oprah loves. But I can try to flirt with (and just randomly give burgers to) the tatted up man with the sexiest eyes since David Arquette who comes into my store. I can drink Irish beers on the beach here. I can write whatever the hell I want, Oprah be damned.

We spend so much time comparing ourselves to others. We look at what others have that we don’t, what they’ve accomplished that we haven’t, the places they’ve travelled that we haven’t. But when is the last time you looked at your own life, the things you’ve accomplished? I’m not sleeping under a bridge, I’m not with a man who beats me, and I finished the degrees I wanted to get. I’m not the me I was when I was 20, and I need to stop comparing my life now to what I wanted back then.

My life is far from perfect. But it’s my life. I’m living it on my terms, doing what I need to do to survive and feel alive. I still have work to do on me, but I know I can do it. And everyone else out there is in the same boat as me, in one way or another, no matter how perfect their lives seem.

Oh, Those Well Meaning Folk!

Many years ago, during the period of time I refer to as my Dark Days, I worked in a small indie coffee shop. There were a few other indie coffee shops in the surrounding area, and we were really the opposite of hip at the time, so it was fairly slow there. We had our morning rush of office workers who didn’t want to wait in the long lines at other places, a few daytime regulars, and our nighttime crowd who hung out until close.

Most of the people I saw there, I got to know by name. Because my then-fiance would stop in to check on me a few times a day, they got to know a bit about my situation at the time. For most people, their first reaction was to try and offer me help.

Without getting into much detail, I was in a relationship that was highly abusive in multiple ways. I wasn’t able to eat properly, was constantly tired, my hair had started thinning from malnutrition and stress, and I was working at least 6 days a week and sometimes up to 14 hours a day.

Most of the people I talked to throughout the day offered me some sort of help. For the most part, it was little things. One woman would offer to buy me sandwiches on my break. A gentleman was always offering me cigarettes so that I wouldn’t have to go through mine on my very limited budget. Others just let me sit and talk to them when the shop was slow.

One well-meaning woman went too far. This woman knew my mother, and my mother did not know where I was working at the time. I was not living at home, and was not exactly on speaking terms with my family. This woman, from talking to both myself and my mother, knew this. She knew that I was not mentally in a place where having long talks with my mother would help my situation, and that my mother seeing me in the state I was in would be of no help to her.

Still, she felt the need to go to my mother. She told the state I was in, where I was working, what my schedule was there, and anything else she could think to tell her. She told her bits of things, out of context, that she had overheard me talking about with other customers and friends. She told her things she thought about my situation, without know much about my situation.

Basically, this woman got my mother all worked up into a tizzy, told her exactly where she could find me, and didn’t tell me any of this. I only found out when my mother showed up at the coffee shop one day. In her mind, this is how that day would’ve gone:

My mother would walk into the coffee shop during a slow period, and see me standing behind the counter. All of our fights would be completely forgotten the second we saw each other, and I would run to her arms. We’d hug, we’d cry, I would beg her to take me away from my awful situation and we’d leave right that very second.

Magical, isn’t it?

That’s not what happened, though. Instead, my mother showed up one day while I was working. We had an awkward hello, she ordered a coffee, and sat down while I served other people. We made some forced small-talk about my siblings and dad, and then the hushed fighting started. How could I disappoint them like this? Why did I have to be so stubborn? Why couldn’t I just leave my fiance because my parents don’t like him?

That was in April. My mother and I didn’t talk again until well into the summer. Any progress we had made in our relationship, no matter how little it was at the point, was gone.

That’s the problem with being well-meaning: you have a certain idea of how things will work once you fix them for someone. You don’t take into account how the other parties will be affected, what harms you may be doing, how those you’re “helping” will perceive your “help”, or if your help is even wanted. People who are well-meaning usually come off as meaning well for themselves, not for the greater good.

Now, that’s not to say you should stop helping people all-together. Remember, I had a lot of people help me out in that time. There were times when I probably would’ve have eaten for days at a time if it weren’t for the kindness of others. There are some big differences between help and well-meaning help, though.

1) Does the person want any help right now?

Sometimes, people just want to work things out for themselves. They may not think their situation is as dire as you seem to. Or maybe they’re stubborn and determined to pull themselves out of whatever situation they’re in.

Jumping in to help a person who doesn’t want help can scream “you’re a failure and can’t do this on your own” to them, no matter your intentions. If someone is really trying to pull their life together on their own, and are proud of the progress they’ve been making (no matter how small that progress seems to you), you can’t just jump in and try to take control. If they don’t want any help right now, you can’t force any on them.

2) What kind of help do they want right now?

In my Dark Days, I would never turn down free food. At one point, I had to make a box of macaroni and cheese last me 3 days because I had no other food in the house for myself. There were times when I actually ate out of a donut shop’s dumpster to survive. If someone had come up to me and offered to buy me a burger from McDonald’s, I’d have to resist the urge to tackle them in a giant bear hug. Food was the one thing I always seemed to need.

Do you know what did me no good at all? Money. Part of my problem at the time was financial abuse in my relationship, and I had to turn over all money to my fiance so he could “track” my finances. He came with me to cash my paycheques, he gave me a small allowance, and he needed to know where every penny I spent went. If I came home with any extra money, or bought things that couldn’t be accounted for with the meager amount of money I was allotted, I was in deep horse turds.

I know that one of my friends is always in need of socks and shoes. I can’t afford to be buying him shoes every time he loses his, but I can get a 20-pack of socks for $10 at Giant Tiger and buy a dozen pairs of good thick socks at Dollarama to keep in my car for him. Giving him money to buy socks is not going to get him socks. There’s very few places to shop for clothes in the area he stays in, and most places don’t like to let homeless people in, especially when they’re a bit stinky. If he tells me he needs socks, I give him socks. If he says he needs a toque, or gloves, or a clean t-shirt, then that’s what I’ll find him. Giving him money for these things isn’t going to get them for him.

3) What kind of help are you willing to give?

I will tell you right now, if it were financially possible I would put a roof over Strength’s head in a heartbeat. I would fill his closet with clean clothes, fill his kitchen with food, and make sure he got any help or opportunity his gigantic heart desires. I would make sure he was safe, and warm, and didn’t have to ever worry about find a spot in an alleyway to sleep in in the middle of winter.

I know that’s not something I can afford to do.

Here’s the thing, though: there are things that I may be able to afford to do, but just aren’t practical or helpful to either of us. As much as I want to bring that boy home with him, let him shower and do laundry, and them wrap him in a blanket like a giant burrito to watch movies all night with AAB and the kitten crew while I cook mass amounts of food for them, that’s not going to help any in the long run. I cannot risk losing my home because he brings drugs with him, or his drug-related mood swings cause problems with the neighbours. I can’t move him in with me, because I know I cannot leave a meth addict that no one else in the house knows or trusts alone there while I am at work.

In order to take care of him like that, I would practically have to restructure my life around him. I would have to keep tabs on him, bring him to work with me when I’m at the library, find somewhere for him to go while I’m working at the store. I would have to be financially responsible for his rent, his food, and even help out gathering up basic belongings and clothing for him. That goes well beyond what I am willing and able to do right now.

What I can do, which he says he appreciates, is what I do for him now. I bring him warm clothes and old blankets in the winter. I take him out for coffee, try to feed him. I keep bags of snacks in my car for him. I’ve taken him out in my car to go out for coffee, just so he can rest his feet and get out of the cold (but there are some massive rules when he’s in the car, like he has to turn out all his pockets and bags to show me he has nothing illegal with him).

Now, if I won the lottery tomorrow, it would be a whole different story. I have a well thought-out plan to help quite a few people, with him being the first. But until that happens, I have to set my limits and only do what I am willing and able to do.

4) Why are you helping them?

There is nothing wrong with enjoying that warm, fuzzy feeling you get in your heart when you help someone. Good deeds give people good feelings. If you’re helping someone out of the goodness of your heart, then revel in that warm, fuzzy feeling. That warm, fuzzy feeling is pure goodness.

I do know some people who can’t lend someone a quarter for the phone without taking pictures of the good deed and cross-posting it on every piece of social media they have accounts on. They spend weeks hyping up a charity event, only to have that event do more for them in the public eye than it does for those it was supposed to help.

People like this are in it purely so others will look at them and start heaping on praise. Yes, they may do some good for others, but it can come at a price. They could monopolize fundraising for a certain charity, only to do a poor job of it. Their lack of commitment to a cause can drive others away from it. Or, others could associate them directly with that cause, and not volunteer because they don’t want to deal with them.

I’m stuck with this dilemma right now. There are a few events I’ve signed up for that benefit a certain cause, all for different local charities. For some of these, I will be volunteering with two gentlemen who are very vocal on social media about their activism and charity work. One, I am thrilled to be working with, and others have asked me about him. Yes, he posts a lot online, but he’s doing so just to draw attention to causes. He’s spoken on TV and in the media about things, and declined interviews for others for fear that it draws more attention to him than the message at hand.

The other gentleman…….. well, he’s very active online. More than once (or a dozen times) when I’ve mentioned to people that he will be at an event, they’ve responded with eye rolls. He grabs the spotlight, even when he’s trying to shove others into it. In the beginning people were impressed with the work he was doing. Right now, a lot of the people I’ve talked to are just sick of him. Sadly, these same people don’t want to be associated with events he is a part of, which is hurting my personal fundraising goals.

Do it for the feels, not the fame.

At the end of the day, Sunshine, you can mean well without being well-meaning. You can do a world of good, and make life around you shine as bright as you. You can bring happiness and joy to people’s lives, make a difference in the lives around you, put smiles on faces. You can be the good in the world that you want to see. Just please, make sure that good is good for all the right reasons, and in all the right ways.

The Little Annoyances When Applying for Jobs

The last few days have been killer. I slept so much last night, but I’m still exhausted.

My shoulder and neck are somewhat healed from last weekend. I’m not on the pain meds anymore and only took the muscle relaxers twice. I’m still really sore though, and that makes my head a little foggy.

Some of my favourite co-workers and I had to go to our First Aid and CPR training this week. The bosses kept checking on me before I went, just to make sure my shoulder wasn’t going to be an issue during the CPR training. I’m more sore from sitting on uncomfortable folding chairs all day and watching slideshows than anything else.  When you’re recovering from a pinched nerve, the last thing you want to do is sit in a folding chair staring at a screen for 8 hours!

I also took my entire one day off this week to do all the cleaning around here, play a little Zeus on the computer, and get a little writing done. Started my first real knitting project too. I’m making squares, which will be sewn together to make a blanket.

And on top of all that, I had to do THE job application. This was the application for the job that I’m actually qualified for, that I would be fantastic at, that would pay me enough to not live in a house with a bunch of random people, and I could afford to buy a bed that is big enough for me to sleep in without contorting my body in awkward positions. This was the job I had been lying awake at night wishing for, and then dreaming about once I fell asleep. This was the job that would finally let me better myself so that I could provide for my fur-child, the ever-snuggly Bowser Kitten, properly and shower him with treats and cat trees.

This was also the job that came with a 42-page guide on how to write out the cover letter and resume properly.

I spent three days working on this application. I had to go over every single sentence and make sure it was worded the exact way the guide said to word it. I had to find the perfect balance between showing the responsibilities and tasks I had at previous jobs, and really playing up the things I’ve done that are exactly what this job requires. I had to find a way to show that taking extra online courses in our training modules at work proved that I could keep up with the responsibilities of keeping up with the ever-changing laws and how they apply, even though I was just learning the difference between a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon.

I was working on other applications during this too. I’d work on stuff for an hour, and then run off to the other room to vacuum or mop or anything but type. I submitted a handful of other applications, made two different types of marshmallow cereal bars, took a few naps (thanks to the muscle relaxers I was on, no doubt), and washed the walls. I tried switching between the main application and the other ones I was working on, but I just kept getting more and more stressed out and frustrated.

I mean, there was a 42-page guideline!

This application had to be both a cover letter and a resume with a combined total page length of five pages. Quite a few pages covered the basics, but there was still so much detail that needed to be put into this thing! It was absolutely maddening!

And of course, throughout the whole process, there were the regular little annoyances that come up when you’re applying for jobs. What are those annoyances, you ask?

1. Please attach your resume. Now, please fill in all the info from your resume. 

You see an ad for a job, click the little link at the bottom, and head over to the website for HR. You go through the ad, tailor your resume a bit, fill in your basic information in the application form, and then get to the bottom of the screen. Some companies have you ad your resume as an attachment. Some have a little box where you can copy and paste your resume. Either way, you ad your resume and figure you’re all done.

Oh hell no!

For some reason, even though they’re sitting there on your resume, now you have to fill out like six different forms with all the information that’s already on your resume! You wind up spending close to an hour filling in your job history, volunteer experience, education, maybe even a few references.

And do you know where they could find all that information? Your resume, that’s attached right there on the form!

I know there’s probably a good reason for this. They’re trying to catch people lying on their resumes or verify information. A lot of companies use software to scan applications for keywords, and maybe this makes it easier to do so. Or maybe there’s just some sort of sadistic conspiracy against job hunters.

2. You need a professional resume. And an educational one. And a customer service one. And……

I have a few degrees, a college certificate, and a bunch of Microsoft training. I’ve worked in research, was a teaching assistant, and volunteered for a whole bunch of social justice and school spirit organizations in university. And for the last four years, I’ve been working in customer service.

For some jobs, I need to play up my customer service training. For others, it’s all about my computer skills. Some want to know about my research experience, or my schooling, or my volunteer work with one specific organization.  Each and every one of those requires a completely different resume.

And it’s not just a matter of cutting and pasting things. Different types of resumes require different styles, which means using a completely different template to work from. You can’t just move things around to highlight things. My degrees make me over-qualified for a lot of the customer service work I apply for, and my customer service work is seen as a low point for research jobs compared to my education and research work.

Then you get highly specified applications that come with a 42-page guideline. At least something like that tells you exactly what you need on your resume.

3. Some application processes are extremely specific. They might even have a 42-page guideline.

Ok, I’ll admit that I love the fact that they just flat out tell you what they want in this guideline. They basically lay out the cover letter for you and explain exactly what they want to know from you. It’s like the idiots’ guide to applying.

But it’s 42-pages of this! This is how they weed out the contenders from the “well I’ll just throw in a resume and see what happens” folk. They give super specific directions just for the layout, requiring specific fonts, font sizes, and margins. Then they lay out exactly how they want your information presented to them.

Thing is, this specific application is a 5-page combination of the resume and cover letter. I’m not going to be able to use this for any other application, and I can’t just recycle part of it for similar applications because the presentation is completely different for each one! It’s like spending 3 days working on a “maybe”.

4. Did I mention cover letters yet? Because cover letters suck.

Basically, you have 3/4 of a page to sell yourself. You have to show exactly how you meet every single qualification, how every qualification on your resume proves you’re perfect for this position and answer any questions your education and experience (or lack thereof) may bring up. Oh, and you have a highly specific template you must work from that includes customer headers, specified address lines, and a very specific amount of spaces between “Thank you” and your name.

Oh, and did I mention that this is the very first thing a potential employer sees? This is the very first impression you make. Every single tiny thing must be absolutely perfect, or else they’ll just toss your application aside.

No pressure or anything, eh?

And these are just the things about actually applying that can drive a person bonkers! Nevermind all the waiting for a call back, the interview prep, the rounds and rounds some interviews take, the personality tests, the rejections, the “almosts”…………