Thursday, 29 December 2011

Strength and independence: compatible with intimacy?

When I miss someone, whether it's my partner, my dog, or a particular family member, I tend to berate myself afterwards for not being " strong and independent enough". Apparently, somewhere in my "I must be a strong and independent feminist woman" socialization, it got coded into my brain that having emotions associated with missing somebody makes me WEAK. 

It's like I feel like my humanity needs to be suppressed so I won't be "weak". MUST BE LIKE SELF-SUFFICIENT AUTOMATON!!!!! But let's look at the analogy a little deeper...

Even computers are more useful and powerful when networked together. (I cite as proof the distributed analysis of extraterrestrial signals a la the SETI program.) not to mention that being hooked into the net provides a wealth of information not otherwise available. 

And it's sort of funny, the fact that one of the things that I consider myself very good at is networking: I once asked a group of people that if they needed access to something (lets call it, oregano), who they would call if they needed a hook up. Most of them said me, even though I do not smoke, I mean, cook with, oregano. What's even funnier? Is that I really could. Mostly by using my network. This goes for catering, troubleshooting technology, trades, and sometimes, a bed for the night in another city. I do this by nurturing my network. I've often wondered whether this might work to find say, a living organ donor if someone needed a kidney? 

So if I consider one of my strengths to be the bringing together of people, why am I such a spaz when I catch myself missing the presence of those closest to me? Again, it comes to an internal conflict between my head and my heart. No doubt some of it comes from my history. When those who are supposed to protect you from the harsh judgments of society are the ones who are the harshest and most brutal judges, it fucks you up a LOT. I tend to become rather paranoid-egocentric when alone, like this week in Hong Kong when I am ever so aware that I do not look as one is expected to look given my social standing here. Even though I doubt anyone of consequence gives a shit, I still feel hyper-aware that here I would be considered rather unattractive due to my body size and the lack of attention I devote to things like clothing and hair.

It seems natural then, that I miss having the usual loving and accepting friends and loved ones (and yes, loved ones absolutely include my dog in the mix) all around me. So maybe I just need to stop being such a bitch to myself about it.

After all, even androids develop attachments...

From Star Trek: TNG, episode 4.6 "Legacy"

Ishara Yar: Are you able to have friends? 
Lt. Commander Data: Yes. 
Ishara Yar: But you don't have feelings, do you? 
Lt. Commander Data: Not as such. However, even among humans, friendship is sometimes less an emotional response, and more a sense of... familiarity. 
Ishara Yar: So, you can become used to someone. 
Lt. Commander Data: Exactly. As I experience certain sensory input patterns, my mental pathways become accustomed to them. The input is eventually anticipated, and even missed when absent. 

Monday, 26 December 2011

War on Christmas? Seriously?

I've seen two types of postings on Facebook about the supposed "war on Christmas". The first is by those who feel "persecuted" and they go on about how they won't apologize for for having a CHRISTMAS tree and how they will never use the religiously neutral "happy holidays". Some continue on to add that this is because there is too much "multiculturalism" and that Christmas just isn't the same because of "all those immigrants".

Then I see those who feel as though they are being blamed for the " war on Christmas". These posters correctly point out that the only people who aren't immigrants or descendants of immigrants in North America are Indigenous  peoples, who did not celebrate Christmas. Blaming immigrants for the " war on Christmas" is racist and reinforces the colonialism that victimized an entire population of indigenous peoples.  

But that is not the main purpose of this post. Many others have already pointed out the problems with the finger pointing as to who is responsible for this supposed war, but I want to challenge whether this war actually exists at all: and if it's just a myth, why is this myth being perpetuated, and what purpose might it serve?

If someone chooses to say "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas", it's usually not because they hate your baby Jesus. It's about choosing to be inclusive, like how I wouldn't assume anyone's partner is of any particular gender without further information. I use the gender neutral term partner so that those who do not identify as straight know that I am not making assumptions about them, not because I am declaring war on heterosexuality. 

It drives me nutty that somehow using inclusive language when it comes to the winter holiday season is being constructed by some to be anti-Christianity. Happy holidays INCLUDES the possibility that what you celebrate may be Christmas. And also many other traditions popular at this time of year. I also have a hard time figuring out exactly which group of non-Christians are supposedly SO OFFENDED by being told "merry Christmas", because I've yet to meet someone who feels that way. I don't believe in Jesus, but I am happy to hear and also often wish people a Merry Christmas. 

Yet this concept of a supposed war on Christmas seems to have really taken root. Perfectly nice, reasonable people, who I would like to believe are not active and deliberate participants in oppressing people from minority cultural groups repost Facebook statuses and other related materials lamenting about how they feel so persecuted in celebrating Christmas. Seriously? Your nationally recognized holiday, combined with a myriad of social and cultural rituals that are based on the birth of your savior isn't enough to make you feel secure in your celebrations? What more could you possibly want? Christmas is everywhere, pretty much starting in July (which is when Hallmark rolls out their yearly ornament collection). Do people really believe that their Christmas is somehow in danger because some people opt to use the more inclusive happy holidays??

I ask this because I've found the stories I've heard this year about Christmas versus some other more generic term have been really rampant this year, and, ironically, really takes away from the Christmas/holidays warm fuzzies. If Christmas is really so important to you, I really wish you'd focus on being kind and good to others, instead of focusing on the mistake and extremely self-centered "oh my god  Christians are under attack" propaganda.

Oh, and for those of you who are upset by the use of "Xmas" versus "Christmas"? I can't speak for everyone, but I use it because I am LAZY, not because I hate your religion. I'm pretty sure Jesus taught that being self-centered is not a good thing. So get over yourself.

Happy holidays, everyone! And yes, that's for the Xmas people too. :P

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Reasoning with Anxiety

Tomorrow I leave for the other side of the planet, where nearly all of the paternal side of my family resides. Hong Kong was my childhood home; although I would not like to live there full-time, I miss it and think of it often.

I should be excited about going back for a visit; I always have a great time. Yet it's 3 a.m. and I'm awake, stimulated by a dull buzz of generalized anxiety. I have nothing to be anxious about; my dog has a great time at my friends' house, I have several neighbours and friends taking care of the house, I don't have any issues with flying (I get motion sick, but I don't really worry about in-flight incidents or anything like that). 

I'm always like this before a trip, even though I know there's no reason to be spazzy about it. I've been trying to reason with myself all evening: "Lily, you have nothing to worry about; in reality all you really need to get on that plane and get out of here is your passport." Although I know this to be true, I'm still mildly uneasy.

Then I moved on to attempts to rationalize in a way that blames the situation, and the broader socio-political-cultural contexts of my life. This is mostly about the impact of colonialism and the splitting up of families. Again, true, but not effective in resolving my current state.

It's like what Bilbo said in LOTR: "I know I don't look it, but I'm beginning to feel it in my heart. I feel... thin. Sort of stretched, like... butter scraped over too much bread." When more than one place feels like home, every time you leave one location for another you leave a piece of yourself behind, and after 25 years of this, I think it's really starting to wear on me. The excitement of seeing family far away is always tempered by the knowledge that in a few weeks we'll be saying goodbye again. 

I don't really know where I'm going with this... other than that I really wish we had Star Trek style transporter technology. Perhaps I should go back to school and become a physicist. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Taking a Chance: An Unconventional Cover Letter

I was going to do my first post about why I'm starting yet another blog, why you should read it, blah blah blah blah. Then I realized that it would be a waste of both my time and yours. Instead, I want to talk about a recent job application I submitted in response to this ad: 

Strategist Search

Everyone likes a smarty pants and zag creative group is no exception. We’re looking for a highly strategic thinker to join our team. We’re looking for uber strategic. “Kind of strategic”, “fairly strategic” and “what’s strategic” need not apply.
Now what does a strategic thinker need to do? Well think for one, but specifically we seek an individual that is experienced in the development of marketing and communications plans.
The person for the zag team should be able to develop ideas that are customized to meet the goals and objectives of a client and be able to explain how the ideas work and achieve results. This person can see the big picture and understands how all the tiny specks of colour work together to make that big picture.
This person also has top notch writing skills. You don’t need to be able to write ad copy (although that’s not a bad skill to have) but you do need to be able to convey your ideas as concisely, cleanly and as error free as possible. Clients kind of hate when you spell their names wrong.
Tell us why your strategic mind and mad thinking skills are needed on our team. Please forward your resume to XXX, partner/director of strategic development at
Short listed applicants will be contacted for interviews.
posted 10/19/2011
Retrieved December 20, 2011 from here.
I decided that since they drifted significantly from a typical job posting, that I would take a chance and respond in a nonconventional way also.
Here is what I sent in:
November 17, 2011
Dear Ms. XXX,
Let me begin with some shameless flattery for your organization:
  • I love that your website and the job posting has a sense of humour.
  • I love that the company blog isn’t all cheesy “how to grow your business” advice that’s duplicated umpteenth times on various other blogs.
And now I’ll engage in some not-so-humble self promotion:
  • My past work experience meant that I had to make academic research (which can be inaccessible and boring) appeal to the masses, and sexual violence education (which can be outright traumatic) enjoyable for youth. I managed both quite well. As my psychologist says, “Lily, I have no doubt you could sell whatever you wanted to.” (Footnote: I see a psychologist because I believe in being as psychologically healthy as possible. Not because I’m crazy. At least, not more so than other people in the general population.)
  • I’ve always loved problem-solving, and it shows in how I spend my downtime. I spend much of my free time playing nerdy boardgames that involve a lot of statistics and probability calculations. I used to lead raids with 40+ people in World of Warcraft, while working full-time and enrolled in graduate school. (This also showcases my ability to multi-task, and manage my caffeine-intake for maximum productivity).
  • I’ve developed a strong eye for detail, especially in regards to editing. As a demonstration and a few editing freebies, you should know that as of 10:39 a.m., November 14, 2011:
    • On your website, under the heading “We’re zag”, an “a” is missing: “zag creative group inc. may seem like [a] typical ad firm”. 
    • In the job posting, there is an extra “the” in this sentence: “...ideas that are customized to [the] meet the goals and objectives of a client...”.
    • Also in the job posting, an “it” is missing: “Clients kind of hate [it] when you spell their names wrong”. 
  • I am good with people. So good that I use my ex-husband as a work reference if a position has any significant technical element, because I believe that no one can speak better to my technical literacy and limitations than an IT professional with whom I spent 10 years of my life. Also, I still have an open invitation from my first boyfriend’s parents to visit at any time (we dated 16 years ago, when I was 16). I also have excellent relationships with lots of other people that have nothing to do with my dating history.
I’ll close with a confession of my weaknesses:
  • I have two unfinished graduate degrees, one in Psychology and one in Communications and Technology. I seem to have a problem going through the motions  of finishing final projects, but my excuse is that I have been too busy actually using what I’ve learned to bother graduating. I do feel that my academic training has been exceptionally useful in the workplace, despite not actually having graduated (both programs are still open to me returning to finish).
  • I played World of Warcraft for 3 years. Leading large-scale raids taught me a lot about team work, but the amount of time I devoted to the game was problematic. There are some elements of my personality that could manifest in the form of addictive behaviours. Of course, this could work out well for an employer if I happen to become addicted to work, so perhaps it’s not all bad.
  • I do not eat my grilled cheese sandwiches with ketchup, which according to your blog entry, would make me “seriously messed up”. I am willing to fake it for the sake of this position, but know that this would be bordering on sacrilege. That’s how much I want to work for you.
It’s obvious from Zag’s website and job posting that personal fit is a crucial element. If the job posting and the website content is any indication, my writing style and sense of humour may be an excellent fit. I hope that we will have an opportunity to discuss this in person so I could further showcase just how awesome I think I could be as a member of your team.
Thank you for your consideration. 
Lily T.
P. S. I would be highly useful in a zombie apocalypse situation. This might seem a bit like a non-sequitur, but given that other than our friends and family, co-workers are typically who we spend the most time with, I do think that my usefulness in an end-of-the-world scenario is worthy of consideration. After all, a desire to survive should bring out the strategic thinker in all of us... and fantasizing about how one would act in such a situation makes for solid problem-solving practice!  

So what did I learn from this? I didn't make the cut for a second interview, but I was told that my cover letter made her "laugh out loud". I had so much fun writing the letter that I started sharing it with some of my friends, all of whom offered nothing but positive feedback. One person said that "not only should they hire you, they should give you retropay!". Another said that if I wasn't already dating somebody, this would have gotten me asked out on a date. Yet another proposed outright marriage, in response to the footnote about my psychologist. Several people laughed until they had tears in their eyes. 
The best comment came from a friend that I've known for over a decade: "When I read this, I can hear your voice inside my head. This is SO you!"
And in the end, shouldn't that be exactly what a cover letter accomplish? Show a potential employer who I am?
I am throwing this out now into the blogosphere, because I am proud of who I am, personally and professionally. This cover letter showcases a bit of that. I hope you, dear reader, enjoyed it. Feedback is more than welcomed. A job offer would be even better.
Until later,
Lily T.