Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I Want to Smash Them All!

Settling back into Vancouver life after a trip to the la la land that is Las Vegas turned out to be easier than I anticipated. While wandering the strip day after day in a drunken delirium I grew increasingly worried, anticipating a sense of homelessness that thankfully never hit me. While gulping down cheap beers with old friends I pictured all the homes I've left and returned to within the past five years, and noted to myself that I would not be returning to any of those places when it was time to leave the flashing lights and debauchery. How odd.

When I dig a bit deeper the oddness only grows. I've spent years worrying about being "homeless", and even strangers have remarked about my general "homelessness" as of late. But what is it that makes me homeless? Why can't I have multiple homes? Why, after years of homesickness would I choose to start a life somewhere entirely different? Part of me longs for the stability of a small town, and the rest of me is screaming to embrace as much of the world as possible. 

Fuck tradition. All the selfish flailings of excess in the empty bottles and seizure-inducing lights of Vegas made me realize that I don't want to be rigid. I mean, I knew that already, but the whole thing just sort of clarified my confused thoughts. Not that I want to live a life of Vegas-style excess, but why do I have to travel to the middle of the fucking desert to feel free from the constraints of traditional life? My best friend from high school got married there amidst the lavish depravity of red-eyed tourists, and it was an absolutely beautiful, traditional ceremony. I enjoyed the mismatched settings and feelings. The whole thing made me think even harder about growing up and doing grown up things. I sort of got the feeling that everyone else my age who attended the wedding felt as if they were on a schedule.

Don't get me wrong; for those of us who are ready and willing to plunge forward into adulthood, more power to you! I'm jealous in a way, because my mind just can't settle on one idea. I am in love with so many of the traditions associated with being an adult, but at the same time I want to smash each and every one of those traditions into oblivion. Is marriage even relevant anymore? Is home ownership? Is 35 really too old to pop out a kid? Furthermore, is it so wrong to NOT have kids? Or, can I reconcile these opposites to create a life not unlike this trip? Wild, grounded, free, traditional, grown-up, childish, sleazy, beautiful, and above all full of love and laughter.

I'll let you know if I ever figure it out.
Also, let me know if this makes absolutely no sense. I may have killed one too many brain cells over the past week.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

(4) Optimal Aging Editing & Pints of Guinness Make Me Not So Strong As I Would Like

Sitting on Kits Beach in the shade, I feel content but once again I'm bridging some sort of gap between the tourists and the locals. I wish I could talk to the dudes playing guitar at the log next to mine, but there's a level of social awkwardness I'd just rather not reach today. Later on I will have my second meeting with an "Optimal Aging" doctor, and I'll hopefully begin my careers as an editor with his work. The fact that I will actually have an editing assignment this afternoon, and that someone will actually PAY me for it is entirely baffling. Last time I was in his office he talked so fast, I barely got a word in edge-wise. Maybe he just likes his editors to be the quiet, mysterious type? Hopefully I can maintain that illusion today.


The illusion was successfully maintained, as always, and the IDEA of this job is so exciting that I've felt giddy for two days straight now. One small problem exists though: How can I DO this work??? If it was straight up editing I would probably squirm a bit every morning (I'm a natural procrastinator, after all), but I'd get it done. It would be slow going, since I'm not used to this kind of work, but I'd work a few extra hours without pay until I was used to his style and all that. But this... well, I'm hard-pressed to even describe WHAT he wants me to do with the material, let alone actually do any work. I know I should probably just e-mail him and ask him what the fuck I'm supposed to do with this mass of material, but I can't figure out a way to do that without sounding moronic. That in itself is a project.

I hate being new at this whole... life... thing. I'm glad we moved though, because at least I'm testing the waters and learning a bit about myself. If we had stayed in London I would be bored out of my skull in my crap job, not learning anything at all. Graduating university and leaving London was like being re-born into the world.

Now if only I could convince my body to start anew as well. The chemical reactions in my brain are what's making this project more difficult. My brain is freezing up in terror, as usual, but half of the material I'm working on is about not letting fear control you.
Seriously, this job is amazing, but I'm already fairly certain that I will blow it. Fuck! I don't even have a chair to sit in! How am I supposed to convince MYSELF that I'm an actual editor/ghost writer?  It wouldn't feel real, even if I HAD a chair.


I found a chair (or stool, rather) in a pub downtown, because as Tom Gabel put it so well, "Pints of Guinness Make You Strong." I figured I'd test this theory, since I continue to fail at doing any sort of work for the doctor man. I actually went downtown for a career/job search lecture at the Vancouver Public Library, since I still need a "real" job and I'm also failing at acquiring one. As the librarian spoke I felt my hope slowly renew itself, but I think that was mostly due to the fact that the library itself was so exciting to me. Ok, so it's not quite the New York Public Library, but it's still an impressive work of architecture, and it is certainly filled to the brim with comforting, oh-so-lovely books. Just being in a legit library was exciting, until the seminar ended and I realized I wasn't any closer to to this "career epiphany" I was hoping to have. After wandering aimlessly around on the literature floor I headed back to the bus stop in defeat.

That's about when I decided to test this Pints of Guinness theory. The pint sure felt good, and I even met a couple of people while consuming it. Half of the point of the pint was to relax, and the other half was to show off my Florida ID one last time before it expired. Of course, being in Canada and only two days away from my 25th birthday, no one asked to see my ID when I ordered. I did get the chance, however, when the dude next to me struck up a conversation about Guinness, which led to a discussion about Against Me! and the aforementioned song, which led to a discussion about Florida. I took this opportunity to show my Florida License, as planned, and the girl he was with subsequently admitted that she was also from Florida. A Toronto born Floridian to be exact, which sort of blew my mind because that is more or less the same story I tell.

So I learned that pints of Guinness not only make you strong, but they also induce random, twilight-zone-esque coincidences. I gave the girl my number and told her to call me sometime and then I packed up my copy of The Song of Roland and left. I know she'll probably never call; the whole situation just sort of felt like a last desperate grab at the past. While we were talking about all those inane things what I really wanted to tell her about was giving it all away, both literally and metaphorically. Like when I gave away my green card just the other day (See post "Alien Signature Here____" for a full report of that incident). I mentioned it, but she just smiled politely and congratulated me. I guess that's the sort of thing you can expect when you reach out to random strangers. Her friend was an idiot anyways. When he asked me what the Song of Roland was like I told him it was an epic. He asked me what made it so epic. I replied, "It's an epic..."

I'm probably a snob.

(3) Executive Failure

I go from this trendy Kitsilano boutique to interviewing at some cushy office downtown. It's two in the afternoon and the sidewalks are crawling with tourists and smart looking people in business suits. I'm bridging the gap between these disparate groups since I'm headed for a corporate high-rise, but the scenery is still new enough for me to maintain a slightly lost, slack-jawed stare. I mean, this is a REAL city.

I find the office of this mining company so easily that I decide I either must really belong in Vancouver, or google street view is a new god. A bleach blonde woman greets me at the plate glass doors to this office on the 22nd floor, and then ushers me into an empty boardroom before excusing herself. People keep walking past the window of this meeting room looking like they're going to a dinner party (suit? tux? what's the difference, really?) and I can't help but find it ironic that these are people who control the bowels of the Earth. They look like they've never encountered nature, and that they're likely to cringe if they ever do. Not that I'm a child of nature or anything, but I probably stick out like a sore thumb in this environment with my woolen dress and hush puppy heels. Strangely enough, it is sort of a comfort to know that there is at least a set protocol for this kind of place. I like to think that I'm not a corporate whore, but it's easy enough to fake it. The air is so full of a sense of importance, all you need to do is take a deep breath and then exhale the bullshit all over them. Yes, it feels about as disgusting as it sounds.

I pretend to read one of the magazine articles framed on the wall while I imagine with horror that this massive boardroom could fill up with executives at any moment. The position is for an office assistant, so this isn't a completely irrational fear, since they probably want everyone to approve of the new assistant. To clear my head I flop back into a fancy chair at the over-sized table and try to remember if I've ever even been in a boardroom before. I vaguely remember being about 13 and roaming around at the office my dad used to work in. When we came across the boardroom he made a joke about it being a "bored" room.

I smirk to myself just in time for bleach blonde woman to enter with only one suit-clad executive in tow. They both turned out to be pretty normal (bad dye job and well-tailored suit aside), and the interview made me feel pretty good. I walked around downtown afterward with the stride of a top executive who owns the city- but so far no call back. I guess I only succeeded in fooling myself that I could fit in at that sort of place.

Well, damn.

(2) A Good Salesperson Doesn't Giggle

Ok, so when I said "barely hanging on to a crappy job," what I actually meant was "I will hang on to this crappy job until I either break down in tears on the sales floor, or until I've come to the point where I know if I don't quit I WILL embarrass myself by breaking down in tears on the sales floor." As I've probably already demonstrated, I'm not exactly the sales type, but this is precisely the job I found myself in when we got to Vancouver. Yes, most of my working life I've been a Retail Sales Associate, but working part-time at a chain store in a suburban mall is nothing even remotely close to working in sales. A full-time Retail Sales Associate position in a gift/random crap boutique in a trendy Vancouver neighborhood: now THAT'S working in sales, regardless of how the owners describe the job.

When we first got to Vancouver my boyfriend's job offer fell through, and while we waited for THAT crisis to sort itself out (we knew there WAS a job, just where and when Luke could begin it was a big question mark), I flung resumes out like confetti in hopes that someone would pay me to do stuff so that we could buy some furniture, and possibly some food (and let's be honest- some beer too). The first, and only, job offer I got was from this boutique a few blocks from our beachfront apartment (I know, right? Sounds too good to be true! Just remember that it's tiny and we have no furniture. Makes more sense now, right?), and somehow I managed to convince this owner that I can EASILY make a living chatting up random strangers and pretending they're my best friends.

It's funny how my awkwardness actually comes across as energy and confidence when you first meet me. I smile and nod and make lots of eye contact, and usually people take this as encouragement to keep talking. My nervous fidgeting somehow comes across as an untapped wealth of energy that says, "YES! I am ready to jump up and do your bidding!" And that nervous giggle is, for some unbeknown reason, charming. All I can say is that I'm thrilled that I have just enough confidence to look people in the eye, and that my Mom bought me all those nice dresses and MAC makeup. Otherwise I think I'd be screwed. This interview was actually more like speaking to some philosopher for an hour than it was actually interviewing for any sort of job. This man was convinced he could read me like a book, and he spent 40 minutes giving me odd life lessons. And then I was hired. Ok then... Something tells me this may be fairly typical BC behavior.

So this "sage" co-owns the shop with his wife, who had a deep-seated hatred for me right from the start. I asked her a grand total of three questions in the first hour I worked with her, and apparently that made me an idiot. In all fairness, I WAS a bit of an idiot when it came to selling; it's not like my degree in English helped me to develop fantastic social skills. If anything, my degree has inspired me to be a social recluse. I mean, how awesome would it be to live like those hermits in the King Arthur stories? These knights would come along with some mortal injury or devastating heart break, and those hermits always knew what to do to get them back on their feet. The knights would hang out for awhile and then eventually be on their way, and I bet those hermits just sat around laughing at the complicated lives of the knights. Plus everyone respected and valued the hermits. So awesome.

So... clearly no social skills. Anyways...

I was given several tips about how to sell, but my general approach was to say "Hello (insert additional generic greeting and comment about the rain, and occasionally, the lack of rain). Isn't that (whatever item they were absent-mindedly touching) SO cute?!" Then my inner monologue would tell me that I was way too enthusiastic about said object's level of cuteness, and  should definitely shut up while I'm still ahead. Then I would back away, smiling awkwardly. It's who I am. I'm bad with people, and the only reason why I'm not worse off is because of my tendency to giggle when I'm nervous. The only time this "ploy" doesn't work is when someone is angry or upset with me (I say "ploy" in quotes because I really do wish it were some sort of tactic, but it's really just a reflex). Even when Luke and I argue I occasionally get in trouble for laughing at him. You'd think he'd accept the fact that it really isn't something I control- we've only been together for five years...

But this woman found nothing cute or charming in my awkward-greeting-this-is-nice-giggle-while-backing-off approach, and figured that if she demeaned and embarrassed me in front of the other employees I would stop grinning like an idiot and turn into a selling machine. I knew it was only a matter of time before she fired me- the woman had so little faith in my abilities that on my 6th day of work she felt the need to explain to me what the fridge, microwave, and garbage bins in the back room were for. I'm socially inept, not brain dead for god's sake!- and so I decided to quit. I actually wrote out everything I would say to her husband when I called. It was a tale of heartbreak and woe in which I was innocently belittled by a horrible witch woman, but it all hinged on him asking "why?" when I said it just wasn't working out for me. I hyperventilated for like three hours before making that call, and all the man had to say was "Ok, thanks for calling. Bye!"

Despite how much of a loser I felt like for being so unsuccessful at such a simple job, I didn't feel horribly guilty for quitting because I was probably making Luke miserable too. Plus he had FINALLY started the job he should have started a month beforehand.

The resume confetti continues to fly.

(1) World, Meet Meaghan. Meaghan, Meet World. Now Give Us All Your Money!

Some days it's nearly impossible to convince myself that everything will, in fact, be alright. You see, I always imagined that I was this upstanding citizen, but it's recently come to my attention that I've never actually been a citizen of anyplace, aside form my own head (which apparently doesn't count for anything). Well crap. Double crap since I've had this revelation after dragging my boyfriend, our cat, and our stuff (oh, the amount of stuff we fussed over) across Canada and into unfamiliar territory. I've been out of university for about 7 months now, and while 7 months is a relatively short time in the grand scheme of things, the changes I've forced on myself are nothing short of major. But despite the several crises my boyfriend and I have suffered through these past 7 months, somehow relatively little actually has changed (postal code and furniture aside).

Before I even survived to see the end of my university career, I really should have known that I had literally no place in the general public. My entire history serves as proof that I've forever lived in some weird alternative reality. Actually, the fact that I was in university is, in itself, a dead give away. History aside, the catalyst for this, my newest crisis, was the fiasco that was filing my tax return. I tried to do it back in April, before the big move from Ontario to BC (we'll get to THAT later), only to be chided for having never filed for taxes before. The woman at H&R Block could hardly understand English, let alone understand why a 24 year old has never filed for taxes before. But after 20-odd years of having everything done for me, taxes were just something I assumed my Dad took care of every spring. In hindsight, the fact that I still possessed nearly every T4 of my retail sales associate career should have told me something. Although, in my own defense, he did always do my American taxes so I wasn't totally off. I have no clue how these cross-border things work. All I know is that I'm a Green Card carrier from Canada, and based on MY border crossing experiences, I'd hate to be an Arab with a Green Card- but I digress.
So this Polish woman is clearly frazzled, and so she tells me to come back after tax season, since I don't actually owe the government anything. I told her that I EXPLAINED the situation over the phone when I made the appointment, and that we're moving so we really NEED this money. I'd like to say that my teary-eyed, white-knuckled desperation was a devious tactic to get her to do her job, but I really was feeling super desperate. Tactic or not, it didn't work; she just agreed to make another appointment for me with an employee who actually knew what they were doing.

Replay this scene two more times with two different incompetent employees and then ignore me crying in the parking lot, because I'm supposed to be 24, not 6, and then skip two months ahead to a post-tax season office in Vancouver. This Vancouver woman did all of my taxes in under 45 minutes, but this time I ended up crying right there in the office, because I'm broke and don't have roughly $200 to pay her for doing 6 years of taxes for me. She agreed to process this past year, and told me she'd hold onto the rest of my forms until I can afford to process the rest. I really have no clue when that will be.

So my first foray into ACTUALLY being an upstanding citizen was a disaster, and while I don't regret moving (not in the least!), moving made my boyfriend and me nearly broke, and being broke is something I've never really experienced. Sure, as a student I opted to eat $1.00 instant "ramen" for days on end so I could buy beer, but since my parents paid for my rent, tuition, bought my books, clothes, shoes, purses, flights from our Florida home to school in Ontario (and back again for holidays!), took me to Japan (twice) and generally spoiled me rotten, somehow the ramen eating days just don't count.

So here I am, supposedly an adult who has the tools to make it on my own, and I have no money and no discernible skills since I chose to study English and not business. Fuck. I fled London, Ontario and the University of Western Ontario adamant that I would move to Vancouver, attend Simon Fraser University and become an editor (a successful one even!), but here I am not completing the introductory editing course and barely hanging on to a crappy job in retail.

I suppose moving was a good thing.

Alien Signature Here: ________________

When I was reading about turning in my Green Card all the websites claimed that I would be "surrendering" the stupid piece of plastic (which isn't even really green). I imagined walking through security waving a little white handkerchief in surrender, and the guard would pat me on the shoulder in a consolatory way and say "there, there, it had to be done." While I knew it wouldn't go quite like that, I figured "surrendering" my permanent residency was better than being stripped of it at an airport when I have someplace to be. It was a conscious choice; a difficult choice, mind you, but it was my way of choosing to end my relationship with the U.S. on my own terms.

It was a bit surprising then, when I got to the U.S. Consulate in downtown Vancouver, and I was whisked past a line-up of people that extended out the door. My bag was unceremoniously shoved at my friend Samantha, and a security guard escorted me up to the 20th floor of this windowless building. Sitting in the waiting room the people around me were sleeping, complaining about their level of hunger, and checking their watches every two minutes. I overheard someone say they'd been waiting for three hours. I waited about one minute before I was handed the form I needed to fill out, and after that waited basically only as long as it took me to fill out the form, before I was asked to speak to an official. All those people waiting for hours, and probably years, and I walked in and out of the building in under 30 minutes.

The form threw me off. I knew when the moment came that I would hesitate. I considered getting up and leaving. I read it three times before I actually began to write my name in, and each time I stumbled over the word "ABANDONMENT" in bold caps beside a little check-box. So I'm ABANDONING my home?? To SURRENDER sounded so much easier; if I'm surrendering I'm just saving myself from pain and defeat, but if I'm ABANDONING  this... this... THING, it's like the whole American part of my life is contained in this little piece of plastic and I'm handing it over to these people because I just can't take care of it anymore, or I don't want it to be a part of me anymore. Abandonment. Fucking abandonment. And then they shooed me in and out like they couldn't wait to see the back of me. It was like a bad break-up, where you want to explain everything but all the other person hears is that they're being abandoned and so they throw you out before you can hurt them anymore. My inner child, the one that grew up in the southern U.S., is confused as hell right now, because I just walked into that building and fucking abandoned her there. Just like that. Fucking abandonment. That's horrible.

I rode down in the elevator by myself, no security to see me out. It was disorienting because I was confused about the whole abandonment thing when I went in with the intention of surrendering, plus the elevator took me down at the other side of the building. I found Sam and hugged her because I just needed some sort of warmth, after that cold-hearted act. I hugged her and then we went our separate ways home.
The bus stop was empty, and when I sat down I noticed some graffiti at my feet- big white block letters spelling out my very desire: PLEASE TAKE ME HOME. The bus came and brought me back to our apartment on the beach, and now I'm waiting for Luke to get here, so his presence will in fact, take me home.

I'm not an alien anymore. I'm all yours.