Sunday, May 8, 2011

Jobs. It's all anyone talks about in this city. First question upon meeting someone, "So, what do you do?" At one point, I started telling people I did a whole lotta yoga, cooking and arts & crafts. That stopped shortly thereafter. People just didn't get it, "So, do you sell your arts & crafts?"
I'd like to separate myself from that job thing, but it's hard to. Getting asked that question never seemed too annoying, until I found that though I said "journalist," people would enquire further, "where?" Having resorted to responding, "Oh, I have 18 or so part-time gigs," it usually shuts people up pretty quickly.
I'm waiting to hear back from two jobs that might lead to offers. Always waiting. While cleaning my bathroom this evening, I listened to the latest edition of "This American Life."
Act 7: A recent college graduate moves back home. She's been told her whole life that she's so intelligent and that she'll do great things, "But, what if I don't? That'll be the biggest failure."
Though I graduated three years ago, that sentiment still rings in my ears. My expectations were too big: moving to the city, getting handed a job after a great interview, reporting full-time. It seems like too much to ask these days. Maybe they weren't too big, but just too unrealistic. I'm always waiting for my life to catch up to itself. My Dad always told me to follow my bliss, if I did eventually the money would come. Does it ever not come?
I'm not unemployed. I pay my rent. I have two part-time writing/editing gigs. Then, why do I feel like such a failure? It goes back to that image of what I thought I would be. Not this. I've become overly sensitive to criticism, which lends itself to my friends and boyfriend feeling like they have to walk on egg shells. I try to explain: it's that constant rejection of being turned down for a job. Of getting my hopes up and then falling back into the pit of scouting jobs and networking my butt off. It bleeds into my personal life, when I can't even take a comment from my boyfriend after he reads a recently-published piece. It's too much to bear, which is not a character trait found in most journalists. "Make it bleed!" I used to yell to my editors. That bleeding is part of growth for writers. But now I'm hemorrhaging and the bleeding isn't so fun anymore.
Like most things, it's a state of mind, this hemorrhaging. It's the cognitive dissonance that trips me up. I have that picture in my head. And I don't live up to it. But if I'm not happy now with where I am, when will I ever be? I leave you with: The Pursuit of Happiness.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Shift

Dear readers,
You may have noticed that there is a five month lag in blog posts.
Since I started this blog, I've written on issues of race. It was an issue of great importance to me. It still is, but lately, my life has shifted to looking at other issues more.
Like, finding a job.
I've been a part-time editor at a small newspaper in town for the past year and a half. All the while, I've been freelance reporting and applying for jobs.
I'm getting tired. I only have health care through Obamacare, which will expire when I turn 26 in eight months. I have to keep up with payment from my freelance gigs. I'm ready to move on from this slightly unstable lifestyle I lead. I'd like to be a full-time reporter or editor.
I've been looking for a job since July. To no avail. And let me tell you, dear reader, it's starting to affect my mental health. It's hard to get rejected, over and over again (I've never actually counted the number of interviews I've had, it'd be too depressing), and not take it personally.
I know that I am not alone. Data from the Office for National Statistics in the UK showed 770 journalists claimed Jobseeker's Allowance (like unemployment here) in April 2008. By April 2009 the figure had risen by 144 per cent to 1,880.
I know there are other aspiring journalists that need jobs. I just haven't met any that appear to be in such despair as I am. Most of them still believe in their work.
It's not that I don't believe in it, it's that I've lost a bit of my spark to go out and get the story.
I'm going to start doing that again.
But, I wanted to warn you that the subject of my blog posts might differ from week to week. I will still write on race, because it's an issue I face every day, but this other issue, of employment, is a little more pressing in my day-to-day life.
I hope this will give solace to those in my position.

Let me leave you with a personal interpretation of the song "The Scientist," by Coldplay, which I'm pretty sure held a different meaning when my boyfriend broke up with me at 16. My interpretation is in italics.

Come up to meet you, tell you I'm sorry and grateful for you taking the time for this informational interview, dear seasoned journalist.
You don't know how lovely you are: really, I've wanted to be a journalist since I was in middle school, but I guess the problem is that there are a whole lot of other people who have wanted to be a journalist since middle school, too.

I had to find you, really, I'd rather not keep freelancing for the rest of my life.
Tell you I need you, because what other kind of work could I possibly do?
Tell you I've set you apart but really, I just want a job. I mean sure, I'd love to work at the New York Times, but otherwise, it's all the same.

Tell me your secrets: do I need to go to Columbia J School?
And ask me your questions...interview me!
Oh, let's go back to the start when I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with thoughts of grandeur.

Running in circles: A) Apply for job B)Interview for job C)Somebody else gets job D)Repeat
Coming up tails
Heads on the science apart

Nobody said it was easy
It's such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard Really, no one told me I'd have to track down payment on freelance assignments, worry about health insurance and cry myself to sleep every night

Oh take me back to the start back to school, when I thought a job would come easily

I was just guessing
At numbers and figures
Pulling the puzzles apart Lord, how it's more than just what you know; it's who you know

Questions of science
Science and progress
Do not speak as loud as my heart See "So you want to be a journalist."

Oh tell me you love me
Come back and haunt me
Oh and I rush to the start

Running in circles interview, rejection, intervew, rejection and...repeat.
Chasing our tails
Coming back as we are

Nobody said it was easy I mean, I'm not in it for the money, folks.
Oh, it's such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be so hard really. Someone want to hire a sister?

I’m going back to the start 7th grade: Writing a story on the cheerleading squad. Oh, how those were the days.

Oh ooh ooh ooh ooh oh the sorrow
Ah ooh ooh ooh ooh oh the agony
Oh ooh ooh ooh ooh oh the hustlin'!
Oh ooh ooh ooh ooh oh, to be a journalist!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Finding Memories in a Far-away City

On Sunday evenings, I get contemplative. Bear with my little essay.
It was night, the crickets were out, it was that air between Summer and Fall that reminds me of home and driving home with boyfriends, being dropped off in my gravel driveway and stopping for a moment to look up at the stars. It sounds completely suburban, stereotypical, but those memories carry me here, in a city where I find comfort in strange ways.
A group of women sat out on a porch, chattering, laughing, bantering. It brought me to my grandmothers porch in the 8th grade, riding by bike around the circle driveway. My mom, aunts and grandmother sat on the porch on the nylon carpeting that kept the wet out. Those Forrest-green swinging chairs that didn't move until they tore the place down. I'd go jump up on the porch, away from my cousins and my aunt would coo over me, play with my long blond hair. And the lake silently sat in the background. It was not a perfect time, but a moment I've immortalized as something to aspire to.
Later, when I took up a kick for writing and my grandmother went off to the retirement home, the house went empty. I'd walk down after school and sit on the porch and write, imagining myself as some great poetic author. Mostly, I'd stare at the lake.
The house isn't there anymore. They tore it down a few years ago, but I can still see every detail. The linoleum in the kitchen, the old Frigidaire, the cabinet handles, the expired cake mixes my grandmother refused to throw out. My aunts would have to sneak in and throw them away when she napped. I can feel the brown shag carpet under my feet in the living room, the antique couch I will one day inherit when I get a place of my own, the Reader's Digest lining the built-in bookshelves. The shelf with ceramic figurines of lambs, Jesus and antique plates.
And they tore it down. I can't remember if I felt so markedly depressed then. Now, it marks the end of a chapter of my life when I could go sit down on Grandma's porch. I had no concept of the wear the world would make upon me. I didn't know the difference between “toward” or “towards” and vividly remember feeling terror at the thought of moving away from my parents. When I first moved here and waitressed I met an older couple from North Carolina who I felt intimacy with because of our shared homes. They asked if I had any family here, any friends. When they learned the answer they were shocked, and their shock startled me. Well, no, I didn't have any family here. And yes, I have friends, but I've made them. I came here with nothing. They told me I must be very brave. I cried in the bathroom after I left their table. It's not often I feel that I'm being very brave. I'm just making life. But, sometimes, when things get hard and I get frustrated because I still don't have a full-time job, I feel that bravery kicking in.
My now-built aunts house that sits where my grandma's used to be is much larger and modern. They tried to save the foundation of the house but it was so eaten away by termites they had to tear down everything except for the fireplace. The entire house was built around the fireplace, but in the new house, it seems smaller than it was before.
Sometimes I sit behind the house with my back against the brick like I used to do when I was a kid and the noise of my cousins go too much. It's the same view as it was before, just with something different my back leans against.
As I walked by the row house with the Latina women on the porch, I looked over and smiled at one woman. She said hello to me, and I said hello back. I wanted to go run on the porch and have them cluck over me as my aunts did.
The humanity that can be found in all sorts of difference pulls me back to my roots and pushes me to find more of that sweet goodness so often lost in the crude light.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Two deaths, same city, two meanings

Yesterday another young man died in Petworth. But it wasn't from a gang-related shooting or any urban-related issue. He fell from the roof of his apartment building.
I couldn't help but laugh in a very reporter-like, cynical way. No one else pointed out the irony. It's been all, "The poor young man."
The irony, less than a year before, another young man died one block over, in front of the Safeway next to my building, but because of a gang-related shooting.
The young man later died in the hospital.
Two deaths of young men, but they are very different. One young man hadn't even graduated high school and was shot, a very violent and stereotypical urban death. Shootings happen in this city often. When this happened, Park Place hadn't been built. The construction spilled into the street and the metro entrance hadn't even opened.
Since then, I've noticed more and more white people in my building and moving into Park Place. Gentrication is taking hold of Petworth at a rapid rate and the more recent death is a blatant example of this. The young man who died yesterday was 22, white, an intern and most likely, upwardly mobile. His obituary made it into the Salt Lake Tribune.
Though death is death is death and it's all sad, the death of the 14-year-old kid is sader. He was just another young man killed due to his life circumstances. He didn't get a chance to be an intern and most likely wouldn't have. This other young man fell off a roof in a high-priced building. This thinking is extremly cynical, morbid and dark. I'm saying something no one else is saying because it's not nice or politically correct. Five years ago, I might not have even considered living in Petworth because I may have considered it dangerous. I have to thank gentrification because without it I wouldn't live where I do or be writing this blog. But when $2,000/studio apartment buildings are built in historically black neighborhoods, it means those people will eventually not be able to live here anymore. That's my problem and why I have such a problem with the way this white guy died. Less crime is good, but not at the expense of rental prices and long-time residents.
The way people die in regions say a lot about a population. Ponder the difference in these two deaths and what they mean for the neighborhood they occured.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Countering the Boys Clubs

A post from CP!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Myth of White Privilege?

Last week, James Webb (D-VA) published a fiery column in the Wall Street Journal. He wrote that diversity programs should be done away with because Latinos and other minorities are receiving benefits from affirmative action programs more than black people, the very people the programs were designed to benefit in the first place. He argued that those are the only people the programs should help, blantantly taking a poke at other minorities who, despite not having a history of slavery, face other discriminatory practices that are just as detrimental to personal achievement.

Webb wrote: "memo to my fellow politicians: Drop the Procrustean policies and allow harmony to invade the public mindset. Fairness will happen, and bitterness will fade away."

Fairness has not happened with these diversity policies in place, why would it without? And the bitterness he speaks of is his own bitterness around possible missed opportunities because a minority took it.

But Webb's anger parallels my feelings when I applied for college: resentment toward minorities for a perceived unfair advantage.

When I was applying for college, I wished I were black. I thought I probably would not have been deferred from UNC Chapel Hill (considered the most prestigious public school in my home state of North Carolina). But after a few months of thinking like that, I changed my mind. I still got into a good state school and couldn’t blame my race for the reason I did not get in to other schools. I might have actually just been less qualified by other candidates. Being angry was taking the easy way out.

After reading Webb’s column, those old feelings were stirred.

He wrote, “Forty years ago, as the United States experienced the civil rights movement, the supposed monolith of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant dominance served as the whipping post for almost every debate about power and status in America. After a full generation of such debate, WASP elites have fallen by the wayside and a plethora of government-enforced diversity policies have marginalized many white workers. The time has come to cease the false arguments and allow every American the benefit of a fair chance at the future.”

But a look at numbers proves Webb wrong, despite his claim that “those who came to this country in recent decades from Asia, Latin America and Africa did not suffer discrimination from our government.” There are still glaring discrepancies between the majority race (white) and minorities (every other race).

1. Black women represent 66 percent of all new HIV cases each year among women, a study conducted in five major cities found that 46 percent of gay and bisexual Black men have contracted HIV, compared to 21 percent of similar White men. And while Black teenagers are only 15 percent of U.S. teen population, they account for 68 percent of all new AIDS cases among teens, according to a recent CDC report.
2. In 2003 blacks with a bachelor's degree had a median income of $36,694. This is 95 percent of the median income of whites with a bachelor's degree, which stood at $38,667, according to the 2004 Census. It’s still not equal, and anything less than equal can’t be fair.
3. For every dollar the median white family owns, the median Latino family owns 12 cents and the median black family, a dime, according to the Federal Reserve Board in 2007.
4. Since the recession began in December 2007, Latino unemployment has risen 4.7 percentage points, to 10.9 percent. Black unemployment has risen 4.5 points, to 13.4 percent. White unemployment has risen 2.9 points, to 7.3 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
5. Poverty rates remained statistically unchanged for blacks nationally (24.9 percent) and Hispanics (21.8 percent). The poverty rate decreased for non-Hispanic whites (8.3 percent in 2005, down from 8.7 percent in 2004), according to the Census.

There are still inequalities that deserve the affirmative action programs Webb discounts. For every time a white person is allegedly passed over in college admissions for a black person, he or she is afforded another opportunity simply because he/she is white. And just like whites have no idea if the reason we didn’t get that job is because of an affirmative action program, we cannot know when we get treated to our advantage because of our skin.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Sometimes, I’m really lucky. The difference that I know I hold can be masked, as similarly as when light-skinned black people passed for white during racially tense times, I can pass for straight.
I’m out at a local gay club on a Saturday night. I catch a cab to get home. The driver asks me if I had a good night. I say yes. He then asks me if I’m gay. My alcohol blood content level goes back to zero. I focus in on the man driving and where I am. I wonder if the doors are locked. If I could easily get out of the car.
I take what probably is a second, but my mind races, should I stand up for who I am and claim myself, or play “straight” and get the heck out of a terrifying situation. In my half-drunk, stubborn, refusal to listen to everything Oprah ever taught me, I say yes.
We’re driving up New Hampshire Avenue, halfway home. I ask him how he feels about gay people, where he is from, what people think about gay people back in his country, if he thinks it influences the way he thinks. I try to turn the conversation intellectual, away from serial killer/hate-crme/images of my body on the side of a road.
He asks how lesbian sex is done. I laugh off the question and ask him if he’s ever heard of “correctional rape,” that term I’ve read about in the NYTimes, where men rape lesbian women to “correct” them of their “disease.” It’s a total power play, who has control over the conversation, who can the other person uncomfortable. And I’m the passenger in the car and the woman.
We near my apartment. I have him drop me off one street over. I can’t stop shaking once I get into my apartment. Anything could have happened. Why did I insist on saying yes? I feel closeted in everyday life; I have to come out to everyone I know; no one ever assumes I’m queer. So when asked the question, I feel like it’s a battle cry. A “FUCK YOUUUU,” to all the worries. But lord, am I willing to die for it? I know that on the street, I do not look “gay.” I only have to be worried about being raped because I am a woman, not because I’m gay. Sometimes I feel guilty about that-passing. There is still so much discrimination that happens, I should be more visible. But maybe passing isn’t such a bad thing sometimes, especially when safety is on the line. If I had to do it over, I would have said no, and curtsied back into the closet. The tightness in my chest, dryness in my throat and unease the next day were not worth the two seconds of gay pride I claimed.