High-Low Heels: A New Trend

Change is in the air.

Miles run yesterday: 4.5

Words written in my novel so far: 62,326

Times I have revised my resume since September: 12

Looking for a job back in corporate America of course makes me recall my early experiences with corporate America. I was in my mid-twenties, and my career stretched out in front of me with promise.

My first job after college was as a public relations assistant for the city schools. I loved it. But I was ready for something bigger; something where I could spread my wings and fly. So I applied for a new job.

Some jobs, like relationships, are doomed.

The fact that my car wouldn’t start as I left for the job interview should have been a huge red flag.

But I borrowed a generous friend’s car for the 40-minute drive, got the job, and went on to eventually wish I hadn’t.

On my second day of work, Hurricane Fran struck the Triangle. Our entire tri-city area was shut down. Trees lay across major highways, the power was out everywhere, and the newscasters were telling everyone to stay home.

But I had to go to work… I didn’t know my boss’s cell number (or, geez, if she even had a cell phone), and I didn’t yet know the protocol for what to do in an emergency situation.

So I drove through fallen limbs and debris, downed power lines and crushed cars to get to my new job.

Which was dark.

Very dark.

I tried going to HR to ask if they knew my boss’s number. But no one was there.

After waiting for a while to see if the power would come back on or people (any people!) would show up, I went home.

The job didn’t get much better after that.

One time, when my computer wasn’t working, I called in the IT help desk guy from next door.

“It would help if you plugged it in,” he said.

We did not have a close and meaningful relationship after that. In fact, I think he and his cohorts giggled every time they saw me.

My boss took a job at corporate about a month after I started and told me to move into her office immediately.

“I am telling you this to help you learn about the corporate world; I am helping you,” she said. “Move into my office now, and get situated. They won’t have the balls to move you out. Remember: possession is nine-tenths of the law.”

I moved in. It was a terrific office, especially for an almost-25-year-old. I had a big credenza, large desk, two nice “company” chairs and a fantastic swiveling desk chair. The office was freezing cold in both winter and summer, and I acquired a space heater from someone in HR that I had to hide when the office was inspected for fire safety. One time, I started getting weird burn marks on my legs, and I eventually figured out it was my heater.

The good news: there were Hershey’s kisses in a bowl on one of the secretary’s desks. I went to visit her when things got bad. I never could figure out why I put on five pounds that year.

One day, about a year and a half into the job, I was so tired. I was planning a wedding and working and couldn’t seem to get anywhere in the building without it taking supreme amounts of energy.

I looked down, and I was wearing TWO DIFFERENT SHOES.

They were both black pumps, but distinctly different heights. All day, I had been schlumping around the building, clomp-CLOMP, clomp-CLOMP.

When I had gotten ready for work that morning, I was trying not to wake up my almost-husband. I reached into the dark closet and pulled out two shoes. Not then and not until hours later did it occur to me that they could be two very different shoes.

Dangit.

When I left that job, I moved to a very similar job at another company… in a cubicle. It was the best cubicle I ever had. It was the best job I ever had. And every single thing about it was easier than the broken-down car/hurricane/great office/Hershey kiss job.

You better bet I appreciated it. Every day.

I donated one of my pairs of black pumps to Goodwill. And bought some navy blue ones with a wildly different texture. Lesson learned.

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My Kind-Of Stint at Rehab

I love these unusual hibiscus flowers my mom got from a friend.

Miles run yesterday: 4.5

Words written in novel so far: 32,655

Years I have been a freelancer: almost 12

As I prepare to head back to “traditional” work this fall, I thought I’d do a series of blog posts about my illustrative early work. Hope you enjoy it!

I spent some time at drug and alcohol rehab.

Not in an Amy Winehouse kind of way, but as a “staff” member.

Back in the ’80s, I was a goody-goody. I guess I’m still kind of a goody-goody, and I’ve made my peace with that.

The summer I was 16, I needed work. Word got out, and my parents asked around, and before you could say, “Paycheck,” I/they had something all lined up.

What I pictured for my 16th summer: me, as a lifeguard at a water park, wearing a bathing suit and flirting with new and exciting teenage boys from exotic high schools across town.

What I got: a stint at drug and alcohol rehab.

The woman across the street was a secretary for a local drug and alcohol rehab clinic, and she discovered that they needed someone to cull the files so the center’s building was not overrun with papers.

Why not get a goody-goody to do it? Yep. You guessed it. I was that goody-goody.

Guess what that teenage goody-goody got paid? Hold onto your seats, now… Six dollars an hour! I know. It was like winning the lottery. I was destined to be rich forever with such an auspicious beginning.

I did half-days, so about 10 a.m., I would drive over to the seamier side of town with the windows down. I would not be exaggerating if I told you that Mariah Carey’s “Vision of Love” played on every single trip to work. I came to think of it as my theme song. Would you like for me to sing it for you?

When I arrived at the nondescript rehab center, I couldn’t decide if it was a good thing or a bad thing, but no one questioned my badge or my reason for being there. I flashed my badge authoritatively and strode to my office like a champ.

The front part of the rehab center looked like an office complex. The back? Who knows? I never got to see it.

I walked in, down a narrow hall to the right and into a file room with no windows. I spent my hours at rehab in a gigantic, vanilla box. The file cabinets were beige, the walls were beige, and the files themselves were beige.

I started to think that rehab might not be that interesting.

And then, when I started reading the files, I reconsidered. These 16-year-old kids who played basketball and ate lunch and went to group therapy just on the other side of my vanilla wall had, in fact, had very interesting lives.

People even took the time to write long tomes about their experiences. Longhand. Like, not using Microsoft Word.

The administration must have known that goody-goodies read things. Unlike renegades, who might merely trash random papers and hope no one finds out, I felt compelled to read the provided materials. In great detail. What I learned: Parents had not been parenting, kids had devised creative plots to obtain illegal substances, and rock bottom meant much more than it had in Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” drug education program.

My job was to get rid of documents B, F, and M (or whatever) and clip the bare bones, most dire documents back into place.

My job was fraught with injury. Can you say “paper cuts”? I learned to employ Band-Aids as a sort of thimble.

My job didn’t require me to be there full-time. I learned why: it wasn’t because they didn’t have the money to pay me.; it was because they were afraid I would die of boredom. And they didn’t want any blood on their hands.

The lessons I took away from that job were:

1. I needed a job that included other people. I would have settled for one other person. Who breathed.

2. I needed to learn how to type. I did not want 50 pages longhand to be part of my future career.

3. I needed to find a job that people cared about. The kind of job that made people say, “Now, that was helpful.”

4. I needed to learn to take a better photo for my badge. My badge photo rivaled my driver’s license picture for awkward supremacy.

5. I needed to remember to “Just Say No.” Rehab sounded all fancy when celebrities did it. But a vanilla building in the suburbs wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. And I didn’t want some 16-year-old goody-goody reading about my exploits.

Not Interviewing Mandela

Times I have interviewed a famous rock star: 0

Times I had to admit this fact at Career Day: 8

Kids I caught sleeping with their eyes open while I babbled: 2

I have never kicked back with Nelson Mandela. Or offered a Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut Bar to Daniel Craig.  Now that we have that out in the open, please pretend that you still respect me.

But really, Career Day and the five highly revelatory presentations I gave to the fifth graders were pretty darn good. I did sit through the cardio-thoracic surgeon’s presentation and wonder what I had to show for the last 12 years of my life that was equal to medical school, two residencies and specialized heart transplant surgical training, but otherwise, I came out unscathed.

Question asked with the most frequency: have I ever interviewed anyone famous? This is a loaded question. Maybe some of the people I’ve interviewed have considered themselves famous (writers, artists, politicians), but by fifth grade standards, I was forced to answer a definitive no. I watched as my shining “Writer” badge grew tarnished in front of their very eyes.

But I have held the shiny iridescent fabric to light a reporter’s face while they are speaking on camera. Is that amazing? No? Or what about the time when Steve Miller punched the CNN cameraman while I was working there? No? Or when I helped cover the 1992 elections when Bill Clinton was elected? Seriously. That was a lifetime ago, quite literally, for them.

The Career Day concept was to get the kids thinking about their interests, get them serious about making good grades in the long haul and give them advice about what kind of education they would need for a career in a specific field. It kind of made me tired.

All of the stress, angst, confusion, and self-doubt… it hasn’t even started happening to them yet. They are pre-career worry. They are fifteen career considerations away from an actual career. They haven’t had a nightmare about being back in college and the final exam is here, but they forgot to attend any of the classes. They still believe all that stuff people say about being whatever you want to be, right before you start failing Calculus (just a random example).

What I told them: keep up the grades, keep learning always, keep up your curiosity about the world around you. Take criticism and learn from it. And realize that the bog-standard, regular people around you are pretty amazing. Even if they’ve never interviewed Mandela.