Monday, November 18, 2013

Job Discrimination and Coworker Conflicts

Every time I fill out a job application and list my work experience, I have all the right reasons for leaving my previous jobs...
The school year began.
I'm working part-time and need full-time.
I'm working a temp job and need a permanent one.

I've never really had a "bad" reason for leaving, like being let go, finding the work too hard, or having a co-worker conflict. Let's take the conflict with coworkers. To me, this is a perfectly logical reason for leaving a job - it can be really miserable to have to work with people you don't get along with every day. But my parents have always told me that this reason is a huge red flag to employers. It implies that you have trouble getting along with people and that you might cause trouble in the new workplace. They said when one person has a conflict with lots of other people, it usually means that that person just doesn't get along with anybody.

Okay, I'll buy that. That's ONE scenario. Now let's try another...

You're being sexually harassed at your current job, and you're afraid you'll get fired if you report it. So you seek employment elsewhere, and you keep getting asked why you're leaving your current position. You don't want to get into the details and have to relive everything during the interview. You're also wary that the interviewer might be a jerk and think that the harassment was your fault. So you say, "I had a problem with my boss" and leave it at that.

Or maybe you've been harassed because of your race, sexual orientation, gender identity, weight, or anything else that makes you different from the majority of your coworkers. Maybe a direct attack, or a series of microaggressions that no one even acknowledges when you point them out. Perhaps your work environment is designed with the assumption that everyone is the same in some way. While you really should be able to explain this problem to a future employer to assess whether the new workplace will be more accepting, you know that your interviewer might think you're complaining over nothing, or that it's asking too much for people to respect you the same as everyone else, so you just say, "I didn't get along with my coworkers."

Or maybe someone is just not being nice to you. A friend of mine once hired a person who had left their previous job because of a coworker conflict. Once they were hired, this person was really mean to everyone else in the office, and several people left because of the way this person treated them. My friend often sites this case as why you should be wary when someone gives "coworker conflict" as a reason for leaving. But when you look closer, you realize that for this one person who was mean to everyone, there were two or three other people who were very nice and left because they were being treated badly. Those people will also site the coworker conflict as their reason for leaving, just as the person who made them want to leave.

Or maybe you just don't get along with the people at your workplace, even if they seem to get along fine with each other. Maybe the environment just isn't right for you. That happens. When I think about the people I've had conflicts with, most of them are well-liked. When I think of the people that my friends and family members have had conflicts with, most of them are well-liked as well. We don't expect everyone to like the same kind of music or books, and we shouldn't expect people to like the same kinds of personalities or work environments.

I've always been told that when someone has a problem with everyone in a workplace, it usually means that that person is the problem. But I've been in that situation myself at college, and I will never go back to thinking that it must be someone's own problem if they have an issue with everyone else. The fact that I've never had a coworker conflict is not my own doing. Yes, I have been respectful to my coworkers and done my best work, but I have also never gotten the vibe in a workplace that people didn't want me there. And that's not job-skill-based; I'm sure a lot of that comes from being white, cisgender, straight, middle class, having the right clothes, and just being able to blend in with everyone else and do things without needing accommodations. Teachers and bosses have always gotten a positive vibe from me - they assume I'm reliable and trustworthy before they actually know anything about me.  Unless I was at an interview or tryout, I've never had to prove myself to someone who didn't think I could succeed. Everyone isn't treated that way. A lot of people get initial suspicion from others instead of initial trust. And getting suspicious glares and evil vibes that people don't want you there is a perfectly logical reason for seeking a different job! If I were hiring someone who was leaving their current position, I would want to know why they were leaving. Not to decide if their reason was acceptable by some pretentious standards, but to know what went on at their last workplace and make sure they don't face the same issues when they're working for me.

Never Mind

Okay, okay, fine. I'm not actually stopping my sex blog. I was just mad yesterday. I'm planning to keep going, but I need a different angle and better way to advertise.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Relevance

relevant, n. - related to the matter at hand. Ex: When applying for a job making sandwiches...

Relevant question:
"Do you know how to make a sandwich?"

Irrelevant question:
"Do you like to tap dance?"

Relevance is not that hard of a concept.

Over Before It's Started

I might be dissolving my sex blog since I've gotten NO hits at all since that initial email I sent out, and I can't link it to my identity meaning that I can't link to it on Facebook. It's no fun having no readers, so I'm done.

This reminds me of a time at Colby where I told an ex-friend that I wasn't sure I wanted to keep doing dance because no one was coming to my dance shows, and she told me about some social justice on campus event she attended where they told everyone that the right thing to do is to keep having events even if no one comes. She always seemed to think that I was on campus to promote social change or something just because I was unhappy with the way things were, even though I told her countless times that I wanted more FUN events and no pressure to go to all talking about issues events that she was always pressuring me to go to. I told her that I wasn't doing dance to promote social change, I just wanted it to be fun, and what's fun is getting to perform in front of other people and talk about the dance afterwards. I was never interested in doing dance at all if there wasn't some big performance to work towards at the end. But she just kept telling me that it was the right thing to do no matter how many times I told her that I came to college to have fun and I was only doing dance to get personal pleasure.

So yeah, I thought I wanted to do something important for the world by writing my sex blog, but I really just wanted it to be fun, and if I have no readers and no one to talk to about it, then it's not fun anymore. I'm done now. I'm not continuing anything that doesn't give me instant pleasure, and I have every right to live my life that way. Don't think about telling me otherwise unless you're gonna help me get more traffic on that site.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Beliefs

The title of the first online journal I ever had was "No Day But Today." I didn't mean it in the way that you're probably thinking - it wasn't about living for the moment. I used to have a lot of ups and downs, a lot of mood swings, and I predicted that my online journal would reflect this. I may be on cloud nine one day and ready to break windows the next day, or perhaps just later the same day. When I said "No Day But Today," I meant that each journal entry only described how I felt at that exact given moment, and nothing more. I didn't want to be judged for my inconsistency. I didn't want people saying, "Hey, you were feeling awesome yesterday! What happened?" For the same reason, my Facebook "about me" section at the time said, "I honestly don't know what to write here, because whatever I say will probably be different tomorrow."

I've swung completely around now. I know what I believe, and my beliefs are solid. They don't change based on what I'm in the mood to write about on a given day. Perhaps it's more in the nature of what I'm writing now, since I write more about concepts than about what's going on in my life at the moment. But still, I never look back at something and think, "Oh, I was just having a bad day that day. Now that I feel better, I don't really think that's an issue anymore." Not that I ever thought that way. It's weird - I read in American Girl that if you wrote down your feelings when you were upset, you'd look back sometime later and think, "I was upset over that?" I don't have that experience. No matter how much time has passed, no matter what adults have told me about how I'd feel later on, I have never once looked back at something I've written and not understood why I felt the way I did or why it was so important at the time. EVER.

In sixth grade, I wrote a lot about how much fun I had in my first play and how that made the entire year an awesome one. At my K-8 school, our teachers were constantly saying that life was only going to get harder and worse later on, especially when it came to "next year" at school. In fifth grade in particular, our teachers scared us A LOT about how hard and strict everything would be once we were on the other side of the building, in grades 6-8. (Never mind the fact that our middle school was still structured like elementary school, where we stayed in our own classroom most of the day and only changed classrooms for one class. No lockers, no showering for gym class, no moving to another school. None of the changes that most people experience when starting middle school. But somehow everyone convinced us that it was going to be the hardest thing in the world). While I mainly talked and wrote a lot about my first play because I loved it so much, I felt like I had learned something really important. I learned that the teachers at my school wanted to scare us for some reason, but that what they said about how hard everything would be "next year" had nothing to do with what was actually going on. Sixth grade was way more fun than elementary school because of my first play, and drama club was only for grades 5-8, so that was something BETTER about being in the older grades. You know that saying, "The grass is always greener on the other side." I came up with my own version, which was, "It takes time for the grass to turn green, on whatever side." The book I started writing about sixth grade was called "Next Year," and I had planned the final lines of the book to be: "Life is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get. And what I got this year was better than anything I could have imagined. Sometimes I wonder about what will happen next year. I wonder what play we'll be doing, what field trips we'll take, and whether our teacher will be nice. Once in a while, I even wonder how long it will take for the grass to turn green next year. But at least this time, I know that it will."

Okay, looking at that now, it goes against everything I believe in. I've been fighting so hard to tell people that getting used to something does NOT make it okay, and that sixth-grade catch-phrase makes me sound like all those people who thought I just needed to "adjust" to college and it wouldn't be a problem. My goal now is to help people figure out what they want and take steps to achieve that, which often means getting out of a bad situation. But when I really think about it...I don't think my beliefs were that radically different back in middle school. I remember saying that getting used to something doesn't make it okay at a young age. It wasn't something I said often because it didn't come up often in my life, but I noticed the way adults talked about getting used to things and I often corrected them. I think I just hadn't had as much life experience in sixth grade. I hadn't had anything really bad happen yet, so it was easy to stretch "adults lie about the future to scare you," into "everything will actually be okay." The funny thing is, most of the really bad things I've been through were not things that anyone "warned" me about. Every adult I talked to said that college was awesome, so perhaps the lesson here is that there isn't much correlation between what adults told us things would be like and what those things are actually like (unless of course, someone says, "Based on what I know about you, you will probably like this/not like this").

When I was in eighth grade, I had a sixth-grade friend who was really worried that she would get held back in school because her grades weren't good. I told her that according to the student handbook, you could only get held back if you got an F in two subjects. Since she wasn't failing any classes, she was all set. I remembered being her shoes. Back in the younger grades, our teachers talked about getting held back as if it was at their discretion, like they could just decide to hold anyone back if they wanted to and we had no idea whether we'd be promoted until we got our final report cards on the last day of the year. I was in sixth grade when I actually read the handbook and realized that I had nothing to worry about. When I shared this information with my friend, I really felt like I was doing something good for the world. My focus is a bit different now, since I got into a bad situation by believing good things that other people said, but my beliefs are actually stronger. Instead of thinking, this is silly - why do people say things that aren't true? I think, telling someone that things will only get harder/worse later on is detrimental to anyone who is not okay with the way things are now. You've probably told someone to kill themself by saying that. In a stream-of-consciousness poem I wrote in college about someone jumping off a building, the speaker recalls the equation A+B=C written on the first-grade blackboard and being told that she would have to simplify that someday, but now they had it easy. "Now" was always the best they'd have it. One of the last thoughts that crosses her mind before she hits the ground is, wait a minute...A+B=C was the answer, there was nothing to simplify. But she's two feet from the ground at that point. A different take on my sixth-grade "rumors aren't true and everything is really happy and sunny and awesome!" ending, but the same concept.

Writing my beliefs now solidifies everything. I recently applied for a job where the requirements only listed very specific skills. When a recruiter contacted me later about the same job and wanted me to apply through them, they told me the top three qualities that the company was looking for in the candidate, and one of the qualities was "outgoing - not introverted." Now, looking at the whole picture and what the job entailed, it seems like they just wanted someone who had communication skills and would communicate with co-workers in the ways necessary for the company to function. There was no customer interface, so you wouldn't have needed to be social or outgoing or extroverted. I understood that. But my conscience felt uneasy going to that interview. It's not the fact that I am introverted, it's the fact that I'm an advocate for introversion. I've written so much about it that it feels hypocritical to pursue a job that doesn't welcome introverts. I have always been an introvert, but it wouldn't have bother me so much if I weren't an advocate. The same is true when interviewers ask me how I liked Colby. It would have always bothered me to lie about that, but the fact that I've written so much about hating Colby College really solidifies the fact that I'm lying. One interviewer really wanted to talk to me about Colby and I kind of worked my way around the questions, but I was really scared. My mind kept racing, thinking that he had read my blog or somehow knew that I was lying to him. I'm always aware of when I'm not being honest, but having all my truths spelled out on the internet sort of feels like the interviewers are walking through my house and I have to keep diverting their eyes away from everything I don't want them to see.

It's an uncomfortable feeling, but I'm glad it's there. I'm glad that I at least know when I'm betraying myself, because otherwise my beliefs wouldn't be solid. Someday I'll add to my pool of knowledge and life experiences and might make adjustments to all the arguments I have now, but the core will never change.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

What I'm Working Towards

I know I've been saying for the last three years that I haven't been the same since Colby and I want so badly to change that. Well, this time I've actually figured out what I'm working towards, and I'm going to do it. Seriously, I'm just gonna get out there and do it because that's how you get things done. Okay, here's my inspiration:

I was rereading some of the personal essays I wrote in my eighth-grade journal. I went to a Catholic school at the time (I'm not Catholic), and we talked a lot about the Ten Commandments in religion class. Our teachers always discussed the commandments in ways that applied to us in our daily lives. For instance, we discussed "Thou shall not commit adultery," in terms of not trying to break up people's friendships and not forcing a friend to choose between you and another friend. In eighth grade, when we discussed the commandment "Thou shall not kill," our teacher said that this also applied to killing someone's spirit, like with bullying and emotional damage. This seems like a bit of a stretch for what that commandment hypothetically means, but I found it fascinating. I had never thought of that before - the idea that you could be physically alive but dying inside. I was having a hard time that year, and wrote a lot about my feelings in my journal. At one point I said that it didn't make sense to me that it's against the law to kill someone physically but not emotionally, because once you're physically dead, it's over, but you can keep dying inside a million times.

It's weird to read that now. I understand exactly how I was feeling at the time; it's just weird that the time, I felt like I had lost all of my confidence (which I had - I still validate those feelings), but when I read a statement like that now, my first thought is of how much confidence I must have had to express myself like that. I mean, I expressed how I was feeling, and stated exactly what I was feeling that way about. That's a really big deal for me! I've really stopped expressing just how important certain things are to me, or else I go the route of just describing the emotion without stating what's causing it. Because for me, those things just don't go together in other people's minds. I have a much deeper understanding of that dying inside feeling now than I did when I was thirteen, but even in my private journals, I never expressed it as confidently as I did back then.

This is what I'm doing now. I am going to go forward and express myself and link all of the emotional things back to what I am actually talking about. The only way to feel confident again is to just do it. Just do it...

1. I try to be an activist when it comes to pressure and validation. I have future plans for projects relating to these issues.  I am a non-proportionalist and I will not acknowledge any standards of what is important enough to focus on or to be an activist about.
2. I have a right to my own priorities. The main qualities I look for in a friend are someone who will validate people's feelings and who will not pressure people to do things that they don't want to do. I have every right to not be friends with someone who isn't like this, regardless of how many other people don't have a problem with them.
3. I want to feel good. I have every right to stop hanging around someone or stop doing an activity that makes me feel bad, even if I can't logically explain why it does. Unless I'm breaking a commitment I've made to someone, I don't owe anyone an explanation.
4. I will always take the time that I need to recover from bad things, even if no one else things those things are bad enough to require recovery time. I don't acknowledge any societal standards of how long I'm "allowed" to feel how I feel about something.
5. I will write about WHATEVER I want to write, freely, connecting how I feel to what I feel that way about, even if other people don't think my emotions "match" the situation. What would make me feel really, truly liberated right now would be to write a super-long post about getting a haircut without feeling any pressure about that not being important enough. That post will be up later this week.

Having a sex blog feels very empowering. I don't mean sexually empowering. I mean, empowering in a sense that it's non-defensive. It doesn't apologize for itself existing. While it addresses sexual pressures, it's never defensive in the sense of "I feel like I'm not supposed to have a sex blog, but I'm doing it anyway, but stop telling me I can't have a sex blog!" It's been a long time since I could say that about anything. But I'm doing it now. And I'm going to keep going.

"Mature" and Respectful

When I was in middle school, I took a quiz in American Girl's guide to manners, which asked if you would do inconsiderate things while you were out and about. These things included:
1. Picking flowers when a sign says not to.
2. Littering.
3. Throwing a rock over the edge of the Grand Canyon, when a sign says not to because it's dangerous for people below.
4. Picking up a bird's nest with eggs in it to put on your dresser as an ornament.
5. Carving your initials into ancient ruins.
6. Playing your radio really loudly at a crowded beach.

For each question, you would pick, "Yes, that's me," "I might do this," or "I'd never do this." At the time, I picked "I might do this" for all of them.

I was looking over this quiz again recently, I realized that I hadn't answered it correctly. I don't mean because I've changed now - I mean, I know how I was in middle school, and I know that would not have done most of these things. The only thing I honestly might have done back then was turning up the radio too loud at the beach (which I wouldn't do now). So why did I choose "I might do this" for all of them?

Well, part of it came from the wording of the quiz. "Never" seemed like a lot to commit to, and the questions made doing the wrong thing sound so tempting, like "The flowers are so beautiful" and "It's just one candy wrapper, look what everyone else has dropped here." In the fictional scenarios, it seemed harder to resist the urge than it would have been for me in real life. But beyond that, part of it was a choice. I just didn't want to be a goody-goody who followed all the rules and did what adults wanted me to do. Remember, this was in a book about good manners, and the questions made all of the actions sound really tempting, like I'd really be making a sacrifice by doing what I was "supposed" to do. And that just wasn't me.

The reason I feel good saying "I'd never do this" to all of those choices now is not because I'm more mature or whatever - it's because now, I view my behavior in those situations as respectful and considerate, not as following the rules.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Don't Respect Me Just Because I'm an Adult

You know how when you're a kid, adults always tell you that you'll understand things when you're older? Well, I never accepted the "respect your elders" rule when I was younger. I didn't accept the fact that people older than me deserved more respect than me because they were older. Sometimes when I said outright that I did not respect my elders, I was told that I would understand when I was older. Well you know something? I do understand now that I'm older - I understand that this mentality is even more fucked-up than I thought it was when I was younger.

If a young child says something insulting to me, or even hits me, it's just not going to have much of an impact on me. But if I were to do the same thing to the child, it's going to have much more of an impact on them. The child would be punished for being disrespectful to me no matter what I had done to them first, but I could get away with being disrespectful to them as long as I say that they weren't behaving the way I wanted them to, even though I would be hurting the child a lot more than they would be hurting me. This is fucked up. My hurting the child should be way worse than them hurting me because the child is going to be hurt much more than I am. I'm not saying that it's "okay" for children to be disrespectful to adults, but it should not be *worse* than adults being disrespectful to children, or people being disrespectful to their peers. The fact that it's somehow more disrespectful to hit a teacher than a classmate is extremely disrespectful to children. We all need to be careful how we treat people who have less power than us, not more.