I’m a huge fan of Queen Elizabeth II.

I’m watching an historical documentary on Netflix called The Royal House of Windsor. It’s about the British Royals. I’m sure this makes me a traitor or something, because I’m American, but I suspect I’m not alone in admiring the Royals, Stateside. (If you read my last post, you know that I am also an Anglophile in general, and that one of my greatest travel fantasies is to visit London.)

I suppose I fell in love with Queen Elizabeth II because of the Netflix show The Crown. Claire Foy did a magnificent job showing that Elizabeth has wrought so much power from simply staying out of things. As Queen Mary tells Elizabeth in Season One, “To do nothing is the hardest job of all, and it will take every ounce of energy that you have.” It’s unbelievable advice, and yet it seems that Elizabeth really has taken it to heart in real life. This is not to say that Elizabeth is a perfect person and that I agree with every decision she’s made. Because I don’t. I think there have been times when she’s put the Crown above her own family, probably at great personal cost.

But from a purely historical perspective, it’s undeniable that this woman has seen her some shit.

She’s so old that WINSTON CHURCHILL was Prime Minster at the time of her coronation. She’s survived the Suez Canal fiasco, The Troubles in Ireland, Princess Diana, the advent of the personal computer and smartphones, the Scottish secession threat, and now Brexit, just to name a few things. Mostly by keeping her mouth shut. Her silence has provided stability for all these years, in one of the oldest and (potentially) increasingly less relevant institutions in the whole UK. It’s something so simple; to preserve through reserve.

I dunno. I just admire her a lot. To me, she’s proof that women don’t need to be loud or radical to be powerful, and I appreciate that a lot.

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I absolutely love Lonely Planet’s travel guides.

They make me excited to travel to places and see things and people, go shopping, try new foods, visit museums, and maybe even go clubbing (even though I’ve never set foot in a nightclub in my life and wouldn’t know the first thing about how to behave once inside). But the thing that I love most about Lonely Planet travel guides is that they make me feel that places like Paris, which I’ve thought of as some sort of fairy-tale dreamland since I was a little girl, aren’t actually super far away or unattainable at all. Only one six-hour flight over the Atlantic and I’m there. In PARIS. I’ve done longer car rides than that, and to much less glamorous places, like Pennsylvania! So what’s stopping me?!

Well, money, of course. Sure, it’s only about a six-hour flight, but it’s not a FREE flight. Nor will the hotel be free, or my meals, and then there’s the little problem where I don’t speak French. And also the problem where I’m afraid that French people will quickly catch on that I don’t speak French, and will probably mock me loudly in public.

My point is though, even if I never actually book a flight to any of these places, Lonely Planet brings these places to me, through their fun photos and their intimate knowledge of local dive restaurants with the best tapas, and family-friendly attractions, bus schedules, and fold-out maps. For like $20, I can travel to any city in the world, right from my couch. It’s magic, what their writers are capable of. (No, this is not a sponsored post.)

Recently though, I stumbled across something off-putting while I was flipping through one of my beloved Lonely Planet guides. Their Discover London 2019 travel guide has a section in the Survival Guide portion titled “Women Travellers” in which it says, “Female visitors to London are unlikely to have many problems, provided they take the usual big-city precautions.”

This gave me pause. Without reading the next two sentences of the section, I knew immediately what Lonely Planet meant. Don’t go out at night alone, don’t talk to men that you don’t know, don’t leave your drinks unattended, probably carry mace or a small folding knife if it’s legal.

And that is about the long and the short of what the next sentence said: “Don’t get into an Underground carriage with no one else in it or just one or two men. And if you feel unsafe, you should take a taxi or a licensed minicab.”

You guys, this tiny little three sentence section at the back of an otherwise enchanting guide to London totally snapped me out of the magical moment and brought me back to reality with a rude bounce.

I guess what I’m getting at is that this secret society of womanhood that I’ve been initiated into depresses me. It’s like when Harry Potter accidentally speaks Parseltongue in the Chamber of Secrets. I feel like I somehow know a whole other language without realizing it. “Take the usual big-city precautions,” means “Don’t go out in public and you probably won’t get sexually assaulted,” “Aunt Flo is here for her monthly visit,” means “My period is here, and I either need you to give me a tampon, or I’m justifying my terrible behavior with the ultimate trump card so SHUT UP AND GIVE ME CHOCOLATE OR HEADS WILL ROLL,” and “She’s getting her MRS degree,” means “She went to college to find a husband and has no intent of completing a real program of study.”

There are a whole bunch of other coded sentences that I can’t think of right now, but I feel like that’s the point. It’s all subconsciously embedded into our brains until it gets triggered by these coded phrases that cause us to share knowing looks with one another and purse our lips and be reminded that we’re women. But it’s reached the point where I’m sharing these knowing looks with my BOOKS. Inanimate objects. Inanimate objects that were published in 2018. Why haven’t we progressed past this crap yet as a species? Will we never?

I dunno. For once, I would like to read something—anything– without being put on edge about my gender. And something tells me that I’m not alone in that feeling. I think it’s the huge secret society of women who occupy this lonely planet, our shared anger, fear, and sadness hidden in plain sight.

Poshmark is a dangerous website.

For real. Especially if you have a jewelry addiction and a strong aversion to clothing salespeople like I do. $100 here, $35 there, and next thing I know, I have a $500 credit card bill at the end of the month. Ouch. It’s a fun little game they’ve designed, but don’t forget that it’s your real money they’re playing with, and you have the ability to walk (click?) away from it. Power of the purse, y’all.

The truth is that while I’m tooling around on Poshmark, I’m searching for something that I’ll never find there. It’s not strangers’ lightly-used diamond chip rings, never-worn infinity twisty necklaces from ex-boyfriends, or bundles of overstock clothes from Stitchfix that I really want. Probably on a subconscious level, my brain wants the same happy-juice boost that comes from scoring a million points on Candy Crush (do people still play that wretched game?). But it could also be a deeper, slightly more spiritual longing to fill a void, too.

So I guess I’m writing this to remind all my fellow hopelessly addicted Posh-scrollers that there are other, much cheaper ways to get your brain some happy-juice boosts. Like doing at-home Zumba videos. Or hugging someone. (Preferably someone you know and love, and not a stranger who might smell bad, or mace you, or both. I do not recommend hugging strangers, is what I’m saying.) Volunteering to walk dogs at the shelter. Leaving the house and breathing fresh air. Starting a Bible study plan on YouVersion or reading a good book of your choosing. Calling/ Skyping a parent, an old friend, or your favorite aunt. You get the idea. Personally, I’ve been listening to Weezer’s Teal Album on repeat for the past three days.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have a 10%- off- and- discounted- shipping private offer to accept on Poshmark before it expires.

The Bell Jar, Realized

My depressive episodes feel like watching the world happen through a window. It’s like my eyes became one-way windows where I can see out, but no one can see in. It’s a form of dying, only instead of my organs shutting down one by one, it’s my senses and emotions suffocating slowly in a constricting, oxygen-less box. Is that why they call the area behind my solar plexus my “chest”? Because that’s where all my feelings get locked up during these periods, and I keep giving the key away. To who? Everyone. I give copies of the key away and never tell anyone what it unlocks. Eventually I’m out of copies to give and everyone who has a copy of it has left the picture or thrown it away.

Perhaps not knowing what else to do to stop this shutdown of my inner light, my body treats it like a physical illness, like head cold, and orders me to sleep. But it doesn’t realize that it’s only charging a dead battery, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, watering a dried flower.

Some kinds of music help, a little. Sometimes. Sometimes chocolate or food helps. Temporarily. Or buying new makeup or some new toy, like art supplies or a video game or whatever. My spirit’s last-ditch attempt to pick the lock on my chest with the promise of a creative mode of expression and free up all of the feelings suffocating inside. But all that really does is create more SHIT for me to keep track of, to collect dust, to remind me of all the stuff I suck at and things I’ll never accomplish because I got hamstrung at the starting line by my own naysaying self-talk.

Eventually it reaches a point where I wonder if I’ll ever snap out of it, or if everything I do with my days will continue to be meaningless, ugly, stupid, and pointless, for forever. Everything seems sluggish, like I’m trying to slog through life, ankle-deep in a tar pit, while everyone else glides past from above on a monorail, oblivious.

I used to panic when I had these kinds of dark thoughts. Maybe it’s the Lexapro, but I don’t panic anymore. Now the thoughts seem idle, something to ponder. Like facts, or Socratic wisdom. Is that a good thing, or is the Lexapro enabling it, though? Usually when I panicked, I found a way out of the depressive thicket it in short order. I’d call my mother crying, or make an appointment with a therapist, or… go outside or something.

Now I just recess further into it, letting it cloak me, or I write about it, until it passes.

It always does pass for me. I am lucky. Having to live like this constantly, and to worse degrees, is suffering on a level that I hope I never experience. My prayers to the people who do battle with that beast every single day. I shall vote with you in mind.

Welcome! (Pt 2)

I moved into a one-bedroom apartment about 30 minutes away from my new job, and 50 minutes away from my boyfriend, who was still living with his parents while he paid his student loans off. His employment journey was just as full of false starts and frustrations as mine. He is two years older than me, and so while I had graduated with a BA in 2014, he had graduated with an MS in Chemical Engineering that same year. This meant that he had been job-hunting at the same time as me. After a few months of sending his resume out everywhere, not getting called back, facing unemployment, and the attendant stress, anxiety, and frustration that came with it all, he had finally landed a job as a contractor at a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant, with the promise of becoming a permanent regular full time employee at the plant once his temp contract was up. His contractor pay was around the same amount that I was making at the Help Desk ($36,000), which for someone with a graduate degree in Chemical Engineering, was chump change, and he had no health insurance.

It may sound like I’m whining a little here—I mean, after a few months, it all got sorted for both of us, right? But as anyone who has ever been in the position of job-hunting with the ticking time-bomb of student loans hanging over their heads knows, even a week of not having adequate (or any) income, combined with the uncertainty of ever having adequate income, and the pain of both having your resume ignored and of flubbing job interviews, is its own special kind of hell. We had been told that going to college would protect us from financial problems. Instead, it seemed to be creating them.

But I digress.

I spent the first year on the phones at the Help Desk, learning “how to computer” through a patchwork process of pestering my coworkers, pestering my managers, and by plain old messing things up. I showed up frequently enough and on time enough to eventually merit being switched from a 10 AM-6:30 PM, Saturday-Wednesday shift to a coveted 8:00 AM -4:30 PM, Sunday-Thursday shift, which finally meant I could see my poor boyfriend for longer than a few hours on Friday nights.

It was a different way of thinking than I had been groomed for in Liberal Arts land. I had to become a troubleshooter instead of a philosopher. Ruling out the “obviously wrong” things was no longer an option when getting to the root of problems; nothing was “obviously wrong” until it had been tested and proven to be wrong. For example: If a caller reported being unable to access my company’s website, it would be easy to blame it on their crappy Comcast service and hang up on them, but my job was to look deeper and ask more questions. “Are you ONLY having trouble with our site, or is it every site you try to access? Which browser are you using? Can I start a remote session with you and see what you’re seeing?” Before I knew it, I was running an anti-malware scanner on their system. So a call that started out with a seemingly-simple issue often turned into a two-hour long resolution process.

Frankly, the whole concept of remotely accessing someone else’s laptop and controlling it was wild to me by itself. One day, I found myself setting up a virtual machine for a customer (installing a software program that simulates a PC onto his laptop, and installing a Windows operating system into that software program) all while remotely accessing his laptop. I briefly marveled at how far I had come since my days of debating the merits of Shakespearean versus Petrarchan sonnets with the hipsters in my Lit courses. Wonders never cease.

Three years later, and I have moved into a more administrative-type role within the Help Desk—I now coordinate the ordering, building, and deployment of laptops and desktops for new employees starting at my company. My schedule is completely normal; I have weekends off and work 8:00 AM- 4:30 PM. My boyfriend was hired as a full time regular employee at his plant and is now making what he should be and has health insurance.

Everything is running smoothly. Sort of.

More on this later…

Welcome (Pt 1)!

Thanks for joining me!

I’m Sarah. I’m a white American female twentysomething. I currently work full-time in the Information Technology field, although I am also a Master’s student in English. I’m three courses away from finishing! I am thinking about pursuing a PhD in English afterward, with the hope of becoming a full professor or a dean eventually. This blog will be mostly text posts about my own musings about literature, human behavior, yoga, tea, and makeup– my passions in life.

Today I wanted to start out by talking about how absurdly hard it is to figure out a career path these days. During my final term as an undergraduate, I posted something along these lines on Facebook:

Me at Age 6: “When I grow up, I wanna be a princess-veterinarian-ballerina-teacher!”
Me at Age 21: “When I grow up, I wanna be employed.”

My post got 30 Likes, which for me is a big deal (my Friends lists on social media are never huge to begin with). So I knew there were many people my age sharing that sentiment. And it’s true that since I graduated in 2014, I had mostly managed to avoid the 2008 Economic Recession and the bulk of its aftermath as far as the job market was concerned, but… my class had a LOT of student loan debt upon graduation. So where were was I supposed to go from there? My brain was totally fried from writing a 20 page thesis and scrambling to maintain my 3.75 GPA in my other three courses, I was grieving leaving my friends and my college’s community and campus, and I was coping with newly-diagnosed mental health issues besides (that’s for another post though). I had a brand-new BA in English, thousands of dollars’ worth of debt, and no clue what I wanted to do with my life. And I had six months to get it figured out before Uncle Sam came to collect. Gulp.

I started applying for jobs at local newspapers and retail establishments, before finally landing a gig back in my home state as a part-time Bank Services Representative for $13 an hour. I decided to supplement it with another part-time job at my hometown’s local Chinese restaurant, where I had worked summers throughout college. It wasn’t a great plan, but it was a plan nonetheless. I would have some income headed my way by the time I was ready to march in May. Which was still better than some of my friends could say. Of the five of us who shared a townhouse senior year, only one of us had managed to land a full-time job in her ideal field (book publishing) before graduation.

Needless to say, it felt distinctly like I was living on borrowed time. I definitely could not afford to move out of my parents’ house with my paltry income, especially once I had to start repaying those loans. Nor could I replace my 13 year old, gas-guzzling Chevy Impala with something newer, safer, and more efficient. I was informed that I could not be considered for full-time work at the bank until I had been employed there for 6 months at a minimum. Well, that wasn’t going to fly, because my loan grace period would be over in 6 months. I needed more than a vague promise of consideration for full time work. I needed to keep trying for something better. Preferably with health insurance.

For two months, I dealt with the crazy schedule that comes with working two hourly part time jobs, with having only one day a week off (Tuesday or Wednesday, usually), with barely ever seeing my boyfriend, and with the constant nagging from my parents to keep applying for other jobs. All of the boxes in my room were still unpacked from after campus move-out. My “welcome” at home was limited and waning fast, as was my threshold for BS.

How is this atmosphere conducive to career self-discovery and path-finding? It’s not. It’s a perfect incubator for desperation, depression, and despair. And I was only 21! The pressure was preposterous. I sat up at night on my laptop, sending my resume to any  full-time postings on state-wide job boards that mentioned customer service or administrative work. I did not discriminate based on location or pay range. I got a few interviews, ranging from administrative assistant roles at a pristine private prep school to one at a bedraggled backwoods public elementary school, and even one at a gas station. For weeks and weeks, nothing panned out.

Finally, one day, I got an email from a recruiter at my current employer, requesting to set up a phone interview for a full-time role with the Technology Help Desk. I was stoked! The call went well, and they asked me to come in for an onsite follow-up interview, and before I knew it, I was being hired as a full-time Help Desk support representative.

Just one problem: I didn’t even know what a browser was.

To Be Continued…

 

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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