A sensitive, artistic soul… is that what I am? Maybe that’s accurate, I don’t mind. Does it bother you?
I know that vocabulary is a huge part of the arsenal we employ to express our thoughts to each other, and to describe our world. I agree that it’s wrong to label a person. But it is decent to try to understand them, so I don’t have a problem with an honest attempt at finding the right words. It’s when understanding isn’t the point, and words are danced around or ineptly attached to someone, that it irks me. Today I had the unpleasant experience of being clumsily judged, silently labeled, and lectured to by a job counselor(?) who was determined to make me understand how completely inappropriate it is not be an automaton during one’s job search, and during one’s eventual employment, if one should be so lucky.
I made a mistake yesterday, and I admit that it was a mistake. How to have avoided it without the experience of having done it in the first place, I don’t know. We live and we learn, isn’t that the saying? Anyway, around four thirty in the afternoon, I was subconsciously lamenting the lack of interest in me by any job-posters to whom I had previously sent my résumé, and was right in the middle of trying to decipher the unfortunate and depressing alternatives for taking care of one’s self that have to be considered concurrently to searching out even more job postings to respond to. My phone rang, I took a deep breath, and answered it. For about ten seconds I thought I was finally getting that opportunity to schedule an interview, but this man introduced himself as someone working for the same organization as my regular job counselor (who is a very nice woman) and he explained that she had given him my name. (I immediately thought that he was someone else who might work with me, or he might be inviting me to a workshop or something, because I thought I had been told long ago that this organization helps with issues of preparedness and resume help, but not in job placement.) When I let out the deep breath, it was as if it deflated me and all the pain was there again, on my surface. He wasn’t a potential employer to whom I had to speak that specific foreign language that I am barely fluent in. He was a person offering help, so I could be honest about how I was feeling in that moment and not worry about the catch in my voice. I was wrong. He had a job that I could apply for. Even further into the conversation it became apparent that I would have to pre-interview with him for it. It was clear in his tone that because of that catch in my voice and my honesty about it, he was having reservations about me. He had already seen me as human. We all know that it’s a sin to be human and to show any true emotion in a situation such as this, but like a fool, I believed I could come in this morning, apologize for my momentary teariness during our prior conversation (even though I hadn’t really done anything wrong) and earnestly work with him on getting this position. He seemed to view my further honesty, my attempt to acknowledge what had happened and clear the air, as even more weakness.
I sat across from this man in his office, him eyeing me with disinterest and mild distaste while replaying his insulting “you can’t show your emotions tape” three times or more in the space of half an hour. I assured him that he had been heard, telling him in unambiguous terms and with actual sincerity that I understood how important it is to an employer that the job gets done efficiently, effectively and on time with outside pressures being left outside the office, but that prompted yet another insulting repetition of his disdain. Funny, he seemed to think that a person who feels — a person who experiences their life, and cares about the quality of the world around them (perhaps that aforementioned sensitive soul) deserves to be penalized. Of course he didn’t use those specific words, but he did say that if you need a job and you get a job, you should want to keep the job. I tried to figure out who he was talking to, but he or she must have left before I got there. What was crystal clear was that he believes that the world where one is allowed to be employed in order to pay one’s bills, is only for the automatons that society has sought to produce since humankind first invented commerce and the malignant notion of some of us being better than others. I have mentally dismissed him. I may have to be in his presence again, if the company offering the job decides to go ahead and interview me. If that happens, he has threatened me with a preparatory session with him. I will try to be civil.
It is surprising to me that I left the building feeling vindicated and empowered, and the only reason I can find for it is that I never want to be like him. So maybe I do have a sensitive and artistic soul. Others may think that’s pitiable, but I know that I am a smart, creative, hard-working, reliable and focused person. If employers have made it all but impossible for themselves to see me, that is mostly their loss .
I was listening to Radiohead’s “Creep” loudly in the headphones on the way home; the real version — not the radio edit. I let it play over and over again, finding plaintive, yet stirring, solidarity in the words, because people like me come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and of course in a rainbow of colors. If we listen to each others words and observe, with open hearts and minds, our ebb and flow throughout society, our presence is palpable. “I’m a creep. I’m a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here.” Poetry. Irony. Of course we belong, no matter what crap the automatons repeat. Endlessly.