greetings from the drawing board

The longer you stay away from something, the stranger it is to return to. Even if it's a thing you love. That's where I'm at with blogging. The pen is heavier when I pick it back up after so long an absence. I fumble with the cap. Not even sure the ink will flow.

But I came to a decision last week that has helped me refocus on priorities I've let slip. This blog is one of those priorities. I know that now. I haven't always known that. For a while, in fact, I've considered it an indulgence. I've felt that way about it for most of this year. Like it was a treat, an investment of time and energy I only deserved if I did all the other stuff I was supposed to do. But I was wrong. It's not an indulgence. It's meaningful, it's fulfilling, and it's vital to my sense of self. I'll circle back to this point in a bit, but right now, I'm going to suck it up and come as clean as I can about my recent failures.

So, where have I been?

In short: trying to figure out the rest of my life. But short isn't how Elliequent works. So if you're in the mood for a doozy of a tale, strap in.

I told you that I was the victim of a crime, and that I left my job. Well, after that things just kind of fell apart. I didn't know what to do next. I told you that my friends came to the rescue, propped me back up and got me moving again. And they did. But they didn't point me in the right direction. Which, of course, is not their fault. It is no one's job but my own to find my true north, and set off towards it. But all the drama of what went down twisted me up badly, and I was lost. So they did the best they could by me.

They said, Ok, so, you had this job as an assistant, and you were pretty good at it, right? 

And I said, I think so, yes.

And they said, Great. So let's get you another job as an assistant. An administrative assistant, or hey, an executive assistant! That guy you were working for was pretty high level, right? You did a lot of shit for him, right? Had a lot of responsibilities? 

And I said, Well, not really, actually--

And they said, Ok perfect! That's what you're going to do, then. Be an executive assistant. We'll help you doctor up a resume based on that. We'll lie for you. We'll be references. Easy peasy. Yes yes?

And I said, Ummm I'm not sure that I--

And they said, Brilliant. Here's your resume. Now go apply for jobs. Hurry up.

And so that's what I did.

Now, before you hork all over the screen in disgust, you should know that a good 2/3 of my resume was truthful. But the 1/3 that wasn't? It was pretty damn untruthful. And if you've never tried to apply for a position that you're wholly unqualified for, with a highly exaggerated resume that gnaws an ugly, guilty hole in your stomach, well, let me tell you. It is not fun. In fact it is awful. It is terrifying and stressful and nerve wracking and confusing. And ultimately, I would learn, a huge waste of time.

But I didn't know what else to do. I had a couple of very scary talks with one of my close friends, someone who truly has my best interests at heart but who doesn't really understand me, at the end of the day. And he put so much fear in me. So much fear. He said, basically, This is your only option. If you don't do this you are fucked. And I believed him. And then when I dragged my feet, when I procrastinated and had panic attacks, he got angry. He thought I was unmotivated and lazy and irresponsible.

Sometimes I am those things. But that is not what was happening here. I was just scared, because I knew I am not cut out to be an executive assistant, nor was I prepared to present myself as one.

But I didn't say that to him. I just said, Ok, I'm trying. I'll send out some applications tomorrow. I promise. And he said some heartbreakingly harsh things to me. He thought it was tough love I needed. What I needed, however, was to stop and think for five fucking minutes about what I want to do, what I'm actually good at.

But I didn't do that. I didn't stop to think for myself, about myself, and consequently, I wasted a lot of time, and a lot of money. I wrote killer cover letters, because (SPOILER ALERT) that is what I do. I went on interviews. I'm pretty sure I was about to get an offer from a medical institute, a place I realized after the interview I would hate, when I emailed to call them off from checking my references. That was the closest I came.

Then came the opportunity that split everything wide open.

I found a listing for something amazing. Tons of responsibilities, a massively intimidating list of requirements, but a really cool job. I agonized over my cover letter, because I knew it had to make up for a very flimsy resume. The position was intense, but I wanted it badly, because of the industry it was in. It just felt right for me. It was a huge outside shot, though. I was wildly under qualified, and I knew it. I sent in my application and forgot all about it.

Then I got an email request for a phone interview. And in spite of myself, in spite of the nerves that nearly had me puking up until the phone rang--I nailed it. The exec loved me. She said she'd gotten over a hundred applications, and that while my experience wasn't quite as strong as she'd like, she loved my cover letter (SHOCKER). And our conversation was just great. I'd prepared for it, hardcore. Learned everything I could about her, about the organization. We absolutely clicked. By the end of the call she admitted I was already one of top four applicants, in her mind. She was heading to New York the next day but wanted to meet with me in a week and a half when she got back.

I hung up the phone and nearly floated through the ceiling. And then I got busy. I decided I was going to get this job. No question. It was mine for the taking. I would be so well-prepared for my in-person interview (which the exec's assistant scheduled with me twenty minutes after my phone screen) that she wouldn't be able to say no to me. I was going to blow her away with my enthusiasm and passion.

I went nuts. I read more or less the industry manual, for that particular sector. A six hundred page book. I memorized the organization, top to bottom, inside and out. I'm talking flash cards. Staff members. (With their photos, so I'd know them on sight.) Resources. Programs. All of it. I listened to a year's worth of podcasts. I watched a dozen of the most recommended TED Talks for that industry. I sponged up everything I could. At some point my boyfriend (yep, that's what you call burying the lede...we'll circle back round to that, too) gently pointed out that it was all fine and good for me to learn the industry--but ultimately it was probably more important that I learn Outlook.

That was the first crack.

Maybe you can already see where this is going. It started to dawn on me what I was potentially getting myself into. My enthusiasm began to turn to anxiety. And by the morning of my interview, I was primed for an absolute melt down. I had spent the day prior with a friend inventing stories from whole cloth, about my supposed last job. Because I knew this interview was going to be a grilling. I knew there'd be tons of those "Tell me about a time when you...." type questions. So this friend and I constructed a whole fucking narrative for me. We came up with answers to all of those questions. And they were good.

But there I was, pulling my hair into a bun, rehearsing in my mind, twenty minutes away from leaving the house, when I started to fall apart. I felt absolutely sick to my stomach. The lies. All the lies. And more than that: the more I thought about the responsibilities of the position, the sicker I felt. Not only was I not qualified. I didn't want to fucking do those things. I wouldn't be good at those things. 

The straw that broke the camel's back? I realized I didn't have any good way to present my questions for the interview. She'd instructed me to bring questions, of which I had plenty (mostly written by my boyfriend, who has been unfuckingbelievable during this whole process, but we'll come back to that)...but I had no way of actually taking them there. Laptop? No. iPad? Weird. Phone? Out of the question. The only thing that would make sense would be a sharp, professional looking legal pad or organizer. You know, the sort of thing every executive assistant has. Because duh.

I started to laugh. I took a look at myself, at the situation I'd gotten myself into. Here I was about to go after a job where organization and details are of absolute singular importance...and I didn't even have a good pen or pad of paper.

What. A. Joke.

I sat down and I cried. I looked at the clock. I looked at myself in the mirror. I looked at my phone. I looked at the job description. I thought about what it would feel like, to walk into this woman's office and bullshit for an hour. To start a professional relationship with someone based on lies and bluffing. I thought about how my incompetencies could bring this organization to a grinding halt--or at least cause a lot of hassle for a lot of people. And I felt so ashamed of myself. And as the minutes ticked by, I thought about who I am, and who I want to be. I thought about my values and my character and my integrity. And I cried, knowing I was probably about to blow a huge opportunity. I knew in my heart I could get the job, if I wanted it. I knew she would love me even more in person. I knew my inexperience would be pardoned, I could already tell from our previous talk. But I knew I wouldn't be happy doing that job. It was too much. Way too much. I would be constantly stressed out, trying to catch up on skills I didn't have. Constantly fearing failure. Constantly fucking up. I can't even schedule my salon appointments without forgetting them. I have NO business taking control of the life of a busy executive.

I wrote one of the hardest, most embarrassing emails of my life (canceling the interview), and then I called my friends. I explained how wrongheaded everything had been. How I'd been pursuing something that was so, so wrong for me. I apologized for wasting their time. I thanked them for their support.

And then I wiped that slate clean and went back to the drawing board.

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Okay, wow. This was exhausting to write. And I had started on a whole second section to talk about where things stand now, and to introduce you to my boyfriend--but I need to stop here tonight.

More soon.