Job interviews, books and my general weirdness

I feel so apathetic and resigned that I can barely make myself write this. What use is it anyway? It´s too much work and it is neither interesting nor helpful. I cannot write about any relevant topic, leave alone in a coherent fashion, and if I could I´d better be writing the three essays I need to work on.

When did that feeling kick in? It happened after a job interview that went bad. It was just a side-job, and the reason it went wrong was that during the interview I learned that  1)  there were  bureaucratic problems (the job I applied for would have been my second side-job, and German labor law is complicated) and 2) other than I thought I would not have been working shifts, but each day of the week, and this is something I cannot do (I mean – I ought to be arranging my side-jobs around my college work, and not vice versa).

So all in all it wasn´t even really my own fault that it didn´t work out. And yet when I walked out of that building again I felt like a complete failure. And although I tried not to just beat myself up but rather to explore that feeling, I couldn´t really find out what was behind this reaction. Maybe I felt stupid and naive for not knowing that there would be bureaucratic issues. Well, no, that´s not true. I even knew there would be issues. I just wasn´t sure what would be the consequence of that. Somehow I thought the recruiter would explain that to me. Wow. That sentence sounds painfully naive, doesn´t it? Why would a recruiter bother to explain that to me? He expects me to know stuff like that. This is real life, real work, not college. You are no longer at school, and the people you work with are no longer teachers.

Hey, maybe this is really an aspect I shouldn´t underestimate. All my previous life, the adults and particularly the authorities I have dealt with were teachers. There were some real bastards among them, but nonetheless they were (technically) there for my benefit. Now suddenly I´m supposed to be there for somebody else´s benefit.

This “you have been spoiled and cared for all your life, but for the rest of your life you will serve others” is a real sore point of mine. It makes me feel like I have been exploiting my parents and teachers, letting them serve, entertain and educate me while lying on some queen-size bed like a big, fat, lazy maggot. And in return, now that I´ve passed the magical 21, I will be exploited by those who weren´t lazy, but worked hard all their life and became successful. It´s only fair. Serves me right.

I feel like I have to prove, by being perfect and successful, that I´m not spoiled. If I manage to please employers, impress recruiters and work myself to death, then I have proven that I´m not too lazy to work. I mustn´t do an easy, pleasant, glorious job, though. I must hold a normal, boring office job, something unglamorous, something everybody does. I must prove I don´t need or want special treatment or a special job. Otherwise I will always feel like I´m just too lazy and too arrogant to go to the office every day. Like I couldn´t survive if I didn´t manage to deceive people into giving me “dream jobs”, because I feel that I´m too good/special for ordinary jobs.

The last sentence of the paragraph above is charmingly paradoxical. So I feel like I feel I´m too good for “ordinary jobs”, that is I assume that I must have a sense of entitlement. At the same time, however, I think that if I am offered a dream job, it is because I have successfully deceived the recruiter. So apparently I don´t believe I´m that good for anything at all, leave alone deserving of a great career. So what basically happens is that I feel like I´m complete and utter shit, and if I dream of having a great job one day, I think that I´m arrogant and that I should stick to what a brat like me deserves: Unacknowledged, ill-paid slave labor.

Okay, so maybe part of my depressive mood is owed to this old conflict being opened up again. Another thing that happened is that I read passages of Judith Herman´s Trauma and Recovery for one of my essays. I feel silly, but it really weighs on my mood. It makes me feel cold and hopeless, in a subliminal way that I barely notice. The thing is, I have a very, very  strange relation to the issue of (childhood) trauma. I cannot seem to shake the belief that something bad happened to me. It´s just that –  there simply didn´t. At least not in any way that I could pinpoint. The result is, however, that I strongly identify with anything I read about trauma. It seems I can relate to a lot of the symptoms survivors suffer from; even though I can´t tell if I´m traumatized myself, or just highly suggestible (and an attention-whore who doesn´t want to take responsibility for her own life and tries to blame her parents for her misery yadda yadda yadda). This, anyway, made reading the book quite a challenge.

There were some passages that simply struck me. Herman was talking about children who had survived an abduction and she said (I´m reading the book in German, so I´ll roughly translate): “These children often believe there were omens which were meant to warn them of the impending abduction. After their rescue, the kids keep watching out for  omens in order to recognize future danger in time.”

This was a chilling reminder of how strange I was as a child (and still am, in many ways). Besides being a normal child who read and played with friends, I also frequently experienced states of mind where I suddenly had the strong feeling that something bad was about to happen, or that “today is a dangerous day”. These states went with heightened vigilance, and with the obsessional belief that tiny little actions might decide over life or death, catastrophe or evading it, shock and horror or a normal afternoon. I had inner dialogues with several “voices” who advised me which actions to take and which to avoid at all costs. I also wondered how safe I was even if I could ward off the hypothetical disaster this time; because it could threaten to happen any time again and I´d need to constantly be on my guard. I felt genuine despair over that.

Another sentence that hit me was: “Traumatized children have a hard time making plans for the future. When you ask them what they want to be when they grow up, they might reply that they don´t expect to live long.”

It´s not just that I never had any real goals or plans for the future. I simply didn´t experiece that stereotypical “I´ll be a princess/astronaut/firefighter/policeman” phase, leave alone any “mature” career ambitions. I have some vague dreams, but until very recently I literally felt like the future didn´t matter. Being a grown-up and having to provide for myself felt as far away as it had when I was only eight (not that I remember anything much about being eight. It´s just the first number that came to my mind. Been watching too much South Park, it seems). I always felt like something was going to happen anyway. A war, a dictatorship, me being abducted, me going insane. The craziest thing, perhaps, is that when I was about 14, I got into another of these strange mental states and these internal voices suggested that I was going to die as a (political) martyr when I was 21. I wasn´t even into politics all too much. I assumed there would be a dictatorship and I would die fighting for liberty (a very typical fantasy for kids of German leftists, I guess). Herman´s passage has me wonder if the children she´s talking about are scared that they will die young, or if they have fantasies of a somewhat glorious death, like I did.

But all this is not what made me feel cold and hopeless. I´m not sure anymore what did, and I´m even less sure I want to return to these things. Some of the stuff she wrote just felt like a death sentence to me. Like I was being buried alive; or condemned forever. Interestingly (I finally found the courage to pick up the book again), many of these passages dealt with guilt. And with the survivor´s own responsibility and the part his/her behavior played. Herman writes that “most people unnecessarily get themselves into risky situation at times. Women get themselves into danger out of naivety, ignorance or rebellion. Most women have no idea how hostile men really are towards them. (…) Moreover, many women believe they have more freedom and a higher status than they are actually given.”

When I read these passages, I thought the book was from the 70es. In fact, it was published in 1993.

I mean…what the hell. What. The. Hell. This passage pushes about all my buttons. Can anybody see the double standards?! It´s really not a matter of man versus woman, it applies to all potentially dangerous situations. So you have at least partial responsibility for whatever happens unless you have made sure that you don´t take any unnecessary risk? And what is necessary? It isn´t necessary to go out in the evening. It isn´t necessary to wear skirts. It isn´t necessary to go to concerts. It isn´t necessary to go hiking, swimming and dancing. Nothing that is fun is necessary. So if you avoid anything that might be fun, you can make sure that you won´t be held accountable for anything that happens to you. Preventive self-restriction. Hurray. Rebellion against the Regime of Avoidance will be punished. Wow. I thought that was the disease, not the cure.

Now, let´s be fair to Herman. She says clearly that nothing whatsoever justifies rape; and what she describes there is a social situation which she probably disapproves of. The way she describes it, however, makes me sick. The perpetrator´s behavior is disapproved of in general. He´s a bad person, granted, write him off, we don´t have to deal with him anymore. Nothing you can do about him apart from locking him up. But let´s take a closer look at the victim. Rapists are just a danger we have to live with. Now what can we do in order to not fall into their hands? Not becoming a victim, after all, is the only thing we can do about the whole rape phenomenon.

And that way, the whole scrutiny is put on the victim´s behavior. How is that fair? On some blog I found a while ago, I read an awesome post which deals with just this problem. I strongly encourage anyone who made it till here to take a look at it: Emerging from Broken

What was even worse, however, was the part about how women don´t even know how much they are hated and despised. Irrational as it may be, to me this felt like someone angrily saying: “You don´t even know how much I hate you!” It made me feel all cold inside. Quite frankly, it intimidated me. This passage felt like a threat.

Why would men hate me, I wondered. Because I don´t give them what they supposedly want, that is, sex? Another very frightening thought. Either you give in and submit to their desires frequently enough in order to appease them (and call it love), or they will take what they want violently? So any woman who doesn´t enjoy sex must be “cured” from her neurosis, or else she will be at every man´s mercy?

Now. Rationally I don´t believe in any of this. I don´t think that every man is a rapist. I have more male than female friends, and they are all very decent guys. I don´t really know why the passage from Herman´s book freaked me out so much, or where exactly any of the above is coming from.  It sounds quite spooky and nutty and paranoid.

Then again, I never promised a coherent or interesting post, right?^^

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One Response to “Job interviews, books and my general weirdness”

  1. Barney Berndt Says:

    when doing job interviews, you should always project great self-confidence…

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