Competition and the Introvert Girl

Back when I was a just an idealistic young thing, I told my mother I wanted to go into publishing. I wanted to be an editor, after all, my friends all came to me to edit their work. I’d be a good editor! I edit!

“It’s very competitive”, she warned me, “Why not go to law school, you can always get a job if you have a law degree.” Job security seemed nice, but it was that fear of competition that sent me scuttling towards a career I am deeply unsuited for. If my mom though it was too competitive for me… well, it must be? Right?

Competition is scary for the confrontation phobic. And when people say, “it’s very competitive…” and then sort of trail off… It feels like they’re saying, “You’re not good enough to compete in that field.”

For those of us who go to absurd lengths to avoid confrontation, competition is terrifying. It means setting oneself against another in public. For introverts the arena is the last place we want to be. We only like to perform if it’s a) anonymous or b) among people we already trust.

This is a real challenge to doing anything outside our comfort zone. We will believe your doubtful tone, maybe more than you do. We take that shit right to heart.

So, to the friend of the venturing introvert:

Don’t tell your friend that what they want to do is highly competitive. It is not a helpful critique. It is a negative statement. Your friend is hearing: “I don’t think you’re good enough.” Ask about your friend’s strategy, and give constructive criticism from your own experience. Your introvert friend will respond to a discussion about pros and cons, and will appreciate your listening and your input. They will NOT appreciate your stomping on their idea with a dismissive, empty comment. Also, they will never forget it, whichever direction you take. If an introvert tries out an idea on you, they are handing you their heart, you only get one chance to show you respect that.

To the introvert:

Just ignore them. They don’t know you. Don’t bother to grow a thicker skin, your skin is so thick nothing gets out. You listen and give supportive advice, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be rewarded with the same. Everything is competitive now, even eating, so just cancel out that noise.

Here is my advice (based on my attempts to not be scared out of a new venture (see last post)):

Make a list of people whose opinion you value. Look at your phone, who do you text with? Who do you feel safe with? Ask them. You don’t ask an electrician to fix your plumbing, don’t ask a steamroller to plant seeds.

Be open to partnerships. I was lucky, I was approached by an old friend who needed a business partner. Part of the reason he asked me is because we’re so different. He’s as energetic an extrovert as ever bought a round for strangers at a bar.  He can walk into a room of strangers and walk out with a wedding invitation. I can go to a wedding and not meet a single person.

My partner has all the ego and confidence I need to fight my natural diffidence. He is not intimidated, and I trust him because he’s always respected my input. He is intelligent enough to value my process, for instance, he needs someone to take notes while he spouts out ideas, and then to read them back in a cogent, critical manner. I need time to write down my thoughts, and then present them to someone who has the good sense hear them with positivity, and to discuss them openly.

It’s not easy, but easy was never a part of the deal. Competition can be beaten without a Tarzan-yell, it just takes dedication, smarts, and hard work. And yes, I am at all times wondering why the hell I didn’t become a librarian. And maybe I will. But let’s see where we get in this competition first.

No sense giving up without a quiet, determined fight.





Is Voting for Bernie Anti-Feminist?


The following is a adapted from a letter I sent out to some women who have long been feminist touchstones for me. One was my mother, a weaver and retired early childhood educator, the other is a former Dean and retired professor at the University of Vermont and the third a friend-from-childhood who teaches high school English. 


I just read an article (see below) and I thought you might find it interesting as well. I’m not sure how much any of you have been following, but Gloria Steinem really put her foot in her mouth the other day by saying (on late night TV) that young, female Sanders supporters are only supporting him because boys are, and girls “want to be where boys are” and then she was followed up by Madeline Albright at a Clinton rally, who essentially told women they’re going to hell for not supporting Hillary, because there is “a special place… for women who do not help each other.” There is certainly a gap here, and I’m curious what you all think about it.

I’ll never forget my Women in the Law professor YELLING at us, slamming her fists on the table, when the 8 women taking her class all agreed that a woman who chose to “stay in the home”, as long as it was her free and clear choice, was exercising her rights as a person and that it was not problematic for us to see such a woman as a feminist and we certainly didn’t think she was rowing the wrong way down the river. She was horrified that we felt that way, and insisted that any woman “in the home” had essentially counted herself out of the fight for equality, and worse, was actively working against women.
I think that a similar disagreement is before us. I believe that many young women feel that it’s their right as equals to NOT have to consider the gender of our leaders as pivotal, and that tokenism is dangerous and leads to a false sense of progress. Even as “thought leaders” declared that we live in a post-racial society because we have a black president the plague of police brutality against black people went on unchecked. I don’t mean to say that Hillary, a tireless leader and warrior for herself and women, is a token politician, I mean to say that I do not believe that voting her into office will result in a balm of equality to finally soothe our suffering.
I also believe that the intersection of class has become far more prominent for young women. My peers have (thanks entirely to the fighting of women before us) very few stories of slap-on-the-ass sexism but have many examples of class inequality as well as the experience of the 2008 Great Recession. It is college loans that women point to when talking about why they haven’t bought a home or new car, not a chauvinist mortgage loan officer who wants a man to co-sign. Because both Bernie and Hillary are feminists, and he supports a woman’s right to choose and pay equity it’s harder to see what women lose by electing Bernie. Bernie’s no-holds-barred attacks on Wall Street resonate with an angry and disenfranchised population who see the 1% as the oppressor. A gendered oppressor certainly, but not one that is pointedly anti-women.
The article:

If you’re still interested, Camille Paglia on Hillary: http://www.salon.com/2016/01/27/camille_paglia_hillarys_blame_men_first_feminism_may_prove_costly_in_2016/

My mother and the professor both said that Paglia’s article “made them puke.” Her name is everywhere right now, anyone have any ideas on why she’s striking a chord?
And The Great Gail Collins with a short history of Hillary and women running for president: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/opinion/sunday/hillary-in-history.html

The Anti-Alienator

There are a lot of things to buy right now. Things are ON SALE. You can buy more shit right now than you know what to do with. All those things? Those decorative things? Those plastic things? That thing that your friend has that really ties the room together, you can buy that fucker. For 30% off.

Look, I’m a Loehman’s girl, don’t get me wrong. I love a deal. And, this may shock you, I’m a materialist. I love things, I get attached to things, getting rid of things is terribly hard for me. Why do you think my posts are so long? My high school American and European history teacher was helping me edit my college admissions essay, and angrily told me I was “the most anal-retentive student” he’d ever worked with (thanks for getting me into Kenyon, Brad, love you!).

My point is, I see it. I get it. Things are great, they’re cool, it’s fun to get new ones. But cheap things suck. They break, unravel, fade and eventually make you feel cheap, broke and bad. So you buy more, and soon you’re swimming in pointless, redundant shit that has become one mass of crap that saps your will to live happily and you sate with one more goddamn cute thing. And in the end, you’re alone, surrounded by shit that you only bought to compense for the shit you already had, that you didn’t connect with in the first place.

The only answer is to only get shit that you really really really connect with. Then you’ll love your shit. The best way to do this is to buy very few things made by people who are connected to it. This is science.

Marx, my fav sociologist, has a theory of alienation (you may have heard of it in a cafe from a dude with earlobe spacers and a nasal voice). In the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 Marx writes about 4 different alienations (caused by capitalist structures):

  1. Alienation of the worker from the product of her labor;
  2. Alienation of the worker from the work (the act of production);
  3. Alienation of worker from herself (as a producer); and
  4. Alienation of the worker from other workers.

There isn’t a switch we can flip to up-end capitalist structures. We’re well saddled, and it’s a long slow slog. Basically, the climate is going to force the issue of change, and we have to keep working for equality EVERY DAY, but how the fuck do we get through the holiday season? How to we all take those small steps toward change that come to be a flood?

Here’s my solution. Buy from craftspeople. Don’t buy a lot. Just buy one thing, and buy it from someone who is upending capitalist structures by rejecting alienation. Realize that they’re also rejecting power (aka money) within the current neoliberal framework, and if you also want to reject the structural violence inherent in this system, you must support them.

So, I’m using my minor FB and twitter presence to promote those I know who are doing it for the love of the make. For the connection to the product, for the connection to the rest of the world, for the sense of accomplishment, pride and joy that comes from sharing something you’ve made with someone else. Share the love, give gifts that are made with care and love. Maybe it means it’s a small gift. But look, if you have people in your life who judge gifts based on size, amount, electrical wattage or anything other than showing you care, just don’t get them anything, they suck and they don’t appreciate you. For real.

Send me your suggestions for craftspeople, artists, social enterprises and the like, and I’ll include them in my posts!

Networking While Introverted: 7 Suggestions

I am an introvert. Meaning I go full mime in unfamiliar social situations. This makes the “job hunt” a.k.a. “networking” a draining tragi-drama of Jacobean proportions. In this nepotistic, extrovert-loving society it’s all who you know. This rule can screw introverts, who usually have a “quality not quantity” friend circle mentality. Us introverts must hope our silence in social situations comes off as interesting, not awkward, and that our apparent seriousness attracts the illusive “connectors.”  Having gone through this painful process before, and finding myself much more equal to the task in the round I’ve just begun in San Francisco, I have a list of suggestions for my fellows. These also work if you have the sort of boss that insists you network as part of your job.

First Suggestion. Do not go to networking events alone. Choose your partner well. Don’t be a duckling to a rutting peacock, you will feel self-conscious and awkward. Make sure it’s someone who actually wants to hang out with you. Going with another introvert can work well. Being awkward together is better than being awkward alone, and if you both know a person each, then you have networked, you may leave.

Second Suggestion. One glass of wine is plenty. Alcohol leads to so many inner voices in your head that you will trip, fall, drop, break, drool, sneeze and unintentionally insult. And feel like a total ass, and set yourself back just as you’re starting to gain confidence. Instead, think of scotch (or whatever) as your reward when you get home.

Third Suggestion. If you are at a networking event. Tell yourself you can leave after 15 minutes. Everything after that is a bonus. Do not add any more agony by pressuring yourself with numbers of business cards exchanged. Fuck it, you’re there, aren’t you? Good enough. Also, go to town on any free food. Might as well get a meal out of it.

Fourth Suggestion. Love coffee and lunch networking meetings. Mano a mano. So easy. Yes, scary, but not as scary as a seething room of people who all seem to know each other, and plus the other person might not be scared, and will confidently begin the small talk

Fifth Suggestion. Hilary Hodge’s Law: ask three questions. Any three questions. “Where’d you get that coat?” “When did you start work at _____.” “Is that a cyst?” Don’t use that last one. See next suggestion.

Sixth Suggestion. Pay attention to whatever the person your face is faced at is saying. Do not focus on alarming details and use that to go away in your mind. This is counter productive to the networking, to conversation, and to digesting your lunch/coffee if the detail is particularly off-putting. I have yet to have this last problem, but I foresee how it could occur.

Seventh Suggestion. Remember that you are not being literally strangled. Breathe. Breathe in the car, or while peeing. You can breathe, no matter how many strangers are yelling to each other about things they think are hilarious, and eying silent you suspiciously. You will not die, you will continue to breathe. Just focus on the breath. And the triple cream brie or mini-key lime pies, whatever they’re serving. Some networking events have better food than others. Just breathe and only attend the events with worthwhile food.

I hope these help. If you have any suggestions please do share.



A Changing Palette

Yesterday I walked out over a frozen gravel road along Lake Champlain in Vermont. The sky was slightly overcast, adding some grey and violet to the watery blue and gold of an early setting sun. Over the fields brown, empty corn stalks poking up from the snow, framed by dark evergreens. The Green Mountains to the east showed up indigo, and the lake was a mercurial silver-grey. I blamed the dog for having forgotten my camera, and with my hands stuffed into my pockets, I reflected on the colors of this past year.

In March I left Vermont just before spring sprang, and flew to Manila. From Manila I went to Tacloban City, and from there to Boracay, then Vietnam, then back to Tacloban, then to every major (and many minor) islands in Leyte. From there to San Francisco, then Sonoma, then Vermont, which left me to a solo drive across the United States back to Nevada, then California again, then a quick trip to Port-au-Prince, then back to California and now, again, here in the quiet jewel tones of Vermont.

What an incredible world.


Arrival in Oakland

Two days ago I wound my way down Highway 50 from South Lake Tahoe, and arrived in Oakland. Over the last week I logged 3000+ miles as I drove west from Vermont. There is much to contemplate as you travel across America, many observations are cliched but true: wide open spaces, flat, corn… There is also a deep sense of sadness that I feel crossing the plains and prairies. I think of the cultures and civilizations that flourished here for millennia, now gone or sidelined in their decline, and the great herds of buffalo now reduced to roadside attractions. The radio stations reported on the hawks’ drums beating for more war and the new iPhones before lapsing back into tired pop, classic rock, or derivative country and western hits.

I thought back to how I made this journey over ten years ago. My friend Mary and I, our pennies saved from restaurant work, heading out into the great unknown of adulthood. Then we had wandered north along Highway 90, heading south down into Colorado, and then eventually arriving in the Bay Area, wide eyed and dusty. This time I was directed. Heading straight along, stopping only for tornadoes and sleep, and to brew french press coffee (to the mystification of many a gas station cashier).

Now I have more of the world under my belt. My eyes are still wide, but less clouded with lingering adolescent fantasies. Now begins the search for an organization, company, nonprofit, or foundation that I can devote my energies to. The Bay is replete with energetic far-thinkers, and I am looking forward to meeting them all.