Growth?

Here are the Top Five Things I Should Be Doing Instead of Writing This Here ‘Blog:
5. laundry
4. reading The Elegant Universe
3. cleaning my room for a video
2. reading Crop Dusting
1. writing Timepiece

I’m doing none of these, though; I’m here just for you, because I know that you’ve been neglected. How was your Thanksgiving, provided you don’t live in Green Bay or the surrounding Wisconsin area?

In case you were wondering (which you probably weren’t, as this is the first time I’m sharing this information with anyone), I *have* indeed been keeping bloggable notes since the last update on 19 October. Unfortunately, the following things prevented me from actually posting any of them (appearing in no particular order):
drowsiness/screwy sleep patterns (following the overnight shifts at the Target)
Internet access (as in, none @ the job training at the Charter)
moving (business surrounding the packing/unpacking/settling)
hunting (the preparations and subsequent execution of such activity, up to and including the execution of one female deer)
Madden 2004 (the roommate’s acquisition, followed by the incessant playing during all free-time periods for roughly 10 days)

These are, more or less, the same things that have prevented me from accomplishing the tasks on the Top Five List.

But I digress. My point with regard to the bloggable comments I’ve been tracking is that, rather than dump a large entry with outdated material in this space, please follow the link to a page under the ‘Writings’ section labeled “Offline Musings, Frustrations, Complaints, Comments, and Diatribes.” For your convenience, this document follows the opposite pattern of the ‘blog, insofar as its dates are arranged in ascending order.

But this is not what I came here to talk about this evening; I came to discuss personal growth (a topic that has seen repeated, extensive coverage in this space: see also entries dated 9/9/03, 4/24/03, 10/24/02, etc), having had yet another shower-epiphany on Thursday morning.

But before we get to that, allow me to dispense with what is now officially a “holiday tradition” (having been practiced in consecutive years), wishing you and yours a pleasant holiday season, from Steve and I to you:

Thank you for your continued attention and stalwart patience. At this time, we shall commence with the growth. But first, allow me to offer a disclaimer with regard to that which follows: if you have tired of the introspective, internal dialogues which seem to so plague the many pages of this webspace, please carry on with your holiday shopping schedule, and return again in a few days the site’s content is likely to be more light-hearted, and less wordy (that’s “wordy,” as in, “lots of words,” and not “Wordy,” as in this chap).

Where to begin? I’ve got this new job. Been there about five weeks now. If you remember me lamenting a period of employment that I had at an insurance company in Pewaukee, this job is the same, more or less. Only difference is I’m talkin’ cable instead of talkin’ motorcycles. This really doesn’t have a lot to do with the growth, but it’s a place to start.

Please don’t assume that because I’m exploring other employment options closer to home (I live in Oshkosh, the job is in Fond du Lac) that I’ve definitely decided to leave the cable joint. Also, please don’t assume that I’m crazy and not thinking about the consequences of my actions. Yes, this is a full time job, and yes, I need some insurance, and yes, I really do understand that, but: there is the “job” that’s more important to me on the horizon, namely, the graduate school. For those of you in/finished with graduate school, I think you’d agree that my academics would certainly suffer if I were working 40 hours per week while taking 9 credits (3 classes) and commuting an hour-plus per day. To that end, I’ll most definitely fall back to part time at the most, whereupon I will lose the benefits anyway, so you can see how I’ve reasoned that finding a part time job at the university would be just as good as the cable company.

This is all really just an introduction to the first point I’d like to make, which is that I’ve interviewed for more jobs that I can remember since I graduated from UWO in December 2001. I have at least one more next week. I don’t know if you’ve been on any interviews lately, but the way that it goes these days (and for all I know, it’s always been this way) is you talk to a “human resources” employee, whether the “director” of HR or someone further down the chain (most likely the latter, since the whole point of becoming the “director” of any “department” is to have the flexibility to drive your kids to soccer at any time of the day or night) and that person asks you a number of questions that are intended to expose your convictions, values, opinions, and perspectives on a variety of topics, often (obviously) closely related to the job for which you’ve applied.

I’ve mentioned to some people fairly often in the last two years that I am terrible at interviewing, and it’s not for a lack of skill or understanding with regard to the interview process itself, it is more (I decided Thursday morning in the shower) that I didn’t have the aforementioned qualities to be probed (the convictions, values, opinions, perspectives).

What I was thinking of as this epiphany struck was that in nearly every interview that I can recall (up until the VERY recent past), if I were asked, “what would you do if X happened?” my response would be drawn out, circuitous, and little more than an attempted dodge of the question, because all I was really thinking was, “What would you like me to do if X happened?” You see, I was thinking that I’m a very agreeable, flexible fellow in a general sense, and maybe that doesn’t have a damned thing to do with strength of character or good social adjustment. Maybe it has a lot more to do with me not having formed any opinions on these things people are asking me about.

If that makes any sense.

Well I continued to think about this, and I tried to figure out why the hell I wouldn’t have these “qualities,” and at the time I decided that it could have something to do with my unceasing desire to have friends and family members with unblemished positive opinions of me personally. Whether or not you (assuming you are one of these people) have noticed, I can tell you now that I’ve gone to great lengths over the years to do what I can to help you, to be there when I can, to be the best friend/brother/son/cousin/nephew/etc that I can be. At those times when I have perceived myself to fail in that quest, rest assured that I took it extremely hard, even if the “failure” wasn’t that significant or the “task” at hand was unimportant.

You may not have noticed, but I am fiercely caring and loyal once I bestow these things on you. (Aside to my Oshkosh comrades: this is why the conclusion of the Jill Pape Saga, which I mention only for the sake of example, bothered me so much.)

What does this have to do with interviewing for a job?

Ultimately, I drew this quality back to a more fundamental personality trait: I must please everyone. You all have to like me. You can see where this would make constructing your own convictions/opinions/values difficult, since one of the easiest ways to draw ourselves closer to others is via these important qualities. So in a job interview, of course you want the person interviewing you to like you, because if they like you, there’s a better chance you’ll land the job, and, well, they should like people who share their opinions and believe similar things, right? So, if I could just ask all the questions first in a job interview, maybe I’d end up in better shape?

The vast majority of the people reading this have been around me long enough to know that at the time I finished my bachelor’s degree, I was dead-set on leaving Wisconsin to attend graduate school. In retrospect, it would’ve made a lot more fiscal sense (IE, I would be down several thousand dollars less) to stay in Oshkosh and get started on that Master’s degree here right away. Again, I’ve touched on this a bit in the past, and I don’t regret the decision that I made to go to Bozeman at all, it was a spectacular thing to do, and actually related a bit more to this amorphous “growth” that I mentioned at the outset.

But why did I so desperately want to go? What was my motivation and what did I want to find? Was I seeking escape? From what? Did I think I’d “find myself”? I can’t really say, although, for the sake of personal understanding, I take up these questions and ponder them time to time. What I’m thinking at this point is that every geographical-self-finding adventure you’ve heard of is little more than expensive window dressing for a voyage one needs to take within himself.

I can’t say what the experience is like for you, because I’ve only ever been myself, but sometimes I wonder if the majority balance of the world isn’t numb to these considerations. If not, why doesn’t an average person talk about them? I suppose they would be justified in keeping the log of the inner journey hidden inside, since the individual is the lone crew member on the ship that sails to Self. Where, though, is the evidence of this journey’s completion? How does it manifest itself in our daily lives?

I spent a lot of time alone in Montana, by choice more than anything else, and I can say with confidence (actual confidence) that I probably wouldn’t have had this epiphany if I’d never gone. The thing that this shower-realization comes with, though, is acceptance of the fact that a year spent away was only the start of a journey that is ongoing. I think realizing how much I value all of you and how little I have (historically) valued myself is a major turning point. What I am has been constructed by everything outside me, and being mindful of that is important. The next question, I think, is whether I can come to terms with that fact, or whether I should oppose it, struggling for some identity that I mask within myself.

Where to end? Not here, but this is growth.

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