Author Archives: joanna

Work Quirks

Last week marked my three-year anniversary at work. Crazy how time flies. It feels like just yesterday I was power-washing homes and hunting squirrels for rent. But for better or for worse, I’ve now been a bonafide businessman for three years. And though I still look like a science fair entrant in business pants (or “trousers,” as my fancy friend calls them), I’ll concede that I’ve slowly matured in other ways, some of which both puzzle and frighten me.

Hot for per.
I knew I was in trouble the day “per” cropped up in my everyday dialect. I don’t remember our first encounter, but I do – embarrassingly enough – remember thinking “My God, where have you been?” It didn’t take long for me to develop a sick sort of satisfaction in its abuse. It felt so easy. So natural. So trousery. For example, rather than send my friends an email about “that cat video we talked about at lunch,” I found myself saying things like, “Per our discussion over sandwiches,” or “Per our conversation re: cats.” (More to come on re:) I was totally out of control. The only time I can remember obsessing in such a way was when I was eight and discovered the word “bastard.” To be sure, I hadn’t yet discovered the meaning of bastard, so I used it interchangeably with “friend(s)” or “guy(s).” E.g.: “Come on, you bastards! Let’s get some snacks!”

Picture of my finest creek-walking gear.

Around the same age I discovered “bastard,” Can you believe it?

Re: the ridiculousness of re:
After readily adopting “per,” it was only a matter of time before I began exploring the darker, more formal morsels of jargon at my disposal. Though I experimented with several options – most notably the notion of signing my emails with “Best,” – I eventually landed on re:. Re:, as in, “I got your voicemail re: the peanut butter.” Or “Your email re: the trouser sale was well received by all.” I knew it was terrible sentence structure. I knew it was pretentious. But I didn’t care. It felt good to be bad. And if I’m being totally honest here, it made me feel a hair grayer (in a well-respected wizard sort of way, that is).

The Hello Whisper.
I find something very uncomfortable about passing people in hallways. They’re at one end, you’re at the other, and you have no choice but to surmount a full-frontal approach before meeting your respective destinations.

To handle these situations, I’ve developed two coping strategies: The Hello Whisper and the Captain’s Wave. Certainly, each has become somewhat irrelevant as I’ve grown more comfortable in my company, but they’ve both served me well.

The Hello Whisper came to me in the first year of my career, presumably born out of shyness and insecurity. It happens like this: upon noticing an approaching coworker, I tuck my pelvis under, focus intently on the carpet and quicken my pace, as if I’m late to a very important meeting. Once I feel that my coworker and I have reached an appropriate distance from each other, I look up, smile, and silently mouth “Hi” Like I’m very excited to see them, but also quietly respectful of the hardworking businessmen around me.

The Captain’s Wave.
As seasons changed, I began to replace my meek Hello Whisper with something a little bolder, a little more dramatic — the Captain’s Wave. It came to me when I realized that what I hated most about hallway encounters was the anticipation. Do I say hi? When should I say hi? How do I say hi? Where should I look until I say hi? What if I have chocolate on my face? What if it’s my boss and I have chocolate on my face? 

So, I decided to avoid said discomfort by asserting myself from the get-go. If I notice a coworker at the opposite end of the hallway, I throw up my hand and give them a big, slow half-circular wave, like I’m saluting them from the helm of my ship. It seems to work quite nicely. After a few months testing it in the market, I’ve found that it gets about a 55 percent response rate, depending on how backlit I am.

So there you have it. A small taste of my more unfortunate work quirks. Also, for my own vanity, I must note that I’ve weaned myself off “per” and “re:,” though you have every right to judge our brief affair.

As you can see, I've grown quite comfortable in my work environment.

As you can see, I’ve grown quite comfortable in my work environment.

Friday Night Bubbles

This winter, I started a bit of an embarrassing Friday night habit. To be totally honest, I only call it “embarrassing” to save whatever bit of coolness I have left in this world because, in reality, I kind of love it.

Bourbon and BubblesAfter a few brutal weeks at work, I started thinking about how nice it would be to throw myself an ultimate relaxation party, a night to pamper myself like the Bravo! Housewives I know and love (knew* and loved*, really, as I can no longer afford a lavish life of cable). I decided that a bubble bath made the most sense, particularly as my apartment didn’t seem to be getting any sort of heat at the time (or ever, for that matter).

But I didn’t want this to be just any kind of bubble bath. No, it needed to be something special. Something fancy. And perhaps most importantly, something that would look good on Instagram.

So I splurged on organic bubbles, face masks, hair masks, candles, single barrel bourbon and a closet full of cleaning materials to properly prepare the tub. Had Kroger sold kitty life-jackets or swimming trunks, I would have certainly added them to my cart. Only the best for m’Lady Joan.

IMG_1641The day of my inaugural bath, I went to yoga (again, keeping up with the whole Real Housewives theme) and came home ready to soak like a true elitist. I scrubbed the tub until it fit my personal health code, and filled it to the brim with hot water and nearly a 2-liter of bubble bath solution. I poured myself a stout glass of bourbon, slapped on my face and hair masks, lit the candles and – for perhaps the worst and most embarrassing part of my tale – switched on the Enya Pandora station (which, for the record, is basically a Lord of the Rings playlist. And that’s more than fine by me).

Deliverer of said tooth marks.

Deliverer of said tooth marks.

As I slunk into the tub, I felt any remaining shred of street cred slip from my bones, like I’d just performed my own baptism into the lonely Church of Catladydom. I sipped my bourbon – gripping it carefully with my dry, winter witch hands – as the water gently stung the tooth marks on my wrists and shoulders. It was at that moment that I knew – I’d never be cool again.

– End Scene –

Car Shopping

If you’ve ever talked to me for more than 20 minutes, you’ll know that I am utterly illiterate in the field of mathematics. Numbers, percentages, financial speak, it all goes in one ear and out the other. It’s quite amazing really, my ability to retain absolutely zero information with a number in it. I can’t even tell time under pressure, a shortcoming my boss discovered when he asked me to read from my watch (which, as it turns out, had been wrong for months).

The reason I’m explaining all of this is because I want to illustrate just how poorly prepared I am for the car buying process. The mere sight of me walking into a dealership is the stuff of a car salesman’s dreams. Single female, mid-20s, walks in with a calculator, notepad and the definition of APR scribbled on her palm. You get the point. I’m a delicate flower, as my parents say.

Found quite a few relics when I finally cleaned out the trunk. Perhaps my favorite find was the trunk-rattling subwoofer I used in high school.

Found quite a few relics when I finally cleaned out the trunk. Perhaps my favorite find was the trunk-rattling subwoofer I used in high school.

I didn’t want a new car, to be clear. I was perfectly happy with my Altima. Sure, it stalled at stoplights when the AC was running, but it pepped right back up if you bounced on the trunk (another clever fix brought to you by Richard Clark). I liked my car. And, most importantly, I didn’t feel like cleaning it out.

But at the urging of several concerned parties, I decided to begin the hunt. First up: a test drive.

Now, I’d never test driven a car before, so I had no idea what to expect. Judging by its name (test drive) I assumed it was something akin to a restaurant review. Drive it, mull over every detail, and offer brutally honest feedback. So as we pulled out of the lot, I began my oral review.

“The brakes are weird,” I said, using the most technical language in my toolbox.

“It’s been sitting in the lot. They’ll warm up. Turn right,” replied the salesman.

As we continued about our journey, he began to ask some personal questions. What kind of music I liked, where I was from, where I went to high school, etc. He was pussyfooting around. And it threw me off. Wasn’t this the time to talk shop? The time to talk about what I liked and didn’t like about the car? To shoot the breeze about horsepower, brake pads and torque*?

I certainly thought so. Which is why I began to pepper the conversation with comments like, “It feels heavy,” and “The nose is a tad long for my liking.” Never show them too much interest, as my dad has probably said at one point.

When we got back to the dealership, the salesman drafted paperwork to sell me the car on the spot, as if I didn’t have a hair appointment to get to. But before I could make my exit, he started in on the trade-in.

“Okay. How many miles on your Altima, Ms. Clark?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe like one hundred something.” (Another thing to know: I can’t say big numbers with commas in them, so I do my best to avoid them.)

“Alrighty then. Last oil change?”

“It was supposed to be changed in April. I have a sticker.”

“Any special features?”

“Oh, yes. It has great sound. And tinted windows. And, you know, air conditioning.”

We continued this charade back and forth for a while. He, appropriately baffled at how I’d made it this far in life. Me, making awkward jokes and struggling to control the volume of my voice.

I ended up leaving the dealership empty-handed, though I’ve since had some better luck. I like to think it’s because I managed to seem shrewd and intimidating, but really, it’s because my dad came along for the ride.

Closing note: when it finally came time to trade in my Altima, I had to move my belongings over to the new car. Fortunately, I’d done a somewhat decent job of cleaning my car a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, these were the three items that remained.

Several pounds of cat litter and organic grain-free cat food and a yoga mat (my one redeeming item, I hope). My dad was too embarrassed to help unload them.

Several pounds of cat litter, organic grain-free cat food and a yoga mat (my one redeeming item). My dad was too embarrassed to help unload them. I’d like to say it was the first time he called me a loser, but that ship sailed long, long ago.

*I haven’t the slightest clue what torque is. But it sounds impressive. 

So, about last night.

“Did I say anything weird last night?” It’s a question my friends have become quite accustomed to hearing from me. I find myself asking it on any given weekend morning, whether I’ve had one beer or seven. Why is that?

I know what you're thinking. What's there to worry about?

I know what you’re thinking: “What’s there to worry about? Looks like a normal girl to me.”

I started thinking about this the other day, particularly about the question itself. Why do we ask things like that? Questions that – to be completely honest – you don’t really want your friends to answer completely honestly. Sort of like, “Did I totally f-up that presentation? Be honest.” Or: “Does this haircut make me look like a Muppet? Be honest.” No matter what your friend says, what’s done is done. The presentation? It’s over. Your hair? It’s cut. Ain’t no answer — no matter how honest it may be — that can fix a bang situation beyond repair.

Maybe I’m just speaking for myself here, but I attribute my abuse of this question to insecurity. Because – in my big “aha” moment that inspired this post – I realized that I say weird stuff all the time. Day, night, it makes no difference. Whether I’m telling my boss about my cat’s birthday cake, or telling a man at the bar about my career as an up-and-coming apothecary, there is always something regrettable coming out of my mouth. So why do I even ask? Why do I even care? What’s done is done. That story about sea lion cataract surgery? Told it. That pick-up line about his neck veins? Used it.

So if I’m trying to find a point to this blog post, I guess it’s that I’m going to try to stop harassing my friends for reassurance. Because statistically speaking, I probably did say something weird. But at the end of the day, I’d much rather talk to someone about manatees or Megalodon than…well, pretty much anything.

Megaladon

The day I stumbled upon the word “Mockumentary” was a sad day indeed.

Waiting for inspiration

Blogging used to come easy to me. Looking back, it seems like every day, I was struck with something that I just had to write about. Something that I couldn’t wait to jot down and roll with. I had such a constant stream of thoughts, ideas and blasphemous remarks from my dad that, for a time, I considered hooking a tape recorder to my belt. I still get a little excited at the thought of it, particularly because it would allow me to start using the phrase “Captain’s Log” in earnest (a Battlestar Galactica pipe dream, I suppose).

But in all seriousness, those are the days that haunt me every time I sit down to write another blog post. What if I’m a burned out blogger? A poser? What if I’ve peaked? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time, just look at my athletic career. Or my modeling career.

Here I am modeling the Dark Lord's spring collection, "He Who Must Not Be Drab." My career plummeted shortly after this photo surfaced.

Here I am modeling the Dark Lord’s spring collection, “He Who Must Not Be Drab.” My career plummeted shortly after this photo was released.

I’m sometimes so afraid that I’ll never come up with a “big idea” or a good story that I stop myself before I can even get started.

So here’s my attempt to change that. Which means I’m going to stop waiting for inspiration to strike and just write. I’m going to journal like the moody, LTD2-coveting child I once was and give a mere update on my life as of late. Brace yourselves, it’s riveting.

1. I’ve studied up on animal behavior. My exact Google search was: “How to tell my cat I love her.” I’m a firm believer in open communication – it can make or break a relationship. That said, I want to establish an ongoing dialogue with Joan, something that helps us communicate our immediate feelings or frustrations and navigate any future issues that may arise, like the introduction of a new father figure.

As you can see, she’s already very communicative. Particularly when it comes to feelings of disdain and superiority.

As you can see, she’s already very communicative. Particularly when it comes to emoting disdain and/or superiority.

Now, I’ve always been wary of verbally communicating with cats (you never know if you might be saying something disrespectful), so I’ve focused on deciphering body behavior and subtle social cues. My studies are far from finished, but I hope to draft myself a Doctorate Degree sometime in the near future.

2. Equally damning to my love life, I threw a birthday party for the above-mentioned cat. But from what I understand, my parents have already spent a significant amount of time renegotiating my dowry, so I’ll skimp on the incriminating details. Message me if you’re interested. And in the meantime, here’s a video of Joan’s fetching skills which, I must say, I’m incredibly proud of:

3. I’ve tried to hit on people for the first time in years. In college, my friends used to call me creepy. I denied it, of course. Quite vehemently. The way I saw it, I was proactive. Aggressively, disconcertingly proactive. But the day one of my pursuits addressed me via text message as “Hey creepy,” I decided it was time to throw in the towel and embrace the tactless romantic I was born to be.

Needless to say, my “game” has always been a little rough around the edges. And having been out of the game for a while, it’s safe to say it’s gotten worse. Just the other weekend, I hit on someone by broaching the scintillating topic of Meth Mouth. I asked someone out via LinkedIn (not my fault entirely), hid in the woods from a Tinder match and have since completed a few more cringeworthy actions that, for the time being, I’m unable to disclose. The wounds are too fresh.

So there you have it. My life as of late. A Captain’s Log, if you will. My hope is that this has somewhat alleviated my blogging block, but only time will tell.

 

The Whole “Silver Linings” Thing

I’ve recently discovered that I’m not a fan of the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason.” Not only is it cringe-worthy in both text and tatt form, it’s perhaps the most unhelpful way of cheering someone up. I’m sure the phrase originated from a place of love and good intention, but after years of abuse and whimsical iterations in wall art, I believe it has been reduced to a semi-PC way of telling someone that shit happens. And that their situation is in fact so shitty, that you honestly can’t think of anything else to say.

To be sure, I’m not knocking anyone who believes everything happens for a reason. Who am I to judge someone or something when I can’t see the bigger picture or what lies ahead? All I’m saying is that it’s become a blanket consolatory statement that’s used too often for too many kinds of situations, both trivial and life-changing. I know this because I have been both the deliverer and receiver of this message many, many times.

And yet, to further contradict myself, I must say that there is some truth to the general idea of the phrase. No, I’m not sold on the fact that every single thing happens for a reason, because there are far too many horrendous, devastating and inexplicable things that happen in this world; insinuating that there’s a specific reason behind every catastrophe and tragedy is both insensitive and impractical. But when you look at the phrase from a different perspective—from more of a doors-closing-windows-opening angle—it starts to look more like the whole “silver linings” idea. And that I can get behind.

I started to realize this a few years ago when I was mercilessly rejected from every single job I applied for. Looking back, I now see that emailing a Chicago ad agency a PowerPoint file for my “creative portfolio” was a bit of a stretch, but it felt appropriate at the time. For what it’s worth, I even included a disclaimer that read something like:

“No, I don’t have the tools or Adobe products I need right now, but give me a job or a Mac Lab and I’ll do these print ads again…but better.”

But other than that particular instance, I couldn’t understand why each and every company would reject me. I mean, wasn’t I a catch? My pet-sitting clients seemed to think so. As did my mom. What better references could you ask for?

All-time low: Posing at a Battlestar Galactica exhibit. And the answer to your question is yes, I am still available for spaceship modeling. Message me for details.

Attending a Battlestar Galactica exhibit in Seattle was perhaps one of my nerdier moments in life. Here I am, modeling a bonafide Colonial Viper.

I fell into a pretty dark hole for a while, one that consisted of Battlestar Galactica, a brief stint in the power-washing business, and many nights spent coercing my first love, Buster, to name me his favorite family member. At my lowest point, I began stuffing cat nip in my pillow to trick him into sleeping with me. I started house sitting more frequently and—in between useless job applications—poured myself into becoming one of Greater Louisville’s most prestigious pet-sitters. For a time, I considered taking it up professionally; I have an unusual connection with animals, and I am incredibly comfortable using other people’s expensive kitchen appliances and entertainment systems. Sure, it wouldn’t be the most lucrative career, but in the off seasons, I could pick up a side gig as a dog-walker. College tuition well-spent, indeed.

Buster and his catnip pillow.

Buster and his catnip pillow (in my former bedroom/parents’ home office).

But as you might have guessed, tending to other people’s critters only fulfilled me for so long, and so I decided it was time to do something different. I decided to start documenting my post-grad progress (or lack thereof) so that rising college graduates would be better prepared for what was to come — a commencement speech ripe with ridiculous proverbs, promises and plugs for alumni donations, followed by a humiliating beating from the job market and a bed in your parents’ office. I wrote about moving back in with my mom and dad (and their bearded dragon, cat, rat, bird and meal worm colony), because I wanted people to stop calling my generation lazy and unmotivated. I wrote about all my crazy (often gruesome) adventures in pet-sitting, my forehead vein and my somewhat unsettling obsession with cats. I wrote about everything, and I came to realize that I loved it. And that I wanted to make a career out of it.

So what I’m trying to say is that being rejected from all those jobs was really, really painful. And scary, to be sure. But it also opened a lot of doors that I didn’t even know existed. It helped me rediscover my love of writing, and it led me to a lot of really amazing people and self-discoveries. I grew closer to my family, I fell in love, I stumbled into an awesome job and I got to be with Buster in his twilight years of life.

So no, I still don’t believe that every single thing happens for a reason. Instead, I think that—at least in my case—a shitty situation created new paths and new possibilities that I hadn’t otherwise considered. And that’s something I’ll try to remember in 2015.

26

A few months ago, I turned the anti-climatic age of 26. And while I realize that this by no means makes me any wiser or more qualified to offer advice, I learned a few things in the past year — both insignificant and slightly significant — that I want to share. Before I begin, I’d like to offer a disclaimer on this post: parts of it are a bit deeper than my usual stuff. You–as my mom often does–might find yourself wondering, “Why are you being so intellectual, Jo?” (She asked me this after I told her I was reading The Red Tent). And to be honest, I’m not really sure. Perhaps it’s a sign of maturity, or perhaps its a chemical reaction from all the gray hairs I’ve forcefully removed from my scalp. But don’t worry, I won’t be an intellectual blogger forever.

Hair pills don’t work.
Sometime around the sprite age of 23, I decided it would be a good idea to cut my hair off. I honestly enjoyed my new ‘do (for about 48 hours), but I spent the next two years of my life looking like Thomas Jefferson caught in a rainstorm. I absolutely hated my colonial bob, and so I did everything (short of extensions) to fix the situation.

Here I am in my company headshot.

Here I am in my company headshot.

This meant taking an obscene amount of hair pills and vitamins that, when combined, promised me Kardashian-esque locks and frighteningly radiant skin. For a couple of months, I convinced myself that the results were worth the investment. My hair felt smoother, my hands looked slightly less scaly, and my breath was only mildly fishy. But one afternoon, my mane-and-tail cocktail didn’t sit too well with my delicate stomach and I ended up getting sick in a coworker’s office. To explain my cold sweat and sudden exit was awkward, to say the least, and so on that very day, I wrote off hair pills entirely.

Yogis aren’t all that crazy.
Until a few months ago, the closest I’d gotten to yoga had been by way of an extensive collection of black stretchy pants. To be sure, I never wore said pants while performing the actual act of yoga (or during any stretching, for that matter), but I appreciated their universally flattering fit and, like any 20-something, how well they complimented my Sperrys.

Then, a few months ago, someone told me that yoga is one of the best exercises for people with anxiety, and that she’d highly recommend it for someone as neurotic as myself (high praise, indeed). While I doubted it would bring forth the peace and tranquility she promised, I figured it was probably due time I learned how to touch my toes. Thus, I began an unlimited package at a yoga studio.

I showed up at my first hot yoga class feeling insecure and skeptical. Not helping my cause was the fact that I was the only person wearing athletic shorts, or that I’d brought an american flag beach towel to dry off with. Everyone else was clad in an assortment of spandex and tattoos, and no one — I mean no one — had a beach towel, let alone a towel as visually assaulting as my own. My skepticism only grew as the class went on, as the instructor proceeded to list the benefit of each pose as it related to the organs. I highly doubted that the compression from “wind relieving pose” (a ridiculous name in itself) would massage my descending colon and flush out my pancreas. Nor was I buying that by placing my forehead on my knee, I’d improve my metabolism and relieve depression. But as I’d already paid for a month in full, I carried on without complaining.

My next few appearances were much the same. With each subsequent class, I learned more about my organs, breath and glands than I had during my sadistic addiction to Web MD. But around my third week (around the same time I stopped wearing athletic shorts), something miraculous happened. I realized that I did feel better. I felt more balanced, more confident and more self-aware. I’m not saying I bought into any sort of lower-intestinal-massage powers, but I recognized a significantly positive difference in my body and in my mind. So, as it turns out, I guess yogis aren’t all that crazy.

And now for the intellectual stuff.

Anxiety doesn’t define me.
For years, I’ve joked about my anxiety. If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I often make light of my germophobia and hypochondria. I get it. It can be funny sometimes. And until recently, I’ve found that joking about it has been the best kind of therapy. But a few things happened this past year that, quite frankly, aren’t all that funny. And they’ve made me realize that my anxiety (no matter how comical it can be at times) has completely run–and at times seemingly ruined–my life.

At the incessant urging of my mother, I won’t go into too much detail about my anxiety. But at some point, I plan to write about it because I think it’s a condition that more people need to understand. Generalized anxiety disorder isn’t worrying about passing a test or being late for work. It’s taking a fear or an insecurity (whether that be rational or completely irrational) and turning it into an obsession. It’s worrying about EVERYTHING — relationships, work, weight, body image, MRSA, germs, receding gum lines, typos, cancer, perfection, social awkwardness, what someone said about you 5 minutes ago, what someone said about you 5 years ago, etc. — to the point where you’re unable to “wake up” and check-in with the world around you. To the point where your mind is so incredibly clouded at times that it blocks any and all external thoughts — no matter how important it, he or she may be. Having anxiety means that routines are religion, and to deviate from them is almost unbearable. It means feeling debilitatingly insecure and inferior and, at times, it means feeling completely detached from everything and everyone. As a result, it means your friends, family and loved ones can’t understand why you’re so distant, so frustrating, so indecisive. They feel insignificant to you, even though they’re anything but.

For 25 years, I’ve done a pretty good job of masking the severity of my anxiety (except for all my bone cancer blood screenings, of course). And I managed to do so, in part, because I didn’t realize the full extent of it. But I’ve recently realized that my anxiety and insecurities have dictated far too much of my life, and that it’s time to make a change. So–with a little outside help–I’m learning that I don’t have to live like this anymore. And that feels awesome. I’m learning that my anxious actions are not who I really am. That they don’t define me. I’m realizing that being open and honest about my anxiety is far better than keeping it to myself, and that laughing at myself has been (and will continue to be) one of the best things I can do.

I’ve debated whether or not to publish this blog post for quite some time. It’s not exactly flattering. But after months of editing, re-editing, deleting and re-typing, I finally said screw it. At the very least, I hope it’ll help people understand me (and why it takes me 45 minutes to pick a beer) a little bit better. But most of all, I hope it’ll encourage those who struggle with similar demons to finally get some outside help, because it truly makes all the difference.