Sunday, November 04, 2012

On How To Be Brave

To the best of my knowledge, there are three place a one, such as myself, can work for this State, but not actually work in The State. Houston, Chicago, and New York are where these jobs are located.

Four or five months ago, I did a phone interview to work in Houston. A week after that I was offered a face-to-face interview for the position. I didn't take the interview. I was interested, but at the time I had done a couple of interviews for promotion that I thought went well, so I turned down the second interview. At the time I was right. The position I interviewed for was the same position I'm in now. I would have been doing more receptionist work rather than clerical or analyst work and there was no room for promotion at this job unless I wanted to go back to school and learn some skills that I don't want to have. (Although I know I could learn them and then use them fairly well.) There was no money for moving and there was no pay increase.

Four weeks ago a position came available in the New York office. Again, not a promotion. But in New York. The office is in Manhattan. No moving expenses, but the pay goes up at least $350. And it's in New York City, which is one of the most amazing places I have ever seen.

Yes, I hate living in cities. I hate the idea of large cities, but I wouldn't have to live in the city. There are buses and subways and trains and plenty of places in all directions where the population density is at a more reasonable level for my sanity. For a week after the job was posted online I looked up rents in the city and its Burroughs. I looked at Long Island and New Jersey. I looked upstate thinking that it would be wonderful to be able to say I lived in New Rochelle. I found places with potential. Places I think I could live.

But...

I hadn't sent the application. Sure, there were two weeks to get it out, but I hadn't sent it. Not because it's not a promotion. I've basically given up on that dream because there's no chance of a promotion for me where I am and the dozen or so interviews I've gone out on for a promotion have done nothing for me. I figure the best way for me to get a promotion is to get somewhere at my level and show them that I am so much more than just a file clerk or a receptionist. Out in New York I would have been at the same level with no real chance for promotion, but I'd be in New York City where so many things that I like are made or come from. Where there are more plays going on each week than I could afford to see in a year. Museums, publishing houses, food from around the world, music everywhere all the time if you look for it. Just the place for an aspiring hipster to be.

Three weeks ago, on Monday, I got out of my car and started to walk across the parking lot thinking about how I have to get the application out that afternoon and suddenly I knew that I wasn't going to send that application off, ever. I stopped and stood in the middle of the lot because even though I knew that I wasn't going to send the application in, I didn't know why. I had to figure out why. I stood there and thought about it.

I'd be living in a city, a gigantic city, where I didn't know, really know, a single person, 3000 miles away from those I do know. Now that wouldn't be a big deal because I've lived in cities where I don't know anyone and been okay, but it's always been in this state. Always close enough to people I know that if something went terribly wrong they'd be close enough that they could help.

The normal argument would be that I'd meet people and make friends. The problem is that, when it comes to me, it won't happen. I don't know how to make friends.

Okay, so logically I know how to make friends. You meet people who share your interest. You get to know each other and enjoy spending time together. Eventually you start hanging out talking about nothing, maybe sharing a meal or going to see a band at a bar or maybe looking at some art. You call or text or e-mail to set up one of these things and you go and you laugh and fun is had. Friends. My problem is I don't know how to go anywhere after the "meet people" stage.

Seriously, I don't know how to do or what to do anything after I meet people. I go to things where people share my interests and sometimes, rarely, I even talk with people I don't know. And then the talking stops. I don't know how to continue after there's a pause because I don't believe that the person I've been speaking with actually wants to speak with me. Crazy, I know, because we were just speaking and 95% of the time I'm not the person who initiates the conversation. Still, I have a hard time imagining. There's also the fear of becoming one of those people who become too much.

If you've ever been to a comic shop you know the kind of guy, and it's always been a guy to me, I'm going try to describe. It's the guy who knows you're interested in comics so you must be interested in the comics he's interested in and he will, if he can, corner you among the long boxes and tell you everything about what he likes and why the stuff your looking at is either brilliant or crap. If you're lucky enough to not get cornered he'll follow you around the shop. When you tell him that you don't like the Punisher because you don't think he's a hero the guy doesn't stop talking about the Punisher because the Punisher is who he wants to talk about. There are only two ways to shake the guy: one, pawn him off on someone else, someone else who was hopefully stupid enough to comment about the Punisher while the guy was blathering on. Or, two, pay for your comics and leave the store.

I try really hard to not be this guy because I know that he's in me. I can feel it every time someone at work talks about a TV show or movie that I like. I can go on and on about the story and the directorial choices and the writing and the acting because I like this stuff and I want to have a conversation about these things. Example: The Hunger Games movie came out and one of the women in my office saw it and liked it and we started to have a very surface-y conversation about it, but then I said despite all the violence I liked how the director would pull the camera away from the actual blood-and-guts moments leaving it to the audience to imagine how horrific the act is. There was a huge pause because this woman doesn't think of movies in the same way I do (just like I don't think of horses in the same way she does) and our conversation was essentially dead. I could have gone on. I wanted to go on. I didn't go on, though, because I don't want to be that kind of guy. He's in there. I know that because he's come out on occasion, fortunately it's mostly been with family and they just either put up with it or get into a conversation with me. I fear turning off potential kindred spirits by doing it, though.

To get back to the point, I wouldn't have anyone in New York. I wouldn't meet anyone in New York. Five years of not making any friends in North Bay proved that. And the vast majority of the time I'm fine with it. Being 3000 miles away from anyone I could depend on in a crisis, even if they have three hour drive, wouldn't work. I'm not going to change. I don't really want to change. I'm afraid that I can't change.

When I realized that, I could walk again. That afternoon I posted to Facebook: "I can state this with certainty: I am a coward." because being brave isn't doing the things other people are afraid to do, but pushing through your fear and trying to do the things you're afraid to do.

1 comment:

Jack said...

Well done, my friend; there are some profound insights here. I always kind of felt like bravery was facing something that terrified you, and doing it anyway, and I guess that's pretty much what you're saying. But you shouldn't beat yourself up with a derogatory label like "coward" just because you have some trepidation about moving across the country. That's a big step, and as a wise man once said, "If you can't afford the loss, don't take the risk."

I note your interest in comics, and I want to turn you on to some old friends of mine who talk about comics, and every other aspect of pop culture that you can think of. Find them at http://nerdlunch.blogspot.com/
You may make friends with them and their following on-line, or they may provide you with material to fuel some real-world friendships. Anyway, drop in, interact, and tell them I sent you. They know me well, and CLAIM to respect me; guess we could find out together...

Happy New Year and best wishes!