The skill of procrastination


deckchair

This morning, I saw a job ad.

Like all the other job ads,

Like yesterday’s job notification,

Received by email.

Sinking in a bathtub of:

Skills, capabilities, abilities

And the sort

Hard and soft

– What can you do for us?

Personality, emotions

Creativity, uniqueness

Useless.

Praise yourself?

Advertise your skills?

Package your persona, neatly!

Desirable skills:

Teamwork, communication, organization

Leadership, problem-solving

Meeting deadlines, flexibility

Describing aliens

Peeping into neighbors’ houses.

Ups, I got carried away!

 

Don’t have them? Next!

Mass-production, conveyor-belt

Possible job seeker no. 249.

And while I adore the sound

Of abstract sounding donkey-dust skills

I, myself, am the queen of procrastination.

Here’s to my leadership skills of:

Peeling oranges, cutting potatoes

Collecting postcards, gazing at the stars

Spreading butter on toast, window shopping!

I had a dream last night:

Every newspaper’s headline was:

“The coolest job of the 21st century

Requires…..tadam!

The skill of procrastination!

Welcome to my kingdom!

 

New Year’s resolutions or how I lost myself

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This is a story of regression and confusion. This is a story of lost paths, mistakes and blind choices. This is a story that does not have a happy end or an end at all.

01.01.2019: I woke up startled that morning and I knew that 2019 is just an illusion. Measuring time was invented by human beings and thus, 8 changed to 9. Because I was conditioned to live by the rules of society my brain acknowledged the coming of the new year. However, I wasn’t about to start making an interminable list of crap with what I want to achieve in the new year or add new fantasies to the all too popular bucket list. It is absolutely unrealistic because you just don’t know what life throws at you everyday. I used to believe that the unpredictability of life is awesome because it does not allow you to settle into routine. I was ,thus, convinced that all you have to do in life is adapt, be flexible and go with the flow. Just see what happens, and go with it, a bit like in Daoism, or a lesson we might have learned from Don Quixote. Do not fight the windmills, do not go against dao, against the path! Just flow with the river ,and nature in the direction they dictate. That sounds about right, nope?

Well, not really. Not for me, at least. I was startled on the first morning of January 2019 because I was lost, and I started to analyze myself and view my entire life under a microscope. I had a great life so far, full of exceptional, happy moments, intense emotions and various experiences that included both gratifying, but also extremely hard and challenging occasions. So far, so good! I lived my 27 years of life by, somehow, following this principle of ‘the path’, following a kind of invisible line that life opened up for me. But all of a sudden, it just didn’t work anymore. It took me places that I didn’t want to be at, it made me travel dark routes outside and inside of myself. After graduating from my master in Belgium, my journey as a responsible adult was supposed to start. Taking into consideration that my family invested financially and emotionally in transforming my being into a succesful and happy adult, I believed I was somehow guaranteed to get there. I mean, I did very well in school, university, master, I managed to be by myself and organize everything in various foreign countries, I had amazing, smart friends, I was creative, clever enough ,and I got involved in the occasional volunteering or other artsy projects. I considered myself motivated enough to achieve what I wanted, I believed I deserved it because I was a good, kind and empathic person that somehow decided that she wants to contribute to other people’s wellbeing. But who was about to contribute to my own wellbeing? Well, everything started to spiral downwards. I just couldn’t find my way, I was struggling in the dark, I was lost at sea. Choices to make, career goals, what job to pursue, where to live, who do I wanna be, what are my desires and most of all, how do I balance what makes me smile and feel good inside with this new-found responsibility to sustain myself financially, and be responsible for myself and my adopted dog? I just couldn’t find any answers at all, and life was crushing me.

funny-hand-life-cartoon

I wish I could say I found what I was looking for. But I didn’t. I can just say that I struggled with being an English teacher in Shanghai, a tourism lecturer in a university in a 3rd tier city in China and a tour guide in Turkey. Now I am back in Shanghai, doing a second master because I still haven’t found my path or I don’t have the courage to wander in the dark aimlessly. I don’t have resolutions for 2019 because I need to learn how to function again as a human being in society. I need to start again, by being a baby, a child, a teenager ,and finally an adult.

I lost my motivation ,and determination to fight and achieve what I want in life.

I am lost at sea, I am just floating endlessly, I am reading too much, watching too many movies, reflecting too much and feeling like a wreck, a failure. I keep wondering where did I go wrong? I mean, where did I lose my real self?

The self that desired to travel the world for a year or two and discover, discover, discover ….without plans or too much money? Well, I am afraid to let go and just travel. I am afraid that I will lose out on precious work experience to add on my CV when I am away on my year travel. I am afraid that I won’t have enough money and I will get stuck in the middle of nowhere, broke and vulnerable. I am afraid that I will spend money that otherwise I could have used to do something else with, like saving to be more financially secure.

I want to become a writer and publish my poetry ,and maybe in the future, short stories or a novel. Am I doing anything to achieve that? No. I am afraid to send any of my work to any publication or contest. I am not confident enough that I have what it takes ,and I am so scared to get rejected.
Where do I want to be? In a middle-sized European picturesque city where I could draw inspiration for my life, and poems just by walking on the streets and breathing in the spirit of history. I want to be able to admire the exquisite, old buildings touched by lives lost and lives yet to come. Where am I? In Shanghai, a giant glass-like city, full of impersonal skyscrapers, commercial shopping malls and ugliness.
I want to be economically independent, and have a job that fulfills me. What am I doing? Well, after a year of looking for jobs in various places and not finding anything suitable, getting rejected too many times and not even discovering what exactly I should be doing, I am now doing a second master in political theory. Gosh, I don’t even wanna do that, but I am too scared of not having anything to do at all. And I am so disillusioned with politics and leaders. I have always been. It is a pain for me to analyze and learn about political systems because I can only see failures in them, just like I see myself now.

I lack self-discipline and motivation, I eat too much and I even put on 10 kilograms since I have come back to Shanghai. I am highly disappointed with myself and it is hard to admit that ,by my own standards, I have become a failure. How can I say that? It is painful and I don’t know where it all went wrong. The hardest thing right now is to start addressing all these issues. And sadder than everything else is that I am clueless.

doors

There are too many doors, and choices in front of me or maybe not enough. I remain numb, and unable to open any of them. I have this recurring dream where I have to run away from this terrible, bulky man, who wants to hurt me and touch me. I am in a fancy mansion that has never-ending rooms and doors. I always open too many doors and I see theatre-like scenes full of everything that one can imagine. The horrible man can never catch me because we always choose different doors. What to choose now? In my dream, I never stop opening doors and exploring rooms until it’s time to wake up. I would appreciate any comments with advice or suggestions!

Christmas is coming. Still unemployed!

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Random thoughts have been going through my head for a month already. So here it goes. Finally I have the time and courage to write down what has been bothering me. I gave up my three or four part-time jobs as an English teacher and my Chinese language course will end soon. That means my visa will expire soon…how soon? The end of January…and I’ve got nothing sorted out….I am stressed, I might be kicked out of this country and I am not even sure I have enough money to buy a plane ticket to go back to my home country. I am basically stranded. And my home is in Shanghai already. I feel the Christmas spirit here, my lovely dog is here with me…what am I gonna do with him if I have to leave? He is my responsability and I love him so much. I could leave him with my boyfriend, but I would miss him too much.

Meanwhile, I am constantly looking for jobs in my domain (anthropology > NGO, social entrepreneurs’ companies,  cultural advisor, exchange semester coordinator or study advisor…abstract and idealistic type of jobs).  Yeah, this is what stimulates my imagination and my dream is to get involved in projects that could alleviate poverty, help discriminated people, come up with ideas and ways to help migrants integrate better and receive real chances to start over in their new countries. To be honest, ever since I was a child empathy was one of my biggest qualities. I remember seeing beggars, wounded animals or poor children and starting to cry. My whole day became miserable and I didn’t care about my happy circumstances anymore. Well, I don’t know if you can classify empathy as a quality. Sometimes it makes life impossibly hard. I am way too sensitive and I sometimes end up crying in a corner by how fucked up the world is and by how insensitive and selfish people are. I am one of those people who cannot imagine living life only for herself. I can’t die thinking that all I have done during my short, meaningless life was to build a future only for myself and my family. So no, I want to help the world, thus I want to become a social activist. Unfortunately, so do many other people…millions of other people…why? because nowadays it is trendy to do that…it is fashionable…basically it goes like this…some people think the world is divided into the following categories:

  •  Rich individuals, big corporations, corrupt politicians > aka business minded, mainly interested in money people
  • The other side > the good guys, the ‘do good’, save the world, talk big and put some positive shit on your CV

But out there people are more than that, more than 2 narrow categories. Black, white and grey zones mingle. What frustrates me the most are people who are nowadays social activists or work in domains that are obviously related to anthropology and sociology, but have nothing to do with these areas. They use language and terms that are unrelated to social and cultural issues and even augment problems by spreading wrong messages and using general terms (such as: let’s educate people > how abstract is that? ). And the main problem with this is that they have no theoretical knowledge and no background in how to deal with different communities. All the data they have on certain communities comes from superficial dialogues they had with a few individuals. There is no ethnography involved, no significant sample group, no extended period of time interviewing and participating in the community’ s life. Hence, everything is just completely biased and presented from the perspective of the person who wants to help. However, this help can sometimes do more wrong than good for certain communities if we are not analytical enough. That also involves a lot of self-criticism and challenging yourself at every step. So here’s my issue…do some people want to help because they would like to see problems solved? Are they really in it to genuinely offer other people chances to improve their lives? Or do they want to help because it is trendy and weighs a lot on their resume? I think there are a lot of posers out there who occupy jobs that I might be suitable for.

And here’s the paradox…..

I, with a background in anthropology and I, who really want to delve into nowadays’ societal and cultural issues, am standing on the bench of unemployment while individuals who have no idea how to approach cultural and social issues or who have no theoretical background in this are shouting out loud: ‘Help people with special needs’! . Gosh, that was a talk I listened to at PIC (Pyramid Impact Collective) Shanghai. So let’s discriminate people and place them into a special and separate group from ours by calling them : people with special needs. It is ridiculous: us (normal) versus them (special needs). I am not gonna go deeper into this, but it does seem like we are regressing to previous issues of us (white, intelligent) versus them (non-white, colonized). Except now we have different categories of us (full physical and mental abilities individuals) and them (individuals who mentally and physically relate to the world in a different way). I thought we were over that.

But getting back to the job problem.  As I was saying, I find this battle of mine to find an entry-level job as a young graduate paradoxical. Why? Because, on one side, people without experience and proper backgrounds in anthropology and sociology are working in domains that require both practical and theoretical knowledge. On the other side, the more I struggle to swim through nowadays competitive market the more I feel like I am worthless. Most of the jobs out there are for people with 2+ years experience. On top of that, the more certificates you have, the more languages you speak, the more freaking additional skills you have the better it is. And I feel left out, I am not a superhuman. I wonder who is? Then how do young people find jobs? And how do all these individuals without sociological and anthropological backgrounds end up in NGOs?

You would say, well, they start with an internship….and that’s fine…for those who want to do that…but I can’t and I am really against that…why? Because for more than 7 years of my life (bachelor and master) my parents have been supporting me financially and I feel ashamed to ask them to keep supporting me for one more year while I work for free. Because that’s how I see it. Big companies want interns that slave for them…no? Aren’t interns a kind of modern slaves? No offence to those who do internships…I’m sure you gain a lot of valuable skills and knowledge…but at the same time why don’t companies pay at least a minimum wage so graduates can sustain themselves and become independent? I mean, I will be 27 years old on the 13th of December and I want to be independent and to start my career in an NGO or a social  entrepreneurship group. Because my studies are related to that and afterall, this is my passion. Why don’t I get the chance to do that? I mean, what’s the point of studying at all if all I get to do is an internship or getting a job in something that completely bores me and drains all my energy just to be able to put food on the table and pay the rent?

I agree that we live in a very competitive society and we have to fight for what is ours, but isn’t this pushed to an extreme? I am not the type of individual who can multitask to the extent that I can juggle a full-time internship and many part-time jobs to pay the rent and at the same time save some personal time for myself to stay sane. I feel like internships are for rich kids. My parents can’t support me any longer. And when I think about it, my parents were financially independent when they were about 24. So how can I ask them for money and work for free or for a meagre amount of money just to gain experience?  If you ask me…internships are just a cheap and dirty way to cut down on costs and make poor susceptible young graduates slave and do jobs that otherwise employees would do for a real salary. So no, I am not going to do an internship…I am going to keep looking for that one workplace that will give me the chance to get a visa, earn a fair salary and be able to survive in this city and in this country by paying my own bills and buying my own food and by giving me the chance to develop and use my energy, my creativity, my skills in their company.

P.S: One last thing, I was given a free piece of ‘smart advice’. I was told by some people (who supposedly are great, intelligent and working in social change) that I victimize myself and that I create a negative image for myself by complaining or by revealing that I am unemployed and looking for a job and for a chance to start my career. I was advised to pump up my image and to advertise myself,  to present myself as what I want to be instead of what I am. And that, to me, seems to be faking it…’smart advice’ from self-image and goal setting coaches. What is wrong with admitting the truth, with recognizing that I am vulnerable and  that I am going through a situation that many other people faced at some point in their lives? And btw, the PR department uses negative publicity once in a while as a positive thing. ‘Bad publicity is better than no publicity at all!’

Leaving all jokes aside: I am fed up with this : ‘Everything works fine and I am a great individual with no problems’ and with ‘I will never show my weak spots and I will not admit to needing help’. I am going to make a parallel here. It is like asking racially discriminated people to stop complaining about it and stop showing it to others because they would become vulnerable and everyone will perceive them as victims. But hell, they have been mistreated and the problem comes from the others, not from them. What a load of crap: we should be talking about it, we should be revealing it…because part of the problem is that society, people, companies, the environment and everything that belongs to it is treating us like that. We, young people, want more chances to work and to show what we are capable of! And people who have been racially discriminated want society to own up to it. We should make those responsible realize that they are unfair…and that we want a change!