Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cover Letters: The Silent Killer (of Humanity)

Having now written innumerable cover letters, I have become a slave to turning my unique thoughts and qualifications and sanitizing them down into the same boring old script. Because God help us if we write something funny or words someone might actually say in real life!

The first few letters I attempted to add a few phrases that I felt described me and perhaps contained just enough wit to make me stand out from the crowd. But after running them past my mother, I was told to leave them out. It would seem that these cover letters are all being read by the most robotic bureaucrats who cannot compute anything beyond the form. This cannot be true. They are just people like you and me, reading e-mails and looking for real people themselves. Surely it would put a smile on their face to read a cover letter which didn't sound as though it could be created by a cleverly written computer program (wait, maybe I should get on making one of those, then I wouldn't need a job).

Why is it only this kind of correspondence which turns us into mindless drones? I say we throw off the shackles of cover letter hypocrisy and tell our potential employees how we really feel! Perhaps a well-placed haiku would more accurately express my desire to write for a particular publication, or a witty equation can prove that technical writing is the gig for me. Join me, my unemployed brethren, join me in the rebellion against insincere 'Sincerely's and desperate 'I look forward to hearing from you's! Together, we can overthrow the boring, the tedious, the soul-stealing rules of cover-letter writing and type once more on the keyboard of candor!

Who's with me?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Brain Betrayal

I've been told before that I'm smart.  I've never really taken the compliment that well, because it seemed to me that I wasn't necessarily that smarter than anyone else, I was just worked at it more because I was more afraid of what would happen if I turned in a paper that wasn't my best.  But okay, I'll take it: I'm smart.  Now, what does it get me?

The problem is, I'm not math or science smart.  I'm math perseverant and science competent.  But though I admire how math problems are like puzzles, there's no career in proofs, and my calling is not engineering like my father.  I'm also not social smart.  Again, competent with the friends and the mingling, but not my forte.  And that's not my fault.  We are who we are.  

If I'm smart, I'm word smart.

A dangerous proposal to make on a blog.  It just screams for someone to point out a terrible grammatical error.  However (because starting with "but" would be frowned upon), what I enjoy doing is writing.  Stories, poems, research papers, there's a reason I went to a college that trades exams for twenty-page conferences.  I love finding the words that perfectly express what I want to say, and I admire those who have perfected the art.  As a pre-pubescent misfit in Texas, I often prayed by my bedside using Shakespeare's sonnets.  Sacrilegious to be certain, but also a sign of things to come.

But again, if I'm smart, what does it get me?  Because my brain's calling doesn't come in the form of equations arithmetic or chemical, it doesn't lend itself well to a set career path.  Word smart is not a quantitative factor.  You must not be "This smart to write a book."  There are no tests to submit to publications with minimum grade standards.  Which is just as well, because I hate tests and I never liked getting graded.  

The conundrum is clear.  I spent a dozen plus years fine-tuning my brain to become as smart as possible, not to be as lucrative or as hire-able as possible.  And at the moment, that feels like a mistake.  It feels like I did what I was told, like I was good at it, and in return have found that there is no reward.  I value my education, and I loved reading the 18th-Century British novel in context, but no one wants me to write about that.  Or at least, no one wants to pay me for it.  As one of the nerds who followed practically all of the rules, I suppose I naively believed that it was enough when it isn't.

But I'm smart, right?  So I'll find a way to make it work.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls

And so it begins.  This weekend I attended the wedding of two high school friends, the first of my life.  What a strange experience, mingling with friends, many of whom I hadn't seen since Christmas break my first year in college, when we all thought we could stay in touch.  We were able to pick up where we left off, laughing and taking pictures while we avoided the dance floor.

No one seemed sure of where they would end up, which comforted the paranoid part of me that worries I'm the only post-grad without plans.  But there was another part of me that was sort of hoping we'd all be here together.  Selfish, I'll admit, to expect to be able to leave for four years and come back to a waiting crowd.  But it is hard to come to terms with knowing that each meeting with someone you saw everyday could be the last.

The next wedding could be as close as six months away, and I can't help but think this is another stage of life I'm not ready to meet: that phase when we stop just being friends, and are instead divided into single friends and married friends.  Now the distinction bears very little pressure, as we singles are in the majority.  But I fear that soon our numbers will shrink, leaving the final few of us in the same position we were in oh so many years ago in gym, hoping against hope we won't be last picked.