I Make Things Better

job-search-logo-21089305

As you may know, I’m on the hunt for a new gig. Job hunting means thinking about my strengths, the things I’m good at. This does not come naturally to me. I grew up in the Midwest of the United States, moved to Canada, and I’m female. For all three of these, a common stereotype/social norm is humility. In my case the stereotype holds very, very true. I grew up thinking it’s important to be humble. And while letting oneself be led around by the ego is anything but cool, there are points at which humility becomes a stumbling block. Job hunting is most certainly one of those points.

I’ve gotten better at thinking about and identifying my strengths after years of working at it, but writing a blog post about this sort of thing is another (rather uncomfortable) step. It’s also an important one. All too often we (especially women) are told we’re bragging/boasting and being obnoxious or pushy when we detail our successes.

To hell with that.

I need a job. (While all this time for exercise and podcasting is great, I like eating and having a roof over my head.) And that means getting comfortable with my strengths and learning to shout them from the rooftops. Or at least from my own blog space.

So today I’m starting with the most basic strength I have. I make things better. Continue reading

London Travel Diary – Day 4

Our continuing adventures in the UK! Check out Day 1Day 2, and Day 3 if you missed them.

Day 4: Monday, November 2

Steven and I met Warren and Simon at the British Museum around 11am (after another low-key morning eating cereal and hard-boiled eggs in our adorable studio). To get there, we walked down Gower Street. It was a lovely walk, and we passed a couple notable sites on the way. Unexpectedly, we wandered past RADA. Steven, of course, shouted “RAAADAAA” in true Tom Baker fashion.UK-RADA

We also discovered our hotel was only a block from where they shoot the exterior shots for Sherlock.

UK-E at Sherlocks

In fact, Bobo can show you just how close we were:

We decided not to tackle too much of the British Museum in one day. I was most interested in the Rosetta Stone and spent some quality time staring at it. It’s much thicker than I expected. We also took in most of the Egypt exhibit. Steven’s been to Egypt, so that was extra-exciting for him. Simon treated us all to coffee from one of the cafes in the lobby area, and Steven spent some quality time shopping in the gift shoppe.

After that, we walked over to Forbidden Planet, which is basically tat-mecca for geeks. I’m not one who likes having “stuff”, but it was neat to see all the geeky toys (though their selection of Doctor Who merch was much less than I’d been led to believe). My favorite part was, no surprise, the downstairs level. That’s where they keep the books. And there were many many. I think I spent most of my browsing time down there. I love looking for books by my friends, and I found tomes by several, including Paul Cornell, Kelly McCullough, and Graeme Burk and Robert Smith?!

Warren bought some Doctor Who “action dollies” for use in the delightful Bookshelf Doctors comic strip. Steven picked up a DVD of “The Underwater Menace” for our friend Ken, who we knew we’d see the next week, as he runs LI Who, the Doctor Who convention we headed for after our UK trip. I also convinced him to nab a little TARDIS filled with breath mints as an at-the-register impulse-buy. I didn’t purchase anything properly, but I did drop a pound into a Doctor Who vending machine. Sadly, all I got was a bunch of stickers. I don’t care for stickers, so I gave them to Steven.

We walked from there to lunch at a place called Joe Allen, a broadway-themed restaurant in the basement of an old building. I had some great shoestring fries and garlic butter, but like all the beef I had in the UK, my steak was tough and not particularly flavorful. Happily, Steven had one of many good veggie burgers along with some tasty, tasty fries.

We did some more wandering after lunch, and saw St Paul’s church (not cathedral), where Nicholas Courtney’s funeral was. I love the little old churches that are tucked around London. One moment you’re looking at a fairly modern building, the next, you feel you’ve stepped into another century altogether. It’s one of my favorite magical things about London.

Keeping with the Nick Courtney theme, we stopped at a pub in which he used to drink. I’ve forgotten the name of it, but it had lots of original fancy glass–lots of mirrors and light fixtures. If I’m not getting my stories mixed up, it was a gay bar even further back in its history. Steven ordered a lemonade. Lemonade there is not the same as here. It’s carbonated. And tastes more like lemon-flavored soda. Not sure how much actual lemon is involved.

After all that walking, we decided to head back to the room to nap/meditate/recharge our batteries (both figurative and literal).

That evening, Steven and I met up with the aforementioned Paul Cornell at another lovely little pub, the Royal George. Getting there was exciting, but only because the shine of London’s public transportation system hadn’t worn off. (Heck, it still hasn’t.) We took the tube to Charing Cross station and walked to the pub. It was our first trip out at night with no local to guide us, and we got there with next to no trouble. I had what I think was my best (non-Indian) meal in the UK. Who knew you could get great fried chicken, fries, and yam fries at a British pub? And Steven’s veggie burger was amazing–spicy chickpea and couscous served with an onion ring on it.

Paul kindly plied us with drinks, and we had all manner of delightful conversation about Doctor Who, London, and ever-so-much more. Then Paul took us to his club, which was theatre-themed and another slightly-underground place (literally, as in we had to walk down stairs to get in). We had lots more lovely talk, including the obligatory cricket conversation between a British cricket fan and the Canadian monster he inadvertently created. Pleasingly, there was enough general chatter sprinkled in that I was also able to contribute from time to time. We promised to come back and let Paul take us on a tour of the Cotswolds someday. I plan to live up to that promise.

On the way home we stopped at Sainsbury’s to top up our groceries. I always get munchy after drinking, and I wanted something to snack on while we channel-surfed the rest of the night away.

The novelty of seeing British tv in Britain was overwhelming, and we watched telly until very late. We were thrilled to see the then-new episode of It Was Alright in the 70s, and not just because we’d spent the past couple days with its exceptionally-talented series producer. We also randomly caught David Tennant hosting Have I Got News for You, a show I’d heard of, but didn’t know much about. It was very British and unlike anything I’ve seen here at home. I enjoyed it though, especially once they started talking about news stories I was somewhat familiar with. David Tennant has great comic timing, and I found it hilarious.

It was difficult to make ourselves turn off the telly and try to sleep, but at some point, we managed. A good thing, because Tuesday was still to come!

Goodbye, Goblin King

Bowie - Labyrinth poster

Nothing feels quite right today. It’s as if some of the light has gone out of the world. I’ve turned on all the lamps, but it hasn’t helped much.

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I’m not going to write a beautiful retrospective about David Bowie’s life here. There will be plenty of those around for the next few days, and they’ll be well-researched and well-edited, and if that’s the kind of thing that helps you through your grief or satisfies your curiosity, I’m pleased they’re out there for you.

I don’t process grief that way. I won’t be listening to Bowie tunes all day. I won’t be watching Labyrinth. (Now, that feels odd to say. I’ve seen that movie more times than any other. It’s my comfort-movie. But not today.) I won’t be reading any more about him than the bare minimum I encounter in tweets as I turn to social media to keep me connected to the world.

I need to keep my distance. I know that about myself. If I start to wallow, the ship that is my mental health will founder in deep, dark waters, and I need to keep afloat.

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I will say this though, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is my favorite album ever. I didn’t just decide that this morning (though that’s the kind of thing I might do); it’s been my favorite ever since I was a kid. It taught me the concept of a concept album. I hadn’t known you could do science fiction in music. I hadn’t known science fiction could make you feel so deeply. (I hadn’t yet discovered some of my SF favorites at the time, and even if I had, I don’t know if they ever affected me on a level like Ziggy did.)

I never did deep-dive into his entire canon. I loved a few bits intensely and left the rest for the folks who appreciated it properly. I was glad others did because a man with so much beauty and creativity deserved to have every ounce of his output passionately loved by someone.

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It was Bowie who taught me about panning (the music-production technique–not searching for gold in a river). The summer after high school, I worked at a dinky little movie theater as an assistant manager/projectionist. When I was alone, closing up for the night, I’d blast a Bowie greatest-hits tape as I cleaned and did the books. The music player was an old (even at the time) boom-box with one speaker in the office and one speaker out in the concessions area. I noticed some songs sounded completely different, depending which room I was in. I’d miss some vocals while I scrubbed the popcorn popper, and miss others while I filled out paperwork. It blew my mind, and I had to rush home to listen through headphones to experience it fully.

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And of course, there’s Labyrinth. The emotional connection I have with that film is still somewhat baffling in its intensity. I discovered it well after it came out. I was in the latter years of high school, I think. So by now, as I said, I’ve seen it many, many times. When life gets tough, and I need comfort, that’s what I most often turn to. During my freshman year of college, when I was away from home for the first time and really floundering in the not-even-quite-real world, I watched it almost nightly. My roommate was amazed (and a little disturbed) by my ability to fall asleep while watching but wake up for every. single. Bowie. scene.

It, and he, were perfectly keyed in to a part of my subconscious, a part of my soul, that wouldn’t allow me to miss a moment. Not of Jareth. Everything about that film was tailor-made for my tastes, from the Henson puppets to the shimmery sparkles all over the labyrinth set to the drama-queen main character to the girl-escapes-boring-life-into-a-magical-wonderland story.

But at the center of it all was Him. This man, this king, this creature of strangeness and beauty. I was drawn to Jareth like a helpless needle to the North Pole or the proverbial moth to a flame. And he was both cold and hot all at once. He was sad and lonely and every bit as lost as the girl wandering his labyrinth. And his music…oh his music.

I liked every song in the film; Bowie wrote them all, of course. But the ones Jareth sang to Sarah, they cut me. They were the ones I rewound to watch over and over. In a silly film about a girl and a baby and puppets, I found a character more damaged and flawed, beautiful and powerful, terrible and needy than any other I’d fallen in love with before.

I know I was supposed to root for Sarah to rescue her brother and live happily ever after, but I never did. I wanted her to see the Goblin King for who he truly was, recognize his pain, and do whatever it took to heal them both. In my mind, I took her place and did this a thousand thousand times.

And that was all down to Bowie. His performance and his songs elevated a sweet, lovely film to a layered, heartbreaking tale, that overflows the screen and seeps into the very soul of those who watch and understand.

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As I said, I’ve turned on all the lights. A monochrome day hangs outside the window. The extra light bolsters my flagging spirit, as do the stuffed, plush doggie leaning on my leg and the fuzzy cupcake pants I’m inhabiting and the even-fuzzier green blanket on the also-fuzzy couch. I’m surrounding myself with softness and light, joy and distraction, comfort and color today because I know that’s what I need right now. Sinking into solace: Yes. Wallowing in wounds: No.

I should be applying for jobs, but I think my cover letters might devolve (evolve?) into lyrics from “Life on Mars” and “Oh You Pretty Things” and “Five Years” and heck, maybe “I’m Afraid of Americans” would actually help now I live in Canada.

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Speaking of Labyrinth, I’ve read some of the other actors they considered for the role of Jareth. I thank my lucky stars things happened the way they did. I thank my lucky stars for every way Bowie touched my life. And I suppose his death won’t bring an end to that. His work, his art, is still out there, touching not only me, but countless others.

All of us, individually loving, consuming, appreciating his brilliance. And perhaps more importantly, all of us, together, doing the same. My love of Bowie brought me together with many amazing people. It brought me closer to the amazing people I already knew. And that can only continue.

So thank you, David. Thank you for all of it.

But I’m still crushed to see you go.

New Year’s Meh-solutions

2016

I’m fairly lukewarm on the idea of New Year’s resolutions. They don’t really work for me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about the year gone by and what I’d like to be different or better in the new one. I’ll work towards those things. But I know that my brain doesn’t like it when I promise things–even to myself. Yes, I suppose it means I’m not holding myself accountable for the things I don’t achieve, but it also means I’m not beating myself up for failing. And I know which is more likely to happen when it comes to my mind.

In fact, forgiving myself and letting go is at the top of my list for 2016. I tend to get obsessive about things like media. If I’ve subscribed to a podcast, I feel like I have to listen to all the episodes. I got a bit better about that last year, and I want to improve more this year. In fact, I just deleted a podcast ep I was only halfway through. It was a Doctor Who podcast, and while I was taking some schadenfreudeical delight in hearing cranky old fans moan about how “Hell Bent” was “a waste of Gallifrey”, there’s only so much of that kind of negativity I can consume without it affecting my mental health. It’s okay to beg off when that starts to happen. I’ve never actually done it before today, and I do feel a little guilty about it, but I’m trying to let that go.

Speaking of podcasts, Continue reading

London Travel Diary – Day 3

Our continuing adventures in the UK! Check out Day 1 and Day 2 if you missed them.

Day 3: Sunday, November 1

Thanks to our canny defeat of jet lag, Steven and I woke up at a decent hour. We had time for breakfast in our teeny studio. We discovered that the toothpaste provided was Bobo-sized!

Bobo-tiny toothpaste

After a leisurely morning in our pad, we met Simon and Warren at Trafalgar square at 11am. Our first solo experience taking the tube was awesome. Everything is so well laid out. The destinations are documented clearly on the walls at each stop. And when we needed to exit the station, there were signs pointing us to all 6 or 7 exits, detailing which streets they led to.

Sadly, Trafalgar Square was partitioned off because the rugby world cup had been projected on a screen there the night before. They were still taking down all the chairs. We took a few pics before Simon and Warren arrived anyway. Continue reading

Job Interviews – Yay or Yikes?

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Yesterday I started my job search in earnest. I don’t usually make New Year’s resolutions, but I suppose “getting a job” could be considered one. And one I really need to carry out, at that!

A nearly-inescapable facet of job-hunting is the dreaded interview process–or, in my case, not-so-dreaded. Interviewing is my favorite part of the job-search process. I honestly love interviews.

Why? My joke answer is always, “I get to sit in a room for an hour and talk about myself. What’s not to like?” But the truth is more nuanced. What I really like is not so much talking about myself as it is talking about something I know. I love chatting about a subject where I feel like an expert. This is why I love podcasting so much–especially about Doctor Who. I know a lot about it, so talking about it is fun.

In a job interview, no one in the room is more knowledgeable about the subject than I am because I am the subject. Continue reading

London Travel Diary – Day 2

Our continuing adventures in the UK! Check out Day 1 if you missed it.

Bobo-plane to UK

Day 2: Saturday, October 31

Our second day started on the plane. We know this because Steven and I were both still awake. Also present on the flight was Steven’s plush Canadian Mountie bear, Bobo. (He’s keeping an eye on our progress in the picture above.)

They served us some breakfast snacks and drinks on the plane. I had a croissant that didn’t quite agree with me. Perhaps I oughtn’t to have jumped back into eating gluten so suddenly. But a croissant is a tough thing to resist while on vacation! As it turned out, that particular croissant was literally tough. What a waste of gluten consumption! Of course, it could have been the “proper” tea I drank with it. (By “proper”, I mean not herbal.) Based on later experience, I do blame the tea and not the wheat. Either way, I arrived in the UK with one doozy of a stomach ache. Continue reading