Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How to Get Jobs and World Series Tickets

It's difficult for people with my soon to be had degree to get jobs as creative writing professors, which is exactly what I want to do when I graduate. There aren't many jobs available. The jobs available are sometimes in places where you might not want to live (south-eastern Kentucky anyone?). The good jobs, at the schools you've heard of and in cities with good places to eat, people say are nearly impossible to get. I hear people at school every day sitting around saying how they won't get a job and how they'll have to teach middle school and move in with their parents and they don't know why they even tried in the first place and they'll never get anything published and oh the world should end. I even heard it in Iowa.

Last semester, towards the end of class the teacher had us go around the room and clearly state our goals for after graduation.

"Teach high school, live outside Miami. I mean, I'd like something better but this is just realistic."

"I don't know, maybe teach community college."

"If I can get the internship at the publishing company, which I don't think I will, maybe I'd be able to get a job in New York at one of the smaller publishing companies, but I doubt it because it's so competitive."

"I'm gonna go back to my old job at Chili's and try to get some stuff published in the meantime, but I don't think I will because the program here just isn't prestigious and we're competing with Iowa and people from Iowa can't even get jobs."

Then we came to me.

"I want to publish more pieces this year, blow everyone away at MLA, have tons of job offers, get a job teaching creative writing in San Francisco and publish a book which will become a best-seller and get me on Oprah," I said.

The class erupted in laughter. People were on the floor, slapping their knees and tears were flying out of their eyes. They were all laughing at me. This isn't the first time this has happened. Every time a teacher makes us introduce ourselves and say what we want to do with our degree I say the same thing and the whole class goes into convulsions of hysterics about it and laughs at me.

Fuck them.

My teacher turned to me and said:

"If anyone can will this to happen for herself it will be you."

And she's right.

Since I've been a child I've been able to will things to happen in my favor. Remember the other day when I mentioned Randy Pausch and living your childhood dreams? I'm going to tell you how I do it. It may take a few posts, but I think it's important, because I meet way too many people, the majority of people really, who are negative, self-defeating, have excuses for everything and won't even try. I think a large part of why I am able to manifest so much in my life is simply because I try when most people are complaining. Somebody, I forget who, said a large part of success is just showing up. Writers call this "staying in the room." I show up and I stay in the damned room, while everyone else is outside the room bitching about how they shouldn't even try because nothing's going to happen for them anyway. They're right of course, because if you don't try you are guaranteed your expected results.

Let me give you a few small examples of times when I have willed my dreams to come true so you can see what I'm talking about.

Back in the late 90s when I lived in Atlanta I dreamed of working at a particular private school that had vegetable gardens, outside classrooms, pet goats and made art with the children. It was the most beautiful school I had ever seen and I had no qualifications to work there. I called several times and there were never job openings. There wasn't much I could do there anyway, being totally unskilled and uneducated. One day a family came into the job I had and they wore tee shirts from the school. I mentioned how much I wanted to work there and how much I admired the school. The mother said she helped with hiring and that they had a teacher's aid position open and told me who to call, saying that she had referred me. I called and got an interview with the kindergarten teachers who needed an aid.

I completely blew the interview. I had a doctor's appointment that morning and the doctor kept me late. Then there was traffic on 85 and I was over an hour late for the interview. It was not good at all. I was so nervous, because I knew I looked bad already, that I was awkward and made an ass of myself.

I knew I didn't get the job and I was miserable. I had one shot at my dream job and I screwed it up. They called me a few days later to tell me that I did not get the job, which I knew already, and that they had given it to a man.

Well, I thought, there is always the possibility of another position opening up at another time, so I carefully wrote the school a very long letter, thanking them for the interview, apologizing and explaining why I was late. I even got the doctor to write a note saying it was her fault, because it was, and then I told them all about how much I wanted to work there and why and I wrote it articulately and in a way that I didn't sound like a lunatic. I talked about how I liked how they cooked with the children and then in detail, talked about how I liked to cook and things I would like to cook with the students there. I ended it saying that if another position opened up that I hoped they would consider me.

I didn't hear anything.

A couple weeks later I went to my friend M's house. M, who is a frequent reader and commenter here, lived near the school. We had dinner on her front porch and then she french braided my hair. We decided to take a walk through the summer night and we walked past the school, which made me kind of sad.

"M," I said, "I wish I had gotten the job there."

"You will!" she said.

And then all of a sudden, I knew I would.

"You're right! I am getting the job there!" I said, "I am going to work there!"

I kid you not, the next day I got a phone call. The kindergarten teacher told me that the man they hired decided not to take the job after all and that because of my letter they reconsidered and decided to offer me the position. Of course I took it, and I got to cook all those things I said I wanted to cook with the children and the job set me on the path to becoming the teacher that I am now.

Some people would say this was supernatural. Maybe it was "The Secret" or something. I don't really think it was that. I think it was that I had a very clear image of what I wanted and when I saw the family with the shirts from the school I wasn't afraid to clearly tell them what I wanted to. I find that when you tell people what you want, a lot of the time they are willing to help you. Then, I took the time to write the letter, outlining exactly why I wanted the job and what I would do once I had it and explaining how thankful I was to get the interview. Gratitude will get you far with people. I always write thank you notes. I think I just felt so passionately about that job and saw myself in it so clearly that when they read the letter I had conveyed my desire so concretely, that they knew I was the right choice. But then again, the guy did mysteriously not take the job, making room for me and one could say that the family could have worn different shirts that day and I never would have known their affiliation with the school, so who knows.

A few years ago the Florida Marlins made it to the World Series. I have a list of things I wanted to do before I died and going to the World Series was on it, so when I heard that some of the games would be here, I decided I had to go and there was no negotiating. I was going to the World Series and that was that. Except, I wasn't about to spend thousands of dollars on bad seats. It wasn't worth all that.

Instead I told every single person I saw that I wanted to go the World Series. I mean everyone. I told people at school, my parents' friends, total strangers - everyone. I talked about it constantly. I told everyone I already knew and of course they thought I was nuts.

"I am going to the World Series," I said.

One night I was sitting in class and I got a text from my dad that said to come home immediately because we were going to the World Series. I said I had an emergency and had to leave class and I sped home to meet up with my dad who had not only tickets, but GOOD tickets. Really good tickets, and he was taking me because he knew how desperately I wanted to go and how important it was to me.

My dad got the tickets from his friend who had several tickets already but then got even better tickets. He remembered me yammering on about how I wanted to go to the World Series and said that if this poor girl wanted to go to the World Series that badly then he should give us two of his extra tickets so I could have my dream.

The World Series was everything I imagined it would be. We ate hot dogs, we sang, we stretched, we ducked foul balls and we had the best time. I actually started to cry during "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" because I was so happy to have realized this dream. The Marlins won that night and went on to win the whole series. There were fireworks, people were screaming and jumping up and down and it was my dream in real life and I would never have been there if I hadn't bugged the shit out of every single person I knew about how much I wanted to go. If I hadn't made such an impression on my dad's friend with how much it meant to me to go to the World Series, he wouldn't have remembered me when he had extra tickets. So because of that, not only did I get to go, I went for free.

Another time I amazed my coworkers at my old job. We were sitting around the office being bored and out of the blue I said that I would do anything, ANYTHING for some fresh chocolate chip cookies. Not 15 seconds later an old man walked in with a bag of fresh, hot chocolate chip cookies, causing everyone to just about damn near fall out on the floor. I have no explanation for this one. This was clearly supernatural. The other two weren't. Know what you want and then don't shut up about it until you get it. If you want cookies, they appear magically in my presence.


misha said...

you are so cool and awesome (i am not 16). normally that would be total sarcasm, but not in this case. I LOVE reading your posts. thank you. I happen to be one of those self involved, selfish people who have depression. though it really is a chemical imbalance i can really see how depression is so selfish. Every so often you give me some motivation which I am severely lacking in. thank you for your great writing.

Lori said...

Your post reminds me of my favorite Wayne Gretzky (hockey player) quote: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."

Green said...

I would like a billion dollars. I would pay all the taxes I owed on it, would pay off all my debt, pay off my family's loans, and open a school for emotionally disturbed kids. Which by the way, could use a creative writing teacher. Who would be paid well.

Thank you very much in advance for your kind gesture. I greatly appreciate it.

kerry said...

You are absolutely right! Know what you want, define what you want, and then work for it.

People always laugh at those who dare to dream, especially if you dare to dream big. I'm glad they haven't killed your dream.

Alma said...

Oh wow, this couldn't have been written at a better time. Thank You.

Susie said...

Have I told you how much I love this entry? Because I do. I'm a firm believer in willing things to happen for myself and I think I'm living proof of it. Most of the things I have accomplished in my life have happened because I said they would happen and didn't focus on the enormous possibilities of failing.

Jennifer said...

I think there's definitely something to that, self-fulfilling prophecies and all that. Makes me remember back in February, I was sooo sick of the snow. One morning, everyone who walked in the door was commenting on how pretty the snow was. I said the same thing to everyone, "What I want to see is sunshine, a blue sky and big puffy white clouds." Do you know what the weather was later that afternoon? Yeah, I realized I should have been more specific about the temperature.

Fae said...

What you just described is exactly "The Secret".

BoB said...

I want to hear about you fucking htem

wait, wrong blog, sorry

I meant to say that maybe your sense of smell is responsible for the cookies comment. There were cookies in the air, but not enough for you to say something like "I smell cookies" but more along the lines of "I wish I had some cookies".

ps I totally smeel fresh baked chocolate chip cookies now

pps sorry for being an ass about the fucking thing

SoozieQ said...

I wish my boyfriend wasn't a pain in the ass. I'll let you know how that works for me.

I had a totally different response but he harassed me until it killed my will to be cute.


Eating Dust said...

I am going to be a travel writer/food critic/ photographer, or a combination of all of the above.
I've been eating all my life and I am sure good at it! Heehee
but seriously, thank you for reminding me that all we have to do is believe, ask and trust. The universe is easy that way.

Reb said...

Good for you. I know it helps to be positive and goal oriented, but if every time you make a five year plan & something bad happens to screw it up, you start to take it personally. I don't make plans anymore.

Sauntering Soul said...

I really need to heed your advice. I've had a lot of crap happen in the past 6 or 7 months and I have let myself become the person sitting outside the room whining and complaining that nothing good ever happens to me when, in fact, I'm a very blessed person. Thanks for this post. I needed it. I also need to start voicing what I want.

Johnny Virgil said...

I would check yourself for small microphones. Then trace them back to that old man who is clearly stalking you.

bottonz said...

You have no idea how much this post meant to me, I really really needed to "hear" this !!!!

Thank you !!!

R said...

I'm right there with you. My whole life I've wanted to live in Mexico on the Pacific coast. I was in a very bleak part of my life (fired from a job, unemployment ran out, house facing foreclosure, single, teenage daughter not speaking to me) when I realized that this was my opportunity to do it. I had no job or boyfriend or anything to tie me down. I sold the house, paid off my debt and moved to Puerto Vallarta. I struggled a little bit here but within less than two years I have my own successful company, I'm about to be a published author and I live in paradise. Sometimes opportunity comes in disguise.

Erica said...

Hi there. I don't post very frequently but I do read your site pretty much every day. I just wanted to say thanks for this one. I'm applying to graduate school this fall and I'm really worried about being accepted - I've got a few potholes in my transcripts that make admissions type people think twice. It's nice to have a few words of encouragement :)

PS: I'm glad you liked Iowa. My best friend is doing her PhD at Iowa State and after only a few visits I find the place very charming and surprisingly beautiful. She has an amazing restaurant that locally sources all their ingredients literally in her back yard. I'm jealous. I think their state motto should be "Iowa, who knew?"

Jeannie said...


But you are so right - my husband is very bold and also goes after what he wants - people often comment how lucky he is - but he really just tries harder. Most of us are afraid of the big rejection. My husband is like - the worst they can do is say no. It doesn't bother him - he simply doesn't take it personally.

Elise said...

And this is exactly why I emailed everyone I knew, asking if they knew anyone/had any contact whatsoever for Radiohead tickets in Los Angeles this August. And why I will not stop asking everyone until I find a way to get some!

I like this post.

Anonymous said...

You have certainly inspired the inspiration in me, love the blog too.


100% julie said...

funny how i feel so similar yet i don't usually tell people because i'm afraid i'll jinx it. maybe talking about it won't jinx it at all then... i do feel like if you want something, ask for it. even if internally. you just have to be clear on what you're asking for and somehow (why do we need to explain it?) it comes to you. and as far as complaining and not trying x giving it a shot - i feel majority just complains. i'm an artist myself and i feel most of what i need is an almost blind trust in life that things will be ok (and if not, i can deal with it too) and that gives me the courage for taking risks, aka trying. nice to meet someone like this who believes in similar things. i'll come and read more often and definitely get a copy of your best seller before everyone finds out about it! ;)

Anonymous said...

Gee, I live in south eastern Kentucky. It's amazing (apparently) that I am even able to read let alone access the internet.

Wide Lawns said...

I'm sorry person from Kentucky, but it could be worse. You could live in West Virginia.

The thing is, and the point I was trying to make, is that there are few jobs and everyone wants to live in hip, major metro areas like San Francisco, Portland, New York and Seattle. The jobs aren't in those places. They're in small, small towns with colleges no one has ever heard of except the people who live there and we snotty writers think we're too cool for all that and we can't possibly be expected to live in a place where there's no organic coffee shop with wireless so we can sit there and write and look cool. So I apologize for not wanting to live anywhere near Appalachia if I can help it. I need my Whole Foods. I also don't want to live in either Dakota or Northern Minnesota if that makes you feel any better. Too cold.

Anonymous said...

My whole life I grew up with people telling me everything I could not accomplish. I was called a dreamer which really pissed me off. I became so rebelious from the negativity that I was always out to prove them wrong. They more they told me that I couldn't do it the more I made sure that I did. I wanted a huge gorgeous mansion with beautiful cars, lots of flowers and a house filled with drop dead gorgeous furniture. I wanted educated healthy kids and a great loving marriage. At the time I had nothing. No education, no skills to others no hope. As a youngster I hated to go to sleep in the dark. I was scared so I would remove the scary thought by decorating my mansion. I could see the beautiful curtains and all the furniture as the movers would place it in each room. I was at the store buying the art, the dishes for the kitchen. Everything I wanted in that house I visioned. I dreamed this dream for nearly 40 years. Today I live in that gorgeous mansion. I drive a car that even I forgot to dream about. I have those beautiful educated children. I have the art the flowers and all the while I was building it I never even told my Mother. Imagine that? When it was done and I was ready to show those that cursed me, I planned a party and just opened the doors. My mothers jaw dropped to the floor. I said, this is my dream now completed. I cannot tell you how good that felt. It took a long time but it was worth the pain. The motto of this story is: Everyone will always tell you how you can't do it. They say it because they didn't do it. People are not comfortable with others who work to make it big. It reminds them of their own failure. Do not let anyone ever tell you what you can't do. If you want to do it and you believe you can do it, you can! That is all you need. Believe in yourself, get busy and plow forward.

Anonymous said...

I live in Central Kentucky and there a Whole Foods within a 5 minute walk of my house :)

nicole said...

I know exactly what you're talking about. I tend to do the same things. I talk about what I want enough, and eventually it happens. Granted it doesn't happen with everything but definitely enough to make me think it works. So far the list is..
+Graduated high school 6 months early just because I thought I should.
+Moved to New Orleans for free, for 6 months and worked at the place I said I would work for when I moved there. It was awesome.
+Met and hung out with bands simply because I told myself I am awesome enough to do so.
+Went on tour with a friend's band selling their merchandise for 3 months, all across the US and Canada. Waking up each day in a new city is a wonderful way to spend 90 days.
+Upon moving back from New Orleans I needed a car desperately and the next day a friend agreed to sell me hers for $400. Apparently she'd just gotten tired of it. Score!
+Worked for a vet with absolutely zero qualifications.
+Moved to Philly with basically zero savings and made it work because I had to.
+I wanted to learn to be a dog groomer and posted about it randomly on a pro groomer's messageboard. The next day I was offered an internship with a mobile groomer. Unfortunately I wasn't able to take it because the woman was so far away, but hey - I was offered out of nowhere.


Anonymous said...

See you at MLA, where we're heading with the same philosophy!

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