Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pon Farr: Why I Love Being Married to a Geek

Conversation with my husband last night while watching Star Trek (2009)...

Me: So by changing the timeline, those Romulans have unleashed a new, more emotional, and more vengeful Spock on the universe.

Paul: Should make Pon Farr interesting.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Single Shade of Grey: Sometimes a Thank You Means No Thank You

A few months ago I found myself in an unexpected position. I had to say no thank you without actually saying it.

After a very long dry spell I finally had a job interview. I prepared for days—researching the company, scraping together money to print new business cards and gathering appropriate writing samples. I had not been on a job interview in years and so I read all I could on questions to ask and answers to have. I prepared to present myself as exactly what they needed me to be.

Things were going very well. On paper, I was a great match for the position. My writing samples were a near perfect match for their own documentation. The people were nice and friendly. It wasn't going to be interesting work, but it was work I am good at and the company appeared to value the contributions of its writing staff.

I was getting ready to ramp up the charm for the final push. I had researched the company, I had my mental checklist of questions to ask about the position, and answers to questions like "where do you see yourself in five years?" It wasn't my ideal job, they were not big on telecommuting, but my little family needed the paycheck and I could make this work.

I had one more person to meet with and I was asked if I wanted a look around to see the workspace. I am so glad I said yes because that is when they lost me.

It was as if the office had been designed around my own personal list of depression triggers. High-walled grey cubes, the color of a rainy day in winter, sat in a field of matching grey carpet in a windowless area. The few people that were there were working in complete silence and, as I was taken through the office, I didn't see one personal item in any of the workspaces. It was sterile, uninspiring, and stifling.

I had already met with two people and those potential co-workers I had spoken with had been enthusiastic about the company but had described a typical work day as "heads down" and the office itself was in the middle of nowhere. So I could see there would be little in the way of conversation during the day and nowhere to escape to for lunch. I imagined what it would be like to work there in the winter, to go from the grey of early morning to 8 or 9 hours of silent grey on grey to the gloom of a commute that would have me home well after dark. It was not a good picture.

Between the dull work, the commute cutting into my time with Wookie and my Celebrant work (the two things that keep me sane and centered), and the incredibly dreary work environment, I realized that the worst case scenario would be if they offered me the job.

I'm sure this may sound ridiculous to a lot of people. I know some would say I should have sucked it up—that work is work—but having a job wasn't going to do me and Wookie any good if it pushed into the deep grey funk of Depression. I've been there and done that—I have no desire to go back if I can help it.

So I became a bit of a cold fish for the rest of the interview. I am sure the lead interviewer noted a drop in my enthusiasm even if she didn't know why. I wasn't in a position to refuse a job if it was offered to me, but I knew this job would not be good for me.

We entered the "Do you have any questions?" phase of the interview. I simply responded (repeatedly) that they had given me a lot to think about.

When I talked with Wookie after the interview, he was supportive. We discussed the possible ramifications on my unemployment should I actually be offered the position and then turn it down. We agreed that, while we needed the money, it would do us little good if my mental health wound up in the toilet as a result.

That was when the world's most non-committal thank you letter was born.
 Dear [People I Interviewed With]: 
Thank you for taking the time to meet with me yesterday about the [writer] position at Company X. I appreciate the opportunity to learn more about Company X and its [writing] department and to see your workspace. 
I was impressed with what I learned about the company and how it operates. I was also pleased to see that its [writing] staff is a valued part of the organization. It’s nice to see how much you all enjoy working there. 
I am pleased to know that my past experience and writing samples are similar to what you already have in place. If you have any more questions about my experience or skills, please let me know. 
I never heard back from them.
While there was never a guarantee I'd get that job anyway, I'm glad I acted against getting it. A short while later I was hired for a better job, one where the work is interesting and I can telecommute.

It's the next best thing to being able to work solely for myself. I'm more productive on my own and I don't bother anyone with my need to read things aloud to work out just the right wording. My home office is full of the things that inspire me. My commute is a walk down the hall. When I'm done with the day job, I can take care of Celebrant business without dealing with an hour plus of traffic first and when I need a bit of conversation, there's always a Wookie or a cat to talk to.