Love your column. Can I throw something at you? Apologies for being vague with certain details.
I’m a 43-year-old woman who has spent my whole life in one industry, got pretty far, and then descended back down the ladder to the place I started from. One day my whole outlook on my career changed and I wanted out. The problem was I didn’t know how to do anything else. I was unconsciously sabotaging job after job but without an exit strategy, so it was a rough few years.
Finally I ended up at the entry level of my industry, hiding my experience and qualifications so I could be a worker bee. In exchange for giving up a great salary and high pressure 24/7 job, I got over a hundred hours of my week back, and for the first time, started to have a life. Materially, it’s spartan compared to what I had, but I’m at peace and happy way more often than I was before.
Now that my job is so undemanding and I have a lot more time than I’ve had, I’ve gotten back in touch with my childhood dreams and have started to do what I really wanted to do. It’s in arts/entertainment.
This is where my problem comes in: Having any actual success was far from my mind when I started my new work. I was just happy to finally have the time to be doing what I always wanted to do.
Things rather rapidly became serious with rather serious people and organizations as soon as I focused and treated my new “work” like real work. I got opportunities other people struggle and train for years to get, and sometimes never do. I am COMPLETELY aware of how incredibly fortunate I am. Friends and peers in the same world can’t believe my rate of progress. I feel like I’m finally on the right track.
But then I just stopped. Hearing about other people’s dreams are the worst, but this dream is my story in a nutshell: I was driving a champagne colored convertible down a gorgeous open highway of gold on my way to Beverly Hills. The road was clear, the sky was blue, I was on my way. Then I just pulled over the car and got out, walked away, and suddenly I was in the bowels of the 42nd Street Subway station. I woke up terrified.
The days are ticking past, and the serious people waiting for me to get on the bus will eventually stop waiting—or else find a replacement.
Watching Mad Men feels a bit like refinishing a wooden chair, sometimes. You’re methodically working away with sandpaper at the arms and legs of this thing, which has been this way for as long as you can remember, and you’re up close and it seems like work, but it’s also strangely soothing, and suddenly you step back after an hour and the whole chair has a different appearance.
At least, that’s how I felt about it last night. Not all that much seemed to happen, because after all, it’s Mad Men; with some surprises the pacing tends to be slow and steady. Yet, by the end of the episode everyone looked a bit different from how they started. We also got a return of Sally Draper (can I please have Kiernan Shipka’s eyebrows?), who’s at boarding school and grown up enough to attend the funerals of her friend’s mothers. And there was plenty of juicy intraoffice politics at Sterling Cooper Draper.
I work in a co-working space. (For all of you who ask me what that is, I say, “a co-working space is a place where you pay a few hundred dollars a month to share an office space with people, and also, how are you such a genius that you have thus far managed to avoid reading the annoying publications in which you would have learned this annoying term?”) In said co-working space, I share a small room with two other writers. We have recently taken to calling our little room The Suicide Suite, because off of it is a beautiful balcony on which we are prohibited from standing as it could easily just snap off the building, like a bad lego. A member of our co-working space’s dog once toddled off this balcony, and as this dog is no longer with us—balcony not at fault here—there is talk of naming it after him. But we’ll have to check with the owner first and right now he is in a foreign country, teaching people to do something which I will forget as many times as it is explained to me.
The biggest subject of the day here at our co-working space is lunch. Lunch is always a problem. There are not many good restaurants in the little town we live in. It’s strange, because there are a lot of really good cooks here, but no one seems to want to do it for a profession. There is a grocery store up the hill that makes good pre-made sandwiches, but sometimes they are out of them, and anyway, I am beginning to wonder if they are a) not very nutritious b) making us fat. Then there are two health food stores, one you drive to and one you walk to. The one you walk to has pre-made sandwiches, too, but they’re a little soggy and while I can’t recall the exact cost, my mind hovers somewhere around the sum of one thousand dollars.
I attended my first rat class on a Sunday afternoon in January. The snow melted overnight, but by morning it had refrozen into black ice, which made the walk between the 4th Avenue-9th Street stop and the future Morbid Anatomy Museum, located in a vacant, pre-renovation nightclub in industrial Gowanus, extremely terrifying. This probably explains why most of the registered students bailed at the last minute, even after paying $185 for a dead rat, scalpel, access to a box of accessories fit for Barbie and expert instruction.
When I arrived, Katie Innamorato, the teacher, was wearing a polyester wolf jumpsuit with pointy ears, a row of white fangs, and a lolling red fabric tongue. She was arranging the rats on a folding table as if setting up a child’s birthday party. The rats, bright white and all the same size, were “feeders,” or mass-market snake snacks. After the three other students who braved the elements—a bearded deer hunter from upstate, his amulet-necklaced wife, and a teenager in a hoodie whose mom dropped her off with lunch money—were settled in, Katie started instructing: massage some warmth into the rat’s limbs, then place its belly flat against the table, and part its fur along the spine.
I am supine in a plush recliner. A woman is kneeling before me, pressing her thumbs into my feet. My friend Jon, a Chinese-American Tsinghua professor, is next to me in an identical chair. The TV in front of us is switched on a nature channel. The leopard pouncing on an unsuspecting gazelle makes sense in any language.
A man is rubbing Jon’s feet. “Is that your girlfriend?” the masseur asks him in Mandarin, nodding to me. “No,” Jon says, “she’s an old friend.”
“How old is she?” the masseur asks. Jon asks me and I answer 29 in English although I understand the Chinese. Jon translates and the masseur asks him if I’m married. Jon doesn’t need to consult me. “No,” he answers.
“Ahhhh,” the man says, “American women like to play for a long time, huh?” He laughs, and Jon laughs too, in uncomfortable solidarity. The woman rubbing my feet looks up at me and our eyes meet. We say nothing.
Someone in Beijing explained it to me like this: western men think Chinese women are spoiled. Little princesses. They want to be fawned over with teddy bears and expensive gifts. Better to cry in the back of a BMW than smile on the back of a bicycle. Chinese men think western women are spoiled. Little princesses. They say whatever they want and have opinions about everything. They drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. They are easy, have probably slept with dozens of men before you, but still want respect. I know enough Chinese and western women to know this is both true and also the furthest things from the truth. I, for one, love both alcohol and teddy bears.
Mad Men is back! I’ll be writing about the show all season. Though we don’t get a glimpse of Sally or Betty in the last night’s season premiere—an episode called “Time Zones” set in January, 1969, in which Don travels to L.A. to see Megan and back—there is plenty to talk about with regard to Megan, Peggy, Margaret, and Joan. Oh, and then there’s the appearance of a woman played by Neve Campbell—where has she been lately?
Also back in the rotation is Freddie Rumsen, the guy who was forced to take a leave of absence from an earlier iteration of Sterling Cooper due to drinking too much. He’s freelancing for Peggy, while Don is now the guy on leave from the ad agency (for two months, at this point) for essentially the same reason Freddie was let go. By the end of the episode we’ll learn that Freddie is actually delivering Don’s work to the agency—Peggy always was a sucker for Don’s messaging, though she doesn’t appear to know it’s his work—but in the beginning we see just the broad face of Rumsen, eyes big and earnest to the camera, pitching Accutron watches. Peggy loves the final line, rejiggers it a bit as her own, and pitches it to her new boss for a slam-dunk. But he doesn’t bite.
And so it becomes clear: Though the end of last season brought Peggy into the spotlight as Don’s heir apparent, it just as quickly pushed her back down again, forcing her to contend with a male boss who doesn’t seem to care about the work. He tells her he guesses he’s just “immune to her charms.” This is new territory for Peggy: Don may not have been in love with her, but he certainly felt a strong creative and also paternal connection to her, and her former boss, Ted Chaough, fell head over heels for his mentee. Peggy’s feeling like just about everyone is immune to her charms these days; when her relationship with Abe ended she was left alone in their apartment, having to deal with tenant issues that he used to handle. In the workplace, even her friendship with Stan seems strained. At the end of the episode, she enters her apartment, falls to the floor, and starts to cry. We’ve all been there. But in Peggy’s lowest moments, she has seemed to possess a kind of dignity and power over her situation, an ability to get through it. Now, it seems like she’s perilously close to breakdown.
People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, producer and editor Mike Byhoff tells us more about what it’s like to leave your job, get on a plane headed for a country you know nothing about, and then spend a month abroad without an agenda or being able to speak the language.
Leaving for central america for a month in 12 hours and don't speak spanish and have basically no itinerary what the fuck am I doing.
— Mike Byhoff (@mbyhoff) February 28, 2014
Mike! We spoke at the end of February after you frightened everyone with that tweet, and we decided to hold off on a Tell Us More until you got back. Now that you’ve returned home, let’s begin with this: So what happened here?
To get to me hyperventilating on a plane as it landed in Guatemala City, I should probably start from the beginning, which is the wonderful world of unemployment. I took a job as an editorial director of a video start-up in March of 2013. It seemed like the “right move” for my career, as it was part of a well-known company in the tech scene, the guy who started the company is one of the most brilliant people I have ever worked for, I got equity, and I could frame the editorial direction the way I wanted to.
Cut to 12 months later, and we’ve barely acquired users, we’ve pivoted three times, my job responsibilities shifted DRAMATICALLY, and we were going to partner with another company for content. I was sat down and given the option to take a scaled-back role or severance. Without much thought, I took the severance.
Millions of passwords, credit card numbers and other personal information may be at risk as a result of a major breakdown in Internet security revealed earlier this week.
The damage caused by the “Heartbleed” bug is currently unknown. The security hole exists on a vast number of the Internet’s Web servers and went undetected for more than two years. While it’s conceivable that the flaw was never discovered by hackers, it’s nearly impossible to tell. -The AP
Here is a foolproof guide to changing your personal passwords during this crisis.
Imagine you’re lying in a meadow and Matt Damon is shirtless next to you. He smells like corn on the cob. He whispers something in your ear, something only you can know. Add an underscore, this is your Gmail password.
9 x 9 is 49 and you were born in 1982. Your favorite cousin is 14, but your apartment number is 6. Add it all up. Take a break! How old were you when you realized math would forevermore be irrelevant to your life? Your password is STUDENTLOANS.
(No numbers or special characters. You have nothing of value to be hacked.)
Sometimes city life pushes us too hard, hard enough that we push back with the worst versions of ourselves. Forced to interact in situations when we’d rather not, city dwellers know that feeling of frustration as we stand among millions of faces. Those faces are unfamiliar and unsympathetic, and sometimes this makes us a little whiney, other times we spill with an austere rage. There’s the bitch who let the gym door slam in my face that I must admit may not really be a bitch. Perhaps her mind was elsewhere and she didn’t see me. Yes, the guy who body checked me in the crosswalk was staring at his phone, but I can’t pretend I’ve never done that. In New York City I am brought face to face with what drives me crazy about myself and those around me. Every day.
This fact of city life has made me overly polite. I do the little things; I offer detailed directions with a smile, I recommend affordable restaurants to tourists. I say please and thank you and overtip my cab drivers and bartenders. Then a skinny little blonde in her designer workout pants cuts me in line for coffee and I don’t say a word. I rise above; repeal her selfishness with my kindness.
When we’re not slamming doors into strollers or bumping into others, when there’s an interaction that is sought out, it is then that my expectations are heightened. It is in this way that I attempted to make my first Craigslist purchase.
I’ve been with my current boyfriend for three years. We’re really great together—similar interests, senses of humor, great sex. I love him so much—the only issue is that of our respective backgrounds. He grew up in a tony suburb, went to prep school, then to a very prestigious college, and finally the very prestigious graduate school where we met. I went to public school in a bad neighborhood, put myself through a not-so-prestigious college, made a name for myself in my field, then got into that same prestigious grad school. Our families could not be more different. I didn’t think it would matter so much, but something happened recently that I can’t shake.
My little brother, who has been a fuck up his entire life, has finally gotten it together and joined the Air Force. I’m not super pro-military or anything, but he was on a bad, bad path and now he has a job and structure and it’s been really good for him. When he finished basic training, we (me, my mom, and my boyfriend—our father has long been out of the picture) went to his graduation. I’d never been to one of these things before but it’s a really big deal for the airmen. A lot of them, my brother included, had never really accomplished anything worth celebrating before. My mom basically cried the entire time.
Unfortunately, throughout the day-long graduation, whenever we were alone, my boyfriend would bring the subject back to him. He looked around anxiously when we got there because most of the young men were in uniform. He kept asking me if he thought people knew that he hadn’t served. Then he would go on these weird defensive rants about why he hadn’t served, one of which included some pretty fucked-up ideas about people who don’t go to college. I got pretty annoyed at him for being so self-involved on a day that should have been about celebrating my brother. I didn’t say anything, though, because it was so out of character for him to behave like that.
*Every generation thinks it’s special—my grandparents because they remember World War II, my parents because of discos and the moon. We have the Internet. Millions and billions of doors we can open and shut, posting ourselves into profiles and digital scrapbooks. Suddenly and totally, we’re threaded together in a network so terrifyingly colossal that we can finally see our terrifyingly tiny place in it. But we’re all individuals. It’s beaten into us in MLK Day assemblies (one person can make a difference!) and fourth-grade poster projects (what do you want to be when you grow up?). We can be anything! Our parents are divorced but we’re in love! Vaguely, quietly, we know we’ll be famous. For being president, for starring in a movie, for writing a feature at 18 in the New York Times.
I’m so jealous. Unthinkable jealousies, jealousies of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel I’m reading and the Oscar-winning movie I just saw. Why didn’t I think to rewrite Mrs. Dalloway? I should have thought to chronicle a schizophrenic ballerina. It’s inexcusable. Everyone else is so successful, and I hate them. There’s a German word I learned about in psychology class called schadenfreude, which means a pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. The word flips into my head like a shaming pop-up when a girl doesn’t get the internship either or a boy’s show is bad. I was lying in bed the other night wondering whether the Germans created a word for its opposite when I realized that the displeasure derived from the fortune of others is easier to spell. I should have thought to coin its green eyes.