Tag Archives: self esteem

Time to Make the Donuts

You know that feeling when you look at an up-escalator that isn’t working? Those silver metal stairs staring at you, mocking your laziness, leaving you with no choice but to climb them. Then you know how I’m feeling right now. I start (yet another) new job next week. (I write this with little more enthusiasm than that dude from the old Dunkin’ Donuts commercial who says: “time to make the donuts.”) I swear to you I have more experience on my resume than someone who’s at a senior level in their career despite the fact that I don’t yet have a senior title or salary.

When I graduated from college, I was ready to take on the magazine world. It took me two to three years before I landed my first full-time editorial assistant position at a magazine–a coveted entry-level job for which there are as many openings in New York as there are UFO sightings. In that three-year span, I witnessed some friends get lucky and some friends change careers. I considered myself one of the strong who survived and had a career that matched my $500,000 diploma. The reason why I survived can be found on my resume–I took as many freelance assistant, writing and research magazine jobs as I could get. This journey included calling hotels in Zimbabwe to confirm that Angelina Jolie had stayed there and checking the spelling of luxury golf courses. I even interviewed the rapper Jadakiss in person. (“Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!”) My resume became a patchwork of one-year stints here and six-months there. It’s certainly not how I pictured it would be. (“I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I’m living“…)

Despite the arduous climb, there was a moment in time ever so briefly when I felt like I was soaring. When that editorial assistant job led to my first ever promotion, I felt more than a tinge of confidence. Finally my ship had set sail. And it was wonderful. Another year later, I landed an even better job for more money at a new place. Enter Career Ladder Phase Two and we’re off. I felt like I imagine Celine Dion felt when Ceasars Palace gave her her own performance venue in Vegas, except, like, I was in a cubicle. This company wanted me for the long haul and I was game. My days calling Zimbabwe were definitely long gone.

WRONG.

After six months at Career Ladder Phase Two I was laid-off and it was back to square one. So I did what I know best–I freelanced. I took stints here and there all the while trying to get back to where I felt…important and talented. The star of my own show. A cubicle with my name on it, a business card–all without an expiration date.

Alas, after multiple edit tests–(for those of you not in publishing, an edit test is given to a job applicant by a publication to test the applicant’s editing, writing and creativity as it pertains to that publication’s needs)–and rounds of interviews (and lots of tears) I got a real job offer (a.k.a. a staff position). It took exactly a year and a half, but I climbed my way back. So I should be excited, right? Relieved? Well, not really. I have the same feeling about this new job as someone who’s been recently divorced–I’m in no rush to remarry and go down THAT road again.

The office manager at my most recent permalance (another word for full-time freelance) gig used to make fun of me for never ordering office supplies while I worked there. For a year, I got by on what I could borrow. I didn’t want to get comfortable ’cause I never knew when I’d have to leave. It’s like moving in with someone and not bringing any of your stuff except maybe a pillow and a toothbrush. Pens, paper clips and Post-Its–these are the things that make a cube a home. But hey, play it as it lays.

The people at my new job have made it clear that they trust in my ability to meet their expectations as much as they’ve made it clear I still have a lot to learn. I’m nervous about this learning part. I hope it entails becoming the person I’ve always wanted to be and staying there awhile.

Whenever I start a new job, I listen to this song:

I was born by the river in a little tent
Oh and just like the river I been a runnin’ ever since
It’s been a long, a long time coming but I know
A change gon’ come oh yes it will
” – Sam Cooke

I Eat My Feelings, But I Should Probably Punch You Instead.

fat kid and a bully

Fat kid on the left; normal kid on the right. Normal kid beat up fat kid circa 1986.

I know, this is a loaded title. I eat because I hate and I hate because I eat. And really, I wonder if I were just able to throw my fists and walk around with a switchblade ready to attack anyone who gets in my way, would I be less, I don’t know…emotional?

One thing I’m sure of is that I’ve always been an emotional eater (is there really any other kind excluding obesity?). Moments of my life are accented by what I ate. Mom and dad are separated. I visit my dad for the day and eat a bag of Deli potato chips. Mom takes me to Denny’s for breakfast (blueberry pancakes with whipped cream) while we live in the hotel nearby. I believe I’m an emotional eater because I wasn’t fat until kindergarten (see picture at left). I wasn’t born a fat kid. At some point there was a change and I gained weight rapidly. I tried losing it all at 9, but it didn’t happen for good until I hit 12. Then I lost even more.

My parents worked things out and got back together that year. We moved into a new house. And I had had it with the years of being taunted for my looks. I hit my breaking point and decided to join Jenny Craig. There began my mental problems with weight.

Once you lose weight you gain a lot of self-confidence. Or so you think. Looking back, I realized what I gained was really more attention and acceptance from others. For years people pointed out how great I looked just as they had once pointed out how fat I was.  But inside nothing had changed. There were reasons why I overate that were never addressed. And so losing weight just gave me this beautiful exterior that covered up any ugliness inside.

I went to great lengths to keep my ugly covered. The more positive attention I got, the more I wanted. I watched my weight with the same diligence new parents watch their newborns. And a monster grew. Whenever I failed at something, whether it was sitting the bench during a basketball season or losing a high-school crush, I took it out on myself.

Eating and purging and dieting and exercising were all the tools I used to cope with my teenage feelings. After so many (relatively short) years of that I damaged my body so profoundly that by the time I graduated college, bulimia was not an option. Only binging was. Once binging wasn’t an option, a slew of other unhealthy things (which my best friend asked me not to reveal about myself; I’m prone to over-sharing, can you tell?) became my new comfort foods, especially during those first few years in the job force. And the real beauty of all my drastic efforts (in my mind) came from the fact that no one knew. I kept it covered up, which had become second nature for me and a source of pride. I binged in private, I purged in private. And only my family ever witnessed my clinical nervous breakdowns. But like any dirty addiction, signs of my emotional storm weren’t so inconspicuous to others.

This is the story of self-destruction. It is born from a desire to win over the crowd and its fuel is the failure to do just that. Everyone has their breaking points and their rock bottoms–some people make it and others do not. I’ve just always been too curious to know the who, what, why, where, when, and how–what makes a person tick–to give up trying to find out some answers about myself. I need to figure out how a desire to lose weight turned into years of self-destructive behavior. I don’t remember whether it was Sylvia Plath or Elizabeth Wurtzel who wrote, “The gun that should be pointed outward to the world, I aimed at myself,” (or something like that), but it’s the perfect sentiment. (Not that I really believe shooting anyone would have been any better.) In my quest for beautiful, I lost my sight. Whatever beautiful is or whatever beautiful means, I’m just trying to figure out what I’m looking at.