Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Poet's Work by Lorine Niedecker

   advised me:
         Learn a trade

I learned
   to sit at desk
         and condense

No layoff
   from this

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On Friendships and Community

Today, I went to book club to discuss:

MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend 
by Rachel Bertsche

Any of my friends, both far and near, would not be surprised by my interest in this.

A year ago, when I first moved to San Francisco, I didn't know a single person in the city--all of my best friends from school had moved to New York, and my boyfriend at the time was working in Frankfurt. I met most of my first friends through, joining groups with names like Just Graduated College and Moved to San Francisco and Real Girlfriends of San Francisco. I also Googled "How to Meet People in a New City", "Speed-dating for Friends", "Social networks for making new friends," and created accounts at sites like

Does this sound desperate?

The NYT recently posted an article about the difficulty of making friends as adults. Compared to the relative ease with which we naturally formed strong bonds as children and adolescents, developing new friendships as an adult grows harder and harder. Competing priorities (children, spouses) take over our lives, we become less trusting of strangers and more jaded, and standards for friendships grow ever higher as we hone in on the set of characteristics and interests that attract us most. An excerpt:

"As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other"

It's an interesting time in our society for building friendships and communities. Technology, the internet, and social media have made it easier than ever to stay connected, yet as we devote more and more time on maintaining these connections digitally, this virtual connectivity comes at the cost of real-life connectivity. Could this be making us lonelier?

We now live, more and more, alone. Merely a few generations ago, we moved from our parent's home to a home with a spouse with a short hop of years between, and we stayed close to our parents, moved around less, probably lived in the same neighborhood as our childhood playmates and college buddies. We took part in church, belonged to a community. It is this community that facilitates proximity, which in turn creates repeated, unplanned interactions and the encourages us to confide in each other.

I'm not saying that I wish I lived closer to parents, never left my hometown, belonged to a church community--those are all choices I willingly made that I could at any moment overturn. As the article stated, this is the price that I've paid for independence.

Yet, I still wonder a why it is so hard hard to find the close friendships I crave. Furthermore, I wonder why, if loneliness is such a common sentiment in our modern society, it's so stigmatized to admit that you don't have as many friends as you'd like, that you're openly searching?

As Rachel Bertsche said, “Popular culture has made it okay to yell ‘I need a man!’ from the rooftops, so why are we still embarrassed to say ‘I want a best friend?’”

Notes, interesting lines from the book: 
1. "In order for someone to move from girl-date to friend... we need intimacy.... Friendship intimacy starts with self-disclosure and reciprocity... In order to move from regular friend to a best one, I will need what researchers call social identity support. That is to say, my best friend is someone who will reaffirm my social role in society"
2. "Research has found that both men and women get more emotional satisfaction from their relationships with women. Studies show that men think their wives are their best friends, and women think their best friends are their best friends."
3. "Most of us need to meet with somebody twice a month for three months before we will consider them a friend."

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Thoughts from the Jobhunt

I recently transitioned careers, from management consulting into tech.

One of the things that struck me most about the job-hunting process was:

Why aren't salaries more transparent?

While some companies might post their salary ranges on job postings or ask for your salary requirements earlier on, many won't even quote you a ballpark figure until you've jumped through all the hoops and are almost ready to sign. By this point, both sides will already have invested countless hours, and a fundamental salary mismatch will only result in wasted time for both parties.

It's ridiculous that asking about details such as salary and hours is considered rude during the interview process. After all, employers may like to believe that passion for their company/product is the primary factor in a candidate's desire to work for them, and that said candidate loves their company so much, they would be willing to overlook any salary shortcomings. Realistically, though, compensation is a fundamental part of the decision-making process, and pretending otherwise is just ignoring the elephant in the room.

The issue of transparent salaries extends beyond the interview process to the job itself. Very rarely do companies make promotion decisions, the processes behind them, and the salaries attached to them, transparent. Why not? Wouldn't it be most beneficial for both employees and the company overall if everyone was aware of the standards for success? Cloaking salaries and promotion decisions only encourages corruption, favoring politics and negotiation skills rather than performance on the job. Studies have shown that women, for instance, don't negotiate for raises as aggressively as men (a few articles: here, here, and here). If a higher salary can reflect pushing for a raise rather than heightened performance, what kind of message does that send about your company values?

Making salaries transparent could instead reward exemplary behavior while simultaneously educating and motivating a workforce to take actions that ultimately benefit companies more in the long run.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Why Blog

I used to write a lot.

An avid journal-keeper since the 7th grade, an earnest Xanga confessor, I not only wanted to record my thought processes for the amusement of my future self, I also wanted a way to dramatize the events of my life into a coherent narrative, one where I was the star of a kick-ass story. One part narcissism, one part—like the ancient Greeks and other myth-makers—storytelling as a means of making sense of the world and fulfilling the central human need of finding purpose in life.

I read an article in the Atlantic recently that made me think about this, about experiencing life with the expectation of later artistic interpretation. I mean, if you're planning on writing, tweeting, or otherwise packaging your experience for later distribution, you experience an event through the filter of that intention. You think about which aspects you could later dramatize, which parts you might omit, your audience in mind.

I've debated this with friends about photographing, journaling, and otherwise recording events—does it make the experience less authentic, with such a filter? Does it simply make you more attuned to detail? Which is better, living in the moment, or capturing the moment for posterity?

I remember my childhood frustration with my shutter-happy dad, who always carried around a minimum of two cameras and a bag full of lenses on every family vacation. I hated posing in front of each and every monument for the umpteenth photo. Why can't you just put down the camera and enjoy the moment? I'd think. It's a shame to view this city through the viewfinder of the camera, and not your own eyes.

Afterwards though, my sister and I would always delight in the photos that filled the stacks of albums around our house, and look back on them in later years as a way to relive the experience again and again. So who was right?

I still don't know what's right, and these are things I ponder in the decision to take up blogging again. The primary reason I'm interested in blogging, though, actually rests in just how long it's been since I've written anything. This former notepad-scribbler, aspiring author, essay-writer, English major hasn't penned a piece of writing for over a year (!) Too busy working at picking up employable skills, building a social life in a new city, and learning to be an adult. There's a part of me that feels like a writing muscle somewhere has grown weak from disuse, in danger of atrophy.

So here I am, blogging, writing, recording events for posterity, trying to make meaning of life. I'm imagining this blog as mostly a personal collection of thoughts and projects (artistic and otherwise), and maybe I might even pick up some readers along the way.