A new thing

Thanks to years of coaching — starting with my mom reminding my 10-year-old self to sit up straight and maintain eye contact when I applied for my first volunteer position, to professors with years of experience offering tips to classes of soon-to-be graduates — I’ve become very good at interviews. I’ve only landed interviews for a fraction of the jobs I’ve applied for, but I have yet to interview without ultimately receiving a job offer. I’m well-trained and thoroughly practiced in the art of selling my skills, putting a positive spin on my weaknesses, asking the right questions to impress an interviewer, and in the moment, I feel nothing but confidence in my words.

After every interview, however, I find myself almost as worried about getting the job as I do about not getting it. What if I overestimated or oversold myself? What if I show up and fail miserably and they realize they made a huge mistake in hiring me? What if I have no idea what I’m doing?

Previously, after the requisite disorientation that comes with any transition job-related or otherwise, I’ve managed to ease fairly comfortably and quickly into my new roles. Today, though, starting my new job at a magazine publishing company, I found myself thrown for a bit of a loop. Within minutes of arriving, I had four considerably large projects on my plate and no idea where to start with any of them. I barely even understood the jargon flying around the office. I’m far from inexperienced, but my particular experiences were, by and large, not especially applicable to anything I was assigned, and it certainly didn’t help that I was sick. I felt more like a fish out of water than I ever have in a professional setting — funny, since magazine publishing is the setting I’ve been aspiring to since my sophomore year of college. This was exactly the experience I’ve feared.

And yet, while this sort of baptism by fire is unquestionably daunting, what I felt was not discouragement, but exhilaration. Where I expected stress, I experienced near-euphoria. I’m certainly humbled, but I have not lost faith in myself. I’m not dismayed by how little I know; I’m excited about how much I get to learn.

This difference, I suppose, comes from facing these challenges in a context I’ve been pursuing for the last several years, because it means I will find purpose in the hurdles I’ll have to overcome in the upcoming days or weeks or months.

So praise God for opportunity and difficulty alike, for the passion he has given me, and for his grace when my strength is sure to be insufficient. I can’t wait to see what he’ll continue to do in the midst of this new adventure.

Pauper-style cooking: Bangers & mash

In my current living situation, I don’t really have kitchen access — and even if I did, my work hours are so strange that I’m never home at opportune cooking times. Because of this, I’ve been living mostly off of sandwiches and other simple meals that can be assembled from the refrigerator (which I do have access to) or frozen microwaveable meals that I pick up on the way to work. If I’m feeling particularly in need of a proper meal, I eat out, though I can only revert to this so often because of budget constraints.

Since my trip to England in March, I’ve been craving the bangers and mash my dear friend Sara made for me while I was there. The recipe included potatoes (mash), sausage (bangers), sauteed spinach and onions, Red Leicester cheese (delicious and, sadly, exclusive to England), and gravy.

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Sara and me at C.S. Lewis’ home in Oxford

I had resigned myself to having to wait until I have a kitchen again to make this delightful dish for myself, but then tonight on my dinner break while wandering Ralph’s, a stroke of genius (well, sort of) hit me. Half an hour later, I had improvised what I feel was, while naturally inferior, a pretty respectable Sara-style bangers and mash knock-off — and on the cheap, too.

I used:

  • One individual-sized cup of instant mashed potatoes (99 cents)
  • One package of eight precooked sausages ($1.79 — I only used two sausages and saved the rest for later, so the actual value for this meal was about 46 cents)
  • One individual cheddar cheese stick — the closest thing America has to Red Leicester (49 cents)
  • One onion shallot (6 cents)
  • One bag of baby spinach ($2.99 — as with the sausage, I’ll use most of that later. The actual value of the amount of spinach I used was probably 3 cents at most)
  • I didn’t bother with gravy because I figured the amount I’d have to save wouldn’t keep for very long, though maybe I could have looked for a just-add-water packet and only used part of it…

I microwaved the sausage and potatoes in the employee break room, sliced the cheese and shallot while waiting, and then tossed the shallot, cheese, chopped-up sausages, and a few pieces of spinach into the potatoes. Because I couldn’t saute the shallot and spinach, and in order to melt the cheese, I microwaved the whole mix for an extra 15 seconds, which did the trick closely enough.

All told, my improvisational cooking took about 5 minutes, cost me under $3, was not terribly unhealthy, and was surprisingly filling and tasty. With all the add-ins, I could barely even tell the potatoes were instant.

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The finished product

While I’m still eager to be able to cook in earnest again, in the meantime, I’m feeling inspired to see how much more creative I can get with only a few bucks and a microwave.

Whac-A-Mole

In the nearly eight years since I had my first job interview, I’ve mastered the ability to purge my vocabulary of frowned-upon verbal tics such as “like” and “um” when the situation demands. However, I had a phone interview this morning, and I realized that for all my efforts, I’ve acquired a new hesitation phrase — “you know” — that seemed to interject itself against my will. Mind you, this is not a phrase I tend to use in everyday conversation.

“You know, I’m not sure I could point to an exact moment…” (Hm, that’s new.)

“It helped me learn to deconstruct the writing process, you know, so I was able to…” (What? Again? Stop that.)

“So my range of experience has been pretty broad, you know, which proves…” (NO. Bad. No more!)

“I grew up in Colorado, you know…” (NO, CRAP, NOT AGAIN.)

“And, you know, I care a lot about…” (MOUTH. WAT R U DOING. MOUTH. STAHP.)

“You know…” (NO, SHE DOESN’T.)

“You know…” (ACK.)

“You know…” (WHY. JUST WHY.)

“I’m just wondering (DON’T SAY IT), you know…” (………I’m going home now.)

I will just hope, I suppose, that my memory has exaggerated and that I was otherwise articulate enough to compensate.

And in the meantime, I’ll invent the equivalent of a zap collar for dogs who bark too much for humans who overuse certain phrases under pressure.

Little thoughts: On people who are “worse”

Part of a series. From my Moleskine, April 6.

We talk about how Jesus spent time with the “worst of the worst,” as though that was the greatest example of his grace, of how we should be unafraid to reach out to people who are “worse” than us.

But while there’s certainly a lesson to be learned from that example, when that’s our emphasis, we gloss over that Jesus also spent time with the everyday “nice” people, who from an absolute perspective are no better than anyone else.

Maybe that’s the real example we should be following. Don’t go around talking only about how gracious it is that Jesus would spend time with “them”; talk about and be humbled by the fact that Jesus, in his holiness, would even spend time with you.

It’s not just that his grace is great enough for “even” the prostitutes and tax collectors. It’s that they are no less deserving of his grace than anyone else.

Little thoughts: On being a sci-fi/fantasy fan

The first in a series. From my Moleskine, April 1.

Love fantasy, but don’t entangle it with reality. Part of the beauty of fantasy is that it is so “other” from reality. Believe it, and believe reality, too, but believe them apart from one another.

Fantasy is possibility. It’s hope. It’s escape. It transports. It can’t be or do those things if we merge it with the already-concrete.

Something new

I have continued to struggle with writing complete posts consistently. This is mainly due to my own insecurities, the origins of which I’m still trying to figure out. Until I’m able to do that and confront whatever is making me hold myself back, I’m going to change my approach a bit, to spare myself the self-imposed guilt of not writing more regularly.

For Christmas, I got a new Moleskine that has gone with me everywhere. In it, I’ve been jotting down short notes on any and every topic that happens to pop into my head. I’m going to start posting these, in hopes that maybe I’ll inspire myself to turn them into more developed thought projects and consequently more detailed posts later. I’ll file these under a new category titled “Little thoughts.”

I will greatly welcome comments on these posts; feedback and discussion are my greatest tools when it comes to shaping my ideas.

Here’s to experiments!

Ridiculous

I have writer’s block in the most nonsensical way.

Normally writer’s block is when you don’t know what to say, right? Well, this time I know exactly what to say. I’ve written and rewritten it in my head a hundred times over the last few weeks. But what’s holding me back is that I’m afraid what I’ll type will fall short of what I actually mean to say.

So I’m sitting here, looking at that white box, the last one I have to fill in, as the infernal cursor blinks, blinks, blinks. I’m not sure whether it’s inviting me or taunting me.

In my own words

I have this strange tendency to undermine the worth of my own words. I’m aware that plenty of people are smarter and more articulate than I am, and for some reason I feel that because those people exist, they have a greater right to speak up. Surely someone else has had the same ideas I do, and surely they could express those ideas better, so it seems presumptuous for me to take that expression upon myself.

It feels selfish.

I realize this is silly. There’s space enough for all our ideas and all our articulations and interpretations of those ideas. I am not depriving someone else of their opportunity to speak if I speak myself; but if I don’t speak, I’m depriving myself of my own voice.