As mentioned previously, I am not crazy about D.C., but I have a lot of semi-distant relatives here. There is my great aunt, who is 95 or so, who I haven’t seen since 1975. First thing she said to me, after all those years: “I remember you. Do you remember me?”
Also, some other fairly distant cousin-like relative, who I also haven’t seen or talked to or had one stray thought about in decades. Yet when I saw her, it activated some area of my brain that very much did remember her, and not just a little bit. There was in fact big, warm recognition. But try as I might, over the course of weeks, I can’t come up with one specific memory of anything that ever happened between us. I guess I was too young when it happened. Weirdest ghost-from-the-past experience of my life.
I saw her again a couple of nights ago, at a second family gathering. She asked me how I liked it here. She seemed to be asking a real question, rather than just making smalltalk, so I told her: Not really digging it. I wasn’t wrong, she really did listen. Several hours later, she brought it up a second time: what would it take to make you enjoy yourself here? I need to know more people like that.
It’s so easy to take the wrong lessons from failure.
Let’s say your goal is to get married and have a family and be happy. Instead, you have a long string of failed relationships trailing along behind you. What do you learn from this? Simple: women are bitches.
To keep this from happening to you again, you delve into exactly how women are bitches, in microscopic detail. If you are Billy Joel, you write a song about it, called Stiletto:
She cuts you once, she cuts you twice
But still you believe
The wound is so fresh you can taste the blood
But you don’t have strength to leave
You’ve been bought, you’ve been sold
You’ve been locked outside the door
But you stand there pleadin’
With your insides bleedin’,
’Cause you deep down want some more
Then she says she needs affection
While she searches for the vein
She’s so good with her stiletto
You don’t really mind the pain
you don’t mind the pain
In case you thought this was just a pretty little nothing to put on his next record, keep in mind that Billy Joel has three divorces to his credit. He is livin’ la vida loca.
And the hell of it is, he’s not exactly wrong. Yes, there are certainly women in the world who will behave exactly like this, fulfulling every detail, as sure as destiny. He must have thought he was making a clear, reasoned statement about the human condition, boldly going where others feared to tread.
Determining how you end up going for so long and so far down a blind alley like this is left as an exercise for the reader.
This is my third move-for-a-job, and I can tell already that I am not going to like this place. So that makes one move that turned out really well -- Miami -- and two that didn’t: the Bay Area and D.C.
There are some fairly superficial reasons why I didn’t take to the Bay Area earlier, and why I’m not taking to D.C. now. I don’t see much value in going into them, other than briefly. I didn’t take to the Bay Area because I was terrified of losing my job. That turned out to be a reasonable fear: I got laid off after seven months. And I don’t want to be in D.C. because, strange as it seems to me, I have become somewhat acclimated to Nashville. I should be there right now, helping Steph through her most recent round of troubles.
Still though, I really liked Miami. And to be frank about it, if similar, extraordinary circumstances existed, I could probably fall for the Bay Area or D.C. also, but I didn’t. So: why Miami?
For one reason, I could walk. Everywhere. My house was within walking distance of the shop where I got my hair cut, three or four restaurants, several book stores, clothing stores, two groceries, the optometrist’s office where I got my glasses, my dentist’s office, parks, a public pool, and everything else. The weather was always perfect. I could walk in the middle of the night if I wanted to, and I often did.
God, I hate driving through traffic so, so much. Ridiculously stressful. If you tell me that driving is not stressful for you, then I will tell you that you are not paying enough attention, because you are never more than five seconds and one bad decision away from a fatal crash. And I’m supposed to be finding my way to new things on top of that, through construction and badly-marked exits and three or four roads with nearly-identical names. Feh.
On top of that, Miami was exotic, especially to someone like me who had lived his whole life up to that point in the boring midwest. They have palm trees and no winter. Unlike everywhere else in the U.S., if you’re white, then you are the minority, and the latins never let you forget it. They are far more concerned about Cuba and the embargo and Castro and cigars and so on than they will ever be about your silly U.S. problems.
So what happens to me on my first day of the job here in D.C.? My coworkers take me to a Chipotle for lunch. The line is longer and moves faster than any other restaurant I’ve ever been in. I’ve never seen anybody in more obvious distress than the people working there, straining to get everybody through the line quickly. When we sat down to eat, it was too loud to hear.
So this is it, huh? This is how things work here. Given the huge throngs of people, this area is not prone to having quiet little out-of-the-way mom-and-pop places. So, not really an experience I want to be having at this point in my life.
I still believe in travel, though. It’s one of the best things that can happen to you. Just not to someplace that has Chipotle. If this new employer works out, and I am able to work remotely, I want to live for months at a time in exotic places, where I’ll get slapped in the face with how odd everything is, just like when I moved to Miami. Any place outside the U.S. with decent weather and few or no white people will do fine. Kuala Lumpur. Korea. South America.
In an effort to avoid Billy Joel Syndrome, I’m trying to look at my failures in a whole new light.
I have had some good job experiences. I have done some really good work. I am often a major contributor. I even briefly made it into the big leagues, when I got a job at a very l33t Bay Area company working on a sexy product. But none of these experiences have lasted very long, and they usually don’t lead to better situations. It’s up-and-down for me, mostly down.
I don’t have a real answer. Maybe I’m getting better at parts of it, like networking. I retained more people from my last full-time job as contacts than I have from any other place I’ve ever worked. I’ve discovered it’s good to sign up for job sites and entrepreneur sites and contracting sites, because it does sometimes lead to connections. The people who just hired me found me on just such a site.
I just want to make sure that what I’ve learned is not that employers are bitches.