Tuesday, September 22, 2015

This is my Story

I was a timid child.  When I wasn't sleeping, twirling my hair, reading the Berenstein Bears or gorging on Fruity (or Cocoa) Pebbles you could find me desperately clinging to my mom (sorry for nearly cutting off your circulation that one time, Mom).  I'd survey my surroundings much like a deer in an open field during hunting season.  I even resembled a deer; wide-eyed, overtly alert and always ready to flee from any situation I deemed dangerous.

Little things scared me like the car wash.  Every time we drove through one I felt like our car was being attacked by a salivating Snuffaluffagus.  I was also petrified of my math tutor.  He'd come over to my house every Tuesday to help me with my homework.  He wore a tragic brown suit and black velcro shoes.  I'm not sure if it was my strong aversion to fractions, his eerily menacing laugh or rancid halitosis; whatever it was shook me to my very core.

As a kid I didn't know why I was wired that way.  I didn't understand why I always had to have a friend walk with me to the bus stop or down the hallway at school.  I didn't know why I had to sleep with 4 nightlights.  I figured my feelings were normal and it was all part of being a little girl blindly trying to gain footing and navigate through this perplexing thing they called life.  Now of course I know there's a word for what I have: anxiety.  Only now as an adult my fears evolved from being scared of the car wash to being scared of flying, intimacy or walking into a party alone.

My anxiety hit a high note when I first moved to San Francisco 7 years ago.  I'd gotten a job as a receptionist at a production company through my sister in law.  I feigned excitement and would even brag about my new gig, but inside I was terrified beyond belief.

"You must be loving it," people would say.

"Yeah, it's super fun and interesting to be around all these creative people - and like, they have all this awesome food and a huge common area where everyone gathers around to drink beer, play video games and shoot the shit at the end of the day."

I told people what I thought they wanted to hear.  I didn't dare tell them that I never visited the cool common area, I never played the video games or ate the food with the creative people and Christ - come to think of it, I very rarely left my desk.  Every day I'd walk into the office and my heart would race to the point of near protrusion from my non-existent chest, my hands would clam up and there were times I could barely muster up the courage to say "good morning" to a coworker.   One of the most jarring things about anxiety is that in addition to the obvious mental afflictions it imposes, there can also be a very potent physical component to it. Bad anxiety can wreak complete havoc on your body; as if a tidal wave of panic is flooding your entire nervous system.  The residual effects are wildly difficult to suppress and can be at times, practically crippling.

People in the office noticed my uneasiness.  "You're not all there, are you?" one guy asked me as he walked past my desk.  I felt my face turn red as I looked up to him and laughed nervously.  What. a. dick., I thought to myself.  Then I realized he was a dick who had a point.  I wasn't all there.  Because that's what anxiety does; it robs you of your ability and right to be in the present moment - to be all there.  In your head you're elsewhere, whether it be worrying about something completely arbitrary that happened in the past or something that has .000002% chance of happening in the future.

At that point in my life I hadn't educated myself on what it meant to be anxious, what caused anxiety and what I could do to release it.  I simply felt alone and like there was something extraordinarily wrong with me. After all, a lot of my friends seemed to be adjusting to adulthood well - and I could barely even cope with being a receptionist.  I felt like there was this omnipresent cloud of distress looming overhead - and it followed me wherever I went, from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep.  There were days I couldn't even leave my apartment to go to the supermarket and pick up food.  The simplest tasks became unimaginably daunting.

Oftentimes I'd get frustrated with myself - why can't you deal?  Why can't you chill out, be a normal human being who does normal, every day things?  The concept of self-soothing was absolutely foreign to me.  I had this physically and mentally debilitating anxiety and it was all my fault for not being able to pull myself the fuck together and DEAL.  You have everything you need, I'd think to myself.  You have a great family, funny friends and you live in a cool city.  Check out that homeless guy on the street marinating in his own piss and shit.  Your life doesn't warrant the anxiety you have - snap out of it.

Now, years later - I have accepted my anxiety as a part of who I am but I no longer let it define me.  I'm easier on myself and I've found ways to cope when I become anxious.  It's made me more constructive (writing) and at times destructive (drinking).  It's definitely still a very real, very present motherfucker in my life, but I'm better equipped to deal with it now because I understand what it is.  Having anxiety has toughened me up in a lot of ways - I have developed a strong desire not to let it defeat me.

Perhaps the best thing that has come from my struggle is the fact that I am acutely aware of how important it is to always strive to be kind and empathetic.  No one on this earth is perfect; we all get sad, we all have problems - we are all freaks, we are all human.  Sometimes I think about that insensitive coworker from years ago and I find myself getting upset about how he treated me, then I remind myself that he likely wouldn't have been so brash had he been aware of the painful battle I was fighting internally.

I've been grappling with whether or not to write about this for a long time because A) It's extremely personal, B) This is essentially a comedy blog and there's not really anything funny about this subject matter and C) Would writing about my anxiety and putting it out there cause me more anxiety?

Then I thought about how scared I felt 7 years ago.  I thought about how desperately I needed someone there to tell me I was going to be okay, to tell me that statistically speaking, 40 million people in the US suffer from some form of anxiety.  I needed someone to tell me I wasn't alone, not even close.

So to anyone reading this who, in this very moment, is struggling like I was, I would like to take this opportunity to tell you what I wish someone had told me:

You are going to be okay.
You are not alone.
Not even close.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

10 Ways to Nail a Job Interview

I was twelve years old when I landed my first job at a hot dog stand in Newport, Rhode Island.  It was back in the summer of '69 '94.  The stand was in the center of the wharf, a tourist-infested area crawling with people who said things like "let's pahhhk the cahh and get some chowwwda."  I was forced to wear a purple windbreaker-esque uniform and a ridiculous cap that made me look like a penis. I'll never forget getting canned for giving some obnoxious Masshole a moldy hot dog bun on purpose accident.  I walked home in my Barney uniform and foreskin cap with tears streaming down my face and snot dribbling down my nose.  It was a sad, sad day.  

Little did I know then that that was only the beginning of a slew of unfortunate mishaps I'd cause experience in the working world.  When I first moved to San Francisco I lost took on a series of various temp roles.  I temped at salons, venture capital firms, hedge funds, investment banks, real estate companies- you name it.  I felt like a foster kid in the corporate world.  I thought of myself as the Temp Fairy but instead of fairy dust I sprinkled my lack of Excel skills all throughout the financial district.  After a few years months of answering to anything from "Andrea," to "Alexander," to "Allysia" to "Alfred"  I was able to land a full-time receptionist position but got canned on account of my failure to recognize Costco as a bulk store.  

I've been at my current job for 3 and a half years now which is pretty shocking.  I'd describe office life as an amusing and torturous corporate playground where humans are reduced to robots programmed to exclaim "Happy FridaaAAAY!" in a douchey crescendo at 9am on the dot at the end of every week.  The office is a place characterized by heinous carpeting, defunct water coolers, expired Lean Cuisines, awkward bathroom run-ins with a superior (excuse me bosslady - you're supposed to be a robot who gives me my paycheck, I do not need to know that you have a digestive system), cliched e-mail dialogue (if I had a nickel for every time I used the term "following up" in the subject line of an e-mail then I would be making money in a very strange way), and of course the dreaded Monday morning spent nursing a hangover in your cube whilst feigning interest in your coworker's prolonged story about his nephew's weekend soccer game in Marin.  It's all so contrived, so sterile, so... hilarious. 

All that being said, I've been thinking a lot about things I want to change in my life lately. One of my main goals at the moment is to find a new job; one that allows me to be more myself which in turn, will make me a happier human.  I have several interviews lined up for next week and naturally, I have referred to my handy dandy Interview manual for some guidance.  Take a look:

 10 ways to nail an interview

1. Punctuality is important 
Be sure to show up at least 13 days before your interview time and set up shop in the elevator.  Bring a sleeping bag, humidifier, your gameboy and sustainable food such as dried fruit or beef jerky.
2. Dress appropriately 
It's better to be overdressed than under dressed so always make sure you wear collared slacks.  

3. First impression is key
Make sure to make direct bedroom eyes at the interviewer upon meeting.   Shake his/her right hand with your left hand.  Awkwardness will ensue.  Let out a frustrating grunt as you beg him/her to try again. Then, shake his/her hand again and make sure you rub his/her innermost palm with your pointer finger.  The clammier the hand the better. 
I've provided a diaphragm for your reference:

4.  Set yourself apart from other candidates  
Sit on the floor.  Tell the interviewer you prefer the floor to a chair because it's "closer to the earth this way."

5. Establish trust
At the end of the interview, look around in a paranoid manner, lean in toward interviewer and whisper "Remember, we never had this conversation."

6.  Ask questions
Answer the interviewers questions with questions.  Also, be sure to inquire about health benefits.  If the interviewer is a woman ask her which gynecologist she uses/recommends at Kaiser.  

7.  Appear to be detail oriented 
Ask her if she knows which gynecologist at Kaiser provides the most durable stirrups.  

8.  Be engaging
If the interviewer asks you a question about your work history, ask him or her to repeat the question "but with a little more UMPH this time."

9. Be confident
Act as if you already have the job.  Tell the interviewer you're going to set your outlook password to "New England clam chowder" when you start.

10.  Leave with a bang
End the interview with a standing slow clap.

And that's all I got for today.   And, just as a heads up - once I start interviewing I will likely be taking Toe Pick down briefly for very, very obvious reasons.

Have an awkward Thursday!


Thursday, September 3, 2015

Say Hello, Wave Good-bye

To my house:

I know I will think of you in the years to come.  I'll remember how each time I drove my old Jeep through your stone gates and down your crooked driveway all my fears seemed to disappear.  I'll think of my mother standing on your terrace flanked by our dogs.  "SLOW DOWN, you little worm!" she'd shout, only half serious.  Then I'll laugh incredulously when I think of how there was a time a clearly inept Driver's Ed instructor deemed me capable enough to operate something other than Power Wheels or tricycles.

When I think of you I'll remember all of our animals - and maybe close my eyes and feel a little sting when I think of Buddy, Daisy and Piola who we buried in the impossibly lush field to your left.  Wait - no, my left.

Buddy, Daisy & Piola
I'll think of the time I stumbled up your stairs, 1.5 bottles of wine deep, holding our new puppy tightly and crying like a newborn because I'd just experienced my first heartbreak and didn't quite know how to cope with life things yet.

I'll remember the days I laughed with my sister in your basement as we waded through boxes of family photos and journals, both of us wishing time didn't have to exist.

I'll think of the time I had to move back into you after college, much to the dismay of my disgruntled parents who thought they'd finally gotten rid of all their children.  I'll laugh to myself when I think of my mom having to do my laundry at the age of 23, then I'll roll my eyes and sigh when I remember nearly blowing up the dryer in an attempt to be an adult human and do it myself.

I'll think of playing in the leaves in your front yard with my nieces, and then I'll think of how watching them laugh made me wish I could be a kid again when life was simple and Comcast bills, tinder, 401K plans, birth control, cubicles and rent were not yet things.

I'll remember feeling lost in you.  I'll remember not knowing if I'd ever find my way.

I'll remember the fields surrounding you and the animals that inhabited them.  I'll smile when I think of our pony Peanut who was only nice to me when she thought I had carrots.

I'll picture our dollhouse behind you and remember how my mom would threaten to make me stay there if I didn't stop complaining about a boy who never called even though he said he would. 

I'll remember how happy you made my parents.  I'll picture my dad sitting on your front porch every morning, drinking shitty 7-11 coffee, eating a Hershey bar with almonds and reading the NYT or my mom in your garden, digging up lettuce I would pretend to eat at dinner.

Didi, dollhouse, me & Peanut
I'll remember the early morning of October 28th, 2008 and waking up to a knock on my bedroom door.  I'll think of my dad beckoning me to get out of bed to prepare myself for my one-way flight to San Francisco. I'll remember my parents driving me down your crooked driveway and out of your stone gates and I'll never forget looking back at you and smiling as I made my way to a happier life.

I know we have to leave you, I know you don't make sense anymore.  But I promise you I will always only remember the times that you did.  


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

25 Things you Don't Know About Me

My favorite time of day is scrolling through TMZ.com for the entirety of my time at the office coming home from work, kicking off my suffocating Anne Taylor pumps Manolos and collapsing onto my bed with my computer to watch porn work on Toe Pick.  It's refreshing, after feigning interest in my thankless job for 8 hours, to be alone with my thoughts. As I've gotten older, I've grown to cherish my vibrator my alone time.  I used to have to be around people all the time, now I'd consider myself a Varsity bubble blower JV loner, especially during the week.  

The other day I got home after a particularly stressful day of gchatting and facebooking work.  I was excited to start writing but when I pulled out my Dell Mac, my mind went blank.  I heard from your mom Tolstoy or someone that it's important for writers to read a lot.  So I decided to bury my head in an US magazine I found on my shelf from last year.  I came upon their list featured in every issue entitled 25 Things You Don't Know About Me wherein celebs divulge random information about themselves.  Viola - I had inspiration.  At first I hesitated to feature my list for fear of appearing self-indulgent, but then did it anyway because I figured if you clicked on this link, you're obviously bored shitless in your cubicle and have nobody to talk to on gchat a little bit curious.  So here goes: 

25 Things You Don't care to Know About Me.  

1. My ring tone in college was once a “yawn symphony.” Every time I'd get a call a chorus of multi-pitched yawns would blare from my phone. It made for some interesting moments, especially when someone would call during class or church. Not that I ever really attended either. 

2. One time at Ole Miss my sorority hosted a winter formal.  I'd been making out with this one guy for a few months, so figured it was only appropriate for me to ask him to be my date.  I have a tendency to ramble, stutter and pace when I'm on the phone, especially in times of uncertainty, vulnerability and stress.  So, I decided to write a script I could use as a reference for this life-changing call.  Said script would include dialogue, pauses and intonation. I wrote it all out and was quite pleased with myself; my delivery was seamless and I felt like I sounded really confident.  But after all that effort, he declined because he had to go to his brother's wedding or some shit.  My friends thought it'd be funny if they posted my award-winning script on their fridge if only to remind me of my remarkable lack of poise resourcefulness.  


3.  When I was little I had a hamster named Sid Vicious, a dog named Blanche, finches named Moe and Curly and a cockatoo named Henrietta.

4.  My older brother won Fear Factor.

5.  I dressed up as J. Lo for Halloween one year at Ole Miss.  I rented a butt from Redneck costume barn and subsequently lost said rented butt at the SAE house that night. Consequently, I had to write a check to the costume barn for $37.  Said check bounced, not unlike my dignity on that fateful night. 
pre-butt loss 
6.  I speak gibberish fluently and quite often.

7.  Part of the movie IQ with Meg Ryan and Walter Matthau was filmed at my childhood home in New Jersey.  I winked at Meg one day.  She scowled and turned away but it was still pretty cool.

8.  One time when I was little I got kicked in the face by my temperamental pony named Bo Peep. 

sometime before I was nailed in the face by a pms-ing pony
9.  I love love songs.  If anyone ever got ahold of my Pandora account I'd move to Bangladesh and change my name to Rhonda.

10. I've mastered the art of small talk and have said "Can you believe it's already almost September!?" approx 7236454 times in the last week.

11.  I like dogs more than I like most humans.

12.  I didn't lose my virginity until I was 19.

13.  I tend to overshare and then get anxiety about it and oh my fucking god Number 12 is going to haunt my dreams for the next year.  

14.  I always kept a diary growing up and my mom keeps them in a box in our basement.  In one of them I compare myself to Anne Frank and that was a bold comparison, Alexandra.

15.  I refer to myself in 3rd person on occasion. 

16. I try really hard to be nice to everyone I meet so that they have no choice but to be nice back to me.  

17.  I regard a bad hangover as the lowest depth of misery and sometimes have nightmares about them.  

18.  I love animals so much.  I feel hypocritical and ashamed because I also eat them.

19.  My mom chopped my hair off when I was around 7 because I wouldn't stop twirling it.  People called me Alexander after this happened.

20.  I love Guns N Roses and listen to November Rain every morning on my way to work.  

21.  My biggest pet peeve is when people are talking about their parents and they say something like "Mom made the best pancakes this morning," or "Dad took me out on the boat."  My mom or your mom?  Your dad or my dad?  Please stop it. 

22.  I was a theater major my first year at Ole Miss but quit when a couple students didn't know who Shakespeare was.

23.  I think about becoming sober sometimes. 

24.  I can blow bubbles bigger than Donald Trump's ego.

25. My biggest goal is to become a successful writer and live in a treehouse with Tim Riggins.

Happy dry hump day, friendos! 

xo, Nige