I feel old

There aren’t many places where I would take an unpaid internship; the Asian American Writers Workshop is one of those places. I applied for a fall internship there last year and had an interview, then tried again in the winter but wasn’t called back. This summer, with all different editors and managers, I got it.

I figured, it’s only part-time, so I could have a paying part-time job while I’m doing it, make lots of good connections in the publishing world (which I sorely lack at this point), learn about nonprofits and digital publishing (since they have three online publications, including CultureStrike, about changing mainstream views of immigration through culture and art, mostly in response to anti-immigration laws in my home state of Arizona), and though it’s unpaid, there is a travel stipend and a free writing workshop. My dream, after all, is to write fiction or creative nonfiction, and I’d be in this ethnicity-based genre whatever I wrote, so where else better to intern?

My first event was Friday night, a reading at the workshop space in Chelsea by Bushra Rehman, from her novel, Corona, which is about the neighborhood in Queens where she grew up. She was joined by other Queens artists from the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective. The readings left me feeling rejuvenated, especially Bushra’s. I can’t wait to read her book; the parts I’ve read and heard are really good.

Corona-TRUE5x8-100dpi

Monday was my first official day on the job. I was there with three other interns, all college students, all of them really nice. That was weird, though, to think these kids are, what, 20 years old? And I am working for free alongside them, even though I am almost twice their age? I couldn’t help but think to myself, what am I doing here? I’m turning 37 next month and I’m an intern! But I try not to feel embarrassed and remind myself that I’m getting connections, lots of connections, which is the only way to get a job in publishing.

Meanwhile, I wonder what would happen if I got called for any of the full-time jobs I applied to before accepting this internship. I mean, if I were offered a paying job with benefits, I would feel weird turning it down for an unpaid internship, but I have this deep sense of responsibility, making a commitment to an organization I feel passionate about, that would basically put me in a state of agony.

In fact, the same day that I was offered the internship, I was sent a copy test, my very first one, for a copy editor’s position for a digital media company, something to do with comedy, which is why I was worrying about whether “ball sack” should be one word or two (for those who saw my Facebook post). My solution, in the end, was to just use “balls” and avoid the problematic term. I never did hear back from them for an interview, though, which is disappointing, but it’s also kind of relief for my abovementioned sense of duty.

So the goal today is to apply for some part-time jobs, I guess clerical stuff at universities, which is my default, because I am so good at that sort of mindless labor, especially making copies, and working with students and professors. But I know you can make mad tips waiting tables, so that’s an option. I mean, I could do anything I wanted! I would prefer copyediting, but that’s been a hard little network to crack. I’m working on it, though, joining copy editors’ associations and reading articles and books on how to get freelance gigs….

I also need to work on my last InDesign assignment, though that online class is getting so tiresome that I’m certain to skip the last discussion session and go to a happy hour in Brooklyn for CultureStrike.

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The worst job interview … ever

I knew that as soon as I made a decision that I would just be a copy editor, I’d get an interview for a job that was not for copyediting and go through this whole dilemma of whether or not to take it. I did not think, however, that it would be a FAKE interview.

Yeah, it was kind of a fake interview for me, too, at that point, but I thought maybe I’d want the job if they offered it to me, especially if it paid well and had good benefits. It was coordinating a university program dealing with East Asian studies. I happen to have a master’s degree in Chinese literature,  and the job description indicated they were looking for someone with a background in East Asian studies as well as experience living abroad in East Asia and working with faculty and students from there. Hey, that’s me!

But the kicker was that I had also applied for a position as assistant in that center. So when I got the interview and arrived there, I didn’t ask which position I was interviewing for. Big mistake. They just started by asking me why I thought I was right for the position. So I said stuff that I thought was relevant for both roles, having supported faculty a lot in different roles, event coordination at a church, budget oversight, etc.

They said I had not mentioned the event coordination in my resume, but it was there in both my resume and my cover letter. Oh yeah, and the first sentence of my cover letter said that I had also applied for the assistant position, but they had obviously not read it carefully.

The woman then said that it didn’t sound like I knew what the position was, and that it was for a student affairs coordinator, mainly advising students in a master’s program. I said, the job description didn’t indicate that it was a student affairs position coordinating a master’s program. I checked afterward — it did not say any of that.

She said, “You should really read the job description before you apply.”

WHAT?!

I said, “I did read the job description, and it didn’t mention student affairs.”

The other guy said it did mention student affairs and that event coordination was only mentioned briefly at the end. Again, I checked the job description afterward, and the whole first paragraph was about event coordination.

The woman then said that this was clearly not something I wanted to do, so she’d have to terminate the interview.

I was, as you can imagine, rather put out at this point. I said that I was interested and asked, if I wasn’t qualified for the position, why did they ask me for an interview? She said I was qualified but that I didn’t reference the right parts of my background.

I replied that I might have been confused because I had also applied to the assistant position.

“That’s the problem with applying to every position,” the dragon lady said.

By this point, I was fuming. I did not just spend the afternoon ironing my good linen pants for this shit, to be told that I didn’t read the job descriptions and applied for all the jobs at the university.

I told them they should look at the job description they wrote; maybe I was mistaken, but they should really take more care in writing them. And I stormed out.

Later, I was sad and angry that I had reacted in that way, but I can only conclude, in retrospect, that I had felt wrongly accused of nonchalantly applying for a job I didn’t want. Which is kind of true, but I guess I did want it at the time that I had applied, which was about a month ago. But then I felt stupid that I had applied or gone to the interview at all, or at least I should’ve asked what position I was being interviewed for — I mean, I hadn’t been keeping it a secret or anything.

That night, I received an email that appeared to be sent to all candidates, thanking them for their time, but that they had found a suitable candidate.

Not a likely story, because I interviewed on the first day available, the day after I was notified that I was being interviewed. Did they really get through the interviews that quickly? My feeling, and my husband’s, is that they already had a candidate, but because the university requires them to conduct a search, they had to go through the motions.

I’m not sure what I would do differently put in the same position again — maybe to say gracefully after they mention wanting to end the interview, “Thank you for your time; please keep me in mind if any other positions open up.”

But y’all know me, I have very little grace, and as my father told my in-laws upon meeting them for the first time, I have a bad temper. Maybe I was channeling too much cocky wonder woman (see earlier posts on “power poses” and self-confidence), but I wanted to obliterate that nasty woman for wrongly accusing me of things I didn’t do, putting the blame on me for their own lack of preparation, and most likely I’d be just as argumentative as I was yesterday.

Image

The lesson I’ve learned, however, is to ask what position the interview is for, if I’ve applied to more than one at the same place. Yes, that was my bad. I doubt that will happen again, but at least I know now.

Decision

Our friend Tom is one of the best cheerleaders we know. Talking to him can make you feel more confident in yourself, but his own actions can also serve as examples to emulate. The story that inspires me, in particular, is the one about him interviewing for a job as reporter for The New York Times and leaving after a 20-minute wait, resulting in his interviewer chasing after him. It’s not that he’s cocky; he’s just that good, and he knows it.

We visited him and his wife this weekend, and I’ve returned with a more confident attitude about my own skills. I’ve decided that I am an experienced copy editor, which I didn’t feel like before. I had all kinds of doubts and insecurities, stemming partly from the fact that potential employers will not have heard of the publications I copyedited for, but also because of those last couple of weeks at work when I felt like nobody listened to me or cared about my opinion.

It helps, of course, that I’m in the middle of a copyediting intro class that makes me realize I know what I’m doing. Some of my classmates aren’t as knowledgeable yet about grammar/punctuation/usage, and some of them want to over-edit everything. I am also the go-to person when it comes to AP style; nobody there knows it as well as I do (not even the instructor, who has mainly worked with Chicago style). The same goes with working on news publications and the issues that come up for those copy editors.

I have discovered that I know my niche.

This is leading me to rethink what kinds of jobs to apply for. Up till now, I’ve only been applying for clerical jobs at Columbia and NYU with the hope of being able to take classes and explore other fields, with a smattering of applications for editorial assistantships at publishing houses, which have never, ever contacted me. I have also thought about working as a freelance copy editor and wondering how to get started. But now I may actually take Tom’s advice and contact some news organizations about becoming a staff copy editor, which I previously thought I was underqualified to do.

Now for the more difficult task of getting motivation to see myself as a writer and actually sit down every day to write….

Freelancing

I updated my LinkedIn profile, which, like most people, I never use, but I am no longer copy editor at the paper, so I changed my title to “freelance copy editor.”

It’s not untrue; I did do a copyediting gig once in April, referred generously by a coworker, and I spent a few hours editing a script. I recently wrote to them asking why I never got paid, and they wrote back saying they never received an invoice. Oops. I guess I need to figure out how to invoice people if I’m a freelancer! They said they’d like to have me help out with the script later, but obviously that’s not very abundant work.

I signed up for and am currently taking a four-session intro course on copyediting, through mediabistro.com. I figured I’d take it to make sure I cover the basics and get a clue as to what I’m getting myself into. Even though I worked as a copy editor for about six months on an English-language daily paper in Taiwan and last year at the local paper, I don’t have quite enough experience to “qualify” for most job postings, which usually say they want at least three years’ copyediting experience.

My husband said I could count my two years working part-time as editorial assistant on my advisor’s academic journal while I was in grad school. Many of my friends would probably tell me that’s enough to “qualify” and that it wouldn’t be lying to say I had more than three years of experience, but I don’t know. I think I just need to build more confidence in myself. Hence, I’m taking this course.

After the first session the other night, I realized I did learn a few things, but I probably could’ve found the info online somewhere, and I felt that compared to some of the students who didn’t have experience copyediting, I could probably end up feeling more confident over the next few weeks and not think that I need to take a bunch of other courses to get the copyediting certificate. I am a copy editor. I am a copy editor. Keep repeating that.

I just need to learn how to get some freelance work, and build some connections. Yeah, that’s all.

Back to the drawing board…

I’m looking at these last few entries and having a face-palm moment. Why was I writing about church fundraisers and Lent on a blog about finding a fulfilling line of work?

I suppose it was because I couldn’t really write about my job. Something I didn’t know about journalism is the rather high profile a reporter can have; if you are supposed to report “just the facts” without a particular political bias, then it’s hard to be taken seriously by opponents if they know your political views. So, I wasn’t supposed to sign that petition that I signed, and it was the only time that I really got in trouble with my editor at work.

But now I don’t have that job anymore, and I’m back to looking for one, because we finally made the move to New York City.

My husband’s sanity was at stake; he HATED commuting to his job every day. Now we have a sweet apartment a little north of the neighborhood where we used to live, and he has two more hours of the day, free from the Metro-North Railroad. Is it amazing and wonderful to have a happy partner? Yes. Is it great to be living in the big city, with all it has to offer? Definitely.

The compromise was that I got to stay long enough at the paper to complete a full year of work there and get that much more experience. And the truth is that I also didn’t see a future for myself there; what murky visions I could glimpse were full of stress and angst and long hours, dealing with some difficult personalities — basically, what my editor does. And honestly, I would’ve been horrible at his job, which he does really well. He would joke that I was being groomed to take over for him when he finally had had enough to call it quits, which occasionally felt like it could be any day, but I don’t know how serious those jokes were. In any case, I didn’t think they were that funny.

I really loved my job, though, and I loved that quirky and sometimes really annoying little village where we lived for three years. I had a hard couple of final weeks working there, because the editor was away on the first long vacation he has taken since beginning to work for this organization, which was at least two years ago, and I didn’t really get along well with the others who were in charge (and I wasn’t put in charge after all, since I was leaving anyway) and especially not with the sometimes reporter who was tapped to take over my copy editing role. And who was to be trained by me. And who never really was because she didn’t want to be trained by me anyway.

But all of that is very negative talk that is meant to make me feel better for leaving a position I liked. I got to write a lot, and I even have a few more stories to complete my religion series there, so that is something to do while I’m on the job search. I was really an editorial assistant who gradually got more decision-making powers as time went on, and it felt like the editor trusted me with certain decisions. Being tech-savvy, I got to do a lot of editing on the website, too. There aren’t that many people in that organization with access to publishing directly on the website, so I see that I made myself quite useful.

What’s really been nice is the encouragement I got for my writing. Of course I was a big-ass fish in a tiny little pond, but that’s not going to deflate my ego … not yet, anyway. I was trusted by my editor to go out and get the job done, and he often praised me for my stories. Some of the people I talked to at government or school board meetings or those I interviewed for stories sometimes told me that they liked my reporting and were grateful that I was covering them.

I heard many more compliments than I heard criticisms, which was kind of a new experience for me, and a very valuable one.

We also had good rapport as a production team — the editor, the layout designer, the ads person and me, the copy editor. We joked around a lot. I will miss those days at the office a lot.

And last but not least, I’ll really miss sticking to those Fox-on-Hudson people!

Having my writing published, even just seeing copy-edited pieces in print, is something that did really feel good. I’m not sure I want to keep reporting, but I think I have some time this summer to think about it.

Turning 36 in the year of the dragon

Fighting for good journalism, getting ‘real’ jobs, and marriage equality in church

My birthday was last Saturday. I turned 36. This means, in Chinese astrology, that I am a dragon in the year of the dragon. (There are 12 animals in the horoscope, so it’s a 12-year cycle.)

You might think this is a good thing; I did. Woohoo! It’s my year, I wrote on facebook. This belief was dispelled by the only other Asian working in the school district where I was employed during the first half of this year. Hai, a Vietnamese immigrant who had lived several years in Hong Kong, has a much better understanding of the horoscope than I do as an ABC (American-born Chinese). The year of the dragon, he told me, is a bad year for a dragon. This, as I understand it, is because the astrology takes into account the five elements — earth, fire, metal, water, wood — and having too much of one element causes imbalance, and a dragon in a dragon year would present a pretty big imbalance. A dragon in a monkey year, however, would be a good, balanced year, since the monkey provides things that a dragon lacks. Or something along those lines.

In any case, Hai was right, in that I had a miserable first half of the year at least. Working at that school caused me to increase my antidepressant as well as start me on anti-anxiety pills; I had bad evaluations, no support though I asked for help, parents and students complaining about me, and a new principal who was convinced that I was a horrible teacher and didn’t give me serious chances to improve. This principal made it virtually impossible for me to get another teaching position in another district, because I was technically, if not officially, fired, and no other school in these tough-on-teachers times wants to touch a fired teacher with a 10-foot pole.

Being fired from my job was, however, probably a blessing in disguise, because I am much happier NOT as a teacher. Of course, I have not been able to bring myself to forgive the actions of my superiors in that district, but I know that I should really feel grateful that they didn’t let me waste any more of my time trying to learn something — dealing with challenging behavior — that was so difficult for me.

Today I went into the city for a job interview at the education graduate school where I got my master’s degree in bilingual education. I had worked there as a secretary for a year during my studies, and that job may have been one of the most enjoyable experiences I had there (which is not exactly saying it was enjoyable, per se). I applied for another secretary position last month, and I think I do want to get the job.

At first, when they called me to set up the interview, I didn’t want it. I had been volunteering at the farm on Friday, talking to the apprentices with whom I work about their difficulties working with their boss. I looked back at my last 15 or so years of work experience and realized I have never had such a good time at a job as I do where I am now, at this paper, working part-time with no benefits. (It was a beautiful fall day at the farm, by the way. I love this area.)

The path to the fields up topView of a pond at Glynwood Farm

After all, the editor is endlessly helpful to me, encouraging me to take on more responsibilities and praising my writing. (My latest articles are both on the front page!) I also like many of the people I work with, and I get to meet interesting people. Oh, and have I mentioned that it is greatly fulfilling to know that I work at a publication that directly competes with the local paper owned and operated by the wife of the president of Fox News? I feel like I am fighting for a good cause, for real journalism, ethical reporting, and bipartisanship, even in the venue of such a small town. I didn’t, and often still don’t, want to give any of that up.

Later I discussed the job with my husband, who is really excited these days about the prospect of getting full-time jobs in the city and moving back there. He says, if we could get settled into some secure, stable jobs in the city, that eventually he could support me while I have a baby. And so we are back to the age thing — I am no spring chicken, and my window of childbearing is closing. If I want to have kids, then I have to have them soon, probably within the next few years.

The truth is that we haven’t found any way to sustain life here in this beautiful and too-expensive Hudson River village, now that I’m not making a good salary. With my increasing responsibilities at the paper, I could make a little more money, but it will not be a full-time job with benefits anytime soon, with the funding situation as it is. And Shane has not been able to find any positions within reasonable driving distance for which he is qualified and that would support us, and commuting an hour and a half each way to the city would be too much for him.

So I resigned myself to perhaps only being able to copy edit for the paper remotely on the internet.

Taking into consideration this new desire to get a benefit-providing job, I don’t know why I was so honest at the interview today. Basically, I admitted to wanting to a job where I don’t have to take work home and where I can have fun with coworkers, and I confessed to needing to work on resolving conflict with others. Whaa? And yet, I think, being honest is my way of cutting to the chase, and if they don’t want me with all of my flaws, then I don’t want them.

There may also have been a little part of me that simply hopes that we can find a way to make things work living in this area and keeping my job at the paper.

There’s this other thing, too, that I don’t know how to discuss on this blog, and that’s the work we’ve been doing for this Episcopal church in town. I think I try to avoid writing about it because I don’t want to turn people off by talking about religion. Most of my friends, after all, are agnostics and atheists, as I was for most of my life.

But it has been a great part of our lives here, and it has meant, for us, being part of a community and, in a way, supporting gay rights. This is because we have a priest who recently came out as gay and who has presided over the first gay wedding in the diocese (even though the bishop has not yet approved of marrying same-sex couples in an Episcopal ceremony). Honestly, if you looked up the Episcopal church, you’d find it surprisingly progressive (for those of us who look down on organized religion and believe Christianity is quite scary in its more popular, conservative American form).

The parish members are wonderful — we met our best friend in the village there, and we are actually friends with some Republican church-goers! The priest gives thoughtful and helpful sermons about emulating Christ by accepting and loving, not judging, others, which I truly want to try to do. (And here the friends who know me well may be surprised, since I never exactly espoused withholding judgment in the past. In fact, my disdain for most of humankind may be one of my most fun traits.)

The church, however, is not doing well. We recently learned that we have to prepare two budgets for the coming year — one continuing as is and another without a full-time priest. Unfortunately, our priest will probably have to leave, since we cannot sustain what we have now, and our savings are dwindling. (Sound familiar? Is it merely a coincidence?)

To add to the turmoil, a couple of the main players on the church vestry have quit, having been burned out, I guess, by the stress of trying to run a church with a full-time priest for over 7 years on a diminishing income. In the course of the past week or so, I have taken on more responsibilities on the vestry as a result — becoming co-chair of pastoral care and chair of hall rentals, and Shane has taken more financial responsibilities as treasurer.

St. Mary-in-the-Highlands

I haven’t been trying a great deal to discern my “calling,” but this — helping the parish — is the closest thing to a calling that we have imagined for ourselves thus far. It’s a beautiful landmark, for one, but a serene place to find comfort (with its stained glass, somber classical music, and age-old, high-mass rites — Catholicism with none of the guilt!) as well as a raucously fun place to find friendship. What churches, after all, hold champagne receptions for adult baptisms and Christmas midnight mass, and regularly serve alcohol at its fundraisers and social events (all while teaching people to be nice to each other)? This place needs to survive!

Be Careful What You Wish For

I’ve been incredibly busy this week with copy editing and writing. This is generally nice, especially compared to last week, when both of my planned stories disappeared because meetings were postponed … postponed, that is, to this week.

Two village board meetings this week: Monday’s was almost three hours long; Tuesday’s was almost two hours long. I don’t know if village board meetings should ever be allowed on consecutive nights. I am not having happy, positive thoughts about some of the people in the village government or on its myriad boards.

During these meetings, I kept thinking about the conflict resolution course I took a few years ago while in grad school, about how these people need to go to mediation in a big way and get off their little soapboxes for at least a minute and actually listen to what someone else is saying, for a change.

But that’s not really fair. I guess I am feeling rebellious because of having to just sit and listen, myself, for once. Yes, I get to write about it later, so I get my say, but I would not allow myself (or be allowed by editors) to write what I really think. That’s what this blog is for….

On occasion, I transcribe from my recording of the meeting something really ridiculous that a person said, because I really want to use it in an article and say, “Hey, everyone! Can you believe this ding dong?!” But I don’t use most of what I transcribe, and I can’t really write an account that sounds like me gossiping with a friend: then he said … and so she said … and then he said….

I am happy, though, that I am busy with work. I am glad to have so much responsibility at this paper, which I think is doing incredible work. I am thankful that the editor is helpful and encouraging and generally happy to have hired me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to wield power and make decisions on which press releases should go in the paper and what should be cut from them and which can just go on the website….

If only our website were up this week! Huge technical difficulties have besieged us, and I hope that they can be overcome soon. Keeping fingers crossed.

And just because I want to post a photo of cute horses at the farm (and not one of the village board):

Horses at Glynwood

The Pipe Dream of a Husband-Wife Sports-Writing Team

Shane and I went to the local high school (American) football game Saturday to report for the paper, which sorely lacks sports coverage. Every so often a regular reporter writes a big story, like the Little League tournament or when the high school baseball team went to the state championships. But my editor had asked a long time ago if I’d wanted to do some sports stories, and I finally got up the nerve to try it, as long as I had Shane, an avid sports follower, to help me.

The last time I had gone to a football game was probably when I was a freshman in high school myself. I didn’t then and still don’t understand the details of the game, possibly intentionally, as I find it one of the most repulsive sports today. All it seems to be good for is traumatic brain injury (not only to the players) and training in loud, macho yelling. I was planning to just take some photos and write a few short lines like “So-and-so made a touchdown in the first quarter” and “They lost to the Broncos [insert score].”

As soon as we got to the field, I noticed the concession stand and hot dogs, while Shane whipped out his notebook and started jotting down notes. Turns out my husband was pretty good at writing his first article, with my lame smartphone photos that cut out the QB and RB and, most times, even the football. The only photo that really turned out well … you can see for yourself that it didn’t really have anything to do with football:

(I just loved that kid’s fashion sense.)

When the article was published online, I got super excited that Shane and I could become the sports-writing duo that expands the paper’s sports section into a force to be reckoned with. We would not only cover important varsity games but perhaps even junior varsity games! Shane could get paid for doing something extra that he enjoys – watching sports! I would take amazing action photos with a new digital SLR camera (that I bought yesterday)!

Then the editor told me what I knew to be true all along: the paper did not have the budget or the space to expand the sports coverage in the way I was hoping. It could accommodate maybe one story per week, if that, and there is already one reporter, possibly two, working on occasional sports coverage. Wuah – wuah, goes the game-over trombone.

In happier news, we don’t have to go to tons of sports games.

We are also looking into health insurance options through the Freelancers’ Union, and I am seriously thinking about getting business cards and a website to promote myself as a freelance copy editor. Got a gig through work doing some academic copy editing, and I applied for a freelance copy-editing position with a cool website today, so keep fingers crossed, everyone!

On discernment, or lack there of, and health insurance

I am currently on a discernment committee through the vestry at my church. (Don’t worry, I won’t talk much about church.) A discernment committee, in the Episcopalian church, is created when someone in the parish wants to go to seminary and become a priest. The members and the candidate meet once a month for 6 to 12 months in order to “discern gifts for the ministry” or some such thing. We meet this person every month and talk to him about why he thinks he is being called to the priesthood, in order to make a judgment about whether the parish should recommend him for the seminary.

I have recently been struck by the absurdity of my presence on this committee. Not only am I one of the most opinionated and judgmental people in the group, I have no idea how to discern my own calling in life, let alone that of someone else.

I thought I had been called to be a bilingual, public-school elementary teacher, serving a low-income population of immigrants and their children learning English. I still feel passionately about bilingual education and advocating social justice for immigrants and minorities in the U.S., and maybe in the future I’ll want to work on those issues again, but I now know that teaching children in large groups is not the way I am supposed to achieve those goals.

The other day, I went to fill out an application form to be a substitute at the public school in town. I didn’t have time to finish the application there, so I brought it home and said I would bring it back the next day. That night, I had a nightmare about teaching a class of rowdy adolescents in my old school. I never turned in that application, and I am not sure I ever will. Obviously I feel a level of anxiety about classroom teaching that has not yet dissipated.

The dilemma I am experiencing right now is that I am paying $680 a month for COBRA to continue my health insurance, and my husband does not have health insurance, because it was much too expensive to have both of us on COBRA. We thought we’d be able to find something for him that was cheaper, in the age of Obamacare, but we haven’t so far. With the income from my part-time job at the paper and his from music lessons, we make more than the cutoff for poverty, so we don’t qualify for most forms of governmental health plans. But to expect to pay over $1500 a month for health insurance for two people is not feasible on what we do make.

The imperative at the moment is to find health insurance, and the only way we know how to do that is to get a job with benefits. We have been searching, though, even in the city, for a long time, and we haven’t exactly been offered many … or any, really.

Yesterday, I went to a job interview in the city for a full-time administrative aide position in a university department. I know it would be great to be able to have (1) a job that pays a reasonable salary, (2) health insurance, and (3) tuition credits as a benefit. The night before the interview, I looked at all the classes I would want to take if I were to get the position: language classes so that I could feel more comfortable pursuing translation, publishing or editing courses if I want to try going that way again in the future, web stuff because everyone wants someone who can do web stuff….

Then I wondered, at 35, whether I should take this job if they offer it to me. Do I want to be a secretary and delay an attempt to work as a copy editor or writer? Or maybe this is just a way to take a much-needed break from being burned out by teaching, and a time to really figure out what my calling could be?

Finally I conceded that I probably won’t get this job anyway, because they are spending the whole week interviewing people, and I have to admit that I didn’t show much excitement for the position, so I may not have to make that decision after all.

I guess I should work on making business cards and a website for myself, while still looking for a “real” job that I would love to take, and use my time wisely while I still have it. What exactly constitutes “wise use” remains to be seen.

Blog vs. Print

Blogs — who reads them? If you are reading this, then I guess the answer is you. But I have to be honest, I don’t read them, unless I’ve searched for a recipe or a knitting pattern and it’s embedded in a blog.

I have to apologize, then, to my friends who have blogs. Honestly, I am the kind of person who scans my facebook feed and gets most of my news that way, and yes I feel sorry saying that. Every so often, I will click on a link from Huff Post or NPR to read an article on politics or the environment, or to watch a Daily Show or Colbert Report clip (not the entire episode, because I don’t have the attention span). OK, I’m trying to make myself look cultured and educated; I also spend a lot of time watching cute animal videos on youtube. C’mon, how many times have you watched the baby panda sneeze? It’s still funny every single time. Or that dubbed video of the dog having a conversation with his owner about maple-smoked bacon?

What’s happening to me? I have no attention span anymore. I get an article on the internet that is over 2 pages long, with all those little numbers in their little boxes at the bottom of the page, and I just quit. If I had it in my hands in a newspaper, and I really wanted to continue reading, I would, I suppose. But I have more trouble staying focused when reading on a computer screen than when it’s on paper — too many other places I could go, I guess, and it makes my eyes go buggy after a while.

I love working as copy editor for our local news website now that they have a weekly print edition. I hardly ever read it online (apologies to the crew); the one time I did was because there was an interview with my knitting/spinning friend in town. But this goes to show that the publisher made an excellent decision to go the paper route, despite what the managing editor says about it being outdated and a poor financial investment — he’s right that things are going in another direction (take the beautiful tablet magazines these days). But there are many people who have said the same thing I have: they never read it online, but they do read the paper. We, the paper and book people, are still a force to be reckoned with! (As well as poor people who do not have ipads and kindles.)

Back to my original question, who reads blogs? Who has the time to sift through all of the information on the Internet? This is why print publishing is still alive (though many would say, dying) — people need a filter, a middle-man, a gateway to help them sort through what’s really worth their time. (I use facebook, which is not a great mediator, but if my newsfeed friends like it, I will probably like it.) And you can safely say that if someone has gone to all the trouble and expense to get something printed on paper and designed to look nice and distributed widely enough, that maybe it has some value, at least to some people.

And back to the theme of my blog — the paper edition is a much more satisfying product than the news website, no matter how great the site is. It is not only visible but tangible as well. And this is why I am happy at this job (that and the fact that it’s only a couple days a week), and why I remember enjoying my time at the English-language daily paper in Taiwan in the early 2000s. I can see the product and feel proud of it, especially if it’s an article I’ve written. Sure, I can write anything I want on the Internet (I’m doing it right now), but to get it out to the whole town, that feels completely different, and awfully satisfying.