How To Deal With a Mediocre Performance Review

On Monday, I had my first ever annual performance review.

"I know it's stupid," my boss said, "You've been here two weeks."

"It's my third week," I said.

We had run into each other in the hall just a few minutes before the review was supposed to start. He seemed on the verge of making a phone call and was already turning away from me.

He shook his head and rolled his eyes, "I know. Two, three, whatever. You just started. I don't have anything to say." He smiled, patted me on the shoulder, "You're doing great."

I threw up my hands, "Oh um, well, thanks," but he had already walked off, phone at his ear.

I walked back to my desk and sat down. Might as well take it off the calendar. It was the only appointment I had on my own calendar - a small red box that said Annual Review: Betty - though my calendar screen was bursting at the seams because I had to keep track of all the meeting rooms and two executive calendars.

There was an attachment in the invite I hadn't noticed before. I clicked it open. It was a report card of sorts. Something I haven't gotten in six years. The MFA program was P/NP. Here was a chart with different areas of performance reviewed on a scale of 1-5. 5 being the best.

There were too many to write out here, but among them:
Areas I "met expectations":
Do they strive? 3
Do they take initiative? 3
Are they fearless? 3
Do they deliver? 3

Areas I "surpassed expectations":
Do they listen? 5
Do they take responsibility? 5
Do they care about the company? 5

That's interesting. If these had translated to actual grades I might have come up with a C+ average. The sort of thing that would have made me panic in high school and mildly irritated in college. Now, in the real world of working, I shrugged.

My boss had obviously not given me these marks - he didn't seem to be around half the time. A few times I'd left the building to run an errand - drop off broken computers at the Apple Store or deposit checks at the bank and whatnot - I'd seen him standing in the front, taking calls. There was little privacy in the incubator, which we were outgrowing, but still, it seemed sometimes he was gone for hours. When I noticed, that is. Most of the time I minded my own business, and apparently, so did he. Good. I wanted to keep it that way.

So no, it wasn't the guy who just patted my arm like a seldom seen uncle and said, "You're doing great" - that guy would have written '5' and drawn a line down the rest of the columns to indicate that as far as he was concerned, I had exceeded all his expectations simply because he had none for me. It was someone else. I wasn't sure, but I had a pretty good idea who.

"Hey Betty?"

I looked up. One of the former admins and newly minted HR girls smiled sweetly at me, "Could you do a favor for me?"

I wanted to say, "You really ought to look up the definitions of 'favor' and 'job.' You seem to misuse the former quite a bit." But I smiled sweetly back and said "Sure." There was another errand to run. Some swag to put away and after, some boxes to break down. There were drinks and snacks to order and some conference rooms to tidy up.

I added the "favor" on my to-do list and said, "I'll get right to it." I deleted the calendar invite and got up to get a bottle of water and a snack. Then came back, sat down and pulled up the article about freelance writing I'd been reading before. Favors could wait.

Chinese Mover Is THE BEST Affordable Moving Company in NYC

Except I would probably call, because they don't have a website.
Tom was right. Moving sucked. But Chinese Mover made it suck a lot less because we could move to our new apartment without going broke. At the end of it all, I thought I would write a review for them on Yelp, but I was like, "No, it can be so much more heartfelt than that."

I knew moving was going to be expensive because Tom suggested that we move everything ourselves.

"We could save like over seven hundred dollars," he said.

I stared at him and thought briefly, "This isn't going to work." They say couples break up most over how money is spent. I like shoes and ice cream, Tom likes colorful polos and beer. But if I had to choose between not buying shoes and ice cream for a few months to pay for movers, I'd do it. I also lived on the fifth floor of a walkup with narrow, marble stairs. I imagined myself falling to my death under the weight of a two hundred dollar Ikea dresser. It didn't seem worth it.

"Fine," Tom said after a short debate in which Tom maintained his stance that movers were an unnecessary expense while I maintained that future back surgery down the line could also be seen as an unnecessary expense.

"Then we have to use Chinese Mover," Tom said, and pulled out his phone. After a few minutes of scrolling, he showed me a photo of the truck above, which he had screen shot from his Facebook feed several years ago, "They are fast and super cheap."

I like my people but in general, am skeptical about the quality of their work. I thought about the tracks for the bullet trains in China that were fast and cheap and laid in what seemed like two days, but also remembered when the trains derailed because of shoddy, too-fast construction. 

Tom shrugged, "They were two hours late last time because they stopped for dumplings. But they didn't break any of my stuff and were done in less than two hours."

Still, I was unsure if I wanted movers that might be two hours late. I was also unsure I wanted my stuff to be rattling around in that janky looking truck. I was confident I could find a reasonable quote from a company with good reviews, prompt, timely service and all the right equipment. A lot of my friends either moved themselves and vowed they'd never do it again, or used movers that ended up breaking all their stuff. Ikea furniture are like delicate flowers.

"Lemme look around," I told Tom.

"Suit yourself," he said, "You won't get a cheaper quote than Chinese Mover."

I called up FlatRate movers, Brooklyn Movers, Russian movers and a whole bunch of other movers - some with fancy websites, automated request forms and friendly sounding young women on the other line to ask me if I would please hold and if I would verify how many items I would have. I even called some not so fancy places with gruffer sounding people named Ivan or Paolo, but the result was always the same. I could not get a single quote for under $1000.

I began to think that moving ourselves might not be a bad idea, but I flashed back to when I first arrived in New York and four of my boxes were delivered and left on the first floor. I nearly cried, thinking I had to carry them upstairs. Thank God for friends named Grace and Charlene, otherwise I might have just camped out under the first floor stairs, but that was just four boxes. Two years later, I had done the typical middle class thing and amassed a whole ton of crap I didn't really need but wasn't ready to part with. It was looking like I would have closer to twenty boxes, not counting bags of clothes, shoes and random house and furniture items that didn't fit into boxes.

I called Chinese mover.

A guy named Andy picked up and sounded, as expected, very Chinese.

"What day? What time?" he barked.

I switched to Chinese, thinking he'd be a little friendlier, but he was even more impatient. I heard a clanking and some angry Cantonese in the background, though they were probably just talking about dumplings.

"I'm moving someone now," he said, "email me what you want move and I tell you price."

His email was chinesemover@hotmail.com. Hotmail. Just like my grandma.
I emailed him with a long and detailed list. It looked a little too long and I feared his quote would only be slightly cheaper than the others', but I had faith in Chinese prices - even if they were on the higher side, they'd still be considerably lower than non-Chinese prices. This faith is what makes me go to Chinese travel agencies to get my visas and passport renewals done because even though their offices always look forlorn and ransacked with faded travel posters touting deals that expired two decades ago, their processing fees never amount to more than $25. This faith is what makes my parents get their luxury cars fixed at King's Auto Shop in a seedy strip mall behind the railroad tracks of Cerritos, even though Lexus advises otherwise. And this faith is what motivates me, from time to time, to walk past Fairway and Citarella and Whole Foods, which were but a stone's throw away from my old apartment, and ride the subway some thirty minutes to Chinatown for groceries. You and I know full well bok choi should never ever be priced per stalk and if the soy sauce boasts an American label boasting "authentic" and "all natural," you'll be paying a Caucasian ignorance tax. 

Anyway, Andy emailed me a few hours later from his Verizon Samsung whatever with two words:

"okay, $550. thanks."
They were scheduled to come around 2PM on Saturday, and at 12PM I called to confirm that they were still coming.

"We'll be there," he said, "But probably not at 2."

"When then?"

"Maybe a little earlier. Maybe a little later."

"How Zen master of him," Tom said.

They didn't arrive until 4.

But what can you expect from a moving company that's 1/3 the price of other movers? And honestly, it didn't even matter that they were late, considering we had allotted the entire day to the move. They showed up first at my place, where I embarrassedly stood in front of my mountain of stuff.

"Do I have a lot of stuff compared to other people?" I asked.

"You don't have a lot, but you don't have a little," the man said, wiping his brow, "But you don't have an elevator."

It was 85 degrees, humid, and the men climbed up and down five flights of stairs with phenomenal speed and efficiency, dripping sweat onto my floors and not ever, not even with a grimace or a whiny word, that they wished there was an elevator. They didn't grin, but they most certainly bore it all - all twenty five or so boxes, three heavy suitcases, two tables, two bookshelves, one AC unit, and one outrageous Ikea dresser - maneuvered it all down narrow stairs with narrow turns and didn't even want a glass of water. Later we found out it was because they didn't drink tap water, even though I told them the tap water in New York is fine, much better quality than in China.

"No, no, thanks."

But beer was fine. We offered them beers at Tom's apartment, and more beers at our new apartment, and finally, when they were finished, we got them fancy bottles of smart water and a case of Sam Adams.

"Thanks," the men said, exhausted. We paid them in cash, tipped them generously - I hope they thought so too - and saw them off down Ninth Ave before heading back up to our new apartment, where we were met with this:
Not pictured: a LOT of other stuff.
Their work was done and ours was just beginning.

I looked forlornly at the mountain of stuff. I complained about being tired and hungry. And then I remembered that I didn't really do anything. I imagined how the Chinese Movers must have felt, nursing sore muscles in the truck. We were the second party they'd moved that day. The first one was much bigger, and in Brooklyn.

"$550," I said, shaking my head, "I wouldn't have done it if you paid me triple that."

Tom leaned against the wall, shuddering probably, knowing that he had foolishly thought he could move all this himself.

"Thank God for Chinese Mover," I said. Tom agreed. We were definitely going to use them again.

Saying Goodbye To A Room of My Own

Two weekends ago, Tom came over for moral support as I began to pack up my room. I didn't get very far - I tossed a few clothes into boxes, threw away a small mountain range of magazines, and started to pack up my desk by removing the two bulletin boards I had hung on the wall above, where I pinned photos and mementos. I had removed just one of the boards when I started to cry.

Why I Chose to Live in Sin (And So Should You!)

The view atop Sargent Mountain in Acadia National Park, Maine 


This Saturday, Tom and I move in together.

It actually came up about a year ago. It was late August and we had just hiked to the top of Sargent Mountain in Maine's Acadia National Park. We were feeling good about our relationship. Me especially, considering I had, the day before, done something very stupid which I can't write about here because if I do there's a chance I'll go to prison. Thank God, no one died. If you know what I did, don't say anything about it here (unless you want me to blog from prison), just keep it to yourself, chuckle and say, "Oh yeah, that."

It happened at the beginning of what was supposed to be a relaxing long weekend in Maine and instead of sailing on Thursday afternoon as we'd planned, we spent twice as long on the road, first in a junky tow truck that smelled of cigarettes, engine oil, and sweat, driven by someone who can only be described as a redneck and then with Tom behind the wheel, driving for an additional five hours after having driven almost eight hours the day before.

During the entire fiasco, Tom remained calm, steadfast. He reminded me of my dad. A lot.

He soothed me, never became angry or frustrated or made "a fuss," as he would have called it, because, "What good would that do, what's done is done." He made all the necessary phone calls and arrangements and without a hint of ire, got us from point A to B, back to A and finally, to C. At the end of what to me, seemed an interminable, almost ruined day, he emerged from the bathroom, glasses on over tired eyes, face washed, minty-breathed, and hugged me.

"Well, all things considered, I still had a good time."

I thought not for the first time, but with absolute clarity for the first time, "He makes me feel safe."

The next day, our itinerary somewhat back on track, we hiked Sargent Mountain as planned. Still dazed from the previous day's events, I walked behind Tom, marveling at his energy and ability to navigate the mountain. It was all behind him, at least for now, and I tried to follow that thought.

The view at the top was stunning. That morning, as though a special gift to us for all that we'd been through, the mountain belonged solely to us. Everyone else could be seen milling atop the peak of the neighboring mountain. Like idiot lemmings, they peered at us with curious envy. The day was neither too hot nor cold with just the right amount of cumulus clouds swirling above to provide alternating bouts of sun and shade. Sprawled out before us, Acadia's many lakes and harbors glistened with barely rolling waves.

Someone once remarked, when standing in my parents' backyard in California which overlooks a rather bland stretch of South Orange County, that however unremarkable, having a wide open view to look at every morning, noon and night was bound to change a person's outlook. It makes you more open-minded, she had said. I stood next to her, leaned on the railing and looked at the still undeveloped hills and newly paved roads upon which gleaming sedans and SUVS cruised smoothly to and fro. I agreed. In the spring the land was green. In the summer brown. Each year more houses and wider roads were built and the view stretched further as the city and the lives in it developed.

I thought about that view while standing on top of Sargent Mountain with Tom. Maine, the vista, it was all very new for both of us. The wind cooled and smelled sweet from trees and ocean breeze. On the water we could see white specks of sailboats, upon their decks lay people living the good life. I thought too about what concerned my parents most when I started dating: "Temperament," they asked, "How is his temperament?" More specifically, my father would ask, "How is his temper?" My mother used different words, "Does he make you feel secure?"

The answers you give when everything is going well, they count too, but not as much as when things get tough.

It began to rain a light, soothing rain. I felt my mind opening up to accommodate the future. While what happened in Maine is likely small beans compared to what lies ahead, I saw from how Tom handled this situation, how he'd likely handle other situations. It was a comforting thought.

"I think I can marry you," I said.

And while being at the top of a mountain with just me probably made it hard to saying anything else, he had nodded, "Yeah. I was thinking we should move in together next summer, when our leases are up."

We stayed on the mountain for another couple hours until the air cooled considerably and the clouds overtook the sky. The sun was all but gone. We had a little over an hour to make it down the mountain before it started to pour. But we took our time. At least I did, having found someone with whom to weather the storm.   (Cue: Rihanna song).

How to Ace the Interview, Part 2: Tell (Some of) the Truth


This is Part 2. Read Part 1 Here.

Last to come in was the COO, with a J not an 'H'. He seemed vaguely foreign with dark, slicked back hair and an angular face balanced atop a long, bony neck. He wore a crisp white collared shirt which seemed to be sewn into the slim, fitted suit jacket and jeans. I imagined (I didn't want to look him from head to toe) on his feet were polished tan Ferragamos. 

"So Betty," he said, and at first I detected an accent until he spoke for a few minutes more and I realized he had no accent at all. 

"What does one do with an MFA in Creative Writing?" he asked, looking down at my resume, "My wife, she is also an artist with an MFA and of her classmates you know, many of them do not actually do art." 

I looked at him, wondering if this was a trick question. But his tone, earnest in a way, told me the conclusions of my snap judgments were but a millisecond delayed and that he had asked out of genuine curiosity. An interview was no place to be a callous ass. He had merely, through his successive career successes, lost sight of realities too far from his own. 

He himself started at what is perhaps the world's most famous startup and after eight years there, moved to another as Chief something or other where he realized he had no interest in B2B. He wanted to work directly with customers because "there is more passion and excitement there." So now he was here, at this baby bird startup, helping to build the next great disrupter.  

"I write too," he said, and I nodded along, still not having answered any questions. He spoke rather dreamily of writing his family's history, a passion project of sorts, so that his children might know that they descended from the French who eventually moved to Italy who then came to the States. He spoke at length about his mother's mother, whom he discovered only on his mother's deathbed because she had given him a book written by the older woman. 

"It was just incredible," he said, eyes wide and hands wide and moving, "And then of course I had to find out, I had to do all the research and get it all down, and I found - my god - it's all there on the Internet. It's wonderful. I just love it and I mean to write much more." 

"That's great," I said, "That's really great." 

"But yes," he put down my resume and looked at me, as though suddenly remembering that it was an interview, and that I might possibly be someone of use and whom he would see often in the uninterrupted horizon of the open-plan office, "So the MFA, what do you do with it?" 

By then the whole interview including time spent with the other young women, had gone well over two hours. I had given the "I'm a writer but I do other things too," spiel some five times before, not to mention the hundreds of times other people have asked throughout the past two years. But I smiled as though it was the first time, and began again. 

"I love writing," I said, "I'll always be a writer, but I have other interests and strengths. Coming to New York made me realize how, um, unsavory a life as a freelance writer is and how tough it is to be a teacher. I want to have enough energy at the end of the day to write my own stuff. I'm not saying I'm looking for an easy office job - I'm pretty sure I'm in the wrong place if I was looking for that - but I am, in addition to writing, looking to develop in other ways. I want to keep writing for myself, for as long as I can." 

He nodded, assured that I was saying the right things. "Oh I can imagine it's hard," he said, wincing for all the artists out there who hadn't yet figured out that a steady job wasn't such a bad thing, a "soul-killer" as some people liked to call it. 

He named a well-known writer from The New Yorker who lived in the same building as he did. 

"Oh gosh I love him," I said, because I did. 

"You know him?" the COO's eyebrows went up briefly, "Yes he's great. I've read a few of his articles, but you know, every time I see him I just think, 'Ooh, it's got to be hard.'" He made a gesture with his hands clawed and brought it up to his face, to signify that life had taken a toll on this writer's appearance. The man had not aged well, not even with steady paychecks from the New Yorker, every writer's dream publication. 

"I mean, at the end of the day writing is still..." he searched for the word then looked to me as though it were written across my forehead. Apparently it was. 

"...work," he said finally, "It's still so much work." He leaned back, satisfied that his vocabulary agreed with him, "So yes, I see what you mean. That can be a tough life." 

"Does your wife practice her art?" I asked. 

He nodded proudly, "Yes she does, full time." 

"Then she's lucky." 

He looked at me as though this was somehow a new thought, and I remembered the banker I dated briefly almost two years ago. He had been attracted, more than anything, to the idea that I was a writer. 

"You're a writer and I'm a banker," he would say as we walked away from a nice dinner, "The writer and the banker. It's such an awesome contrast." 

And I couldn't fault him for not really knowing why or what I wrote about because I never bothered to explain. 

But the COO remembered that it was an interview. Or at least something like it. Apparently a few of the girls I'd already met with had given him good vibes because he was done with questions. 

"Anyway," he said, taking his cellphone out and leaning forward, "Do you know the product?" 

"Uh..." was this a trick question? But he was doing that thing where I could have been anyone - he was talking - perhaps the decision was already made and he knew it, or perhaps he gave his underling admins so much freedom they'd make it for him. The important thing was he met with me just enough to give them his two cents. 

"Let me show you the app," he said, "It's pretty cool." 

I loosened my shoulders and leaned forward. He pulled up the app, which was supposed to show a live stream of his apartment in the Upper East Side. I waited, but the screen remained blank. 

"Hm," he tapped the screen a few times, "It's not loading for some reason. That's very odd. Ah well, I'll show you my house in South Hampton." 

He tapped open another screen and this time a crystal clear live feed came on of the living room of his immaculate and tastefully decorated South Hampton home. It was brightly lit with giant windows beyond which I could almost see the glinting waves of the Atlantic or perhaps a turquoise pool. Architectural Digest approved grey, beige and white tones; fresh cut peonies on a heavy designer driftwood table. A large white plush but seldom-used couch. An alert popped up.

"My housekeeper," he said, swiping it away. Zooming in with soft, slender fingers, he pointed at a grid of nine white square canvases on far living room wall, each with a large letter painted in the middle. Times New Roman.

"That's my wife's art." 

"Ah, wow," I said, then to say something true, "Your home is beautiful." 

"Thank you," he said, and we admired it in his palm for a minute longer.

Happy with the way our meeting had gone, he clicked the screen off, put it back into his pocket and stood up. 

"Well, Betty, I've got to run to another meeting, but it was a pleasure."
I stood up too, said the pleasure was mine. We shook hands, he stepped out. The HR coordinator, the girl who had emailed me, stepped back in. 

We exchanged a few last minute things. When I'd hear back, for instance. 

"Pretty soon," she said, "We'll have a meeting and then decide about next steps. But thanks so much for coming in. I'm going to walk you out." 

The coolness that accompanies the end of interviews had crept back in. By now more than prepared for this, I smiled and said thank you. On my way out I walked past two of the other girls I had met with, and tapped them lightly on the shoulder to say goodbye. 

They smiled and waved. Perfectly friendly. The interview had lasted nearly three hours and I wondered if I'd ever see them again. I went outside, bought a Lebanese sandwich, and ate it on a bench while watching rowdy black high-schoolers bat each other around on the curb with Friday afternoon restlessness. 

An hour later I was at home. The HR coordinator had already emailed me. 

"The team loved you!" 

"Well that's a relief," I thought, because with these things, you never knew. 

How to Ace the Interview, Part 1: Put in the Time

The view from the office.  
This was a time of life, she understood, in which you might not know what you were, but that was all right. You judged people not on their success - almost no one they knew was successful at age twenty-two, and no one had a nice apartment, owned anything of value, dressed in expensive clothes, or had any interest in making money - but on their appeal. 
Meg Wolitzer, The Interestings

Over email, the HR coordinator asked me to set aside an hour and a half to meet with "the team."

The position was for office administrator. I learned of the position from a third-party recruiter who encouraged me to apply online via a time-consuming essay/video application. In addition to writing short essays with obvious answers, it asked applicants to, “Tell us where you’re at and what you’ve been doing. Record a 1-minute video.”

I agonized over these videos. There were three. I had put the computer by a window, sat it upon enough books and magazines so that it caught me at a flattering angle, applied makeup and practiced smiling. I wrote out a short script for each answer. After watching a half dozen recordings I came to the startling realization: I am not “made for TV.” I am not even made for home video. My voice came out nasally and my face washed out. My hair seemed flatter onscreen than it had ever been IRL and my mouth twitched. I said “um” too often and incessantly looked up to the left, as though I was a liar. After two hours of tripping over lines, staring blankly at the "record" light, cursing and rerecording, I finally settled upon three videos in which I rushed through my written responses which were taped below the computer camera, concluded each with what I hope came off as a somewhat natural smile, and sent it off. I didn’t expect to hear back, imagining them cringing at my recorded image, "God what an awkward person."

But a week later, they called.

I figured it wasn't so much a skills thing. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you can get to the age of twenty-nine and live in a very clean studio apartment in which there is always toilet paper, dish soap and Greek yogurt, you can probably manage an office. Yeah, right. Ha. Working in my favor is the fact that there are only so many questions a person can ask before they notice how complicated lunch orders make you nervous or that you are forgetful when it comes to setting appointments. Your old boss will hopefully not, when they do reference checks, tell them about the times you forgot to put coffee in the coffeemaker or when the CEO of [Major German Telecommunications Company] flew all the way from Germany to discover you scheduled the meeting on your boss’s calendar for a different day. No, all they can do is try to assess whether or not the handful of people you work with will like you. Fortunately, that is one of your skills. Soft as they may be.

The HR girl had written, "No suits required!" This was good because I don't own a suit, but there is a huge chasm between suits and t-shirts and jeans. I wanted to make a good impression so wore a collared blouse, black capris, and pearl earrings. The same thing I wore to my Tory Burch interview minus heels and decided to use a free-tote bag from a literary nonprofit rather than the leather purse I usually carried to look more "grown-up." Young people, especially women, notice things like this.

But I was still overdressed by a mile. The office itself was outfitted with standard startup accouterments: foosball table, an exercise ball here, a standing desk there, toys and wires strewn across various parts of the floor and color, ergonomic chairs. Most of the men wore hoodies or t-shirts and jeans. The girls were mostly young and still had H&M and Forever 21 budgets. The only walls aside from the building's exterior shell were glass, in keeping with the company's policy of transparency. There was a brightly lit canteen with a fridge stocked with expensive juices and bottled water, all free, and shelves of healthy snacks which invariably leads to the "Startup 15." By now, I was used to the "startup" set up which is different at every startup, but really it is the same.

I sat on a baseball-mitt shaped netted chair, right behind the foosball table and observed some people eating lunch at a long, high bar with stools. Then realizing it was probably rude to stare at employed people eating their lunch, I began tinkering with my phone for a few minutes before a lanky blonde woman came out to greet me. I had a hard time getting out of the deep glove chair, but she waited patiently and then we were off, striding towards the glass conference room. As we took our seats I asked, based off her accent, if she was Irish.

"I've a reformed southern accent," she said, "But Irish. That's a first."

She told me the names of four girls I'd be meeting with, and one man, whose name, seemingly Hispanic, was to be pronounced with a hard 'J'.

"You'll want to go 'Hoo,'" she said, "but it's 'Joo.'"

I nodded.

"He's the COO," she continued, "Technically, you'd report to him, but he's pretty busy and usually has no idea what the admins are doing. We hire self-sufficient people and he trusts you guys."

We took the perfunctory stroll through my resume before she said, "So you ready to meet everyone?" I nodded, shook her hand, then turned, and shook hands with the first of four fresh-faced young women, each of whom adhered to the company's "casual" dress code in jeans, t-shirts, sandals, unkempt hair, little or no makeup.

Each girl asked me what about the company had caught my eye, and I felt, perhaps inaccurately, that they wouldn't judge me for being mostly honest. First, it was a startup. I both liked and disliked the chaos and energy of a startup. One of the girls nodded at this. "That's so funny I know exactly what you mean." Second, startups were more open-minded about whom and how they hire. This one in particular prided itself on hiring generalists and turning them into specialists. I had read the company's blog in which one of the co-founders had written about how he'd "fired" himself from his first position at the company to make room for someone better suited for the job.

One of the girls was a history major who had taken five years to graduate. Another had studied international affairs with a year abroad in Spain and was now working in Business Development. Another didn't have a LinkedIn profile, so fresh was she out of college. She nodded along, eyes-wide with "Oh I know just how you feel!" when I told her that my background didn't really fit into any neat career path and that even after graduate school, instead of feeling more "specialized" I felt more "generalist" than ever, as in, "Generally, I would like to be employed," though I kept this last part to myself.

"I love the opportunities I have here," she said. She had been in the position I was interviewing for the past six months and was already "specializing" up, most likely into marketing. Two of the other girls said similar things. They started out as admins and then from exposure and poking around in other departments, began to see what career paths they actually wanted to take. The girl with the half buzzed pixie cut and tribal tattoos wanted to try out HR and was now the coordinator.

They liked me. I say this with certainty because I am writing this after the job offer, but I felt this at the time. I clicked with all of them and went well over the allotted time with each so that at the end of each conversation it really felt like the middle, and they each had to glance up at the glass door behind me to realize that, "Oh gosh, I have to let the next person in to talk to you!" I clicked with them at the very least in the way one should during interviews. But this feeling had become so familiar, been present in most if not all the recent interviews I'd had that I was careful not to overthink it.

"It was so nice talking to you," I said to each, and they said the same in return, smiling a warm smile, which then quickly tapered off into polite coolness just as the next girl stepped in. They liked me but the next person had to like me too. It would be, after all, a group decision.

Read Part 2 Here. 

Old NYC: New York's Past via Eighty Thousand Photos

134-136 80th St. btw. Amsterdam and Columbus, circa 1911
At dusk on Memorial Day, Tom and I walked through Riverside Park to the waterfront and looked at all the boats and buildings. We took note of tall shiny buildings and the new(ish) constructions stretching from 80th St. down to the tetrahedron-in-progress that reminds me of the Luxor hotel in Las Vegas.

Tom pointed to the West Side Highway, "I'd really like to see them get rid of that."

"What would they put there instead?"

"A subway underground. Then they could put a long stretch of green and bike paths that connect the city to the waterfront without the highway getting in the way.

I squinted and saw a line of bike riders cruising below the highway. It could definitely have been a prettier ride for them and could imagine what Tom was describing. I agreed it was a good idea, but knew that changes of that scale probably wouldn't happen in our lifetime.

"Wouldn't you love to come back in five hundred years to see what New York is going to be like?" I said.

"Yeah that'd be awesome," Tom said, "Or I'd like to come back in fifty. Because I can actually do that."

This morning City Room, NYTime's blog about the five boroughs, introduced me to this awesome little website: OldNyc.org. 
There are more than 80,000 images — all from the New York Public Library’s Milstein Division, and many from the camera of Percy Loomis Sperr, who captured the shifting shape of the city from the late 1920s to the early 1940s.
The photo above shows my street, one avenue east. I walk past those old brownstones every time I visit Central Park, and aside from larger trees on the sidewalk and the different people inside, the houses...haven't changed at all. And are just as beautiful.

In five hundred years I hope to be Stardust (yes, with a capital 'S') but who knows where we'll be in fifty years. Perhaps still in or returned to New York. But I can always look back in time for as long as I want. Clicking on the orange dots I have a feeling as much as parts of the city are changing or will change, many parts will try to stay more or less the same. That is, unmistakably New York.

++ A fitting Sunday Funny from the New York Times Magazine.
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