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Lafayette is Rejecting Me

March 23, 2012

I love Lafayette, Louisiana. What is it about this town? The combination of the Cajun culture, the vibrant art community, the varied music scene……is unique to this odd little city. But, let’s face it—a bit clique-ish, especially in the above listed categories. I’ve been away for 11 years and just moved back, happily at first. The same people who reigned the royal bubbles of commercially successful art and culture and the surrounding industries 10 years ago are surprisingly still holding court. In a university town with a constant influx of new, young artist and thinkers, it makes you wonder how they maintain their grip of influence and exclusivity. Those were the bubbles I so-wanted to be a part of when I lived here before. (1988-2000, when I was between 18-31) I never felt like I had much of chance. I couldn’t get my foot in any doors. But I was young and inexperienced and I was raising two young children, a task that required most of my time and focus. So, when my husband decided to buy the company he used to work for in Lafayette and we were “coming home,” I hoped that my 11 years on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the success as a photographer, writer and even graphic designer would help me to get some work here, if not elusive acceptance into the “IT” crowd, a group my husband was now a big part of.

A few months into my relocation the walls came crashing down and I experienced the biggest rejection since moving here. The expulsion from my marriage. After 20 years, two grown children and a lifetime of ups and downs, my husband informed me by e-mail that he had filed for divorce while I was on a trip. OK. Yes. I did sort of “leave him.” I packed a bag after a conversation with him in which he poured out what had become a catholic-like dogma of blame and guilt. Being married to him had come to be like being a postulate training before a righteous and divinely inspired master. I could do nothing right and all I did was wrong, bad, irresponsible and never enough to deserve his respect or even understanding. I felt like I was always beating my chest…….through my faults, through my faults……through my most grievous faults. Ironically (or maybe not, I don’t really know what irony is) it was after quitting my anti-depressants, cold turkey that I had this Ah-Ha moment. (Thank you, Oprah.) I had enough of being treated this way and I left. However, like the Jane Austen reader and hopeless romantic that I am, I was of course hoping he would come after me, that he would “come see about me,” as the Supremes sang. But he didn’t. In the weeks before he had used adjectives like burden to describe what I was to him and resentment to describe how he felt when he came home from work at 10pm and I was painting. (A hobby I had given up while raising kids and promised myself I would pick up again after the move.) So began the decent into divorce-world. An event I will always link with my return to my beloved town, Lafayette.

Then there was the seeming rejection from the royal circles. Searching for a job in Lafayette, I started with my field. I checked the newspapers and magazines, the ad agencies and local city governments. Then I started stalking these people. Begging, really. I would not be surprised if The Independent has my name up on a wall somewhere with a list of other stalkers or enemies. I couldn’t get anyone there to even return my call, except when I inquired about putting a booth in their bridal show. I had a meeting with a local ad agency who seemed genuinely interested and impressed with my work. “You’re the whole package,” they said, remarking on my abilities to write, design and photograph. Then the big boss came in and started grilling me about casinos on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and what “in’s” I or my husband might have with them. I didn’t have any “in’s” at the casinos and my value seemed to drop dramatically once that was established.

I responded to a facebook plea by another ad agency who needed some rush turnaround on some corporate Christmas party e-vites. That was a disaster. The concept the copyrighter came up with was obscure and multi-layered, a little too layered for an e-vite. I tried really hard to create a single image that could communicate these layers of references to someone opening an e-vite. Turns out they didn’t really want creative help but more of a production person who would translate their complicated vision. After tinkering with the concept for hours, I was chastised for thinking outside the box and diverting from the original concept, slight as that diversion was. In the next sentence I was told to scrap the idea and go with a whole knew concept that was simpler and easier to understand. After several more attempts of “how’s this?”—-“No, with the middle Santa just a little bigger.”—-“Not that big.”—–“Can you be more creative with the title?”—-“No that’s too creative.”——all through e-mails the day before Thanksgiving, I told them I didn’t think I was what they were looking for. In hindsight, given the pool of talent in this town and how hard it is to get in the door, the fact that an ad agency didn’t have any in-house graphic designers or any freelancers lined up for such issues should have been a red flag.

I left my business cards at wedding related shops all over town, thinking that if I could just get one bite and one wedding under my belt, word of mouth would do its magic and I could drum up a decent wedding income. No responses.

If you’re comparing me to Penelope, the neurotic attention seeker played by Kristin Wiig on SNL. I know. But bear with me. (My panic attack’s having a panic attack.)

One of my early hopes at a job was at a museum/cultural center in town. I was really excited about this interview. The woman doing the hiring told me on the phone that she was impressed with my resume. Great! The day of the interview I had the flu but there was no way I was going to reschedule. The entire time, I was fighting listlessness and trying not to fidget. During the interview, she admitted that she had just read a book on the psychology of interviewing. Her questions were gleaned from her new found wisdom on the art of extracting one’s passions and true character. You know these questions. “What’s your strengths? What’s your weaknesses? What kind of tree would you be if you were a tree?” I tried to charm my way into her good graces and I really did kind of like her. After the interview I crawled into a Walk-In Clinic with fever and the shakes. Weeks later, I called to follow up and she informed me that she just didn’t think the job responsibilities fit with what she determined my passions were. Heavy sigh. At the time, I was living with my father in Avoyelles Parish and my passion consisted of getting the hell out of there.

Giving up on the creative fields, I turned to administrative stuff. I’ve applied for no less than 30 admin jobs at LGMC. Not one follow-up. I did work a couple of temp jobs. They got me in through false advertising but at least it led to a few paychecks. Spherion advertised for an administrative assistant. I had to take an online test and apparently I scored highly. They sent me to a newly formed law firm where my sole responsibility was to sit at the desk and answer the phone. And the phone rarely rang. I wrote a lot of letters to my sister those two weeks. Eventually they hired an adorable 18-year old to fill the position. Then they sent me to an oil company where the phone never stopped ringing and the daily tasks were so repetitive it was enough to drive one mad. Every day hordes of mail came in and the receptionist was tasked with sorting the invoices based on coding that I’m sure was sanskrit and an organizational method based on chaos theory. I did my time there and left grateful that they didn’t offer me a permanent position. I know what you’re thinking. I’m a spoiled brat. I should take any job that comes to me and be happy about it. Guess what? I’m not perfect. And I have a horribly low tolerance for unhappiness, which in the end is going to lead me to more unhappiness as I turn down jobs I need and chase away people I find intolerable.

This one is my favorite. I was in training to be a CASA volunteer. (Look it up.) One of my fellow trainees told me her church was looking for a part-time graphic designer. I told her I wasn’t a very religious person and hadn’t work in the “ministry” field before and asked if she thought they would consider me anyway. She thought they might. My info was given. I practiced my speech relating my work for a city government, for the “people,” to working in a ministry field. I got a call. I made the speech and then I was told this, “I’m just not sure I could work with someone who doesn’t have a personal relationship with Christ.” At first I tried to talk around it, in my desperation for an opportunity to do some design work. The guy invited me to go to a service on Sunday and “see what they do,” but my liberal, rebellious mind couldn’t let it go. I’ve written 30 page papers on the inappropriate use of religion in public policy. (Not that this was a public arena.) What he said kept ringing in my head. How exactly do you measure one’s relationship with Christ? What’s the litmus test for that? How does this guy even know what’s really in the hearts and minds of his co-workers, his fellow Christians? It’s always the self-proclaimed ones, the ones who advertise their “relationship” with Christ that end up on the news, caught with little boys or in airport stalls or with skulls in their freezers. The entire concept of requiring a relationship with Christ before considering a person for employment just left a bad taste in my mouth. Just as well. The first time they asked me to put together a power point presentation on the evils of homosexuality or the virtues of being submissive to your husband, I would’ve bolted.

The latest hopeful lead I had was at a very large, well known company in Lafayette. I had put in an application and submitted a resume months ago and out of the blue, they called me for an interview. The interview went really well. They didn’t ask any “interview-ey” questions. They looked at my work and were very personable with me. They liked that I was a photographer as well as a designer. They introduced me to the head photographer and gave me a tour of the studio. I really thought the interview went well. One follow-up voicemail and I didn’t hear back. Another and I was told they were making a decision that day. When I didn’t hear from them days later, I assumed the worst but made one last follow up anyway. Nothing to lose at that point. They decided to go with someone with a stronger design portfolio though they really liked me and were impressed with my photography. Son of a bitch!

My brother has invited me to move to New Orleans. I thought about it…..even took a few days to go scope out houses and apartments with him. NOLA is an awesome place and would be an endless source of inspiration, but what my brother and I discovered is that living there affordably means living in an apartment in Metairie in a Johnston-Street-on-crack-type of neighborhood among hundreds of others apartments. After living in Freetown, going for walks to campus and Girard Park every day, walking to the tapas bar on Jefferson to flirt with the adorable bartenders and being within walking distance of the heart of the city’s culture…..Metairie just doesn’t seem appealing.

So, Lafayette, I love you. I really do but you gotta through me a bone here. Give me a break. Show me that you care. Show me that you want me here. Give me some little piece of hope to cling to. I’m trying Lafayette. I really am. But it’s a two way street, you know. Show me that you need me. Show me that you want me, that you can’t live without me. Tell me that I’m the most amazing, beautiful, talented, smartest woman in the world and you just can’t bear to live without me. Tell me you made a mistake by rejecting me and you want to make it up to me now. Wait, am I still talking about Lafayette. Son of a bitch!

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From → Rantings

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