The good news is that I have a job interview on Monday! It’s hard to find a way to talk about it here without giving too much away. For now I’ll just say it’s in a Jewish library, and potentially using my skills from my time working in a different Jewish library as well as my Hebrew reading skills. The job came about in an interesting way. There’s someone at shul (synagogue) who I talk to some times – he seems nice, but whenever I try to talk to him, I fear that social anxiety and autism conspire to make me seem like an idiot. I’d mentioned to him that I’m a librarian and currently unemployed. He works in this institution, or possibly for another organisation in the same building, but was talking to someone from this institution who mentioned that they were looking for a part-time librarian, so he tipped me off to send in my CV on spec, which was very nice of him. Obviously I haven’t come across as too much of an idiot to him.
(As an aside, this one reason why I like my shul even despite the theological mismatch at times: the people are friendly.)
I only got about five hours of sleep last night as I went to bed late after shiur (religious class) and then couldn’t sleep. Then I had to get up early for my employment workshop day. I was a few minutes late leaving as I was tired and then there were minor train delays. I got there five minutes late expecting to be the last one in and worrying about being shut out of the first workshop to avoid interrupting it only to discover that most people hadn’t even arrived yet. Although scheduled to start at 9.30am, the first talk wasn’t until 9.50am to allow people to arrive (plus there was an element of Jewish Mean Time with all the timings today – Jewish Mean Time is fifteen minutes late because Jews are not punctual).
The theme of the day was “Defining your second career.” Given that title, it was probably not surprising that I was one of the youngest people there; most people were in their forties or older (OK, I’m nearer to forty than thirty, but I’m not there yet). The talks were variable. Actually, the quality of presentation was mostly good, but some were not relevant to me. For most of the talks there was a choice of two, but sometimes neither talk was relevant, but I didn’t have the confidence to just sit outside and read (actually it didn’t occur to me that I could even do that until just now). One useful talk, given what I have been thinking about lately, was “Teaching as a second career.” To be honest, many of the talks just reiterated things I’ve heard from other people, but, as my Dad said, at least that proves I’ve been getting good advice.
Potentially the most useful talk was on “The seven habits of highly effective job seekers,” based on the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as I thought that this advice might prove useful as general life advice was well as careers advice. At the back of my mind a voice said “OK, but what am I going to do when that doesn’t work like all the other positive thinking things that didn’t work?” and I don’t know if I was being too positive at first or too negative afterwards. I suppose the reality is probably in between, that it might help a bit, but it probably won’t solve all my problems.
I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the opening address from the CEO of a major investment company that was sponsoring the event, which was a “rags to riches” tale that was supposed to be inspiring, but left me feeling a bit irritated. To be fair, he did have an interesting and amusing tale about growing up in quite serious poverty and then becoming successful, but I felt that the broader lesson he wanted us to take from it, that nothing is impossible if we put our minds to it, is full of survivorship bias (not looking at all the poor people who tried hard, but still didn’t become successful) and potentially leading to victim-blaming. Things like this make me wonder whether I will ever achieve anything with my life, or if my depression and high-functioning autism are just too serious.
The main drawback was that I didn’t get much food at lunchtime. As this was run by a Jewish charity, the food was all kosher. A bunch of the men went off to a room at the start of lunch for Minchah (Afternoon Prayers). By the time we got back, a lot of the food had gone. Then I couldn’t eat some of the food because it was fish and I only eat fish on Shabbat and Yom Tov (Sabbath and festivals). I got a few small pieces of cold pizza (which I don’t like very much and I already knew I was having pizza for supper) and some vegetarian (I think/hope) sushi and a few other things, but I ended up filling up on biscuits and pastries and coming home somewhat hungry.
I didn’t really do any networking, though. During the short tea breaks, I mostly just sat by myself. During the longer lunch break I spoke to a friend of my parents who was there. I guess I should be proud that I went up to speak to him instead of hiding as I would normally do, but the conversation went on for longer than I would have liked (ironically, in the first session after lunch we would learn networking skills including how to “dump” someone you have finished talking to who is trying to keep the conversation going when you want to talk to other people). I didn’t really get a proper break until I came home, especially as on the train in I did a bit of Torah study, but then sat without reading because I felt too nervous. No wonder I felt exhausted by the end!
There probably is an element with all of this that I don’t prioritise my career the way some people do, which I guess could just be me or it could be autism skewing my priorities. I read something in the newspaper the other day that most people would rather work more hours and have more goods/services than work less and have less (so people pursue higher wages by working longer hours), but I think I’m the other way around. Although if I had more time, I would like to write more… but I want to make writing my career, so maybe I am pursuing my career, just not the one I thought I was pursuing. I even write every day for free which arguably makes me crazier than all the lawyers and bankers working 24/7 for serious money!
On the way home I thought a bit about whether I push myself too hard, particularly religiously. Is it enough to say, “I’m never going to be a tzaddik (saint), either because of my natural inclinations or my issues, and therefore I shouldn’t push myself to do X, Y and Z.” Is it better to aim to achieve a little, meet that target and feel comfortable with it, and not burn myself out; or to aim to achieve a lot, not meet the target, but still feel that I’ve failed and burn myself out trying to do more? Put like that, achieving less seems better, but everything I was ever taught (by my parents and my secular schoolteachers as well as by rabbis) says I should be aiming to achieve as much as theoretically possible so that if I fall short, I will at least achieve a lot. It’s difficult. Possibly I should at the very least be open to “failures” on a small scale… but then I feel that these are threatening to spiral out of control. I feel like I’ve been slipping recently, religiously, even by my lowered standards. I don’t think I’m going to become an atheist or non-observant, but I’ve been slightly less scrupulous in little things (if there are little things). I don’t like it, but I don’t really feel strong enough to do anything about it.
I feel too tired to develop this further, so I will stop here for now, but I’m sure I will return to it in the future.