growing up and moving out

We’ve come a long-long way together, baby.

And by “baby”, I am adoringly referring to– of course — “the internet”.

From my first X-Files fan site over at Geocities or Tripod (or where-ever-the-hell-that-was) (hey, give me a break, it was 1997!), to Blogger, to LiveJournal, (back to Blogger) and then WordPress.com, Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter(with a few others places in between) (OMFG! Fanfiction.net!!), I have basically grown up online.

I’ve gone through (and/or described) a rainbow of human experiences on some sort of online public forum, from puppy-love, family dramas, deteriorating and blossoming relationships, depression, work, politics, activism…  anything and everything.  To this day, my best friend in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD is a lovely young woman I met online over 7 years ago.  If I’ve lived it, it’s probably happened or documented online.

Some may call me a geek, but I like to think that I was more of an “early adopter”.  Because if MC Hammer uses Twitter, and then re-Tweets me, how on Earth can you call it “geeky”, huh, punk?

Yeah. EPIC WIN.

Anyway. I was talking about growing up. And becoming mature and stuff.

Because, yes, I’m getting older and accruing the odd responsibility that I need to start taking seriously.  The time has come for me to settle down with my internet shenanigans; to assess and consolidate my online presence and to set myself up for what the future holds for me.

However, that by no means involves quitting the internet or passively waiting for work, mortgages and come-what-may to smash me into boringness.

It just means thinking about things like “branding” instead of just blogging my brains out for no particular reason (or, like, because I’m angry at a politician or freaking out about my career), and setting my online-presence up in a way that works for me rather than against me.

Oh, gods. That sounds horribly boring, doesn’t it?

Sigh.

But, honestly this was inevitable.

As they say in Swahili, my favouritest language ever: Hakuna matata, the Circle of Life (™?), et cetera…

Because I am old, now, you guys. O-L-D. And I am about to work for a large, influential corporate entity that works for other large, influential corporate entities, and, yeah… I have to be responsible and sensible and stuff so that I don’t get fired or sued or whatnot.  While the property market might be Just Where I Want It as a flash-hot young law grad at a large corporate firm, it will not be so nice to be unemployed or a freelance whinger who does not even have a Google AdWords account.

So while I am not quitting the internet, I am just going to be a bit more grown-up in the way that I use it.

Phase One of this grown-up online makeover has been completed: about a month ago, I quit Facebook.

Oops, sorry, did you spit out coffee all over your screen? Um. I probably should have put a little warning before that little announcement, I guess. Anyhoo…

While I may have been referred to as The Queen of Facebook on more than one occasion — what, with all my friend-approving and blog-importing and link-posting and group-joining and event-creating and wall-writing — it got to a point where, just like for Gretel Killeen, it was Time To Go.

(And we all know what happened there after Grett-Grettz left, don’t we? Just sayin’…)

As cool as it was to see what people were up to, and to have “ambient awareness” or whatever they call it about all these people that I know, Fb was turning into an epic time drain and the people that I interacted with the most on there were people I would see, or call, or text message, or Twitter to, on a regular and more meaningful basis.

And because I don’t have any photos of me drunkenly groping a life-sized cardboard cut-out of a boss’s opponent that might one day cost me a promotion or something (like this guy) (because I am, we’ve pretty well established, a square) there was nothing Fb had to offer me any more.

So buh-bye!

I was told I wouldn’t last a week, but a month later I am doing JUST FINE! I may have Twittered a wee bit morethan I had done so while I had Fb, but otherwise, I have not missed a thing. (Or if I have missed them, I have not noticed I have missed anything, and that suits me fine.)

Upon the successful completion of Phase One, I have continued to push the cogs rolling ever forward.

I now present to you, Phase Three:

sunili.net

Spiffy, huh?

Yup, I went all-out and invested in a domain name and hosting and all that fun stuff!

Hurrah!

Phase Three is still very much under construction.  I now need to save up so that I can pay the awesomeness who is designer extraordinaire Aja West of Swankmob* to design me a website and business cards and some other peripherals (note to self: ask her if she does personalised stationery) so that I can launch my brand — that is (pay attention, children!), ME — so that those who so wish to do so can hire me to write stuff and be fabulous (which is something that I want to do some day, down the track).  But it’s happening.

*Aside: You guys, if you’re looking for a designer and don’t have to get a second job making coffee to pay for one, HIRE AJA!! Because then she’ll give me a cheaper rate and my site will be done sooner, and you’ll have an awesome site too! WIN-WIN-WIN, people, it’s all WIN!

And now, in case you think I am a moron who cannot count…

I wish to take you back a step to Phase Two:

blog.sunili.net

Tah-dah!

With all the power vested in me upon the installation of WordPress 2.7(hot!) I have set up a new blog in honour of the New Year, and more importantly, the New Me.

I’m going to leave all the old stuff here without migrating it over because I want to make a fresh start of it, and I’m really excited!

So change all yer bookmarks and subscriptions and stuff, and start looking forward to joining me on this next step in my life online.  I’ll see you there!!

Peace out, Team Awesome Readers of Sunili’s Blog — I ♥ you, each and every one!

xoxo Sunili

[Cross-posted @ blog.sunili.net]

Working it out

In a massive turn of geekism, I have decided to start planning my New Year’s Resolutions already. At this stage, 2009 is going to be full of win.

Still planning, of course, but so far I’m thinking:

  • buy an apartment
  • run (and I mean, like, RUN) the City to Surf
  • win the [yet to be established] Pulitzer Prize in Blogging.

What do you think, team?

And, in an effort to get off to a running start (there is a pun there, too, just wait for it…) I started the “run 3 times a week” goal YESTERDAY.

I did the first session of DJ Steveboy’s Podrunner: Intervals First Day to 5K — a 10-week interval-training program that gets progressivly hardcore as the weeks go by.

The tempo of the music changes with a kinda comical hooter noise to tell you it’s time to speed up/slow down to guide you through the run, and I think I did alright for the first go!  I fast-walked and jogged on the treadmill with it pumping out my iPod nano for 30 mins and did nearly 3k! Hurrah!

I also signed up at http://www.gyminee.com/ but I do wonder how long I will stick with updating that. It is much prettier than the last social-fitness thing I played with (can’t remember the name) so that will help me be motivated to log on.  If anyone else is on there and wants to be a GymBuddy, let me know.

common tactics

So the other day, my dad (who, incidentally, has an online subscription to Harper’s so now I can read all those awesome articles!!) forwarded me a communique from Murdoch Uni’s Guild about how that uni’s admin undertook in some antidisestablishmentarianism* that was eerily familiar to me.

To recap the backstory briefly, the Notre Dame admin people told myself, then editor of the student mag Quasimodo and the relevant Student Association officials that if we didn’t stop criticising the uni in our publication, the uni would seriously consider withdrawing financial support of the Student Association (which doesn’t charge student fees at all, and relies on elected volunteers and admin goodwill** for everything).

The Murdoch situation goes like this:

Chancellor Budge stated that the Guild should consider whether their campaigning “is consistent with an expectation that the University’s financial and in-kind support will also continue.”

This is a Gag Order from the Chancellor: the Guild is to cease campaigning on student issues [with regards to “matters that are damaging to the University“] or else it will not receive any of the prospective student services levy.

The saga, as outlined the The Oz’s Higher Ed Sup yesterday, is pretty much exactly the same as what us Notre Damers had to go through.

What, are the Vice Chancellors like meeting regularly to form some sort of anti-student Axis now? Do they swap cupcake recipies as well?

This issue going to be the topic for my next contribution to newmatilda.com.  For the first, click here.

* I so totally typed that correctly in one go. GO ME!

** I hereby pronouce that term The Oxymoron of the Day.

UPDATE

Oh, PS: I EFFING TOLD YOU SO.

Blog Action Day 08: let’s talk about poverty, baby

Today, 15 October, is Blog Action Day: where nearly 10 000 sites around the great web of the internets will write, design, speak, or whatever on one topic to get the word out and keep it there.

The topic this year is POVERTY.

Yesterday I wrote rather flippantly about wanting an iPod and going oh, look at me, I’m a 20-something in Australia with no responsibilities and a highly disposable income.   And that was just after I’d read a news story about how millions of people are at risk of dying of starvation in Zimbabwe.

When I did my Arts Honours thesis, I spent a year with my head stuck in textbooks on “international development” (as in from the Millennium Development Goals) and talking to people who were trying to “fix” poverty.  At some points it all got a little disenchanting — particularly when I realised that the concept of “development” was invented/thought up after World War II, as in sixty years ago, and we’re still trying to “fix” it.

It’s a big issue. There’s no denying that.  And yeah, sometimes it seems like there’s too much to do, and that no matter how many concerts Bono organises, or how much coffee Colin Firth drenches himself in (hello), nothing much is going to change anything.

But you know what? I still make the effort to do what I can.

I’ve been a UNICEF Global Parent for several years, donating money to that program every month even when I was a student.  When I have to give people gifts, I get them chickens or seeds or goats or small business grants from Oxfam Unwrapped (my friends get a card; people who could do with a goat get a goat).  I try to only buy coffee from cafés that use fair trade beans and I try to only buy fair trade tea and chocolate, too (sometimes, but, I really feel like a Snickers; I do then try to offset that somehow…).

I also joined the Make Poverty History campaign, and when they send me emails about lobbying projects that asks me to take 2 minutes to click through and sign a petition the government about the travesty of the maternal and child mortality in developing countries, I do it. Oh, and I am hosting The World’s Largest Fondue Party (or at least, a part of it) at my place in November (SAVE THE DATE!!), which is part of the Stop The Traffick campaign to end child trafficking labour in the manufacture of our chocolate.

Yes, I know those are only little things.

Like the way I also take all my recyclables home from the office because our building doesn’t do recycling, some people might think I am an idiot because just little me doing those little things probably isn’t going to make a big impact.  But you know what?  I don’t care what people think about the things I do.

I have a choice.  I have a choice between:

  1. doing those little things that might-possiblymaybe have some positive impact (no matter how small) but don’t require me to go very far out of my way at all; or
  2. not doing anything at all because, psh, that’s what most people are doing anyway, even if that will totally-definitely not have any impact,

My choice is, CLRLY, the first one.

And if people want to think I’m a little odd for my choice, all I want them to know is that I don’t give a shit about what they think.

And until I have time to set up a Kiva fund, or the guts to quit my job and go work somewhere like Cambodia like Laine, or the inspiration to set up a program for indigenous people in the Kimberly like Dan, I will keep doing those little things.  Actually, I’ll keep doing those little things even when (that’s right, not if, when) I get around to taking the bigger steps.

There’s a list on the Blog Action Day site about the Things One Person Can Do, but if you can’t be bothered to read that, they’ve got a video too.

Watch it, yo:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzxtBWQvXAU]

I hope this post encourages people to think about the little things they can do that will be part of a bigger effort to deal with the issue of world poverty.

Look, I know that with all these talks about recession and credit crunches a lot of people have issues to deal with that are even closer to home. But that’s exactly why, right now, it is just as important to talk about poverty which has been affecting entire countries, heck continents, for decades and decades.  Think about it. I guess that’s all I’m asking for. If you want to take it any further, and kinda maybe talk to me about it, my email is sunilisblog via that google internet communication thing.

Love,
Sunili

xoxo

money, money, money

When I was growing up (in my totally fun immigrant family) we always had to listen to Sinhalese songs on cassettes on any long drives. Lame. My little brother and I never got any of it so we were consequentially deprived of pop-music throughout our youth. (That’s probably why my brother thinks he is/wants to be a brother ie a gangsta rapper.)

Except for ABBA.

For some reason my parents had a couple of their tapes and listened to them sometimes (were they big in Sri Lanka, too?). Yeah, sure, we were growing up in the 90s, but it was nice to be able to know the language of car songs — even if they were from the 70s.

My favourite song is probably Mamma Mia, but everyone seems to be talking about cash and stuff these days, so I am going to go with this:

I work all night I work all day to pay the bills I have to pay
ain’t it sad
and still there never seems to be a single penny left for me
that’s too bad
in my dreams
I have a plan
if I got me a wealthy man
I wouldn’t have to work at all I’d fool around and have a ball

Bless.

But from what I gather, it’s not so fun In A Rich Man’s World at the moment. And it’s probably worse that usual in a less-than-rich person’s, too.

I feel kinda out of the loop, though.

(Until, of course, I get evicted or have my rent spiked,) I don’t have to worry about feeding hungry tummies or paying off mortgages. I never invested in the stock market so the last month has been like very whatevs for me. And I paid off my credit card a couple of pay cheques ago.

So now, I just get more dollars miraculously deposited into my bank account than I actually “need” to spend in a fortnight.

And a wealthy man can go suck it, as I have no interest in (nor prospects of)  being an investment banker/drug dealer’s coke-addled trophy wife.

Because I have plenty of pennies left for me.  And that’s even after my direct debit to UNICEF has gone out.  AND, even though I’ve never reeeally been a good saver, I am also saving 16% (which > 10% suggested amount) of my pay because I’ve set it to be popped over to my savings account by my employer. (Thanks for the tip, Grendel!!!)

I am quite, quite lucky, I know I am. And I know I could lose my job (but frankly… I won’t complain too much right now… hah) and things could get really bad, and stuff, but I am a good Buddhist, I know this too will pass [also apparently a Jewish story??] and I’ll deal with that when I get there.

But what now?

I suppose I could save more (but that’s kinda boring)… or give even more to charity (maybes I can buy two Big Issues a fortnight??).  But with all this talk about consumer confidence dropping and economic stimulus packages and stuff, I’m thinking: welp. Mayhaps I might go get an iPod at lunch time?

BUT I CAN’T GET ONE.

DJ’s and Myer haven’t got the 16GB size I want, JB Hi-Fi haven’t got the right colour (dude, I am not like gonna just throw the cash away on one I don’t actually like!) and the knobs at DigiLife didn’t seem interested in selling me anything either.

W. T. F.

So, back at the office, I tried to order one online, but IT FROZE LIKE 5 TIMES and then when I rang the Apple Store, and patiently went through 3 recorded menus, I was told (by a recorded message, of course) that the Apple Store’s Opening Hours Are — [this is where I slammed the phone down].

Um… hello?

HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO STIMULATE THE ECONOMY IF NO-ONE’S GOING TO LET ME BUY ANYTHING?

I am just trying to be a Good Capitalist Denizen (™).

Why can’t I do that?

What is the universe trying to tell me? That capitalism sucks, or something?

What. What?

OH RLRY?

a blue day post

October is beyondblue Anxiety and Depression Awareness Month, and today, 10 October, is Blue Day and World Mental Health Day (more info – PDF).

The PTUB crew are having a Blue Day gathering but I can’t make it, so consider this my contribution to raising awareness of anxiety and depression… a very worthy pursuit indeed.

One of the most horrible (of many) things about depression is the silence surrounding it — people with it don’t want to admit they have it, as much as they feel the urge to talk about it, and friends of sufferers, as much as they want to help, often don’t know how to talk about even if they knew.

I’ve been wanting to write here about mental health and depression and stuff, and there’s never going to be a “right” time to write about it, and today is as good as it could ever get.

It’s quite the personal issue for me.  I grew up having a particular interest for politics and law stuff, and, both of those areas have particular issues with mental health (I’ve mentioned politics and depression here before, and The Pinstriped Prison also referred to the issue).

Then in the first part of last year, things went a little pear-shaped.  To say the least.

I was in my final year of university, doing Honours in Law, the editor of the student magazine, I had a great part-time job and I was in a wonderful long-term relationship.

What more could I even imagine asking for?

But morning after morning, I couldn’t drag myself out of bed. Randomly, and mostly over the dumbest thing, I would burst into inconsolable tears. I didn’t want to see anyone, not my friends, not my boyfriend.  I skipped classes and slept well into the afternoon. I couldn’t concentrate on anything — from study to even books and TV. I was freaking out about my life, even though everything was going so well.

Yup. Many of the classic symptoms of depression.

I was eventually diagnosed with depression, and started medication and counselling.  But not before it nearly cost me my relationship, my studies, and my friends.  It was also very difficult dealing with my family since I realised that a lot of my feelings stem from my younger days.

While I recently started reducing the dosage on my medication, I am by no means recovered.  In any event people question whether you ever can recover from depression — I’ve been told that I’ll probably go through some spells throughout the course of my life — but I am still definitely still on the road leading out of the darkness.

I tried writing about it, but was too self-conscious to use this blog, which is so obviously labelled as being from me and linked to my real life. So I started another blog, anonymously.  I suppose that by keeping it a secret, I was just perpetuating the vicious cycle of silence about depression as well hiding my true experiences and my true feelings of who I was.

Earlier this week, a wonderful person I follow on Tumblr bravely posted about her experiences with depression (and particularly, anti-depressants) and inspired by that, and the whole point of this week and this day, I have decided to share my other blog to anyone who cares to read it.

I thought about importing the posts into this blog but I have decided against it. I may change my mind later on, but I did promise I wasn’t going to turn this into a LiveJournal type thing!

So I’ll just link to it, and, in a way, connect that part of me to the rest you find here.  So here are my (sporadic) stories about my journey Out of the Bell jar.

Happy Blue Day, everyone. Please talk to your friends about depression — if you feel like there’s never the right time, it really is right now.

career choices (advice from Michelle Obama)

Ohmygod you guys!!

We just had to select our preferences for the first year rotation at The Firm next year, and have been invited to end of the month drinks to meet everyone, right, and just I randomly found this article from the WashPo – an exerpt from Michelle: A Biography, that is totally speaking to me right now re my life choices as mentioned the other week (and also here).

I am currently flipping out.

Since I can’t really put any coherent thoughts together, I will copy out the relevant bits, but you might want stop reading now because I am about to gratuitously compare my life to Michelle Obama’s.

Here we go:

A driven, focused student, Michelle had propelled herself into the Ivy League and, as a summer associate at Sidley, was starting to reap the benefits. Along with 60 or so other law students, she spent the summer of 1987 being courted by the firm’s highly paid partners — going to baseball games, lunches and happy hours. Her stint there led to a full-time job offer and a stark choice: Work as an associate at a big-name law firm earning about $65,000 a year, or look for something more public service-oriented but likely to be less lucrative.

GAH!!! That’s MY stark choice RIGHT NOW!!!

…she acknowledged that her years at Princeton had changed her. She entered the university, she wrote, determined to use her education to benefit the black community. But by the time she was preparing to graduate, she was not nearly so sure where her obligations lay. “As I enter my final year at Princeton, I find myself striving for many of the same goals as my White classmates — acceptance to a prestigious graduate or professional school or a high paying position in a successful corporation. Thus, my goals after Princeton are not as clear as before.”

GAH again!! I wanted to save Sri Lanka and stuff!!! But then I accepted the fancy job!!!!!!

In Michelle’s case, Sidley Austin was offering a prestigious name and a lucrative starting salary. Michelle had grown up with parents who lived paycheck to paycheck. She had student loans to pay off. In the end, she went with the private firm, a conventional choice and one she would eventually urge others not to make.

OHMYEFFINGGOODNESSSSSSS!!!!

I should stop now, but then there’s this, which is TOTALLY ME RIGHT NOW THIS YEAR and therefore makes the previous stuff MORE APPLICABLE:

She was, White recalls, “quite possibly the most ambitious associate that I’ve ever seen.” She wanted significant responsibility right away and was not afraid to object if she wasn’t getting what she felt she deserved, he says.

At big firms, much of the work that falls to young associates involves detail and tedium. There were all sorts of arcane but important rules about what could and could not be said or done in product advertisements, and in the marketing group, all the associates, not just the new ones, reviewed scripts for TV commercials to make sure they conformed. As far as associate work goes, it could have been worse — “Advertising is a little sexier than spending a full year reading depositions in an antitrust law suit or reviewing documents for a big merger,” says White — but it was monotonous and relatively low-level.

Abner Mikva, a former congressman and federal judge who is close to the Obamas and was an early mentor to Barack, finds that account of Michelle’s 20-something impatience amusing. “It doesn’t surprise me at all,” he says. Michelle is “clearly somebody who likes to make decisions and likes to be involved in exciting and important stuff. I can imagine writing memos for other lawyers — I don’t think that would have been her favorite dish of tea.”

Well at least that totally disproves the Whiny Gen-Y theory! Victory! I’m just an ambitious person, just like Michelle Obama, that’s all. No need to categorise that work/ambition/whinging thing any further.

Moving on through the article, on to the life/career choices stuff… there’s this bit about when Barack took her to meet a group of people he had worked with as a community organizer before he started law school:

Barack stood up that day, and he spoke words that have stayed with me ever since. He talked about the world as it is, and the world as it should be. And he said that, all too often, we accept the distance between the two, and we settle for the world as it is, even when it doesn’t reflect our values and aspirations.”

Yes. The crux of my dilemma.

The next bit of the article goes through the cutesy stuff about them going out, having a long distance relationship while Barrack was studying, getting engaged etc — she she kept nagging about getting marred.

Um. Nope. Totally not the same as her on this bit at all. I have not ever waited for boyfriend while he was studying far away NOR nagged aforemention boyfriend (of nearly four years) that we should just get married. Nup. Never.

Anyway. That’s not the point. The point is about careers:

… Michelle was ready to revisit the choice she’d made when she graduated from Harvard. At the time, she was still reeling from the death of her father in 1991. Fraser Robinson had died while getting ready to go to work, felled by what Barack, in his book “The Audacity of Hope,” describes as complications from a kidney operation. This was an event of enormous emotional and psychological magnitude for Michelle and the rest of her family. At the Democratic National Convention, she described her father as “our rock. Although he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his early 30s, he was our provider. He was our champion, our hero. But as he got sicker, it got harder for him to walk. It took him longer to get dressed in the morning.

“But if he was in pain, he never let on. He never stopped smiling and laughing, even while struggling to button his shirt, even while using two canes to get himself across the room to give my mom a kiss. He just woke up a little earlier, and he worked a little harder.”

His death made Michelle aware of how short life can be and prompted her to reflect, she has said in interviews. “If what you’re doing doesn’t bring you joy every single day, what’s the point?”

Her father’s death wasn’t the only one she was grieving. In 1990, one of Michelle’s closest friends from Princeton, Suzanne Alele, had died from cancer when she was only in her 20s. Alele, a computer specialist at the Federal Reserve, had always followed her heart, doing what felt right rather than what was expected of her. She was described in her alumni obituary as a “free spirit” who was much loved by her classmates.

Michelle resolved to live her own life in that vein. “I wanted to have a career motivated by passion and not just money,” she would tell the New York Times years later.

(emphasis added.)

Ok, truly, I am lucky that my dad nor any closest friends have died (touchwood), but that point is still pertinent to this whole dilemma.

And learning from other people’s mistakes/misfortunes/lessons is the best thing ever, right?

Ok, this is also something I worry about about, CLRLY making me even more the same as her:

In a 2004 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Michelle also expressed a lingering sense of guilt about enjoying so much material success as a big-firm lawyer while others who shared her origins and upbringing were not doing as well. She remembers asking herself, “Can I go to the family reunion in my Benz and be comfortable, while my cousins are struggling to keep a roof over their heads?”

Moreover, she wasn’t enthralled with the work at Sidley Austin and apparently didn’t think many of her colleagues were, either. “I didn’t see a whole lot of people who were just thrilled to be there,” she told Newsweek earlier this year. “I met people who thought this was a good life. But were people waking up just bounding out of bed to get to work? No.”

Yup. Same. I have lots of guilt about that stuff (like here) and, in the last few weeks, even in my non-corporate-law-firm job but that is still dealing with boring-corporate-law, I have been raaaather miserable.

Anyway, then: Michelle went to work at Chicago Department of Planning and Development:

Michelle’s new job was “economic development coordinator,” which city records describe as “developing strategies and negotiating business agreements to promote and stimulate economic growth within the City of Chicago.”

Hello! TOTALLY wrote my thesis on something in that broad general field!!

So now, having established that I AM JUST LIKE MICHELLE OBAMA, let’s have a look-see at what she has advised young people to do with their career choices:

After three years of toiling on behalf of Barney [as in, “The Dinosaur”] and Coors beer, Michelle was working to bring new jobs and vitality to Chicago’s neighborhoods. It was a turning point in her career and in the way she would later frame her life story. Michelle didn’t just leave the world of corporate law; she would go on to publicly reject it.

We don’t need a world full of corporate attorneys and hedge-fund managers,” she said earlier this year as she campaigned in South Carolina.

She and Barack both make a point of talking about how they left corporate America (After graduating from Columbia University, Barack spent one year as a researcher for a Manhattan financial firm before becoming a community organizer) and devoted themselves to public service. “We left corporate America, which is a lot of what we’re asking young people to do,” Michelle said at a campaign event in Ohio this past winter. “Don’t go into corporate America. You know, become teachers. Work for the community. Be social workers. Be a nurse. Those are the careers that we need, and we’re encouraging our young people to do that.

So there you have it. The advice from Michelle Obama, THE WOMAN TO WHOM I AM TOTALLY JUST A MINI-HER, on THE VERY DECISION I AM LOOKING AT MAKING RIGHT NOW.

Oh gods. I need to lie down.

rejection

I got my rejection letter for Thing last night.

They sent back all the material I had to submit and BLOODY FOLDED MY TRANSCRIPT which is totally rude.

Anyway, I cried, which is normal which I cry at lots of things (most recently this DVD — yeah, lame) and then I got really, really angry.

In fairness I wasn’t expecting to get it, but I am just totally shocked that I didn’t even get an interview.  I know this probably seems a little arrogant, but I honestly felt that I was a good candidate.  So did M, but I guess he has to think that, but so did the person who got it last year, who swore lots in reply to my Fb message passing on the bad news.

I remember randomly seeing an article about some book some woman’s written about Kids These Days having been brought up on an overdose of self-esteem, but I really, truly thought I’d be a shoe-in for at least a bloody INTERVIEW.

Sheesh.

I kept randomly wanting to hit things/cry all day but I am also telling myself it doesn’t even matter, because it totally doesn’t and I was actually just waiting to hear I didn’t get it so that I can get on with thinking about the rest of my life.

There’s this part of me that wants to start analysing everything to figure out why so that I can rationalise my anger/be better for the next thing I apply for, but then again, I realise all the other things I HAVE succeeded in already.

Which then I realise is totally proof that I am AWESOME and SHOULD HAVE AT LEAST GOT AN INTERVIEW, AM-I-RIGHT??

Humph.

Anyway. Not thinking about it any more right now. I am going to look at Yes We Can (hold babies) and watch the next episode of The Wire (season 1).

Now. Were are the mutha-funking Tim Tams? And I think I will really be needing that Genie that refills them, too.

“Look at moiye…”

Apparently there’s an American Kath & Kim coming out in a couple of days. The producers must’ve been shirted off that they didn’t get Sarah Palin to star as Kath… I can kinda imagine her and Bristol shopping at Ice-Fountain Gate, and her accent has the perfect comedic effect.  But maybes that’ll be something for Tina Fey to do on SNL when the McCain camp admits that letting her do interviews with Katie Couric was a Really. Bad. Idea?

ANYWAY. What was I going to say? Oy. Stream-of-consciousness blogging was probably a bad idea.

Oh yeah, so.  During my “hiatus” (or, more actually, last night, when I couldn’t sleep. Again) I was thinking that I need to define this blog properly.  ‘Cause seriously. WTF am I doing here?

Rogue Ink’s impending-relaunch post yesterday got me thinking about defining a blog’s purpose and existence and stuff. I did the break, I even sneakily changed the layout (like, three times) but then I just came back (mainly because I just had too much to say) without actually thinking about what exactly I am trying to do here.

So here I am, thinking aloud (in the sound of typing?) and having a good, hard look at my blog.

I mentioned that this was supposed to be for “serious” posts and stuff… but, in all seriousness, what do I think this is? Time/The Economist? Pssh.

It’s not like I rely on SEO (oooh! Fancy Geeklish!) or hits or getting/keeping readers to earn a living. I just have shit to say, and here, I don’t get offended if nobody reads it.  Mainly because I have low expectations.

While I always have something to say on things like politics and media, there is this overwhelming tendency for me to relate how I feel about an issue and, since this is MY Blog I can’t see why I need to pretend to be serious.

I can be serious at work and stuff (like, if I want to submit serious articles to other serious places) but this is my me space.  And I’m usually not very serious.

So that’s that.  I’m not going to self-censor myself and cut out the self-indulgent rambling that I may/will want to, from time to time, indulge in for the sake of pretending that this blog is serious.  All you readers are hereby warned.

There’s just this one caveat: I promise I won’t turn this into my LiveJournal. We’re well over the early Noughties, so that’s that.  I will at least try to relate the incessant me-rambling to serious-ish issues, even if the effect is not so serious.

In the immortal words of Heath’s Joker, “Why So Serious?”.  (That quote would have probably been a better choice for title to this post. Meh.)

The Pinstriped Prison

I read this book in less than 24 hours. For someone who’s spent MONTHS reading just one particular book, that is indeed a little unusual.

But I had quite the impetus to get though this quickly:  for me, it was an A Christmas Carol-ish story of my life past and what could possibly await me in the future. (But also it was written in a very conversational manner that made it super easy to read)

A few weeks ago, M forwarded me an article from the Melbourne Age’s ‘Sunday’ magazine. It was an excerpt from a forthcoming non-fiction title by Lisa Prior about how the best and brightest university students in Australia (who had mostly gotten into Law at uni by being freakishly over-achieving high school students) get sucked into corporate firms.

Hrm.

Sounded kinda familiar. I had to know more.

I picked the book up on Friday and devoured it the next day. But sometimes I had to stop and breathe.  It’s a surprise when you find that the book you are reading actually seems like your biography.

At one stage I had to shut the book after I mentally ticked nearly all the boxes of the mini-quiz entitled  “Could You be A Neurotic, Status-Conscious, Overachieving, Workaholic Control Freak?”

Um.

Shut. Up.

The book’s chapters outlines each aspect of Pryor’s argument about the way over-achieving wunderkinds get shipped into law school and then seduced by the Big Firms into dreary, horrible jobs they end up hating.  Each chapter ends with amusing quizes or points of information that help you figure out if you’re at high risk of turning into a pinstripped inmate.

Pryor became my Ghost of High school Past when outlining the way private school darlings who do way more than anyone really needs to lock themselves away

amid swimming carnival ribbons and inter-house debating pennants, highlighting and cross-referencing, juggling sticky-notes and flash cards, recording the number of hours study this day and this week devoted to each subject in hand-drawn rosters, carefully calculating the minimum mark they will need to get in their Othello essay to maintain the number one rank in the top English class, before running off to senior school choir practice, hockey, flute lessons, dance eisteddfods or rugby training.

If that paragraph had had Medea instead of Othello, school production instead of choir, netball instead of hockey (and no dance or rugby or any mention of winning ribbons of any sort) I would worry that Lisa Pryor spied on me as a teenager.

But. Oh fuck. I really was that much of a tool, wasn’t I? Yeesh.

Anyway. Back to the book.

Pryor continues from that breathless list with the following observation:  “In every activity they will be scored, marked and ranked, ranked, ranked against their peers.”

And, you see, it is this trait of constantly competing and ranking and fighting for top spot that makes kids like us (who get into Law — the course that only allows students with the top-top marks — and then graduate with prizes and honours and what have you) the perfect fodder for the law firm recruitment rigmarole my friends and I only know too well.

The chapter entitled “Recruitment Brochure Bingo”, which outlines how Every. Single. Firm describes themselves as “unique, dynamic and diverse”, would be gut-splittingly hilarious if it didn’t gut-wretchingly make me realise that I got so totally sucked in by it all:

“The recruitment brochure is a weapon in the propaganda assault that big firms unleash on graduating students.  The genre is as manipulative as military recruitment material, only with a whole lot more stock photography of skyscrapers.”

The brochures are, of course, supplemented with the “information evenings” aka canapés and champers nights, coffee outings and all the fancy breakfasts, lunches, dinners you get while on vacation clerkships.  There is a thought-provoking question related to all of this:

Big firms are terribly eager to make the jobs they offer seem fabulous and desirable.  They go to expensive lengths to bribe students with free food, twilight drinks and sponsorship money. For all the questions overachieving braniacs ask during the recruitment process, they seem to miss the most important one: if these firms are really so brilliant and do offer a life beyond compare, why do they have to work so hard to convince people to join?

Dun dun dun! Sounds foreboding, doesn’t it?

Pryor also makes the connection between the way the firms use corporate sponsorship of law school competitions and events to get themselves known to the kiddies and the lack of money available to student guilds and associations in general.  I won’t get into the voluntary student unionism thing here, but let me just say this one thing: the Law Student Society at uni always had more money, and did the best events and services, which benefited a small proportion of the uni’s students, while the Student Association that was supposed to cater for the whole campus had to scrimp and beg and forgo. She’s not making any of this up.

The Ghost of Law Career Future scared me a heck of a lot more. I am standing at the precipice of starting as a law grad at one of the very firms Pryor paints as hell (there is a rather funny fable about vacation clerkships at the start of Chapter 7).

Just to dilute my panic a little, I am making a fellow Over-Achieving Nutjob (whom I love dearly) who went to high school with me and will be starting there with me next year read this book so that we can pow-wow about it. Because there is a lot to take in, and many, many, many variables that I need to consider, and I will leave them all for another post.

It is sufficient here to say that Pryor has stories from several people who have been sucked into the corporate black hole. Some came out alive, some are still there. But we all know about the dramatically high rates of depression and anxiety (and often, self medication) among lawyers, and that is something all law students need to think really hard about.

But one thing needs to be noted at this point: Law is NOT for everyone. For the ones who don’t drop out of law school and end up in the Big Firms, there will be some who love it, want to be there, have always wanted to be there, and are meant to be there.

(M, my sweet darling boyfriend, is one of those people.  That kinda absolutely freaks me out, but fact that thoughts of being A Partner’s Partner makes me want to throw up, is, also, another story.)

And then there will be others who do not feel the same way. They get in and realise much too late that they hate it, and come out with the stories of woe and misery.  They will hate looking up archaic points of law or figuring out if that conjunction in that contract should be an “and” or an “or”, and will go home every night and cry themselves to sleep, before they jump off a building or write the next Hell Has Harbour Views.

I got a feeling from the book that one of the biggest problems here is the nature of the education system.  The way tertiary entrance is merely a process aimed at ranking everyone to compete for a few select spots in a few select courses that, somehow, are deemed to be more worthy and respectable than others means that kids who aren’t supposed to be lawyers end up studying law, and then end up in jobs they hate.

Again, though, the despicablility of the way tertiary education is heading is another story for another post.  But I hear the Uni of Melbs is making law post-grad only and I think that’s totally the right idea.

There is another thesis in the book which impacts everyone, not just the Over-Achieving Law Nutjobs.  And this is essentially that the cream of the clever country’s clever cookies were being stashed away in private cookie jars to only be chewed up by partners and clients of law, banking or business consulting firms. The public didn’t get the benefit of what these kids have to offer, and Pryor asks:

What does it mean for us as a nation when so many of our cleverest people are being siphoned from careers in which they could be doing something useful?

As I consider myself quite the Tim Tam, and, at that, one who went into law school thinking it was the first step in my journey to save the world (because we all know, Tim Tams fix everything), this is quite the conundrum. But, again, enough about me.

Generally speaking, on one hand, I reckon the fact that we have to pay for our own bloody degrees now means that if we can work in A Firm and love it and rake in the cash, no-one should tell us otherwise.  If, however, we didn’t have to pay back HECS or HELP or whatever acronym the next government comes up with for the privilege of a tertiary education, then there might be some more merit in an argument that the firms are sucking up the brains of the clever country. (I wonder how busy Jenny Macklin’s office is at the moment? I think I have some submissions on The Future Of Higher Education to write.)

There is also a chapter on the massive problems about getting women up the ranks in these firms.  Disheartening stuff.  I’ve spoken and written on this issue before and, again, I have suggestions for  proposed solutions which I’ll put in another post. This is a book review, people, focus.

After outlining who gets sucked in and how, Pryor provides a few ideas for how to break out of jail, along with the stories of others who’ve done it before. (Did y’all know that cool “Flipside” burger bar in North Freo is run by a Firm Escapee?).  It wasn’t too preachy or anything, but this is the closest thing to a self-help book I’ve actually read (cf bought. Which I do. A lot. Because I’m neurotic).

While there are times when the author seems rather bitter and spiteful about private school kids and law firm princess, I have to admit there is still truth in the stereotypes, and Pryor’s cautionary tale is of the sort that tells you to learn from other people’s mistakes before you make them yourself.

Just a final note: I have not yet made any decisions about the next few years of my life. I have to survive the next few months, first.  Damn you to hell, Alan Bond. But first, may you die a pauper, you smarmy git.

Ahem. That is all.

The Pinstriped Prison
Lisa Pryor (Picador, Sydney: 2008), 272pp.