My life as a Bildungsroman

Going back to work with journalism and public relations has been a self discovery journey. One that has taken me back to my roots in a way that I honestly wouldn’t think it would. It took me back to high school and pre-college school, while I was still choosing my profession. It took me back to the very root of my career, that one moment when I decided, against odds and advises, that I wanted to be a journalist. Why did I spend four years at Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, again? [side note: it may call itself a catholic school, but it certainly doesn’t fit the stereotype of a pristine, uptight, conservative school, quite the opposite actually]

It all started with my passion for writing, for literature, and my desire to know things first hand. During school, differently than most of my colleagues, I got more engaged with my scientific initiation study in applied linguistics. They were going after social movements, sociology, philosophy, geography. The thing we had in common was the desire to make the world a better place, each one following one path.

Personally, I think it is ironic that I would start working for a non-profit here in the US, coming from a third world country. But, as soon as I started working at IANTM, I got that deep magic feeling that maybe everything I did in my career was meant to bring me to the following conclusions:

  • journalism was never a passion per say or a career, but an education to get me somewhere further, to open my mind to new ideas;
  • writing is definitely a passion and maybe I needed to work for a publishing house to value all my linguistic knowledge and improve my writing skills to boost my confidence in my own life choices;
  • finally, I needed to work in other areas to experience stuff first hand and reassure myself that I had made the right decision back in the day when I was still an 18 year old student.

I just realized I am portraying myself like the main character in a Bildungsroman, that kind of novel that follows the personal growth of somebody, their paths toward self discovery and their seek for answers about life’s questions. A very empiric approach to life, I must say, because it relies on the fact that experience is the key. And I don’t mean anything by it, except for the fact that maybe I am an empiric person that needs to get her life lessons from experience, not books or blogs or lectures. Something that goes against what I always defended: literature may be the key to understand yourself, life, the cosmos, the universe, well, everything.

That was my friday morning, 7am epiphany. It ended there, and it’s ok. Coffee, black, please.

World Cup in Brazil triggers home sickness

World Cup starts today in Brazil and I’ve been counting the days for the first kick since the beginning of June. Everywhere I look, somebody seems to be posting something about protests, celebrations, preparations. I can feel online the exciting atmosphere, the anxiety, the unsatisfaction with the contradictions between hosting an amazing event we would otherwise love and the social cost of it, the desire to have a great party. I can feel the joy of being part and making history spreading around my country. It’s such a great feeling, I can only imagine how people must be on the streets and in the bars. I really wish I could be there for that.

Seeing so much of Brazil on American TV is also not helping with my homesickness. ESPN aired yesterday a pre-world cup show displaying teams from different nations arriving and setting up, players already hurt due to training sessions. What hit me the most was a specific section of it about Rio, with a singer telling the story about how Garota de Ipanema (The Girl from Ipanema), from Vinicius de Morais and Tom Jobim, was written.

 

Apart from being internationally known, this song is a national icon of some sort. It is a popular example of Bossa Nova, a Brazilian musical genre that mixes elements of samba and jazz. It is undeniably one of those songs that transmits the feeling of the waves going up and down on the shore, the summer breeze striking your neck, a glass of beer by the local bar,  and, in the good old days, a cigarette on the corner of your lips. The sound of people playing soccer or beach volleyball on the sand. Its the sort of music that mimics the hips of woman strolling down the road, the way her dress jiggles, the man’s laughter while discussing Neymar’s potential with the bartender. It brings in the sunshine that bathes Ipanema daily, bringing that sense of freshness, loving and tender belonging.

Lastly, it’s the type of song my American husband knew by heart and sang it to me last time we went to Rio, six months ago, while strolling down Copacabana on our way to Ipanema. Hearing the song has the power to take me back to that perfect moment we shared and vanished away. The memory remains, in all it’s sweetness. Yes, no song remains the same after a personal experience with it enhances it’s meaning. And, yes, it only reinforces the “saudade” I feel for my home country today.

Expats Social Networking through Internations

 

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In April me and my husband moved from Ohio to North Carolina. Being an expat, I didn’t feel it was a big change. Of course we would have to adapt to a new city, get to know new people, make new friends, but that was nothing I didn’t had to do before. I knew I had everything it takes to go through with it once more.

This time, though, I felt I needed to be more engaged in creating a network of expats, people in the same situation as me, who would understand what it feels like to not speak your mother tongue for weeks, who appreciate skype, whatsapp and all the modern technologies that help you soothe that homesick feeling that catches you by surprise now and then.

I found out about Internations, the expat social network, and their monthly reunions through a google search. I signed up, talked to a few people online asking directions and tips of what to do. It was very nice getting to know the parts of Charlotte they lived and loved.The monthly meetings take place every last thursday of the month. There were europeans, south americans, chinese, us citizens. People from everywhere. Many accents, many nationalities, one thing in common: the experience of living abroad in the same city.

The first, and only, meeting I attended took place in April, just two weeks after moving. It felt good being able to talk and share experiences, but it was particularly good to be able to talk in Portuguese for a few moments. Sometimes, having to speak English all the time, makes me forget how much of language, and more specifically our mother tongue, shapes our view of life, our identities. For instance, in Portuguese we have a particular word to express that feeling of longing and missing for something or somebody, which is “saudade”. A word that I can’t really explain or translate to English in a satisfactory way, I always feel like I am simplifying its meaning. As a human emotion, we all must share the feeling that word describe, but I always wondered if the fact that we Portuguese speakers had a particular word for it meant that we had the necessity to use language to further determine our feelings. Thoughts of a linguistic mind.

On a different note, the meeting was a great step for networking in Charlotte. Having contacts in different companies and jobs is vital for a journalist who is trying to find her way into business. I met an older american guy who had many talents, amongst them being a life coach. He advised me to meet as many people as I could that night, and to create a plan of action that would help me get back on track. One of my first thoughts was how much I missed writing on this blog the last few months, which as you guys can see brought me back with new posts, new ideas. I can’t wait for next meeting, on the 28th. What else will it bring my way?

 

The Job Experience

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Being silent for a while has been a lesson about myself. Even when I was working 50 or 60 hours a week this past few months, my mind would write incredible verses, sentences, opening lines for a possible book. And as soon as reality came crushing, the words so craftily arranged on the back if my eyes would dissipate and be lost forever.

I started paying attention to people around me for the sole purpose of creating interesting, top notch characters. I saw my body detaching from the moment and moving backwards, like I wasn’t experiencing everything that was happening in front of me and my body was just a shallow robot following mechanic orders. Then again, I was working 60 hours a week, I was so tired it might have been the only way I found to cope with it all. Cope with the 10 hour work shifts, the low paying job I had.

I started working for Limited Brands at their warehouse last september thinking I would be the only one with a degree. Presumptuous, I know. I quickly realized some people there had BAs in Creative Writing and Masters in Marketing. It didn’t make me feel any better that I wasn’t the only one overeducated.

Single moms and teen moms were going after money to raise their children, hoping the seasonal position would became a full time job eventually. That would be ideal, because then they would have access to benefits, health insurance, security. Sometimes, that can be an overrated concept, but not in their situation. Substitute teachers looked for stability, an extra source of income, anything to help them pay their house mortgage and their holiday expenses. Married moms were looking for a way back into the job market.

When things got rough, women cried, picked fights or ran away, never coming back. They were either fired or just resigned, backed up by Ohio work laws. Here, differently than in Brazil, you are allowed to abandon your job without notice. You can also be fired and loose everything overnight.

It was certainly an emotional, stressful experience. But maybe, just maybe, it was the first step I had to go through to have a better job next time.

The sell out experience

I was educated in a lefty liberal Brazilian school most of my life. When I choose to study to be a journalist, I was an idealist with a purpose: expose the harsh reality to people, all the schemes and scams that go behind the scenes and have a direct impact into everyone’s life. I quickly learned that maybe the social reality was even worst than I thought, that people died in hospital beds for lack of governmental resources, lack of political interest in fix the health care system or lack of education. It happened because nurses thought it was nothing and rerouted people to the waiting area instead of calling a doctor right away. It happened because people thought it was nothing and waited for months before even thinking of looking for a doctor. It happened because the system has major flaws, and some people just don’t have the means to afford the same insurance I had. Me, the daughter of somebody who owns his own company. That is capitalism.

Journalism school gave me two things: the critical thinking of the capitalist system in an educated, theoretical point of view and a bitter disbelief in social change, which is most of the time shaken by my ideals and the evident necessity of change. Most people are now thinking “oh, she is a communist”, to which I would reply “no, I am not affiliated to any political party and, although I think the core ideas are pretty appealing, I still have many doubts about socialism being the solution for our problems”.

Anyway, after all that explanation, one may wonder what drove me to apply for a marketing job and actually take it. On the very first interview I understood the job was more sales than anythingelse, but I still told myself I needed the money and tried to go along with it. On the second interview, I was having second, third and forth thoughts, but I still went along with it because I was guaranteed it wouldn’t be door-to-door. Well, on my very first day, 10 seconds into what they call training and I would call brain wash, I knew it was precisely door-to-door sales. I wanted to run away, but I continued going. I was curious to see if what we were supposed to sell was something that could potentially benefit people.

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That afternoon, I was dropped of at a college area of Columbus with a trainer, someone who would conduct all conversations and show me what I was supposed to do in the field. I was looking at it as a sociological experiment, I knew I wasn’t going to become a door-to-door sales person at that point, that job just wasn’t for me. Since I stepped into the second interview, I had the feeling I was selling out, but I told myself I would manage to keep that feeling aside as long as I  believed people would benefit from whatever it was I was supposed to sell. That feeling got only worst after the training the company provided, full of sentences like:

“To make a sale you need to show the customer you care about him. Stay next to him. Show him your main concern is that he understand the consequences of signing of with you, that he will be saving money. Be friendly. Remember, the key is to make him believe you know what you are talking about and it is on his best interest to sign. Smile.”

When we started walking and knocking on people’s doors, my worst fears became true. It looked like a scam to me and the trainer was always giving me hints of how to behave in this encounters in order to close the sale. Hints like:

“You are being too polite, don’t ask people, command and they will do what you need them to do.”

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I was feeling completely out of place. It was harsh going door after door telling people to buy something I didn’t believe it was necessarily good for them. I managed to finish off the day and go back home. Driving from the office to my house was tough, I cried a little, thoughts of “what now?” rushed through  my head and before I sank into all this, I decided I was going to sing, get home, shower and move on. Problems will always be there, and there are other jobs a person can do. I am relatively young, I could find something better. Two days after that I was  training for a seasonal job, a temporary position that would allow me to continue my search for a real full time job.

Girls night out

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The four journalists got together for a happy hour, like they used to do before going to school every night years ago, all very talkative about their jobs and their lasts pieces. Sophie had been working for a travel guide ever since they graduated, Mary opened up her own Public Relations firm, Stella was working at a high end clothing store and Rita was a book editor at a small publishing house. It had been months they were able to get together, so they had a lot to talk about. Once the work related issues had been expurgated, they started talking about their relationships. Sophie was dating the same boyfriend since their second year at college, so everybody knew the couple and their story pretty well. But she had news that night. Before any of the other girls could start an endless talk about their own love lives, she blunted:

– I am engaged. We are getting married in a year or so. John proposed to me last night.

The others looked astonished for a little while, in part because they had witnessed their several nasty fights the year before. Realizing the almost uncomfortable silence, one by one they started talking excitedly:

– I can’t believe it! Congratulations, Soso! I am so happy for you guys, you are going to be the happiest couple ever. – said Stella.

– Congratulations, Soph! That’s awesome news. – said Rita, the one that couldn’t really berry her emotions and thoughts, although she tries very hard. This time, Sophie didn’t seem to notice the bit of worry in her voice. At least that was Rita’s first thought.

– Congrats, my friend! We need to start planing your bachelorette party! Oh, my! That’s going to be amazing. – was Mary’s reaction, always thinking ahead.

The surprise that had set the girls on fire was gone in a few minutes. The four journalists faced themselves in an awkward silence for a minute or two, before Sophie took the lead:

– I know you guys are very happy for me, but I can tell you are also worried about the wedding because of everything we went through. I understand. John and me, we are together for more than 4 years now. I know him, he knows me. We’ll always fight, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be happy. Fights are a big part of a healthy relationship. We are not perfect, but we have what it takes to make it work. And, if it doesn’t work, for any reason, we can always get a divorce.

– Don’t use the possibility of divorce to get married, Soph. That’s not a life. Marriage should be taken seriously, I want to see you happy, not having to deal with John’s bullshit every single day. I think he has a lot to learn before he is ready to make this sort of commitment, but at the same time, as you said, nobody knows him better than you. I’ll trust your judgement on that, but please take it seriously. Don’t get married because all our friends are either getting engaged or moving in together or having kids. Don’t underestimate marriage because you are not religious. Do you really believe, in your circumstances, love will be enough to make it work?

– Love should be always enough, Rita. Where do you think married people find the strength to forgive and forget the small little mistakes their loved ones make? How do you think the flaws are overlooked? The real question, for you, is: does he love Sophie or is he settling down because he is 7 years older than us and he doesn’t see any other choice? I think that, no matter what happened in the past, they will only learn how much they love each other if they take this leap of faith. Marriage is something you shouldn’t be too rationally obsessed about. It is all about feeling, and I seriously doubt they got engaged because of some…trend. They love each other in their own manners and standards, I just hope they can manage themselves not to fight as much and learn to let things go.

– I agree, Stella. They need to live to know. I don’t think any of us has the right to judge their relationship when it comes to how deeply they feel about each other. My main concern would be wether they can afford a life here. Our salaries as journalists are not enough for us to have our own place, we all still live with our parents. That’s going to be a rough start, sweety. Bare that in mind. Rent alone, for a small little apartment in a decent neighborhood is more than half of our paycheck. What sort of life do you plan to have? Are you willing to give things up? – the practical Mary was always concerned about material things first. No wonder she was the one to open her own business.

Sophie was just listening, but you could tell she was overwhelmed with all the questions and different points of view. After saying what they were really thinking, the three girls felt bad, mainly because they didn’t think on how their friend would feel about it. They realized Sophie was quiet for a long time. They all had another round of drinks, except for her. Nobody realized how strange that was, until Sophie lift her eyes of the bar table and said, relieved, with tears running down her checks:

– Actually, we are getting married because I am pregnant.

Roughly dilapidated

Juliana Sayão Domingues Clark, 2013. 

Like a dilapidated diamond, I am a conjoint of small polished surfaces.

Fifty eight facets, fifty eight sides represent the fractions of personality I am aware I possess.

The fractions are uneven, contradictory, pointing in different directions, but they never annul themselves.

Their edges were cut, trying to masquerade the roughness of the original stone.

The roughness that was born with me, and in me still lies.

The roughness that are implied in all my statements, in my journey, in myself, especially when nobody knows or tries to see.

The roughness that I touch convulsively and I conceal within me.

The roughness only I know.

Me and my facets, we all talk.

We talk about love, marriage and babies.

We talk about life, and death. About the birds, the skies, the dogs, my dogs.

We pronunciate words without real meaning, except for the ones we signify ourselves. We create our own language from zero, from our roughness.

We disagree. Argue. Fight.

We incite the suicide of ourselves, aiming to become one homogeneous block.

I urge to unite, to be coherent.

I need to kill the dissonance in me.

I need to control the many “me’s” in me, though I am tired of fighting myself.

I am tired of fighting myself and my roughness and my language.

I need to accept what I am.

I am the nurturer of my dreams and agonies.

The ultimate gardener of my own anxieties.

The unity within the caos.

I am the meaning of all the sentences that rush through my brain and scape through my mouth. I am the intent within the act of saying and writing.

I am the conscience behind the roughness.

The complexity within the order.

I am the thesis, the antithesis and, finally,  the synthesis.

I am.