Monday, March 31, 2008

home again, home again, jiggety-jig

Parents. MY parents. They have always held specific titles, for me. Mom. Papa. One day, I hope I can hold the title, "Mom," too, but I've never said, "I want to be like Mom." I've been content, more or less, with being "Shama." Until this weekend, when something strange happened.

I stopped looking at them as my parents and saw them, simply as people. Interesting, kind and sweet people. People who are just living out their existence, same as anybody else. No, better than most. They try so very hard to be good people, and in my mind, they succeed. As parents, I would like to say they've succeeded, but it's hard to separate myself from the bias I have, as their daughter. This concept has been bugging me. If they're good parents, does that make me a good daughter? I know I'm not, but I still think they're good parents. If they're good people, does that make me a good person, who is also a bad daughter? Or is a good person, by default, a good daughter? How do they think they did, as parents?

I can see what they've done for themselves and for their family, and I'm thoroughly impressed. I don't quite understand how or why the switch flipped, but it did, and I hope I can be more like them, someday.

Friday, March 28, 2008


My birthday has come and gone. It was a delightful evening with many friends and many laughs. My favorite part of the night was the cake my dear friend, Evan, brought for me. It said "Happy Birthday (Sam) Shama" and it was delicious. I could go on and on about how much fun I had, or how wonderful it was to socialize with the many good folks in my life, or even about how reassuring it was to see my friends from different parts of my life getting along with each other, but anything I could describe would have to be punctuated with the annoying phrase, "You'd have to have been there."

It was a very nice birthday, indeed.

After I came home and settled myself into my latest year, I went back to my usual activities: household chores, homework, writing for the magazine, fretting over the other job, paying bills and playing Scrabble online. It was pleasant. I felt like 27 was going to be My Year. Then I read this and began the spiral of self-doubt and self-loathing.

I hate that I have such awful habits. I hate that I can't seem to kick those habits in the teeth and leave them for dead. I hate knowing that people I love and respect hate this part of me. And I hate that it is a part of me. I hate all the things that his post mentioned, but I hate them even more than non-smokers do, because I feel totally helpless to the addiction.

I should never have started smoking. I am an asshole. The worst part, is that I completely agree with him on many many levels. I just can't seem to totally quit. It's addiction. Addiction is serious. I don''t claim to be an expert on it, but I know it's serious enough that it can't be eradicated with rationale. I wish it could. I read and reread that journal entry everytime I want a smoke. If I can't read it, then I eat. if I eat, then I opt for chocolate. I'm replacing one addiction with another and I don't know if it's better to be fat and unhealthy or thin and unhealthy. sigh.

The question then becomes, "Whose got the worst vice?"

I believe that drinking, which is also an addiction, is far worse than smoking, yet alcohol will never be banned from airplanes or, hmph, BARS. Alcohol somehow rates higher on the tolerance scale than smoking, though it will inhibit a person to the point where they might end up doing something like this.

And then there is the notion that addiction can be replaced with something healthier, like religion (for the AA members out there). I don't even know where to start. So I won't.

I'm not arguing FOR smokers. I think it's a filthy, vile, disgusting habit. I'm arguing that smoking is just as bad as any addiction, but shouldn't be singled out unless others are willing to look at the larger problem -- addiction.

We're all junkies of one kind or another. We don't get past these habits by ourselves, and we don't beat the vices by use of guilt, bans or even sound arguments. We find and fix our faults through the support and understanding of our friends and loved ones.

"I'm sorry," she said, lowering her eyes. "This isn't easy."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Religious Experience

I want to be religious. I think I have always wanted to be religious, the way that some people want to be doctors, or racecar drivers, or moms, or rodeo cowboys. It's always existed, as a seedling in my head, but that's the problem with religion. It has to exist in your heart (if you don't forgive the cliche, I'm sure Jesus will). I grew up as a Muslim, but not a practicing one. Islam was always just on the periphery of my childhood, it was never hammered and drilled into my life. Sometimes, I'm thankful that I was never restricted to Mosque-related activities, but sometimes, I wish I had spent more time with other Muslims.

Many of my close friends are religious, in their own right, and seem to be extraordinarily happy with their particular communities. They aren't narrow-minded or self-righteous. They're not judgmental or hypocritical. They're my friends, and they're content. I want that too, damnit.

I saw "The Ten Commandments" again, last night. Man, what a great movie. I just feel so weird about the whole thing because I'm not Jewish. I wonder if the movie would have been more meaningful if I was coming from a particular faith or if I would appreciate it any more or less.

I know, I know. If I want to be religious, then why don't I just go to Mosque, pray and adhere to Islamic beliefs? Possibly because I'm scared of committing to something that I don't fully understand, nor SHOULD understand, but simply have FAITH in. The power of religion, as an institution, sincerely frightens me. I enjoy learning about different religions and even arguing to a certain point, but I don't ever want to turn into a person who refuses to accept another's perspective because it is contradictory to my faith.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


"We were frightened of being left alone for the rest of our lives. Only people of a certain disposition are frightened of being alone for the rest of their lives at the age of 26, and we were of that disposition." --Rob Gordon, "High Fidelity"

I suppose I shouldn't have watched that movie again, being in a somewhat panicked state of mind, but I just couldn't help myself. Those lines keep bouncing around in my head along with the thought, "I'm turning 27. What the hell am I DOING?" I know I'm not being rational but I also know that at this moment, I TOTALLY understand that statement. I don't want to be alone for the rest of my life, and I know that I'm still relatively young, therefore "the rest of my life" is a good amount of time.

A good amount of time to find someone.
A good amount of time to accomplish something of value.
A good amount of time to become a better version of myself.
A good amount of time to be alone.

The tagline for movie is: A comedy about fear of commitment, hating your job, falling in love and other pop favorites.

Maybe this WAS the right movie for me to watch again. I certainly understand the fear of commitment. I can honestly say that I have successfully sabotaged every relationship I've ever attempted, based on the fear that I might end up "settling." Now, I think "settling" sounds pretty darned good, but I don't know how to do it because I've been vehemently opposed to the idea for so long.
Do I hate my job? Hm. Well, I dislike the one that pays me, but they PAY me. I like the one that doesn't pay me, but I doubt I can make a living off of it, unless I decide to quit eating, going out, doing laundry or any other number of activities that require a few bucks.
Ah, and the last part of the tagline -- falling in love. I'm good at that. I do that all the time. It feels good. It's a pity that I always seem to fall for people that have no idea I exist. One day, Andrew Bird. One day...

I'm beginning to wonder about the concept of commitment. Is this something some people are born with, or is it something that's learned? If it's something that's learned, how do I go about learning it? What's more, is how do I commit to committing? Yikes. The very thought is enough to make me want a distraction from this post.

The other scene from the movie that actually gives me a lot of hope is this one:

I love the first 20 seconds of this clip, but it's the last three minutes that really get to me. I love it when the main character of a story learns something without losing any of the charming faults that make them a great character. That gives me hope.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Horoscopes Are Dumb

My Yahoo! horoscope reads:

The heat is rising in a quarrel you're having -- but the worst is almost over.

I didn't even know I was quarreling with someone! How very strange. I know it's dumb to even bother with my horoscope, but occasionally I will look, just to see what it says. It's usually totally off-base and remarks on facets of my life that don't even exist.

"That special someone in your life has a surprise for you!" Or, "Be careful about your actions at the office today." That last one came up when I was out of work and spending my days at home, chatting with a sock puppet. I hope I didn't upset the puppet.

I suppose I'm looking at the horoscopes more frequently these days because my birthday is coming up, and I still feel like I lack direction in my life. I'm about to get a year older but not necessarily a year wiser. The difference between this year and past years, is that I will be in Chicago. I usually try to take a mini-vacation, get some distance, and sort things out for myself. I guess I'll just have to do that here, this year.

Maybe I'll go see a psychic. They'll know what to do.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Identity Crisis: Part Two

Since I began the new job, I've been doing some thinking. I answer to "Sam" now, but not right away. I sign emails to clients as "Sam". I get introduced to coworkers and clients as "Sam", and I have to remind myself that "Sam" is who I am in this position, which I'm not really qualified for, but that's a whole different mess.

I've had a few discussions with friends and family on the subject and have been hearing a lot of different responses:
- This is a funny situation to be in.
- I'll get used to the new name.
- I was smart to change it, for employment purposes.

All of those things are true, but I just don't know how I feel about it. I'm not upset or happy, either way. It's just a new change, and one I only partially thought through. My brother recently posted a journal entry that touched down on some of the issues I'm grappling with. Whereas he chose the route of assimilation, a path that I frequently wished I'd walked, I ultimately embraced my image as an Asian-American, and chose to cultivate my own credo on the subject. I don't regret it, nor do I envy or judge his choices anymore. But now, I find that I AM assimilating in one of the most fundamental ways. I changed my NAME. If only I could blame it on Ellis Island.

I've grown accustomed to living in a hyphenated world, but this is something entirely different. There isn't an equal splitting of values, where each entity maintains individual significance. This is a manufactured sense of self. It's not a "short" version of my name, and it's not even a nickname, because as we all learned from Sports Night (and how I wish I could have found a clip of that episode!), "you can't give YOURSELF a nickname."

The largest issue at hand is the choice I have to make. Do I continue being "Sam" in the professional world or not? It might not seem like a big deal, but if I look to the future, "Sam" may end up on a slippery slope and there's no way of going back. Or I might just end up with a split personality.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sam I Am

I got a job! I feel like a new woman. Possibly because I changed my name. It's been about a week since I last posted anything, so here's what happened:

- As a lark, I changed my name on my resume from "Shama" to "Sam".
- I applied for about five more jobs under the new name.
- I received three responses within two days.

When I began this experiment, I didn't have any expectations and I certainly wasn't rooting for any one particular outcome, however, now that I have some results, I'd like to analyze them.

First of all, I doubt that these employers consciously or subconsciously responded for any race-related reasons. I did not change my last name, which is decidedly ethnic. Secondly, I doubt the responses had anything to do with gender. I don't have any real evidence, save for the fact that I went in for an interview as a woman and got hired as a woman. So, that leaves me with the question, "Why did Sam get responses when Shama didn't?"

The answer became clear when I was filling out my new hire paperwork and made a point to my new boss that my checks should be written out to Shama. She listened intently, glanced down at the paperwork, paused for a long while, then looked back up at me, expectantly.

"It's pronounced Shaw-muh," I said.
A look of relief swept across her face and she said, "Thanks. I'm sure I would have pronounced it wrong."

REALLY? It then occurred to me that perhaps Shama wasn't receiving any calls because potential employers simply didn't want to sound DUMB. It's true that we stay away from words we can't pronounce easily, and it is also true that the easiest path is the shortest or straightest, so maybe, just maybe, Sam provides the simplest path for an employer. There it is. Sam I am.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Identity Crisis

Update: I'm still unemployed.

It's strange to think that I'm so thoroughly unmarketable, and all the spare time not working has left me with PLENTY of time to contemplate WHY I'm still unemployed. Among the myriad of reasons (I don't have enough experience, knowledge, time, education, etc.) I began to wonder if I wasn't getting any responses because of my name.

I know this might sound silly to those who know me, but I wonder if I'm not getting any interviews because employers don't know how to pronounce my name. It's not a difficult name, but it is also one that is easy to mispronounce. Nearly a year ago, I had a conversation with a friend who has a difficult name. He told me that once he changed it to something simpler, something more conventional, he started to get interviews. At the time, I thought it was absurd.

I don't think that anymore.

I'm changing my name. Nothing drastic or permanent, but I am changing it to something more conventional. I don't know if it's going to help, but at this point, I'm willing to give it a shot. I'm trying to look at this shift as an 'experiment' of sorts. I have a hypothesis, a method and it will be easy enough to analyze the results, I'm just not sure how I'm going to gauge the success of such an experiment.

If changing my name does indeed work, then I will find employment and a whole new level of disappointment. If it doesn't work, then I'm just going to have to start selling fruit on the streets. Fresh lemons anyone?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Dear Job Market

Dear Job Market,
You suck.


Monday, March 3, 2008

one, two, three for the money

i need a job. i need a job so badly right now. the first of the month has come and gone, and so has the last of my cash. damn rent. i did my taxes the other night, hoping that my return would be enough to sustain me for a short while. my wallet has flies coming out of it. just like in the cartoons.

i'm tempted to go back to waitressing, but i think i might kill myself if i did that again. what happened to my useful skills? why won't anyone hire me to do something AND pay me for it? ugh. frustrated. worried.