Catholic Match – What Do I Have to Offer

My latest piece at Catholic Match went up today:

One of the ideas that comes up in job hunting is “distinct value add.” Basically, what do you bring to this company that no one else does?

The problem for many of us, of course, is that in most cases a truthful answer would be something along the lines of, “probably not much; anyone applying for this job has much the same skills I do, and unless you have a pulp fiction or Catholic theology division that I don’t know about, my unique skills probably aren’t going to be very relevant.”

Cynical sarcasm aside, I think this is a bit of a stumbling block for most of us in online dating as well, probably even more so; the question of “what, exactly, do I have to offer this person?”

Dating, obviously, is a different matter from job applications. But the trouble is, many of us end up approaching it with a similar mindset. We pull up someone’s profile, and she’s beautiful and has a lovely description of all the cool things she’s into, and pictures of herself doing amazing things, and then we look at the mirror and wonder why someone like that would be interested in someone like us.

We know our flaws, we know our failures, we know how, well, uninteresting we are. So, what do we have to offer? What is our “distinct value add” to this person’s life? And all too often, if we don’t have a good answer, we let the opportunity pass by.

There are a few things to be said about this.

Find out those few things are by reading the whole thing.

Friday Flotsam: On Not Getting What We Want

On Monday I had a job interview, the final such one before the decision. It was for a job I dearly wanted, a company I have actual interest in, and in a location I wanted to move to. I was well-qualified, and the job promised excellent opportunity for growth. The interview seemed to go really well, with a lot of positive comments, good humor, and talk about what made the company great to work for.

This morning I found that I didn’t get the job.

Such is often the pattern, I find; a great opportunity comes along, one replete with every advantage. We pray hard, do all we can to make the most of the chance…and nothing.

The worst part is not just the disappointment itself, but the fact that we now have to go through the exact same tedious, Sisyphean process all over again, likely in pursuit of a far less desirable opportunity, if there is an opportunity at all. The question can’t help but come up ‘how many such companies / jobs / chances are there?’ To put it another way, “there’s plenty of fish in the sea” may be helpful advice if I’m a fisherman and all I am after is any old fish to have for supper; it really doesn’t help if I’m a collector and just lost a rare, beautiful, one-in-a-million fish that I’ve spent hours trying to reel in.

Times like these, it’s very easy to get angry with God; to feel like we’ve done everything we can and yet He still jerks us around. Even now I can’t help wanting to ask ‘just what do you want from me here?’

Hard as it is to believe, though, there is a reason for it. Don’t ask me what it is, but God’s will for us is always for our own benefit. This does not mean that I’m assured of an even better job down the line; having a good job might not really be the best thing for me, or at least might be an impediment to something better (obviously, I sincerely hope it isn’t, and it disturbs me to even write that). God’s idea of our good has very little to do with the things we are concerned about in this life, or even our earthly happiness: it has everything to do with our eternal happiness.

That isn’t to say God is indifferent to present happiness. This life is a part of our everlasting life, after all; the foyer of Heaven. I suspect that He is delighted when the chance comes to give someone as thoroughly happy a life on earth as could be and welcome him into Heaven afterwards. But unfortunately, that is not how things usually work, and if it is a choice between happiness now or happiness forever, He’s going to pick the latter every time, as should we. And if that means that this life is thoroughly and unremittingly miserable for us, He thinks that a small price to pay to have us with Him forever in Heaven.

Or perhaps as a price to pay to have other people in Heaven. Remember, He did not spare Himself or His nearest and dearest from the miseries of life, if it meant saving the souls of the human race. It may be that you could get to Heaven on very easy terms, but that if you did, this other person might not get there at all. If so, and if God thinks you can take it, then He’ll strip away your happy life for the sake of saving both you and the person you will never meet.

Hence, “Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and “Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

This sort of thing is alarming to write, given that I feel I’m bucking for God to say “Glad you understand; now here’s a tedious, pointless job in downtown Detroit for you to work for the next three years…” But so it is. It doesn’t make it hurt any the less, and I don’t know that I would say this to someone in the midst of mourning, but it does at least help maintain hope and makes it easier to soldier on. God knows what is best for us, and He has a far better perspective than we do.

I find being a writer helps to grasp this point. Often times the fun part is taking a character and giving them something that they initially hate or which makes them thoroughly miserable for a while, and then turning that into the source of their ultimate happiness. This is one reason, for instance, I really like the romance between Ron and Hermione in the Harry Potter books (spoilers, I guess, though you probably already knew that). They start our thoroughly disliking each other, and Ron even groans when he finds out she’s going to be in the same house with them. Then, by the end, she’s become the thing he wants most in the whole world. That transition and the final result is a large part of what makes that relationship (and consequently those characters) so enjoyable.

God is the great author, and He sees our stories whole and complete, while we only get it a page at a time. So, even when we don’t like His decisions, even when they’re the opposite of what we have been praying for, and we see not prospect of anything half as good, we may rest assured that He knows what He’s doing. “Just keep reading…”

Life Update and Blogging Plans

At the moment I am going through bootcamp. Not the military kind, but the purely coding kind. That’s to say, I’m in training to be a Java developer, with my eye on acquiring more gainful employment than I have been able to secure thus far with my English degree and freelancer experience. With intense, five-day-a-week studies and homework every night, I’ve not had much time for anything *but* Java.

However, I also want to improve my writing skills, as I still hope to make that my sole occupation some day. So, I have (somewhat masochistically) decided to embark on a simultaneous system of writing practice.

My main goal of this is to develop greater ease in writing; as it is, I find my output is much slower and more laborious than I’d like it to be, and I have trouble formulating my thoughts to my own satisfaction. As part of this practice, I’m going to commit to blogging every day from now on. Mostly short pieces, of course, but something every day.

This means you can expect a lot more brief, disjointed, rambling, and substandard posts here in the near future.

I’m mentioning it for a couple reasons; one to let you know why my blog is suddenly being flooded with the aforementioned substandard content, and two as a sign of commitment. Now that I’ve told everyone this is my plan, I feel like I’m obliged to see it through. I’m not very good at starting things, but I have a horror of not meeting commitments.

Naturally, this will be counting as my post for today. God only knows what we’ll get tomorrow.

New Years’ Resolutions at Catholic Match

My latest Catholic Match post is all about New Years’ Resolutions (and is largely written to myself):

One way or another, we are afraid to change, afraid to set aside what we’ve carried for so long, even though it’s a burden to us. We may genuinely want to make the change, or at least, we may intellectually acknowledge that the change would be good for us, and on a certain level believe we would be happier afterward. But still we are afraid to go through with the procedure.

Part of this is simply the fear of failure: we worry that we won’t have the courage or the ability to see it through.

We’re worried that if we reach for the big dream or the big goal, we will fall on our faces. If we ask the cute girl out, she may laugh at us. If we try to get into shape, we may find the work too hard. If we try to change careers, we may fail.

But we’re not just afraid of failure: we may be equally afraid of success.

See, the thing about success is that it always carries its own set of problems, pressures, and responsibilities. If we get into shape, we then have to maintain it by constant diet and exercise. If we start dating the cute girl, we then have to work at the relationship with all the hardships and sacrifices that entails.

Read the rest

Talking About Depression on Catholic Match

For those who don’t know, I suffer from mild-to-moderate depression, among other things. About a month or so ago it got really bad, and I ended up channelling that experience into the following post, which just went up on CM.

Depression isn’t sadness or feeling down. It’s pain. Raw, emotional pain, like there’s a wound inside you that just won’t heal. And you know it’s never going to heal; it’s just going to keep on throbbing and festering for as long as you live.

Except, it’s worse than that, because along with the pain is a sense of isolation; the sense that you are cut off from the rest of humanity, not for any one cause or defect, but simply because that’s who you are. It’s the sense that you are and always will be totally alone, no matter how many people are around you.

A good description of depression I found online was that, “It’s like drowning, but you can see everyone around you breathing.”

Now, my depression is relatively mild. I generally can manage it enough to get through life, and I’ve never had suicidal thoughts. A lot of people have it far worse. That said, I have found a few strategies to be useful in managing my own depression. And though I’m not an expert in the subject by any stretch, I understand that many other people with far worse conditions have also found them to be helpful.

Read the whole thing here

Various and Sundry

– As mentioned, I suffer from some pretty bad insomnia, to the point where I often can’t sleep even with sleep aids (they just make me more tired). I also have mild to moderate depression. The two do not mix well. Most nights I get to spend hours lying there, exhausted but unable to sleep and with nothing to distract me from the lovely thoughts of failure, incompetence, and regret chasing each other round and round my brain.

My post on beauty rather blew up: four-thousand views and over three thousand shares in twenty-four hours. Yet only twenty likes; I think I touched a nerve or two with that one.

-Some of the responses have, predictably, taken the form of the offense fallacy: if you don’t like what someone says, construe it as an insult, either to yourself or someone else. Most people will rush to assure you they meant no harm and not even notice the fact that not liking the implications of an idea isn’t an argument for its truth or falsehood. And since just about everything can be taken as an insult if you try hard enough, it’s a very handy little trick.

-It occurs to me that the mere fact that disenfranchised populations have been able to win themselves the vote rather tells against the necessity of granting them voting rights. The mere fact that they were able to successfully agitate to have the franchise extended to them shows that they were capable of affecting public policy without the right to vote. True, it was much harder and could only be done with great effort, requiring it to be reserved for matters considered of grave importance…which is another point against extending the franchise (since every change brings unexpected consequences, the harder it is to make serious changes the better). You know, more and more I find I’m theoretically against the idea of universal suffrage.

Writing Only Leads to More Writing

My goal at the moment is to write a sellable essay every day. Initially I was worried about whether I’d have enough material, but then I quickly discovered that essays are like bacteria: they multiply and divide exponentially!

So, I was working on a piece about Jimmy Stewart for CatholicMatch. While making my point, a phrase came to mind: “the gifts of manhood.” That naturally raised the question “well, what are those? Mightn’t people be interested in reading about that?” So, I marked that down as another essay. Before that I did a piece on the need to respect all art forms, which led to an idea about the difference between ‘higher and lower’ and ‘better and worse,’ which then led to an idea about equality and inequality. So, two possible essays right there!

I don’t buy the canard “war only breeds more war” (that would explain the endless Civil Wars that have rocked the US and the repeated wars with Japan and Germany after WWII), but it seems writing only breeds more writing.

Saturday Sundry

  • Publishing of my new book, The Wisdom of Walt Disney is planned for sometime next week. I originally planned to publish it this week, but needed more time for editing and such.
  • I’ve had a notion that I’ve been trying to make into a suitable essay: this increasing insanity we see in public discourse is partly a manifestation of the style of thinking that we’ve been taught in our school system. You see, our schools, by and large, don’t teach us to actually think or reason logically. Instead, we’re told (in essence), “this is the right answer. This is the wrong answer. Good people pick the right answer, bad people pick the wrong one.” Tell me that the vast majority of issues presented to the public aren’t presented in this kind of ‘right-answer-wrong-answer” pattern: Global Warming, same-sex marriage, ‘Transgender’ rights, racism, ‘Islamophobia,’ and on and on.
  • Planning to do the videos about every two weeks. Hopefully the next one will go a little easier, since Land Before Time was a lot of work. And I’ve discovered that years as a bitter recluse have left my voice a little…off. Maybe it’s just me, but recording’s kinda difficult, and I think I sound strange. Anyway, I’ll announce what the next film to be reviewed will be early this week.
  • I finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo this week. It was about mid-way through that I realized “Wait a second: this a book where the hero is a Bond villain!” Think about it; he’s got his secret island lair, unfathomable riches, a beautiful mistress/henchwoman, exotic henchmen, untraceable poisons, and he’s an urbane, sophisticated man enacting an elaborate scheme of vengeance. Absolute Bond villain!
  • And a little beauty to finish up:

Giotto_Polittico-Baroncelli_Firenze-Santa-Croce

-Polittico Baroncelli, by Giotto

Noble Snake Announcement

And the first Noble Snake Reviews video will be…

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This film holds a special place in my heart. It was my favorite movie when I was little, and watching it now it holds up surprisingly well. There are a lot of rich ideas to sink my teeth into buried beneath the awesome animation and great characters, and come Friday I’ll be talking all about them.

See you then!