Your Scars Are Who You Are, But Not All You Are

Fat cats make me happy.

Fat cats make me happy.

Yesterday while wasting time on Facebook, there was a headline on the “trending” sidebar that said something like, “#DearFatPeople Video Generates Viral Response.” Earlier in the day the “Dear Fat People” video had crossed my Tumblr feed full of comments like, “Hahahahaha! Harsh, but needed to be said!” “Hilarious!” “Right on!” “She’s not wrong though.” I knew watching this video would make me want to punch someone in the nads, so I thought it best to avoid it as long as possible. I managed to hold out until I saw Shawn Halpin’s hilarious response. He hit all the points- hacky jokes, crappy acting, poor content, and lack of empathy- better then I ever could.

But as funny as the response was, I could not get her stupid video out of my head. It left me unsettled. That just pissed me off, because I know that’s what this narcissistic loon wanted. I think it’s because her rant gave a voice and a face to what I assumed that everyone was thinking about me when I was heavier. That I was lazy, dirty, smelly, that I was stupid and demanded special treatment. To be honest, there is a part of me that still assumes that is what people think of me. She starts off by saying, “Fat shaming is not a thing,” but then shames someone who sat next to her on an airplane (which I’m sure was a joy for him, as well). Look, I can only speak to my experiences, but all I know is that when I was 95.4 pounds heavier I didn’t get nearly as many doors held open or people making eye contact with me as I do now. I’ve previously written about the vendor at a Ray LaMontagne concert who wouldn’t show me women’s sized t-shirts. Those are just the things I’m comfortable sharing.

jon hamm sure

The original video creator claims to “love” and be “concerned” for obese people. Later she was bragging about all her new Twitter followers. Then shut her You Tube channel down, falsely claiming You Tube shut it down and was “censoring” her.

In the springtime, my friend and I were crossing the street and this guy was walking towards us smiling. I thought, “What the hell is this guy’s problem?” and glared at him. He did an awkward glance down at his shoes, a hard exhale and dropped his smile as he passed. Literally six hours later I realized that he was smiling at me and I looked at him like he was going to steal my purse! Sorry, random guy crossing Erie, but that’s the screen I’ve come to see things through. The comments that hurt the most usually don’t come from hostile faces. They come disguised behind smiles and a thin veil of trust that throws you off balance.

I do not know one single woman who has no body image issues. I’ve never heard any woman say, ‘YEA!!! Bathing suit shopping!!” But I have heard a lot of, “I don’t wear shorts/skirts/tank tops because my thighs/legs/arms/butt.” So hearing another woman who presumably knows the pressure women are under to be physically perfect and 25 forever use those expectations with the intention of hurting others is exceptionally disappointing. I know men aren’t immune either. A couple of my guy friends won’t let the doctor tell them what they weigh. Not because it’s high, but because they aren’t built like Thor. Society is hardcore fucked up in this area.

The bottom line is that no matter how much I lose and no matter what I look like, things like this will always hit a nerve in me. I’ll always carry the scars of the words and actions that I let hurt me. However, the difference is between me 5 years ago and me now is not so much the number on the scale as it’s a mental shift. Five years ago I would have thought, “Really? This is what people think of me?” and cried. Me now thinks (most of the time), “Really? This is what people think of me? Sucks to be them.” I hope the video creator finds peace or fame or whatever she’s looking for.

And I don’t give a fuck if you think I suck, because I know I’m amazing.- “Amazing’, Hi Fashion

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Get Confident, Stupid! or How I Learned I Was Not Alone In The Sea of Suckage

In my circle of friends, I’m totally the weird brother in-law from The Hangover.

My friend, we’ll call her, “Jolene” (because that’s her name) and I spent a truly nightmarish amount of hours together while we were in school. We saw each other more then we saw our families for probably three months. Because of this, people seemed to think of us as a single unit. A woman in the student life office said, “In my mind, you guys are best friends, live in the same house, cook and do everything together!” So…she thought we were married? To each other? Maybe this is why that guy implied I was a lesbian in a job interview.

But the funniest was when our student group advisor wanted to talk to Jolene and I, but got pulled into a meeting. We’ll call him, “Dave” (that’s really his name, I’m bad at this pseudonym thing). Jolene and I had to leave, so I sent him an e-mail that said, “We had to go, but we’ll talk tomorrow.” A little later Dave calls my cell phone. I told him I was on my way home, but what’s up. He said, very seriously, “Is Jolene with you?” I giggled and thought, “Jesus Christ, do people really think we live together?” My inner smart ass became my outer smart ass when I said, “Now, Dave, Jolene and I do not actually live together.” Silence. Um…okay. Clearly Dave was not in a very Beth place that afternoon. I straightened up and put on serious businesswoman face. “No, she’s on her way home, too. Do you want me to tell her something for you?” For the record, he recovered and found me hilarious again the next day.

A visual representation of trying to find myself in the world after school was out.

I thought of this story when one of my friends was lamenting how much longer he had left in school and I gladly offered to change places with him because I loved school and miss it almost every day. He said he couldn’t relate, but asked why did I miss it? Honestly, no one had ever asked me that before and aside from, “it was awesome,” I didn’t know how to answer. Thinking about it for a while, it boiled down to being in a kind of insulated, supportive environment. Even on bad days, I knew there were a bunch of people who had my back and that I could turn to when things got rough. If nothing else they were there say, “Guuuuuurl, I know.” Then they’re just gone. Suddenly it feels like you’re floating alone in this big sea of suckage where no one gives a shit about you.

But then I started thinking, is that really true? I mean, just because I feel like it’s true doesn’t mean it is. I believe a lot of stupid shit, plus feelings are kind of dicks and lie. A LOT. Can I call up those same people, get advice, share victories, or just vent and would I do the same for them? Absolutely. I do it all the time (much to their dismay). They’re the people I want to do everything with and if we could move into a compound and hang out all the time, I totally would (no, I wouldn’t) (yes, I would).

So, just because we aren’t forced to be in a teeny room with each other for an ungodly number of hours every day doesn’t mean that there is less support. Yes, people get busy and have to do their own thing, but I know that I’ve got an awesome support system around me. I’m sorry it took me so long to realize it.

My Worst Job Interview Experience

Cafe at Ohio Street Beach Chicago

Cafe at Ohio Street Beach Chicago

If you ask me how it went after an interview, I’ll usually say, “I think it went pretty good,” because early on I had an experience that really raised the bar so high for what constituted a “bad” interview so that nothing since has come anywhere close.

About a year ago I was contacted by a Chicago company looking for a graphic design intern. This was maybe two weeks after school ended. I thought, “Damn! This graphic design thing is going GREAT! I don’t have to do anything and the jobs are coming to me!” Yeah, May 2014 Beth was kind of an idiot. Phone interviews went great and a week later I went in to meet with the rest of the creative team. “Awesome! Job searching is THE BEST!” Shut up, May 2014 Beth.

Fast-forwarding through the start of the interview, I met with 3 of the firm’s creative team members. It wasn’t going all that awesome, but it wasn’t horrible. Just odd. I had the feeling I was being sized up as to whether I was worthy enough to hang with them. Then the forth member of our party walked in.

mean girls lunch table

“You can’t sit with us.”

I went over my background and he waved off looking at my portfolio. He started on a lengthy monologue telling me how their employees are born, not made and “it’s in the DNA to work with us or not” that was liberally sprinkled with profanity. Okay, I LOVE swearing. Half the titles in this blog have swears in them, but in a job interview? However, it just kept getting weirder.

When I told him my ultimate career ambition was to be a creative director he made an expression that can be called the, “Good Luck With That, Lady!” and launched another monologue about how I obviously didn’t understand the creative director’s role. It’s more then “making pretty pictures” and “throwing up a logo”  (sounds like it would rip up the esophagus something fierce) and I need to reconsider. May 2014 Beth was kind of stupid, but I knew I did NOT want to work for this guy. I don’t have time for people who shit on someone else’s ambitions.

Remember the profanity laden, “It’s in the DNA or it isn’t” monologue from 2 paragraphs ago? Well, he wasn’t finished. Let’s join the scene already in progress:

Douche McGee: Here at Jack Ass International (I maybe altered their names), we believe it’s in your DNA or not. You’re either one of us or you’re not. There’s no learning to be one of us. So, what I would like is to get to know you a bit better. What makes Beth tick? What sort of thing gets Beth going?

May 2014 Beth: Um…what are you asking? You want to know my hobbies?

Douche McGee: Well, for example, I see by your wedding ring, that you’re married.

May 2014 Beth: (thinking) Do I tell him it’s against the law ask me that? Eh. Just go with it. I don’t want to work here anyway.

May 2014 Beth: Yes, I am.

Douche McGee: Kids?

May 2014 Beth: (thinking)  WTF? Seriously?? I’m gonna get DNA tested and make sure I’ve got nothing in common with this guy.

May 2014 Beth: Nope.

Douche McGee: (pause while he unsuccessfully stifles a giggle)

Douche McGee: It’s a man?

May 2014 Beth: What’s a man?

Douche McGee: You’re married. It’s to a man? (giggling at his own cleverness) You’re married to a man?

May 2014 Beth: (thinking)  OH HELL NAAAAAAAAW. I wish I was married to a woman, because I’m pretty sure my awesome lesbian wife would totally kick your ass for disrespecting her lady.

May 2014 Beth: Um, yes. My husband is a man.

I’ve found when you ask someone about their sexuality it tends to grind the conversation to a halt, so thus concluded our interview. It was so completely absurd that I skipped right over anger and burst out laughing when I got into the elevator. Since then, really as long as people don’t insinuate I’m gay, I consider the interview a success. My “success” barometer might need to be adjusted. But it makes for a great story and taught me to be ready for just about anything in an interview.

A little housekeeping, I taught myself some basic After Effects and made this little intro video for my website. So if you’ve got a burning desire to hear my voice, now is your chance!

Little Beth, Beth Brousil, Self-Promo from Beth Brousil on Vimeo.

Bigger and Better

confidenceLast time we were together, things were a bit bleak. The day before I had just got word that, despite looking like it was all sewn up, I would “not be advancing in the hiring process” for what looked to be my dream job. I mean, when the hiring manager comes up to you with a gleam in her eye and in a sing-song voice says, “You’ll be hearing from us soon!” you kind of think it’s yours, you know? It was a heart-breaker. If you are thinking that I just moped around the house for a month like grim death minus the hood and sickle, well, you would totally be correct. BUT then things started to turn around.

About a month later, one of my designer friends, who has way too much work, asked me if I could help her out for a little while. Then another friend suggested my name to her bosses as a writer their company’s blog. So I went from no jobs to two jobs. Then just last night I started back to school. Now I’m avoiding all of it by updating my blog (*note to self: google “time management”).

Now that we’re all caught up, what I really wanted to write about was attitude. The place I was at over the summer wasn’t the best fit for me. Then I went right into job searching. It was like this very gradual snowball effect that made this negative loop start playing. You know that negative voice that tells you that you suck at life? Well, it took me a minute (or three months, but who’s counting) to realize that voice is a lie. It’s lying to me, it’s lying to you, it’s just lying. It’s a jerk. Whenever we give into it and give into the fear it creates, we’re cheating ourselves. Because those things that the voice says we could never do or shouldn’t do, are probably the exact things we need to be doing.

Now, I’m not talking about knocking over a liquor store or keying someone’s car in the Starbuck’s parking lot because of her rage inducing bad driving. But those things that you think, “Hey, that would be pretty cool, buuuuut…..” and this list of excuses comes up. Those are the things that you would love to do, but that voice holds you back. Do them. The second we tell that voice to shut up, we get free.

Things are good for now, but I can’t do this forever. I really do want to work in an office with coworkers (I know, I have issues). So back out into the world I go, this time with a little bit of a safety net and a little bit wiser. There will be sing-songy HR ladies again, I’m sure, but, oh well. That’s what happens sometimes, I guess. That voice? When it starts, I’m just going to sing this song to it, because I know I’m amazing.

Adventures In Job Searching

Hey kids! Summer is over, the trees are bare and I sit unemployed watching Hoarders. If that’s not bad enough, I’ve seen this episode like 12 times already. Looking for a job is a really weird place to be. Like any other major life transition, your friends and family want to help, but they really have absolutely no freaking clue what to say or do. But one thing you should not say, “Make finding a job your job!!” Please make this a life rule right up there with not asking a seemingly pregnant woman when she is due, a tall person how’s the weather up there, and saying, “Cold enough for ya!” to anyone on earth. We’ve heard it. A lot. Our job is not throat punching people who say this to us. Sadly, it doesn’t pay well.

What all job seekers do in their head when we someone says, “Make finding a job your job!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People do want to help because it sucks watching someone you care about feel so crappy and loser-y. So people will tell you about jobs that in no way relate to your field or that you qualify for. “Hey, I heard you’re a graphic designer looking for a job. My neighbor is looking to hire someone.” “Oh great! What kind of job?” “Forest ranger.” Followed closely by the people who tell you about jobs in your field but in far away places. “I saw a listing for graphic designer.” “Oh great!” “It was in the Philippines.” God love you guys, because we know you want to help, but the Philippines is a little far to commute everyday.

Job searching is like this really long series of blind dates. And I really, really sucked at dating. I had an interview where a creative director asked in a roundabout way if I was a lesbian. See? Just like a shitty date! The worst part is I had no idea what answer he was looking for. One of my friends said I should have answered, “Is that a problem?” That’s why she has a job and I don’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Friday I got word that, after making it to the final round of the hiring process, I again lost out to other candidates. When I get that far in to the process, it’s hard for me not to take it personally. That jerk voice in my head says things like, “If I was younger, cuter, funnier, thinner, a better designer, etc. this would be so much easier. I’m just not good enough.” Logically I know it’s not true and it’s difficult for everyone trying to break into a new field. If it’s not for some people, well, I’m putting them on the “To Throat Punch” list.


If this life has taught me nothing else it’s never say, “It couldn’t possibly get any worse then this!” Because life has a way of showing you that yes, in fact, it can get way worse and then proving it to you. So despite how bleak I feel, I try to always count my blessings. I’m so grateful for the people who care about me and have called, texted, messaged, Tweeted, Tumblr’d, Facebooked, sent me silent good vibes, just listened to me bitch, let me cry and/or picked up the bill. If your kindness were dollars I’d be a billionaire. But it’s not, so Monday morning it’s back on the stroll.

Till we meet again, enjoy this super depressing Ray LaMontagne song, “Let It Be Me.”

Life Lessons From A Giant Spider Attack or Pull Yourself Together And Stop F’ing Crying

If you don’t know Anne Taintor, you totally should!

Let me set the scene for you, it’s a beautiful day and I’m driving to the gym. I decide to roll down the window. That’s when a spider the size of a small dog dropped down and was swinging in and out of the car right at my eye level. I tried to roll the window back up, but, of course, that trapped us in the car together. I pulled over. “Pulled over” sounds calm and rational. What I did was more like swerve wildly while yelling, “OH GOD!!!!!!!” at the top of my lungs until I eventually stopped pretty much in the middle of the street.

I flung the door open and thought maybe I could knock it down with my foot. Yeah, I hit the spider into the car and it started crawling in the window switches. Oh hell no. Big ass spider gets in, I get out.

Standing next to my spider infested car, I was completely clueless as to what to do. I was really prepared to just let the spider have the car, because clearly he wanted it more then I did. People would probably be understanding. “Hey, did you get a new car?” “Yeah, spider the size of a toddler wanted the other one.” “Oh, yeah. That happened to my cousin.”

Approximate size of spider

But I knew that wouldn’t work. So, I tried to calm my abject terror and opened the door. To my surprise, the spider wasn’t behind the wheel about to drive off. He was crawling next to the seat on his way to the pedals and I squashed him with my shoe. VICTORY WAS MINE!

So the lesson to me was: even though you think the giant spider is going to eat your face off,  if remove yourself from the situation for a minute and regroup then you can find a new way to attack the problem.

“Beth, did you ever get the opportunity to apply this lesson outside of this death defying spider incident?”

As a matter of fact, I did! So glad you asked!

Recently, someone told me that my goal of being a graphic designer probably isn’t going to happen like I expect and I should reconsider. I listened and smiled politely during the thirty plus minute run down of all the reasons why I was not cutout to be a designer all while going from dumbfounded to profoundly sad inside. They may as well have said, “You know all the time, the money, the sleep, etc. you sacrificed to go back to school? Totally wasted.” As the day went on, my feelings snowballed until I finally decided they were right. I was pulling the graphic design car over, getting out and letting the spider have it. I had been defeated and I was done trying. I kept hearing my teacher’s voice in my head telling me, “Don’t let them see you cry. You can cry here, in my office, but never do it out there,” and managed to keep it together.

It was sorta like this. “Look, Lisa. If you look closely you can actually pinpoint the exact moment his heart breaks in two.”

The next day when I was removed from the situation, something inside shifted. I went from profound sadness to anger. I turned into one of those girls on Maury Povich shouting, “Whatever! You don’t know me! I do what I want!”  This person does not get to tell me when to give up. It’s not like I want to play in the NBA or become a ballerina (but you better believe I would rock the shit out of the Nutcracker). I’ve only been out of school for 3 months, so of course I still have a lot to learn. I may never be Stefan Sagmeister or Louise Fili, but I will keep learning and improving. I will get where I want to go, because I am either too smart or too stupid to stop and I absolutely refuse to hand the keys to my ambitions over to someone who doesn’t deserve them. No one but me gets to decide when I am finished.

Truth be told, I’m always happiest and at my best when I’m fighting against something. So, Captain Bringdown, thanks for the motivation and, one more thing before I go:

BOOM.

It’s About That Time, Kids

logoAs of last Thursday night, I’m about 95% done with school. Crazy, right? If you are ever considering going back to school, GO. It’s the single greatest decision I’ve ever made. I have a tendency to exaggerate, but I am serious when I say I have loved every day.

On “The Office,” Andy said, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” I’m lucky, because I knew I was in them when Mina and I would brainstorm for Jean’s class in Brian’s class. I knew it when Dave told me to talk to people who like things and drink more water. I knew it when Zach said, “Yeeeeaah,” in a way that meant, “Um, no.” I knew it every time Mareen said, “chocolate” with her adorable German accent. I knew it when Meghan and I got lost in an empty parking lot. I even knew it when I broke my nose walking into a solid glass wall (shut up).

Don’t get me wrong, there were shitty days. Days I wanted to quit and do nothing but lay in bed and cry (AKA, days I updated my blog so I could stay in my pajamas longer). Weeks where I was physically at school for 50+ hours. Times when just hearing my classmates voices made me want to go on a rampage. I’m generally non-violent and helpful, so my rampage would have looked like this:

Behold my wrath as I gently lay this chair on the ground!!!!!

Behold my wrath as I gently lay this chair on the ground, then cheerfully assist you in putting it back where it belongs!!!

But there were also days that I went so far beyond what I thought possible for myself. I have laughed so hard that my cheeks still hurt the next day. I went places, met people, and did things that were so amazing they hardly seemed real. It was all great and I would change virtually nothing (well, one Saturday, maybe). Sometimes I wonder if 2011 me would recognize 2014 me. Nothing I regularly do now I would have thought possible then.

I remember sitting in my first class, Drawing for Design, over summer session, and we were all quiet. You know that unspoken tension where you start to think, “Why is no one talking? Is it okay to talk? Did something happen when I was in the bathroom? Should I be the brave one who talks?” It bothered me that I didn’t speak up. Everyone seemed in a good mood, but no one wanted to be the first one on the dance floor, so to speak. That night I realized that I had a choice- I could either go on and keep being the person who waited for someone else to go first or I could be the one who stepped up and out.

scary path

Unfamiliar roads always look like this in my mind.

I decided that I was going to walk into class the next day and be the one who spoke up and was friendly and fun. If I didn’t take this experience as an opportunity to reinvent myself, then what would be the point of any of this? I don’t specifically remember that next day, which tells me that it went fine. When fall semester rolled around, I had to again make a conscious effort to let out my bubbly fun side, but it was a teeny bit easier.

Fast-forward three years and to our portfolio night after party and I told everyone this kid Joe, who is young enough to by my son if I was on some 90’s version of Teen Mom, was my secret boyfriend (he’s not). I told another kid he was going to take trapeze lessons with me, and told horrifyingly awkward stories to two of my teachers. Of course, by “told” I mean, “drunkenly yelled across a crowded bar.” I also vaguely remember making pterodactyl-like noises for some reason. So yeah, it’s fairly safe to say that I am much more comfortable in my skin or an obnoxious drunk (“The latter”- you. “Shut up”- me).

I still don’t know if I’m going to succeed or fail. But when I started school in 2011, I decided if i was going to fail, I was going to fail trying. My faith wavers, but giving up has never seriously been an option. Now I’m on a new path and it’s really scary and feels a bit lonely, but I know there are people who believe in me. Even if I can’t see what they see, I’ll just have to believe in their faith.

Some new things coming up that I will leave for future posts. Til then, have a great week!

Put your dreams away for now, I won’t see you for some time…