I had a job interview yesterday. I didn’t especially want the job. I started looking at the commute, and it just seemed outrageous. It’s hard to know what kinds of sacrifices I can or should try to make this year. I don’t really expect this to be an easy year, but I don’t want to lose my mind either.
Anyway, I survived it, I suppose. I don’t think it went very well. It’s possibly it went extremely badly. Preparing for it, I was mostly trying to stay in my body, trying to stay aware of my feelings, and trying to calm them, rather than shutting down and switching into a part who might know how to get jobs. I am hoping if I stay with that, it will pay off later.
I was aware going there how frightened I was at certain moments—not continually, necessarily, but in moments. It seemed to be moments where I faced some kind of uncertainty and I needed to move forward.
I was watching a series about a serial killer called The Fall. The detective at some point is interviewing a witness and she was saying that men typically expect that one’s natural reaction to violence of any kind is fight or flight, but it is much more common for women to freeze. It felt really meaningful for me to hear that, even from a television character. It was like it gave my child self permission to freeze and made it acceptable for me now to be working with a freeze response. It was helpful too to hear outside of the context of “it helped you survive,” because I don’t think I knew as a child that survival had anything to do with it. It is hard to reconcile attempting suicide as a toddler with the wish to survive in other situations. It is easier to understand the freeze mode as a biological response to a felt perception that neither an aggressive response nor retreat will be effective. In other words, it is easier to think of it as a momentary impulse rather than work towards a long-term goal.
As a child, it makes sense to me that I might have thought in five-minute intervals—not what might happen 10 or 15 or even 20 years into the future.
So as this feeling that my mind was about to shut down came over me—and there is a very distinctive feeling to it that I can recognize now—I tried to keep my attention on my body and on helping my body calm down. Instead of thinking about the source of my distress, I mostly tried to remain aware of my breathing. I think it does the same thing as hearing someone else’s calm breathing. It tells you there isn’t any danger. It did help.
I think the interview might have gone quite differently, but the principal was seemingly confused about the interview time (the appointment after me had cancelled), and her secretary was seemingly not aware of the interview location, and I was directed to the wrong location. Where I waited for an hour, only to be told I was in the wrong place. I could overhear her conversations over a walkie-talkie with her secretary, and it wasn’t that pleasant. The principal was angry I had been sent to the wrong location. The secretary voiced to me her frustration with the principal for being an hour late.
One factor might be that I know the secretary already. Not well, but she has worked at the same school as I have before, and I have a positive impression of her. I think she has a positive impression of me too.
Overall, the exchanges between the principal and her secretary gave me the sense the principal was not very competent and that she blames others for her mistakes, or at least that she is very reactive to the mistakes of others although she also makes mistakes. I think it raised my fears all over again right before going into the interview—that kind of person tends to be very difficult.
Something else I thought as I sat in the principal’s office for an hour waiting had to do with expected standards of teaching. It was the last period of the day, and I some of the classroom doors were open, and I could hear them teaching. The two classes I could hear were both math classrooms, and what I heard was just terribly, terribly boring. For the most part, it was 50 minutes of a teacher talking with a high degree of passivity from the students. The teacher was really doing all of the work, and the students were sitting there, dutifully listening. There was a certain degree of exchange, but not anything like what I would expect. It was very much what my high school math classroom was like 30 years ago, as if nothing had been learned in that time about how children learn.
I suspect a lot of math classrooms actually are like that, and I just didn’t know. I worked at a school with a lot of problems for 6 years, and we probably had to work harder just to achieve mediocrity.
I left feeling I didn’t want to work there, although it generally has a good reputation, and they might not like me very much either, even if I had managed to hold it together in the interview better.
Anyway, I think