My Face (Sort Of) Is Online

Well, the video interview with Mark Horvath of Hardly Normal is live here, as of today.

Some things you should know about me:

1) I do not, in fact, have a double chinned turkey neck in real life. I actually do have a jaw. I swear to God (Mark, please, please back me up on this!!!!!) I think that may just be the most unflattering angle on me ever, combined with the fact that the camera adds 20 lbs. (but why did it have to add them all in my face?!?!?!) So, yeah… kinda sorta mortified right now and kicking into damage control mode, because for all of my alleged stellar qualities, modesty is not one of them. I wish I could say it was, but… sorry. Like the vast majority of women, I desperately want to look pretty, especially in front of a zillion strangers :~\

2) I’m watching this video (with the sound down at work, so I still haven’t yet gotten the full horrific impact of this thing – what does my voice sound like?!) and I am realizing that I’m incredibly twitchy when I’m nervous. I’m gesticulating and fidgeting a lot. This bugs me incredibly, which means I’ll have to pay more attention to how I carry myself. Sigh.

3) My hair… Oh, god, my hair.

4) Lest you think I hate everything about myself and am just ragging and wallowing in self-pity, I do think that I have a pretty killer smile. And my St. Patty’s Day Faery T-shirt kicks major arse (thanks for the present, Aishwarya!) So there.

5) Obviously the cat is out of the bag – my first name is Brianna (they accidentally used my full first name instead of just ~B~). Well… fuck. Please, if you must call me anything, call me Bri. All of my friends do. I like it better than Brianna, anyway.

*whew* I shall now run and hide my face in my hands. Right after putting myself back on the liquid diet (this is Orange County, after all). Jamba Juice shall thank me.

On Best Friends

I’m telling you, it’s awesome to have a best friend backing you up when you’re in a situation like I am. I’ve been in positions before where I’ve felt like I had absolutely no support, nobody to turn to, and it’s no picnic. When you’ve got the most amazing best friend in the world, though, nothing is too tough.

You guys have already read about “Dwight”. Now, I am introducing you to “Aishwarya”, the only other human being in my personal circle that has any idea about my current set of circumstances. I have given her a pseudonym, although she has given me permission to publish her photo here (this is the two of us last week, the day before my birthday, at a local community college theatre production).

Aishwarya has been my best friend since junior high school, when she moved to California from Bangladesh. We have been through some unbelievably tough times together, and she has endured a lot of personal B.S. throughout her young life, yet come out the other side stronger for it, and beautiful as ever. Despite her own incredibly busy and full life, Aishwarya has consistently found time to be there for me during all of this craziness. She is the kindest, most giving, biggest-hearted person I’ve ever met. Just wanted to give acknowledgement. She is heading off in June for about 6 months (job-related training) and I will miss her terribly.

As you can see, my face is still blotted out by the omnipresent green circle, haha. However, my face may soon enough be a matter of somewhat public record, even if my name/exact location shall not – a certain well-known homeless activist recently did a video interview with me *hides face in hands* so I suppose anyone interested enough may see me on camera soon. Blegh. I hate the way I look on film. Just so you know, they’re not kidding when they say the camera adds 10 or 20 lbs. If you watch said interview, don’t say I didn’t warn you. :`(

I’m also going to be doing another interview tomorrow (this time by telephone) with a very kind and seemingly awesome-sauce journalist writing an article on the mobile homeless for the Daily Beast. How weird do I feel right now? I swear, I never thought the words “I’m going to be doing an interview” would come out of my mouth (fingers?) unless it was in the context of job-searching. Anyway, happy to do what I can to help put the issue out there.

Still… so very, very weird.

Yay!!! I have two blog “followers”!!!!! I have no idea what exactly this means, but woohoo.

I'm HIRED!!!!!!!!!

Fantastically and completely unexpectedly, I have (as of today) joined the working homeless. My interview today panned out great and they hired me on the spot – I start Wednesday!!!

The company does internet marketing and search engine optimization, with a focus on clients who are mortgage lenders. I interviewed with the CEO and his Lead Developer. I got great vibes on the company, the people, work environment, and the general atmosphere of the place. After interviewing, I expected to at least have to wait a couple of days to find out (I was feeling pretty confident, but these days you never know) – but they asked me if I could start immediately! They said that they don’t usually make a job offer right off the bat like that, but I seemed like the perfect fit for the company and their culture, and they saw no reason to see anyone else before making the decision!

Wow. Just… wow. I’ve never been so flabbergasted (or flattered) in my entire life. 8 MONTHS of searching and dead ends and sending out applications into cyberspace that may as well have been dead air because no one ever even called, and then… boom!

The position is really a catch-all, which is great because I will be able to build up my strength in all aspects of a business. It’s a 31% cut in pay for me from my last position, but who cares – I’m being paid what the market will bear for my skills at this precise moment in time, and it’s a HUGE increase over making nothing! The CEO made sure to mention to me that as the company grows, I will be offered pay raises and bonuses often, as he would really like to get me back up to my usual pay scale. It seems like they really try to take care of their employees there – I met the other workers, and they seemed cheerful and content with work and life in general, so how nice is that? What a change from the last guy who interviewed me last week. My official title is Executive Assistant, but the position will cover everything from Office Management to Human Resources to Payroll to Article Editor… There are 5 employees in the business, as well as a few freelance workers they’ve outsourced (company is growing and expanding, so adding some more) and I will be overseeing them all! How insane is all of this!? I’m terrified and thrilled, what a challenge!

Of course, I have to go to extra lengths to make sure that they never find out that I’m homeless, for however long that may be, but I’m pretty positive I can pull it off. As long as I arrive on time, work hard, and always appear polished and tidy, I don’t foresee any major problems with it. I’ve tried to draw up an estimate of how long it will take me to get myself out of this and into a house. As near as I can tell, I should probably expect about 4-6 months, if all goes well and I budget very tightly, save as much as possible from each and every paycheck, and avoid emergencies and/or complications. I will, of course, still be updating tGGtH daily; new posts will probably arrive in the evenings, though, rather than mornings/afternoons as I have been doing.

Oh, my god. I’m exhausted. Happy, but exhausted. It’s still all sinking in.

Thank you guys for your support, I don’t know that I’d have felt or projected nearly as much confidence if I didn’t feel like I had an invisible band of cyber-homeless-activists cheering me on as a support network. Unbelievable.

Shameless plug: don’t forget to send in your letters to Colbert and Jon Stewart, kids! Homeless Tales links to just about every major (and about a jillion minor) homeless activist/volunteer/shelter out there, in all areas of the world. If Homeless Tales gets a boost, we all get a boost, and the issue gets some major face time on TV in front of millions of viewers – I’m willing to bet more of the younger generation get their news from “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show” than from actual newspapers or news networks. And, the younger generation is the one that’s going to take over and inherit the earth next, so earning their awareness is a pretty big deal.

Interview-ness

Well, I had my interview this morning.

Sigh.

You know, within a week of being laid off from work, I got a job offer from an investment banker. At the time, the economy had started to crumble, but I don’t think anyone quite realized the severity of the situation. I turned the job offer down. It paid slightly better than my former position, but the folks I had interviewed with were like corpses in business suits. I couldn’t get… well, anything out of them. I kept searching for a sign of humanity, a smile or something. Desperate to make some kind of human connection with them, I even threw out a couple of jokes. Nothing. I had assumed that I completely bombed the interview, so it was definitely a surprise to receive the job offer.

I should have jumped on it. I should have. But all I kept thinking about were those interviewers who seemed so miserable, so completely deathlike, and I imagined the job sucking away any last vestige of spirit, individuality, creativity, and silliness that I retained. I was positive that a job like that would drain my soul bone-dry.

My boyfriend at the time thought I was crazy. And I suppose, in a way, he was right. But it’s hard to describe the complete and utter panic that clawed at me when I visualized myself being swallowed up by that company. I wanted to be me, not a bad carbon copy of myself, a vague humorless imprint.

If I was offered that job again today, would I take it? Hell, yes. Would I stay there once the economy righted itself? I doubt it.

I felt the same kind of panic today at my interview, for different reasons. It wasn’t a high-end financial firm this time, just a little chintzy office run by a quack of a guy who invents “health” aids that don’t actually do anything, that nobody actually needs or uses except really paranoid/OCD people who buy everything they see in airplane catalogues (i.e., oxygen bars, personal UV lights to kill bacteria, et cetera). He was a bit of a pompous, insensitive ass, but I suppose not intolerable. The overwhelming, pervasive feeling of the office though… it was one of depressing resignation. Four or five people in one room, sitting at their computers, ignoring one another, keyboards clacking as they processed orders and data. When I walked in, no one looked up. No one spoke. Just clacking keyboards.

I suppose I should feel good that I even got in to interview – the owner told me that he had received over 1,000 resumés for the position. He is looking to make a decision by tomorrow, so at least by then I will know, no dangling and wondering here. I tried to muster up enthusiasm and put on my “interview face”, but I don’t know how well I did. I’m not much of an actor, and from the moment I entered the door, I felt heavy and overwhelmed with sadness. Everything just seemed grey. Somehow, I managed to keep the interview going for about a half an hour – asking my pre-selected questions, specifically chosen to maximize the appearance of my interest in the company.

Lest you think that I am picky and a whiny, selfish, spoiled brat – believe me, if I am offered the job, I will take it. And I will smile every day that I walk in there, no matter how much of a dead end I feel it is. I am under no illusions about the precariousness of my situation, or the likelihood that I will be offered another position anytime soon. Yes, I will take it.

I post my personal feelings and fears only so that you can see that I am human and imperfect too. I am not always able to look at the bright side, or find the silver lining in everything. I am no Pollyanna.

But… this is what it is. Sometimes, to get by, we just have to suck it up and take the most readily available option, until we can move up to something better.

Just don’t do drugs or prostitution, kids! (By the way, I’m now a guest writer for Street Voices, how cool is that? After depressing interviews like this, at least I can head over to Starbucks and make believe, a little, that I’m a “writer”, haha. So, there’s still a little fun out there for me. Thanks, Matt!)

Not Much

Very little to report today. It’s raining again, so I’m happy! It’s all nice and cool and refreshing outdoors, and I’m camped out at Starbucks in my snuggly plaid PJ bottoms and year-old Sweeney Todd sweatshirt, passing as just another college student.

I was called for an interview tomorrow, huzzah! This will be the one. I can feel it. Well… I hope so, anyway.

Random Lighting Tip: If you are living in a car or an RV without electricity hookup, you can have enough light to read by at night. Purchase one of those bigger flashlights (the really chunky ones!) and stand it on its end. The light will reflect off of the ceiling and illuminates far better than candles (safer, too – candles can accidentally set stuff on fire). Plus, the batteries in those suckers last FOREVER. I have been using mine all week, and still running great!

Fezzik isn’t a fan of the rain. It means no park visit for him and he’s gotta stay in the trailer :`( Poor boy. I woke up this morning to a giant, droopy, sad-eyed face peering dejectedly over the side of the cot, as his tail thumped out a funereal mantra. He knew. Sigh.

So yeah, not much today, and tomorrow is going to be crazy busy with multiple errands, and Friday is my birthday; I’m taking full advantage of Disney’s new “free admission on your b-day” policy, so I may step off my soapbox for a day or two, and just drop in the occasional quick update. I don’t know that I have many readers just yet, so probably no psychostalkers out there, but if there are, now you know my exact location on Friday – Disneyland (where I would never actually pay to go, I used to work for The Mouse via subcontractor and hate them with a passion… but who am I to pass up an opportunity to mooch free stuff from them?) Anyway, if you’re a psychostalker looking to chain me up in your dungeon and make me your unwilling sex slave, good luck finding me among the other 20,000 people there! *sticks out tongue and blows raspberries in the face of danger*

Actually, that was probably unwise. *hastily takes back the raspberries*

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Edit: My pal Dwight just texted to me that he got a new job!!!!! Congratulations, Dwight! Here’s to being well-paid in this crap economy! Now let’s go out tomorrow and get that house! We won’t take “no” for an answer!

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Edit 2: Oh, man. I so wish that I had patience for working with people who hate/scream at me. Because I could see this being an incredibly interesting job:

http://orangecounty.craigslist.org/npo/1060413314.html
http://dreamlifeguardian.com/employment.html

Alas, probably not my area of expertise. But still, can you see a job like this ever getting boring?! It’d probably be like working in the Winchester Mystery House!


Job Searching and the Almighty Dollar

It’s raining today. God, I love the rain. You don’t see it much in Orange County.

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Quick note: Please check out Homeless Tales, the brainchild of Matt Barnes from the UK. I spent several hours last night browsing through the stories that compile his Street Voices Project, and I was fascinated by the work of the various contributers. Matt and his writers are doing their utmost to raise awareness of this social issue, and to put faces to the various homeless out there, no matter their circumstances. I have a huge amount of respect for their work and send out my kudos to them. If you haven’t already been, please check out Homeless Tales!

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Once your most basic needs (shelter, food, and water) have been met, your mind will naturally turn to money – the most important long-term solution to get you out of this.

I mentioned before, I’m not a fan of panhandling. Many homeless people out there are mentally ill/addicts and feel this is their only recourse. I am not judging those individuals. They are humans as well and deserving of compassion and assistance – medical and rehabilitory assistance in addition to food and shelter. However, I have always worked and I am fully capable of continuing to work. I will not panhandle or beg for money. There are many less fortunate homeless people who do not have the advantages I have, who cannot/do not know how to care for themselves, and who need those contributions more than I do. If you are homeless and reading this blog, that means you have figured out how to access a computer – so chances are pretty high that you are self-reliant and have at least some rudimentary skills that qualify you to find yourself money without panhandling.

First of all, sell any assets that you will not need or that do not have irreplaceable sentimental value (i.e., your grandmother’s wedding ring). If you have a laptop and phone and vehicle, obviously those are things that will come in useful to you. Items like furniture, decor, TV, stereo, etc. are not necessary and can be easily replaced once you are back on your feet. Only you can decide what you are willing to give up, but you will find that material belongings count for very little when you need to buy food and gasoline, or come up with enough money to put down a rental deposit so you can get off of the street. I have built up a collection of fine vintage clothing for several years – guess what’s happening to that? I’m eBaying it off, piece by piece.

As an immediate/temporary solution, you may be able to apply for Unemployment Insurance (UI), State Disability Insurance (SDI), Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), State Supplementary Payments (SSP) or welfare/food stamps. This guy I mentioned in a previous post has listed the various ins and outs of applying for these programs, including various rules and loopholes. There’s nothing I can say here on those topics that he hasn’t already, so visit his site and review your available options.

If you are not disabled in any way and are physically and mentally capable of working – find a job. Yes, the economy is in the toilet right now. Salaries have been slashed by about 20% on average. But there are jobs out there, even if competition is stiff for some of the higher-paying ones. If you are educated and formerly held a prestigious position – get over it. You may not be able to find something comparable to your last job right now. You may need to wait for the economy to right itself. Do not be too proud to take a lower-paying or less glamorous job in the interim. I did very well for myself in my former life and got every single job I ever interviewed for, but guess what? Right now I’m homeless, and although I have sent out hundreds of applications, the fish aren’t biting. This means that I need to be willing to take anything that comes along (unless it pays less than my UI, in which case I would be shooting myself in the foot – you can’t file for UI and work at the same time).

If you can find under-the-table work here and there, that is awesome. You are paid in cash and there is no record going to the IRS, so they can’t tax you. This means that you can collect some supplemental income and still file for UI, if that is applicable to your situation. Many small business owners will pay under-the-table.

Search on Craigslist.org, Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, and any other job board you can find. If you have a professional-looking photo of yourself in business attire, attach it to every cover letter you e-mail out. Try to stand out from the sea of nameless, faceless applicants. Distinguish yourself. When hiring managers can put a face to the name, they are more likely to think of you as a person, and remember you when it comes down to weeding through the candidates and deciding who to bring in for interviews.

If you have never had a job, or are super-young and have no previous job experience, search for “entry-level” jobs. These are jobs that require no formal training. Apply at grocery stores, restaurants, retail chains; hell, apply to be the person in the oversized chicken suit outside of Chick-Fil-A! Apply to be the person in the Chuck-E suit at Chuck-E-Cheese. For many of these jobs, you don’t have to apply online – walk right into an establishment and ask to speak to the manager. You may have the front desk person/receptionist/hostess ask you what this is regarding. Don’t tell them up front that it’s regarding applying for a job, they’ll just try to re-route you, or hand you an application to fill out. You want the manager to actually meet you so that you get a chance to make an impression. If they tell you the manager is not available and try to hand you an application to get rid of you, ask to make an appointment to speak to the manager directly. Make sure that every time you visit the establishment, you are clean and well-dressed. Make sure your interview suit/dress is modest, in fashion, and unwrinkled. Do whatever you have to, just find a job and save as much of each paycheck as you can.

At no point during a job search should you tell anyone that you are homeless. It may be tempting to milk your circumstances for sympathy, but DON’T. It will rarely work. The vast majority of society has built-in prejudices against the homeless. If you look like a bum, people will treat you like a bum. If you don’t look like you a bum, are well-dressed/qualified/articulate, but tell people you are homeless, they are still likely to treat you like a bum. Do not appeal to your interviewer in this manner. Never appear desperate. Project confidence and prepare for every interview hours or even days in advance. Find the company’s website and read up on their mission statement, their philosophy, their history, and then drop nuggets of that into your responses to interview questions, so that hiring managers will know you have done your research on the company, will fit in well, and really want to work there.

That is the most important thing in an interview – you may be the most qualified person on the planet, but if you aren’t particularly interested in the job or the company, they will hire someone less qualified who is. This may be a job you are just taking until you can get something better when the economy improves, but they don’t need to know that. As far as an interviewer is concerned, this is your dream job and you will stay here until retirement, OK? You can always change your mind after you get the job and something better comes along. That is not illegal. But you need somet
hing right now, so stretch the truth if you must. Lie a little and say that you see yourself working your way up from a cashier at McDonalds to management at their corporate office. Stress your loyalty to your employer. This doesn’t mean you have to stay there forever. You just need a job right now, do whatever you must to get it.

While job searching, look for other means to come up with extra money. You can sell belongings, as I’ve already noted. Or take a particular talent and start an e-business with it. I run a modest resumé-writing business on the side populated with friends and clients who have no idea that I am homeless. Set yourself up a webpage at Starbucks or the public library, and put your talents to good use. Promote yourself on Craigslist, Twitter, MySpace, or any one of hundreds of online resources. Invest in some cheap flyers and post them on college boards, community boards, Starbucks boards, anywhere you can. Market yourself.

Look into mystery shopping, or marketing companies who will pay you to stand around and promote their products. I did this a couple of years ago for extra cash on the side. I was one of those people who stood behind a table at Costco and handed out free samples on the weekends. You can laugh, but do you know how much I made doing that? $25/hour.

If you are a female in your 20s and you have no moral objection, you may want to look into donating your eggs (a lot of college students do it). You don’t need to be a supermodel astrophysicist to do this (I certainly can’t claim to be one, I’m just a spunky, cute-ish kid with a good head on her shoulders and a fair amount of common sense)! Many prospective parents out there are just looking for a donor who is physically reminiscent of them, and isn’t a carrier for any major diseases or disabilities. I went to check out this opportunity today. I found an agency who is putting me in their database; if I am chosen as a donor, my first-time fee will be $5,500, plus all medical expenses. Keep in mind, if you pursue this option, it pays well for a reason. Sperm donors only get about $75 a pop because their donation process is quick, easy, painless, and pleasurable. For women, you EARN that money. It is a roughly 2-month long process involving self-injected hormones, monitoring appointments, psychological evaluations, and possible side effects. Take all of this into consideration before you make the decision. Personally, I have found that people have the remarkable ability to do things that they never thought they’d be able to do in dire circumstances. I never thought that I’d be able to ransack through a blood-and-brain-splattered suicide scene either, but I ended up having to do just that when my biological father shot himself in January, because my other family members were too queasy to do it, and someone had to. Take a hard look at yourself and decide what you are willing/able to do and where you draw your boundaries, and then stick to them.

There are opportunities to earn money honestly if you search for them. So many people out there are throwing their hands up in the air and blaming the sucky economy for not being able to find work. Don’t be proud. Do what you must. Consider every alternative. You’re homeless and jobless, do you really have anything better to do? Your job is to find a job.