Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Perfect Match

There are those that insist that you paint a mental portrait of your ideal - job, mate, car, house, whatever - so that you know exactly what you're looking for, and can recognize it when you find it.

I've never been very good at that, never really trusting my own desires, thinking I might miss out on something really great that I didn't know I wanted, but might suit me perfectly.

I've never wanted to restrict myself to "tall, dark, and handsome," (though it's probably more like "not too tall, dark, with kind eyes and an adorable face") just in case I meet a blonde guy who rocks my world. Who says I know what's best for me?

When I first started looking for a job after college, I knew I wanted to work at either a record label or a magazine. Consequently, in June 1997 I was interviewing both at Atlantic Records and Billboard. Atlantic ponied up the job offer first, and although it was in classical music - an undesirable department for most music biz job candidates - I jumped in head-first.

When I got hired at Razor & Tie, it was nearly a year after I first applied for a job there, a company I targeted solely on their reputation for reissues and compilations. During my interview, the owner asked me, "How do you feel about....cheesy?" and I enthusiastically replied, "I own Monster Booty. And I bought two copies of Easy Rock!" For those characteristics alone, the job fit the bill, though I was hired at first to work on their non-music projects. But I thought I could make it work: I made it clear that it would be a waste of my music trivia genius to not involve me in some way in their music releases, so soon enough, they were letting me produce compilations for them, and product manage hip hop compilations, classical crossover artists, and their entire children's music business.

When I started really looking for a job again in 2010, I tried to describe my ideal workplace scenario, but all I really knew was that I wanted that which was not the work situation I'd left behind. I wanted a place where I could advance, where women were respected and supported, where there was enough structure and bureaucracy to support the staff when things went wrong, or to prevent them from going wrong. I wanted to work on something I could feel proud of, that I cared about, that somehow helped people or helped the world or did something even remotely good. Other than that, I didn't really know.

Of the two job offers I got in 2010, neither one of them really fit my image of "Mr. Right," but I listened to opportunity knocking rather than to my own instincts. I took a job whose swift hiring process worried me, a concern I disregarded, until they let me go as quickly as they brought me on. But in the end, it's OK. I don't think I was helping anybody there. Once again, it was a job about making money.

So now that I'm back out on a job search, I don't know anything more now about what job I'm looking for than I did last year, but I'm less likely to make something up when someone asks me. The problem is: do I have the luxury of saying - to myself or to others - "I'll know it when I see it"?

I've had that attitude my entire life when it comes to finding a romantic partner, a mate, someone to share my life - or at least, my nights - with. Sure, I can say that my turn-ons include a sense of humor, confidence, talent, machismo, manliness, whatever, but who knew that a year ago, my biggest excitement about a new flame would become, "He's so nice!"? I was never looking for a nice guy. But somehow, some nice guys have found me. And I love 'em like I never thought I could.

I think my biggest challenge here is that I don't really believe my ideal actually exists, so rather than identifying it and then looking for it and only it (and inevitably failing), instead I try to determine what's possible, plausible, probable, and then select the best candidate from those. For my whole life, I have been in browsing mode rather than in search mode - two very different behavioral patterns.

But I do believe it is possible to find something wonderful by browsing, if you know which racks to thumb through, which departments to wander, which aisles to peruse. Is my soulmate the guy who tells me what he's thinking and how he feels, even if it hurts me? The guy who tells me how pretty I look when he sees me in public after our one night stand? The guy who comes over to comfort me after my layoff? The guy who helps me put new sheets on the bed? The guy who walks me to my car or to my door, without me having to ask him to?

All of those guys exist, and none of them want to be my Mr. Wonderful, so I guess that takes them out of the running. But if they did, that would be a wonderful thing.

So then, does it become more about who wants me enough to put the offer out there? I can't force a company to hire me and I can't force a man to date me or love me. But when I find one that does want to, do I have to take it, just because it's my only option, even if it doesn't feel like a perfect match?

I guess that would be a nice problem to have.

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