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who referred you?

April 3, 2015

Yesterday I had a short exchange with someone about Buzzfeed’s Emerging Writer Fellowship. Unlike the person I spoke with, the opportunities offered by the fellowship hold no appeal for me. But… to apply, you need to supply 3 references.

Most of the jobs I’ve ever interviewed for only required 2 references. And I was often hard-pressed to come up with 2.

As I grew and healed psychologically, I wanted and needed to winnow out all co-dependent/abusive relationships in my life. But my 2 best references — and often my 2 only references — were also people I’d had co-dependent/unhealthy/borderline-abusive relationships with. If I winnowed them out of my life, I would be making myself unemployable. So I held on.

Until my first Ritual Death period, in early 2013. At that point, I had not worked for almost 4 years (for reasons entirely unrelated to references). So I burned those bridges.

= = =

Two months later, Spouse found what looked to be an ideal volunteer opportunity for me. Their application required 3 references. I really really wanted to do it.

I had 2 former coworkers from Indiana who agreed to be references. But I really needed at least 1 person to be local. We’d been living in Maryland since 2008 — surely I knew someone who could vouch for me! Well, no.

I hadn’t worked since 2009, but the 2 jobs I had in 2008–09 were disasters. I’m no longer having nightmares about them, but I certainly didn’t get references from them. None of the volunteering stints I’ve done led to getting to know someone well enough that I could even ask about references.

= = =

It’s a cliché that you can’t have your mom or other relatives vouch for you as a reference because they would presumably say such glowing things about you, it would be ridiculous.

Well, my mother wouldn’t. I’m guessing my mother would say that I’m crazy and delusional (or maybe just “flaky and irresponsible”), but yeah, I’m smart too (as if that matters).

Everyone else in my family of origin would be equally uncomplimentary.

= = =

I don’t know if I know anybody who has the skill of giving glowing references.

I’ve tried to teach myself how to give glowing references, professional or character, so I could do that for friends — but I’ve never been asked to.

= = =

I ended up asking the spouse of a friend of Spouse’s, someone we’d been seeing socially for a year, to be my local reference. I don’t know if he (or any of my other references) ever got called, but the volunteering place did accept me.

I volunteered there for a season, having a very mixed experience: did new things, but didn’t learn new skills. Connected with people I saw once; of the people I saw frequently, didn’t make any friends or people to see socially. Didn’t gain people I could use as a reference for the future.


Part of the thing about references, about how the whole system works, must be that… people who receive references from others are perceived as useful to others. Either they’ll reciprocate with references, or job opportunities, or stuff like that. (I guess.)

I have everyday social skills. But… I don’t have the requisite social skills to “move up the ladder” professionally. I’ll never be “a mover and a shaker”; as an individual, I’ll never hold social power over someone(s). In fact, I’m always near the bottom of any social hierarchy (including, of course, my family of origin).

I’m accustomed to “being friends” with people who don’t want to be seen with me, because it’ll destroy their reputation with the people who matter. This is also a common motif in my dreams.

{Yeah, I’ve got white privilege. But as soon as people start talking to me, they realize… we don’t have the stuff in common that they expect that we would, the stuff that people bond over.}

I’m not socially useful to anyone. And I never been.

So…. There’s nothing… obvious… to “glow” about a reference being given for me. Does it really matter that I’m smart? A lifelong learner? Curious about everything? Creative and innovative? Friendly? Genuinely interested in people? But also happy with solitude? (That is, I won’t fall apart if I’m far from the center of action)

Does anybody who might ask for a reference really care about any of that?

I don’t think so. They want to know about social-me. What my rank is. What privileges/resources I can add to the community. What I’ll do for them. And there…. I’m a big fat zero.


Shouldn’t I feel sad or something, writing all this out? But I don’t. It’s just (I think) facts.

It’s actually kind of ironic in a way because Spouse is his family’s Golden Child. My family of origin fawned over him, while continuing to ignore or mistreat me. His family… I don’t want to get derailed with any of that. But… my father-in-law does (mostly) call me by my correct name, as do my brother- and sister-in-law.

Was thinking about that specific issue this morning: getting people to call me the name I want to go by — my actual legal name — shouldn’t that be the Bare Minimum for Decent People? And yet, for me, it’s actually a high bar with people that I have history with. Getting treated with courtesy is almost more than I can comfortably imagine; receiving kindness is… now that’s just crazy-talk.

= = =

So, no wonder AROHO didn’t want me. Not only do I not have an MFA or PhD, nor any teaching experience, nor any publications, but… all I bring to the table is myself. Who cares about that!

For someone(s) to socially care about a person’s self, they better be famous, or absurdly talented, or a (male) genius, or have mad skillz in something we desperately need…

It takes a village to create social worth that everyone in the village feels is “their own”. They all benefit from the association with each other’s skills, talents, social resources, etc.

I’m not looking to join a village (nor to establish one). I want to have new experiences; make & develop new skills. Create art. Meet interesting people (that I’d like to see again). Grow as a person — surprise myself! And then… move on.

If I had a really good time, I’ll come back: I’ll add your village to my trajectory.

But I don’t stay anywhere. I’m Meander: it’s not just my name, it’s what I am. I move, and thereby, I cross-pollinate. What I bring with me is curiosity and interest; knowledge of other places and peoples, wonders and marvels. I value diversity in all its forms. I’m broadly tolerant — I only judge people for deliberate cruelty.

= = =

If I was part of a great trading house, then others could vouch for my good character. If the friends I made along my journeys could accept that I won’t stay, I can’t stay, but that doesn’t mean what we had, while we had it, wasn’t real. It was. It mattered to me and I’ll remember it.

If I could be loved for who I am….

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