Dear Heave: Advice on manners, social situations, and how to become a YoPro

3 young professionals with blueprints

In a make-up from last week’s Staff Swap Week, Josh Watkins (of 45 RPM) takes over Ryan Peters’ Dear Heave to dole out life advice.

Q: I have a job interview for which I have already made a bad first impression. The interview is tomorrow, and I wanted to make sure I knew where the lady’s office was so that I wouldn’t be late. When I found it, it was an unlabeled door, alone with no window,  virtually inside of a staircase. I was afraid it wasn’t her office, so I was going to knock, but then I didn’t know what to say if she answered. And while I was standing there, next to what looked like a closet door, trying to figure out what to do, she walked out of her office and I scared her. Like she screamed, Josh. I should have been like, “I’m sorry, I was just trying to find your office!” But instead I said, “Sorry I’m so spooky, I’ll see you Friday.” And left. How do I make a better second impression? Preferably an impression so good that she forgets the first one. Something along the lines of the MIB mind erasing pen. – Charmingly Goofy, Chicago

Employment is hard enough to come by in 2k12. In case you haven’t noticed–and you have–everything is terrible. As a result, employers are naturally raising the hiring bar higher. In this context, “higher” means “out of reach from the self-conscious or eternally ill-at-ease.” They want lean, strong-jawed young professionals (YoPros), people who project an image of success without having to do things like come to work soused or dressed like a junior senator. Most of them are cyborgs, which is attractive to a business since you only have to pay them in Microsoft Points and Starbucks gift cards. Competition is fierce, and here you are, literally scaring the noise out of your potential employer. It’s not an easy fix.

Landing this job isn’t entirely hopeless. Consider: in this woman’s eyes, the only unattractive qualities you possess so far are a) you’re spooky and b) you say shit like “sorry I’m so spooky.” Appearance here is the key. Leave all weapons at home, regardless of licensure. In your outfit, shoot for half competent adult YoPro, half backstabbing social-climber (see: Cruel Intentions). This way, they respect your respect for the working environment while fearing that you’ll fuck all of the people they love. Dress Gold Coast, not liberal arts. A defining element of the American payment system is that if you have money, you probably need more of it, so whip out those accessories:

Gucci Gucci Louis Louis Fendi Fendi Prada

Also, let’s bring an ugly friend, someone to complement your natural beauty. Many interview tips & tricks discourage bringing a +1 to your job interview, but beware: they want all the jobs for themselves. Quit getting your advice from the Internet.

Here’s a list of things to mention in your interview that’ll more than make up for your spookiness:
— “Sup” – perfect opener. establishes you as laid back, minimal, and unspooky
— “My mom’s a bitch” – lets your interviewer know that you’re resilient for overcoming adverse conditions
— “Can we negotiate my salary?” – be sure to drop this as early as possible: you’re driven and they need to know it
— “I graduated at the top of my class” – this probably isn’t true, but how would they know?
— “Here are some pictures of me at spring break” – tip: if you’re not a beach-bod type, hand in photos of somebody better looking.
— “I could do your job better” – the jobsphere is vicious. welcome to 2k12, bitch. happy hunting!

Q: I have serious trouble focusing on work. I’m distracted very easily, and though I can’t afford to take anything for my ADHD, it makes being in grad school difficult. Adderall is not an option because of preexisting medical conditions. What do? – Eternally Distracted, Chicago

The talk gets real: this Dear Heave went through several scathing, bitter drafts. Each took the satirical stance that no, ADHD isn’t real, you goddamn kids just needed a good whippin’ like backintheday. Because earnestness seems to make most people uncomfortable these days-big ups to the self-loathing ironic generation for assassinating sincerity-it had lines about how Adderall was invented for college kids to buy under-the-counter, so they can brag about how many they took to sustain their procrastination problem (which I kind of stand by), but that’s enough of that.
Credit to XKCD and a cruel universe.
ADD made colorful. Click to get the full effect

I was diagnosed after almost having to repeat kindergarten. Kindergarten, as in the place your parents send you because they need a break and you need to be socialized. Just barely scraped by. Let’s just say I was mighty n’ bitey. My Gramma kindly paid for my Ritalin prescription, despite her strong anti-ADHD stance . Unsurprisingly, my behavior and academics saw many moments in the sun. I enrolled in honors programs, made the Accelerated Reading challenge my bitch and stopped yelling things like “ding-a-ling sandwich” during instruction. I was the model for a creative and precocious kid because I had something to balance out the focus-demons while still maintaining my kooky-bullshit personality. After a few years, Gramma and her good-ol’-days wisdom insisted I was fine without the meds. She withdrew her funding. That was the year of constant write-ups, of many fights and near-suspensions. It was the year my math and hard science grades plummeted, the year I was so off-the-wall that I didn’t have a friend to my name. But hey, who doesn’t have a hard time in fourth grade? I leveled out as time went on. Years later, a disgustingly unqualified 11th grade teacher would assign a workload that would turn me to a re-diagnosis and Concerta prescription. The drug warped me into a boyishly handsome zombie. No motivation, energy or creative drive, and my grades stayed frustratingly average. I can’t really recommend it.

Flashing forward to the present, you and I are living twin lives. My fiction core workshop requires a lot of reading out loud, and therefore a lot of listening. Good luck getting me to not space out after a few lines. I jitter, I drum, I click my teeth. I can’t get music out of my head, literally ever. If something isn’t immediately interesting to me, I become physically fatigued, begging to nap. It takes me a good six hours of starting multiple tasks and dicking around to get one simple thing done.  Sit down to write, wash a dish. Play with the dog, put on one shoe to take him out. Read half of an article. Put the other shoe on. Wash a dish. Skim the article. Walk the dog, come inside, chat, chat, zone out, call an old friend, wash more dishes. Pick up a book for a while. Research a director, any director, read reviews and get involved. Start one of his movies. Pause and pace. Finish the dishes. Walk around the apartment singing. Open your word document, try to watch and write. Give up. Catch yourself losing focus. Scold yourself. Nap. Give up, give up. Go to bed, furious and ashamed that you had an entire day to do anything of value and you didn’t. Maybe tomorrow.

ADHD is a lead weight. Something as intellectually taxing and task-oriented as grad school is a struggle when the most mindless, inconsequential shit is a Sisyphean chore. Things may get done, but not on time, or they may be procrastinated on and half-assed. It’s overwhelming how discouraged one gets after a while, as though they have a neurological addiction to getting nothing done. This very article is depressingly late. I have my own biological and personal objections to medication, but drugs are far from the only option. Figuring out what works for you is big. My girlfriend taught me how to use a planner, how to budget. I have to get on my own ass about it – sometimes she has to get on my ass about it for me. But now more than before, I’m able to keep up with due dates, bills, and events. When I work on something, I take breaks – I walk around the house, talking myself through things. I read a book for a while or call someone. I schedule work time during the day. I set the bar sooner. Most importantly, I disconnect the Internet.

One misconception about ADHD is that it means we’re easily overstimulated – see it: a Hot Topic shirt with a doofy stickman, “ADHD: I don’t have trouble focusing I jus – hey is that a squirrel??!?” The truth lies on the other end, that we’re so impossible to keep stimulated that we keep overload ourselves. We’re the most easily bored people on the planet who just happen to hate boredom, vacuuming in whatever’s around us or, in my case, digging internally. My mind wanders, like frantically flipping through a filing cabinet of information. Against my will, music is playing in my head – my leg shakes and I click my teeth along to the drums. Something I do is try to catch myself in these moments. Not scolding or self-punishingly, just “cool your jets Josh.” If it’s in a lecture or in a Fiction Workshop, my coping weapon of choice is to turn myself on in a severely analytical way. Every sentence I hear I churn through the gears, turning it over and questioning it, trying to apply it to my vocation. In my case, writing: how does x or y or z relate to storytelling or something I’m working on? The more interdisciplinary it gets, the more there is for me to productively chew on and occupy my mental space. Active note-taking is another huge booster.

I know nobody ever asked to have ADHD, and it’s totally not fair that you have to work harder than someone without it. Who cares? ADHD is such a joke to most people (see t-shirts, see Gramma) that the best recognition we’ve gotten is schools giving the diagnosed like eight hours to finish a test. Okay then. I can’t speak for you or anybody else, but the idea of letting the chemistry conquer me is terrifying. You learn what works for you and you do what it takes. It’s an uphill battle, it’ll probably never go away entirely, but there are worse things than being the most self-disciplined dude in the room.