Saturday, August 27, 2011

merciless mania

mania as it relates to daily life

i've come to realize that i'm a maniac. a friend of mine used to tell me all the time that i'm manic. as with most ugly truths, i chose to shrug it off and assume i was misunderstood. but as the days wear on and i observe my own behaviour objectively i've begun to see the truth behind her statement. i may not be manic on a daily basis, but i am definitely a rollercoaster. luckily i did not get the depressive side of this typical and unrecognized disorder. as i consider how many interests i have and how fast i swing between them, never really accomplishing anything and never really getting anywhere, i have to admit that mania is the most accurate way to describe my overall attitude. i'm obsessed with something for about two weeks to a month, at which point something will get in the way and slow me down. during this slowdown i'll question what i was doing in the first place, i'll become disappointed that it's not going anywhere as quickly as i would like and find myself forgetting almost completely about it as i obsess over something new. time ceases to have meaning. i'll research something for what feels like 20 minutes only to discover that hours have passed. i'll work on something for as little as a week and become disenchanted because progress is so slow. ultimately i've been working on so many things for so long that it feels hopeless, feels like i never get anywhere.

but the progress is undeniable. i'm in a better situation right now than i've ever been in before. for all my steps back i feel like i'm finally getting somewhere with my interests, my life here, and my destiny as it relates to this time and place. i dont hate my job, i finally have the confidence and foundation in both my career and my studies to really begin moving forward with the things i've decided to focus on.

i dread the idea that my nature will hold me back again, that i'll find myself wondering why i'm not getting anywhere with anything. but i can now look forward to shorter upward climbs. i can look forward to hope, and to actual conclusions. for the first time, there is a definite plan taking shape in my head. things arent nearly as vague as they used to be, and thats a really good feeling.

the long road to hair

its really no wonder that 80% or so of people who decide to get into the beauty industry drop out either while still in school or within the first two years of their career. this is a rough business. school teaches you nothing while claiming to teach you the basics. basics? as defined by who? to me the basics of this profession are much more vast than what is taught in school. the stuff i learned in school could have been taught in 90 days or less. the rest of my education could have been spent teaching the actual methods of succeeding in this business such as how to build a client base, how to market yourself, and how to make clients happy and keep them coming back.

there are many facts omitted at the beginning of beauty school. you go in with your head filled up with ideas about how you are going to do fashion shoots and plays and movie stars and shit. the sad fact is that you will be lucky, lucky, to earn minimum wage for the first two years of your career while you break your back over a shampoo bowl, shave screaming kid's heads, and deal with asshole customers and lazy coworkers, all while having no fucking idea what you are doing. i had never heard the phrase "fake it til you make it" until i started working in this industry. what about the $10,000+ dollars i spent on my education? any chance i could have learned at least some of what i needed to know for that price? nope, the ten grand is the fee to start faking it. if i had known at the beginning that i would be expected to build up a clientele and hock products on people with no training in promotion or sales, i may have reconsidered my career choice. i'm friendly and charismatic, but i'm not a salesman. i have no interest in selling myself or retail products which do basically the same thing every other retail product does.

however, today i realized something. i've been selling myself to employers ever since i started working. i play up my resume, inflate my job skills and experience to sound more knowledgeable and important than i may or may not really be, and do the HR double talk slingo dance better than the next asshole. so if my new boss is my client, selling myself to them should be no different, with one exception.

looking for a position with a company is totally different than looking for a spot in an individual's life. businesses have set protocols for obtaining employment. individuals do not. how do you apply for a job with a client? how do you figure out who your client is, where they are, how to approach them, how to close the deal, and how to get their coveted referrals? there are a ton of ideas out there as to how to do this. i'm about to start throwing shit at the wall, because i need to know what sticks.

i realized that just having something to offer isnt enough. just having knowledge and skills does not bring people into your business, whether it be a salon, a software company, a dildo store or whatever else. if i am to ultimately own my own time and business, which is my goal, i have to develop a portable set of tried and true practices which quickly and effectively build and retain clientele. this is going to be one of the most challenging things i've ever done. i'm very friendly and outgoing, but i've never been a promoter or salesman before. i may already be a competent hairstylist (fucking finally), but if no one knows who i am then how do i make money with my skills?

i finally got a job at an upscale salon that does great work. i'm being trained on how to do refined, added value services that can be charged at a higher price than the chop shops i worked at before. the atmosphere, staff, and clientele are much nicer than i'm used to, which is a great blessing. our salon is also team based and paid hourly, which is unusual for a small independent salon. i dont have to worry about starving and being evicted as i train and build clientele, and clients are freely swapped between stylists. there is no cutthroat catty bullshit going on here. the client and the product are the focus, whereas in a commission (or hrly plus "commission bonus") salon, clients and techniques tend to be guarded like the golden fucking fleece.

however, today i found out that one of the stylists there only makes .50 an hr more than i do. she's been there two years. the girl who told me this was using this as a reason to look elsewhere for employment, and the aforementioned stylist is currently looking for a second job. at first this gave me pause, and i began to reconsider my intent to stay at this salon for a while. but then i realized why she still gets paid what she does.

its not that her skills are lacking or that she's lazy. its that she isnt bringing in money! if my quarterly review came up and i got denied a raise, i would understand if my sales had not gone up. if you're leveled off at a certain rate, the salon cant afford to pay you more unless you're bringing in the kind of money that justifies it. the worst part is, she doesnt know this, and doesnt know how to fix it. i consider myself lucky to have realized these things early in my career. i plan on moving around a lot. i dont want to be stuck in the same salon for years on end building clientele and then be unable to leave because i'm afraid to start over. i'm going to learn how to build and grow a steady client base so that i'm fully booked no matter where i am. whether you're renting a chair, getting commission or riding the clock at great clips, you're never going to get anywhere if you dont figure out how to do this.

now i just have to wade through all the bullshit and find out what works.

degree or not degree?

i've been toying with the idea of finishing my BA in computer science. one of the myriad reasons i got into the beauty industry is so that i could have a trade that i would enjoy doing while i put myself through school. there is nothing worse than slogging through a (shitty) full time job and a full course load while racking up debt and being so desperate for it all to end that you will take anything and do anything just to make it stop. i wanted to be in a position to say no to service sector and labor jobs. to be able to say, "no, i dont need to do that to get by. i'll pass" is an incredibly freeing thing. to have something i can do to sustain myself while i muddle my way into my dreams is something i'm glad i worked for.

but with this freedom to say no comes the freedom to question the validity of a degree. i see higher education as it stands right now as a total fucking scam. from what i understand, it used to be that a degree showed that you had a well rounded knowledge base, possibly with some specialization, that would make you more valuable to society and ultimately to an employer. over the course of four years, you would become intimately acquainted with selected texts on various subjects. you would learn how to study, do research, write meaningful documents and solve problems. this would come at a high monetary cost, but it would be reasonable when consideration was taken of how well placed you would be in the job market after your education was complete.

as it stands now, higher education has become an outmoded, bloated, bureaucratic endeavor that treats students like meaningless piles of shit. every semester, students are required to purchase $500-$1000+ worth of textbooks, most of which will not be read even halfway through. they are told that they will be able to sell them back at the end of the semester, only to find out that the courses have changed texts and that they are now left with a very expensive, verbose, and uninteresting paperweight. counselors and advisors will happily help you sign up for classes that may not even be required for your degree, and you will find out in your sophomore year that the course catalog and degree requirements have changed, which means you are now in it for another semester or two at the very least. no one is grandfathered in, everyone has to suffer through the same arbitrary requirements for their particular degree. if you are considering a two year degree at a junior college, forget about it taking two years. if you stop to consider the fact that the recommended course load for two year completion requires 15-20 credit hours per semester, when the recommended max course load is 12 credit hours, it quickly becomes clear that your two year degree just turned into a 3 or 4 year undertaking. if you need to work for a living during this time, i would be very impressed if you could take on even 8 credit hours without your grades dropping and your life becoming a living hell. considering the fact that most US high school students need remedial english and math classes by the time they graduate and you just added more to your course load and your debt.

lets not forget that degree completion does not necessarily make you upwardly mobile in and of itself. how many of our college grads are coming out of school with no local jobs to look forward to?

things have changed and our education system is keeping up about as well as a ford windstar racing a ferrari. that said, i dont know if i'll be rushing off to sign up at my local university for a few semesters of meaningless torture. as it stands right now, it's better to bone up on core subjects at your own pace so you can test out of them and keep your money and your time. you need to develop good study habits to make it through college anyway, so why not pick up a textbook and see if you can do it on your own before you sign up for a course you're unprepared for?

image, societal expectations, wearing down of the individual, loss and regaining of confidence

another reason i thought the beauty industry would be a good fit for me is that i wouldnt be expected to change the way i look just to get some work. i could have my hair down, paint my nails, pierce my face, dress stylishly yet professionally, etc.

i've come to realize this is only partially true. in a client based business, you have to make your customers comfortable with you. so much of people's perception of you is based on your appearance. if my client base is middle aged upper crust women, then unless i'm already famous for what i do, i have to present myself in a way that doesnt make them uncomfortable. you cant walk into a typical salon looking like takashi or robert cromeans in a matrix trenchcoat and a guy fawkes beard and expect to build up a client base.

realizing this sent me into a bit of a funk. all these years i've been retooling the way i look during the day, putting on this fake fucking costume just to make a buck. since we spend most of our waking hours at work, my appearance has suffered. i look in the mirror and i dont see myself looking back. i dont even wear makeup on the weekend anymore and i'm so out of shape that i dont wear the sexy clothes i used to. i feel like the world keeps hammering me back in, and every time i pop back out i get knocked back into place. i wasnt even allowed to wear cosmetics at my fucking beauty school. i've never been to the point of giving up completely, but i realized that i had given up to some degree and i hated myself for it.

but even after all that, i realized that i'm slowly but surely getting there. i cant let societal expectations place artificial boundaries on me. once i take this career where it needs to go i'll be able to look the way i want, and i dont have to worry about being "young enough" to pull it off. as long as i look in the mirror after work and feel like its me looking back, i'll be happy. pretty soon i'll even be able to do that while i'm working. that is going to feel absolutely monumental. there are always going to be people who look at me and wonder what the fuck i'm doing. i'm open to answering questions based on curiosity. but i'm done explaining myself when people vomit up their confusion in the form of derogatory accusations.

"whatchoo paintcho nail fo?"

"go fuck yourself."

new way of living diet

after trying a low cal, low fat diet recommended by my lovely girlfriend and getting no results, i'm about to try out the primal lifestyle. i'm confident that this is going to change my appearance and my self confidence for the better, and i cant wait to see some results. i'll be posting my results here so i can look back in wonder.

another new beginning

hopefully by the time i write here again, progress will have been made and i'll be a happier person, mania and all.