Dear Peter M. Ball,
GET OUTTA MY HEAD.
All snark aside, this is actually why I adore Peter as a mental health writer, and value the hell out of him as a friend. Peter has a habit of saying things that I’ve been struggling to figure out how to articulate, or mentioning things in passing that knock me on my ass for a while because they’re so me it’s scary. Also? He was wonderful enough to add a follow on piece to his article here, over at Man Vs Bear. Go, read it. It’s wonderful.
Back? Okay then.
Let me tell you the worst kept secret in the history of secrets: I’m not good at the whole ‘being social’ thing.
Pick your jaw up off the ground, guys. Don’t be mean.
It baffles me most days that I freelance, because it actually hurts to do the job that I love to do. I don’t mean ‘I get a little stressed sometimes’ here. I mean ‘this job dramatically and negatively impacts my mental health on a near daily basis and I force myself to do it anyway for the nuggets of awesome hidden away in the panic and vomiting’.
You see the Insta pics of that latest movie review, right? And it looks like a lot of fun. And in the second that picture is taken, it is fun. And when I say I love my job, I do actually mean that I love that part of my job. But through that photo, what you miss is the lead up- the part where I stress about tickets a dozen times (which reminds me I left the ticket to tonight’s gig at home- fuck), and making sure everyone gets equal spare ticket nabbing privileges, and arranging times to meet up, and getting there early but not too early, and oh gods there’s just so many fucking people. And it’s always worse when it’s a kid’s movie because parents and grandparents are the worst and will push in front of you and teach their loin-leavings to be rude and horrible to other people in general for the sake of getting one spot closer in line. And if you don’t hate kids, parents, and grandparents by the time you’re in your seat, you’re pretty much guaranteed a sainthood.
I hate the lining up bit. And the other people behind me where I can’t see them bit (hyper-vigilance is fun, y’all), and the part where you get knocked into repeatedly or crashed into by kids, or have people reading your phone over your shoulder. And the part where you have to try and make idle chit chat with bored people and you don’t actually know what to say because talking with new people really, really isn’t my strong suit. And god forbid you say something controversial like, ‘Actually, I’m a freelance writer and reviewer’ when they ask what you do or how you managed to get a ticket, because the automatic response is almost always bitchy, and it’s hard to smile and not snark back.
The seeing the movie and talking about it bit? Love it. The interacting with people? Not so much.
Interviews are painful, too, which is why I favour phone interviews to in person ones. On a phone call, no one can see you flailing, and fidgeting, or driving your nails into your palms or your wrists or your legs to stop yourself from panicking because you’re 100% sure you’ve fucked something up even if you’re not sure how you’ve done it.
I have literally drawn blood trying to stop myself having a panic attack during a phone interview. And I still, voluntarily, do interviews.
Even the transcription process hurts, because in listening to the audio I can pinpoint every single stumble I made. Oh, that’s where I screwed up and said the wrong word like a complete moron.
Oh, that’s where I got the name slightly wrong because I’m an asshole.
OMG KYLIE WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?
I can handle in person interviews if I know the person, though even then I’m hyperaware of how awkward I am, and the way I try and cover it over by being, y’know, super happy hyper girl pretending not to be holy shit I think I’m gonna puke girl.
I am not a social butterfly by nature, but I glue those fucking wings on and make do.
So when Peter talks about the stress of making a call- I get it. I have started phone interviews with tears running down my face because I’m so panicked. I have had a panic attack down the phone line to my editor when a guy I was meant to interview gleefully screwed me around and I had no idea what to do about i. I have drawn blood trying to focus. I literally have every interview q&a prep page including the following:
Hi [name]! It’s Kylie from [insert publication here]. How are you?
That’s great to hear! Are you still alright for our interview?
Why? Because when I’m anxious- and that’s a certainty with interviews- there’s a high chance I’ll be so focused on not mispronouncing words or stumbling over names that I’ll forget the really basic stuff. Like not coming across like an asshole.
To put it in perspective: my interview with Tim Ferguson is my favourite interview, and the one I was the most confident in. But I still can barely stand to listen to the audio because I know every moment I flailed, and every point I struggled to keep up, and ad-lib questions, and every moment I was flailing stupidly at the phone because oh my gods I really respect this guy and what if I fuck it up? I’m gonna fuck it up, of course I am. That’s what I do.
And that was me on a good day.