Xoterica 42: The Hunt

Artemis Sere SS-SG-00469 Thankful for the Carnage

Xoterica 42: The Hunt

“Nothing is more dangerous than a half-hearted attack; let your attacks fly.” (Bruce Lee)

Dehumanizing. Nullifying. Depressing.

I wish I had better words to describe my experience trying to find a job since I was unceremoniously and callously laid off by my previous employer in a "cost-cutting" move.

The CEO called it "rightsizing". In reality, there's nothing "right" about it. Poor decisions by years worth of management, bad strategic decisions, and a market turning away from their core product forced them to find a new identity, and they've done it at the cost of their workforce and talent.

I started a brand blacklist now because of them, my own little form of activism so I - and others - don't forget what happened to me and can reconsider patronizing the brand or business based on my treatment.

It took a bitter layoff for me to get angry, but here I am: can't get a job to save my life and staring at a life collapse. During winter, no less. Good thing I don't give a shit about the coming holidays - I'd be far more negative about my situation.

Falling Down

I guess I'm supposed to be understanding and sympathetic. I'm supposed to smile and nod and think this isn't about me. I'm supposed to pull up my bootstraps, be proud of what I did over the last two years, and be excited about new opportunities and adventures.

These days, all I can think about is how I'm going to survive off unemployment, what the process is for getting SNAP support, and what life will be like if I'm still jobless on my 50th birthday. The internal pressure is building and beginning to boil into my conscious life.

The clock is ticking, and I can't do anything to slow it down. 

With my experience and success in marketing over the last two decades, these shouldn't be my thoughts. At 3M, I consistently exceeded expectations and was on an upward trajectory for almost a decade. At Deluxe, I exceeded expectations regularly and delivered them increases in AOV, CR, and revenue that should've secured my stability - not to mention bridging SEO into Ecommerce, advancing their content experiences, and leading and taking on projects regularly.

I did whatever they asked me to do, not what I should've been doing to advance my career. At the end of the road with them, turns out that they were nothing more than a paycheck and a short line on my resume that seems to be hurting more than helping.

Kiss My ATS

The state of the workworld post-COVID means that most jobs have a remote or hybrid element to them - which means that more than anytime in our employment history, opportunities are more national and global than ever. Employers don't have to take a flyer on someone with great potential and interesting job history because, well, they don't have to. If every remote job gets hundreds to thousands of applicants, then they'll find the exact match easily and discount anyone else in the pipeline.

How easy? Most medium-to-large corporations use Applicant Tracking Systems to manage their intake for applications. These systems boil resumes down to scores based on matching keywords. They also don't work with any kind of designed resume that isn't formatted explicitly to appease these automated tools. Where I once was able to show off my skills by weaving design and job narrative into a compelling answer, I'm now reduced to keyword stuffing, minimizing my resume content so it's quickly scannable by recruiters, and creating 10 different resumes and cover letter versions that appeal to a specific job title.

End result: I've applied for over 80 jobs since mid-September.

Out of that, I've had 2 30-minute interviews with "talent reps" that screen whether or not I should make it to the next interview step. I've got a full interview for a Marketing Manager job next week, and I will jump at the chance to take it - even though I'll take a $30,000 salary hit and fight to survive in the non-profit industry.

I suspect the organization that I'm interviewing with doesn't use an ATS. Ironically, it's also a job that I didn't have any help from my network finding or getting an interview. While many connections in my network offered job listings and in some cases had a conversation with a hiring person about my candidacy, so far none of that has helped.

Careening Career

What really defines a career? Gone are the days when you could feel comfortable staying in one place for your employment history. Growing with a company. Valuing who you work for and feeling valued for your contributions.

Even at my previous employer, I tried to be a leader, drove volunteerism, and engaged in resource groups that advanced company culture. I coached and cheered my colleagues. I took on work that was never congruent with what I was hired for. I showed a willingness to learn, adapt, and excel.

Those things don't end up on a resume. Neither does empathy.

Even now, I'm considering drifting away from what I do best because it doesn't seem like my best is what employers want. In fact, I'm starting to feel like I don't know what I do best anymore. The last three months have made me question whether or not I even know what I'm doing. Impostor syndrome has set in.

I built a brand that provides no financial stability and amounts to little more than creative masturbation.

I have books and a website full of content that should serve as a great portfolio, but I can't get regular traffic or subscribers.

I have a resume bursting with achievements and talents, but not the right success to give me (or employers) confidence that I'm on the right track.

The Waiting Game

I wish I had the life fluidity to not care so much, to believe the bullshitters that say "the best things come to those who wait". They've obviously never been unemployed and under stress to pay bills and provide life support to others. They've never felt like their best is constantly not good enough. They're not strategizing how to survive.

I suppose I could turn that wisdom back around and shine the light on my progress - once, I was a temp worker struggling to survive with a severe disability and with a dim light of hope; now, I've had over a decade of professional experience with two reputable companies, traveled around the world as a Global marketing manager, and achieved some neat bullet points on my resume.

I had patience, and patience saw me through - with some great people that offered me opportunities and were looking out for me.

For the first time since 2010, I'm relying mostly on the power of my resume and past experience to open doors. Unfortunately, they're now the same doors that have hundreds of people huddled in front of - weary souls hoping for the same desperate shot that I am.

How did it come to this? I made most of the right moves over the last thirteen years. My only key failure was believing in the lies people were telling me about how great an artist I am, the whispers that drove me off of my career path in 2019 and into oblivion clutching the whisps of a dream that faded fast.

I chased my dream of being a welder and full-time artist, and fate laughed in my face.

Hero for Hire

"You're not good enough".

I was told that by a former friend and fellow artist in 2021 at the end of my solo run before I turned my focus back to marketing and digital experiences. I'll never forget that statement. It hurt immensely and still sticks with me to this day, and unfortunately is reinforced by every wrong turn in my career path.

When are we ever good enough?

The reality is that we're all disposable heroes. One minute, your job is touting how they support work-life balance and how happy they are to have you; the next, they're stripping away the human parts of the job until you're an automaton that exists to meet numbers and lives in fear for your next annual review.

AI has already started taking over our lives, and a key area right now is hiring. If automated engines don't assess and score your resume and experience well enough, you don't even get a 30-minute opportunity to sell the 360 narrative of who you are and what you can do. And so there are thousands of great people left to struggle to survive, cast to the bitter battle lines where we fight against each other to thrive.

That's the new American dream: if you survive the algorithm, the brass ring and white picket fence can be yours.

Until the next time that you don't fit "right", search well, or aren't good enough and have to hunt for your survival again.

Truly, our modern times are as Darwinian as they ever have been. Welcome to the new Thunderdome. 

#xoterica

Picture of Artemis Sere SS-SG-00469 Thankful for the Carnage
Artemis Sere SS-SG-00469 Thankful for the Carnage

Xoterica 41: The Equidistant

Picture of Artemis Sere's "Resolution"

“Obey the principles without being bound by them.” (Bruce Lee)

Recently, Israel declared war on Palestine for a brazen wave of bloodshed where hundreds of Israelis were brutally murdered. It has become a fiercely violent and bitter battle between two sides of a Biblical Holy War that is on the verge of creating a firestorm that sucks the world in. President Biden recently visited Israel in a show of support for Israel and their ground war in Gaza against Hamas. Protests from supporters of Palestine have erupted around the world, including from within the United States.

Friends, family, and lovely humans misdirected by ancient tomes are now caught in the crossfire. 260 innocent lives were slaughtered at a rave by callous men with a statement to make. Hamas says it was retaliation for Israel's actions; Israel blames Palestinian terrorists. There's no denying that there's violence happening on both sides and has for the better part of the last century. Hamas slaughtered Israelis and in retaliation, Israel is slaughtering Palestinians.

I'm summarizing and probably missing many details from both sides of the conflict, but the fact remains:

In god they trusted. In god's trust they die(d).

Pawns preening for an afterlife, prawns served cold to careless, callous whisperers.

I'm a Humanist and my heart aches for all involved or affected. But also, as an atheist, it's my job to remain impartial, to mediate from the center without prejudice or denomination. My job is to hold the center while the extremes scream for heads. Our politics have become overwhelmed by Factions that don't stand for a greater good, they stand for selfish designs and partial, inflexible positions directed by organized religion.

One for all, divided we stand. And equally fall.

America is no longer the land of the free. It is the land of the tithe. Pay to survive, in feudal fashion and distant, digital format. A specific evangelical and hypocritical religious culture has started to dominate America, sending progress and evolution backwards and pushing us further apart. Just yesterday I got into a verbal spat with an old friend about "evangelism" over Facebook. He claims that it's "the calling" of Jesus to spread faith, even when the recipient isn't interested.

Like a disease, faith needs hosts to spread, and with all religious tomes taken literally these days, evangelism is an endless infection of mythologies taken as truth. Religion never really could live in equilibrium with humanity; history has shown that over and over again with bloody crusades to push the literal word onto non-believers. It still happens to this day, only without the racks and whips and pikes and Iron Maidens.

I will always defend the liberal side of humanity (and stand against the evil that is Donald Trump), so I align with Democrats. In stating my alignment, I push myself further from the center and into partial territory.

But I really do try my best to keep position in the middle. I recognize that humans need their faith and comfort that there's any answer beyond them (even if many, at their core, live very hypocritical lives incongruent with the teachings of the tomes). Even now as tanks roll across Gaza and rockets and bullets kill innocents caught in the crossfire of the Holy War, "killing in the name of" is acceptable, and collateral damage is approved.

Is it even possible to stand strong in the center when bloodshed flies?

It seems impossible. My heart strings are pulled to the sufferers on both sides. I want blood to stop being the currency of conservative doctrines. I want peace to be achieved between warring parties. I want reason to return and the center to strengthen.

Unfortunately, ghosts and myths supply the center for our holy warriors, while simultaneously pushing each of us further apart. Either you agree with the atrocities as directed by a callous god, or you stand as the enemy. The myths were not captured and shared generation after generation like ancestral propaganda to kill or die for. They're meant to guide us, to connect us, and to develop us into better humans. They are wisdom characterized into deities and demigods, personified as monsters and angels.

Unless I'm missing something, the Bible's Ten Commandments explicitly direct followers not to kill. Literally. As with most passages of our holy books, the words have been turned over time, and murder allowances have been made by most religions that follow the Bible.

They created their own tomes where murder for specific reasons - such as war - is justified.

Leaving the Bible in a massive contradiction, especially when opposing religious forces claim the same holy ground as their own. I can't talk anyone out of their religion, but I can point out that the dusty tomes clearly say that we shouldn't kill each other. If you're of faith and you're killing in the name of, you're a hypocrite, observing a loophole that humanity created after the guidebook was reportedly built.

There's a piece of wisdom that says "stand for something or you'll fall for anything". In other words, "take a side or else". That's not the reason to follow a religion, though I think the quote is used to defend those who hold onto their faith, as if it's "belief or nothing", a binary belief scale where you do or you don't, you are or you aren't. With my stand I believe in science, not mythology built into an organizational body or government.

As of this writing, Israel and the Gaza strip are locked in a brutal battle. Innocents are being slaughtered by the thousands in attempt to "cleanse" the country from perceived threats. Countries are lining up on other side of the war depending on their political, religious, or financial allegiances to Israel or Palestine. All it will take is a simple spark to ignite a firestorm of world war. The world is turning into a binary reflection of its believers - either you're with us, or you're against us. There is no middle ground.

With this blog, I know I'll make some enemies of friends because I won't take a side in the holy war.

When it comes down to it, neither side has the right to murder, regardless of what interpretations have been made of dusty guidebooks. Revenge is also not justification for evil acts against fellow humans; while we disagree, we should do so with respect and patience - two words that seem to have little spiritual root in our creature in modern times.

I did study the Bible in college for a year. I once even considered myself agnostic or "searching". I won't consider myself an expert on religion by any means and have forgotten more about scripture than I once knew. But I recall a passage out of Matthew 5:5 that says "The meek shall inherit the Earth". The statement has a variety of interpretations, and changes based on the identity of the "meek". Taken literally, it offers that those who follow teachings from the book will inherit the world.

Unfortunately, the only meek people that stand to inherit anything are those that stay out of the fray. The best any of us that are not affiliated can do is step away from the fringes and find solace and protection in the middle, do our best to remain equidistant from the extremes that hold violent sway over our society.

I will always advocate for evolution and progress, for human-supported laws and principles of diversity. What I won't do is support a holy war that has been going on for over 2,000 years and has no reasonable resolution in sight.

Picture of Artemis Sere's
Artemis Sere SS-SG-00211 "Resolution"

Xoterica 40: The Secret

Artemis Sere's Xoterica: The Secret

“In every passionate pursuit, the pursuit counts more than the object pursued.” (Bruce Lee)

I am what most would call a "pothead". Not your typical one, as I like to call myself a "productive pothead".

But I am one. Have been for thirty years.

I maintain a 40-hour week, well-paying job. I own a house, cars, toys, taxes, and many other luxuries that equilibrium affords. I've published five books and have produced over 600 pieces of art.

I don't have DWIs, or whatever the new acronym is. I have no criminal history, have never been in jail, and manage my use in a way that meets within my definition of "responsibility".

But for thirty years, I have existed in the shadows as a second-class citizen.

Questioned by friends and family members for my choices, and forced to hide in plain sight.

Pushed to purchase pot from dangerous people in rough neighborhoods.

Forced to fake four different drug tests.

Overcharged for sometimes questionable quality based on the limited access of my contacts.

Tied to the tides of a dark market.

The Road

My first foray into marijuana happened with lifelong friends Jason and Melody. I don't remember the first experience vividly, but it was delicious enough to try again. And again. And again.

When I was in college, alcohol was always the junk that was readily and always available. Surprising these days, but during the 90s when D.A.R.E. was still a powerful force, alcohol became my party companion. It was bad for my body, my soul, and my relationships - many of which would've turned out much differently if high was the social lubricant instead of drunk. With issues with my liver and G.I. system, alcohol never should've been my weapon of choice.

But it was accessible, approved of, and even celebrated.

Blackout drunk shouldn't be something we celebrate.

Sugar overload shouldn't be something we celebrate.

And the addictive, dangerous properties of the toxic substance isn't something we should celebrate.

But we do as a culture. And we have since prohibition discriminated one vice over another. Political and moral hypocrites with righteous holds determined what we could and couldn't have, setting the country on the path of diabetes, liver destruction, obesity, and approved benders.

The Gobi

I read an article years ago that reported that a crypt was discovered in the Gobi desert that contained marijuana that was centuries old, preserved for 2700 years for a future graverobber looking for an ancient trip.

Throughout my time and my books, I've hidden my love of pot behind this story and the reference to this mystical bud. Friends of mine have had their own secret terms for it so we can talk about it without giving our relation to it away.

One good friend and former dealer called it "Chicken". I don't know why (can't remember), but that code stuck with me. My current dealer goes by the term "Zip". 

The point? Over the years, I survived through my connection to a hidden subculture that has existed in plain sight. Few of my smoker friends are dysfunctional. They're smart, creative, balanced, responsible people that make the delicate dance happen.

For years, I was worried that my landlord would figure out I smoked pot in the house he was renting to me. I would make cookies when he came over. I would spray air freshener until it fogged out the lingering smell, and burn SereFire candles to compensate. When I grew 7 8' tall kush plants in his backyard in 2017, I kept the whole grow a secret. I ended up with 13 jars of Gobi, enough green glory to last me a full year.

It wasn't until that stash was mostly gone that I discovered he was a pot head too. A professional one, hiding in plain sight, just like me.

The Guts

Pot has been demonized for many reasons, too many to list here. Many myths and lies rise from a certain affliction of refer madness from the prohibition-struck populous. Old programming dies hard. It has taken generations to get respect back to marijuana for the good it does.

My support of and commitment to marijuana as a curative saved my life.

Those who have followed my story know that I came down with severe Ulcerative Colitis in 2001. Severe enough to consider a colostomy. Severe enough to take cancer meds. Severe enough to have to void every two hours, sleep or awake, meeting or walking, driving or bussing. My first cathartic book "Obscurious" covers these sick details.

But in 2014 - weed combined with a juicing diet - pushed my once-chronic condition to remission.

Acknowledging that the system worked, I haven't changed much in my life or lifestyle since the condition went away. I'm almost afraid to change. I haven't had a serious symptom in almost a decade now. I smoke daily and am now a part-time pescetarian, mostly vegetarian.

I'm deathly afraid of returning to the wheel of anemia, overtiredness, pain, and constant uncomfortability.

You'd be right if you pointed out that weed alone didn't fix me. You'd also be right if you pointed out that pot smoke and vape aren't good for lungs. The way I take in the THC isn't perfect, and has caused other problems.

Ultimately, it was a combination of factors that quieted my bloody ulcers. I believe the commitment to intaking gut-friendly juices and foods that encouraged internal healing allowed my gastrointestinal system to make its necessary repairs , while not having to deal with challenging digestion caused by meat and toxic products like alcohol.

I believe the internal calm that pot brings brought me healing. While alcohol numbs the pain and exacerbates existing health problems, THC moderates and pushes meditation. While alcohol forces many questionable choices the drunker you get, THC slows you down and makes you compliant with chill.

The Goodness

Our nation would be a chiller place altogether if weed was broadly legal and accepted, allowed to exist as a viable party alternative to alcohol and appreciated for its healing properties.

Suspecting that marijuana would go legal in 2023, I started a crop in my backyard. I can't give you the specifics of how many plants I have, but they're doing amazing - with some plants as tall as 7 feet! See the picture below for a shot of the top of one. They went into the ground over Memorial Day weekend and will be harvested in late October.

Thank you, State of Minnesota, for making recreational marijuana legal on August 1, 2023.

Our nation needs a calming influence, now more than ever. I'd like to buy the world a toke...

Artemis Sere's Xoterica: The Secret

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