I am currently reading Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive, a travelogue where a couple and their two children (the daughter hers, the boy his, “the us, the them, the our, the your — as soon as we started living together, when the boy was almost six and the girl still a toddler, we adopted the much simpler possessive adjective to refer to them two. They became: our children.”) went on a cross-country car trip from New York City to the borderlands of Southern Arizona to embark on two different projects altogether — the husband working on a sound project involving the Chiricahuas led by Geronimo, and her on documenting the stories of child refugees crossing the borders of Central America and Mexico into the United States. As they travelled further towards their destination, their marriage — which had shown signs of disintegration before — slowly fell apart, and within these 352 pages is a meditation of a relationship, a family borne not necessarily out of the blood but of love and familiarity and trust, and the myriad of questions on how to navigate telling stories about lives other than ours. Luiselli wrote the novel based on her own experience volunteering as a Spanish-English interpreter to child refugees in New York City’s federal immigrant court, of which the nonfiction account of this story was also documented in Tell Me How it Ends, of which I had the privilege to read last year. In my notes about the book, I wrote: “This is a book of observation and movements, and observations on movements, and movements of observations. This is a book about books.” In another page, I annotated, “Reading Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive and watching how the mother (and the author) plunged into doing the kind of work they believe in, do I really want to do the kind of jobs I had been applying to?”
It’s April and I haven’t been able to bag a job yet. My job hunt had been going on for roughly two months now, and not only I have not received any offers, but I also haven’t been able to receive a single call for an interview. While I do understand that there’s an entire universe of possibilities and chaos that decides one’s chance at landing a job offer — which means there is a number of reasons that it’s not entirely my fault, it’s the timezone difference, Zana you’re not American, you’re a hijabi, your name is hard for them to pronounce, you have a PhD therefore you’re overqualified, it’s the pandemic after all, companies might freeze hiring etc. — I could not help thinking of what went wrong. Every single job I applied seemed promising, and I poured hours into doing the assignments (if needed) and perfecting the cover letter, but whenever a rejection letter came through — or worse, no news at all — I could not help but feel worthless.
Haley Nahman, who used to write for Man Repeller, sent out her newsletter today in which, between talking about how to smize at strangers through a civilian mask and our capacity to adapt to the New Normal (TIL the hedonic treadmill), posed a very important question that got me thinking all day, “What does it mean to launch the next phase of my career in this emotional climate?” Those who knew me, know how much of a Radical Planner I am, and I am not good with uncertainties. I have planned things out for myself — trips, conferences, milestones of the paper I am writing, etc. — down to the most minutae of details. Trying to adjust to the New Normal is throwing me off-balance since I could not plan for anything, because anything could happen. Like everyone else now, I am not sure what the future will bring — and my worries pervade into almost every conversation I have with friends over oh dear god so many different platforms now: Zoom, Google Hangout, Houseparty, Facetime etc. — apart from, we wait. So in waiting, we bake. We cook. Some of us plunge into more work. Some of us, like me, busy myself with unpaid work. Maybe this wait will make me rethink of the question Haley poses: “What does it mean to launch the next phase of my career in this emotional climate?” combined with the above question I have in my notes, “Reading Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive and watching how the mother (and the author) plunged into doing the kind of work they believe in, do I really want to do the kind of jobs I had been applying to?” Maybe then there will be clarity. But for now, I shall wait.
Reading in my tabs:
- Technology is stupid.
- “Like many designers, I’ve been trained in the idea that user-centered design is a humane and ethical approach to design. It is rooted in empathy for people, therefore it helps us create beneficial experiences for people, therefore it is good for society. But who is the user we’re designing for? In most cases, that user tends to be synonymous with the consumer, the person with the purchasing power. But the digital experiences we create touch far more people than just the end user. […] This is how we end up with platforms that give us free content, backed by an invisible system of surveillance capitalism that extracts personal data for profit. This is how we end up with systems that can deliver anything our hearts desire to our doorstep, backed by an entire class of exploited and underpaid workers.” Rethinking the unintended consequences of user-centred design.
- “…this technology is controversial because it involves sharing sensitive health information from billions of people via mobile devices that are constantly broadcasting their location. Some politicians and regulators have been warning that citizens’ privacy should be protected.” Apple, Google bring Covid-19 contact-tracing to 3 billion people.
- What the world can learn from Kerala about how to fight Covid-19.
- Surveillance may be here to stay, as every country deploys their own method of surveillance programs around the world. A fascist’s dream, I would say.
- “It felt disrespectful to her grandmother, who’d survived the Holocaust, to watch her burial on the same platform she used for office meetings.” The global coronavirus pandemic has forced people to think about death, while simultaneously upending the ways in which we are used to experiencing grief and loss. Zoom funerals, delayed burials, and virtual goodbyes have replaced hugs, wakes, and held hands. The only option is to grieve online.
- “When society is hit by a crisis, you can do three things: react, respond or initiate. Reacting means a negative reaction to external input, such as news or medication, for example. Responding means that you respond to an external signal to make it better, and initiating means helping even if nobody asked you to.”
- I was a huge fan of Workflowy, but somehow stopped using it due to, lack of projects. I was introduced to Roam by a software developer friend, and I think I might like it. This interview with its founder, Conor White-Sullivan (he studied anthropology!), shows that there’s some solid thinking going on behind the scenes and the type of reading, thinking, connecting, and synthesising it’s built for, and the nested kind of thinking and organising is something that I am looking for. White-Sullivan also took the inspiration of syntopical reading from Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book.
- “Fear of having to live with my mother in her old age, and mine.”