Posts Tagged ‘unemployment’

Me: [Sleeping] Zzz… Zzz… Zzz...

Dog: [Resting his head on the bed mere inches from my slumbering face] Siiiiigggghhhhh.

Me: Zzz… Zzz…

Cat: [Jumps up on the bed, then on top of me and walks the entire length of my body, from toe to head and begins to nibble on my nose].

Me: Zzz… Zzz… ZzOUCH! [Opening my eyes, all I can see is orange and brown fur and feel something cold and wet inside my mouth. It’s the dog’s nose]. DAAAAMMMMMMMM IITTTTTTTTTT!

[Dog and Cat high-five each other and bolt out of my bedroom]

Me: [mumbling] …wake me up… nose in my mouth… stupid cat face… dog ass all up in my business… trying get some sleep… stupid jerk animals…

I gruffly throw the covers aside and sit up. Rubbing my eyes, I turn my head over my right shoulder to check the clock.


Wincing in pain and unable to return my head to forward-facing position, I hear the muffled giggles of Dog and Cat from the hallway outside my bedroom. It’s 8:32 AM.

I throw on a smokey t-shirt from last night. I pee. I make coffee. I open the back door and step out of the way of the stampeding dog and cat who cautiously, excitedly dart past me like children afraid of being spanked and with you-can’t-catch-me giggles. Jerks.

I drink my coffee from my favorite Buffalo Sabres mug and stare out the back window as I try to massage my neck with my free hand. I watch my pets chew on sticks, pee on bushes and rambunctiously chase each other around the yard trying to bite the other’s tail.

I think about last night and how grateful I am to live in a city where our online community backs up the internet chitchat and holds informative and fun social networking events. The Richmond chapter of Social Media Club had another great turnout. The topic of using social media in your local business’s marketing strategy was something that, I think, a lot of attendees found very informative. Of course, the real fun took place afterwards at Mekong Restaurant, where we enjoyed delicious (and complimentary – thanks, An) Belgian beers and Vietnamese food. I was talking with a fellow freelancer and newcomer to the SMCRVA-scene about how our online community has grown into an actual professional and social network that can generate real business for people like us. Writers talk to marketers. Marketers talk to business owners. Business owners talk to the web developers. It’s not only a great vehicle for shameless self-promotion, but also the perfect place to find collaborative partners with similar interests.

The professional side of networking eventually gave way to the hash brown side of networking when some of us rolled up to the Waffle House. Of course, HashBrownNetworking always gives way to EmbassySuitesNetworking, which is the perfect and most ridiculously awesome way to cap off the night. The gossip flies and the wine flows like wine. Or like beer. No, the beer flows like wine. Whatever. I think we need to have a week-long convention. Vegas, anyone?

But where was I? Ah, yes. Stupid Dog and Cat are now pawing at the door.

Me: No, sorry. I don’t want whatever you’re selling.

Dog: Let us in!

Me: What? No, sorry. I’m not interested.

Cat: Not funny!

Me: No, thank you. I don’t want any.

Dog: C’MON!

Cat: I’m hungry!

Me: Sorry. Can’t hear you. Please get off my property.

[Now we’re just staring at each other through the window]

Me: Okay. Bye.

I walk away and pour myself more coffee. I’m thinking about the articles I need to start writing. I’m thinking about how much I enjoy my life right now. Still broke, still *technically* unemployed, but really feel as if I’m on the right track, career-wise.

This is Day 142, folks. Muffled barks and meows coming from the back door.


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Malljob cut down on hours. This week, I’m only pulling in eight. Let me do the math, here:

8 hours multiplied by [whatever I make at malljob per hour] equals [wow, I think I have that buried in my couch crevices] minus taxes equals [I can make more money in just 15 minutes by unbuttoning my shirt and wearing shortyshots outside the Wal•Mart].

Wifey is now happily off to school every morning, getting her classroom decorated. Full time job, that wife of mine. And what does she do? She elects to keep her other 18 jobs and picks up a Labor Day shift. So there goes my big plans for Labor Day. You know, sailing on the bay (is there a bay around here?) and wearing all white for one last time this year (yeah right, I like to piss off the rich cougars at the mall with my white pants/boat shoes combination in mid-November) or whatever it is that people do to celebrate labor. Also, I didn’t win the Mega Millions, so… I don’t have a sailboat. This Labor Day is gonna suck.

Also coming up: my birthday. I’ll be turning 31 in a couple of weeks. To celebrate, I think we’ll go out to some fancy local restaurant then watch my Bills beat the Patriots on Monday Night Football. I artfully left a link to a website that sells knock-off football jerseys in Wifey’s email, hoping she’ll get the hint and get one for me. Because 40 smacks for a stitched jersey is a bargain, even if the colors are slightly (drastically) off and Reebok is spelled “Rearbox”. It’s my birthday, dammit, and I’m watching football in a counterfeit Trent Edwards jersey if I so desire. And I hate you Tom Brady. Do you hear me? I hate you and your perfect face.

I’m starting to get some more business tossed my way. Which is unbelievably awesome. I had a couple of meetings last week that went really well and I hope will lead to steady work. Now I have an excuse when Wifey comes home and asks if I forgot how to operate a vacuum. Hey! I’m workin’ over here!

My computer room is more like a real grown-up office now. Cluttered. Dusty. Smells like whiskey, printer ink and mansweat. I need a new desk chair, though. This one doesn’t lean back to an appropriate napping level.

This is Day 138, folks. Pursuing happiness. Or “happyness”. You know, like the movie? The Pursuit of Happyness? I’m pretty sure there was a Y in there somewhere. Anyway, that’s what I’m doing. And I’m getting there. Almost. We’re almost there.

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Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.

I didn’t get the job in Charlotte that I so desperately wanted. I got the rejection email at the beginning of the week. It was a major blow to my confidence and self-esteem. I thought I nailed the initial interview and all but had my bags packed and a house picked out.

I’ve been trying to remain positive throughout the job-seeking process, but this really affected me in a big way. For the first time, I let the constant rejection of the past four months get the best of me and I started to get down on myself. I was starting to think negatively and took personally their decision to go with someone else.

Honestly, I don’t care who they decided to hire or how many years of experience the person who they chose has. They should’ve hired me because I would have been better. Their loss.

This past Wednesday, I took part in the Virginia Career Network’s (@VaCN) discussion on using social media to grow your professional network. I was a panel speaker, along with 3 others (@rickwhittington @MightyCasey @jasonlinas) who have much more experience in the professional networking field than I do, having only been unemployed for four months. However, I think it was great that we each had different viewpoints and could offer advice from the perspectives of those who are doing the hiring to those who are looking to be hired. All in all, I think the topics that we touched on – including how to engage potential employers and influential people online – will help the jobseekers as they dip their toes into the pool of social media for professional purposes.

I was a nervous wreck, not having done any public speaking since college. But I didn’t faint. So, you know,  there’s that.

Then came the big news.

My wife got a job! She is now a kindergarten teacher in Chesterfield County – at a great school out in Midlothian. After working so hard to get her teaching license for the past howevermany years, and then finally being eligible to become a teacher when the economy is sliding and the Virginia education budget is slashed to reduce the amount of teachers on the payroll, she just didn’t think it was going to happen anytime soon. Luckily for us, the one school that is actually adding classrooms hired her. I’m so proud of her. She goes in tomorrow to start decorating her classroom. She’s going to be a great kindergarten teacher – one that the kids will remember for the rest of their lives.

This put the Charlotte rejection into perspective for me. It some cosmic way, I didn’t get that job so we wouldn’t be in the predicament of figuring out where we were going to live. Now that I know that we’re staying in Richmond, I can focus finding work here. I can begin to make a name for myself (whether by freelancing or whatever) in this city. This is a great thing for us. I’m happy to stay in Richmond. I’m going to be king of this city. As soon as I get some more money coming in.

Speaking of money…

Screw this whole unemployment thing. I mean, yeah, I’ll continue to feverishly look for regular 9-5 work, but this freelance writing thing is amazingly fun and I’ve never been happier in the work I create. I’ve met tons of people and can be extremely productive before I finish my coffee. All I need is another 2 or 3 clients and I think I’ll be alright.

That panel I participated in on Wednesday? Because of that, I have a meeting with someone this coming week about some social marketing work I can do for them. So I’ll be alright. I’m making unemployment work for me by doing what I love to do and getting paid for it. I guess since it’s not the traditional type of job, I still think of myself as an unemployed dude. But that’s starting to change.

If I keep getting work, I may just become my own business. That’s the direction I’m heading. We’ll see what happens. Until then:

This is Day 130, folks. 130 days of not having a traditional job. But I’m making a little bit of money – legally. So proud of Wifey. The kids in her class will be lucky to have her. No one can teach a kid to make macaroni art like her.

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Morning productivity

If there is one thing about being unemployed (or “freelancing”, as I call it) that I actually enjoy, it’s the waking up whenever my body darn well feels like it. I like opening my eyes and staring at the wall, trying to guess what time it is.

“8? 8:30?” [grabs phone] “Holy crap! 9:37! Sweet!”

I’m not a big sleeper-inner, so I’m usually up around 9:30. It doesn’t matter, though, because I have a few things that I force myself to do before noon – no matter what time I drag my groggy butt outta bed.

Coffee followed by some articles followed by some social media internetting followed by an intense application blitz followed by some fleeting thoughts about exercising followed by either the malljob or a sandwich with extra Doritos (on the sandwich, mind you). There also might be a nap in there somewhere. And maybe some more articles.

My sandwich shop

I make awesome sandwiches. I had one yesterday that I like to call The Cousin Larry™. If you’ve been reading my posts since the beginning, you know that I like to name my sandwich creations. One day I’m going to open a sandwich shop that will feature delicious sandwiches named after TV/movie characters. Most of them will be pretty obscure. It’s gonna be awesome. Just you wait. Anyway, The Cousin Larry™ doesn’t have pickles (most of my awesome creations do). It does, however, have Doritos intermingling between the salami and the lettuce. Fantabulous, if I do say so myself.

You know who eats salami? My dad. He eats bologna and salami with American cheese on wheat bread with KETCHUP. Every. Single. Day. In my shop, that sammich will be named The Carl Harrington™. Okay, so he’s not a TV character, but I’m pretty sure no one will buy it anyway. Except him. How awesome would that be to have your favorite sandwich named after you?

“Hi, I’d like a ME please. Extra ketchup.”

What I’ve got coming up

I’m speaking on a panel this Wednesday. About what? What else? Being unemployed! I’ll give a little presentation on how I’m using social media to network and create professional relationships with people who can put me on their payroll. Basically, I’ll be giving advice to unemployed people about how to use social media to their advantage. It should be interesting, since I haven’t done any public speaking in a very long time. Not to mention that I have no clue what I’m going to say. I should probably write some stuff down, huh? Apparently, I’m winning at unemployment if people want to hear me speak about my joblessness. Hey, I got a free lunch out of it. SO CHALK ANOTHER ONE UP IN THE WIN COLUMN, FELLAS!

I make unemployment look easy.

This is Day 124, folks. Just some Monday evening ramblings while the wifey is babysitting and making that real dolla-dolla. Still malljobbin’, still writing, still looking for more. Last night I had a dream we moved to Charlotte. Hoping that becomes a reality soon.

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I had a bizarre job interview yesterday.

I was scratching my head when they called to schedule the interview last week. I had never heard of this company and certainly didn’t remember applying for a job with them. I even asked the lady on the phone what position this was regarding. She just told me to show up and we’ll toss around some ideas.

Mmm. Okay. So… ideas. I have lots of those.

My first thought was that this was some sort of pyramid scheme sales job where you vacuum someone’s living room and then try to sell them really sharp knives. But after doing a little research on the tubes, I saw that they were a legitimate local business with some high-profile clients. Their website, however, was also a little vague, not really stating what services they offer. Just a flash coverflow portfolio of 5 or 6 sample websites that (I’m guessing) they created. The “About Us” page basically said that they’ve been in business for 20 years. Doing what? I don’t know.

I asked around. No one has heard of this business. One person said, “I think I’ve seen their office. It looks like some rich girl wanted her own agency so her daddy bought an old building and slapped a sign on the door.” But no one had any experience or prior dealings with them.

What do I have to lose, right? I need a job and I’m going to show up for any interview I’m lucky enough to get. Who knows? It could be a great opportunity!

So I packed up my bag with writing samples and some pieces of my design work. I got all suited-up and drove to the downtown office. Didn’t look sketchy. Didn’t look shady. I felt at ease when I walked in and saw a lady sitting at the front desk. I walked over to her and told her my name.

Was that a smirk? Yeah, she smirked at me. Later, I realized it was an “I’m sorry for what you’re about to go through” smirk. She told me to have a seat (in a very low chair) at a large antique table (my head was barely above the table top) and disappeared up the stairs for about 5 minutes.

When she came back, she told me, “He’ll be right down,” then sat in her chair and stared at me. For a good 2 minutes. 2 minutes of staring at me. I couldn’t think of any small talk, so I looked around the room at the posters on the wall (which I realized weren’t posters at all but magazine advertisements from the late 80’s) and waited for the mystery man to be ‘right down’.

Just when I was about to compliment Sally McStaresALot on her artsy glasses, I heard a rumbling from upstairs. Remember – this is a converted row house and it is just as creeky and echoey as a hipster’s apartment. I watched as a grown man in a shirt and tie stomped down the stairs like a gorilla on roller skates, stomping loudly, but carefully, on every step. When he got to the bottom, he froze. Looked at me. Pointed. Shouted, “GRAY TIE! IS THAT A GRAY TIE? LET’S COMPARE TIES!”

Before I could answer – or even look down to see that I was, indeed, wearing a gray-ish striped tie, he ran down the hall out of view. I sat, peering over the antique table, mouth agape. Holding my tie. The secretary was smirking at me again.

He ran back into the room and went behind the secretary’s desk and started fidgeting with her radio. He turned it up. Loud. Really loud. Then he looked over at me and screamed, “HEY MAN! TURN IT DOWN! TURN IT DOWN, MAN! WE’RE TRYING TO WORK OVER HERE!” Then he turned it down. Slightly.


He grabs two pieces of blank paper from the secretary’s printer and sits down next to me. Looking over the blank paper. It’s clearly blank. I’m looking right at it. It’s blank. White. Paper. Nothing on it. Blank.




Uh… Great. What do I say here? I think he wants me to say yes. But I don’t know… I mean, this is a total trick question. There is only one correct answer. Judging by the way this guy is all energized, I figure he wants me to be an adrenaline junkie who lives for exhilaration and thrills.

“Well, I prefer to get my excitement other ways, like …”


“Almost 10 years. I graduated in 2000 from…”




“No, I’ve lived in Virginia since college and worked at…”



[Now he’s whispering] “The sandbox. You know? That’s what we need around here, man. Sandbox mentality.”


“We need to get back to that innocence, man. THE SANDBOX, MAN! THE SANDBOX! EVER PLAY IN A SANDBOX WHEN YOU WERE A KID?”

“Yeah, sure.”


“I consider myself to be a creative and …”

[Whispering again] “It’s all about electronic calendars, man.”

“…How so?”


“Now, are you talking about creating electronic calendars? Selling them? To existing clients? New clients?”




We’re staring at each other.



I’m really frustrated. I don’t have any clue what this guy wants from me, so I ask, point blank, “Look, I don’t remember applying for this job. Can you give me a little background on what this position will entail?”

He then goes into a rambling speech about sandboxes, lunch boxes, electronic calendars, supermarkets and the maintenance worker he keeps locked up in the closet. He’s talking fast. I can’t follow, nor understand, what he is saying. I start to think I’m going insane and can no longer process the English language. At one point during his incoherent speech, I thought I was going to pass out. But I didn’t. Thank God.


“Here, let me give you a copy of my résumé.” I hand it to him and watch him as he looks it over, dripping sweat from his brow all over it.

“SKILLS?!?” He takes out his pen and starts scratching and scribbling over the ‘Skills’ section of my résumé. “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SANDBOX MAN. I KNOW YOU’VE GOT SKILLS! YOU GOT THEM YOUNG GENES!”

“Okay. Nice meeting you. I’ll. Just. Go. Now…?”






I get up to leave, shake his hand and wave to the secretary, who is now looking at me with a look of ‘take me with you’ written all over her face. As soon as I exit the building, I exhale. I can feel my heart pounding out of frustration and disappointment. I’m trying to process what just happened. I get to my car and sit in it for a minute before driving home. I need a stiff drink.

I still can’t make sense out of it. I have no clue what job I interviewed for. I never got the man’s name. Very funny, guys! Now where are the hidden cameras? I’m so discouraged and disheartened. As funny and crazy as this story is, I’m actually quite pissed off about the whole thing. What a waste of time. I’m a guy with experience, creativity and talent. I’ve been out of work for 120 days. The only interviews I can get are with lunatics who want me to rob a bank. This job search is killing me slowly.

This is Day 120, folks. I need a job. I need one now. I’m thinking about robbing a bank then playing in the sandbox with my electronic calendar.

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A quick check of my dashboard weather app shows the current temperature at 98º, with a high expected of 103º sometime within the next couple of hours. While a few 100º days are to be expected in a typical Richmond summer, they are still too much for this native Buffalonian to handle without an frosty beverage and a portable kiddie pool filled with ice water.

The humidity can bite me. There. I said it. Bite me, humidity. I like to swim, but I don’t like to have the sensation of just exiting a lukewarm pool without ever having entered one. I can’t even get the mail without feeling like the angels are drooling on me with their hot and sticky saliva. I feel like I’m in an invisible giant’s crock pot, slow roastin’ and marinating like some sort of human meat stew. Mmmm. Smells like dinner, Ma!

It’s days like these when I really thank the Gods of Modern Technology for blessing us with sweet, sweet air conditioning. I have so much respect for those of you who have outdoor jobs. I don’t know how you do it, even with the promise of a paycheck. Heck, I’m unemployed right now and if someone offered me an honest day’s pay to nail some shingles to a roof, I’d think twice. If you’re a roofer or a road construction person or one of those sign-twirlers outside the Little Caesars advertising a $5.55 pizza, I salute you. I salute you with a tip of my hat and a raise of this ice-cold Tropical Smoothie.

DISCLAIMER: That being said, I WOULD take an outdoor job, even in this heat. Hey, I need the money and am willing to work hard for it. But I would totally not be happy about it. I might even cry a little bit. Hey – I know the value of hard work. I’m just trying to make the point that it’s frickin’ hot out there with a little bit of humor. So calm down all you people who are about to comment and say that I’m lazy. Because I would dig a ditch or twirl a sign if it meant putting a roast in the crock pot.

So anyway – a little bit of news from the freelance front: I am now a legitimate blogger, as evidenced by my posts on RichmondInsideOut. Click on ‘Blog’ and read about my adventures as I tour Richmond and promote the region’s historic awesomeness. If you’re around on August 27th, I personally invite you to come on out to the RIO party from 5-7pm at Easy Street. The first 100 registrants get a couple of free drinks and are allowed to shake my hand. But you’re not allowed to look me in the eye. Ever. Oh, just kidding. You can look all you want. You can register here.

DISCLAIMER #2 – I spelled ‘cemetery’ wrong in the Segway post. As much as I don’t want to call attention to it, I feel like I need to inform you that I’m normally a pretty good speller. So don’t hold a little misspelling against me. I probably have more spelling and grammatical errors that I’m unaware of, but don’t tell me about them because I’ll get really down on myself and finish a whole gallon of mint-chocolate chip ice cream. So please be aware that I KNOW I spelled it wrong and feel bad about it. Thank you and good day.

Gearing up for an interview on Wednesday afternoon. This one kind of took me by surprise, since I don’t remember applying to this company. And I really don’t have any clue on what position this company is looking to fill. Guess I’ll have to be prepared to talk about my writing or my design or my TV production skills and bring examples of each. Sound a little sketchy? Maybe. But I won’t know until go find out. Couldn’t hurt, right?

As for the Charlotte job, I’m still waiting to hear something. I can’t even begin to tell you how I’ve permanently disfigured my fingers by crossing them. And it’s hotter in Richmond today than it is in Charlotte. So Charlotte is winning the battle of places that I should live because I don’t want to die a slow-cooked death. I mean, really – the neighborhood pool smells like a delicious ham stew.

This is Day 117, folks. Hottest day of the year. Check out the RIO blog. Don’t hold spelling errors against me. Mystery interview coming up. Charlotte on my mind.

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Being Captain Jobless, I tend to go on a lot of interviews. Okay, not A LOT of interviews, but some. Well, maybe just a few. Yeah. I go on a few interviews every now and then, whenever I’m lucky enough to score the opportunity. From the moment I schedule an in-person sit-down, my mind immediately starts putting together an outfit that would both express my personality and be appropriate for the job and the company.

For example, if a hip, trendy advertising agency wants to see me on Wednesday afternoon (which they do this Wednesday, thank you very much), I think a nice, modern-fit blazer with a button up shirt and maybe some flat-fronted khakis or dark pants with brown shoes and a killer smile would be appropriate. Honestly, I think I could get away with wearing dark denim on an informal interview like this, but wouldn’t risk it just in case the interviewer is a little older and a stickler for tradition. Never a good idea to wear jeans to an interview, no matter what the position. Ever. Okay, well, maybe Wal-Mart.

Other places of employment require a suit. Interview at a large corporation? Better believe I’m rockin’ a suity-suit. Nice tie, not too flashy. Shiny shoes. Jacket buttoned when I’m standing, unbuttoned when I sit to let the great pumpkin breath.

Have an interview with an insurance company to do some door-to-door sales or something along those lines? They’re just looking for anyone who will wear a tie. Just throw on a pair of pants with a buttoned-up shirt (it can even be a short-sleever). As long as you have a pulse and are wearing a tie, they’ll give you a job.

So herein lies the problem, friends: I don’t have any decent interview clothes. I own one suit. I wear it to weddings, funerals, interviews and the fancy-schmancy Arby’s out in Short Pump (It’s really high-class. They even serve beer). I bought it a few years back on super-discount. The pants don’t fit anymore because… they shrunk. Yeah. THEY SHRUNK, okay? The jacket fits fine, but the cut of it makes me look like I’m about to host Late Night at the Apollo in 1998.

I have one sport coat, bought from some outlet store, once again many years ago. It’s made out of some kind of thick wool or Mexican rug, so it’s not exactly the ideal choice for a mid-August outing.

I own a few dress shirts, minus the ones that no longer fit around my marshmallow neck because, uh… THEY ALSO SHRUNK. So, I have maybe 2 or 3 that I can wear comfortably without popping a button or asphyxiating myself. Some of them are made of that shiny sateen material that makes you look like you’re covered in plastic wrap, especially in photos that require a flash. The colors are hideous, save for a striking green one that I wear to every. single. interview.

I’m also lacking in the necktie department. Most of my ties are from the days of high school dances and weddings of long-divorced relatives. They have super fabulous paisley patterns and are just wide enough to be considered outdated and just thin enough to look like they belong to a child. Remember ten years ago when Who Want’s to be a Millionaire took the world by storm and everyone wanted to dress like Regis with his monochrome shirt-tie combination? Yeah, well, I’m sportin’ neckwear from before then.

So what gives, Mr. Matt? Why don’t you have any decent clothes?

Good question. Honestly, no one too terribly close to me has died recently (knock on wood), so I haven’t really needed to update my funeral, wedding, interview, Arby’s suit. I have attended a bunch of weddings, but the jacket usually comes off and the top button of my shirt collar pops as soon as the ceremony is over and the bar opens. I spent 8 years working at a television station that allowed me to wear jeans, t-shirts and hoodies every day. Then I got a job in a corporate office, but the dress code was semi-relaxed. They just asked that I didn’t look like a hobo or a television director. So it’s not that I enjoy looking like a slob, it’s just that I never needed super dressy clothes. Now I need to update my wardrobe.

They say, “The clothes make the man,” and I agree with that. Therefore, I’ve decided to pry the plastic out of my cold, dead wallet and at pick up a nice blazer, a properly fitted shirt, some decent pants and a pair of shoes that don’t look a tank rolled over them. I need to buy a suit – badly, but I don’t think that would be wise right now because I just can’t afford one. A nice suit is expensive, and I need to eat. Unless somebody dies, then I’ll have to go buy one. So please, if you’re gonna die, just wait until after I get a job. I mean, this is why I’m getting the blazer/shirt/pants combo – to help me look a little more attractive & stylish to a perspective employer. One thing is for certain: I’m going to look and feel great at next Wednesday’s interview.

This is Day 113, folks. True story: I only own one brown belt. I stole it from my father when I was in high school. I think it’s from the late 70s.

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