Why It’s Okay to Have Pie in the Sky Syndrome

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Sometimes I come down with Pie in the Sky Syndrome.

Right after I finished my Master’s degree I was, I’ll admit, just a bit full of myself.  I’d just completed a M.F.A. Creative Writing at the University of London, under the Poet Laureate of the country,  and graduated with distinction.  Tack on four years of prior middle school teaching experience on an army base in Europe and I thought I held the golden ticket to jobs.

All the jobs.

In my mind, people would be going out of their way to knock on my door and offer me employment—and not just in my field! Oh, no! There were all types of things I could be doing, now! Pies were flying all over the sky and all I had to do was reach out and pinch hold of the crust.

I started filling out applications with the lack of urgency a billionaire might feel if they decided to break up their luxury cruises with a fun side job for kicks. I wanted to stay in London; that much I knew. Beyond that, I was open to all types of professions as long as they paid me in lots and lots of pounds.

I applied for positions teaching literature at prestigious universities in England.  I applied to run the international department of these same universities (mainly because I thought it would be “cool to travel around the world and present the programs to students.”)

Looking over the employment options, I didn’t give much (if any) consideration to whether or not I was actually qualified.  It was all about what they could offer me.  I had a Master’s degree now–I was on fire! 

In a rush of hubris on the brink of insanity I applied to be—and this is no joke—the HEAD of the University of Liverpool.  Yeah.  I think in my heart I knew I didn’t have a chance.  But, I will say, after I filled out the initial application with misguided zest I sat with the dim worry that I could potentially be hired after all and expected to run the whole damn place.  What then?

We can cross that bridge when we get to it, I thought, and kept applying.

It only occurred to me to rethink reality a little when I didn’t hear back from a single one of the applications.  Actually, that’s not true—I landed an interview for one of the International Office gigs (i.e. the one where I’d be able to travel the world on a university’s dime, talking to students) but I didn’t get the job.  I guess my snazzy asexual business suit and high marks on a thesis about how Jonathan Safran Foer conveys trauma in Extremely Close and Incredibly Loud weren’t enough to convince them I knew the necessary ins and outs of international study.  Go figure.

Any semblance of worry I’d started to feel kicked in to high gear when my UK visa expired and I was suddenly back in Buffalo, New York, living with my parents and 4,000 plus miles away from the place I was sending out applications to.  It wasn’t beyond me that interviewing from there would be hard, and that’s a pretty important part of the job process.

In the next weeks I began to feel the pressure and launched a full-fledged job-hunting campaign that slowly downgraded from pies in the sky to crud in the mud.  I sent out an average of thirty applications a week.  Several months went by.  Crickets. My carefully crafted paperwork burned away in the silence.

Each application I sent out humbled me more and more.  My salary requirements changed.  The preferred demographics were compromised (I was suddenly willing to stay in the United States and forgo my expat dream, after all.)  The grandeur of a job title gave way to the necessity of earning a buck or two—forget pounds.

Eventually and gratefully I landed a job—back at the daycare center I’d worked at when I was eighteen years old.  I loved it there.  But, it was a far cry from where my sights were initially set.

For the remainder of my 30th year of life I slept in my childhood bedroom and worked my tail off earning minimum wage filling up Dixie cups with milk and changing fifteen diapers before and after naptime.

(Luckily, I did eventually land a part-time teaching job back in London, but it took a lot of grit and door pounding and one unfortunate interview where I’d just come in from an exceptionally hot day and sweat ran down over my forehead the whole time I answered questions.  It quickly became one of those awkward situations where the more you think about the fact you’re sweating, the more you sweat.)

A couple years later I leaped towards another Pie in the Sky.

I set out to write my first book.  And, of course, what I had in mind was not a modest first publication.  I planned, instead, to write the next New York Times bestseller, a real classic, one to be covered in American Lit classes circa right now.

Panera Bread was my office for the next few months and I guzzled Hazelnut coffee refills, ate the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad on a daily basis, and befriended the local retirees who spent their mornings there rehashing the news in an American version of the German Stammtisch.  I knew exactly what ‘their seats’ were, and they knew mine.  Heaven help whoever helped themselves to our respective booths.

Predictably my aspirations brought on a serious case of Writer’s Block.  When that subsided what came next was an onslaught of words—so many words!—and I felt deeply excited about every single one of them.

The project lasted several months.  I wrote six or seven chapters and each one was a messy sprawl of at least 60 pages in a style that eagerly and blindly mimicked the voices of all the other famous writers I was reading at the time.  (Let’s just say we see some David Foster Wallace footnotes and Jonathan Safran Foer experimentalism.  And maximalism. Lots of that.)

Well, my own assessment is that the book tanked.  I still go back and try to edit it from time to time, but I get seasick just looking at the thing.

And now I have a third Pie in the Sky story.

After I wrote the blog post about my attack, I decided it was time to do something I’ve been persuaded to do in the past but was too chicken-shit to try.  I decided to send my work out somewhere.  Like, to a real publication with hopes of my writing being, dare I say, shared with a wider audience.

My very first thought was Huffington Post.  I’ve been a fan of their ‘Voices’ section for a while, and I like the quality of the blogs posted there.

In my typical revved up style, I decided to send over my post in all its 2,500 word glory (forget the fact that most submissions that are accepted are pared down to 700 or 800 words.)

And—rather than the appropriate editor of the Voices section at HuffPost—I attached it as a link in an email message directed to Arianna Huffington, herself.  Because…why not? I figured there was nothing to lose by contacting the head honcho, herself.  Just like there’s nothing to lose by applying for a job that is well beyond one’s qualifications, experience, or overall intellectual ability.

(I could mention Donald Trump, here, but I’d never do that.)

Shortly after pressing ‘send’ I did some belated research and learned that Arianna Huffington actually left the Huffington Post to start a brand new company.  Oops! So, I hit myself a few times over my lack of ‘good to know’ knowledge and chalked it all up to an email lost in cyberspace.  I sent it out to a couple of other places, checked my email obsessively a few times, and moved on a month later.

But then this morning, after a very, very, very sleepless night due to a sick toddler with a hacking cough, I checked my email.  And who do you think I saw in my inbox?

Arianna Huffington.

She wrote me back.  THE Arianna Huffington.  The head honcho.  She wrote me back and thanked me for sharing my post.  She also let me know that she’d cc’d the HuffPost blog editor and that they’d be sending me a password so that I “can share my voice in a blog on the HuffPost site.”  She went on to tell me a little bit about her new company and even invited me to visit this pop-up store that will be open between now and January 15th.

All day I’ve been in a tizzy.  I’m tizzying over here.

On one hand, I’m not quite sure what this means.  Will my post be shared as a one-off on Huffington Post? Is the editor going to write me back? What’s with the password, thingy? How does that work?

I’ve done some reading, and from what I gather there is a new platform for the publication.  If you are a HuffPost blogger you get a username and password and have far more mobility/flexibility to share your work.  Is that what she’s saying? Am I being invited to the blogging platform of HuffPost?

I’m confused and elated.  It’s not a bad mix!

Either way, this is a new development here that feels awesome.  I’ll either have something I wrote posted (and I’m sure it could be the start of even more submissions to the web site seeing as I’ll have ‘established myself’ if having one thing published counts as ‘establishment.’) Or, I may be given a password of invitation to contribute more frequently.  This is an idea that gives me immediate Writer’s Block just thinking about it.

As of this morning I’m all-in about pies in the sky, again.  In fact, I’m going to keep going from here and probably embarrass myself and experience dead air and empty inboxes.

But, what this has shown me is that it’s always worth it.  Some pies are more attainable than others (like publication versus heading a university without experience, per se.)  What’s true for both is that there’s truly nothing to lose by going straight to the top, moving in range of the out of range or, to put it nicely, attempting to pick the nose of “this is beyond you.”

Sometimes you’re surprised with a response and validation.

I’m sure I’ll be updating you about my situation and we’ll see where it all leads.

In the meantime I’m off to the States tomorrow for two weeks and couldn’t be more excited. 🙂 P.S. I’d love to hear any of YOUR pie in the sky stories? Let’s talk pie!

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18 thoughts on “Why It’s Okay to Have Pie in the Sky Syndrome

  1. I read most of this with my fingers crossed saying, “Please have a happy ending, please have a happy ending…” and was not disappointed.
    Life has caused me to tamp down my own pie-in-the-sky expectations. Actually looking back it seems like I’ve always gone from being very excited right before I send something out into the world or apply for something and then once I take the plunge I’m so overcome with fear and nerves I have no energy left for high expectations. It’s my way of pre-emptively letting myself down easy.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Once upon a time I was a blogger and actually replied to comments and read other blogs and ENGAGED in this community. Then the Christmas season came and…poof!!!! :-)) i’m so sorry for being MIA…I read your comment and appreciated it so much (as I do all your comments) but I got totally distracted and really left my blog, completely, until about five minutes ago. I have so much reading to catch up on (I’m excited to catch up on your posts!!!!) and I promise to do that. 2017 will be a year in which I’m more…involved. Anyway, I hear you about fear and nerves and not expecting anything! I’m like that sometimes…and then other times I just check my email obsessively and hope for the best. As for the whole HuffPost thing, well, I haven’t heard anything back from the editor. I contacted her earlier this week to see if I can still contribute to the blog, there, but there hasn’t been a response. This might be one more example of the pie in the sky tasting a bit like German pie (i.e. it LOOKS absolutely delicious but you bite in to it and, since they don’t use much sugar, there isn’t the taste you initially expected.) Actually, it might be WORSE than German pie because–let me face it–there’s no longer any pie. Oh well. I’ll just move on to the next thing. Well, I hope you are well and I look forward to catching up with you on your site!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have kind of a pie in the sky story. I’ve been plagued with weird medical symptoms for over 20 years. I’ve seen all kinds of doctors, had all kinds of tests, and basically been written off by all of them as a psychosomatic hypochondriac. After leaving TWO separate rheumatologists in tears, I gave up. I knew whatever it was I had wasn’t going to kill me, and being told “your tests are negative” was making me depressed, so I decided to stop complaining. For a year, I went to my doctor and told him everything was fine. What was the use in complaining? They had run “every” test. It was just easier to keep it to myself. Except “easy” is not really easy. I was in a lot of pain, and had to do something. So I researched. I spent months and months online, plugging in each symptom, trying to piece it together. Finally, I plugged in the right combination and came across an article that could have been written by me. It described me and all my whacky symptoms. It was written by a doctor in Minnesota (I’m in Massachusetts), who is known as the “father” of mast cell disorders. I wrote to him. Might as well go straight to the top. Yes, this is a doctor who gives medical symposiums world-wide, a doctor who has written books on the subject, a doctor who has a wait list of over a year. Sure, let’s just shoot him an email. I sent it to his assistant at the University he works at. I pleaded for her to pass it along, really not expecting even a reply….and she did. Not only did she pass it along…but he wrote back! From a train in Germany! And he agreed that I had symptoms consistent with the disorder. MOTHER EFFIN VALIDATION, SISTER!!!!! Needless to say, once I had his letter in my hot little hands, I was taken a bit more seriously by my physicians and was finally accepted into a program at Brigham and Women’s that has changed my life. Moral of the story: Dream big. We are all worthy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • First of all, and let me write this in caps–I AM SO SORRY FOR MY INCREDIBLY DELAYED REPLY. I read and love, love, loved your story…and then never replied because when it’s holiday season I pretty much neglect everything else on earth except the mad rush to buy Christmas presents for everyone and to drink lots of wine accompanied by Christmas cookies. I’m really sorry! Anyway, WHAT AN AWESOME STORY. I’m really curious–and don’t feel like you have to share–but what was the diagnosis? (again, super personal question so don’t feel like you have to share.) You mentioned mast cell disorders? What is that? I’m just curious. How great is it that you went straight to the top! It just confirms that sometimes there’s nothing wrong with writing/contacting the person who seems least likely to write back. I’m so glad that happened in your case, and that you were taken more seriously by your physicians. As a side note–it’s a little sad that they didn’t take you seriously in the first place. I’ve definitely had that experience, as well! Anyway, I need to catch up on my blog reading and I’ll be checking our yours this week, I promise. I’m so sorry I’ve been MIA! The holiday season always does it to me. 🙂

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      • Stop it! No apologizing! Most people don’t have the luxury of instantly responding to blog comments. I had to read your original post, then my comment, to even remember what I wrote and why I wrote it. No biggie. (I actually did have that luxury when I first started my blog, but started a new job last month and I’m lucky to get on here once a week, so….

        I have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. It presents so differently in people, it’s a hard one to nail down. ( I also have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which has symptoms that cross over, making it even harder to figure out what’s causing what). Basically, mast cells contain mediators…heparin, histamine, prostaglandins…. and release them, usually appropriately, in response to a trigger. Like when you get stung by a bee, your mast cells release histamine, which causes the itching, redness and swelling. Or, if you have an allergy, they cause the allergic response…like an anaphylactic response to a nut allergy. When you have MCAS, your mast cells dump the mediators whenever they feel like it, or in response to weird things you aren’t allergic to. It can be mild, and just cause upset stomach, hives, swelling…or more problematic like heart arrythmia and anaphylaxis. I’ve heard of some people passing out from anaphylaxis just because they were exposed to fluorescent lighting! Luckily, I am not that bad. Anyway, I’m on medication for it now, and while it does not cure it, it does lessen the severity of my symptoms, which is much better than being called a faker, so I’ll take it.
        And there’s your science lesson for the day!

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  3. You remind me so much of myself. I’ve had pie in the sky a few times this week, the kind where you go to eat it, and get shot down in your F-16 just before you’re able to grasp it. I swore just last night I’d never get excited about anything, ever again.

    When I got my master’s I was positive I’d get a job as POTUS, too. Now, that I’m no longer gainfully employed, but retired, I still work, but my boss will never fire me, because I have juice. It’s me! And I still got pie in the sky.

    Don’t give up on the book; I’ve put several up on Kindle and bypassed the Pie In The Sky Publishers altogether.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am SO SORRY that it has taken me this long to reply!!! 2017 is a new start, and I’m not going to do this thing of neglecting my blog, anymore! I’m so tempted to make a whole list of excuses, but I’m going to stop myself ahead of time. Anyway, I hear you about getting shot down! So, that whole HuffPost thing? Yeah. I haven’t heard back from the editor. I finally wrote to her and asked if I’d still be able to contribute to the blog and still haven’t heard anything. I’m starting to feel like that F-16 shot it down! Now I’m a little embarrassed about how excited I was (I mean, I woke my husband up at 6 a.m. to read the email and I called my parents in the middle of the night.) Never getting excited about anything ever again sounds like where I’m at right now, too. I like what you said about wanting to be POTUS and I’m also really intrigued by the Kindle option that you mentioned. Bypassing publishers and just getting out there sounds ideal…I need to check out some of your work!!!! I promise I will. 🙂

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      • You don’t have to go THAT far! Haha!

        I like to tell people how simple Kindle is, if you just want to get your book out there. Your friends can help promote it, and you just never know what may happen with it. Look at Ally Broche. Is that her name?

        It really is such a let down if you’re a person who floats to the stratosphere over the smallest of things, and then they don’t work out.

        I applied to so many teaching jobs, went on interviews, got excited, and then finally just retired!

        Oh, well.

        You know you can always recycle an old post, or tweak it, or ask someone if you can publish one of their posts on your blog. I’ve done that with some great things I’ve read on Quora. I write on there more than on my blog.

        Happy New Year!

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    • I totally agree!!! Although… I feel like this particular piece of pie was held in front of my nose for a second and then pulled away. I haven’t heard back from the editor at HuffPost despite an email or two I sent their way. Oh well. It’s all part of the process. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh that’s a pity, why not try writing as a freelance, first topic should be about pies, baking is big business and everyone likes pie. Good luck to you

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  4. I’m late in getting here, but this is wonderful. May your pie be an a la mode double decker with lattice crust. I’m currently in my third year of unemployment (trying to get back into the writing trade); this post and the comments give me some hope that there’s a slice somewhere for me. Or at least a little tart. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What an awesome comment–thank you so much and I’m sorry for the delay! I’ve been away from my blog for the better part of a month (!!) and I offer no excuses. 🙂 Anyway, I am 100% confident your slice is waiting for you! I hope you get it soon…I definitely know how frustrating it is to be between jobs. What type of writing do you want to get in to? I will check out your blog and no doubt my answer lies there. 🙂 Thanks again…!!!!

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      • I was looking for updates and thought you must have been enjoying the holidays. My blog is a little odd so it may not help. Most of my experience is print: magazines, collateral, etc. Would love to find a copy editing slot somewhere…. Sorry for the shameless plug, and thank you for responding.

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  5. On lessons and pie in the sky.
    I’m laughing here and relieved and sitting feeling that I have learned my blogging (I’m only a week into this) lesson for the day. ‘Do your background, homework, before making a comment.’
    I generally read your post “…pie in the sky syndrome” and made a quick comment which you replied to and revealed that the Huff post editor hadn’t got back to you.
    Had a night of broken sleep worrying about this poor girl (frau Schnitzel) living in poverty, scurrying about trying to earn a few dollars in freezing-cold Buffalo to stay alive and follow her pie in the sky. It reminded me of a chat I had a few weeks ago with a friend who had travelled up from London to North Wales to talk about her pie in the sky.
    She had graduated with a masters degree a few years ago in trade and sustainable food production. For two years she applied for jobs within her area of interest and earned her living tending a bar and teaching martial arts. She is a real ninja and at 4ft 10inches very impressive when taking down a 6ft plus man in seconds with those super fast whirly spinning kicks. Anyway after 2 years her pie in the sky stayed illusive and she decided to see if that pie existed in Indonesia (having joint nationality). For another year that pie remained beyond grasp and returned to the UK.
    So we were having a brew and she told of tales hunting that pie in Jakarta, trips out to the islands and jungle areas visiting crop production plantations. Networking is big in Indonesia and back in Jakarta she had to do the rounds of business parties, someone there must have had information about finding that pie. The price of that pie mounted up, dinner and drinks for four in exclusive pie hunter clubs averaged $3000 per night. The pie was being paid for but she never smelled the filling never even saw the crust or a crumb.
    And now, while drinking tea, the skin on her face showed the misery in the mind of a failed pie hunter. The crux of the pie problem was revealed during our conversation, her vision of eating that pie, her success, was to be given the top job in a company or NGO just by applying for it, the ground up route seemed to have bypassed her thinking. She just wanted the Pie and eat it as well. So with a few kind words her treasure map road was detoured to the long scenic route.

    So my sleepless night thinking of the poor Frau Schnitzel going hungry for lack of pie and thinking of my friend’s story, I planned an interesting journey for the poor frau, thinking maybe she too had pie blindness and no thinking of the route to the pie.
    I got up this morning with the whole route of a journey for the frau to get in sight of her pie and decided to reread the “…pie in the sky article” then I read the frau’s ‘about me’ statement and saw that the frau already has a great big pie in the sky and is not the poor starving pie hunter I had thought of. My lesson is learned.

    Wishing you well

    Liked by 1 person

    • What an awesome comment and story! I’m so sorry this reply is so late!!!! (That seems to be my number one most often sentence used, lately, when emailing people. I am operating on a six day delay and it isn’t working out well for me.) Anyway, I really enjoyed the story of your whirly-kicking- pie-searching comrade. You’re a good writer, and I found myself wishing I could have been there for that coffee and able to listen to Jakarta stories. The advice you gave her is sound! 🙂 And, what you said about me not being a poor starving pie hunter was actually a good reminder. I might like to have a little pity party here and there and wonder if I’m doing in life what I REALLY want to be doing…and I might want more and more and more…but things here are pretty freaking good. I’m sitting around with a belly full of pie, thinking about…PIE! :-))) Anyway, I need to check out your blog. I like your energy!!!!

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      • Haha great stuff, I follow people on social sites for two reasons, one for information or processes they use and I want to steal and manipulate them, the other, and you fit in this category, is for the pure pleasure of the content. I find your writing exciting and interesting, just love your flow, it keeps the momentum going. You may be disappointed with my site, but it will improve once I work out what’s it about. That’s my chant at the moment, About, About, About, About me? About the blog? I’m not my job. Filling in that About page is a bit mad. I’m finding this blog site business quite stimulating, a kind of crazy mixture of mining the mind, thought expanding, getting your feet on the ground process. It’s interesting. Wrote a little piece saying that blogging should have a psychoactive classification like a mind bending drug but censored myself at the last minute. My online persona is currently a work in process and if I let it run free the men in the white coats will be knocking at the door. Keep writing ‘Frau Schnitzel’ our paths will cross again. Enjoy your day.

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