Sunday, November 13, 2011

SDB Interviews: Cari of Completely Ordinary

My introduction of Cari of Completely Ordinary shall be short and sweet, since you've already heard about our trip to California together, our shared Muppet experience, and myriad other mentions in other stories. She's basically awesome.

Cari is my father's sister's daughter—she is my cousin. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University with a degree in Psychology, a teacher of an after-school rock band, and a veteran of several types of employment. Cari feels passionately about documentaries, the Beatles, slam poetry, and mental health. She also feels strongly that most women could rock a pixie hair cut.

If you look at this picture of Cari, you can see that she rocks that hair cut. You might also think that she doesn't like me. But what she really doesn't like it having her picture taken, which you will hear about later in this post. Beware: the following interview is wordy, but there is a surprise at the end if you keep with it!

Describe your blog to the uninitiated. When you write, who do you envision is reading your blog?
I started my blog as part of a larger goal to open up.  When I was younger, my friends accused me of never telling them anything.  Five years and many somewhat uncomfortable truths later, nobody can say that anymore.  It's not all dark, though, by any means; my blog documents the things, people, and ideas I love.  There's even a year in the archives that is full of funny little kid stories.  I imagine my readers to be people who either have a little bit of angst (the blog has mental illness angst, religion angst, gay angst, political angst--whatever your flavor, I've probably touched on it at one point), who are the kind of wonderfully supportive people I have in my life, or who are curious about folks who deal with one of the issues I just mentioned.  I encourage the curiousity.  One of the biggest reasons I started writing is to encourage conversation and the development of little communities.

Your job experience has been interesting since you graduated college. What are the pros and cons of being a 20-something who has had many jobs in a short time?
The biggest con is obviously that I have a longer than average resume, which makes it interesting to apply and interview for new jobs.  Having a lot of jobs in a short span of time also means that I field a lot of, "Now are you working at that one place where...?" questions.  Nobody in my life is quite sure what I do anymore.  There are also lots of pros, though.  I have learned quite a bit about what I like to do, so when I am finally fully licensed I will have a better idea of where I'm headed.  (Rehab?  Maybe so.  A lockdown facility?  Definitely not.  Developmentally delayed two-year-olds, underprivileged teens, or people with substance abuse issues?  A distinct possibility.  People with conduct disorder?  KILL ME NOW.)  Moving around a bit has also helped me to accrue experience in more fields than I would have expected at this point.  I have worked with people aged six months to sixty years in one capacity or another.  I've worked with people of both sexes, many races, many disorders, and many presenting problems.  On the other side of all of that, I still want to work with people, and as a twenty-something in the social sciences, that knowledge after this much experience is invaluable.

There have been bouts of unemployment in between your many jobs. Do you have any advice for smart, young, accomplished people going through unemployment right now?
Mostly I just have the kind of advice I feel like your grandma would give you.  Don't get overwhelmed.  There have obviously been better times to be unemployed, economically speaking, but there is still a lot of opportunity to be had.  Try to look at your situation as a chance to find something new and exciting to do.  Make finding a job your fulltime job, and it's easier to find a job if you have a job.  After I quit the Death Job, I was doing so many interviews that for the first time in my life I actually used a dayplanner, and I applied and interviewed for most anything I thought I could get.  Once I found the parttime job I still have, I was a lot more relaxed because I had some income, and I think this helped me land my newest fulltime job.  I went from suddenly unemployed to overemployed in a little under a month, and I'm proud of myself for doing so.  That, and my new jobs are totally awesome, and I would have never looked for them if I hadn't have been driven to quit without notice after seven weeks on the job.

Being so entrenched in the world of mental health, what would you tell those who are too afraid to seek help for their own issues or aren't certain that they have issues at all? What would you say to those with loved ones who are suffering with mental health issues?
To the people who aren't sure they have issues, I always say the same thing: therapy isn't just for the super crazies.  Therapeutic interventions actually work the best for people who are dealing with the "smaller" stuff.  If you feel like your daily life is being negatively impacted by something that is cognitive or emotional, make an appointment with a therapist.  Studies show that 80% of us could seriously benefit from therapy at some point in our lives, and if you are even thinking that something may be wrong, that time for you is probably right now.  I know firsthand how scary it can be to make that appointment and sit in that chair the first time, to say, effectively, I need help with something that nobody can see, something that I'm not sure is real at all, something that nobody else seems to need help conquering.  The truth is, though, that almost nobody is as stable as they seem to be and that most people are not brave enough to face those fears head-on by actually seeing a therapist.  Another truth is that once you are in therapy, there are few experiences less threatening than being in thearpy.  Therapists are not scary people, and if yours is, it's time to switch therapists.

My heart goes out to the loved ones of people with mental illness.  I know how hard that role is, too.  Remember that their struggles are no commentary on you.  Remember that you can't save them, that you are not the one and only person who can understand them.  Learn how to walk the line.  Your loved one needs you to be unfailingly supportive without being manipulated or made to get too emotionally involved.  Take care of yourself first by meeting your own emotional needs.  Draw boundaries when you need to.  Reach out for help if you need it.  There are support groups for people with serious mental illness, or you can also see a therapist if you need to because, as I said, therapy isn't just for the super crazies.

Please tell my good readers about Scari Dahl Faces. Pictures would be greatly appreciated.
Once upon a time, I was a freshman at BYU, living in Deseret Towers.  Next door lived a wonderful girl named Jennifer.  Jennifer bought a digital camera and took it everywhere.  Suddenly there were pictures of everything.  I was not entirely comfortable with being photographed (I'm still not), so I would see the camera coming out and something in my brain would short and I'd panic.  Sometimes the results were positive:

but even when they were not:

everything went on Facebook.  One year for Christmas Jennifer chose from the almost endless ridiculous possibilities and made Scari Dahl Faces, a memory-type game in which players have to match copies of horrifying pictures of me.  Don't worry, the game still lives in my closet and comes out occasionally, much to my chagrin.  I was unbeatable for a long time because only Jennifer and I could pick out the subtle differences between some of the photos.  Not all black and white photos of me sticking out my tongue are created equal, people.

Isn't Cari the coolest? She is definitely a kindred spirit and freaking fantastic, as well. Cari returned the favor and asked me to guest post on her blog, which I gladly did. I wrote about How to dump Toxic Friends, which you should check out. You know we all have at least one!


  1. I love both of you :) And Cari, you truly do make the greatest faces when confronted with a camera.