Thursday, January 23, 2014

For Everyone Misspelling My Name: Thank You!

Yet another misspelling--on an address label, of all things--has sparked this...let's not call it a rant. Let it be, rather, inspiration.

All my life, my name has been misspelled, mispronounced, and just generally misunderstood. Mispronunciations I can understand. In a quick conversation, the balance of probability suggests you were just introduced to Theresa, rather than a more uncommon variety. Given the sheer number of people who read Teh-rez in the French manner off my nametag, I'm even willing to conclude my parents just named me wrong (a soul-searching monologue on this topic delivered over dinner with friends at Chicago TARDIS received the sympathetic reply, "Yeah, Teh-rez isn't that hard to say, either!"). But I'll admit when people tell me they expected my name to be pronounced Teh-reh-say, I'm curious about what their linguistic background is, and even more curious about what they think mine is (as it happens, this potentially interesting discussion tends to end with the realization that we both share a cultural background, which is just sort of weird).

Misspellings, though, are weirder. Of course, the boy who wrote a valentine to "Trees" in second grade was just being phonetic. But when people, most of whom have never met me in person nor heard my name aloud, are writing emails to me, or social network messages, or copying my address down from an online order--in short, when they are in a position where my name is probably directly in front of them onscreen...


This may just be a sign that I need to clean out my inbox & folders more often...

I don't want to make this out to be a particularly big deal. It happens to many people with far more common names than mine, it happens far more often to people whose names are even less common, and it doesn't actually impact my quality of life. Nobody is doing it with malicious intentions.

Still, especially when I was younger, I'd feel...not hurt, but perhaps a bit slighted. And perplexed. The thing is, as a natural introvert and a very shy young lady on top of that, I have been known to work drafts of emails for hours or even days, sweating over each sentence and rereading the To:, From:, and Subject lines until my vision goes blurry.

And in contrast, here was someone who seems not to have as much as double-checked my name.

I now understand things a little better. I understand that when your inbox has fifteen or twenty (or god forbid, even more) emails that all require prompt replies, the most well-intentioned people will use a little less scrutiny than required for perfection. Communication will be sufficient, but not ideal. Mental shortcuts are made. Fingers slip on the keys.

Certainly, I myself have wound up calling Erika, Erica, and addressing the wrong Sara/h and Elis(z)abeth.

It's very comforting to know that I can, and it's not the end of the world.

And I can be reassured by the fact that I am sinned against as much as sinning--I've been on the other side of a malapropism in address, and I survived, and my good opinion of the person addressing me has (usually) remained intact. Failing that, perhaps forgiving those who trespass against my name will earn cosmic brownie points, and forgiveness for my own trespasses in turn.

In short, it gives me the guts to risk slipping up.

In a related bit of perspective (collecting doses of perspective is a hobby of mine, it seems), the Economist reports that internal research by Hewlett-Packard reveals that most male jobseekers will apply for positions even when they meet only 60% of the stated requirements. Women, who are more calculated--perhaps overcalcualted--in their approach, only apply for more complete matches. Sheryl Sandberg, as quoted in the article, thinks this is a way in which women are held back in business. I don't disagree--part of me wonders how many men are actually hired with 60% qualifications, but then that very part might be the questioning, doubt-hampered alter ego that holds me back myself!

But again: I can be baffled by these foolhardy average male jobseekers, or even irritated (as I'm sure somebody in human resources is). I could become quite jealous--even if they're not getting jobs, they are probably enjoying other fruits of such self-confidence. Instead, I shall choose to feel inspired. We can all be a little less neurotically careful, and more open to important opportunities.

Speaking of which, last week I submitted my resume and had an interview with a staffing agency in downtown Washington, D.C. Before the day was over they'd submitted my resume (with a few typos caught and corrected) to a temp-to-hire position in publications. No word has come back yet, but I already feel much better to be working alongside some professionals at finding jobs I'm suited for. I guess there are multiple cures for confidence-undermined-job-seeking-blues.