Let’s start with some numbers.
32: the number of months ago I graduated from grad school
79: the number of job applications I have saved in my “Job Search” email folder
20: the number of jobs out of those 79 that I would have taken after learning more about them
15: the number out of those 79 jobs that I thought were fairly interesting
3: the number out of those 79 that were perfect
unknown: the number of interviews I have gone on. But I do know that I have not told anyone about every single one. Even my parents, who probably know the most, hardly know about a fourth of them. Not because it’s a secret. Because, after so long, there just really is nothing to say.
And yesterday, I had a job offer on the table. For a job that I actually wanted, more than I thought possible when I applied. In an environment that I immediately felt comfortable in. With people who were welcoming to a complete stranger. I even saw the office where my desk would be. And, surprising even to me, I pictured myself in it. I could really work here, I thought.
But, I didn’t take it. Put simply: I couldn’t afford to take it.
So then, in keeping with the numbers trend….
1: the number of jobs, out of 79 applications, that I was offered
1: the number of jobs, out of 1 offer, that I have denied.
Oh, and one more number.
3: the number of times that I have cried over this entire job search endeavor. And two of those times were within this last week.
And it was not just a few tears. It was an UGLY cry. Times two.
My mom, poor woman, was on the phone with me when one of the two started. Thursday of last week, this was. And, as she later told me, after I had driven home and been enveloped by her and my dad in home cooking, hugs, and wine, that she felt awful, thinking that it was something she had said. She should have listened more, she stated. She could have been more supportive. But it wasn’t that at all. It wouldn’t have mattered what she said. Not because I wasn’t listening. Because, it was, for the first time, me realizing that I had to show someone how TIRED I was.
How tired I was of keeping optimism alive that I have always effortlessly been able to maintain in other aspects of my life.
How tired I was of answering that, no, I still hadn’t found a job. And, yes, I was still looking.
How tired I was of dodging questions from well-intentioned people offering ideas I have already tried. Tired of reassuring people, much less myself that, yes, I know the right job is still out there.
I was tired of wondering what else I could do when I have done everything that you are “supposed” to do. Tired from simultaneously working full-time and going to school full-time, only years later, to not see a reward. Tired of taking internships to build a network of people who are, in the end, not hiring, or at least not hiring me. Tired of the slap in the face that paying grad school loans every month is when you are in the exact same employment position you were before an additional $20,000 of debt.
And it was then that I got scared. Because when you are this tired, where else is there to go? And THAT was ugly cry #2. Which was Tuesday night.
Wednesday, I turned down the job. With every little bit of shredded confidence that I had left. All I had been asking for in the last three years was a chance. A chance to look past the inexperience that I have and for faith that, when I get into this job, I will be invested. I will ask questions, I will jump in where ever I can to help, and I will, in time, become indispensible. And I couldn’t pull the trigger on the one chance that was extended to me.
And while I turned down this job, and while I am confident that taking this job is not where I am supposed to be right now, it also renewed a lot of things for me.
Maybe this entire lesson was about still believing. Because I had begun to struggle with that. And, having never been that person before, I didn’t know how to handle it. And I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t handle it well.
Maybe it’s about knowing that the universe hasn’t forgotten about you, it’s just asking for a little more patience.
Maybe it’s about coming to point in your life when you have no choice but to choose money over a more ideal job. Which, mind you, you will take the time to berate yourself for, because you have always wanted to believe otherwise. You want to believe in a world where money doesn’t matter, one where you can have your ideal job and still manage a modest house and be able to leave your kitchen and go out once in a while for a meal cooked by someone other than yourself. And, as a naive teenager, you created a life plan in which this would never happen, you choosing money over job satisfaction. So maybe it’s watching a small part of your childhood innocence turn it’s back on you and walk away, slowly and deliberately, waiting for you to change your mind and run after her. Except that, all the while you know that you won’t. That, right now, you simply can’t. And so, in that sense, it is a peaceful death.
And maybe it’s realizing that your childhood innocence isn’t necessarily dead either. Maybe she is more malleable than you have ever given her credit for. Maybe she’s just shifting, and because you never thought it possible, you don’t quite know what you’re watching for. But you know she can’t be completely gone while you can still believe that the perfect job is out there for you, and that, some day, your time will come.
And knowing that it will be all that you have waited for.
And knowing that you will be glad for being exactly where you are.