It’s really amazing what can break your resolve after a long day. About ten seconds ago, I was running around the house in a relatively new pair of heels, trying to keep positive after finding out that something I had been looking forward to had just fallen through, and I stepped on a tube of toothpaste. The good news is there’s no big glob of toothpaste on my carpet that will be impossible to clean. The bad news is that the clean clothes I’d folded and placed on the floor for future putting-away are…well…no longer clean.
The next breath I inhaled after that was one of those really tight, kinda high-pitched ones you get when you’re really trying not to cry (or maybe when you’re going into anaphylatic shock). I was holding my computer, so there wasn’t much I could do about the toothpaste situation. When I bent down to pick up the tube that had barfed all over my outfits for the next few days, my power cord slid off my computer and clunked on the ground, and when I knelt to pick that up, I knelt in the toothpaste glob. It’s just one of those moments when you know for certain: the universe hates you and it’s time to give in.
Today I spent three hours at the public library here in Hilliard looking for jobs, wrestling with my resume, learning the difference between a cover letter and a letter of application, and creating a budget. Is there anything more soul-crushing? I have contacted seven businesses in Oberlin inquiring after employment opportunities, and I have printed off the applications for three on top of that. I need to find a job that will earn me at least $7,000 for the year, if not $10,000. Of the places I have contacted about possible openings, zero have responded. Of the applications I have printed off, I have completed zero. (My sarcastic answers like “My milkshake brings all da boiz to the classy, moderately expensive Chinese restaurant” and “I’m sort of a man. Describe me? that’s hard, I don’t know if I can. I’m smallish and oldish and shortish and bossy, and I speak with a voice that is sharpsih and bossy” don’t count as completion.)
I’d like to say I don’t know why I haven’t finished these things, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same reason I never finish anything. I’m not afraid of commitment because I’m afraid to devote myself to something. I’m the kind of person who actually likes to devote myself entirely to things. I gave up my whole life for a thesis, and I’d do the same for my friends or, in this case, a job. What I think I’m afraid of is judgment. I’m part of that lucky generation of kids that was raised to think a college degree was your ticket to anything at the exact same time an undergraduate degree (unfortunately) was becoming almost meaningless. What can I do with a BA in History and an 88-page thesis? Adults keep telling me I can do anything. The universe keeps telling me I can intern.
What I am doing is moving back to Oberlin. What most people don’t understand is that I made this decision on my own after weighing the pros and cons for about a week. I even calculated a rough budget in my head to see if I could sustain myself until I found a job (or even in the off chance that I didn’t). It was only after I got a couple of “And how do you feel about this?” responses to my decision that I began to question myself. It was only after a few careful, high-pitched and phony “Oh…well that’s just great“s that my well-calculated, happy decision became a nonchalant, why-the-hell-not-irresponsible decision I made while drinking alone in a bar in Boston. That’s what I tell people now. It’s pathetic. I want to seem chill and (as cheesy as it sounds) free as a tripping hippie. It doesn’t make me feel any better about it to lie. So, I’m putting it out on the Internet, where anyone who wants to can see it. I am moving back to Oberlin because it’s what I want to do. I took the decision seriously. I weighed my options. I am moving back to Oberlin because I want to.
I’ve been watching a lot of TV recently, making the most of my $7.99 monthly Netflix fees, and the universe must really be trying to teach me a lesson because all the episodes and movies I’ve seen recently have had to deal with pride. Pride never seems to be a virtue. It wrecks everything–ruins relationships, breeds misunderstanding, and makes you do things you otherwise wouldn’t. Like sticking with a college that is a miserable fit because you’d bragged to all your friends about getting into it. Like lying about how and why you made a decision. Like not contacting a mentor that has carried you through so much because you’re afraid she’ll be disappointed in you.
My advisor through college was an absolutely amazing woman. She was my constant cheerleader. When other people told me I was crazy for putting myself through the thesis writing process, she understood. When other people told me that I was strong and could get through things by myself, she gave me candy and told me she could try and help with more than just academic problems. She believed in me, and maybe that’s the brick wall I’m hitting right now. To have someone believe in you puts so much more pressure on every single decision you make. I want her to be proud of me. I want to tell her I’m interning at the Massachusetts Historical Society and following in Jeremy Belknap’s footsteps. I want to tell her that I’ve started the historical fiction novel she somehow sees in my future. Instead, I’m sitting on an e-mail that says I’m moving back to Oberlin and having trouble finding a job and has she heard of anyone in need of a bookkeeper or minion?
What it comes down to is shame. I’m ashamed, not because I’m moving back to Oberlin, but because I have…no idea. But, you know, I think it’s time I believe in other people as much as they believe in me. I need to tell my advisor I’ll be back in town, not because I need her help finding a job (I might not, or she might not have any advice), but because I owe it to a truly remarkable lady to continue this relationship through at least one more e-mail. As a wise cartoon character once said, “Pride is not the opposite of shame, but its source.” It’s time to find that confident girl I left behind in Boston that had a big grin when she told all her close friends that she’d be back in Oberlin in the fall. Because this is what I want to do. I’m happy with my decision. I’m happy with my decision, and I should share that happiness with others, but I shouldn’t let my pride and others’ opinions take it away from me.
It’s time to go fill out some job applications.