On Monday, I start a new job as a full-time communications writer. The company is based out of Indy, but I’ll work remotely from Starkville. Perfect. It’s been a pretty fun ride — kind, scary-smart people to interview with, exciting work to be done, my first full-time gig in a long time. Well, full-time as far as society and the workforce might define it. I would argue that raising four kids and freelancing while my husband completes his doctorate and works as a high school administrator counts for more than full-time. Add in the dirty dishes and the dog poop scooping and all the underwear that needs to be washed? I’ve been holding down at least 28 full-time jobs in the past 15 years.
But this post isn’t about working moms and stay at home moms and all the moms in between. It’s about Chris and me laughing our asses off while we strolled down the booby-trap lined path of my employment history.
First, we reminisced about the “Wall of Rejection.” Many recent college grads will be familiar. Most writers know it well. As a writer and someone who was once (many, many years ago) a recent grad in search of my first corporate gig, I know that wall well. I lived it, breathed it, stained it with my tears. Every rejection letter once made its way directly over my bed with a thumbtack. Every 8X11 sheet of logo-embossed paper that began, “We regret to inform you…” was hung as a reminder of my journey.
“We’re just not that into you.”
Once there was the “Shrine to Myself” (as Chris so lovingly called it). It consisted of all my high school accolades, team pictures, awards, state tournament plaques. It was replaced by the “Wall of Rejection.” Such was the life of a young up-and-coming.
Next came the angst-ridden period of my life when I put all my eggs into the Hallmark employment basket. I was dead set on being a Hallmark writer. I knew it was the perfect job for me. I had my bags packed, ready to move to Kansas City. My head was full of gooey sap just waiting to be spilled onto the Hallmark page. I’d prepped myself with inordinate amounts of bad song lyrics and poetry that could hardly even be classified as such.
And I made it to the final cut. It was a lot like my Singing Hoosiers experience at IU. “Oh, you got this far — you’re definitely in!” And then my name wasn’t on the final posted list. Damn my inability to read music! Hallmark followed a similar path. My cousin once worked in their marketing department. “Your portfolio’s made it how far? You’re definitely in,” she assured me.
And then I wasn’t.
In case you’re wondering, I still have that Hallmark portfolio. It’s a little yellowed around the edges, but the sentiment is still strong. I pull it out occasionally and flip through the pages. And I think, “Damn. I would totally have bought that card.”
We still look back and consider the notion that I landed my first corporate job somewhat of a miracle. The interview process was… well, tainted with a bit of stupidity. While speaking with my hiring manager, I actually said, “Stuff and stuff” in response to one of her questions. It’s lived in infamy around here. When one of us doesn’t quite know what to say, we respond with the always-effective and widely-misunderstood “stuff and stuff.”
My final interview for my first position (Which was, incidentally, a technical writing position. Stop laughing.) was with a Senior VP. He was tough, well-seasoned. I was 22, fresh-faced, decked out in my new interview suit, ready to take on the world.
“Do you know how to do (fill in the blank)?” he asked. I can’t even remember what he was asking me — that’s how little I knew about the question in general. I’m guessing it was some kind of programming language. Did I know how to PROGRAM? I was an English major, for God’s sake. I knew Dante and Homer and Shakespeare. I could diagram the shit out of a sentence. I could pen a Haiku that would bring a tear to your eye. Programming? Psh.
“No, but I can learn,” I replied confidently.
“Anyone can learn,” he said, crushing every ounce of my spirit. “I want to know if you KNOW HOW TO DO IT NOW.”
And although I would never have argued his point back then, I would definitely argue it now. Not everyone IS capable of learning. One of my co-workers (at this very same job) proved that to me. When our hiring manager explicitly outlined what he needed to do in order to keep his job — things like 1) Arrive on time, 2) Stay all day, 3) Regularly work 5 days a week, 4) Don’t spend 3 hours in the bathroom — with magazines, 5) Meet some deadlines — he simply replied, “I can’t. I can’t do that.” And thus ended his illustrious technical writing career before it ever began.
I was lured away from my technical writing job by my results on a “blue book test” that I took for another company. I had applied to be a marketing copywriter, but the CEO called me personally. Apparently, he’d never seen anyone score higher on the predictability index for sales success. “I need you to come sell for me,” he said. “You’re not meant to write. You’re destined to sell.” And so, charmed by his belief in my abilities as well as the lucrative paycheck, I went into software sales. Briefly. I spent approximately four out of every five days setting up for a trade show, running to catch a plane, or crying in the airport bathroom.
He was wrong. I really was a writer.
The last time I dipped my toes into full-time employment was when Chris was a high school principal AND he was finishing his doctorate AND all four of our kids were involved in various and sundry activities AND I was coaching softball AND directing children’s summer theatre. And I thought, YES! NOW IS THE TIME! Right this instant is the moment I should go ahead a resurrect a full-time career!
And the kids foraged for food and wore dirty clothes and stood around waiting for hours on end for someone to pick them up after practice. The dogs went unfed, the grass was not mown, my legs were not shaven, the sheets were not washed. It was not my best timing.
But this. This is good. It is time. I am ready. And Chris is done with school. He’s got the letters behind his name to prove it. He’s home more often. We recognize his face, know his voice, remember what he looks like. And all that stuff and stuff I might not know as I venture forward?
I’ll learn it.