Looking for a job, and finding myself
By LauraBrown on September 29, 2012
This week, I went to a job interview. My first in... I can't remember, actually, the last time I went on a job interview. Since being laid off from my last full-time job in 2010, finding a new one has been like finding utopia. I sense it is out there, but I don't know where or how to find it. I don't even know what I'm looking for.
The job I interviewed for today was for a barista/server at a downtown cafe. I thought it might be a good little job for extra spending money and as a way to get back into the workforce. Finding the words to describe how I felt about this job interview is also like finding utopia. The words escape me, but the feeling in my gut was profound. I felt unsure and not totally committed to the interview process. I kind of didn't want to go, but felt I had to because I confirmed with the cafe owner that I would and at the very least, for the practice of interviewing. The whole interview felt phony to me. I hadn't thought about questions likes these in a long time, and the questions themselves felt unauthentic. "Do you consider yourself a self-starter?" Honestly, "no I don't" was the answer I thought in my head. Of course, I verbalized a more acceptable, non-sensical response that didn't really answer the question. But, maybe that is me lacking a positive image of myself. Maybe I should have asked, "Please define self-starter," because if it means attributes like "go-getter" and "high achiever," then definitely, no. If, however, you consider the fact that I started my own preschool for Freddy that we conduct casually by focusing on doing rather than outcomes, then maybe I am a self-starter. Other ways I'm a self-starter includes things like: I start the dishwasher at least once a day, I start a load of laundry about once a day, and I started the vacuum cleaner last night. I started this blog, does that count for being a self-starter? I've never started a non-profit, or a company, or a web site, or anything spectacular or impressive.
Most of the other questions I answered seemed textbook, like the interviewer got them out of a manual titled, "Dry Questions to Ask During a Job Interview." Even though the questions felt lifeless, my answers sounded even worse. I heard myself speaking, but wasn't making sense, even to myself. "What did I just say?" I thought after I answered a question. I felt like a bumbling idiot, so I tried to focus on speaking in complete sentences. Maybe my responses felt so foreign to me because I wasn't being authentic. I felt like I presented a false persona, agreeing with anything that sounded good, going along with what I thought he wanted to hear. That's my M.O., being what I think other people want. I've gotten many jobs this way, being a "yes" woman. Maybe that is why my gut felt so terrible after the interview, because I knew that I didn't present my true self. I returned to an old way of doing things, and this old way had not served me well in the past. I felt like I was about to venture down one of the same old roads on a well-worn path. This road is called desperation, survival, and fear. These are the reasons I have worked in several places that I didn't like, this is why time and time again I have found myself doing work I didn't care about, and why time after time each one of those jobs didn't work out for me. This is why 14 years after graduating college, I haven't gotten ahead professionally, because I've always taken jobs for desperation, survival, and fear.
I could not shake the uncomfortable feelings in my gut. It was like my instincts were shouting, but I was too far away and couldn't hear it clearly. I could just feel, and I felt terrible. I thought about the job. I would have to take it if offered, even though I'm not sure this is the right thing for me right now. The unsettling gut feelings would not go away. I felt unhappy and upset, but I could not pinpoint exactly why. Why am I struggling with this? What does this mean? If not this job, then what? I felt that if I followed my gut and did what felt right, I would be left with these huge questions of what will happen next. I didn't know which was worse, going in a direction that felt wrong, or the uncertaintity of staying put for a while.
When I don't know the answers, but I want to break up the unease inside of me, I've learned that I need to move. I need to exercise in some way, to pump my blood, get my internal system moving and hopefully break up the unease and circulate it throughout my body and my mind. Moving this unpleasant sensation throughout my body is my way of working it out in my mind. While on the cross-trainer, my magic began to work, and I allowed myself to think about not taking the job. When I opened my mind to something I felt wasn't possible because of desperation and survival and fear, I gave myself a gift of perspective. My mood began to lift, the dark cloud of fear and worry shifted, and strength and assurance moved in. I still didn't know what would happen next, where I'm supposed to be, but I knew that I had the power to control myself and my reactions, and taking this job is not the right decision for me at this time.
When my exercise routine ended and my heart rate slowed down to normal, I felt at peace with my decision. My yucky gut reaction calmed and I was able to move on. Freddy and I played preschool for a while. I felt like I was exactly where I want to be, mothering Freddy. I can't remember a time I trusted my instincts so blindly. I made a decision by trusting my intuition, my gut, my inner self who is complicated and mysterious. Making choices for all the wrong reasons felt so easy to do. Saying no to fear, desperation and survival was hard, but is something that I want to practice doing again and again. Just maybe if I trust myself and my instincts, take the road less travelled, where will it lead me?
There's a poem that I discovered last year when we were going through Freddy's cancer treatments. I felt like it sums up where I'm at, where I've been, and where I'd like to go. My experience with the job interview reminded me, again, of this poem:
Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost ... I am helpless. It isn't my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don't see it. I fall in again. I can't believe I am in the same place. But it isn't my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in ... it's a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
I walk down another street.
~ Portia Nelson ~