I took the call in the main part of the Student Union. It was a Tuesday afternoon, so I was going to spend the next 10 hours in The Collegian office, which had terrible cell service, editing and revising the latest issue. The call came in, and I rushed up stairs to take it.
“We would like to offer you the job,” the voice on the other end said. It’s been nearly 14 years since that phone call, so I can’t remember if I accepted the job on the spot or pretended that I needed another day to think about it and formally accepted through email. I do remember getting off the phone and sitting there on the blue and yellow cushioned seating.
I have a job. I. HAVE. A. JOB.
Leading up to that moment, I was frantically sending out applications, setting up informational meetings with editors, and trying to determine my next step. A piece of me wanted to spend the summer working at a church camp in Montana, but a more reasonable voice said that I needed to start my career now. I couldn’t waste another moment. This job actually found me, when I had posted my résumé on a journalism jobs website. It wasn’t perfect but it could lead to good places.
A few weeks later, I walked across the stage in Frost Arena (is it weird that I teared up typing those words? A place I knew but might not recognize now) and grabbed my diploma knowing I had a job lined up. Not many of my classmates had their next step planned out, but I did. My life was beginning.
Not quite seven years later, and I was starting again. I had just returned home from Peace Corps, and after finally completing a dream years in the making, I needed to find a new direction. While my colleagues applied for graduate school from Lesotho, I was adamant that I would enjoy the remaining time in my village, have a great holiday at home with my family, and then begin putting together the pieces of my life post-Peace Corps. It had been barely two weeks back in the U.S., and I started obsessing over job applications. I was convinced it would take me months to find a job and that my life couldn’t restart until that piece was put into place. Each day I walked through a fog thinking I wouldn’t figure it out, that something was wrong with me because I did not have that job yet. I returned home in mid-December, and by the end of February, and I had accepted a job on the other side of the country and was packing my things into two suitcases and a couple of boxes.
When I graduated college and returned home from the Peace Corps, I had entertained the thought of not rushing into a job, maybe giving myself some space to take in the experience I just had and then move forward. Maybe it was that camp counselor job in Montana or buying a car with a Peace Corps and driving through the West to visit friends. Yet, in both instances, America’s capitalism and sense that you aren’t successful unless you are working overtook me. I fell trap to the idea that I needed a job and that I wasn’t worth much without a job, that a job was everything.
These specific moments of my life have been on my mind recently because I am roughly a month from graduating with my master’s degree. I am about to set out on another beginning, a new career, a new life post a gnarly, challenging, emotional experience. Many of my classmates have already secured jobs for after graduation, but I am resisting the urge to start my job search just yet.
Those first jobs after college and Peace Corps? I left both of them within months. They turned about to be the wrong jobs in the wrong place. Both of them did eventually lead to something better, but I am 36. I am done with false start, and I am done denying myself what I really want.
Truth is, I am not rushing into the job search right now because I need a break. Graduate school has been tough, and my husband and I have had several disappointments and setbacks since I started my program. Just this past month, we have been so close to our ambitions only to have the ripped away before they were in our hands. Between my internship, school, two jobs, studying for my licensure exams, and some personal challenges, (not to mention that we are still in a pandemic), I am fried. I need to reset before I go into a rewarding but challenging career.
My future is uncertain, and that’s not a place I like to live. I am a planner, and I need control. But, there is so much beyond my control right now, like my husband’s career path and our fertility, that I have no choice but to give into what I don’t know. Rushing into a job right now, for me, doesn’t feel right. Instead, I have to give into the uncertainty. I have to listen to my gut this time that says no. Instead of feeling like I am on the right path because I following the “should” voice, I am going to listen to my gut this time.
What I am going to do? I don’t know. Eventually, I will get a job, and until I am independently licensed, I am not concerned with getting “the perfect job.” Now, though, I am embracing uncertainty. I am gonna hang out in the unknown for a bit. In so many of areas of my life, I am forced to give up control and to be uncertain. Now, though, I am choosing it. And when I feel like I need to apply for all the jobs, I will ask myself why. Is it because I want this job? Or because I feel like I need a job? I’ve worked really hard the last three years, and I’ve gone through some dark moments to get here, so I am gonna enjoy the top of the mountain before I start on a next one. I am gonna take the time I didn’t after undergrad and Peace Corps to really assess who I’ve become and where I want to go. No restarts this time.
Sometimes, when I am really unsure about life, I like to read some of my old blog posts. What a gift these 10 years of posts are, to allow me to dip back into my mindset at a specific moment of time. I found one from February 2014, right before I accepted my first job after Peace Corps. It included something a friend had texted me during a panicked moment that I wouldn’t find a job. “You are Heather Mangan, you’ll land on your feet.”
I did then, and I will this time.