The Jumping Off Point. Almost.

I give up.

No longer am I applying to graduate school to get my MBA or a master’s in marketing, and for now I won’t be pursuing a master’s in nutrition. For this week I’m not applying to marketing jobs or trying to get promoted into the marketing department at work. I’d already given up on teaching again so that’s off. I’d considered becoming a personal trainer or a yoga instructor and those too are a no-go. I missed the deadline for working on an organic farm so that won’t be happening this y ear.

None of the aforementioned ideas or their resulting actions brought about any open doors, nor do I have enough drive to try to push any harder. I may still try for a master’s in nutrition but it just doesn’t feel 100% right today and that bothers me. Part of me feels like I need a visceral belief that what I’ve chosen is meant to be, while another part of me feels like I just need to choose something. The issue is that when I just choose something, I’m dissatisfied. I think that the key is accepting my choice, and knowing that it won’t look the way I want it to because that’s not how the world works. But maybe that’s an old idea.

It seems like I should take some kind of action toward doing something or else I’ll end up working in a grocery store for the rest of my life. But what actions do you take when you’re out of ideas for what to do? Nothing seems like it fits. This decision-making process is what I was supposed to do when I was in high school or college or even right after college.

My sponsor suggested I look at what I’ve already done at my previous job that I enjoyed, skills that I could transfer to another job. I can’t think of a single thing. I worked in Excel or PowerPoint most of the day, creating charts, calculating formulas, writing bullet points, analyzing data. It was the opposite of what I wanted to do. How does one analyze a number? One is one is one.

Here’s the thing. I don’t want to do any of those jobs. Maybe I just don’t like working, and that’s why I don’t want to do it. Maybe it’s because I am deeply afraid. What if I don’t do a good job? What if I get fired because they don’t think I have enough talent? I feel like the most desirable job to me right now with my current qualifications – a word I use loosely because I don’t have much of a portfolio – the most interesting job to me would be a job that involves writing, and it would probably have to be a job writing marketing content because I have a marketing background.

I’ve written about this before, but I’ll write about it again because clearly I can’t seem to get over it. After my first office job of four and a half years, a job where I was loved, I left to work as a copywriter for a marketing agency, where I was fired after one month. To give myself some credit, not to put the blame outside myself, the account manager did not like me. He wanted me to help him do his job, and when he asked me to do that, I told him no, that I’d been hired to be a copywriter and that’s what I planned to do. That was my first mistake. And this account manager had a relationship with the client, and therefore the ability to sway them, informing them of how the agency was no longer using the copywriter before me, a copywriter whose work the client knew and loved. My manager, a former English professor, liked me and my writing samples that I’d provided during the hiring process, but he did nothing to stand up for me against the account manager. I might add that I’m pretty sure the account manager read my writing samples beforehand as well. I was about 26 years old, emotionally immature, and my drinking was in full swing. The morning I got fired I was jittery and shaky, and my hands shook to sign some documents they gave me. I was so shaken I didn’t read the documents, but I’d guess they were some kind of documents to keep me from filing unemployment.

They’d told me that the client didn’t like my writing. I’d had a hard time writing the healthcare newsletter, and an even more difficult time revising it. They wanted me to write healthcare tips for patients with preventable or manageable health issues, such as lung diseases, heart disease, or diabetes, in order to encourage them in an indirect way not to go to the doctor as often, because the client was an insurance company and all the doctors’ visits were costing them money. I’d known going in that I would be writing healthcare tips, but to learn that it was for an insurance company who was blatantly trying to discourage people to go to the doctor – well, it felt corrupt, deceitful. And I had no copywriting experience.

When I was 14 or 15 years old, my sister started talking to me about getting a job. She was four years older than me, and she seemed to be the only one in the family who looked after me. She taught me how to get a job, do my taxes, apply for colleges. She may have taught me how to drive – I don’t remember. I remember my boyfriend teaching me to drive his old Cutlass Supreme, but that’s all I remember.

My mother and stepfather divorced at the end of my ninth grade year, when I was almost 15, and by that time my sisters were away at college and my stepbrothers were away at jail or doing whatever it was they did, getting girls pregnant and robbing stores. My sister Lacey had started working when she was 15, which allowed her to save money for a car, and she recommended that I do the same. My mom and I had moved into an apartment in a better public school district, so I started tenth grade at a better school than where my sisters had gone in the old neighborhood. In that apartment complex was a guy my sister’s age, 19, who talked to me a lot, like a big brother I guess because he never tried to sleep with me. We often talked about our old neighborhood and what a dump it was, and how we didn’t know that while living there because that was all we knew. I’ll call him Travis.

Travis worked at the mall at a clothing store called Merry Go Round, and I’d mentioned to him that I wanted to get a job, preferably at the clothing store next to his, Contempo Casuals, a store that sold sexy clothes that parents shouldn’t allow their 15-year-old daughter to wear. Travis talked to his boss about my working at his store, so one day when I was shopping at the mall, he brought his boss to meet me. In her early 20s, this woman had a direct demeanor and dark hair cut into a stern, blunt short haircut. She took me outside the store to sit on a bench and interviewed me for the job.

I had no idea I was being interviewed, nor did I know how to interview, so I just answered her questions honestly. She asked me what kind of people I didn’t like, so I said that I didn’t like mean people. She wanted to know my reaction to a customer’s rudeness, so I said something along the lines of, “I don’t know,” or that I’d call a manager.

For years when I reflect on this incident I think about how stupid and naïve I was, and how I should’ve known that one should never answer these questions with those answers. But how does a 15-year-old who has never been in the workforce know this shit? You don’t come out of the womb with a knowledge of customer service, no matter how American you are. And the girl who interviewed me was the kind of person with a dog eat dog mentality, just a real bitch. Maybe someone had schooled her before she’d gotten her first job, or she had forgotten what it was like to be 15 years old and inexperienced.

When I spoke to Travis about it later, he seemed surprised. He said to me, “She felt like you didn’t really want the job?” I too was surprised, because I did want the job, and didn’t understand why she thought that. At some point, then or soon after, I realized that mean people were the kind of people you’d encounter all the time in retail, and you had to be ready to stand up to them. And if they were bothering you, you didn’t go crying to the boss to take care of it, you fucking took care of it yourself because the goddamn boss has shit to do and you better not disturb her. And I just did not know how to do that.

After that experience I didn’t get a job – and therefore I didn’t get a car – for two years.

Lacey taught me that if I wanted a job, I could apply to a department store, and they’d train me how to do the job. I didn’t have to know everything already. Our mom also worked at a department store at that same shopping mall, but she worked at Sears, where she sold vacuum cleaners and sewing machines, and later, lawn mowers. I applied to Belk’s, a clothing store. Lacey told me that they often hired in summer and around Christmas, and she taught me how to dress for the interview and what to say. I got hired to work in the men’s department for a woman who must’ve been in her 30s at the time, a woman who I remember that her husband was a minister. She was very nice to me. Belk’s took me through training and I was able to buy my work clothes, nice dresses and beautiful dressy shoes that I loved, at a discount. Mom let me drive her car to work; I guess we shared her Dodge Colt until I saved enough to get a white 1988 Pontiac Sunbird, a car my dad picked out which had flip-up headlights that made it a redneck car, in my opinion, but looking back on it, it was a cute car. I’d saved $1,000 to get the car, and my dad caved and threw in $1,000 more, and my grandmother threw in $500, and for $2,500 that’s what I got my senior year of high school.

I was ashamed that it had taken me so long to get a car and a job, because Lacey had started working at 15 and bought her own car at 16, like the responsible, strong person she was. It had taken me soooo long, because a year is an eternity in a child’s mind.

One of the problems with believing that the world works a certain way, a way that’s unfavorable for me, is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If I spend my life believing I don’t deserve happiness, and therefore won’t get it, then nothing will ever make me happy. I know people who lived and died having spent their entire lives with this mentality, and it never got them anywhere. My first husband’s father was one of those people, and that mentality got him to a place of dying alone on the couch while drug addicts went about their daily business around him, hoping he’d go away forever. But that’s a story for another day.

The point is, I deserve happiness as much as anyone else, and in fact I owe it to the world to be happy, just as we all do, because my happiness allows me to become a contributing member of society. Happy people don’t go on shooting rampages – not that I’d do that because I’m more of a suicide, but you get my drift. A job I like and am good at has to exist for me. It just has to. How else does anyone work? If everyone worked at jobs they hated then wouldn’t we all just commit suicide, or homicide, or at least not work? And if someone can work at a job they love and are good at, then why not me?

I think there’s no other way around it than to go back to school. I just don’t know how someone will hire me doing something I enjoy just because I enjoy it. I will need to learn more, and I’m leaning towards nutrition, except something, fear maybe, holds me back.

One of my co-workers is studying acupuncture, so I’ve started thinking maybe that. I just don’t know.

This blog is already too long, and it should be edited and cut into at least two blogs and then given a more conclusive conclusion and a more introductory introduction and a more cohesive middle but that’s not how life goes, unless that’s exactly how life goes, so I’m just going to stop here.

Here’s a life-affirming song from one of my favorite bands, Hot Chip. Just a beautiful song.

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