To call my attempt at finding work in Seattle a struggle is an understatement. I woke up every morning only to be greeted by rejection emails telling me, “Thanks but no thanks.” I’m a relatively realistic person with a thick skin, so I expected a certain number of “no’s” before I got a “yes.” However, getting them on a daily basis slowly began to wear me down. So I finally decided my bank account could no longer survive on the lack of funds coming in, and I applied to jobs that were my fall backs.
I would have ranked my first week in Prague as one of the biggest struggles of my life because of my lost luggage, the language barrier, the fact that I didn’t know a soul except my roommate who made it obvious that he hated me and we would not be friends from day one (it didn’t help that I blew the power in the whole apartment on the first night), and my directionally challenged nature. But even though I suffered from a crippling anxiety, I managed to force myself out the door and make things work out for me. I refused to let it break me. If I could handle that week, I could handle anything life threw my way. I’m resilient and have developed some stellar survival skills that come in handy when uprooting my entire life.
3 months and 10 days. That’s how long it took for Seattle to completely break me. I thought I was seasoned at this relocation thing. I’m a nomad by nature, and I’m eerily comfortable when I’m on the move and experiencing something new. But slowly, day by day, Seattle was rejecting me. I was trying my hardest to rally, but after a month long battle with my landlord and the water company about an outlandishly steep water bill for one person, constant job rejections, and lack of money, I was slowly becoming a shadow of myself. I usually have a fire that burns deep inside of me, driving me on, flaming up causing me to keep up the fight. But after 3 months and 10 days, nothing was worth fighting for, and I couldn’t even see my own value.
On that day, after spending over an hour on the phone only to get told that maybe I use more water than three people do, and did I understand that this was a bill for two months as if somehow I was incapable of reading the dates the bill was for, I sat in Starbucks, writing cover letters and watched as, in the course of 15 minutes, I was sent three rejection letters, from my backup, “I don’t want these, but-at-least-I-know-I’m-a-shoe-in-for-them jobs. I stared blankly at the screen, slammed my computer shut, and packed up my bag to go home. I officially sucked at life in Seattle.
I walked home with a weight on my chest, opening my front door, and doing the ugly cry alone in my living room, wondering if I could sell a kidney on the black market here, or if somehow I would not be qualified enough to do that either. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of waking up in an stranger’s basement in a bathtub full of ice, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
So when I woke up the other morning to an email from yet another company, I almost deleted it as I skimmed the “Thanks for submitting your resume…” expecting the sentence to end with, “but you suck at life, we don’t want you, maybe you should have thought twice before deciding to move to Seattle.” But it was for an interview. I was taken aback, and felt a weight lift off of my chest slightly. Somehow, by the end of the day, I had four people calling me for preliminary interviews and then had two secondary interviews in a few days.
I wondered how I would do in an interview. In the past I knew I was great at plugging myself and my skills, but now I was convinced I was terrible at everything because of the consistent daily dose of rejection. I brushed myself off, put on a smart black dress and blazer, and told myself I had to figure it out.
I went to the first interview, loved the people and hit it off with them right away, and left feeling like I likely had secured a job at the University of Washington. I got in my car to drive to the next interview and was ready to get a second job offer. I felt the fire burning inside of me again, ready to fight for what I believed I deserved. I was no longer the ghost of who I used to be, but rather, I was back to my old self.
I sat, awaiting my second meeting, and a man came to interview me who I will call Adam. He arrived late because of traffic, offered no apology, and sat down looking at me with a smug look on his face while telling me he would be my boss if I was offered the job.
He asked a series of the weirdest interview questions I’ve ever heard, as clearly he didn’t believe I was qualified for a job putting cookies on a shelf. At one point he looked at me and asked, “Can you lift over 25 pounds?” I knew I was in a dress, as any respectable woman does for an interview, but I was offended by the fact that apparently I appeared to him not to be able to lift anything without assistance.
“Yes.” I responded, dumbfounded.
“I mean, give me an example of when you’ve ever lifted 25 pounds.”
I blinked blankly at him for a second, offended that this was even a question, and I didn’t appreciate the condescending tone. I wished I knew if I had the other job, because I was over this interview, and I definitely wasn’t going to enjoy this guy being my boss.
I told him that at Macy’s I lifted heavier boxes than that every day of the week, frequently doing entire floor moves and shifting heavy fixtures. He glared at me, as if I was lying about it. He looked conceited, and he made some backhanded comment about how difficult it must have been at Macy’s, the company name rolling off of his tongue like it put a bad taste in his mouth. Like maybe I spent a decade working for a company, and all I managed to do was fold some shirts.
I was done with this. I wanted to tell Adam to take those cookies and shove them up his ass before walking out of the door, but was too afraid the other job would fall through, so I sat there and figured I’d answer all of his questions and chalk it up to interview practice.
Then Adam asked the guy who worked for him if he had any questions to ask me. He responded that he did not. That’s when Adam looked at his coworker and snidely said, “Really? You don’t have anything to ask? I highly suggest you come up with a question to ask her before the end of this interview.”
I felt a pang of sympathy for the other guy having to put up with Adam’s bullshit all of the time. I wanted to point out that Adam seemed to be reading prompted questions off of a sheet of paper clearly provided by the company, other than the shitty ones he was asking me that were clearly horrible, pointless, or condescending, like when he told me to give him an example of how much I love manual labor. I wanted to ask if anyone really loved it. I mean, that was weak word choice if I’d ever heard it.
He thanked me for coming in, and I walked out the door thinking, “Maybe I’m too proud, but I refuse to work for a man who is that conceited. I almost didn’t make it out of an interview without giving him a piece of my mind.”
Luckily for me, I got a call the next day from the university, offering me a position. It is somewhat of a stepping stone position, but I gladly accepted it, feeling instantly lighter and like I was back on track, and more importantly, back to my fiery self again. I would no longer sit back and take it from people like Adam, because I didn’t have to. I had the fight back inside of me. Plus I still had both of my kidneys in tact.