I was so anxious that I couldn’t sleep. My thoughts were in a perpetual state of chaos. What jobs are open? Where should I be applying? What do I want to do?What about Kendrae…? The past few weeks had been a whirlwind of emotions. I felt as if my world was spinning, but somehow, I was moving nowhere. I had sent out hundreds of job applications ranging from teaching positions to bank tellers to any position with an opening. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to get out of my parent’s house.
I applied for jobs in Sherman, 30 minutes North. I applied for jobs in McKinney, 30 minutes South. I applied for jobs in Allen, Dallas, Frisco and Plano, up to an hour away. At this point the job description was less of a concern than anything else. I just knew that I had to move out. Cassey and I had looked at a few apartments in the area, but had yet to find anything suitable for our budget. I even considered moving to Austin, with a college friend, Ali. She had just moved into a house and extended the offer that I could move in with her. So, I sent out applications in Austin, too. And out of the hundreds of applications I sent out, I heard back zero times.
For the time being, I was waitressing which enabled me to save up, slowly. Every day after my shift, I would place a $20 bill in my wallet and put the rest of the cash in a heart shaped tin I hid in the downstairs bathroom cupboard. If I still had my $20 from the previous day, then that was $20 more dollars that went into my tin. I had never been good at saving, but I was motivated now more than I had ever been.
I couldn’t understand why the household attitude towards my job hunt was shrouded in such negativity. Being at home around my parents had become borderline unbearable. It seemed as if each day I was interrogated about why I hadn’t found a job yet. Did I apply to this school district? Did I send out any more applications? Did I follow up? Had I signed up for my certification class? Did I send out that email? As if I didn’t have enough pressure on myself, they had to double up on it too? I was putting in the legwork. I checked all the job sites daily, critiqued my resume, spoke with a recruiter, and applied to any job I felt I was remotely qualified for. But all I heard were crickets.
All these expectations, well founded or not, transformed into such a source of tension in my life. Stressed was an understatement. No one talks about the struggles a college graduate can be up against. You think, go to college, get a degree and you’re set. Employers will be knocking down your door to hire you, right? Once you have a degree doors will be opened for you. Wrong. You have to have experience. But, if no one will hire you, how can you ever gain experience? Did I mention I was stressed out? And I tried not to let on to Kendrae about the depth of my concerns. When we spent time together, the last thing I wanted to discuss was how concerned I was about my lack of a career. I wanted to make the most of what little time we had, not shade it with my cloud of despair. Because at the moment, my prospects seemed hopeless.
This particular day, I was dog sitting for my uncle who lived in the Dallas area. I was thrilled when he asked if I was available. I didn’t care if I had to drive 45 minutes to go to work. Staying at his place meant some relief from my parents. I imagined that it was my apartment and that I lived in this sophisticated loft as a writer. Far removed from the truth or not, it was a daydream that gave me hope that one day my situation could change for the better.
I had just gotten back to his apartment from working my lunch shift at Crow’s. Paula, my uncle’s dog, was energetic and required a vigorous walking regimen. So, I grabbed her leash and headed towards the nearest dog park a few blocks down the road. I sat on the park bench and threw the tennis ball as far as I could. Paula watched the ball land at the other end, but was not impressed. Instead, she sniffed around the perimeter of the park and created her own entertainment.
The sunshine warmed my back as I breathed in the fresh, summer air. Just as I started to relax, my cell phone rang. It was my mother. Utter dread consumed my spirit as I had a pretty strong prediction of how this conversation was going to go. Conversation may have been an overstatement. I’m not sure if one person talking while the other counts the milliseconds until it’s over qualifies as a conversation. But I picked up the phone.
The pleasantries were brief and she dove right on in. Had I had any leads on a job?
I sighed, perhaps too loudly, and responded that no, I hadn’t heard back. Most schools weren’t even sure what positions were open until mid-July. Plus, I hadn’t received my alternative certification yet, so schools wouldn’t consider me in my current state. As usual, my response was bulldozed over and she went in on the lecture. I had heard this same speech so many times I could almost quote it. I would’ve wasted my breath by responding to anything she said. So, I sat there and feigned interest. After about 20 minutes she came up for breath and I interjected that I had to go. That I couldn’t talk on the phone and walk Paula due to her rudimentary leash-walking skills.
As I leashed up Paula, I felt a tinge of understanding for her. I didn’t care to be kept on a leash either. I wanted to explore and take in the scents. To have the freedom to change directions. To walk or run at my own choosing, not to be tied down on a tightly kept leash. Or maybe mine was more along the lines of a shock collar. I don’t know if it was for Paula or for my own sake, but we ran back the whole way to my uncle’s loft. My thoughts rattled around in my head, but one settled on top. I wouldn’t be under their reigns forever. Eventually, something would shake, and I would gain my freedom, right?
But all I could hear were crickets.