Thursday, September 08, 2005

I'm pretty good at finding jobs. I tend to be at the right place at the right time, with an energetic countenance. I learned all the right lessons about finding a job. My first two jobs were retail summer jobs and both were handed to me by friends. However, after both stores closed (not my fault), I was up in the air and had to go asking door to door in downtown Glen Ellyn. I was offered a job at the third place I stopped, without even filling out an application. That has been the pattern that all of my job-hunting has followed, even my searches for teaching jobs. Either a friend sets me up or I've walked in to the employer's life before he even knew that he needed help but then realized that I was everything he'd dreamed about. Oh, I've been turned down for jobs I wanted. Often mysteriously and sometimes it felt like the hand of God putting itself in my path because the reasons why were so unlikely. However, as I look back on the path of my life, it's highly possible that God was trying to steer me away from certain commitments. I do the hard work of sending out my resumes, setting up appointments, asking around and writing thank-you notes. But, all that hard work tends to resolve itself as simply busy work that keeps me distracted so I don't get in Fate's way while she makes some connections for me.

This has been, of course, doubly true here on the island. I've had 6 different jobs over the past year and every single one was acquired through word-of-mouth. Jeff primed the pump at the bookstore and gave me a job at the Exchange. Jane at the bookstore set me up with Bill at the Island Flavor. When there were no winter hours at the Flava, the folks at church started talking and Harold hired me for various landscaping gigs. As summer rolled in, Jeff ppointed me towards the Shearwater office and his roommate Harreld, who works the front desk at Doe Bay, talked me up to the Head Chef. It's an island. That's how it works.

So, I'm starting to freak out a little bit about what I'm going to do for work when I get back to Chicago, where I know almost no one. That's not true. I know lots of people. But none of the people I know have connections in the type of job I want. What type of job do you want, Rebecca? Good question. I'm glad you asked. I want a job that will pay me around $10 an hour to show up, do what I'm told to do in a friendly atmostphere (with very little internal drama) and then allow me to go home and think about something else. I don't want to be a self-starter and I don't want to work 9-5. I want a schedule that will allow me to wake up leisurely and go out for coffee before work some days and to wake up early other days so that I have the beautiful afternoon off. And, I'm fairly sure that I don't want to wait tables, unless it falls in my lap. A truly ideal situation would allow me to work in a small speciality shop, like a bookstore or bead shop, where, sometimes, if it's slow, I can read my book between customers. Finally, I would like to be able to walk to work, either directly or using the Blue line.

Now, don't make fun of me and start calling me Princess. You asked! I know that the reality is that those kinds of jobs are rare. But I've been lucky enough in my life to be able to land them most of the time. But I'm struggling already to keep from falling into the patterns of my old life when I move back to familiar territory and so I don't know if I can go about this in the same way. Am I really willing to leave it until I actually arrive in Chicago until looking for a job? I'll have to if I truly believe I'll find it through word of mouth. There's no chance in Hell that I want a career-type job, so the busy work that I normally do - searching on the internet and making phone calls - doesn't need to be done. But not having anything set up creates this itchy feeling between my shoulder blades.

So, today, I decided to search the internet a little. Goodness, am I depressed. I want to just read my book for the next few days. My type of jobs just aren't there anywhere. See for yourself. Notice the prevalence of the word, "energetic"? Also, the word "hip" scares me a little bit. The word "busy" is also dominant. That one scares me most of all. I mean, I can be energetic. I know that it can usually be translated as "uncomplaining hard worker" but I can be that if I absolutely have to. But, it seems that once we eliminate the food service positions, all of the rest are busy, hip places. That just sounds both exhausting and the antithesis to this whole "finding myself" process. If I spent all this time finding myself, why would I then want to abandon me in the pursuit of being hip, which is just code for "up on the latest trends"?

Interestingly, this thought-process that I've been working through has helped me decide what I want to wear to my high school reunion. I've been having a similar struggle in this area: do I fall back into my old patterns and wear something that I know looks good in that world, thus accomplishing my lifelong desire to fit in? I mean, these are the people that I've wanted to impress since childhood, you know? Do I wear a club uniform of black, sexy top with dressy jeans and nice shoes? Throw a little glitter in my cleavage and some dangly earrings? Maybe dress it up a little more with black boots and a knee-length skirt? Put on that make-up that I finally learned how to wear a couple of years ago?

I would be successful in the image I would create if I dressed that way. However, I have this memory of going to Christmas Eve service at my parents' church (where I grew up) and seeing all of these suburban moms with their small children, pointy stilleto shoes and perfect rhinestone brooches placed in just the right spot to indicate that they are fully aware that the fussy old accessory looks new again. I had been here on the island for three months at that point and I was far enough away from the suburbs (both geographically and metaphysically) for long enough that I saw those women as odd. Furthermore, I saw that I could easily have become them, now that I had developed the fashion/design skills that I had lacked in high school and college. I felt that moment of grace and I think that I actually uttered under my breath, "There but for the grace of God . . ."

So, to go the safe route of dress would be totally untrue to myself, just like getting the non-profit grantwriting job that I'm qualified for would be safe but ultimately stifling. I've decided to wear these jeans that I wear pretty much every day (I've actually ordered 3 pairs of the exact same jeans from ebay. I only meant to buy one pair, though. A case of bidding frenzy. Oops.) and this light pink linen top that I can wear some funky jewelry with and still look low-key and my pink gym shoes. I was going to wear my light blue "dork magnet" T-shirt with my black fleece Patagonia vest, but I determined that slumming for an "event" was not me either.

It's a huge relief to have this decided. And the job search? Jeff calmed my panic by reminding me that there are a ton of Curves out there and that not only do I like that work, but I am also already trained to do it. I mean, even if I found the perfect job, what would I say, "Please hold the position for a month and a half until I get there?" Over the phone? Nice try.

I found this quote today that encapsulates the resolution that I want for the debate that's been raging in my head about moving back to Chicago. I'll leave you with it:

Once you start to see through the myth of status, possessions, and unlimited consumption as a path to happiness, you’ll find that you have all kinds of freedom and time. It’s like a deal you can make with the universe: I’ll give up greed for freedom. Then you can start putting your time to good use.
(David Edwards, “Nothing To Lose But Our Illusions,” The Sun)

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