In a fleeting moment as I was leaving school, I found in my stomach, a dreadful thought. I say “in my stomach,” because when I’m feeling something, anything, often before I know I’m feeling it, my stomach tells me. This usually comes in the form of a tightening of my abdomen that, once released, tells me that it was just tightened and therefore triggers the thought, “Oh, I must be thinking something. And that thought must be causing stress.” Then begins the long search and deep thinking to find the source of that stress.
This didn’t take long today as the source was quite clear. I’d just read an e-mail from a potential employer. A potential employer in Europe. For the past few days we’d had a nice e-mail exchange and I had been feeling uncharacteristically calm during the course of it. It follows then, that today when I opened up another e-mail from this administrator, I expected to feel excited and positive, to continue on my calm, smooth drifting toward next year’s gainful employment. However, in the message, this administrator implied that after this week’s job fair in Cambridge, MA, the job I was up for might not even be available anymore because it might have been filled by an applicant in Cambridge.
“Of course,” I thought, and clicked off the page. “I know there’s a job fair going on right now. I’ve been scrutinizing the position vacancy website for days in a row, watching the number of vacant positions decrease slowly. Of course. I know that already.” And then, walking out of school, my stomach clenched and released and let me know to pay attention to a thought that was hidden somewhere and after a second of digging around in the lumps and folds of my brain, I came up with this: Holy Smokes. What if I don’t get a job next year?
I didn’t really think “holy smokes”; it was actually more profane than that, but “holy smokes” is pretty fun to say on its own, so, “holy smokes” it is. And the thought was really more complex than “no job next year,” because I already have an offer for a job next year in the States. The thought was more along the lines of, “Wow, I’m surprised I care this much about the Cambridge job fair because I think I will actually be really upset if I don’t get an offer for a job for next year because I think I actually really want to go overseas next year. Like, more than I thought I did. Way more.”
A brief panic set in, mostly because I hadn’t accounted for the fact that I hadn’t thought I wanted to go overseas so badly, to Europe, and what if all the jobs in Europe get filled this week in Cambridge? The panic compounded when I wondered what next year would look like if I had to come back to the States not by choice but by default because there were just no jobs left at my job fair in New York. And then I wondered, well, what if there were jobs left at my job fair in New York but I received no offers?
At this, my stomach cramped up even more and even more forcefully because I knew exactly why it was cramping: shame. I’d be coming back to the States because no schools felt I would be good enough for them.
As I approached the gates of the school, I’d hung my head. I no longer felt calm and instead felt unprepared and inferior compared to those nameless candidates for European teaching jobs that are most certainly, as we speak, lined up by the hundreds to grab up all the English/Language Arts jobs at the middle school level in every country in Europe. In the taxi home, I half-heartedly made a list of the things I need to pack and the things I need to do before leaving the day after tomorrow, and looked vacantly out the window at the cobble streets and men working. Somewhere nearby workers were cutting grass and that sweet smell blew in through the windows and helped unclench my tight stomach a fraction of a clench.
By the time I was home in my apartment, I had managed to calm myself. And then, talking to Dennis, he told me this: “Hey, here’s an idea: why don’t you just wait and see how it turns out rather than drawing negative conclusions now? Just a thought.” And you gotta give it to him because that’s all I can do, short of flying to Cambridge right now, tearing down the doors and cutting to the front of any line to shove my resume in administrators’ faces to prove that they’ll be really happy if they hire me.
But I don’t think all that tearing and cutting and shoving would make me look very nice. So I’ll take Dennis’ advice and chill until I’m in a place where I can actually do something.