Author: Hallie Andrew
Who really wants to read another bellyaching tale of a twenty-six year old struggling to find work in this terrible economy? Who wants to hear a young woman complain about not living up to her potential? Who intentionally looks up such stories of desperation? …I do. I seek these stories out like a kid might search for comic books. I’m looking for a brethren of strugglers, others with tales like mine so I can know I’m not doing everything wrong. So here is my story, for those of you out there who are looking for a common thread, to claim some sense of connectedness in what feels like a never-ending search to become someone on your own.
I graduated from a liberal arts college in 2008 and quickly found work at a Boston-based non-profit. Shortly after I began there, the company ran out of funding for my position. Exactly one year after my start date I was booted back home to Maryland to live with my parents while I looked for work. I had already been applying to jobs months before my position ended; jobs you would expect of an English major: Proofreader, Writer/Editor, Teacher. I got ZERO bites. So I expanded my search: Research Assistant. Lab Technician. Office Manager. I faxed, emailed, even snail-mailed more cover letters than I could count. If I was lucky, I’d get an automated response indicating receipt of application, but that’s where it ended. No one called for an interview. The old Catch-22 of “need experience to get experience” got the best of me. By the third month of unemployment, desperation overcame me. I could feel myself spiraling down into helplessness.
My mother saw the snowball of depression forming. For months she had seen me scouring the classifieds, spending all day on my computer looking for work. I made applying for jobs my job. I‘d wake early, drink my coffee, and get to work searching. And then suddenly, after the third month of trying, I simply gave up. I became the classic couch potato. Thanks to my mom, my catatonia only lasted a few days. She put me to work, demanding that I rake up the leaves in the yard for $10 an hour. From that small task, I took it upon myself to train their ill-behaved dog. I groomed him, walked him, and taught him tricks like “Heel” and “Roll Over”.
After months of feeling useless and like no one wanted to hire me, I realized– “Hey, I am good at something!” So I went once more into the fray of the job search. Instead of looking at big city non-profits, I turned my attention to local veterinary hospitals. A few weeks later I was working 40 hours a week as a front-desk receptionist in a veterinary hospital/boarding center. The job involved no writing and no admin work, just crazy amounts of stress, angry clients, and disgusting mishaps. But I was so grateful to be employed. I moved out of my parents house and into a place with friends. I was struggling, but I was independent.
Skimming over the ups and downs of the next three years, I can tell you I moved to another veterinary hospital, where I stepped into role of Veterinary Technician. The boss knew I had a degree in English, so she threw me a bone and asked if I’d write their online newsletter. Every day that I went into work, I was grateful simply for being employed. Despite the craziness, the emergency appointments, the blood, the vomit, and the poop–my GOD, the poop–at least I was getting paid. Yet that nagging feeling of “I’m not living up to my potential” never went away. So out went more cover letters, out went my resume. In the four years since graduating, I have applied to hundreds of jobs. I have been employed by four different places in four years, and only in one place did I actually use my (very expensive) college degree. I now work as a receptionist for a non-profit closer to my home. I keep myself distracted, I try my best to feel busy. I’ve taken up rock-climbing, distance running, pet-sitting and part-time classes so I can feel of use. I’m still waiting for an opportunity to put my degree to good use.
I left college optimistic about the future ahead, donning those rose-colored glasses so many of us seemed to be born with, wishing for nothing more but an opportunity to “Make the world a better place!” While I may still be an optimist, I’ve learned the non-negotiable importance of a paycheck and thusly adjusted my priorities.
Here is the bottom line: If you’re currently in a place you don’t want to be–whether you’re unemployed or stuck in a job you hate, or in the metaphorical sense of “this is not how I pictured my life!” then DO SOMETHING. If you try one thing and nothing changes, do it again. Tweak it. Try something irrational or scary. Jump right out of your comfort zone. Don’t let your friend’s rosy wedding blogs and facebook statuses fool you, happiness doesn’t come easy. The hard truth is is you have to fight for the life that you want, because what other choice do you have? i was unhappy but I had something to hope for, then I found something to do. But please, let’s not get me started on the love thing.