On Working, Again

Somewhere in San Francisco a hand-painted version of this waits for me.

The grass is always greener on the other side.
You always want what you don’t/can’t have. 
Be careful what you wish for. 

Terrible, these maxims.

Towards the end of last September, I decided to get a part-time job. 

Not sure what I imagined, but naturally something creative and flexible, that paid well and was preferably, with a reputable company in a bright, downtown office teeming with cool, young coworkers. Room for growth. That sort of thing. I reached out to a few staffing firms, met with a handful of headhunters, (all of whom were gay for some reason), and while they hunted I continued to apply for jobs up and down the internet, casting my resume again and again into the same black hole databases.

Headhunters trump black hole databases, despite their telling me early on that I shouldn’t keep my hopes up. Part-time creative jobs abound in New York City, but they are also actually full-time and unpaid. Does that make sense? Not really, but… Anyway, I’ll keep you in mind but just know students are really hard to place because your schedules are so weird and a lot of companies just want someone to come in on a regular basis for whole days, but not everyday. 

But something always comes along, doesn’t it? The first headhunter I met with at the beginning of October called me a few days before New Year’s Eve.

“I think I found something,” he said in his Southern drawl. He was from Georgia and had moved to the city hoping for what, I wasn’t sure, but he seemed chipper every time we spoke.

“Ooh,” I said, not thinking about maxims at all, “Do tell, do tell.”

“Proofreading for Company X,” he said, “It’s flexible, part-time, fifteen dollars an hour.”

I thought about the “tutoring” job I’d interviewed for at the beginning of the semester: thirteen-year old girl needs someone to go over her reading and writing. $40 an hour to read with a little girl. But she was also the daughter of a hedge fund billionaire and model-turned-doctor mom, a power couple whose lives were coordinated by a small team of pushy personal assistants who thought giving me advance notice meant emailing an hour before they needed me to show up and tutor. They lived in a 5th avenue penthouse that faced Central Park and when I visited, I felt as though I were walking through the pages of Architectural Digest. I stopped responding to their emails because sometimes billionaires (or more accurately, their assistants) need to know that the world doesn’t revolve around them or their children. At least not my world.

I ticked off the things I liked about Company X: it was creative (from a consumer’s perspective) and they were willing to work around my class schedule. It could always pay better, but I was guaranteed a hip downtown office and cool, young coworkers. Room for growth? Probably, the headhunter said. They often turned proofreaders into full-time copywriters. I was interested, failing to consider the actual physical strains of proofreading (trust me, they exist) or the fact that I hate, hate sitting in front of the computer for long hours (at home I at least have the option of standing while writing) and a few days later, found myself smiling into my webcam over a Skype interview. I spoke with two young women around my age, copywriters bundled up in scarves and sweaters (it was around the time of the Polar Vortex) and we traded thoughts about the weather. They envied my sunny room in California and the 80-degree temperature. I wore a striped collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up and had even considered wearing shorts, then thought better of it in case I had to stand up for whatever reason. But on my end there was not a scarf, sweater or snowflake in sight.

“We like you,” they said after we’d spoken for about twenty-minutes, “How about you start the Monday you come back?”

“Wow, great,” I said.

We began to say awkward Skype goodbyes (how do you close this window?) and bid each other Happy New Year.

“Enjoy the rest of your time at home,” they said, “And take advantage of that lovely weather!”

I nodded, smiling because everything was falling into place. New year, new job, new class schedule. And all in New York! I imagined a semi-adult life balanced across schoolwork, work, and play. The chickens hadn’t even hatched and I’d counted them all. Premature, premature.

One thought on “On Working, Again

  1. I miss reading your blog, and this was a good first entry to pick out of the hundreds that I've yet to read. Congratulations, Betty! From reading this and sometimes seeing your instagram and other stalker things we're able to do now online, it looks like things are kinda awesome right now! I still need to head over there and grab some coffee and cake with you.

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