The Hunt

After flops and dead-ends and lots-of-excitement-but-ultimately-leading-no-where-leads, after lots and lots of cover letters and answering, in interviews, honestly and confidently and then wondering, "Was I too confident? But then again, shouldn't I be confident?," I now have a new job for our new life in our new home. And, it's a good one: challenging, interesting, demanding of my teaching, leadership, communication, and creative skills.

We moved up here at Christmas, and I served as a long-term substitute for a friend on maternity leave—a temporary position that helped my friend and kept me busy while I looked for the right job for me—until school ended the last week of May. Since moving, I poured mental energy into finding a new worklife for myself up here, and not having a job nailed down taught me a lot. Here's some of what I learned:

1) Being unemployed is terrifying.

I started graduate school two weeks after I graduated from college. That very summer, I completed my student teaching responsibilities and, by August, I had the job I would hold for the next 18 years. Never in my adult life had I been jobless. Granted, I am very lucky to be married to someone with a strong career, so we have been able pay rent and feed ourselves, but this was the first time since I was 22 in which I feared I'd have to depend on someone else's income. And, I hated that. I hated losing my sense of independence.

Additionally, while I've always known that I'm an extravert (though I need my periods of solitude, just like everyone else), when my substitute position ended and an undetermined future of days alone in a place where I still didn't know many people loomed ahead, that characteristic rose up inside me like a spector, a ghost of fear, echoing around my head like the voice in "The Rocking-Horse Winner," except my voice whispered, "You must have community, you must have community."

2) Humility is tough for me but it is something I must embrace.

I went into the job search thinking I'd be immediately hirable. My resumé was stronger than any resumé I'd looked at while helping to make hiring decisions at my old position, I spoke well and could draw on many experiences in interviews, and I had a whole slew of recommenders ready to speak about my skills. But I didn't get that job, and then I didn't get that one, and then that one. And no one even responded to my application and follow up call on that one. I had one interview then another interview, and another and another, but they went no where. I would try to figure out why, why that school or organization didn't want me, what skills I didn't have, what I didn't answer well enough, how I could improve presenting myself. I believed—and I still believe—that it's always good to aim for self-improvement and every attempt at getting a job was another way to grow.

But, the part that I had to accept, that really only came to me in the last couple weeks before finally getting a job, is that I had very little control over whether or not a school or organization hired me. There were thousands of other factors which I couldn't even see going into the hiring decision process. I had to stop crying to myself, "Why don't they want me?," and begin taking a roll with each punch then hopping up to try again each time.

If employers didn't think I would be a good fit for whatever reason, you know what? They're probably right.

3) I should try for even the unlikely.

One of the jobs I applied for was—at least in theory—the dreamiest job I could imagine, one that tangled up my love for plants and people, but it was also something that I didn't have the required experience for. I pulled out the stops on my cover letter and refined my resumé for the position anyway. I called on the help of excellent friends who had relevant job experience to comment on my application before sending it in.

No, I didn't get it. But I got practice applying for that type of job, and it gave me a clearer idea of what I needed to have to get that type of job, so, if that is a career direction I eventually pursue, I've got an idea of where to go.

If you're chasing prey through the woods, whether or not you catch it, your prey will leave a trail.

4) I need to mind my own gaps.

In addition to my big, new, very exciting job, last month I took on a small side job: maintaining an organic vegetable garden for a family in a neighboring town. I found this opportunity through a neighborhood online bulletin board, and it has been a lifesaver for me. My arrangement with my employer also allows me a little space to grow some of my own plants, providing me the ability to keep some of my rarer seed strains going. More importantly, the job gives me place to have my hands in the dirt, my eyes in their deep observation garden mode, and my head organizing crop starting, maintaining, clearing, and rotating.

I no longer mourn the garden I once had. Taking this side gig has both filled and freed me. It feels so good.


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