Sometimes it’s tough to get through life’s disappointments, but if you live in New York City, one lesson you learn fast is that you really have no choice but to get through them.
Life moves so fast here that if you take time out to get over whatever you have to get over, life passes by you and you miss all of it—and the few chances it has to offer.
Especially for our vulnerable and often-too-sensitive jobless recent grad, life in the big city can be tough.
So it has been for the past few weeks.
After a big test and three interviews with the world’s largest romance book publisher, I got a nice, big, prestigious rejection from my dream editorial job.
“It was very close,” the HR manager told me apologetically on a Friday. I thanked him and hung up. These words were no consolation. In fact, I found much more consolation in a tub of Haagen Dazs chocolate ice cream a few minutes later. German chocolate. European, like me, I thought then, gobbling down another spoonful of chilly, sweet compassion.
You see, I’ve got everything working against me these days. It’s not just the damned English major that leads you nowhere, neither the competitive market of New York City, nor the terrible economy of the United States at the moment. It’s all of these, combined with the looming deadline of April 1st.
April 1st: my death warrant. After eleven years in the States, I am still stamped as an international. An alien, as they call us. I love this country as much as the next grinning douchebag holding a hot dog and wearing that horrible all-American sock-sandal combination, and yet I’m the one who has to leave the country if I don’t find a job by April 1st. (And I will shamelessly admit that I have a better fashion sense.)
And it’s not just find a job. It’s find a job related to my majors. Find an employer willing to do a load of paperwork and shell out $3,000 to keep me. April 1st.
I’m turning 22 soon, but this year I’m only celebrating if I get sponsored.
I asked Santa for the sponsorship, but he lost his way this year, it seems. Poor guy. Who knows what kind of worries he faces these days, too.
But forget Santa. He’s a global citizen. I’m a Greek citizen. What will I do if I don’t get sponsored, I wonder sometimes. What can I do, but bring my wonderful BA in English to Greece and fan it around to sweep the waves of heat away from my face?
But I have to remind myself that these are the thoughts of the desperate non-citizen, English major, recent grad. Not mine. I’ve been in New York City since August. My skin is tough. My heart is made of stone. I am no desperate non-citizen, English major, recent grad. I am a hopeful non-citizen, English major, recent grad. I am hopeful—that’s the difference between me and the other applicants. I am hopeful, and I have the skills.
So, at some point during that depressing afternoon of ice cream and the process of making my eyes clear, it hit me: You can’t help the outcome, you can only expedite the present. With renewed hope, I ditched the ice cream (after emptying the tub, of course), wiped my sticky fingers, and logged onto my computer.
Mediabistro, Bookjobs, Publisher’s Marketplace, Journalism Jobs, Ed2010, Craigslist, Hotjobs, SimpyHired—my favorite websites revisited.
For every thirty-five applications, I received two answers. Therefore, after a week of applying to five jobs a day, I got two call-backs. And one extra one (must have been from Santa, feeling guilty).
One was for an office manager position for a communications agency. The lady that interviewed me was interesting. And by that I mean too distracted and creative for my taste, but when you got no job and no future, you don’t complain.
The second one was from a famous magazine—Andy Warhol’s magazine, in fact. The interview went great, and I was warned that everyone is way too “eccentric” there. But when you are desperate—which I’m not—or in denial, you nod and give your description of how your own eccentricity would be a perfect fit in the company culture.
And the third, Santa’s call, was from a cool fashion website.
There’s no way these guys just called me, whispered my fading self-esteem in awe after the call.
I snapped at it and decided to get productive instead of thinking. So, forty-five minutes of a stuffy subway train and a few chapters further into Pride and Prejudice later, I found myself in the heart of Union Square, armed with flash drive and résumé paper, ready to take on Staples by storm.
“You’ll have to come back and pick up your stuff in an hour,” the frazzled lady in front of the Copy & Print Desk told me. Fine, I mumbled. I walked out, and into nearby Forever 21. Dresses.
Pretty dresses. Tank tops. Green sweaters, gray pants. Stripes, polka dots. Orange socks. Color combinations. Fashion choices. These worlds I understand, I thought. Why can’t hiring be the same?
Two hours later, I sat on my bed back home, a beautiful, new, cream-colored dress laid out in front of my computer, into which I stared intently as I crumbled my freshly printed résumés.
After a week of interviews, our fashion staff have filled the position and will not interview you tomorrow. The words stared back at me. The screen flickered, reminding me to blink.
Bastards, I thought as I slammed the screen of my iBook shut. I chose the last date possible so they could remember me best. My chance to prove myself was taken away from me for nothing. Santa is dead.
I opened my window and lit a match. The mice scratched faintly within the walls, the sound accompanying the quiet ripples of blue smoke that I blew out into the cold night as I sat on the window sill, gazing at my neighbors’ closed shutters.
This is New York City, the English major recent grad’s idealistic dream.