Tonight, I finish my last round of white papers. Footnotes and formatting mainly. Make fifteen copies tomorrow morning, blithely white and collated. I should be happy.
The day before our annual conference, I broke my stress ball. Told my direct supervisor how I really felt, and back then, it was all so petty. I still felt worthless for what I thought were four years’ wasted time. I did choose to major in two rather unmarketable degrees, if limited to just a Bachelor’s. But as much as I tried to compensate for a hiccup in high school that was pivotal in the things I presently deal with, it seemed what I did was all for naught. Research fellowships. Under the school’s umbrella. Organizations. Within a collegiate shelter. Peer-reviewed publications in a journal that doesn’t cater to undergraduates (I was stubborn and felt professors doubted my ability when they gave me a list of undergraduate journals to submit my honors thesis for publication. I didn’t really see how this was impressive to graduate schools, if the journals’ only purpose was to give undergrads a boost. I wanted to demonstrate that I could be published along with doctorates. And I did this. I’m not saying this to be arrogant, but I sensed I was heavily patronized in college due to my family-related difficulties and the fact that you just don’t tell someone at this school that “you’re too stupid for a Harvard doctorate. I would know. I went there.”), and two outside internships. I know this is not a remarkable list, and I know so many others my age have similar resumes. I will be blunt. So many people are going to college. You get this murky feedback as to whether or not your alma mater matters, and amidst this talk, you try your best to “stand out.”
Common questions over a span of 43 interviews:
“Why are you not in graduate school?”
“…do you really have an intermediate knowledge of Mandarin Chinese?”
“Why did you double major in international relations and psychology? Explain how this makes sense.”
“Look, if you’re going to jump ship and leave for law school, we’ll end the interview now. I’m looking for someone who can make a five-year commitment.”
“Much of what you do seems to have been within the comfort of your school. Would you say that you were spoon-fed?”
“How and why would you do these things? You went to that school.”
Oh, how my insecurity waxed and waned since the summer of 2013.
For the past year and a half, I got a lot of flack for where you went to school. I think it was just specific to the standards of a certain individual. I observed the process of micromanagement, but without any active monitoring. It was subtle, sometimes flagrant. But the jabs and occasional side comments of “she’s weird” (because why the hell would I have a specific set of interests and not have graduated from the Ivy League?) eventually bit me hard, swallowed me whole, expelled me into an extended depression and a minefield of panic attacks I never quite experienced before.
Originally, it was agreed I would stay for two years. But after ranting to my colleague about my frustrations, to include being mistaken as an unpaid intern, condescendingly asked why I wasn’t pursuing a Master’s Degree, and feeling that our efforts were limited to the pages of a glossy bubblegum gossip mag, I chose to spend my weekends differently. Yes, I recently started freelance writing to further refine my skills and keep my mind going. I also watched tons of trash TV. I’ve gone through multiple Youtube playlists of The Maury Povich Show, seen start to finish of Dateline’s To Catch a Predator, and replayed and sang to most of the Epic Rap Battles of History vids. But did I spend some time to apply to jobs that were a bit more relevant to my interests? No. I exquisitely bitched.
After applying to a good 143 jobs, I got several interviews. I wasn’t so nervous, but dealt with the same questions. Fortunately, a year and a half of this questionable job of many hats granted me speaking points to justify weaknesses, address concerns, and fuel curiosities in a positive way. I’ve grown more confident, but remain cynical. I still applied for jobs not expecting much, but this time around, I carried myself better. I have a clearer idea of my strengths, tendencies to folly, and importantly, what I want most out of a job. And currently, I want to improve my people skills.
While I finish these projects on mental health, child welfare, and like topics that still so interest me, I’m enthusiastic about Monday. While I’ve got plenty of cubicle bits to share from my time here, I know that January 12th will beckon more opportunities for storytelling.
Dialogue and spillage. Expect more soon. But next week, you’ll hear it from a former research associate.