This week has been a weird one. A month or so ago, I saw an ad for a digital press operator on Craigslist. It wasn’t a dream job, but what’s the point of having a bitchin’ A.S. in Graphic Design if you’re not going to use it? So desperate was I to change my lot in life, I rebuilt my resume specifically for the job, wrote a cover letter that was a masterpiece of modern fiction, and sent it off. After a week, when I received absolutely no response, I figured “What the hell?” and sent a follow up. My only response came back in the form of absolute and utter silence. Like so many other opportunities gone by, I chalked it up as a lost cause and went on with my life. A week after that, I was flung headfirst into a hopes-built-then-crushed scenario which I detailed here.
I have an office job in a cube farm. Every year around April or May they have a “Celebration” in which they recognize the employees who have been with the company for a milestone year. (Five, ten, fifteen, etc.) The Celebration consists of your immediate manager (who was probably reassigned to you less than a month ago) going desk to desk with a big cardboard box in their hands. They then unceremoniously reach in and pull out a paper triangle glued to a wooden dowel rod. The intent is that you will hang this flag on your cube and bask in the satisfaction of five years well spent with a company who saw it fit to reward your years of service with a paper triangle glued to a wooden dowel rod. A year or two ago around this time I made a promise to myself: I wouldn’t be here to receive that damn flag. To me, that flag represented failure. It meant that I had given up. That I wasn’t good enough to get a job anywhere else.
Monday, my manager (who was reassigned to me less than a month ago) tapped on my shoulder. I turned around and there it was. Blowing stiffly in the breeze of my squeaky desk fan, I recognized its movement for what it was: mocking laughter. She set it down on my desk and trotted off to go make another employee feel recognized, and I turned back around to my computer screen. But it was no use. I couldn’t focus. I could hear the flag whispering its stream of venom in my ear.
“Why are you still fighting it? You’ve been here five years now. How many applications have you put in? How many different resumes are on your computer? No one wants you. College graduates have a hard time finding jobs. What do you think the employment rate is for dropouts like you? You have no skills in anything that matters. At all. At all. Customer service is all you’re good for. And I bet if I asked your manager, “good” might be a stretch. Honestly, I don’t know how you made it this far; you should have been fired years ago. Why do you look sad? Cheer up! In another five years they’ll give you another flag!”
My will had been effectively broken. I couldn’t take it. I set the monitoring program to “personal break” and stepped into the break room. I just… needed a moment to clear my head. I pulled out my cell phone, and saw that I had a missed call. Probably a bill collector. Or a telemarketer. But wait… The area code was local. It’s still probably a bill collector or a telemarketer, but at least we’d have something in common. I started playing the voicemail and put my phone to my ear.
Hello, I’m with a temp agency and I received a resume regarding a digital press operation job and are you still interested? As it happened, I was interested. We chatted a little and she asked about my past experience. I desperately tried to remember every jargony word I could think of from my graphic design classes from almost a decade ago. An interview was scheduled for Friday morning.
I had the interview at 10:00 am. Minutes after, the men I interviewed with sent an email to the temp agency. I received a call later that day telling me that the position was mine if I wanted it. There had been a question of how much I would be paid originally; they had a sliding scale. I was informed I would be paid the maximum amount of that scale. My starting pay is three dollars more per hour than my current pay after five years.
Like I said, it’s been a weird week.
The thing that has struck me about this process is that it has been so different than the job I wrote about in the link above. I barely even prayed for this. I went through this entire process with a shrug of the shoulders. I don’t know what that means. Why did God refuse me the job I begged him for, but gave me the one I wasn’t even sure I wanted? Is it ridiculous to assume that God had a part in either? Is it a matter of Him knowing what I need better than I do? Or is that just a cop-out we tell ourselves when we don’t understand why something happened?
I don’t know. I don’t have any answers.
But I do have a beautiful wife who tells me she’s proud of me. I’ve got a God that I’m trying to understand better. And for the first time in a very long time, I have a job that I don’t hate. Maybe that’s enough?
Paul Allen is the editor of Hunting for God. After growing up in an Assemblies of God church, he attended Johnson Bible College for two years before dropping out. In the time since, he has more or less figured out the whole “adulthood” thing, gotten married, and holds a steady job by day and writes movie scripts by night. He currently resides in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife Leah and two cats, Ego and Karma. HfG on FB