After this most recent round of job interviews, I have landed myself, with no help from my temp agency, a nice job as a Massage Therapist at a lovely spa close to my home. I have been examining the idea that I might not have to do office work at all anymore. It's taken me a long time to visualize that clearly, but I've finally gotten there. Two weeks into my spa job, I can see myself doing nothing but this, and being solvent and happy. Screw the exploitative world of paper-pushing, I've got a brand-new bag.
Once I made this realization, another quickly followed. I was now going to have to call my staffing agency and "quit." You don't really "quit" temping, you "go inactive," meaning you're no longer available for work.
I love my staffing agency. I totally heart them. My agent Jackie and her boss Lyn have been my cheerleaders from day one, and have negotiatied the highest rates for me, at the best companies, with the nicest people, and the most fun work. I have made good friends because of those assignments. Jackie herself never fails to call me for any reason, and she always returns my messages, even if it's 8:00 at night and she's at her boyfriend's house watching American Idol. She's gone the extra mile for me to get time sheets in that I've misplaced, and gotten me every interview I could have asked for. She calls me her "star." I've been looking forward to them placing me someplace, not just for my own benefit, but because if anyone has ever deserved the commission I'd bring, it's Jackie.
So when she called me last week with this latest possible job interview, my throat froze. I just couldn't do it. I couldn't tell her that I wasn't going to be working with her anymore. I just lost the courage to say that. Instead, I found myself agreeing to go on one last interview.
"This place is a little different," Jackie said, "but I think you'll like it. It's not a super-conservative corporate place, like MBIA."
"Really." I said. Maybe Alden's finally giving up on me, I wondered. "What's the name of the place?"
I almost dropped my coffee cup when she told me. "It's a Catholic all-girl school in Connecticut. They need someone helping out in their development office. I know it's a little far but it's right up the road from MBIA, just a couple of minutes!"
"Jackie." I sighed. "How do you find these places?"
Because of where I grew up, I had a very low opinion of all-girls schools, the only ones of which I'd ever heard of were Catholic. All the Catholics surrounding me were very closed-minded, evangelical, Keyes-and-Coulter types. The purpose of a Catholic school is to seperate boys from girls and make sure nobody is even thinking about having sex. The three R's come secondary to that, and really, for girls, they're not really all that necessary anyway, because the primary duty of a good Catholic girl is to have lots of Catholic babies. Of course they also promoted abstinence-only programs, and taught that homosexuality is a disease.
It's also true that in 1985, 80% of the girls caught shoplifting at our hometown mall were Sacred Heart Academy girls. Needless to say those plaid-skirted felons were also snobby and rude, but then girls were like that everywhere, so that's probably incidental.
"Well," Jackie went on in her micro-machines fast chatter, "I thought since it's more like a... well, you know, it's not like MBIA..."
"It's outside the corporate sector," I prompted.
"Yeah, exactly!" Jackie exclaimed. "I thought maybe this might be a better fit for you!"
I sighed. She was so excited. She talked about how nice the Director of Development was, and how she had placed someone there a few years ago who loved the place and her job. I crumbled.
"Ok, Jackie," I said. "I'll meet with them."
"GREEEAAAT!" Jackie squealed. "I'm sending them your resume! I'll let you know when they want you to come in!"
A little later that day, Jackie called back. "Please don't kill me, my friend," she quavered. "The interview's at 8:15."
I groaned. I'd have to leave my house at 7AM. "That's ok," I said brightly. "I'll beat the rush hour traffic. And I know exactly where it is."
"I thought so!" Jackie chirped, all brightness and enthusiasm. She read the job description to me, and told me in detail everything she had told them about me. I let her chatter for awhile before I gently applied the brakes.
"Jackie, I have to be honest with you. I don't see myself making this commute on a regular basis. It's really far. And I can't imagine they'll be paying much, to compensate for all that gas and tolls."
Jackie quoted me their offered salary. "Really..." I stammered. "That's... that's pretty good."
"I mean, I might be able to ask for a little more.." Jackie began.
"Well," I cut her off. "Let me just go meet them, see what I think. I have some reservations, but you never know, right?"
So just like that, I'd agreed to go on this job interview. For a place that I couldn't believe I'd ever fit into, that might offend me to the core. That was a stupid distance from home. Fine, fine. Just this ONE LAST TIME. And then I promised myself I'd go see Jackie in person at her office, and let her down nicely. I would go inactive. This would be the last worthless drive across Westchester County I'd make, I swore.
The place I went this morning was completely different from my expectations. It's an "Independent" Catholic school, which means they don't have to report into the diocese. It's nothing like how my Mom was raised. You don't have to be Cathollic to go there.
The building is very big, and very old. I kept thinking of Hogwarts, with the dark wood wainscoating and the winding staircases. The administrative offices are small, but they are comfortable, and have windows. The rooms were cozy and snug, even on this frigid morning.
The Director of Development was rather businesslike, but he was also quite chatty. We talked about where we grew up, where we lived, and commuting through the Rockland-Westchester-Connecticut corridor. He was a friendly, comfortable, "dad" sort of person, and I liked him very much.
All the people I met there love their jobs. They love the school, they love what it stands for, they love what they are a part of, and they love their bosses and working with each other. Two of the women I met with talked about "nurturing and supporting the next generation of women," and my heart leapt in my chest.
Despite the modest appearance of the administrative area, it was clear to me that the place is swimming in money. They have state of the art electronics and computer systems for the kids, including a laptop program and "smart boards" in the classroom. It's so Star Trek. And they're offering a corporate-level salary. I was running out of faults to find.
The last person I met with was the Director of the school. He was talking about religious pluralism, about the School's mission to assist girls in finding their own paths to a socially conscious, ethical life, regardless of religious affiliation. "If we had a muslim student, it would be the same - we would encourage her to develop her relationship with her god, and to live her best life." I had tears in my eyes as I searched for my car in their massive parking lot. I was genuinely inspired. I felt at home there.
As I was driving the windy pathway to the exit, thinking about my own journey through life, and the period of exploration I've been in over the past year, something happened which borders on the mystical. As I was slowly rolling out of the parking lot, through the huge brick-and-iron gates, I noticed a plaque affixed to the brick support. It was a dedication plaque, with the name of someone whom the school chose to honor for her many years of service there, and the inspiration she left behind: a woman named Deidre Marie.
I was all settled into the idea that I would just be a massage therapist and nothing else. Now I have to re-think everything. I can't ignore how it felt being there.
Granted, I may never hear from them again, I will have one less decision to make. But - I'm struggling just to type this - I want them to hire me. I want them to want me. I want an offer. I would be perfect for that job. It's everything I'm best at, and for once, I'm not just talking about my computer skills. I want to know that I met these people who share a common vision with me, and know that they saw a kindred spirit in me. I want to feel recognized. MBIA can think whatever they like about me. Screw HSB, screw Yoplait, screw Revlon, screw Eli Lilly. From what I saw today, this is a group of people whose regard would truly mean something to me. This is a place where I could, I think, really fit in.
So we'll see.