Scared of Getting A Job, I Am (Part 2 of 2)
My job consists of sitting in a chair, waiting for people to call so I can ask how I can assist them. Two days ago, I had a lady scream in my ears for 3 minutes. Felt like 1 hour. By the time I got the supervisor she demanded, I heard my soul shrink a little. I had been warned of this day.
Warnings and reality are of different realms.
If anyone had told me I’d be working as a Customer Service Representative, I would have laughed hard, spilling all the metaphorical water unto their face.
I would have told them of my Cameroonian accent and how I cannot survive in a cubicle. That I couldn’t care less about make-up and cosmetics. I would have said that’s just not who I am.
Yet, here we are.
I have learned more in the past month about Foundation, Skin tones, hair types, shipping methods, tracking systems, refund timelines than I bargained for. I also have the pleasure of becoming a wallflower in a large building where no one has no idea every queer thought I have easily ends on a page.
I got this job without bribing anyone; it wasn’t a recommendation from a friend. It wasn’t even one of the 13 places we dropped my painstaking CVs praying — hoping that anyone would look past my Cameroonian degree and work experience — that I get something…anything that would cover more than the monthly cost of our groceries.
Barnes and Noble didn’t want me. Walmart neither. Home Depot and Target sent an email to help wipe them off the list.
But how did we get here?
How did I leave from not wanting a job to wanting any job?
It seems, at least in my life, I get to hear the same piece of advice over and over and ignore it, until one day, I just can’t. In this specific instance, one piece of advice I have always known was how much your ability to provide financially for those you love impacts not only your self-image but also your self-esteem.
In my case, I can look back to when I didn’t have a full-time job and see how much I had this gnarly feeling that I had failed in life. I did not have the words then; I called it different things — homesickness, fear, lack of experience as a husband, angst, depression — except all these things were symptoms of a deeper problem.
By moving to the U.S. and wearing shoes I wasn’t ready for, I never had a skeleton to build upon to fill the role I now bore: husband.
In the very traditional sense of the term, the husband should be the provider. My wife and I aren’t very traditional; we’re still African in many more ways than we may admit. The toll of bills, moving, work, obligations, and life as a whole, kept chipping at whatever was left of our existing dynamic.
I got easily triggered because of my lack of self-esteem — a lack that came from a place of feeling like I wasn’t adding any value to our relationship.
No matter how much my wife reassured me, she couldn’t help me.
No one can give anyone self-confidence. It’s a thing you get for yourself. It’s a thing you earn by doing the things you set out to do — for yourself — even when you’re not the only beneficiary.
In our case, because she brought in all the money and was ( and still is) an all-round badass, I felt small. I felt insignificant.
I felt useless.
Without any physical manifestation of what my role in the relationship was, I wallowed in the depths of fear that I might never be up to the task.
There was a time when I was ready to be gone — to be done with it all.
You can imagine that from such a place, a little teasing grows into an insult; a disagreement becomes a curse, and our castle built on 14 years of friendship and love all swung by the edge of a thread over eggshells hanging on a tray of gossamer.
The fights, disagreements and tiring patterns of misunderstanding and random triggers led to us reconsidering a lot of what was going on.
For me, it meant reconsidering why I got married in the first place and what I wanted out of it all.
Why Did I Get Married?
The idea of a husband has changed for me. It has changed me. No matter how I look at those dark weeks leading to depositing myriad job applications, I am happy we had to go through the fire.
We had a lot of support from family both home and abroad, and friends. We heard from varied opinions. We got the chance to sit with everything and decide what we wanted.
I know at least, for me, that’s what happened.
I know my image of the kind of partner I wanted to be left from: What am I getting from this? to What am I giving in this?
I got the chance to put in perspective life from my wife’s point of view. I felt so much sympathy and love for her: it is hard to deal with someone who is starting from scratch when you’re almost done figuring out your life.
It is hard to have to explain things that are so basic for you that you can’t imagine someone’s ignorance. Medical school is self-selective in a way that almost everyone who becomes a doctor in the US tends to have built a life based almost completely on priority — what do I need to get this done? This mindset is not limited to school or work. Like everything we do as humans for long periods, it bleeds into everything else.
When I got the chance to reflect around the sacrifices my wife has made to be able to afford the life she has — what she’d had to lose on her journey to becoming a medical doctor and how the first year of residency kept throwing curveball after curveball — a lot of things changed for me.
What I saw as a hindrance to my dreams became a bridge. What I saw as fear became a force to listen and tap into.
And more importantly, what I saw as an African woman wanting a man to ‘be a man’ became: I married you because I know you are capable of being so much more.
It may seem selfish on the surface as it only says what she wants out of it, but when I play it back to me, I see someone who expects me to rise to my potential.
Someone who won’t let me make excuses. Someone who knows she deserves the best and expects it.
Someone who believes I have what it takes.
You Have The Power To Change Your Mind
When we dropped all the applications at all these places (I’m conveniently ignoring the hundreds I left on job search websites), I was ‘suddenly’ ready to work at any single one of them.
The moment I got the text message to schedule my interview, I didn’t flinch. I found the earliest available date, wore my best shirt and shoes and got ready to burn the place down.
Which, of course, I did.
Each week I get my minimum wage deposit, I smile knowing that if my wife’s car had to break down, she’d be upset — but we’ll be able to do something about it without wondering where next month’s rent will show.
Each time I put on my badge and have my generous neighbor drive me to work in the morning, I have a pep in my step because I am learning a whole new world that is inspiring my dreams.
Each day that I come back late, tired, and I turn on my computer to edit videos for my YouTube channel or write for Medium, I feel the power of a dream; the power of purpose; of knowing that everything can be for good if only you choose what to focus on and pursue it with clarity.
Each time we both return home, sharing stories of what happens at work, there’s a different sense of camaraderie — an understanding of what it takes to do the work to build one’s dreams.
I was ready to work as a dishwasher by the time I realized how important it was for me to support my family. I was ( and still am) ready to get a second job and still keep writing and making videos. All the misconceptions I had around passion and work have been adjusted.
For me, a job has become color on a larger painting, a weapon to chip at life’s requirements and a reminder of what matters to me.
If I ever thought I wanted to be a creative entrepreneur before I got a job, now, writing this at 11.43 pm after a full day's work of solving problems, I am more than certain that anyone who wants to build a future for themselves should do whatever it takes to achieve it.
And more often than not, it starts with getting a job — any job.