The weekend before last, Joshua, as an incomparable anniversary gift to me, flew my best friend Sara to Boston from Detroit. I had not seen her since Christmas, and because of how expensive flights tend to be, it's rare that we see one another now aside from holidays. There isn't a gift on the planet that could have made me happier. With my closest friend around, there's nothing I can't tackle; there's no challenge I'm afraid of or uncertain about. When she left me on Monday afternoon to go home to Detroit - home to Ann Arbor - our goodbye was short because she was running late for the flight, and because both of us had a notion, deep inside our cores, that I'd be home again in no time. It wouldn't be long until I left Boston. Permanently.
* * * *
Yesterday, I was rejected from the "job of my dreams" via e-mail. I put that in quotes because, clearly, perhaps it's not a real dream job if I didn't get hired, but...this one would have allowed me to move home to Ann Arbor within a month (conveniently when my Boston lease expires), and was the perfect entry position into my industry. I was, in truth, overqualified for it, with my stupid, shiny, expensive Master's and my too-long list of editorial internships. I'm not sure how to stress this enough: this job would have changed everything for me, and brought me back to where I feel I belong, in the long run. It would have brought me home, in every sense of the word.
I first applied in very early June, mere hours after discovering the brand-new posting as if it were serendipitous, an act of God. I'm uncertain how to describe this position without giving away its function and location, which I don't want to do out of continued respect for the hiring committee. If you know me at all, you know that this employer, in particular, is one that I've dreamt of working with since I was a teenager. It had the potential of bringing me back to the center of all my summers and the center of everything I love. It would have married my unending, unwavering love of Michigan with my strict dedication to publishing. I left everything that's core to me - my home - in order to get that stupid, shiny, expensive degree, for goodness sake. I have always been dead serious about finding a job in the industry I love in the home I love even more. This job, at my dream location, was my potential foot in the door.
Please don't think I'm exaggerating, or saying this out of the pain of rejection: this opportunity was everything I've been working toward and thinking about during my Master's study. I didn't even think the posting was real - it couldn't be. It was too perfect, and too perfectly timed; indeed, it was too good to be true.
I did what all prospective candidates are taught to be the "right things." I applied promptly with a clean, sharp resume and a well-written cover letter. I followed-up after two weeks. Even before following-up, I did something I've never done before, and sent cold e-mails to a handful of staff members (and I ended up having a couple wonderful conversations, as a result). I rearranged my current work schedule as a temporary editorial assistant to accommodate two phone interviews and one two-hour long Skype interview, all of which I earnestly and genuinely enjoyed. I smiled. I articulated clearly. I sent timely and honest thank-yous. I exercised patience during a two-week waiting period, even though I had put off re-signing my lease in Boston a month over the due date. I connected with my references, who graciously gave me glowing recommendations, cheering me on the entire time. I even made the silly LinkedIn connections. I didn't know how to make it any clearer to the hiring managers that I was, in my mind, their ideal candidate; I was convinced, to the point of credo, that it's impossible there was any other candidate either more qualified or more authentically hungry for this. There couldn't be. Everything about my publishing pursuits has pointed towards an opportunity at this location. I was it. I had to be.
You know that book that everyone was in love with for a while, The Secret? I put this out into the universe, let me tell you. I was willing it into being. I talked to the cosmos every night, and you know what, I bet the cosmos think I'm nuts. The Secret is a big ol' lie.
Finally, that e-mail came to my inbox, and I stared at it from my desk, blinded and dumb. After five minutes of digestion, I went back to work, allowing myself some resolve until I at least tucked myself into the corner of the train back to Cleveland Circle and I could then focus on how deeply I miss my car and the grass on the Diag.
I should also mention that Rudine, the woman I can easily credit with getting me through grad school as the friend who always understood, is leaving Boston to return home to NYC tomorrow. I saw her last night. We got tacos and drank, and I said goodbye on the corner of Harvard and Brighton, another ghost of something I love gone from me until further notice, until I can brave Manhattan.
When I walked home, I spent two minutes staring at a car parked on this busy Bostonian street, glaring back at me with familiar Michigan plates. Ha-ha, it said. This was all a dream.
* * * *
I've been full-time searching for a full-time, after-grad-school job since late February or early March. You can add this, The Dream Job, to the relatively long list of rejections I've received, as well as to the shorter but still sting-inducing list of rejections I've received after participating in the complete interview process. I'm lucky to be currently employed at one of the largest publishers in the world for the summer, but I've been working relentlessly, it feels, to find the next move that makes sense. Now, down to the wire and staring down August and the end of summer, I've regressed into panic. I have a handful of other opportunities on the table - nothing surefire and nothing for certain, but I have things to think about. This rejection has allowed me to, essentially, commit to staying in Boston and pursuing some good things here, holding onto some sliver of hope that the right good thing will come my way.
But doesn't it seem like something happened? Something in the universe shifted, something made the wind switch directions and change what was going to occur? I don't really believe in fate, but doesn't it seem just a little odd that this perfect, "dream" opportunity materialized at just the right time? Doesn't it almost seem fated? What happened? What did I do, or say, or not do or say? Why not me? Why does this hurt as badly as it does? Why anything? All the same questions that run through any candidate's head.
Before you start a well-intentioned, well-meaning, "pull yourself back up" speech, allow me to remind you of my numerous rejections. I am acutely aware of the decisions I've made in regard to location and education, and thus, in regard to my bills. I'm also acutely aware of how competitive the publishing job market - if you can even call it a job market, at this point - is, especially in Boston. I understand that this is "typical," that this "happens all the time," and that I'm "not alone." I understand that there are HR policies in place that I have zero control over, and that my intuition was wrong, that I was not the ideal candidate for whatever reason - and that they do have a reason. I would still love to work there someday in the future, and I have nothing but high regard and hope for them; my interview process was wonderful. I am lucky to be counted among the considered candidates.
I understand that I need to just "keep applying", "keep moving forward," that the "job I'm meant to have" will happen at some point. All of that being said: you know what's made this entire process the hardest? My friends and family saying that they "knew" or that they had a "gut feeling" I would get this job. "I just know. It's going to happen. Don't think otherwise." I feel jinxed.
No matter how anyone rationalizes a rejection from your dream job and no matter what comes after, this sort of thing is going to hurt. For right now, I've got to just allow it to hurt, I think.
* * * *
Later in the afternoon yesterday, I sent the hiring managers a final thank-you and asked for some feedback, which I'm not sure I'll receive. I contacted some other people to let them know the decision, finished my day, and went to sleep. This morning, I took all of my vitamins for the first time in what feels like months. This entire search - and this specific interview process - has left me in an embarrassing state of total mess. My room has been less than tidy, with mail piling up on my desk and my laundry never put away. My face has broken out like a teenager's in reaction to the stress, a constant, stupid reminder that I should just calm down and let life happen. I forget the simplest things, like my vitamins, and feel like part of me is somewhere else.
Part of me is somewhere else. It's back home, in Ann Arbor, waiting for the day to come that I get to go back. That day was not yesterday. That day might not come for another five years. That day might not be capable of happening until I find a career here, on the east coast, and fully appreciate just what I left Michigan for in the first place.
Yesterday, I was rejected from my dream job, the one that would've given me everything I wanted. Today, the sun in Copley is heart-stopping, and I'm looking for something new. Something better than the dream job.