I guess she was just a tiger mom. You know, those Asian women who are ridiculously hard on their kids, so that their kids achieve? That’s all I can figure. Maybe in her own weird way, she was showing affection. But it didn’t work that way. So here’s what happened.
Today at work, I interviewed for an internal position. It would be a bit higher than what I am doing, but not much. I am still ridiculously overqualified. But, right now, since this company is the only one offering me regular money, I’ll take it.
The interview was rather dull and disappointing. All the interviewer did was read down a sheet of questions. I was a really great candidate for this position, but our scripted start and stop convo didn’t allow me a chance to really show it. She was so busy writing down my answers, I couldn’t really talk to her.
Not to mention, they were the same questions I had been asked in my original interview a few months ago. I gave the same winning answers, with all the “should have saids,” I had gone over in my post-interview recap.
When she finally asked me, “Now do you have any questions for me?” I asked, “Yeah, so what exactly is the job?”
Afterward, a co-worker asked me how it had gone. Her name was Ming, and she was an older Asian woman, complete with an accent and severe bun. She and I work in different departments, but we periodically run into one another and share pleasant conversations. So, when I explained the disappointing meeting to her, she encouraged me with a whole speech about how I shouldn’t stress about it. I could get a hundred other similar jobs that pay better. She even named a few. This was fine. But, then she went on.
For the next fifteen minutes Ming lectured me on how I need to get moving on a career path, and I shouldn’t drop anchor here.
“You are still young,” she warned, “But the time is passing. Look, we’re already halfway through January of 2015.”
This very thought literally keeps me up at night. Honestly. (See my poem: The Ode of Captain Hook). My pulse quickened and I began to even feel my throat swell and a became just a bit lightheaded—all signs of extreme anxiety. But, I smiled.
“You’re right,” I kept saying even though my stomach was turning flip flops. This is ridiculous, I thought. Get control of the conversation. I started telling her about my education and my career goals.
“That’s good,” she nodded.
Then she began advising me on where I should apply, and what I should do.
“Why haven’t you done that?” She asked.
“Uhhh…” I stammered for an answer. I couldn’t quite remember.
“You can’t wait around for these things,” she said. “You can pray and ask God to help you, and he will help you. But he won’t help you if you do nothing. I tell young people now, don’t go to college. It doesn’t mean anything. The way the economy is, there is no market for those jobs. All you get is debt. Where did you go?” she asked.
I told her and she shook her head. “Don’t obsess over it. It doesn’t mean anything. Anything.”
I found an excuse to go work somewhere else. But I thought about Ming and this conversation all day. Why did I respond so meekly? Why didn’t I just tell her to buzz off and mind her own business? By the way, she worked the same job I did, and what has she done? And why didn’t I explain to her what I’ve been doing the last ten years since college?
I traveled the country in a hippie van. I’ve written for magazines and numerous websites. I wrote a book and am marketing it to agents. I blog regularly even though I still have to have a day job. I write for websites on the weekends….And somewhere in there, I had been a secretary for a few years. But, in that moment, all I could say was, “You’re right.” And I felt, and looked, like a slacking, talentless loser.
The worst part of it was that these are the very monsters in my closet–my deepest, darkest fears. That my dreams of becoming an influential writer and best-selling author, are just delusions of grandeur. That while I fiddle around trying to make it work, my life is passing me by. That I am a sad case, an object of pity or scorn by others more, or even less, successful. The person who “could have been, or we all thought would…..but she never did.” These thoughts scare me so profoundly, even typing them out makes my stomach queasy with anxiety.
For her to so brazenly verbalize them, made me feel defenseless. What could I say? My private fears had been tried in the court of public opinion and had been validated.
I have no lesson, moral premise or philosophical question to this story. I guess my only universal in this post is–what happens when the monsters in the closet and under the bed are real?
Well, this is Texas. We take ‘em out back and shoot ‘em. How do you like that, tiger mom?!