I was so damn cocky about my job hunt. Six months into my final year of college, I had 20+ “informational calls” with Vassar alums at Time, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Harper Collins, Huffington Post, and Showtime. I had filled out endless job applications, bolstered my résumé, and networked the shit out of the alums. I received two paid, part-time internships at a video-news startup and a literary agency, which would last the summer; and a full-time assistant/nanny position that would start in September. I was golden.
I had lots of friends—most of my friends, in fact— who were not set, who didn’t have jobs yet, or preparations, or apartments.
If they had just put in the time, I thought, self-assured in my ignorance, they would be set up like me.
Oh, the irony.
Long story short, I quit my full-time job about two months in. Without going into the details (which would only serve as a self-pity party), let’s just say the position was not a good fit for me. It was mainly the kid thing: I don’t actually like children, I discovered. Someone who enjoys parks, listening to Ariana Grande, and making meals devoid of flavor would have been far better-suited.
I didn’t really have the financial safety net to just quit—but I had an interview scheduled for that Friday, and I thought, I’m quite the catch—I’ll have a job soon, right?”
With basically no leads, I gave my two weeks notice. My boss, understandably displeased, said,
“Don’t even bother.”
In other words, “I’m not going to pay you for two more weeks, you ungrateful brat.”
So, I lost my only source of income.
Two unemployed weeks turned into a month, and I quickly pitched a tent in Negative Town. It’s located in Brooklyn, just a five-minute walk from the G train. Negative Town is fraught with grumbling, excessive amounts of Grey’s Anatomy, and tearful calls home. It was during this time that I began spouting nonsensical musings like, “I hate it here,” “If only I’d majored in Econ,” and, “I wish I’d gotten a job in L.A.” (Relevant Note: I would have been far more screwed being unemployed in L.A., where you need money and a car.)
There were other repercussions to my unemployment, some less serious. Although I spent several hours every morning typing cover letters and searching “Entry Level” positions, there seemed to be too much time left over. I started wearing sweatpants and giving up on the whole “hygiene” thing. I was alone so often that when my housemates returned, I would hide in my room to avoid interacting with them. I went weeks without seeing anyone—and I didn’t care. I slept twelve hours a day, and would still feel tired. I avoided going out and reading—things I typically enjoy—in favor of playing Candy Crush and watching TV shows duller than dirt. Everything I ate made me feel sick. Maybe it wasn’t depression, quite, but life had certainly lost its luster.
The “rock bottom” moment came last week. I was rejected from a job—a receptionist position at an upscale workspace collective—that paid practically nothing. I received the email following a night out with friends, in which I consumed expensive cocktails and spoke about how much I wanted this job. How inevitable it was, in fact, that I would get it. My friends agreed enthusiastically.
The email could not have been clearer: No, it said. We don’t want you.
I am doomed! I cried. I was not qualified enough to dress in all black and greet wealthy entrepreneurs. I’ll never get a job! I’ll never be happy! I’ll never learn to love! (My dark moments are a cacophony of absurd, negative sentiments, the majority of which have nothing to do with what I am concerned about, and are often flatly untrue.)
But I did have reason to be upset. My money was trickling away. I spent most of my time in bed. I hadn’t eaten a piece of fruit in weeks. I called my father, desolate, in the throes of the Pity Party Parade.
“Can I move home?” I wailed.
He laughed, and—in so many words—replied, “No.”
My dad: the man who home-schooled me and patted me on the back when our dog died: the person who makes me homemade pizza: the only family member who saw my single goal in field hockey: the source of a great deal of life advice—if he said I shouldn’t come home, he was probably right.
I’d like to say the pity parade came to a screeching halt at that moment, that my father’s rejection resulted in a breath-taking epiphany, where I realized exactly what I needed to do, and burst into action…but it didn’t. I hung up, irritated and sulky, and applied to a few more jobs.
Over the next couple of days I got a part-time position doing social media management, and another waiting tables. I met with a staffing agency and received interview requests from several different, interesting companies. My mood improved. I showered.
I’m still not fully employed, and I’m glad I’m not. That would be a corny as fuck ending, and I like to think I’m a better writer than that.
My stint in Negative Town was a timely wake-up call, reminding me that, as much as I’d like to imagine I am, I am not ready to be a grown up: where my actions have consequences for which I, alone, am to blame. I quit a well-paying position, without having a job to fall back on, to sit on my couch all day and whine. Yet, I rarely, if ever, contemplated how my choices had led me there. Looking back, I guess I’m sort of pleased that I got a kick in the ass from Fortune.
So, however self-indulgent and treacherous a detour to Negative Town may be, it provides a useful lesson. At the end of school, I was so self-assured. I felt I had planned my future perfectly. But, obviously shit can always go sour—even if you had drinks one time with an editor at The New York Times.
Lily Sloss is a writer. She loves dancing, Michael, and her new home in Brooklyn. She's currently working as a Social Media Manager for 2 Cents Collective, a crowd-sourced advice project, and The Offliners, an indie film coming out in 2015.