The job search mindset is a very interesting state to be in, especially right out of graduate school. It doesn’t matter how well your own journey is going, you still find yourself comparing your own path to that of others. My own journey is definitely different than I thought it would be. For those with whom I spoke with in March, I had a completely different idea of where I would be by this time. To be frank, “jobless” did not seem like it had the potential of being a word in my vocabulary.
During the last week of classes in May, I was stressing along with the rest of my cohort. I was setting up interviews, wrapping things up at my assistantship and of course those end of the year papers were beginning to pile up. On Tuesday of that week I was all prepared for a phone interview for, what I thought at the time, was the job for me. All morning I made sure everything was done ahead of time at work, so I could prepare for my interview. An hour before my phone was supposed to ring, it began to ring with the same area code as the job location. I began to panic. Why were they calling an hour early? I took a deep breath and nervously picked up the phone to answer. On the other line was a familiar voice—my mother’s.
“Mom, what are you doing calling on a different phone number?”
“I’m calling from the hospital,” she said, “your grandma’s not doing well.”
My stomach sank. This was not the phone call I was expecting or anticipating. I knew my grandmother was in the hospital, but I didn’t in a million years think I would get the call that she only had 24 hours to live. I hung up the phone with my mom and began to bawl. What was I to do? My grandma was 600 miles away, I was in my last week of classes and I still had responsibilities with my graduate assistantship and I had a phone interview in thirty minutes. I could hear my grandma’s voice was in my head, “do not screw this up on account of me.” Keeping her in mind, I took a deep breath, calmed myself down, and remembered all I had been preparing for as I waited for the next phone call.
I was lost in my own thoughts, endlessly thinking of the logistics of finishing school, work and also driving to Tennessee to see my grandma. Despite everyone telling me I needed to stay in Pennsylvania to take care of my affairs, I knew I had to see her. I arrived the next afternoon. She was in and out of lucidness, but I caught her eye and told her I was there. She had a huge grin on her face, grabbed my hand and in her very soft yet strong voice said I’m so happy you are here. I told her all about the interview the day before, which happened to be at her favorite school.
She died two days later. I went back to Pennsylvania and I knew I had to finish up my all of those papers that were still piled up waiting for finals week deadlines. Her funeral was the day of graduation. But I felt in the back of my mind her death was part of a greater universal plan. The following Monday I got a call from the school in Tennessee offering me an on-campus interview. I knew it was Grandma working her magic. I was sure of it.
In the weeks following her death, I applied for other jobs and had other interviews but I had this feeling in my gut, Tennessee is where I was meant to be. What other reason was there for my grandmother’s death? I packed my bags and traveled that same 600 miles again. This time I was determined Grandma had a plan for me. I prepared as much as I could, studying about the program and the school and went for the interview. I loved it. Everything about the job and school seemed to be just “right” for me. As I flew back to Pennsylvania, I had this calming sense that everything was going to be okay.
At the beginning of the next week, I received an email saying the position had been filled. I couldn’t believe it. My stomach was in knots and all of the emotion I had been suppressing for the past month unleashed.
It took me a few days, but I finally realized it wasn’t the job I was grieving for; I was finally grieving my grandma. During this whole search, I had it wrapped in my mind there was a reason for her death. Everything in relation to this specific job process had something to do with her death.
This job search has truly been a long and winding road. It is not what I had imagined, but it has made me realize I need to be living for my own expectations, not for ones that I fabricated in my mind. I realized that I had built up this unrealistic dream in my head of what my life was going to look like, when in the end I wasn’t living in the present and because of that I may have been missing out on other opportunities. I finally stopped comparing my journey to others and realized that this journey is my own to claim. The right job is out there, I can feel it. The universe does have a plan for me and I need to use the tools my grandmother taught me to get there. The great Maya Angelou once said, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” My grandma’s plan wasn’t for me to get that specific job, but to be able to find myself along the way to becoming the best student affairs professional I can be.