By Amber Robbin
Around week five, Will and I had concocted the perfect business model to save us from our job search (or at least from having to think about it by making ourselves laugh):
“Man, Will. Your apartment is turning into an internet café.”
“We should just invite people in from off the streets. It could be a café for unemployed people! Think about it: a place for us to meet other pathetic, jobless folks and commiserate together.”
“Yeah, Logan Square would dig something like that.”
“And we could serve food! You make such good sandwiches, sweetie! We could call it…The Well Fare Café…with Sandwich Art by Will.”
“Gotta have a walk-up window too, then.”
“A walk-up window?”
“Well, nobody drives in Logan Square. They all walk, or bike. A walk or ride-up window, so I can sell my Sandwich Art to customers on the street…And we’d have to incorporate your feminist interests in some way, baby. We could put, like, sexual assault myth-busters rolled up in each sandwich wrapper…”
That’s how we got on, through all of December, scouring the Internet for work as we froze our asses off, me huddled on the couch trying to turn a bedspread into a Snuggie, Will at his computer desk bundled up in everything but a Russian fur muff.
Looking back now, it’s interesting how different our circumstances were. I was genuinely excited about getting the axe! It at least meant I wouldn’t have to go to work at a job I didn’t like anymore, and I’d be handed two weeks of labor-less pay. (That seemed like a much better deal before the two weeks ran out.) Will had been working in his desired field when we got canned, and without my 23-year-old benefits of parental insurance coverage, things were looking more dire for him. He spent countless hours putting together his portfolio, designing his own website, and searching endlessly for the few design job openings that were posted at the absolute worst time of year to be looking for work – a few weeks before Christmas.
Before I knew it, I was off the couch and joining the world again, going on interviews. I had a long list of different positions I was gunning for, from sexual assault educator to spa receptionist, but then again, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. There’s this hilarious Chris Rock bit about jobs vs. careers and how the #1 job of anyone with a career is to shut up about it around those of us with jobs. Will never flaunted his career path, but I didn’t even know I was the one with “just a job,” or rather, the one trying to even get “just a job.”
There was one night that Will lost his cool. We were going to bed, and suddenly, he burst into tears, weeping that he was terrified of not finding work. He was always such a trooper through our dilemma, and in that moment, I saw the walls come down. Mine collapsed on several different occasions. I cried when Will would vent to his family on the phone, sitting there with no one to call because I was worried my family would only stress me out more. I cried at the end of Pocahontas, sobbing to Will about how terrible it was that they had this great love and then she and John Smith would never see each other again – I’m guessing that was about something else entirely, but I’m still completely disturbed by that night (and that ending). But I cried the most when I didn’t get the sexual assault educator job, because that was more than “just a job,” and I knew it.
Finally, on the last possible day before offices closed for Christmas, I went for an interview at a law firm. I was asked to come back two hours later to interview with the head partner of the firm. I came back, and the second round was a joke. We chatted about musical theatre and infamous old jazz clubs in Chicago. I never thought my musical theatre background would come in handy applying to be a receptionist at a law firm. I got the gig.
Will and I met at Starbucks, and he congratulated me warmly. We looked like two Alaskan sled runners, downtrodden, racing to the end of a frozen voyage. It had been a long December, and we had no choice but to ride the rest of the month out with the holidays. I’d be starting my new job in January, this time, a job I would HATE, and one that would push me, at last, to find my way out of jobs like that. Will would keep successfully building his career. We wouldn’t work together again like we had before – as co-workers in the same office, or partners in the same struggle – but we’d always have those days spent together in our living room café.
To be continued…
Amber Robbin is the creator of Tumbleweed Diaries. She is passionate about languages, world travel, and currently working on a book about her adventures in Italy.