There has been a lot going on at SAM headquarters lately, and one of the biggest chunks of mental real estate has been occupied by my career options. As all nine of you know, I currently own and operate a small retail endeavor that has been striving to keep its head above water for the last five years now. When I took it on, a bit over three years ago, I had a lot of big ideas about what could be done to build on the mission and plans of its devoted founder. But as the years have gone on and life has brought its own variables into the mix, I've come up against some of the same challenges that moved Kristy to leave for the more stable, predictable and benefits-providing world of secure employment. In many ways, things look a lot like they did a year and a half ago when I first attempted to sell the place. There's so much I want to do with the store, so many things that I think could really help it succeed in both financial and community-oriented ways, but I still don't have the time, energy or resources to make those things happen.
And so, in the last month or two, I've been looking more seriously at job openings. In nearly five years of hunting, I've never had much luck finding anything in the Memphis area that could make any use at all of my specific skills (mainly: Googling and smartassery). But then, suddenly, I was practically swimming in them. And more useful yet, the resumes I was sending out were actually getting into the hands of real people. Real people who were calling and emailing me to set up interviews. I had more interviews in the last month than I did leading up to my college graduation (yet wore the same suits for all of them). And perhaps because I didn't have that desperate, earnest fervor of a near-graduate, they went a lot better. I was actually getting second interviews. I thought those were purely mythical!
Somewhere in the back of my head, I was aligning the fact that I had somewhat impulsively given 60-days notice to my store landlord with the sudden emergence of all these other job opportunities, but I hadn't consciously figured out how I was going to handle what happened next with the business. And as the weeks passed and the move-out date drew nearer, I was so embroiled in corporate psychological analysis and mock projects that I couldn't focus on how the store could be kept open. Plus, the self-doubting part of me always assumed the other opportunities would fall through and I'd have enough time to scramble together my next plan before my lease was up.
So imagine my surprise when, in the course of one week, I had two interviews (one a second) that both seemed very promising. And then, wedged in the middle of those, a call from a local ... let's say post-natal services provider who had heard the store may be closing and wanted to discuss the possibility of partnering to create a new type of resource center (keeping it a bit vague for now to protect her identity as well as her idea). And so that, combined with the increasingly serious discussions we've had about joining forces and realty with the midwives, made the possibility of an amazing new version of Mothersville seem very doable and very exciting.
So there I was, with two very strong, feasible job opportunities in front of me, as well as a brand-new and seemingly more profitable avenue for the store. There were intense pros and equally vivid cons with every situation. When I thought about taking one path over the others, I was continually pulled back by the alternatives. I can't remember ever being so torn about a decision. I couldn't sleep, I lost my appetite, my every waking thought was focused on determining the best choice for me and my family. It took up most of every conversation I had during that time, including my therapy session. My therapist said the answer would present itself. She's not usually one for platitudes, so I tried to believe her.
And then it happened. There wasn't a dramatic parting of clouds or a chorus of angels, but the fog of conflicting inner voices started to lift a little. As I envisioned every possible scenario, I kept coming back to the one that offered an opportunity to use my degree and strongest skills, and was willing to give me good money and benefits for it. Working in education was appealing, as was the flexibility of the schedule, but I knew it couldn't sustain me on its own. I'd have to count on a certain amount of freelance work, which is an oxymoronic situation. Sticking it out with the store felt good to my heart, but my head and gut said nuh-uh. My head even clarified a bit by saying, "You've done everything you can. You've run yourself ragged trying to make life easier for a lot of other moms. It's time to make your own life easier." (Always less profound, my gut just said, "Hey, does this look like an ulcer to you?")
I stayed up until nearly midnight on Sunday night working on the next phase of the education job's hiring process, just to be safe. And then the next morning, I got a call from the staffing manager at the company I'd been leaning toward.
And ... I let it go to voicemail.
I still wasn't quite ready. If you've read Slam (as 70% of you have, based on your GoodReads profiles), you may recall the part where Sam throws his mobile into the sea so as to wait just a little bit longer before finding out that his teen-age girlfriend is pregnant. Just to have one more day before his whole life changes. And that's what I needed to do. Although instead of throwing my cell phone into the ocean, I threw myself into a YMCA pool and spent the afternoon bobbing around with Mr. Baby. Enjoying the Monday off, enjoying the time with him, and making peace with the idea that our regular Mondays off were about to come to a close. We dried off, got dressed and I called the recruiter back. A voicemail/callback later, and I had an official job offer.
The feeling after I hung up was complicated. Excitement, fear, anxiety, pride. Overwhelmed by both the positive and negative aspects of the situation. I called my parents almost immediately, and hearing their enthusiastic response helped to tip the scales a little, just as long as I didn't watch Mr. Baby hyper-crawling around with a giant smile on his face and a thought bubble over his head saying, "Really? You're going to leave this all day?" But that's a weepy post for another time.
Point is, I made the decision. I have a job. I'm going back into the full-time, corporate work force. As, of all things, a professional writer. And I am, for the most part, very excited and optimistic about it. The to-do list that's now trailing away from my body and out the door behind me? Still a bit daunting. But the big, dark tunnel I've been stumbling my way through now has a fairly large circle of sunlight dead ahead. Shining, unexpectedly, from the east side of Poplar Ave.