Fresh Starts

How I became an adult in 2007.

For the first time ever, I’m starting off a new calendar year with my life thoroughly put together.

2007 was the year that set my adult life into motion. It was a year of false starts and disappointments, and also a year of fresh starts and Big Important Life Events — starting when I stumbled into grownuphood at my college graduation.

After four years, one drama thesis, one set of comprehensive exams, and countless sleepless nights, I made it through with honors in May and kissed my beloved alma mater goodbye. As a bonus, I even managed to look relatively dignified (if a little grim; I was concentrating on not falling down) at my commencement ceremony. I left feeling fully equipped for that overhyped Real World I had heard so much about.

Sure, I had only thought to apply to two internships, both of which had already turned me down, but I was convinced some other organization would snatch me up promptly. After all, I had a Bachelor’s Degree in Drama and English!

Apparently, my diploma didn’t come with a dose of common sense.

After an angsty summer spent applying for and being rejected by what felt like a million jobs, I realized how woefully smug and unprepared I had been. Though I generally sport a bright and creepily carefree disposition, I spent my summer floundering and panicking in the pools of unemployment.

I applied for job after job after job, even grasping wildly at positions like “butterfly curator.” Meanwhile, all of my hometown friends were gone for the summer, my college friends were miles away, and Boyfriend was working long hours. Other grads were getting hired right and left, some even getting so many offers that they had to turn jobs down, but I was alone and jobless in my small town. So many people asked me What I Was Going To Do With My Life that I felt like I would explode.

I was on a massage table when I finally reached critical mass.

I was there in a desperate attempt to relax, using a gift certificate from my well-meaning mother. I shimmied under the sheets in the room’s dim light, trying to chill out to the gentle background music.

“So, what do you do?” my masseuse asked me.

“I … am … unemployed,” I squeaked. It was the first time I had ever said it out loud. Oh my God. I was unemployed. I was uninsured. I was failing.

“Oh. So you’re, what, just taking the summer off or something?”

“No one will hire me.”

A weighty pause hung over the room, during which she managed to stretch one of my arms into a wholly unnatural and uncomfortable position.

“Well, what do you want to do with your life?”

It takes a special person to have a mental meltdown in the middle of a massage appointment. I didn’t stop crying until hours and hours later, after downing a smoothie, renting a handful of Audrey Hepburn flicks, and wailing to Mom and Boyfriend.

For the rest of the summer, thankfully, I did not wallow around in such spectacular displays of self pity. I managed to have some fun, between volunteering for DC’s Capital Fringe Festival and taking two entirely enjoyable trips to Williamsburg and Toronto. As long as I kept moving, I could pretend that my jobless state didn’t gnaw and claw at the back of my mind. I scraped up a couple of interviews here and there (just enough to keep my hope alive), but no avail.

In September, my parents stumbled across an ad in the paper for a full-time librarian position. I had checked around newspapers and ads for months looking for jobs like that, and I couldn’t believe that one had finally opened up that didn’t require a Master’s Degree in Library Science. It sounded entirely too good to be true, but I threw on some dress clothes and drove down right away.

After an application, a series of essay questions, a timed interview before a panel of library higher-ups, and a written research test, I struck gold. I had a JOB, I had the glowing feeling of self-worth, I had an excuse to buy cute new work clothes. Friends, I had benefits. Two months later, I now can be found happily spending my days answering research questions, designing book displays, contextualizing information, and enjoying the company of my awesome coworkers and customers.

The last month of 2007 provided an even better epilogue when Boyfriend proposed to me. Being happily employed at last, I felt stable and independent and good enough about myself gave me the courage to say “YES!” — after, of course, gaping slack-jawed for a while. It happened after a day of extravagant dining at my favorite restaurant and Christmas-light-gazing in D.C., and I’ve been a giddy, giggly resident of Cloud 9 ever since.

2008 will be the year that I move out of my parents’ house for good. It will be the year that Boyfriend becomes Husband, a year of wedding planning and a honeymoon in Alaska, a year of newlywed bliss and dinner parties and what I hope amounts to a great deal of happiness.

Article © 2008 by Molly E. Weeks