Written By: Leslie Means
I left an hour ahead of schedule that morning knowing I would have difficulty finding the café. Sure enough, I got lost – but had plenty of cushion time to reroute my directions. After a few U-turns, I was back on the Houston freeway navigating my way through early lunch hour traffic.
I arrived with 10 minutes to spare. Enough time to add an extra layer of deodorant, smooth my hair and calm my nerves.
This was a big interview.
I’d been in Houston for nearly a year and wasn’t having the best time finding my dream job; not that I knew what that was. I was 24, newly married, fresh out of college and living in one of the largest cities in the country. I had left my comfort zone many times since moving to the city and was certain this day would be another one of those moments.
I needed this interview. While I waited for the clock in my car to hit noon, I thought of everything I had experienced within the past year.
My marriage was strong, but Kyle wasn’t home much. His job left him working late nights and most weekends, which left me alone. I left before he woke up in the morning for my gig at a local television station an hour and a half away from our apartment. When the long drives got the best of me, I left my first official “real” job to find something, anything closer to our apartment in Houston.
I had a few interviews; one sympathy call from my husband’s employer, a funeral home public relations firm and one freelance gig with NASA that never did pay me. Unfortunately, they all ended with the same result; no.
For a while, it was really depressing. I started getting rejection letters in the mail on a weekly basis from companies I hadn’t remembered applying for. I was afraid to drive in traffic so I didn’t get out of our apartment very often and on the days I did venture away, it was only to the nearby Target. When I realized I knew many of the sales clerks at that store by name, I finally swallowed my pride and picked up a job at a nearby GAP.
“I can’t work there anymore,” I whispered to myself, while waiting in my car. “This is it.”
I walked in to the café and asked the hostess if my guests had arrived. I was waiting on two women; two strangers from a large firm in Houston that would surely recognize my strengths. They had already interviewed me over the phone and online. Both had been enough to get a call back and this was the third and final step to that dream job.
I waited near the window towards the front so I could see them walk in.
“What would you like to drink, Miss,” the waiter questioned. Not certain of the proper etiquette for a lunch interview, I stuck with ice water and a lemon to make me look mature.
“Would you like to order something?” the waiter replied moments later. I was surprised at how quickly he came back to the table.
“No, thank you, I’m waiting on two others,” I stated. He nodded and walked away.
I had been so caught up in the moment of fidgeting, that I failed to notice nearly 20 minutes had passed, without site of the two women I was waiting for.
I felt the pit of my stomach turn.
Finally they walked in – nearly 30 minutes late. I ordered rice rolls, uncertain if I would be stuck with the bill or if they would take it upon themselves to pay. As I pecked at my food, they chatted amongst themselves. They were at least 10 years my senior and didn’t seem to be at all interested in what I had to say.
I don’t remember their words. In fact, I’m not sure they said much at all. Instead, they left me with the bill, a plate full of discombobulated food and a crushed heart.
“Can I send you a few writing samples?” I asked.
“Sure,” they said. “You can do that. We’ll look for it.”
I never heard from them again.
And with that, the interview was complete and I was distraught. I got back in my car and the tears found my eyes. Bawling, I drove through traffic listening to a song that seemed to speak my language. I turned it up, loud as it could go, and wailed in self-pity.
It was one of the lowest moments of my life.
Last week, I heard that song again. Alone in my car with only my thoughts, I turned the radio up almost as high as it could go. Goosebumps filled my body and tears found my eyes again.
I recalled that interview, that moment of self-pity and couldn’t believe how far life had taken me since that day.
That ‘no’ ultimately led me back home to Nebraska. It opened doors I couldn’t have imagined and made me discover things about myself I didn’t know I could do. Over 7 years later, I’m still not positive what life has in store for me but I know where I want to go and who I want to be.
If only I could go back to those women and thank them for not seeing my potential that day. Their lack of confidence in my skills helped me redefine myself and my dreams. It was, perhaps, the best interview I’ve ever had.
Want to know the song that made me bawl and now gives me chills? Click here to watch and listen to Coldplay – Fix You! Turn it up during the crescendo – it might give you chills too!
Click here to read more of Leslie’s columns in the Kearney Hub