Over Memorial Day weekend, my sister called. We had to set up file-sharing so she could download some pictures of her house that she thought she had lost. This led, not surprisingly, to an hour-long conversation about my hilarious efforts to find a decent job (or any job, at this point) in an art-related field in which I’m competent. Since she also failed to find employment doing anything resembling what she wanted to do, it’s one of the few areas where she commiserates with me instead of condescending to me.
She gave me all these pointers about her perceived problems with my cover letter and resume (which she hasn’t even looked at—she just happened to take a class in how to make a “bitchin'” resume) and then the conversation gradually turned toward a bombshell she had never before revealed:
“So yeah, a few weeks after you left L.A., I got an e-mail from Cam asking what happened to you because you kind of fell off the face of the planet,” she said. “He said he’d e-mailed you a couple of times but didn’t hear back, so he was wondering what happened. I told him that you ran out of money and had to go back to Chicago, and he said, ‘Oh, that’s a shame, because he said if you’d stayed another week, they’d have hired you on full-time.'”
At first I was livid. Cam happens to be engaged to my school’s L.A. internship coordinator, arguably the least helpful person on the planet. I was angry first at her for again proving her uselessness by not telling me something like that, then at myself because I kinda blew her off when I got back to Chicago. I was jaded and bitter, but she did call me once; I picked up, thinking it was someone else, but got her off the phone really fast. The last thing she said to me was, “Don’t blow this off.”
In that instant of lividity, I was thinking, did she tell me not to blow this off because when I had called back, she was going to tell me an employment offer had been extended? But as the shock and anger wore off, I gradually began to realize that what my sister had told me made no sense whatsoever, and I explained to her why:
- As an initial side-note, I pointed out that Cam hadn’t e-mailed me at all after I had left. Not once. And, even after getting ahold of my sister and hearing back from her, I still didn’t hear from him myself.
- I had given notice at both of my internships. Not a whole lot, and I ended up skipping out earlier than I had told them, which probably didn’t go over well, but they were aware that I was leaving, and they were aware of one reason why. If either of them had intended to put me on full-time, they had ample time to speak up. They didn’t.
- Of the two internships, Cam’s fiancée only knew of one. Ironically, at the one she didn’t know about I was treated with respect, felt somewhat like I fit in, and was made to feel like I was competent in what I was doing. At the one she was aware of, I didn’t fit in at all. The people there would ignore me if they could, they gave me worse than menial tasks (I know, I know—that’s part of being a lowly intern, but at least at the other internship they didn’t make me feel like I was doing all the piddly crap they wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole), and just generally treated me like an outsider. Since this was the only one the internship coordinator knew about, I find it really surprising that of the two, this was the one that intended to offer me a paid position.
- Before I even gave notice, I took a half-day off from the internship where I didn’t belong so I could go to Santa Monica for an open interview at a café. When I came back thinking the interview went well, the women at the production company were excited that I’d be getting a paying job somewhere and also recommended various other places where I might be able to make more money (none of which were hiring). Doesn’t really sound like the kind of place that planned to hire me…
- One of my friends worked the exact same internship at the exact same place—she was Monday-Wednesday-Friday; I was Tuesday-Thursday—and she actually got along well with the people there. Yet, she interned there for a whole summer and then, in the end, was cut loose, with the typical promises about how they would have loved to hire her but just couldn’t afford it. I suspected that was how things would end from the moment I interviewed, when the women who interviewed me kept talking about how great the previous interns were, and I was just thinking, “So why did you let them go?” Answer: they didn’t plan to hire anybody; like most places, they just wanted the free labor.
I had always had the feeling that Cam’s fiancée would say or do anything to keep her job or make herself look good, so long as it didn’t involve actually doing her job well. This just seemed to me like proof of that, with the truth hidden even from even her fiancé. It’s not the most unreasonable thing in the world. If I had people breathing down my neck from all sides, saying, “What’s up with this kid who just bailed?” I’d probably make up a similar lie. But I also wouldn’t dangle the lie in front of the other person (or his sister). It’s just more of the school’s empty promises, which had stranded me out there in the first place.
Why wouldn’t I dangle it? Because here’s how I reacted: I said, “It’s a bunch of bullshit and here’s why,” but…it nagged at me. I was in a foul mood for the rest of the weekend, and I let it kind of gnaw at me all week, going back in forth in my head, with a 99.9% certainty that everything Tracey had heard from Cam was a total load of bullshit, but I just couldn’t let that 0.1% go. What if they had wanted to hire me? What if they had intended to offer me a job on the very day I stopped showing up, after giving my two weeks’ notice one week before? Maybe I was just that much better than my friend who never got hired at all. They had just hired a director of development, whom I actually clicked with, who liked my coverage—maybe she would have needed an assistant. Maybe I had fucked myself out of a nice (to start with) career opportunity for some really, really stupid reasons.
When Friday rolled around, I could no longer tolerate all this horrible, horrible thinking I had been doing. I had to take some kind of action. Should I call up the production company and ask about it? No, no, that’d never work. Maybe I should just call and try to make amends, apologize for walking out on them so abruptly. Not trying to pry any information out of them, but perhaps the information be divulged. “Sorry I ditched you.” “Oh, the only person you fucked was yourself—I was just about to offer you a job.” “Oh, how silly of me. Let us now laugh.”
I stared at their business card, which I had discovered while cleaning out a bunch of old shit, contemplating whether or not I had the guts to actually call them and—gasp!—apologize.
Not today, I thought, and instead sent an e-mail to my friend, the other half of what we jokingly called “Team Intern,” the tactic we had used to get hired together—we knew each other in advance, so we could talk to each other and coordinate the way we ran the office, to make sure everything ran smoothly. If there was something she found out on Friday would happen on Tuesday, she could call me up and let me know. Team Intern, yes, that’s the ticket.
She responded to me a few hours later, quelling my fears and neuroses by reminding me of various other factors that would have prevented us both from being hired full-time. This just wasn’t the place for that. They were a relatively small operation, they obviously wanted to keep the overhead low, so by having two interns in rotation working for three months and then replaced, they had all the additional help they really needed, and for free! In exchange, the very purpose of an internship: payment in experience and maybe—just maybe!—a shiny new reference.
My irritating conscious mind allayed, I was able to continue sending out a resume that, I assume, human resources people print out and hang up on the bulletin board in the break room for everyone to first laugh at, then sigh with the relief one gets in knowing they don’t have somebody like me working for or with them.
Let the good times roll.