Once upon a time, I interned at a magazine in its editorial department. It was my senior year in college, which I like to think was just yesterday but, in reality, was nearly three years ago, and I was pretty sure I was winning at everything in life. I interviewed fun entrepreneurs and interesting professionals, wrote several articles a week, and was certain I was the next Diane Sawyer (print edition).
I wanted to work for the magazine more than anywhere else after I graduated — so badly that I even applied for the receptionist position, which made about no money and obviously had nothing to do with journalism. From my whopping seven hours a week spent in the office, I was positive the people and atmosphere were everything I could ever dream of in a first job environment. (Clearly seven weekly hours is enough to tell something like that, right?…)
It all seemed ideal, except for this one girl.
She was a full-time employee, and I worked with her on a couple fact checking assignments. I knew her job vaguely revolved around fact checking and data analysis within the editorial department, and I can clearly remember watching her walk down a hall one day with a sullen look on her face, a norm, and thinking to myself, I would hate to have her job.
Nothing against her at all — she was nice and always appreciative of my help. And maybe she loved what she did, but the vibe I picked up was that she wasn’t content in her work. It showed in her mannerisms, attitude, and lack of excitement toward much of anything.
Fast forward to the end of my internship, I had a diploma in hand and a job nowhere to be found. I didn’t get the receptionist position — luckily, in hindsight — and ended up working for a few months at a public relations company. Honestly, I just needed a job, and that was the first one that came up, but I still so desperately wished I could work for the magazine.
After the PR stint (short-lived for a variety of reasons, namely because I had no PR training or interest in the field whatsoever), I took a job doing marketing and writing for a real estate startup. This was a little closer to base with my goals — at least I was getting to be creative.
But I always had the magazine in the back of my mind.
I applied for every opening I heard of from my sources still at the publication, and after three or four failed pursuits at various editor gigs there, I heard from the editor himself. He sent me an email asking if I would like to be in the runnings for the very position I had vowed I never wanted to take.
At that point, I wanted more structure than I was getting in the startup environment, and I’d been applying for and failing at snagging jobs at the magazine for nearly 10 months. I figured, why not? I probably wasn’t going to get this job either, so I interviewed. And I got the offer the very next day.
This was it. For some reason, this had panned out, and I would be a fool not to go for it after all of my obsessive courting. Of course, I took the job.
Yes, I am the millennial who had three different jobs within the first year of graduating college.
Of this I was hyper-aware, and even on my first day, when my mind, heart, and soul were telling me I had been right about this position all those months ago — that it was TOTALLY wrong for me — I was determined to make it work. This had been my “dream company,” after all.
Six months into it, I reached the pit of a dark depression. I was staring at Excel spreadsheets for eight hours a day, writing not at all, and feeling quite literally trapped. I felt so hopeless, so uninspired and unmotivated and underwhelmed, that I believed I was holding back my relationship from being what it should be, had I been in a happier place professionally, and tried breaking up with my boyfriend. Twenty-four hours later I realized it was a mistake, big time, to push away one of the closest people in my life.
So, not really knowing what else to do, I put myself in therapy the very next week.
I felt my only option to feel more fulfilled at work was to move up in the company somehow and, if that failed, to stick it out as long as possible where I was. Well, the former fell through — turns out my job was not an easy or fun one to replace, wouldn’t you know — and sticking it out for even another six months, even two more months, seemed unbearable, considering my daily dread of simply getting out of bed.
Funny, isn’t it? This vehement goal I once had for myself ended up being one of the toughest career — and personal — moves I could have made. I did stick it out — for a year and a half, in fact — and, although they weren’t my happiest days, I can now see with clarity what my time there afforded me: hardly enough money for rent, car expenses, pet supplies, and groceries, and also the patience to push through the storm, the capability to remove myself from a place of victimhood, and the unwavering knowledge of what precisely I do want from and in my career.
Had I not been in a wretched job space, hit a maddening state of depression, and gotten myself a shrink, I would have never started this blog (my therapist was the one who really pushed me to get here and just start making something I love), which through its various stages has saved me in some ways. I might have broken up with my boyfriend for good (actually brings tears to my eyes to think about this), which would’ve meant maybe he didn’t go to grad school and move to Nashville with me to pursue our respective futures.
Sometimes, getting the thing you want most leads to awful, messy, longwinded repercussions. And sometimes those repercussions lead to a thing you didn’t even realize you actually wanted, and needed, more than that first thing. And that’s why life is crazy beautiful sometimes, even in the muck, even in the clouds.
Photography by Jessica Steddom.