Four Months In (And Counting)

On unemployment, defeatism, and getting up in the mornings

I got rejected for a job the day before New Year’s Eve. Well, I got rejected a lot of days. There were many, many days of rejection. But this one was different. This one was for a company I really loved, in a city I liked, for a position I could see myself growing in. Like when they call things careers instead of jobs.

It was raining that day. I had to duck under an awning to take the call. I thought it was going to be good news, since most companies deliver bad news over email. Maybe good news, too, but I have less experience with those. Small sample size and all that.

I was on my way to meet some friends for happy hour when Jess from HR called. Jess was maybe the nicest, most upbeat HR person I’ve ever talked to, so I didn’t realize it was a rejection until five minutes in. I felt like Ann in Parks and Rec, not realizing I had been dumped and feeling like a devastated idiot when I finally figured it out.

Naturally, happy hour became drown-my-sorrows hour, which is what a lot of hours have been looking like these days.

Life gets weird when things stop working out. I used to be a reluctant optimist. Well, I used to be a full-on optimist, but time happens, so I became one of those people who tried really hard to expect the worst. I wasn’t very good at it, though. But now, the crushing disappointment came with a side of surprise, because I hadn’t realized I was still hoping for the best.

Until I wasn’t.

It wasn’t really an active decision this time. It kind of sneaked up on me in the form of Unfortunately emails and petered out Tinder chats. Of increasing social anxiety and self-hatred. Of living in the house I grew up in.

Don’t get me wrong; I slip up now and then. Like on New Year’s Eve’s Eve. Or that time a friend flaked out on brunch. I still hope for things. But it feels muted now. Tainted by doubt. As if I’ve become a reluctant pessimist.

Defeatism doesn’t feel like I thought it would. I mean, some things are how I would expect it to be. That permeating thought of why bother. How much more effort it takes to go through the day. Leaving my friends’ messages unanswered. Endless streaming of Netflix. (Although that last one might happen no matter the mood.) What I hadn’t expected was the inability to envision a future I wanted for myself.

The other day I was having a hard time falling asleep, so I tried doing what I always did. I tried to dream up a story I wanted my life to take, usually in the form of a romantic comedy (because, well, I have no excuse), but this time I came up short. Kind of like writer’s block, but on my life.

There’s a difference between having your goals and desires written down on a checklist and actually being able to imagine it. Like knowing that you need orange juice and shampoo versus being able to picture walking into the supermarket and navigating the aisles. Being able to know where you’re going and the path you might take, even in your wildest dreams.

How do we lose our ability to dream and still get up in the mornings? How do we fill out more applications and keep swiping right? How do we keep hoping for the best, or even for the good enough? Really, I want to know. In the meantime, I’ll just keep going through the motions and hedge my bets. Because the thing about hope is that we find it in the end, right?

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