porcelainandporcupines

in which we celebrate the decision I never made to become an actress

Posted on: November 19, 2012

Although a terrible breach of etiquette, I thought it appropriate that the call offering me the position at the Illustrious Institute came while I was in a library. It was the day before Thanksgiving; I’d picked up my niece after school and, in keeping with the tradition established when I picked her up from camp over the summer, we stopped by the local library on the way home and she ate the banana I’d brought along as a snack for myself.

Her mother had just joined us in the Children’s Room when my phone rang. I had a pretty good inkling who it would be : my references had reported back to me that they received calls checking up on me from a gentleman who sounded nice but awkwardly lacking in humor. I had met only one such person recently (who was somewhat smoother in person than on the phone), so when the call came in from an area code I recognized but a number I didn’t, I hoped that it would be following up on that meeting.

And it was. Hanging up, I received congratulations not just from my sister and niece, but from another woman who was in Children’s Room with us as well, who, it turned out, had also received a job offer that day after several months of unemployment. Which, I think, is one of the most unintentionally lovely uses of technology of my entire life : my having a phone in the library (and being rude enough to answer it) had created an opportunity for a stranger to share her good news with us, which I in turn shared along with my own, with everyone I could think of once my sister, niece and I returned to their house.

What I did not share was that, on the way to their house, we made a small detour to a local pharmacy. Through an interesting and/or bizarre quirk of scheduling, every time over the past 5 years that I’ve gone to my sister’s house  has turned out to be Special Lady Time, and, despite that consistency, I have never once arrived prepared with the proper tools to deal with the fallout of that particular situation. It’s practically a family joke at this point, albeit one we typically don’t share with outsiders. (Ooops.)

In any event, my phone rang again as we stood in our aisle at the pharmacy and, as I now recognized the entire number since the last call hadn’t come in that long before, I answered it with a bit of trepidation; it has rarely been my experience that people call back to follow up on good news with more good news. This call proved no exception : although I had been offered the correct job, through a paperwork snafu (so understandable on the day before a long long weekend), I had been offered the wrong salary; the position actually paid about 10% less than I had originally accepted. Remember : in this case, “originally” means “10 minutes before”.

I could, if I chose, take my time to consider this new offer. But, really, there was nothing to think about. The original offer had struck me as exceedingly generous – I’d had no idea what the salary range for the position was, as I had never applied for it; rather, my application for another position had actually been kept on file, so I was called when this position opened up, even though I had never seen it advertised. The actual offer that I got on that second call was in line with what I had been expecting. Plus, I was unemployed; the new wage, though less than the theoretical salary I had entertained thoughts of for 10 minutes, was much, much more than the actual salary I had been earning for the past 6 months, which was nothing. Of course I said yes.

Still, I was disappointed. Even though I knew that was irrational: I hadn’t lost anything, after all; I still had gotten the job, and the actual salary was perfectly reasonable and in line with my expectations. But, for a moment, a brief and shining 10 minutes, my expectations had been exceeded; I was excited at the prospect that things were going to be great. Now, I had to reconcile myself to the reality that they would merely be good, even as I knew I would have believed that goodness to be greatness had I never been offered and thus not considered anything else.

As I said, I kept that to myself. For the most part. I shared the news of my good fortune without caveat and enjoyed the reflected joy of friends at my success as though it had not been diluted for me either. But I’ve had occasion to think back to that second phone call several times over the past two years, as cracks have appeared and the gradual falling out of love increases in velocity as we get nearer and nearer to the earth. (I don’t, you know, know anything about physics. Although I would love to, if I didn’t have to learn it first.) Most recently when, after expressing what I thought was not an unreasonable concern that recent changes will negatively impact my career goals and desired timeline for the achievement of said goals, it was suggested to me that I could pretend to be happy. Which struck me as kind of funny. Because, for so much of the time, I thought I was.

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