I was interviewing with a staffing agency in downtown San Francisco for an administrative position. I had dressed up in my nicest interview outfit, straightened my hair, put on makeup. I even wore heels. I sat down with the interviewer and she read over my resume again, set it down on the table and said, "Listen, I'm going to be straight with you..." She then proceeded to tell me that if I wanted to get a job in this city, I needed to "drop my nice girl Mother Teresa complex," gain some confidence, lose my shyness and Southern politeness (no more yes ma'am s), soft spoken-ness, and wear a designer suit and nice pearl earrings. Then, and only then, would I be taken seriously. You can't be nice in this city, especially as a woman, she informed me, you have to decide who you need to be to get the job, then be that person.
I was floored. I'm pretty sure I blushed at the Mother Teresa and soft spoken comments. I was a little hurt, a tad indignant. Who was this woman? Why was she picking on me? Can't you be confident while still being modest, sweet, and gracious to people? Why would I want to be something I'm not? Who cares about stupid pearl earrings and a nice suit? I have a brain, right?
When I left, I thought about what she had said a lot. My cheeks were still burning a little from the verbal lashing, but I marched my high-heeled self right down to Ann Taylor and bought the best fake pearl earrings my spending money could buy. And I wore them to every interview I had from then on...except two. Both of those jobs I was offered and took.
Now, I'm not saying that I got those jobs because I didn't wear those dumb earrings. I think I got those jobs because #1: (obviously) God wanted me to and #2: I went in not trying to be someone else. Those earrings represented me straying mentally and emotionally from what I knew I was meant to be doing: working with young children. You see, at that point in my job search, I had given up on finding something I wanted to do and was grasping at anything and everything that came up on Craigslist and Idealist.
I had forgotten about this:
I forgot about little arms around my neck squeezing tight. I downplayed my love for hearing a speech-challenged child try to say "Bethany," or my joy at seeing a "lightbulb moment" dawn in a toddler's eyes. I forgot the sweet exhaustion that comes from pouring your body, heart, and soul into little ones because you want so badly for them to succeed. I didn't remember "besitos."
I lost my focus, my sense of purpose.
I'm grateful for a level-headed husband who steered me back in the right direction, and who has remained supportive and patient as I've still struggled to find my way in the last year.
I'm also thankful for those pearl(esque) earrings. I still have them. They remind me to not lose sight of what I know I should be doing, and they help me remember who I am and can be, even if someone tries to tell me otherwise.