The job I didn't take: a stream of professional consciousness.

Last Monday, I took the El downtown for a job interview.
(Is it the “L” or the El? A debate rages on Facebook.)

Rewind:

A few weeks ago, a woman sent an e-mail to the address I published on my website, asking whether I’d consider going back to full-time employment if the right opportunity presented itself.
She was legit. I’d heard of the organization. (Everyone here has heard of the organization.)
We met at Starbucks to talk. I drank a huge latte and wrapped up our conversation with the jitters and a land speed record for spoken words per minute. I loved her and was all a-twitter over a job for the first time in I don’t know how long.
And she liked me. She liked me. She liked me.
At least I think she did.

She did. She invited me downtown to meet more of the team, and I accepted. But it had to wait until after my Florida trip, where I was speaking to a client’s sales force about a content strategy that I’d been instrumental in developing.
Me.
I did that.

I went into the interview with my signature mix of almost-cocky confidence and crippling self-doubt, feeling almost like I was making up words but knowing I wasn’t pulling insight out of nowhere.
Maybe, after all this time, I actually do know what I’m talking about.
Maybe I’m not just faking it.
Maybe I could really do something here. Something real. Something of value.

And yet:

Oh, God. Everyone’s wearing slacks.
Those women had to reserve the conference room.
That’s the most well-stocked Keurig station I’ve ever seen.
Oh, God. Reusable mugs. Flashbacks.

I heard myself asking about culture and work-life balance, and remember staring blankly at the [very lovely] woman from HR who asked me about a time I had to………
My spirits sank as my three-hour interview wore on. I liked the people I met and the romantic prospect of so much more but felt a nagging feeling I’ve felt so many times before.

The interview ended with lunch, just the two of us: The woman who’d emailed me, and me.

I pushed that sinking feeling aside and spoke from that part of my heart that really does yearn for security, for workplace camaraderie, for three weeks’ paid vacation and retirement-account matching, for the ability to say I was part of the team that…, for unlimited free Keurig and holiday parties and TGIFs.
The same-ol’, you know?

But truthfully:

It’s been less than a year since I paid the state $600 to establish my LLC, and in that less than a year, I’ve actually built a business.
I have clients that I love and work that I enjoy. There are budding professional relationships that, if I don’t see them through, will founder and dissipate. That I will regret walking away from. (And I know I would have to.)

I like my unstructured sofa-and–yoga pants lifestyle. I know that’s not the way successful business owners do things, but I do it anyway.
I have cats and a boyfriend who works in the service industry — who I know for a fact I’d see even less if I took a 9-to-5 — and a new MacBook Pro that holds my entire life on a single drive. (Well, and the Cloud.)

Hell, I’m actually slowly tiptoeing away from the black-sheep status I’ve inadvertently clung to so tightly for so many years.

And all that got me more than the slacks and the conference room and the fluorescent lights oh god the fluorescent lights. I hadn’t even been offered the job, but I knew not to take it if I were.

I’m a business owner. An entrepreneur with something to strive for, even if some days it’s just making rent and paying off my debts. So I walked away from the opportunity with the same almost-cocky confidence and crippling self-doubt I went in with. And grace. I hope I was gracious.

 

And then, today:

I sardined myself onto the train (we’ll just call it the train) home from a day spent wandering downtown and working between two Starbucks, with the slacks and the fluorescent lights oh GOD the fluorescent lights, I knew I’d made the right choice.

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21 Responses to “The job I didn't take: a stream of professional consciousness.”

  1. Niki Says:

    I’m floating in a strange new world right now, this wonderland between “unemployment” and “steady job” in which terms like “freelance” and “project by project basis” have started popping up & I’m thinking … do I dare?

    Do I dare, Paige? DO I DARE?! (it’s already CAPSLOCKTHURS on the East Coast)

    Also: xoxo, love

  2. Stacey McGirr Says:

    The lights are awful. Migraine inducing, ever present evil of working for health insurance and a “retirement plan”. Love you, Paige, stay strong.

  3. Theresa Markham Says:

    For the right opportunity… the one where Paige Worthy, LLC is written on the door to the office with the unlimited Keurig. and also written on the paychecks that Paige Worthy signs for her employees, every other Friday.

  4. BrianD Says:

    God…finally..,,I truly miss this…

  5. heidimassey Says:

    For all of us, Paige, who understand exactly how difficult it was to do what you did and why you had to do it. Thank you.

  6. Houseonahillorg Says:

    i LOVE this for so much more than the fb shout-out! 25 years ago I was a writer who abandoned my passion for the florescent lighting. It took 25 years and social media to get myself back so I applaud you warrior!!! I have 4 years until my retirement so there is no time to regret my decision …besides, I would much rather cheer you and embrace your voice! Your courage…the resilient fortitude to your craft, is commendable and righteous. I am so ecstatic for you being you right now!

  7. socialmediadds Says:

    Love this story…the passion that you exude here is proof that you did make the right choice. As I was reading this, the theme song from the old Mary Tyler Moore Show (yes, I realize that many won’t know what I am talking about) popped into my head…that scene where MTM is walking in the streets of Minneapolis and she throws her oh-so-cute tam high into the air as she spins around happily and the theme song proclaims “you’re gonna make it after all”. Indeed!

  8. Jaime Morelli Wrobel Says:

    Believe you me, those of us working under the fluorescent lights are always looking for a way to get out from under them…

  9. Traci F Says:

    There are great advantages to both. Good for you that you know which choice is the right one for you, because that takes guts!

  10. Tankboy Says:

    It’s L. https://twitter.com/cta/status/167752455893954560

  11. Renita Marjan Says:

    Between you and Helena, I’m really admiring people who have the courage, the wherewithal, the knowledge to take that step.

    And I’m realizing I don’t have it. I’m just not motivated enough, or self-confident enough or something. I’m happy to do freelance things on the side, but I don’t have the fortitude to take it further. And I’m OK with that. I’ll admire the entrepreneurial from my fluorescent-lit cubicle. 🙂

  12. turnthepaigeman Says:

    Cool people don’t need to broadcast their whole life on the internet. Can you possibly be this insecure and this desperate for attention and validation? Oh, and saying you’re doing it “for profit” is simply tacky.

  13. Stacy Jill Calvert Says:

    Paige, thank you for writing this. This reminds me of why I came back to grad school. Kudos to following your gut! 🙂

  14. paigeworthy Says:

    Thanks Jenny!!

  15. Paige Worthy Says:

    Good luck, lady — not that you need it 🙂

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