Fears and Doubts and Hakken-Kraks
The Friday before I road tripped with Jeremy to Texas (part 1 of this story), I woke up to find this in my inbox:
I jumped out of bed and got ready for my last day of work in Florida, motivated by the opportunities. That email helped reinforce my choice to jump into this whole unknown and helped me push the doubts that were telling me that “I am never going to get a job and yes, I’m really that unwanted” away.
The night before the job fair, Jeremy and I had a long discussion about the whole thing. I haven’t talked about this much here, but I have Asperger’s. Most people in my life don’t know because I am good at passing. I know my triggers and I know how to avoid or work around them (most of the time). This safe and non-judgmental plan session helped give me one thing I needed to succeed: what to expect.
Jeremy is an Accounting major and many of his classes talked about job fairs and interviews. His university hosted multiple and, though he wasn’t involved in them, he saw them take place. He told me that the goal of the employers was to get a first impression of people and decide who they wanted to interview. First impressions are not something I excel at. I am not good at reading people, have trouble making eye contact, and am horrible at small talk. All of this is made worse when I’m nervous, which I told myself I wouldn’t let myself be.
I lied to myself. I was very nervous. While driving, all of my doubts came to mind again. The whole structure of the job fair scared me because I felt like I was designed to fail. Then iRis, my iPhone, shuffled my iTunes to play Hall of Fame by The Script:
My bitties sang this as one of the three songs for our End of Year Program, based on Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss (text). And I cried, because I was tearing myself down. “On I will go,” I told myself. “And will I succeed?” I asked myself. In my mind I heard every one of my bitties shout “Yes! You will, indeed!” as we practiced so many times.
I thought back on a conversation I had with AP, one of my bitties, on the last day of school. He confessed that he was scared to go to first grade. I realized that I had handled it wrong. I told him that he had no reason to be scared because he was smart and capable, brainy and footsy. He could handle it and he would do amazing things. I believed in him.I shouldn’t have told him that his feelings were wrong. Instead, I should have said: Yes, new things can be scary. It is ok to be scared. But, you’re smart and capable, brainy and footsy, can handle it, will do amazing things, and I believe in you.
I told myself: New things can be scary. It is ok to be scared, but you have no reason to be. You can handle this. You are smart and capable. I believe in you.
I decided not to take all of Jeremy, my stepmom, and the internet’s advice. I did not dress up fancy shmancy in typical interview clothes. I feel awkward and restricted in them, the fabrics usually mess with me, and it ends up being one more thing going on in my mind keeping me from focusing. Besides, I reasoned, everyone else is going to be dressed like that. The interviewers that are judging on that won’t choose me because I fail at it. I needed to sell the things about me that are different, special, and unique. I needed to sell me. I wore an ankle-length lavendar skirt that I frequently wear in the classroom and a purple flowered tank top with a purple short-sleeved sweater over thingy on top. (See how good at fashion I am?)
While checking in, I noticed a few different things:
- Most people did not come prepared. When I signed up for the event online (required), they emailed me a huge packet of things to print out that included a map of the district with all of the schools names labeled. Almost every other person I spoke with asked where I got that.
- Quite a few people mentioned that this was their second job fair with the district and that they had come for the May job fair. Jeremy had told me that I probably wouldn’t get an offer the day of, but now I was wondering if I would get an offer at all. Could the market here be as rough as in Florida? That’s what I was expecting. Don’t get your hopes up, Heather.
On my map, I created a key to help me keep track of where I had been. A circled school was one that I left a resume. A school with a square around its name was one that I had a mini-interview with. A starred school was one I had a full interview with. As I walked through the rows of tables, I busied myself with finding the schools and labelling them correctly. This kept my mind from my fears, kept my energy up, and tapped into something I enjoy which helped keep me personable.
I thought I did well at multiple tables and I stumbled at a few. At one in particular, ABC Elementary, I thought I ruined the entire thing because I wasn’t sure what the principal was asking. She was patient, clarified with her reasoning for the question, and I was able to answer well, highlighting the reasons why and how I do well with that type of student and how I would benefit her school. She and the assistant principal thanked me and told me that they would be in touch if they wanted to see me again, and to keep my phone on just in case.
I went on my way, thinking it was another “thank you, but no thank you.” Fifteen minutes later, I received a text message: come back to ABC table. I responded: On my way! Thank you. I bounced with joy and headed back. The principal immediately offered me the job and we talked for a while longer about her students, staff, and the struggles and strengths of the school. She complimented me, adding that it takes a certain type of teacher to do well in their environment. With the paperwork I needed in hand, she sent me to the HR tables.
She took the bracelet I was given at the entrance and told me I wasn’t allowed to keep looking at other tables since I accepted. With a smile, I said, “Go home. Be happy. Got it!”
I texted Jeremy: Less than a week in TX and I have a job! In a school I’m super excited about, too!