Toto, I Don’t Think We’re In Kansas Anymore!

by Jen on March 8, 2011

This post is comes from a memoir prompt from The Red Dress Club.  The assignment is to describe a scene in your life that would help someone you just met understand who you are.  This is an exercise in showing and not telling.
It was the first time I’d ever not made it, not sailed through an interview, and not gotten the job.  It felt rotten.  It was the first time I cursed my previously charmed life for not setting me up for rejection.  Today, all of my life’s successes seemed almost unrecognizable next to this one, small, seemingly insignificant dismissal.
I’d interviewed for a night job waiting tables at a casual Italian restaurant.  I was light years overqualified, but had gotten in over my head with my beautiful, yet massively overpriced apartment.  To subsidize unexpected expenses, I needed to swallow my pride and make some fast cash.  Something that wouldn’t interfere with my day job, but would give me the most bang for my buck.  My 9 to 5 provided stress.  I did not need more of that.  I simply wanted to sling lasagna, collect tips, and go home.
I sat across a sticky table while the pompous manager raised his eyebrows and pretended to really absorb my resume.  It was saturated with qualities that I knew made him question my motive for even applying.  
“Look, I have a day job.  But, I just moved here from Kansas, and I don’t know a soul, and I need some extra money, and I was hoping I could just pick up few shifts here each week.”
After explaining his vision, mission statement, and team member expectations, he politely told me I wasn’t “quite what they were looking for”.  
Blow me.  I left pissed off.  I felt rejected by the boy I didn’t even want in the first place.  It was for the best, right?
I drove home and opened the front door to the apartment that was driving me broke.  It was empty.  And quiet.  Just as everything had been since I abruptly loaded my life and my dogs into a Uhaul and headed to Florida.  I slipped off my shoes to feel the tile, the tile that always seemed to remind me that I now lived in the south.  Branches filled with rubbery Magnolia leaves dipped by my window, and taunting mini lizards rested on the glass.  This was my home.  
Me, Millie & Libby – April 2003
My Moving Team.
Young, Brave, Clueless.
I’d probably made a mistake.  I’d made the split decision to uproot my life, leave my family, leave my friends, and write a new story, with new, sandier landscape.  I’d made my career my priority.  I hadn’t given myself the time to bullet pros and cons.  I’d just done it.  And then, when I’d arrived, I rented the first apartment I could find and had been pinching pennies and scraping by ever since.  So much for my first big girl salary.
I spent a thousand nights making dinner for one.  I drove a thousand miles with the dogs on my lap under canopy roads exploring my new terrain and finding my new favorite places.  I spent a thousand hours on the phone with my mother describing the suffocating humidity, and the alligator that lived in the holding pond near my office.  I said a thousand thank you’s for having the determination to make this foreign land my new home.
I needed a break.  I had been skirting by on luck and a positive attitude, and I just needed a flipping break.  I was proud of myself.  I was working like a dog, feeling my way around my new job and trying like hell to look calm on the surface.  But I was lost – in over my head.  And I needed that second job.  It would be just enough to bail me out and get me by, and without it, I’d be screwed.
But I didn’t get it.  I’d failed at the shittiest thing I’d ever tried out for.  Now what?  My DNA had never allowed me to throw in the towel before.  I knew that wasn’t an option.  So I didn’t.
Eight years later, I sit in the kitchen I share with my new husband.  My feet are planted on the chilly tile, and my dogs rest on the rug in front of the kitchen sink while our dinner simmers on the stove.  I look out the window to see the first lizards of Spring staring back at me.  Magnolia trees fill in the background and will never be anything less than remarkable.  They remind me of how far I’ve come, and how lost I had to get in order to find my way home.
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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jessica March 8, 2011 at 3:48 am

What a great post, how funny that most of the time defining moments are not the best of ones but the ones we have to work hard to come back from. Well written and I'm so glad that uhaul trip was worth it!


2 Selena March 8, 2011 at 4:43 am

We've all been there! Isn't it amazing how seemingly in the blink of an eye life goes from foreign and new and unfamiliar and struggling to being worn and comfortable and easy? Well…sometimes.


3 Kimberly March 8, 2011 at 6:13 am

Absolutely beautiful. You took this prompt and used it so well. The impact that the move you made at the time seemed unwise but as you grew there, you knew it was right where you needed to belong.


4 Pamela Gold March 8, 2011 at 6:48 am

You took the plunge and you made it. A rough road traveled but you parked in your own driveway. Great writing.


5 Denelle @CaitsConcep March 8, 2011 at 12:19 pm

The last line is so, so powerful. Funny how (not where) the roads can sometimes lead us.


6 letmestartbysaying March 9, 2011 at 3:39 am

I love taking a risk! I really think we need to pay for things before we can get them, in more ways than one. Enjoyed this!Came by from TRDC…


7 DaisyGal March 9, 2011 at 9:29 am

here from TRDC, and this was just amazing. GOOD FOR YOU. I always feel that way for anyone willing to take risks, to just throw caution to the wind and "just do it" . It shows me a lot about you, how determined you are, how little disappointments won't change who you are. GOOD JOB!!!


8 andygirl March 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm

oh my goodness I so needed to read this! how did you know? I uprooted my life and career to move to a whole new state not that long ago and I've been questioning things. you give me hope. also? this was wonderfully written. I really enjoyed it. well done!


9 Sherree March 9, 2011 at 7:10 pm

The first time I moved from home, was after I got married and I had the only grandchildren. It was so hard to move from Texas (West Texas at that) and move all the way to Montgomery, AL. That was 33 years ago and now I am experiencing it with my daughter. How my mother must have had to hide the tears. Then the next move was all the way to Turkey and that was the ultimate move. Thanks for sharing, you were brave to do it on your own. I am a new follower and have come by way of the "Lady Blogger Tea Party.


10 Galit Breen March 10, 2011 at 2:43 pm

I adore the way that you showed life's twists and turns and how they shape today. (Love the photos, too!)


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