I have felt useless before. Maybe even more useless than a white crayon pencil feels in the midst of other colorful ones. But the kind I experienced after I completed college last year was simply unprecedented. And for some reason, I was convinced that a job would fix that. A flowery job that paid a salary with sufficient zeros at the front. A sexy job that not only has firm abs but connecting beards as well.
Look, I was prepared for the job hunt to be hard. I just did not realize just how hard it can get. I applied to several companies and got several rejection letters back. Sounds cliche, doesn’t it? But let me tell you how I see it from this high seat my sweet ass is perched on. This right here -the presence of rejection- is the problem with the universe. I’ve always been an exemplary citizen at every stage of my life (even those that do not count). And exemplary citizens, like all of us, are just never that properly wired to handle rejection or failure or whatever it is that bears a semblance of both. In my case, every time I get rejected, especially for a job, every part of my body hurts. Legs, head, phalanges, toes, all the way to my heart. But what usually hurts the most is my head. It throbs with unimaginable pain that I feel like I’m spinning.
My first significant job rejection was with Deloitte. And if you are not familiar with this company, may I ask you to move to the other side of the room for special intervention prayers? Anyways, the night I saw that rejection e-mail, I crouched in my bed, bawling my eyes out all the while asking God what in the deserted hell was wrong with him. Why His Bible says, ‘Ask and it shall be given unto you,’ when He clearly had no intention of fulfilling that promise at all?
Here is the thing. While applying for this particular vacancy, I had very well known that it was a gamble. But I sure as hell never imagined failing at the very first interview. Didn’t I just tell you how much I consider myself an exemplary human? And, I’m not sure that failure can be described to be a feeling, but it sure is what I felt at that moment in time. It is the one word my mind kept screaming at me as I lay on my bed with my face covered in salty water. Boys and girls, listen, your favorite auntie here cried her bone marrow out that day.
You’d think that after a few hours of crying, I’d be ready to dust myself off and move on to other things. Tears do not pay bills, do they now? And I was. Because it is what adults do. We cry, howl, curse, cry some more but we suck it up in the end and show up to appointments like life didn’t just kick our narrow asses. But the devil, good old devil with his furry tail was not ready for me to move on just yet.
The following day, while at a class group discussion, two of my friends chided about how those interviews were known to be cutthroat. How I would probably have been cut off somewhere along the way anyway. And to them, that should have been reason enough for me to rejoice because now it wouldn’t hurt as much as it would have, had I proceeded to the final or semifinal interviews and failed. I smiled tightly and nodded in agreement to that bull-crap just to get them to move on to the next topic. Although I wished I could tell them that rejection at any stage hurts like a motherfucker. Instead, I sat frozen on my seat feeling mixed up but silently begging my tears not to show their malnourished salty faces.
Of course, a job took long, much longer to arrive. It is a thing with good jobs -they take the longest route home -at least most of the time. And I don’t remember when, but I was beginning to get so used to receiving rejection emails that every time I opened my email, I’d say, ‘So, what have you got here for me today, Satan?’ And Satan never came to play. He always delivered.
And so, more crying set in. But just so we are clear on the number of tears I shed during the months that followed graduation, do you remember cousin Job from the good old Bible? The one who fell grossly sick, had three friends and a wife that gave very bad advice? Yes, that one. You thought that he won the trophy of lamentations with a landslide? You are wrong because, during the months that followed graduation, I could swear to have snatched that damn trophy from Job’s hands and smeared it with a cocktail of my own tears and snot.
And maybe I wasn’t crying about a job all the time, sometimes it was just from the confusion that came with adulting. The drifting with friends. The starting at the lowest point of the heap of the working society. The moving to a new place owned by a landlord that eats lemon and pepper for a living. The feeling of not having your feet on the ground. It was about a myriad of things.
One particular daunting part of not having a stable job for me was having to hold my breath every month until I knew that I had the full house rent in my hands. And I would clutch to that money with an intensity so hard it baffles me to date because if you or your family has ever been locked out of your house because of lack of rent, then you surely are familiar with the crippling helplessness and fear that comes with it. It is one that you never want to relive.
Sooner than later, I ventured into freelance writing. Because now there were actual bills that needed to be paid. Bills like food for my bottomless stomach and electricity because I just can’t stand darkness. Some writing gigs were good. Some, bad. And some, downright horrible. I got taken advantage of a few times for the works I did, and it made me feel even more useless than I was already feeling. Sometimes I’d wonder if there is just something not right with me or if I just wasn’t trying hard enough.
Eventually, I ceased taking up writing gigs altogether because I was not getting paid commensurately to what I did. (Sigh) Trust me, when you are good, you know it. And they do too. And they try to exploit it at the least possible cost. However, anytime I felt extremely pressed for money, I’d take up a few writing gigs to keep food in my tummy. Didn’t I tell you that tummy is king and that kings like to be listened to, a whole lot?
Speaking of tummies, one time, I meet two gentlemen I knew from the church by the road. These two lovely sons of Adam unintentionally guilt-ed me for having never invited them over for lunch or a meal. Do you know that I laughed in my mind at their rather careless remarks for people sailing in a similar boat? Here is why. Back at my house, there was a loaf of bread sitting on my counter together with sugar and tea on the shelf. Bread that I was relying on to last me a day or two as I hoped for my phone to miraculously ping with the most romantic text message alert anyone can receive; money.
In retrospect, I had many reasons as to why I badly needed God to come through for me during this period. For one, my dad was 100% sure that I was going to crawl back home with my tail tucked in between my legs sooner than later and I wanted to prove him wrong. I wanted to show him that I knew what I was doing. But let’s be honest here, at this point, my tail was beginning to slowly tuck itself between my legs. And I was seeing the end approaching rapidly.
Just so you know how far up my tail was tucked at the time, let me let you about an event.
There is this day, I was so hungry that my hands were literally shaking because I hadn’t eaten a few meals. To top it off, my electricity tokens were running out. How convenient! Electricity gets cut out at the most unfortunate time, doesn’t it? However, I was not about to sit there and watch my last visible light (electricity) go off. As I stared at the red blinking light on my electricity meter box, I decided that maybe my dad was right after all. As sure as the heavens stand, whatever little part of my tail that was not yet fully tucked between my legs, I shoved in. On that day, I cleaned up my place, packed up most of my belongings and left for my dad’s house.
You, however, should know that despite packing my stuff up, I did not move them to my father’s house yet. For one, I was mentally exhausted as well as physically and all wanted was to get away from that life for a second. I wanted to stop being an adult for a few days and simply return to being someone’s child again. My parents’ child. Secondly, it was still mid-month, and I had the option of moving my shaky bed and all the other items home at the end of the month. What I urgently needed at that time was to get my trembling hands together with my howling stomach some food ASAP. And I was going to do exactly that at home. Because all I had was fare in my pocket.
Seated inside that Citi Hoppa bus, I confess to having never felt that hollow in a long time. Come on, all my previous life had been spent with me immersed in books and giving my parents’ school fee some value. And suddenly here I was, out of school as well as out of aces, broke af and crawling home. The only thing to show for myself being the tail between my legs. The furry tail my father had talked about.