I had a breakdown at the end of my first senior year of college. I had just finished failing algebra for the 4th time, and I was looking at an entire summer of leftover classes and working at the job from hell, literally.
Ironically, the job that the devil built had the clever facade of being a “Christian Costume shop.” Meaning: they played nothing but Christian music, hung up fliers about God all over the store, and rented church groups costumes at a deeply discounted rate. But they didn’t fool me. No sir. From the first day, I could feel the heat in that place.
The owner was one of those men who worked hard to make a good first impression. He would offer a “God Bless you” at the end of a sale and would fake-laugh his way through conversations with elderly women trying on wigs for a Senior Citizens ball; but anyone who had the terror of working for him knew better.
The first day I was there, he informed me that I had “the handwriting of a five year old” and that “that was a sign of stupidity in women.” The second day he told me that it was inappropriate for me, as a woman, to hold such lengthy conversations with the male customers. The third day, I overheard him call his wife an retarded bitch in his back office. The fourth day I showed up in a jean skirt and he informed me that the vaccum cleaner had broke, and that I would need to get on my knees and pick up every sequin on the floor… IN A COSTUME SHOP. The fifth day, he decided to berate me in front of a customer. He came out and apologized to the customer for me being an idiot, and continued to talk down to me. The customer, a lovely older African American woman, asked to speak to him in private and when she walked proudly out of his office, she looked at me and loudly said, “MMM girl. Don’t you ever let any man talk to you that way again. If I was you I’d walk out of here right now. ”
The sixth day, he was extremely angry with me for embarrassing him. I tried to stay out of his way, straightening and re-straightening the costumes on mannequins, and organizing the piles of fake mustaches and prosthetic bloody noses into stacks. I tried hard not to let him see that I was crying when he told me he was surprised I was a college student because I “had to use a calculator to figure out the tax on a tuxedo rental.” Then I realized I was really in trouble when I went to the bathroom and found out, that unfortunately; my womanhood had struck once again at a very inopportune time.
I only lived a few blocks away, maybe a 5 minute drive there and back, but I knew he wouldn’t just let me run home to grab something real quick. So I decided to be honest. I approached him like I would a king or a really mean teacher- with my head down, and simply asked “I am having woman issues, would it be OK if I ran home for a second and changed clothes?”
He looked at me like I had asked him if I could take a body shot off of his man boobs, and said “No. You’re going to have to deal with it. You should have known that was going to happen today, or are you some sort of whore?”
At that point, I could no longer hold back my tears. I made my way to the bathroom and proceeded to have the biggest break-down of my 23 years. I cried audibly, and didn’t care if the customers could hear me. And then, I sat down on the dirty bathroom floor and called my dad. I told him I just couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t spend the summer being talked to like I was an idiot. My dad, being the amazing person that he was- told me to do whatever I felt I needed to.
I didn’t want to walk out and admit defeat; but the truth was- I was broken.
Looking back, it wasn’t just the job. At the time, I was heartbroken that a boy that I had been in love with for four years was now in a serious relationship. I was jealous that so many of my friends had graduated and were taking real jobs, some of them had even already moved away. The end of my college career was close, and I still had no idea what I really wanted to do with my life. So I packed up everything I could fit into my car, and I drove home.
It may sound rash, but it ended up being the best decision I ever made in my life.
The second I got home, I started applying for summer jobs with more tenacity than I had shown in my previous 4 years of college . I didn’t really want to stay at my parent’s house for 3 months, but I only had limited work experience, so I applied to jobs that I knew I could handle. Within a week, I had a handful worth of phone interviews with summer camps.
Unfortunately, I had forgotten that my voice mail was a rap that said – “Hi you’ve called Carissa and she’s not here, she’s probably out studying or drinking some beer, so leave her a message or call her back- but if you don’t then that is whack, wicca wicca wicca.”
Luckily, I eventually landed a summer job teaching dance at a camp in upstate New York, (which is really another story in itself) but it was amazing.
Until recently, I had forgotten how invigorating it could be to take things into my own hands. For so long, I’ve let myself fall into a pattern of “I’ll change things when the time is right.” I thought that it was fine to continue with the same mundane jobs, the same happy hours, the same nightly patterns of watching Netflix on my computer… I figured that eventually, life would hand me the opportunity that I needed to make things right.
And in a way it did.
When I first found out I was laid off, I was devastated. I bawled until I couldn’t breathe. I concentrated on the fact that I would no longer have health insurance and I wouldn’t be able to see my therapist, AND OH MY GOD HOW AM I GOING TO PAY FOR MY $140 A MONTH YOGA CLASS???
And then I took a step back and realized that life had handed me what I had been asking for for so long. For the first time since my first senior year of college, I wasn’t tied down with a lease, or a boy, or life I didn’t want to walk away from. I was free. So I took it. I packed up my bags, spent a weekend with my wonderful inspirational aunts, and started applying for jobs with a vengeance.
That was 14 days ago.
Today I started my first day at a new job in a new city and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve been doing comedy workshops and RIGHT NOW I’m writing for the first time in 6 months. I’ve been reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.
Long story short, I have no idea where this decision will take me, but I’m nothing but excited. I can’t wait for tomorrow. I freaking love the liberation of being free!