Thursday, May 26, 2011

they didn't

"So, what is it that you do?" 

As a server, and particularly as a server dressed like a firefighter, I would get this question a lot.  "Surely," they were really saying, "that red shirt and black suspenders couldn't represent every one of your current ambitions."

"I'm in school," I would respond, with my bright server-smile and nod.

"Oh, wonderful," they would reply, with an even bigger smile.

(I never understood why people were so enthusiastic about my being in school.  As far as I knew, it was just what people did when they were my age.)

"What are you going to school for?"

"I'm a Humanities major."

"Oh." And then came that face they all made every time: the smile was still there, but I could always see right through it to the confusion or even skepticism.  The slight squint of the eyes is what usually gave them away.

"What will you do with that?"  I think they asked this for their own sake more than for mine.  They wouldn't be able to sleep that night if they knew there was a young person out there paying money (borrowing, even) for a degree in Humanities and no brilliant idea as to how they would earn that money back.

"I guess I'll teach.  Either that or be a very educated homeless person," and we would both laugh as I ran off to get them their sweet tea.

How is someone who has majored in Humanities (yes, in general) supposed to get a job?

This was a funny thing we martyrs of the universities laughed about with each other and I even used as a boilerplate server joke (I apologize to anyone holding onto the idea that their server makes up those jokes just for them).  

To be honest, I was never really worried about finding a job while I was in college. That could have something to do with being surrounded by so many others in the same boat.  We were like lemmings:  surely this wasn't any kind of suicide - there were so many in front of me and behind me.

In the fall of my senior year, I heard of this wonderful program called Teach for America.  Program.  What a lovely word, especially for a college student who, despite all of the quests for independence, would really like nothing more than for someone to tell them what to do.

As soon as I heard about it, I was sold.  I submitted my application in January and by February I had passed my phone interview and was preparing for my day-long interview in Knoxville - writing a lesson for high school students about the social commentary in Oliver Twist.

I chose this topic because I had written an essay on it during my semester in Oxford.  That's right, Oxford.  These interviewers had no idea what they were in for.  I had this. I knew I had this. This was clearly where my life was going. I needed the program and the program needed me. I would teach underprivileged children for two years all while earning a graduate degree, loan forgiveness and, gasp, a salary!  

The day on which I was to receive the email containing my school-assignment (where I would teach for two years), I was spring breaking on a large boat in the middle of the ocean, with no internet access that I cared to pay for.  I spent the whole week enjoying myself and wondering at the new life I would begin in only a couple of short months. 

As soon as the boat docked in Florida, I turned my phone on and called my mom.  I had given her my email account login information so that she could check the assignment for me.

"Hi Mom, we're back in Florida.  Where are they sending me?"  I had no time for small talk about islands and sunburns.  I could barely speak through my smile!  She didn't answer right away and my mind went wild with thoughts of the possibilities: Boston, San Diego, or even North Carolina.  Sure, it was less exciting, but at least I'd be near my family.

She still didn't answer me. It had only been a few seconds, but I was impatient.

"Mom?  Where did they offer me a position?"  I put my finger in my other ear, in case I just wasn't hearing her.

"They didn't."

Fast forward two months.

Location: A restaurant near my (parents') house, North Carolina

"Would you like toast or an English muffin with your omelet?"

"Oh, toast is fine.  So, are you in school?"

"Well, I just graduated a couple of weeks ago."



"What did you study?"

"Humanities, actually."

"Oh.  That's nice.  What will you do with that?"

"You're looking at it." 

We both laugh.  

"I'll be right back with your toast."

This post is part of a synchroblog.  Topic: surprise.
Fellow synchrobloggers' posts:
Years That Ask Questions
Surprise Ending
a whale

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