Suggested Itineraries

Someday, I’m going to take a younger girl out for coffee.

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I’ll wave her hand away when the bill comes, and I’ll say don’t be silly. I’ll tell her that one day, when she’s making it big, she can treat me. And when her eyes well up with tears, because she is never going to make it (big or otherwise), I will deftly change the subject and tell her to pick out a little something to eat, too. Anything she’d like. Go on.

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I will tell her the truth about how hard it was for me to get started. How it felt like two steps forward and three steps back, for an awfully long time. How I too, came to hate certain phrases. Like minimum qualifications and all must be met and due to the high volume and we regret to inform you.

I will tell her that it will go in phases, this Hell of a Transition. That at first she might simply want to detox from her last job. That this break might feel well-earned, and more importantly: like a huge gulp of fresh air.

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But that after a few weeks, she might start feeling a little antsy, and find herself starting to scroll through some job boards. Just to look. And then she might create a new folder, to bookmark every promising posting. As a place to start. If she were actually starting.

(And here I will try very hard not to interject. Because she knows, continues to know, that the sheer number of available jobs — of interesting jobs — is something worth holding onto.)

She might decide to tackle her resume first, before actually applying to anything. This might take a few days. And she might seriously begin to doubt her desire to actually return to work, and this will be nothing short of petrifying. She won’t want to tell anyone, and she will wonder what on earth is the matter with her. But eventually she’ll begin drafting job-specific cover letters. And she might end up deciding that one job a day seems about right.

And then she will falter, this girl who is sitting across from me and trying so hard. To keep her chin up, and her eyes dry, and her smile bright. I will reach across the table and I will nod yes, I know the feeling: when all of a sudden one job a day feels like no, no, not enough — not nearly enough. And that it happened to me too: the complete and utter panic in the middle of the night, which spiraled into five or six or seven applications. All done by morning.

And I will wish that I could help her hold onto the fleeting sense of hope each time she hits the submit button. (Maybe this one. Maybe this will be the one.) And I will wish that I could cushion her from every reality check, from every crushing disappointment. And I will wish there were a way to speed it up for her: The Search, and then all of the renewed searches.

I can’t give her what she wants so desperately, and I can’t take her where she wants to go. But I can take her someplace else, to give her a little distance from it all. Someplace steeped in history and bathed in natural light.

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This is where I will take her. And if nothing else, she will see how many times struggle turned into A Beautiful Thing.

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