Six weeks ago I was pretty sure I was going to die.
“What shall I do?” I thought. “I know, I’ll apply for a job.”
It was slightly more complicated than that. I had been lying in bed, feeling extremely sorry for myself because I didn’t think I was going to live to see my 45th birthday this summer. For days I went over all the things on my to-do list that weren’t going to get done, books I’d never finish reading, and letters I would never write. I had to make peace with the reality that the world was already moving on without me, that whatever grand projects I might have had within me would never come to exist.
Then I went on to the might-have-beens. I started to wonder how things would have been different if I had known I would die at 44, if I could put a number on my days. What would I have done differently?
It wasn’t a big leap to wonder, if I actually defied the odds and survived COVID-19, what would I do? What does someone do with a second chance?
Once I was driving with an old family friend on an elevated section of freeway along the Willamette River, on the east side just after you pass through downtown Portland. We were in a Volkswagen Bus. Suddenly she spun out and we did a complete 360. We ended facing the same direction we had started. We both kinda went AAAAAAAAAHHH and then looked at each other, shook it off, and continued on our way.
This was not that. Intellectually I understood, Oh dear, we could easily have plummeted over the side and into the river. Dang. I didn’t actually feel like death was near that day. COVID physically made me feel like I would probably die within a day or two. The veil was thin.
I felt such sorrow that I had squandered the time I had been given. I felt that my potential was dying with me. What a stupid, pointless waste. I could have done something with myself.
My thoughts turned to what I would or could do if I recovered. What did I want? What prize would I give myself?
I want a job, I thought, I want a regular day job again. Nothing too challenging, because I have no idea what I’ll be able to handle. Just something where I can talk to people and contribute to something bigger than myself. I want to be where the action is. I want to be a part of making something cool. I want to keep busy indoors for the next three years.
I also thought, you know what? I want to earn a master’s degree.
Something uncanny and ironic happened.
I would occasionally tease my husband that he should pitch [specific person] to hire me. I would also tease him about this project I’ve been doing for the past couple of years, my tech newsletter, which I knew [specific person] read every day.
Suddenly, THE JOB POSTED.
Like, the same job with the same person.
My hubby read me the listing. Wait, what? I actually qualify for that! I felt pretty dejected that it would happen now, NOW, now when I was so desperately ill. I absolutely did not have it within me to attach my resume to an email and send it.
So I made him do it.
We both figured there was at least a slim chance I would get better. We both also knew it normally takes four months to go through the hiring process at his organization. All right. I could theoretically get better by then! It did not seem unethical to apply for a job and then die, because that could happen to anyone at any time. I was sure they would forgive me and simply move on to the next lucky candidate.
Ah, but if I lived?
With great effort, I poked around on my phone and found my resume, which I had cleverly updated about six months ago. There was even a cover letter for a fairly similar position somewhere else. Yet more, I had set up an applicant profile with the company last year and I still had an active login. I sent these to my hubby, who took dictation and did all the editing. It took about an hour, which was utterly exhausting and left me limp as a dishrag. He sent it off.
A week later, I got an email asking to set up a phone screen.
I was still very ill, into the third week with COVID, but that particular week I didn’t feel like I was actively dying any more. I responded right away and we set up a time. Ten minutes to read and respond to an email, that was actually still quite tiring, but I did it.
The phone screen lasted 30 minutes. I was so excited that I managed to summon enough enthusiasm to get me through. Then I flopped backward into the couch and basically dissolved for the next two days.
A week later I had another phone screen. This one was to be on camera. I set it for the afternoon, because I knew how long it would take me to actually shower, wash and dry my hair, and put on proper clothing. (I still had to rest between stages of bathing and dressing for weeks after this point). I started getting ready two hours early.
The interview went well. Well enough that we set up a panel interview for later the same week.
By the time that interview rolled around, I had a lung infection and had been feeling like I might die again. Fortunately we weren’t on camera due to a technical issue. I kept it together for 90 minutes, but I will say that sitting upright in a dining chair for that long left me whipped and shaky afterward.
From start to finish, the screening, interviewing, and background check process took six weeks. I got better. I start the day after Memorial Day.
This truly is my dream job in my dream field. I am thrilled. I had no idea when I applied, but they offer tuition reimbursement up to a certain amount per year. Guess who’s going to grad school??
These are trying times, and tens of millions of Americans are out of work, and most people are rightfully freaking out. It’s going to be hard, you don’t need me to tell you that. You don’t need 34 million jobs, though; you only need one. Please believe that you probably have more to offer than your last employer asked of you. A lot of companies in a lot of industries are actively hiring as fast as they can, including every big aerospace engineering company I know of. Don’t give up.
I haven’t had a regular day job in over ten years. I applied for a job while I had COVID-19 and I passed the panel interview with a raging bacterial infection in my lungs. If this was possible for me, what is possible for others?
What is possible for you?
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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