Back in 2018, when I was considering moving to Flagstaff, I foresaw a Career-Oriented Future.
At the time, I could see my master’s degree at the beautiful end of the proverbial tunnel. I was talking to someone at Northern Arizona University about their Science Communication program. To round out my Arizonan ambitions, I was planning on certifying in the Suzuki Method as a violin teacher. I was actively envisioning what seemed like an attainable, financially-stable-yet-fulfilling life as a science communicator and musician.
Then, Things Fell Apart.
Coronavirus entered the US and started spreading. My three-year relationship ended. Trump reached unprecedented levels of shittiness. I signed up for unemployment for the first time in my life. Since April, I’ve applied for at least ten jobs, all science-related and many of them involving COVID-19 molecular research. I mean, what lab wouldn’t hire me? I can pipette the crap out of some reagents and I can write really tiny words on the tops of microcentrifuge tubes.
Early on in my job search, I realized that I needed to be okay with being rejected over and over. Several of the jobs I applied for felt like a perfect match, so being passed over for those opportunities particularly stung.
My friend Melissa, a science reporter at our local NPR station, shared with me how she was unemployed for a year after grad school and how “it was depressing and awful and I felt terrible about myself…Don’t do this!” She reminded me that I was job hunting at a really challenging time and encouraged me to be open to jobs I wasn’t expecting.
So, this morning over coffee, with my big ol’ scientific ego sitting on my lap, I applied for a job at Whole Foods. Images of my master’s advisor’s smug face flashed through my mind (images that I’d rather never conjure up again, but there they are). Thoughts of all the money and time invested in my education danced around in there, too. Unhelpful pride in myself as an accomplished scientist, communicator, and musician also came up to say hello and tried to stay awhile.
But they didn’t last long. The pandemic has turned everything upside-down. I have less to hold onto now. I have greater clarity regarding any illusions of control.
I think Jeff Bezos would be proud of me.
Maybe you’ll soon see me in the Sawmill District, stocking bath salts and ashwaganda tincture.
All this makes me think. I think about how people are adapting to the pandemic. About how much privilege I have. About how I might set myself above others because I’m a professional violinist and have all these degrees. About the personal lives of the people who stock our groceries. About how we can endlessly plan and predict but we can’t really be sure of anything.
Finally, please, wear a fucking mask.