When I graduated from college, I felt like I was walking on air. I could achieve anything! I was a special snowflake floating on the gentle breeze of the labor market, just waiting for an employer to catch my entirely original and irreplaceable self on their ton- …okay, maybe I took that analogy a little too far. But what I mean is, I had a political science degree, I was smart, I was funny, I was dedicated, I was somewhat desperate – I’d find a job, right? Well, nine months after my humid reception at Regan National Airport and 150 job applications later, I was working two part-time jobs, sleeping in a converted nursery in an old row-house with no air conditioning and subsisting on beans and rice. I was less like a snowflake and more like a lone reed being battered by the winds of commerce.
I turned to my West Wing box set for guidance. Only one day, it hit me: there were some things about the Charlie Young’s career path that Aaron Sorkin forgot to tell me.
1) I don’t have a bike
And not only that, I don’t like riding bikes. I barely tolerate riding bikes when it’s down a newly-poured cement bike path, winding along a peaceful river valley in Kaui. I would never ever in a million years be a bike messenger in a city, with cars and trucks and tourists and potholes. I would be the worst bike messenger ever. I would deliver packages across town by strapping them to my bike and then walking my bike to the delivery location. I would be fired after a day. Charlie got his job as the President’s Personal Aide by trying to apply for a job as a bike messenger and walking into the wrong office. Which leads me to my next point…
2) You don’t accidentally get a job working for the President of the United States
Getting a job at the White House is not as easy as being a nice kid who walked into the wrong office. Even by West Wing standards, Charlie Young was the luckiest kid in all of Washington, DC. If I were to randomly walk into any office at the White House I would end up in the custody of the Secret Service, answering some very serious questions about my intentions. And would perhaps also receive a friendly cavity search. People toil in unpaid, or close to it, Presidential election agony to even get the chance to possibly work for the next President of the United States. They uproot their lives and move to New Hampshire or Iowa and campaign in primaries in the freezing cold, going door to door and fueling late night strategy sessions with Chips Ahoy and Redbull. And if their candidate actually wins the Presidency, they travel to DC only to be met with unemployment and the daunting task of navigating USAJobs or the White House Office of Personnel. And if they are actually one of those lucky snowflakes who gets a job at the White House, they end up working in a steam pipe trunk distribution venue of a White House office that is neither near the White House nor the President. Or so I’ve been told.
3) Witty banter is not guaranteed in the work place
As I mentioned, I worked two part-time jobs to be able to afford my nursery conversion and my daily dinner of beans and rice. One job was an internship at an anti-tobacco non-profit. The people there did not have banter of any kind, witty or otherwise. These people were very serious. There were lives at stake and the culprit was Big Tobacco! My second job was as preschool teacher at an international school. And though we did have banter, both witty and otherwise, it was pretty one-sided. I dispensed Colin Powell nuggets of leadership wisdom with every juice box, bottle of bubbles, and goldfish snacks. But I got nothing in return. I mean, what could I expect, they were three. Have you seen witty sarcastic banter come out of a three year old? Or tried to do a walk-and-talk with someone who has only been walking for two years?
Small French- Canadian child lays on the stairs in the shade looking forlorn.
Me: “Samuel, what’s wrong?”
Samuel:” Miss Stefanie, why is the sun hot?”
Me: “For that I will need charts and an easel and possibly a model of the solar system made with Styrofoam balls and coat hangers. Walk with me!…to the swings.”
Samuel: “But I am so hot…”
Me: “I think it’s because you are Canadian.”
Samuel:” What does it mean, ‘Canadian’?”
Me:” You will have a massive inferiority complex but will compensate with a good hockey team and quick sense of humor…and pop music superstars.”
Samuel: “Why is the ball blue?”
It was no C.J and Charlie showdown over the rules being stupid. On the upside, they called me Miss Stefanie in cute accents and made all my friends adorable birthday cards.