You Can’t Always Find What You Want

~ The Working Years, Part 2 ~

And then that mean Mr. Gore threw me over his shoulder and carried me away to Kentucky where he made me get a REAL job…

Chris Gore is a brilliant man. I think if you took our minds out of our skulls and placed them next to each other, his would be like a glowing, vibrant, living organ and mine would look like a dead fish. With glitter on it. Coupled with that brilliance is a good ol’ boy work ethic, and those traits together equals major scholarships. Thus his years at seminary were paid for before he even left for Kentucky. And then I came along, and guess what? Nothing. Chris’s scholarships did not increase or decrease when I became his wife. Apparently there weren’t even scholarship applications for the wife of a really smart man, and Mrs. Gore needed some food, clothes and antiques, so…its true, I really had to find a job in Kentucky. No question about it.

There were big problems here, however. I so badly wanted to stay home and just be a wifey, I was completely overwhelmed by what a huge and urban city Louisville was (really, you’d be surprised!), I knew no one, and even worse, no one knew me. That charm and vulnerability thing? It didn’t work here, and I swiftly learned how hard it is to find employment in a new and strange city. Making as few dreaded phone calls as possible, I tried everything: I signed up online to sing at the closest funeral parlors to the seminary, I researched every museum and historic home in town on the computer, hoping to be a “docent” (until I realized that also meant “volunteer”), I tried selling funny stories (online) to Readers Digest, and then, even though I swore I would never step foot in a classroom again, I went through the lengthy and painful process of becoming a substitute teacher in the huge…and I mean HUGE…system that is Louisville Public Schools.

What. a. nightmare. After a month spent becoming approved for this job in the first place, and then reading the giant booklet on how to answer the automated phone message to accept or reject a job (sidenote: three rejections and you were out!), I covered for an art teacher in downtown Louisville for one day and barely survived the experience. Finding the school through the confusing maze of busy Louisville streets was terrifying, finding the classroom even more so, and the students? Creatures imported from a planet I had never even heard of…

From then on, when our phone rang early in the morning, I fled the room in terror or laid in bed with my fingers in my ears and then erased the messages so Chris wouldn’t know I had missed out on another job unless he asked. (Sidenote #2: not answering the phone didn’t count as a rejection, leaving my three strikes intact! Sneaky, sneaky!) But that clock was ticking, because for the first time in my life, we really needed some money and I didn’t have a magic checkbook to draw from. Chris did more than his part, going to school full-time, keeping up with his heavy load of papers and exams, working as an Ambassador for the seminary, and still taking the time to be a wonderful husband for his homesick wife; the simple task of paying for the weekly grocery bill was up to me. And I was miserably failing! (Sidenote #3: I shouldn’t have erased those messages, but in my defense, I had not read “The Excellent Wife” yet…I only slightly knew better).

Finally, after months of job searching and classroom avoiding, I interviewed and received a temporary holiday position with Pottery Barn Kids that would last from October to December. Chris and I were both thrilled, he to have an income in the house, me to receive the substantial discount from Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma. But there was something about being out of my neck of the woods that turned a previously confident young woman into a timid little church mouse. My stomach that had just months before centered on food and love butterflies now was a pit of fear and dread and acute homesickness. Thus, my first day at PBK found me literally trembling and as “overcome with timerdity” as Beth March ever was. I learned about five minutes into my time there that just because a girl likes to shop does not mean she should work in a shop. My manager was more than intimidating, ruling that place with an efficient and iron fist, the telephones and cash registers loomed larger than life, mocking me that my time behind the counter was coming soon, and really, all I wanted was to be left to myself to tidy up the place and decorate the dollhouses.

It reminded me of my first ski trip, where I just knew I could master the art of skiing if everyone else would just leave the mountain and give me some time to myself. Likewise, if Pottery Barn Kids had simply shut its doors for the day and locked me inside, I could have been running the place by morning! But, alas, they didn’t; rather, my manager shadowed me all day, making me say lines to customers, showing me pictures of how the rooms should be arranged…I felt so stifled and disappointed and totally out of my element. After my first day of a four-hour shift, I called my Mom from the parking lot, in tears, and said the following words with all the sincerity in the world: “Mom, I  just don’t think I’m cut out to be a career woman.” She softly laughed and very gently replied “Lesley, I don’t think this really counts as a career…”

I persevered because I just had to, and became a tiny bit more comfortable there, even managing to sell a complete bedroom suite to a very kind couple, gaining my manager’s rarely-given (but genuine) praise, but two weeks later, any progress I had made was completely extinguished as I sat in my car with my very first paycheck. I opened the envelope with trembling fingers, took one, then another look at the amount I had made (while very aware of my aching feet and internal misery) and burst into tears. I cried my eyes out all the way home and carried that piddly paycheck upstairs to my husband where we eventually ended up having a good laugh. Another job, another joke…

We came home for the month of December and I never entered that Pottery Barn Kids again. Not even to shop. I know in my heart that even if I were to return to the Oxmoor Center today, I would avoid this store at all costs, afraid my old manager might see and recognize me. The funniest part of all is that we were so poor I couldn’t even take advantage of all those discounts at my favorite stores! Two months of working there and I bought 4 children’s pumpkin placements for $3.99.

Well, Spring came, and as always, things began to look up. My brother, his wife and my beloved niece Abigail joined us at seminary, right down the hill, easing my homesickness by a mile. Amy was much better at job hunting than I was, and tipped me off to a job that was being advertised in the school paper, one she would have loved having, but couldn’t with her little girl in tow.

Wanted: a reliable and experienced nanny for a 3 year old boy, flexible shifts, $10 an hour.

Ding, ding, ding! I called immediately, drove to their large country home (ahhhh….) for my interview, and walked out with a new job. The mother was a bit surprised that the “experience” I said I had on the phone was leading the music at my church’s Vacation Bible School for 5 years, but she liked me anyway, and hired me on the spot. The very next week began one of the most interesting experiences of my life…

I’ll tell you alllllllll about it, tomorrow.

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