On being a failure

Well, I am back from rainy though beautiful, and much missed, London and I still don’t have a job. All of the jobs I interviewed for didn’t end up being right, or they were right – for me – but I wasn’t right for them, and as a result, I feel like Bridget Jones; rubbish at everything. It’s not my first brush with failure; that was when I wanted to be Mary in the school nativity play when I was 7, and my best friend Sarah (still my best friend now, so it didn’t come between us) was chosen instead. I was cast as the donkey. The donkey! I had to wear a donkey costume and sing ‘Little Donkey, Little Donkey’ while galloping around the school hall. This is still a source of hilarity at the family dinner table. Eighteen years on, the indignity of it still hurts. Could they not see that I was a Mary? I was robbed of the limelight at 7, and from there it’s been a progressive downhill slope. The time I was winning the relay for my team at school sports day when I was 13, and then fell over in the mud and laughed so hard I couldn’t get up, forfeiting the race and the House Cup; when I spilled my water everywhere and talked about Buffy the Vampire Slayer at my CambridgeΒ  interview; when I slammed my driving instructor’s car into a pole as I drove out of the test centre during my driving test, failing before the exam had even officially started…the list could go on and on.

So, now that My Brilliant Career seems to have Gone Bung, where do I go from here? I have absolutely no idea. In six weeks US Immigration will kick me out of the country and I’ll be back at my mum’s, unemployed, penniless, and with plenty of time to drink tea, play with my nephews (who are unbearably adorable, by the way, and wanted to get in my suitcase and come back to ‘Merica’ with me) eat hobnobs, bake cakes, watch terrible TV, read, finish my seemingly never ending quilt, and think about all the things I could be doing with my life. This sounds very nice and cosy but I know I’ll be going stir crazy by the end of the first week. I’m a planner. Not having a plan, a direction, something to work towards, is very disconcerting for me. At the same time though, being a total failure and having your life plan disintegrate beneath you is an opportunity, and not a disaster. Yes, perhaps that’s a bit Pollyanna, but rather than cry my eyes out and eat my weight in chocolate (which I may already have done), I think looking on the bright side is the only way forward. I have had my sights set on one career plan for so long that I haven’t stopped to consider anything else. There are so many things I enjoy doing, and I am excited about the other paths I could potentially go down. I love books and films that tell stories of people who reach rock bottom and then, unexpectedly, from around a corner they never knew they were going to turn, a whole new life comes jumping out at them, and they find a happiness they never dared dream they’d have. So maybe in the story of my life, I’m about to reach that corner. What could be around it?! I have no idea!!

So here I am; planless, jobless, aimless. I’m a clean slate. For the first time ever, I’ve got no idea what I’m going to do with my life. It’s quite exciting, really. I like a challenge! I will keep you updated. For now, the job search is going on hiatus, I am going to thoroughly enjoy my last six weeks in New York, and allow whatever will be, to be. Potential career suggestions are welcome, however!

85 comments

  1. I approve completely of the plan to enjoy your last weeks in New York!

    I can’t really offer any advice on the career, I don’t know what you do, and in any case, graduate school has kept me from learning much about job searching. I’m not sure how tongue-in-cheek your use of the word failure is, but I really do think you shouldn’t take your unemployed status too seriously. You’re clearly a thoughtful person and an interesting writer, and these are good things to be! I don’t really think this compares to the driving test story. And if it helps, I slid through a stop sign in the middle of my driving examπŸ™‚

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth! I think just taking a step back and not stressing myself out will help me a lot too. I don’t want to be grabbing at anything out of desperation!

      I’m alright really – I like to make a bit of drama out of things! and I am sure something will come up. It’s just that I was expecting to be able to start a new career, and one of the rejections I got now means I won’t be able to for quite some time. So it’s a tough one. But I have options and I am excited for the future and what I could potentially get up to nonetheless.

      Ha! I love hearing people’s driving text disaster stories. In that same test, I overshot a corner, had to reverse down a crowded street in order to get across, and then went up the kerb as I turned anyway. It was a nightmare. The irony is I am actually a good driver, and had never made those mistakes before! It was all the nerves! I passed the next time!πŸ™‚

      1. I definitely understand the need to step back and re-evaluate. I joke that I make decisions on a truth table model – I need to evaluate all probable outcomes for their “truth value” before I can make my decision. I don’t really recommend it as a strategy! I don’t know if you find this, but I hate the feeling (and implication from others) that decisions I make now (I think I’m about your age) are going to determine the rest of my life. In some respects, yes, they are, but I do have to keep reminding myself that there are so many opportunities to try new things and go new directions. As you say, there are many cool things to try in the future.

        I think this might have turned out to be more about me than you, but good luck in the job search, and do enjoy your time in New York!

  2. oh Rachel, Rachel, Rachel…. So sorry you feel like this. Enjoy these precious weeks in New York and I hope that this is one of those occasions where out of the blue life gives you an amazing unexpected and completely unplanned surprise and everything fits into place, but doesn’t feel too scary either.

  3. On the one hand, it’s distressing to be without a job; on the other, it’s very freeing. The world is full of possibilities for you! You are such a clever girl, as evidenced in this blog alone, and I think you have such skill at writing. Perhaps something in that venue could be of interest…at any rate, I know you’ll land on your feet! Looking forward to hearing about your path as it unfolds before you.

    1. Indeed – I am choosing the freedom route! Oh thank you so much…what lovely things to say! Writing is definitely something I am considering…perhaps a novel!! Thank you for your encouragement and faith – it means a lot!

  4. You write well, you’re in a great city for 6 weeks with no commitments or dependents, I assume, have fun you can tell grandkids about one day. Make it count.
    I’ve had a tough couple of weeks, I found some good, thought provoking posts on here; http://www.positivityblog.com/

    1. Very true and wise advice – I am going to do just that! A job can wait!

      I’m sorry to hear that, but thanks for the link – glad it’s been of use to you.

  5. Ahhh….Rachel….I’m sorry to hear that things didn’t work out as you’d hoped, job-wise.

    But then again, try to think of returning home with no fixed plan as stepping into the unknown, with an endless array of possibilities and opportunities that could, and I do believe most certainly will open themselves up to you and greet you with open arms. Maybe a bit Pollyana mixed in with a bit of Deepak Chopra there, but I honestly do believe that things will work out, in their own time, at the right time.

    In the meantime, it’s true – you’re in one of the most brilliant and magical and exciting cities in the world, so immerse yourself into every moment of these six remaining weeks, and enjoy, have fun, and make memories to last a lifetime.

    1. Thank you June – you are kind and wise and I will do my best to take such a positive mindset onwards with me…New York is an incredible city to have at my fingertips and I know I’ll regret it if I don’t make the most of my last few weeks while I can!

  6. Dear Rachel – A big wave from down under from one older fatter donkey to another !!πŸ™‚ Being unemployed is disheartening isn’t it? It’s awful that we invest so much self worth in paid employment but there it is…we let it define us and it is a very important part of who we are..or it has been for me for so long that it is hard not to let it affect me. I study and I blog and I read and I volunteer but it’s not the same. I used to joke about being a donkey at work…I always seemed to be carrying stuff with me wherever I want…boxes and packages often requiring trolleys…but look…here is someone who has made a virtue out of being a donkey…..http://www.deseretnews.com/article/705387772/Biblioburro-PBS-features-hard-working-librarian-donkey-library.html …they are such dear sweet noble creatures…..and I can’t resist stopping the car whenever I see a donkey and saying hello. I would dearly love to have one as a pet one day…did you read the Derek Tangye books? Enough blathering from me….chin up…stiff upper lip and all that….smile and the world smiles with you ….big hugs….and a heartfelt prayer from this side of the world that things turn around for you really soon….xxxx

    1. Hello Alex – thank you for your lovely comment! You are so kind and I’m sorry you’ve had the same experience – being unemployed does have such a strong impact on your sense of self worth, somehow, doesn’t it? But keeping busy and having a varied time of it does make all the difference. I love donkeys so much! I love that article! Hahahaha! Thank you…I already feel a thousand times better!πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Sally…cliches are often the most truthful things you can say in such situations! I’m sure something will come up…I just need to be patient!

  7. Great post – reminded me of the Nativity play in When God was a Rabbit (one of my favorite parts of the book).

    Hang in there and hopefully just the right job will appear.

  8. Aw, I’m so sorry that the interviews didn’t turn out as you hoped, but it sounds like you have found the way forward. Enjoy those last weeks in New York and don’t let the next step worry you!

    And P.S., I had to retake my driver’s class because I hit another car when making a turn on the course. And then when I passed the class and had to take the test, I totally messed up a turn, then panicked and pulled out in front of someone, and then completely froze and couldn’t move at the next intersection. And I fell off a stage once at karaoke. And completely forgot my music at a piano competition.

    1. Thanks Teresa – I do – I will work something out. And I want to enjoy my last few weeks!

      Oh wow – you sound like a worse failure than me! Hahaha!πŸ™‚

  9. Rachel, it’s hard for me to understand why you consider yourself a failure. You should be so proud of Book Snob… such an achievement! I look forward to your posts… I feel like your a friend although we’ve never met (god, I must be lonely!). You are a talented writer so I hope you are looking for work where you can showcase your considerable skill (i.e. grant writer; writing instructor; columnist; travel writer; etc.). I would systematically contact everyone you know who is gainfully employed in an industry you are even remotely interested in and ask them for their assistance, i.e. could they provide contact information for hiring managers? help you get an informational interview? provide a reference? Make sure you work with the career counseling service at the university you attended. Get in touch with every professor/lecturer you had any kind of rapport with and ask them for advice and a written letter of recommendation. You have to treat the job search process as a job… set your alarm, shower, dress, leave the house! I don’t know if you’re interested in returning to school. Excellent writing skills are important for a legal career. Even taking one course will be an ego-booster – you’ll remind yourself how smart you are and meet new people. It will add structure to your life as well. I find that the best way to make myself feel better is to spend time with people who have real problems… help someone in need. Voulunteer to help someone learn English or visit lonely people in nursing homes. I will be thinking of you. Enjoy your last few weeks in N.Y. Oh to be 25 again!!!

    1. Hello Margaret, thank you for your lovely message – you have made me feel very confident and positive! I am starting to work out a plan in my head and hopefully I will be on the right track soon enough. Thank you for your ideas and recommendations – I shall certainly take those on board! Taking a course and volunteering are two things I am definitely going to be doing when I get back to London!

  10. Sympathies! Job hunting can be awful. And I also failed by drivers test. I hope the rest of your time in New York makes up for it a bit, and good luck for when you head back to the UK!

  11. Rachel you are so not a failure. Your blog is absolutely one of the very best of the many that I read and on that evidence alone you are extremely talented. I know it feels dark right now but also know that you will turn this corner and all will be well. Very best wishes to you!

  12. Definitely NOT a failure – you sound really quite sorted, and I am quite sure that when you get back home something will turn up! In the meantime, definitely you need to enjoy the rest of your New York time, and look forward to coming home to see your family. I’ll keep everything crossed for a wonderful job!

    1. Oh Verity, you’re so sweet! Thank you! I really want to enjoy the rest of my time here and stop worrying so much – and I want to look forward to coming home without the DOOM of unemployment hanging over my head! Having a bit of time off won’t kill me!

  13. Rachel, I just love the way you are able to approach your situation with a bit of humour (the donkey story!) And while I’m sure the no-job-yet situation gets you down, the last paragraph of your post is sooo uplifting! A clean slate! 6 weeks in New York with no commitments!

    Live it up. The job will happen someday. For now, enjoy this bit of freedom.

    1. Thanks Laura! That donkey is going to haunt me forever! I know, that is so true actually – for a lot of people that would be heaven, wouldn’t it? I need to appreciate what I’ve got!

      Thank you Laura! You have given me some great perspective!

  14. Oh, enjoy those last weeks. The job will come when you least expect it. Best wishes for you and your last few weeks in New York.

  15. Never mind, Rachel. I was Mary – for obvious reasons, not acting talent! – and I fell off the donkey and landed flat on my backside. Nobody will ever allow you to forget this. Only 18 years ago … I have been tormented by this anecdote for 43 years!
    Good luck with the job-hunting and enjoy your freedom while it lasts!

    1. Oh wow that’s awful, Mary! Definitely worse than my story!!! Thank you – I will! I know I’ll miss it when I do have a job so I shall enjoy having all this time to enjoy myself!

  16. Harshest title ever! I’m sorry about your interviews. That doesn’t mean you need to write off that career though – you were only here a couple of weeks. I’m sure more interviews will come up or you could try it from a different angle? Meh, who am I to be giving out career advice!? Good luck with your clean slate and have a great last six weeks. x

    1. Ha! I don’t spare myself! Thank you – I know, I’ll be alright – I was being a tad melodramatic, I know – something will come up and it will all work out, I’m sure. Thank you very much – I will! x

  17. There is no need at all to consider yourself a failure in the current UK job market. I looked for oh I don’t know 9 months straight and had just 3 interviews last year (none of which led to a job). The market is massively over subscribed, to the point where (story from the hairdresser) people with 5 years office experience are having to apply for minimum wage reception desk jobs. It’s not so positive right now whatever kind of vibe the givernment is trying to push and you need sector experience to get in everywhere, because no ones willing to train. If you are thinking of going into publishing there are a couple of casual, short term unpaid interships I can think of over here (Peirine runs one now) that might open doors.

    The big positive for you is that as you’re not working you have the flexibility to go register with recruitment agencies and get them working for you. I’d advise taking practical courses (if you take job seekers some courses are covered) in something that bridges a lot of job titles to show willing to employers and hopefully negotiate that tricky ‘you need sector experience’ hurdle, unless you want to go back into the sector you were working in before you left the UK.

    Good luck and enjoy the last six weeks in America!

    1. Oh Jodie, you poor thing. I can’t believe you were searching for so long. I’m actually looking to go back into what I did before – fundraising – and it shouldn’t be TOO hard for me to find something, it’s just finding what’s RIGHT, as I get bored so quickly. I have fleetingly thought about publishing and it is something I’m interested in, but taking the drop in salary to go back to square one would not be ideal.

      I definitely need to get in there with recruitment agencies more and just throw myself about – my main source of upset is that I was planning to go into teaching and I didn’t get on the course I wanted, which has set me back a bit. But never mind – onwards and upwards! I’ll get there in the end.

      Thank you, and thank you for the advice!

      1. Ah well I have a job so it’s not as bad for me as for all those people still on the dole. So sorry you didn’t get on the course you wanted! I wonder if lots of people are going back into education to try and get new skills to open up new job possibilities.

  18. Aaah.. Rachel.. hugs to you cos unemployment can really be tough on everything (ego, bank acct etc.) I have been laid off a few times (no fault of my own), and it’s so hard to get up every day and know that “everyone” else has a job and you don’t. (It’s not true, but it can feel like that.) Plus you’ll be living at home. :-}

    Graduate school? You are obviously very smart. Umm. Writing would be an obvious direction, it seems to me. What about writing a column from the UK perspective for a local rag around where you live in NY? You know, ex-pat sort of thing. Or – how about a book review column for a newspaper? Or writing news releases for non-profit orgs (just to build up your portfolio)? These volunteer things can help sell you to a paying job somewhere.

    Do you have graphic design skills? Photoshop? There are loads of free on-line schools to learn software, if you’re interested in doing that whilst you’re waiting for the job. One of the best I have been to is 3wschools.com (free, no spam, no registration etc.)… I have learned webskills on that (for work).

    Hmm. I know it’s demoralizing. I have been there. It’s tough, and you have my sympathies. But at the same time, you have your head on right and you will know to use the time to your benefit and when to muck about.

    Hang in there. You are NOT a failure. BTW, I was a frog (!) (along with orange flippers/fins) in the Nativity play. Go figure that. :-} Have you read Anne of Green Gables? That is really good for those of us who try our best and still make mistakes. (Just sayin’…)

    Oh. And I failed my US driving test Twice: once going the wrong way down a one-way street and once bc I had borrowed a car and didn’t know where the lights were…

    liz in texas

    1. Hi Liz! Thanks for your advice…I’d love to go to graduate school but I can’t afford it! Writing is definitely an option for me and I am thinking about it – I just need to believe in myself enough to get myself out there and not be too shy or embarrassed about it.

      A frog?! That’s definitely worse than a donkey! Yes I have read Anne of Green Gables…perhaps a reread is in order as that would definitely make me feel better!!

      Oh goodness…though good reasons to fail I think – it’s always good to fail and have a funny reason than just being a bit rubbish!

      Thank you for your lovely words!

  19. Ditto everything said above. See how many fans you have? Doesn’t that give you a clue to your success? And it’s so good that you have your family to go back to.

    When you are old, I believe you will be astonished at the way life has of unfolding before you. Just do the next thing that seems right. The Great Plan will soon make itself known to you. I’m going to guess that you’ll go for more study, something truly enriching which will enhance your already obvious talent. The words ‘world’ and ‘oyster’ come to mind!

    You won’t stay miz for long. We know you too well! xox

    1. Oh Chrissy you are so sweet! I know, all of you have made me feel a million times more successful!

      You are so wise – I’m sure I will. Life does send you off on mysterious paths – I’ve seen that already – and I know I’ll end up somewhere that’s right for me eventually – and have fun along the way.

      I’ve already got my smile back, don’t you worry! x

  20. During small talk before a job interview at the library I brazenly told the interviewer that whoever chooses the knitting books in the 700 section did not know the first thing about knitting. Yes, in what is referred to as Murphy’s Law, Mrs Clutton sat before me…the very selector of books in the 700 section. She has since retired but was such a dear lady and supervisor…I did get the job! So surely there is hope for you, Rachel, since you are so much wiser than I was at this stage of life. And you know what? After that, Mrs Clutton, would bring me the purchase catalogues so I could help her choose knitting books! I didn’t deserve such thoughtfulness.

    Hang in there. I believe in ‘when you least expect it…’ and if nothing else we’ll have some cake…or chocolate…or both come September. Unless you have an interview!

    1. Oh Darlene, you are too funny! You must have brilliant in your interview anyway! Good old Mrs Clutton – she was probably charmed by your initiative!

      Thank you…I will do just that, and I am certain something will come along. Can’t wait to see you…so soon!

  21. Everybody has already said what I want to sayπŸ™‚
    I think it’s wonderful that, even when thinking your next step is failure, it involves going back to a Mum who loves you loads, and adorable nephews – which is a success in itself!

    Go and enjoy your six weeks – the world will wait for you to have a bit of fun.

    And I can’t help you out with driving test nightmares – despite being a pretty nervous driver, I passed first time. But I did get my only minor before I reached the road, by clipping the kerb on the way out the test centre.

    1. Thank you Simon – that is very true and something I shall remember!πŸ™‚

      Simon that’s ridiculous – your ‘only’ minor. Even when I DID pass, I still got 14 minors! In fact, the driving instructor told me I should have failed, but he felt sorry for me so he passed me! Obviously I am an amazing driver regardless though…promise!πŸ˜‰

  22. Failure? You? Having written such a great piece on being unemployed (and much of it amusing in a cack-handed way!) you demonstrate that you are a natural writer. Why don’t you offer pieces to newspapers?
    Also, if you’ve not read the Derek Tangye books (donkeys feature heavily!) which Alex mentions, you won’t think so badly about being cast as a donkey ever again! Mary’s role is prescribed, she doesn’t have to do much apart from look cute holding the babe, but the donkey, now that’s a proper starring role!
    I don’t know what qualifications you have/don’t have, or what your main interests are, but enjoy your last weeks in ‘Merica’ and best of luck for the future.

    1. Oh Margaret, thank you! How lovely you are! I’m thinking about going down the writing route…so we’ll see. I’m just not convinced that I’m any good!

      That’s very true – I had to do far more than Mary ever did! Singing and galloping!

      Thank you very much – I will thoroughly enjoy my time and I shall not worry any more about finding a job! It’s not worth it!

  23. Like others, I’m hoping that there was a touch of dark humour in this post and that you are not seriously feeling like a failure. All too often, we can end up feeling failures if we do not have certain things in place, a regular source of income being one of the most important. I had hoped that one good thing to come out of the recent economic troubles, on both sides of the Atlantic, might have been a more understanding attitude from those with work towards those without. With people who had never expected to be jobless suddenly finding themselves out of work, through know fault of their own, I had thought we might have seen less of the, to my mind harsh and heartless, “there are plenty of jobs out there so stop being a scrounger” type attitudes, but sadly it does not appear to have worked out that way.

    I suspect that Simon passed his driving test the first time, precisely because of the minor incident before he left the test centre. Perhaps, consciously or otherwise, this convinced him he was going to fail anyway, making him more relaxed and thereby resulting in a positive outcome. I hope very much that your lack of success in the current round of applications works in a similar way for you, that is as a sort of paradoxical springboard to achievement. I hope that doesn’t sound like something out of a cheesy self-help book. I’m actually a champion pessimist in real life!

    I hope you got my email last week, drawing your attention to charityjobs.co.uk as a potentially useful resource should you wish to remain in the charitable sector. (I have no interest, financial or otherwise, in this site.)

    Wishing you happy times ahead.

    1. Yes, don’t worry – I always approach everything with a touch of dark humour – otherwise I’d be too far in the doldrums to work my way back out again! I know having a job/brilliant career isn’t everything, but it does feel like that sometimes, doesn’t it?

      Ha! That’s a good analogy – maybe it will work like that – that would be wonderful!

      I did, thank you – I am very behind on my emails so sorry for not replying to you – I will! I do use that site already and find it very useful, so thank you for the endorsement!

      Thank you very much David, I appreciate that!

  24. Oh, Rachel, dear girl, you are not a failure at all. Look at all you have already accomplished. At the age of 61, I’m still trying to figure out what I will be when I grow up.
    Enjoy the remainder of your time in NY, which I have no doubt you will, and what will be will be we you return home.

  25. Rachel, reading this I could only think of the stressful moments you’ve helped support me through over the last year or so as I’ve struggled with my own sense of failure. It’s scary to have always had a clear life plan, a path you were following and were certain of but which suddenly disappears. And as you say, that can be something to be excited about! Think of all the planning and dreaming you’ll get to do now as you consider your options! How wonderful that you’re young, intelligent, and energetic enough to be able to do anything you want!

    I somehow – miraculously given my absolute conviction every time I sit behind the wheel that something awful is going to happen – passed my driving test and haven’t willingly driven since. Better to have failed and learned to conquer your fear and embarassment, as you did, than to let your fear of failure stop you from doing something! I am working my driving phobia. Not eagerly, but still. It’s something.

    1. Oh Claire, you’re so sweet – we’re all here to support each other! Your twenties are tough years! Yes – I am starting to get more and more excited about not having a ‘plan’ – life has opened up unexpectedly and who knows where it will take me next! It’s not often that you get the chance to start over and really I should be grateful for that opportunity.

      Good for you for working on that driving phobia! Driving on your own is super scary after you’ve passed your test – I decided to throw myself in at the deep end and drive on the motorway for six hours and go up north for the weekend – madness – but that conquered my fear pretty quickly! You CAN do it – just do baby steps. Extend the amount of driving you do by a little bit each time you go out, and the more you drive, the less scary it will be. Maybe start in an empty car park – it’s the best place to practice! Good luck with it! You will conquer that fear!

      1. This reminds me – the first motorway I drove on was the M25, on the hottest day of the year. Nightmare. It was a hugely long trip to Sissinghurst… which turned out to be closed.

      2. Simon – that’s hilarious! You poor thing! The M25 is a nightmare much of the time – I have spent almost my entire life living just off junction 2 so I know the pain, and when my mum moved to Kent I spent every weekend shuttling between Junction 2 and Junction 5…sigh…I’m glad I don’t need to do that anymore!!

  26. Aw Rachel. I hope you get your sparkle back soon. I certainly think you can write so maybe your career lies in that direction – don’t give up!

    1. Thank you so much Nicola! Writing is definitely something I would love to do full time..so I shall look into possible avenues in that direction. I won’t give up, don’t worry!

  27. Oh Rachel! I should have commented earler. You are absolutely and definittely NOT a failue, you have already achieved so much in life. Don’t be put off by daft people who think you are not right for the job. It is a challenge…………..enjoy!!!!!

    Jenny

    xxx

  28. I love how you are able to laugh at yourself even when discouraged! That makes me think you’re going to bounce back any day and find out that an absolutely wonderful opportunity is just waiting for you on your doorstep! Good luck with everything and enjoy New York!

  29. Hello Rachel, I am sorry I’m commenting so late but pleased to see that you are feeling a bit more chipper about it all already. The British economy is a bit of a mess at the moment, which means not just great difficulty finding a job, but also great difficulty getting onto many courses as funding has been cut back. So I do hope you’ve stopped being hard on yourself. You are, as everyone has already pointed out, such a great writer, and with such a great attitude, you will succeed at what you choose to do (you just might need to give yourself a little more time). But I really do think that you should choose to do more writing…

    I had to bin my freelancing ‘career’ earlier this year as I just wasn’t getting enough work to pay the bills, and I did feel miserable and a failure about it because I could never quite shake off the suspicion I should have done something more or better. So perhaps I know a little how you feel. It will get better because you will make new plans, and they will be as good as if not better than your old ones.

    Have fun with your last few weeks in New York, and then back at home with all your friends and family and lovely nephews. As for being a donkey – I could only dream of such greatness – I was the seventh shepherd, and I had to say ‘Look, the star is over the stable’ but was so thick I could never remember it, the teacher had to write my line down in my message book and I had to practise it at home with my mother. And I still can’t drive and I am quite old now…

    1. Thank you Helen – I am indeed feeling much better and am busy making plans and thinking about other avenues. Doing some writing is definitely an option and if I could make that happen, I’d be thrilled.

      I’m sorry to hear about your freelancing – it’s always horrible when something you care about doesn’t come off, and it’s easy to feel like a failure, but when I actually stop and think about what I HAVE achieved rather than what I haven’t, then I start to feel much better about things.

      Thank you. And that is so funny – so many of us carry these nativity play chips on our shoulders! And it doesn’t matter that you can’t drive – you’re single handedly saving the planet!

  30. So sorry to hear about your unsuccessful venture. I am and American and so I find it difficult to understand why anyone would want to emigrate here. I’m also much older than you and finished with my working career. I hope that you will find something that you like to do when you return to England. Have you thought of trying to freelance your book reviews?

    1. Thank you Kay, I appreciate that. That’s funny – so many Americans have said that to me. They all want to come to England! I hope I do too – freelancing and writing are definitely things I am interested in so fingers crossed I might be able to make them happen!

  31. Rachel, this is just seed-time; there are jobs out there, and one of them WILL be yours. In the meantime, if you do end up with time off, at least give thought to organizing the book you would write if you had a publisher. Because someday, maybe you will.

    I didn’t get to be Mary, either (in retrospect, perhaps I was not the right physical type, despite my dramatic genius – I doubt that Mary was actually three feet tall and she probably weighed more than 35 pounds), and to add insult to injury, my arch-enemy (that rat bastard) got to be Baby Jesus with all the teachers cooing over his golden curls.

    1. Thank you Mumsy – you are so wise! I am definitely giving that book some thought – a first page may be in existence! So we’ll see if that ends up going anywhere.

      Oh that’s awful – the Nativity Play has scarred so many of us for life, it seems!

  32. Oh Rachel! You will tell me all about the interviews when I see you, but in the meantime I am confident that everything will go well for you because you are brilliant and nothing at all like a failure in any way.

    However, I am greatly enjoying the mental image of little you galloping about singing “Little Donkey, Little Donkey”, and I would really appreciate it if you would sing it for me when next we meet.

  33. Hmmmm….
    1. The donkey part sound much more fun than Mary, so that is no great loss
    2. Good for you for introducing pop-culture in the form of Buffy to the dons of Cambridge (I daresay it was long overdue)
    3. Embrace the freedom unemployment (or as I called it when I was inbetween things, ‘sabbatical’) allows you
    4. Take comfort in indulging in afternoon tea when everyone else is at work, and the fact that most people will gone through exactly the same experiences you are having now, and hey, they survived:)

    1. Hahahaha thank you very much, N! That has made me feel much better about missing out on the starring role! I think I shall just sit back and take things as they come, and appreciate the blessing that comes with having parents who can look after me until I get a job – not everyone is so lucky. Afternoon tea while other people are chained to desks sounds like bliss!

  34. Hi Rachel: I hope things are looking up on the job front.

    Meanwhile, I flunked my driving test 3! times. I drove through a stop sign, drove through a stop light, and generally appeared petrified and drove far too slow in another test…

    And then I retook it in a smaller town and passed on my fourth try….

    Maybe there is some deep lesson here for your job hunt (or maybe not) – but I can say that I advise a lot of grad students who are job hunting (I’m a professor) and I always tell them that someone with a lot of talent and drive (as you have) WILL always land something great. It may not happen immediately, but it will happen and hey, you have lots of followers you can draw on for job references, right?

    Seriously, good luck, as you note, things will come through with time, Kathy aka Ruby

    1. Thanks Kathy – there are lots of jobs available and I have some more opportunities lined up so things are looking good. I am not despairing just yet!

      You are right and thank you for your encouragement – if only the waiting thing wasn’t so hard! It’s teaching me patience though, so I must be grateful for that!

  35. I was Mary in the school pageant at age 7, but don’t really remember anything about it and was quite surprised to be chosen. At least you have an interesting story about it! And I failed my driver’s test 3 times, went on to terrify my friends with my bad driving for years (I think I still do, a little!) and eventually had a role in a play that I really wanted stolen by my roommate (not to mention that she also started dating the guy I liked!)… and have been unemployed by choice for all of this year (so we could live at my parents’ while my husband got better from his last surgery and then had two more surgeries this summer). I felt really down and bad about myself because of that at first, that everyone must be judging me for not working, but I wanted to be there for him when he had his surgeries instead of frantically working and stressed as I was last year and to take some time to just rest myself.

    It’s been hard to live with my parents as an adult with a small family of my own now (luckily my husband, the cat and I have got a separate little cottage on their acreage but still!) but we had enough time to reassess our lives and will be moving to a new city and province in a few weeks and both of us are starting new courses in the fall in practical training that will get us better jobs in a good industry (behind the scenes in health care). And I decided a few months ago to stop feeling bad about being unemployed and just take the time to pursue what matters to me, see it as a gift to rest and an opportunity to find ‘my own way’ of living some more, outside of letting everyone make me feel guilty for not doing things their way. (Doing things ‘in my own way’ has become a favourite phrase of mine, to shield me from doubts while being myself when everyone else seems to have it figured out better than I do! It comes from my favourite quote: “To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s” by Dostoevsky.) And my marriage is also better for having so much time together, without us both rushing around stressed out over our jobs. In the end, relationships matter more than fancy careers and money anyways, so don’t belittle getting to spend time with family! Some day you’ll be busier and will be glad of that. In my early 20s I spent a lot of time with my siblings before we developed any serious relationships (my mom was worried we’d never move on and start dating!) and now that we’re all married or having kids and spread about the country, I look back on those memories with fondness.

    A long comment to make up for being so absent from blogging lately! Take care and enjoy these last golden weeks in New York. You’re not a failure in my books when you’ve promoted Elizabeth Bowen so well lately!πŸ˜‰

    1. Thanks Carolyn. It’s good to know that I’m not alone, and that we all go through difficult phases. I’m so glad to hear that you and your husband have made a plan that you’re happy about – it sounds fantastic and I wish you all the best with it.

      I am going to make the best of my time as much as possible, Carolin, thank you! I’m glad you’ve been enjoying my Bowen love too – there will be more!!πŸ™‚

    2. Thanks Carolyn. It’s good to know that I’m not alone, and that we all go through difficult phases. I’m so glad to hear that you and your husband have made a plan that you’re happy about – it sounds fantastic and I wish you all the best with it.

      I am going to make the best of my time as much as possible, Carolyn, thank you! I’m glad you’ve been enjoying my Bowen love too – there will be more!!πŸ™‚

  36. So sorry to hear this! However, you’re young, so very smart, a wonderful writer, extremely attractive, and people love you (I couldn’t get 81 comments on my blog if I paid people!). You’re not alone in feeling like you’re life is rubbish at the moment, but I think I’d trade with you in terms of the support you have garnered!πŸ™‚ Good luck with the job search–I suspect the right job is going to come along in time–have a great time in NY these last weeks before you head off again for London.

    1. Oh Danielle, you are far too lovely, thank you! You have made me feel fabulous! The job hunt is going ok and I have some options so I am trying not to stress and enjoy myself but it’s easier said than done. Thank you for your good wishes, they mean an awful lot!πŸ™‚

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