Being a writer I'm used to rejection. Getting my hopes up and feeling the gut punch when things don't work out in my favor. Putting in blood, sweat and tears on a script only to have it end up on a shelf. Making spaghetti without sauce.
Yep, the life of an artist is filled with heartbreak. Wah, wah, wah. Who cares. I get it. I signed up for it.
But nothing has been more shocking, more confusing, more "how the hell did that not work out" than this last week when I found out I didn't get hired as a sales clerk in the children's department of Macy's.
Talk about gut punch.
Here's the story. A few weeks ago after another long, humiliating day of dragging used clothing across town only to make a few bucks, a semi-failed attempt at a garage sale to try and get rid of these clothes that I have now collected from friends and family, and a doctor's bill for my upper respiratory infection visit I came to a realization...
THIS ISN'T WORKING, IS IT?
So, after finishing a day at the school talent show rehearsal (where I'm certain I caught that upper respiratory infection) I took my girl to Macy's to shop for a dress that she could wear on the day of the big show.
At 9 years old it seems she outgrows her clothes between the time I drop her off at school and the moment I pick her up. Shoes aren't fitting, shorts aren't buttoning, even her underwear is too tight.
She had worked so hard on her song I knew she wanted something new and special to wear for the day of the show.
We went straight to the sales rack and grabbed a few possibilities and, success, she found one she loved. What was even more exciting was when the sales lady rang it up it cost less than the sale tag said—sweet!
While the woman was putting the dress in a bag, and I was feeling the rush of good luck from the extra savings I said, "You wouldn't happen to be hiring right now, would you?"
Now, I didn't go to Macy's planning on asking for a job. Nor did I think being a sales person was something I wanted to do. But while I was standing there, watching her in the this calm, air conditioned, quiet section of the store, folding clothes and scanning items it really looked like something I had no doubt I could master.
That... and I was broke and desperate.
She smiled enthusiastically, "We are, actually. If you go online to our website go to the job opening section and you can fill out an application. Good luck!"
Wow, the days of filling out an application by hand with a pen in a corner of a store sweating as you try to remember the zip code of your previous residence and the phone numbers of employers from seven years ago are over.
I thanked her and off we went. Hannah looked up at me, "Mommy... you want to work at Macy's?"
Once again the look of disappointment that her mother was giving up on her artistic career of choice came over my kid's face.
"Honey, mommy needs a job."
"You have a job. You're a writer."
"No, a job is something that can add sauce to our spaghetti."
I gave her a hug and told her I think working at Macy's would be great.
That night I went on-line to the Macy's website, clicked on "jobs" and started filling out my application. The first part of the application was standard; previous jobs, previous income, education, etc. I filled it all out -- the shows I wrote for, the development deals, the script options.
I was almost done with the application when I came to one last section... a 12-page questionnaire that seriously read like something out of a psychiatric exam.
It was bizarre. The questions were all about conduct, personality, thought process, mood swings, character, motive and you were given multiple choice answers in the form of "true, semi true, not true, never."
I seriously felt like I needed to call my therapist about some of them.
"Hey, Paula, would you say I'm a leader always looking to change and fix things for the better?"... "Am I moody in the workplace if something in my private life has gone wrong?"... "Do people perceive me as ambitious?"... "Am I perky?"
Honestly, I thought I was just signing up to try and sell kids underwear but apparently Macy's really likes to know the inner workings of their employees psyche.
I tried to answer the questions as best as I could, but the writer in me couldn't help but over-analyze them.
"Well, it depends. What happened the night before that might have led up to a morning where I'm not my usual perky self?"or "How do I know why a customer was rude? Maybe he was raised in a violent home, taken away, lived in the foster care system where he was mistreated and therefore no one ever respected him or listened to him and he's got anger issues he hasn't dealt with?" or "I can be social but if I'm talking to a bigot I might find myself not wanting to engage in pleasant conversation..."
You see my problem with this. Life is way too complicated. This is why I was a sucky student in high school and did crappy on tests. To me there is always more than one answer.
But, as midnight rolled around I finally finished the damn application and sent it in. And waited... and waited... and waited.
Well, as you know already I didn't get the job. I received an email from Macy's simply thanking me for my interest in a career at their store but that I didn't have the qualifications for the job.
At 16 years old with zero life experience other than figuring out how to smoke pot out of an apple and French kissing without banging teeth I could get hired at any mall in town! But now, at my age, with all that I have done I'm NOT QUALIFIED?!
Okay, so maybe writing for Californication doesn't mean I can sell clothes but surely shopping for and dressing my kid for nine years should mean something!
And then I obsessed on that damn questionnaire. Did I answer wrong? Am I unstable in Macy's eyes? Do they think I might not handle Memorial Day sales well?
Needless to say one person was thrilled I got rejected. My daughter. She literally beamed when I told her Macy's didn't want me.
I, on the other hand, panicked. If I can't get a job at Macy's surely Nordstroms or Bloomingdales is totally out of the question.
And then, I went to the mailbox. There, in-between the Penny Saver and my electric bill was a small, but unexpected check in a Writer's Guild envelope. It was a residual for one of the shows I used to write for.
Thank you, God.
Hannah wore her new, pretty Macy's dress for the talent show and for dinner that night I made us a big batch of spaghetti...
With plenty of sauce.