My friends Ghena and Jonathan (with whom I sort of live) had a friend in town this weekend. His name is also Jonathan, so for the sake of the following post, we’ll call him Brown.
#11 I interview horribly
[especially when I don’t know it’s an interview until half way through]
Brown works at World Vision in the southern end of what is known to most as Seattle, Washington. It’s technically Federal Way, and it’s hidden on a curvy road between looming trees and dark houses and creeping fog: or so it was the night a friend and I got lost and stumbled upon the glowing sign that gleamed in the night, World Vision: The largest NonProfit in the World. It ought to have been a beacon of hope, but at that point it was more a sign of how incredibly lost we were, fumbling through the highways and back streets of Washington.
I told Ghena that I was going to ask him for a job when he came to visit, and I hoped she wasn’t offended or put out by such audacity. She sort of smirked and said: “if you have the gumption to ask for a job, go right ahead,” which seemed a funny way to accept my proposal of meeting someone and asking them to hire me in the same conversation. I cocked my head to the side and asked what that was supposed to mean. “It means, he can be kind of intimidating.”
At which point, Jonathan looked up from the laptop and said without batting an eye: “He’s a very attractive man.”
And thus, I was prepared to ask Brown for a job at World Vision pending a thousand variables that are slowly coming together. It happened on Saturday night, after a late evening run of only two miles and an even later dinner of seared steak, baked potatoes, crisply steamed green beans sprinkled with garlic that I added to the pot just a little too late, and Dancing Bull to drink. It was perfect. The children were in bed after baths and Bible time, my cheeks were flushed for the snapping cold of the run, and the conversation had wandered between passive righteousness, broken engagements and the titles of our future best sellers. We removed to the kitchen finally, at which point Jonathan quickly disappeared to bed (having been up since 3AM). And then it was just the three of us, finishing the dishes, climbing around each other in the narrow kitchen, laughing awkwardly and familiarly until Brown eventually took a seat on the stool and said he’d help but it just seemed a little crowded with him. And besides, he wanted to munch on the un-finished granola that I had neglected. “I don’t know, Sara,” he said thoughtfully as he plunged his well licked fingers back into the sticky blue bowl, “French Onion Soup and granola? I think we might have a chef Sara on our hands,” or some such nonsense. I distinctly remember blushing slightly, and the tips of my ears may have burned despite the low temperature of the house. After all, it has been a while since a boy (in this case a man) suggested that I had any ability in the kitchen. I must have beamed in spite of myself and the worn out baggy sweatshirt whose had dragged in my food at throughout dinner. And then it started, as I was bent over the dishwasher, rearranging and sorting, Brown asked with another mouthful of gooey oats and flax, “so, why Pakistan?” But he didn’t exaggerate the name of the country like so many others are prone to do when they ask the same question. It was simple curiosity. There was no judgement, no surprise, no fear or worry, no confusion and finally: there was no belittling of me or my desires as though I am childish, innocent and hopelessly naive. It was, for lack of a better way to express the sentiment, a desire to understand.*
I gave him the long story, because he said to start there since he could always ask me to fast forward. We walked through the halls of Beslan School, looked into the hopeless, enraged eyes of the shooters and the faces of the children silenced with wild fear. He sat beside me in class under Dr. Davis announcing to fellow students that “Miss B___ has a death wish,” and sorting through articles from newspapers and magazines that kept me up to date on all things Chechen and more broadly: the happenings of Central Asia. He joined me on the floor of my hotel room in Vladimir, laughing outloud at God when I was told to come back to the states. And most recently, he saw the delight in my face when Joy asked if I was serious about Pak and then said lightly “Good! ‘Cause we’ve been brainstorming what you can do while you’re there,” as matter of factly as though I had already bought a ticket and acquired a visa. And then, after all that, when we’d gone through my plans after I return (which are entirely theoretical, involve two states and several countries, school loans and public transportation), I asked the question pretty point blank: “so that’s the plan, sort of (uneasy pause of building up my courage as I lean around the microwave from the silverware drawer) unless you want to higher me at World Vision.” At which point we all sort of laughed and I said, “of course, I’m only half joking. Well–actually–I’m not joking at all,” by this time I had come back to the counter by the sink and was leaning forward–perhaps a little too earnestly–and I looked him in the eye as I asked more seriously, “do you want to higher me?”
And thus came the interview. It was full of those frustrating questions for which I have no answers:
what do you do better than anyone else?
who is your best friend? (Caitlin) and if she had to describe you in three words what would they be?**
what does your perfect job look like?
why do you want to work for World Vision?
and a million other questions, all of which I answered rather poorly. I don’t know what I am very good at, I snapped cheerfully that I am simply aware of my own inadequacies and listed compassion as both a blessing and curse. I mourn with people. I rejoice with them. I’m good with people, I said. I have loads of cross cultural experience. I can write a flipping good prayer letter cause I’ve been doing it all my life. I can raise $3000 in 5 weeks, I can argue with an embassy for a passport, I can write and I can sing and none of these have anything to do with a job at World Vision. I rambled a bit, I walked around things in circles, I avoided some questions altogether until he pressed a little harder, I said Caitlin would tell you I am a little reckless and if it was anyone other than Brown I think that would have been the wrong thing to say (Brown had a flicker of amusement in his eyes, and I knew he was thinking about Pak).
And I didn’t realize it was an interview until he said that if I didn’t know what I was better at than anyone else, how was he supposed to know? And how, if he couldn’t know, would he manage to figure out where I would fit in the World Vision group?
I think the worst part came today when I reappeared at Ghena and Jonathan’s house to help with dinner, spend some time online, trade out books*** and sort through children during “club chaos.” Jonathan came home with a book that he teasingly handed to me, something from work on interviewing skills. We laughed, I was genuinely amused. He asked me some questions from the middle section of the instruction book (as opposed to the thinner work-book-looking-thing that was left on the counter) and I tried to re-live the answers I had given Brown for those same queries. We laughed again, especially when Jonathan admitted he wouldn’t know how to answer the questions, despite having interviewed a host of people nearly twice his age in the past several weeks. It was sort of discouraging, realizing how I sold myself short because I’m still insecure. It was funny, to be sure, but the tears that gathered in the corner of my eyes had more to do with failing hope than pure laughter at my Saturday night debacle.
Brown, surprisingly, was not intimidating. He was a bit like Jason, and sounded (literally, in tone, in volume and inflection) like Keeleh. He was easy to talk to, and I was not overly flustered–a point I had prided myself on until Ghena told me that he had been gentle and chosen not to be intimidating.
Which frustrated me all the more–have I nothing from which to gather pride?
I officially loathe them.
*or so I took it that way, from the casualness of his tone, that he had no previous thoughts as to my insanity or stupidity, but genuinely wanted to know why.
**at which point I used phrases and informed Brown that phrases would have to count as single words. He laughed and asked if one of the things Caitlin would say to describe me is that I redefine boundaries and definitions?
***I traded out Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I’m flying through them since I’m seeing the movie this weekend with friends and have a significant issue [read: egotistical-pride-issue] with reading books before seeing movies. Since I wasn’t allowed to read them growing up, I have to make up for lost time. I am 6 down, 1 to go in 2 weeks… Flying people. On a Nimbus 2000 broomstick.