Personal Essay #1 – Shana Waring

Job Offer

Years of hard work have led to this moment. As I stand at my kitchen counter working on my budget excel spreadsheet, a ding chimes through my laptop. I open my email inbox to find an unexpected subject line from an unexpected sender. I struggle to focus and see the words “Job Position' written in the subject line and have to take a moment to open the contents. I know there must be a smile plastered across my face because my heart feels like it is going to beat out of my chest. I feel both confused by the unexpected outreach from someone who makes me feel invisible half of the time I am around her and in disbelief a “dream job' would come to find me, not the other way around.

I’ve never been so excited, the opportunities I can gain from this position are endless. I find myself slowly sliding my finger down the mousepad of my computer and really taking in each word typed on the screen. Suddenly I break out in laughter. “Why would she think of me?!' There must be an ulterior motive to this outreach. I begin to relive an encounter last summer.

As my family is aboard the River Boat, I awkwardly walk amongst the crowds from floor to floor as I trail behind my four-year-old, hoping he slows down enough to not run overboard. I remember many faces, some from children’s birthday parties, others from numerous school functions. Some pass an acknowledging smile; others bury themselves into deep conversations.  One person in particular, appears to be avoiding eye contact with each of our passings. The first two passing’s seem to be nothing out of the ordinary, but as I begin to pick her out in the crowd (probably a subconscious thing), I noticed she was making more than eye contact with many other families. She was stopping and engaging in a conversation. I undoubtedly made my way to the bathroom to check my reflection in the mirror. Did I have a funny mark on my face? Was my makeup in disarray and it was too much to have to strike up a friendly conversation without making a comment of my runny mascara?

Making my way back out onto the boat deck, my self-esteem and awkwardness were increasing with each passing moment. I was relieved to finally find a friendly face and a friendly conversation. It was a welcomed distraction and I must say the remainder of the 45-minute boat ride turned out to be quite enjoyable. A fellow parent and I spent time seeking out the coveted ice cream center the children had not failed to mention every 30 seconds and stood stagnate in line for face painting while the humidity of the warm day and enclosed deck floor made us sweat; all the while having what felt like a nice natural conversation. We were fortunate enough to finish up our activities as the boat began docking.

The children wanted one last run up to the top deck to check out the water wheel. As we made our way up the two flights of stairs, although short but somehow strangely steep, I saw a glimpse of the exit ramp and there stood Mrs. No Eye Contact giving each person a lovely exit wave. I laughed to myself thinking how hard it must be somedays to have to fake so many smiles. We began our final descent down to the exit ramp about three minutes after our final view of the water wheel. We would be the last couple of families off the boat and naturally, I felt a bit of anxiety pitted in my stomach in having to fake a smile back to our cheerful exiting personnel. Low and behold as we hit the platform of the exit ramp and away we watch her go. Walking away to her vehicle as clearly she had spent enough time giving her regards. I just couldn’t quite understand the coldness I received that day and similarly at events to follow over the next year. As each event to follow wrapped up, I felt myself beginning to care far less and come to expect little to no acknowledgment, not at all right, but something I was at a loss to fix.

The day of my interview is an interesting one. The previous weekend I had used the excuse to go shopping for a new top. I mean why not make the most of an opportunity?! I had since packed all of my dress pants away being out of the workforce for the past four years to raise children. I begin my hunt for the box of clothes and once I ran across the clear container, I take a deep breath hoping a pair of pre-pregnancy pants would fit. It is a miracle I gingerly squish my love handles down into the waistband and zipped up the zipper. I walked down the hallway and quietly, yet confidently presented myself as a member of the workforce to my husband. He gives me a reassuring smile and asks to iron a crease in my pants. With this comment it is clear to me he is far more nervous about the next couple of hours in the day than I am.

Twenty minutes later my husband, daughter, and I all load up into my vehicle to head towards the school for the interview. My mind is fairly quiet during the drive as I have yet to feel much nervousness flow through my veins. I am simply living in the moment enjoying the newer views of clear sunny skies and green grass, a welcome vision after six months of snow and cold. My husband appears to be taking his sweet time driving along, checking in every six minutes to ask how I was feeling. Continually, like a record player covered in gum, asking if I am nervous, or if there are any questions I would like to practice before we arrive. I once again find myself chuckling inwardly at how ironic this moment is to see a bystander sweating bullets while I sit relatively calm and collected.

Upon my arrival, I wave goodbye and hear a quick “Good Luck' coming from the driver seat of my vehicle. I am greeted by the secretary with a smile and easy conversation as always. I sit and we joke about a conversation between two children I heard the previous weekend. The office door opens and I am ushered inside the office. Inside I feel at ease, which is a bit of a different feeling than what I was expecting. Not so much nervous about the process, but simply how the conversation would go with the head of school. The questions are both formal and a little fun to get to know my personality a bit better. She explains she would like to conduct a second interview in the next couple of weeks with another teacher I would be working with on an everyday basis. We warmly exchange “thank-you' and I walk back out to the perfectly time vehicle pulling into the parking lot. I really couldn’t ask for a better interview experience and my confidence in myself, the position, and the school continue to grow in the process.

Fast forwarding two weeks I find myself walking into the office, again in a new top because it was clear to me before I felt better about looking better. This time I feel the dynamic to be more formal. I sit and listen to the job description being read aloud. This feels a bit mundane and my hands feel like they are ready to play Symphony #5 on the piano. Luckily I had pre-thought out the time frame of this meeting and realized I was going to sit waiting for a few moments after our agreed upon start time. I had brought a book which has nicely made its way across my lap. My restless hands reach for the binding and the once Charlie Brown teacher voice circles back to English. I sit still answering questions for the next twenty minutes and realize my nerves are beginning to come to the forefront of my emotions as I watch each of the two other women in the office frantically write below each question they read to me. As the conclusion of the meeting appears, I find myself stepping out of the office almost tripping over my own feet. Unable to wrap my head around the random string of emotions, I smile and walk out to my car one foot in front of the other.

Twelve days after my second interview I decide the timing is right for a late morning walk with the two young toddlers I now have the responsibility of playing with during the summer mornings. I wrestle to strap one into the harness and the other to become a bit more pliable in manning his feet into a double stroller. The sky is blue and the air is clean and refreshing. I make the round of a corner and hear the laughter of children. A few houses in front of me five children are riding their bikes in a large circle across the yard, over the sidewalk, and into the street. This cues my mind to venture back to the discussion I’d had at the end of my second interview about hearing about the job in the next week so the position could be posted in the weekly Friday newsletter. My mind wanders back to the confidence I had felt leaving the office at the conclusions of my first interview and then to my stumbling exit of the second interview and I’m suddenly unsure if I had missed something or if I am simply being too impatient. Just then I am interrupted by the discontentment of one toddler who is struggling to unclip the harness which keeps her from sliding under the front bar and racing down the street like a runaway inmate. As I tended to her and moved back around to grasp the handle of the stroller, I lift my phone from the cup holder allowing the background light to illuminate the screen. I click the mail button to find three unread emails. There it is, subject line… “Job Offer'. My annoyance and hint of self-doubt instantly fly into the clear blue sky.

I quickly open the email and read the three paragraphs typed into the body. I am directed to open the attachment below for the official job offer which should be signed and returned within four days. I hit the attachment button and slow my pace of walking as I wait for the form to upload onto my screen. Wait, what? The pay is how low and I have to commit two years for this particular contract? I can now feel the color draining from my face, running down my sternum. This is still really what I want, but the specifics are quickly making the entirety of the situation feel a bit less appealing. I absolutely dread leaving my daughter in the care of someone else, mind you she has been in my care all but maybe a handful of hours in her 18-months of existence. Overall, the discussions I’ve had with my husband really point us in a direction of opportunity professionally and financially, I have to quickly talk myself off this ledge of doubt and refocus. Yet again I’m thinking it would be about 10 months until my daughter is old enough to start at the school with my son and I. Before my head flies off into the clear blue sky as well, I see there is a clear and easy change in the forecast as family and success can all come together.

My mood quickly refreshes and the excitement of no longer having to wait is my new focus. I have spoken with a friend about the situation throughout the process of receiving the initial email into the interviews. We have discussed the chance of her watching my daughter until her pcs date in January. I look back down at my phone and begin to text my husband as he has begun to “nag' me about when I would hear about the position. Oh, how the roles changed there. I then text the potential babysitter to let her know I have received the official offer and am ready to get things set in stone.

A few hours later the lights begin to really dim on the process. I receive a text back from the babysitter, aka Flaky Friend, who all of the sudden is going to be traveling and will pcs in December. These changes are leaving her feeling a bit nervous she will be able to provide me assistance with my childcare needs. My fiery red hair becomes ablaze at the recollection of how many conversations we have had in the previous weeks and how there was not a single mention of this “new' information. I’m now in a position where childcare will consist of a number of people each week, with different locations, and different children. This coupled with my husband’s impending deployment, finishing the last two semesters of college, and flying to Chicago for a training program lead to an unhealthy number of changes for a young child to adapt to without distracting from normal developmental achievements. None of these factors putting the fire extinguisher in the right direction to control the flames.

This type of decision has my head unable to simply sink into this soft pillow and enjoy this new comforter snuggling me like a cloud. Words and images fly in and out of my head like some 1970’s cartoon movie. I struggle to find comfort in “everything will be okay' whether I take the position and juggle 1,000,001 tasks through each and every day or I chose to pass up the offer and add stress to my spouse in his worry as a provider. At this point, I may find my dreams taking me back to Pearl Street in Boulder, CO to visit the crazy lady with the crystal ball. The one who can answer all my questions with the almost suffocating aroma of patchouli incense burning in the background. The room that becomes difficult to decipher from dreamland or real life because the darkness and haze are somewhere in-between.

Somehow in my restless, discomfort of what should have been sleep, I am able to formulate my thoughts into text. My husband just happens to be out of town for three weeks during this ordeal to make every bit of a decision carry more emotion than probably necessary. My fingers tap the keyboard in an almost rhythmic way to discuss my dilemma and offer me advice on what I should do. It takes a total of two days, zero arguments, and some extremely constructive conversation to come to an agreement on the decision at hand. My mind still seems to be spinning with the impending thought of how my ideas will convey to my new boss or the lady who will once again likely avoid my very existence because she feels I have wasted her time. Oh well, here it goes I close my eyes and hit the send button.

Now as I sit in my beautiful new classroom, I look back to all of the anxiety, joy, and anger I felt during the last year of school when I first got the job offer. I was so nervous about making a decision. I had no idea what the future would hold. I questioned for quite some time if I should have simply gone all in. The drive and motivation the questioning offered to me has led me to a place where I get to be a program leader. I’ve developed a nice dialogue with the once known as Mrs. No Eye Contact. I’ve taken an opportunity to become an asset to her desire to grow education in the interior. We are a team, albeit separate entities, working together to conquer the world one educator/businesswoman to another.

12 thoughts on “Personal Essay #1 – Shana Waring

  1. Benjamin Hayward

    Holy Batman, Robin! This was difficult to read. It reads like my kids telling me a story, and I can only nod and reply, “un-hun.” The opening paragraph had no hooks at all. With the amount of bicycles in this story, she should open here own bicycle shop. To ride a bicycle in a story is to go on a tangent and talk about something not related to the situation the story is about. I am referring to the blow by blow Shana seems to require to tell the story just to check an email. This is a past event told in the first person, so the timing threw me off. Right off the bat I ask myself why is she struggling to focus on the email? She wasn’t crying, there are no hints of needed assisted devices for seeing. She knows someone who reaches out to her for a job, offering her a dream job, no less. This person who sent the email is not a friend, so maybe an acquaintance, and offers her a job. Got it.

    Waring takes us to an event from last summer. How does this develop the story? What the emotional connection? At least 3 paragraphs are dedicated to this bicycle ride. She remembers one particular person who is avoiding eye contact, with everyone. Except when Waring focuses on this person she has done a 180 degree flip in attitude and persona, shaking everyone’s hand, greeting everyone. Is this still the same person, or a mix of two or more? Then, out of nowhere Waring feels self-conscious and detours to the restroom. What has this hostess done to affect the story so greatly?

    Why is Waring directing our attention to her awkwardness and self-esteem? My next question I ask myself is if she is in a danger zone because she finds relief in a friendly face. Speaking of standing in line for a face painting, after going to the bathroom, did her mascara final run? Finally we are leaving the boat. Waring still doesn’t like the hostess and the fake smiles. Finally, as we are about to get off the bicycle, I stop to think about how any of these feelings or situations relate to Waring reading an email for a dream job. My response to a dream job when going from $30,000 a year to $171,000 a year was one of elation. The response was the same when I went from unemployed, to having a job.

    We move now to Waring preparing for the day of the interview. I am assuming this is the job mentioned in the email at the start of this writing. This was put together well, it flowed nice from the preparations to the interview being over. It was a success, leading to a second interview. My mind is thinking back to the bicycle, and how it applies to this part of the story. Here we have emotions of confidence, where before the emotions were all over the map, for no apparent reason.

    This paragraph starting with Fast Forwarding two weeks. In it Waring bounces between being in the interview, and waiting before the interview. This time-jumping lost me for a few seconds, requiring me to exit the story and understand more fully what was happening continues until the final paragraph where it mentions Mrs. No Eye Contact. In all, the reading hurts my eyes and brain having to work to understand what I am reading.

    I leave you with these thoughts.

    Write as if your reader is an idiot. Hold their hand, connect their thoughts. Every paragraph needs to support your opening. This doesn’t mean sentence by sentence, but by idea. It is possible for three paragraphs to support one sentence in the first paragraph. End by having your example loop around to the first paragraph, summoning up the middle as a point. Finally, during revision, ask yourself this. “How does the idea conveyed in this sentence/paragraph support what is before and after it?

    When your writing for tense and time, consider one point of view. Your last paragraph, “Now as I sit in my beautiful classroom, I look back to all of the anxiety, joy, and anger I felt during the last year of school when I first got the job offer.” This is present tense. “I was so nervous about making a decision. I had no idea what the future would hold.” Both of these are written in the past tense. I think maybe your last paragraph should have been your first. This would inform the reader that you were taking them down a past memory in the first person.

    1. nmfleming

      I will agree there are some points in this story that it sounds like a child about seven is telling a story. When children tell stories they add in a lot of details, details that are not really needed for the story and they also don’t have a clear way of showing that they are transition from one story to the next. Which is a big thing that I felt this story was missing.

  2. Lilia Lundquist

    This story was oddly suspenseful, in the best way. I enjoyed the way you were able to portray your emotion throughout the entire job offer process. I could feel your anticipation as well as your initial disappointment. I do agree with Benjamin that there lacked any lines in the introduction that really dragged me into the story. I also think that maybe there should have been less focus on the “no eye contact woman” as I didn’t see her playing any major role. You have great descriptive detail when talking about the environment around you. The fact that you were walking us through a intimate time in your personal life is what made me curious to get to the end. I thought this was a solid start, with a little tweaking and some rising action you’ll have a great story.

  3. Tometria Jackson

    What I liked about your story is the way you described your feelings throughout your piece. Your emotions ranged from feeling awkward to confident, to being apprehensive, to finally being satisfied at the end of your story. The way you processed your thoughts and second-guessed yourself were entirely relatable, and a nice touch of realism. Your story highlights all of the day to day drama that surrounds the decisions we make that have the power to change our life’s course.

    To give a little constructive feedback, I noticed that you switched from past tense to present tense quite often, and that was a little confusing. I also would have appreciated a little more context about your life at the time you received your job offer; I think it would have helped me to understand this story a little better. I also agree with Lilia that there could have been a little less detail about your encounter with the ‘no eye-contact woman’. Over all, a pleasant read!

  4. Kait

    I really like how your story was so full of detail and emotion which made it a very good, vivid picture and made me feel nervous for the end to see if you got the job. You’re paragraphs have nice transitions and your story can be relatable to readers like Mrs. No Eye Contact, I knew somebody like that in high school. Maybe put a little less detail on the paragraph about the River Boat? I felt a little lost reading into that, but other than that the story is a really great read!

  5. Delaney E Reece

    Hello Shana!
    I think that your selection of a topic is Practically Perfect, a personal narrative about a job decision and it’s greater impact has the potential to be very insightful. In this case, I think in an effort to entertain you may have actually led readers astray and created an unnecessary distraction. I found myself reading sections over and over trying to asses timeframe and who was involved, I think clarity in these areas would improve things tenfold.
    I found your writing style to be a bit informal, which I liked a lot it made the story feel as though you were telling me personally in your kitchen over coffee. When you started to paint a setting you gave me that image right away which I loved as well. In addition to this, I wanted more from the people in your story, well the settings where detailed perfectly there was much less on the appearance or characteristics of people which made it difficult to not only like them but to keep track of them as well.

  6. Kelsey

    I like the emotions behind your story, but I think you should focus more on them. Such as, why your husband was feeling the weight of providing or why you felt so torn about leaving the kids and moving into the workforce. I say this because the beginning of the story is a little dry and confusing, but I think if you removed some of that and write about the pressures of being a single income family or the nerves of entering the workforce again, might make it easier to read and more relatable. I was confused by who the woman was that wouldn’t make eye contact and why you were all on the riverboat together.

  7. Courtney Kisner

    I loved the vivid details that your piece was saturated in. There were just so many, that it got me picturing a bunch of different images, simultaneously. I think the number of details actually overwhelmed the story. If I were writing this paper, I would create an outline based on this draft, from paragraph to paragraph, and then from there find details that are essential to your overarching goal for the reader. You have a lot of great content, you just need to streamline it in order to make those great details pop.

  8. nmfleming

    I really enjoyed this story, but I had to reread the second paragraph twice because I didn’t catch the transition that was at the end of the second paragraph to the third paragraph. The transition just wasn’t big enough for me to catch, I thought that the writer was starting a new story. There is also a lot of vivid details which is what makes this story so great, but there might be too many which can lose the attention of your reader.

  9. Brenden Couch

    I love your descriptions such as, “My annoyance and hint of self-doubt instantly fly into the clear blue sky”. There are a few others, like AKA Flaky friend. I appreciate the humor!

  10. Jess Young

    Your writing was relatable, particularly the section with the woman who avoided eye contact. I understood exactly how you felt in that moment and enjoyed reading your story!

  11. Meghan Geary

    I think you have some really solid imagery here and a grasp of how to describe the emotions you were feeling in a relatable way! Kudos there. Some things I think you could improve on are your transitions, your tenses and keeping on topic. Some of your writing became slightly muddled and lost my attention by venturing down rabbit trails that weren’t completely relevant to the plot. It’s hard with a personal narrative because we tend to want to talk about all the things we felt were relevant in the moment, but really try to put yourself in your readers shoes- what you found completely relevant in the moment may not translate to your audience as relevant, they only care about driving the plot forward. Your tenses made this difficult to read in some instances because they were constantly changing. Try to keep those consistent throughout the entire piece, so if you’re telling the story as a memory you’re writing in past tense, and making a clear distinction if you decide to flash forward to present tense for whatever reason. Most of your transitions were also a bit jarring, they jumped between topics and didn’t contribute to the flow of the piece at all. Try to smooth those out and it will really help keep the readers attention throughout the piece. It was an interesting read though!

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