“Today is the first day of the rest of my life!” she repeated to herself mantrastyle as she trudged across the beaten down grass path past the children climbing on the sculpture that looked like red metal tinker toys. She was convinced that if she said it enough then it would begin to feel true.
Her friends and family had all tried to be encouraging but no matter what they said or did to help it didn’t really feel real. They were all getting up early to drive to work and bitch about their bosses. She was unemployed … what a lonely and frightening feeling. She was getting so tired of people telling her what she should do, where she should go, how she should conduct herself etc. All she wanted was to be left alone to stew in her own juices for a while. Where did any of them get off trying to tell her what she should be thinking?
“Today is …” she stopped mumbling her mantra as she stumbled over a small grass hillock right where the blacktop started. She pulled her keys out of the pocket of her sweatpants and walked to the car. She loved her car but since she lost her job it just felt like another problem. She had just missed her first car payment but was going to pay it with her first unemployment check.
She put her messenger bag on the passenger seat next to her and closed the driver’s side door. Sighing deeply she started the car and leaned back in the seat waiting for the car to cool off. The radio was on NPR and they were talking about unemployment statistics. She jabbed at the buttons until John Mayer was crooning out of the speakers and she closed her eyes and choked back the anger and frustration. “Why me?” she whined to herself as she fastened her seatbelt and put the car into gear right as the first raindrops appeared on the windshield.
It was 2:45 in the afternoon and there was very little traffic on the road. There was a small hybrid vehicle broke down on the shoulder and she glanced into it as she passed to make sure no one was stranded inside. She picked up her cell phone to phone a friend and then put it back down despondently when she realized that there was no one she could phone at 3:00 in the afternoon because they were all at work. Over the last few weeks she’d had to get accustomed to driving without chatting on the cell phone for financial purposes as well as practical ones, there was no one to call.
She had sent out her resume to about twenty companies already and had received two “Thanks but no thanks” and three “We’ll keep you on file” responses so far. She turned the radio station to an all news station and settled in for a quiet drive home. She was having trouble shaking out of the funk she had been in since her conversation with her Aunt Penny the afternoon before. It wasn’t Penny’s fault she was just trying to help. When Penny had suggested that she go to work as a porter for a car dealership where her neighbor Frank worked she was noncommittal and slightly amused. It wasn’t until Penny started grilling her about her daily activities that she realized that she had been elected by the family to make sure she wasn’t “wasting time”. She had hustled Penny off the phone and put her phone on do not disturb for the remainder of the day.
She rounded the curve on the highway heading toward home and tried to get her mind off her troubles. The house payment was made, the utility companies have been appeased for now and the car payment was scheduled for next week. There were groceries in the kitchen and cat food in the pantry so she wasn’t homeless and wasn’t going to starve for now. She hit the tuner on the radio for a while until she found a radio station playing oldies. “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” came on and she sang quietly along with Crosby Stills Nash & Young gradually getting louder until she was singing loudly enough for people in the other cars to hear her. She chuckled to herself a little at the thought, she was a horrendous singer. The music made her feel better and she noticed a lightening of her mood. She continued thinking trying to come up with the positive things in her life. She was healthy and strong, capable of working, she had been let go during the summer so she had a nice tan her cat was thrilled to have her home with him more and her Tivo was practically empty because she had finally watched all those shows she hadn’t had time for before.
Things weren’t terrible, she could live on what she had saved and her unemployment for a while until she found another position. She glanced to the right and saw a man putting up a new billboard and thought fleetingly, as she had a hundred other times since she was let go, “I wonder what they get paid?” She had made it into a little private game picturing herself in whatever job she had just seen. She realized that billboard hanger girl was probably not going to be in the cards for her but the thought did make her laugh out loud. Suddenly her phone rang and she laughingly answered “This is LeeAnne can I help you?” The voice on the other end of the phone said “Ms. Grainge this is Ted Hoppley from Lorre Produce and I received your resume and I was hoping we could schedule some time for an interview.” She sighed with relief, turned down the stereo and said in her most pleasant and professional voice “Absolutely Mr. Hoppley I’m so glad you phoned, I can meet with you any time tomorrow that is convenient for you.”