Timi Yeseibo on Loss
We are all dust passing through the air, the difference is, some are flying high in the sky, while others are flying low. But eventually, we all settle on the same ground. ― Anthony Liccione
To reinvent yourself in your late-thirties, you work with a job coach. She will turn the years you spent chauffeuring your children to and fro school and swimming, and ballet, and football, the months you spent volunteering to cut out hearts and read poetry to classes of fidgety children, and the days you spent hosting meetings for a diverse group of women, into credible examples of leadership and teamwork. On paper. A resume that she has to work on you to believe.
You believe. And you can tell every interviewer about yourself, stitching the holes in the years between your first degree and the present in a perfect line.
Still I did not get the first job I applied for. Or the second or the third. Each time I finished strong as a close second, I vowed to eliminate the words consolation prize, if I were God for a day. The ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm is what Winston Churchill described as success. I did not feel like a success, but I tweaked my resume and wrote more cover letters.
With bills mounting, I prayed, “God, anything. I will do anything, even hospice care.”
Then one day while waiting at the bus stop, I saw a woman I used to know in orange overalls with the insignia of the town on her chest and back, using a pick-up tool to clear rubbish—empty cans, funnel-shaped cardboards with remains of mayonnaise and patat, and a lone pink mitten—from the road, trash bag in tow.
It was not the harshness of the sun that kept her head down, spring was just emerging from winter; the sun had not yet roused itself properly. It was shame. She had lost her former status just as I had. She could not and would not raise her head to say hello, even though I no longer had a car. Had she not seen that my coat, fraying at the cuffs and hem, was one from a few seasons back? I looked at my bus pass as though there was information on it that I had not yet read, and I let her name die on my lips.
I was no longer so sure about my prayer. “Okay God,” I prayed, “not just anything.”
I landed a clerical job, which I would have rejected when I graduated with honours fifteen years earlier, a mindless job that did not even require the kind of critical thinking I used when I played Mahjong Titans.
One evening, I took a file full of reports to my boss, a woman in her mid-twenties, whose jawline was just discernible from her neck. Colleagues whispered that she was a casualty of one of those expensive diet plans. She barely glanced at the reports before signing. She had come to trust my work, and she commented on my level of accuracy.
“You’re better than this,” she said, looking at me, searching for my story as if I had written it behind my eyes. “You should find another job.”
“I know,” I whispered, as if it was our secret, “it’s just a matter of time.”
I no longer worry about bills and I use my brain to do the things I love. I saw a man in his fifties begging for alms. His pale blue shirt tucked neatly in navy trousers, set him apart. Although his eyes were weary, he stood as though he had steel in his spine.
I am seldom asked, who are you, but I am always asked, what do you do? It is easy to confuse the two.
©Timi Yeseibo 2017
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