The word “loser” had been skittering through my panicked brain. I had been job hunting for two years without luck and I was desperate. Career aptitude tests suggested hairstyling so I went to beauty school.
I was terrified on that first day of school but I was also hopeful. Throughout the year each teacher assured my classmates and me that we were on the road to greatness. We were constantly regaled with tales of graduates who had gone on to fame and fortune.
Like my classmates, I worked hard for my promised success. Every time I did something well I felt a rush of pride. That feeling intensified when I graduated, with honors, and when I passed my licensing exams with high scores. I went out ready for the future.
The first places I applied to were nice salons with advanced training programs and high pay. I had three interviews, out of more than thirty applications. All my classmates had similar jobs but no one wanted me.
After months of being rejected I started applying at the cheap salons. They seemed about as eager to hire me as the high end salons and I was ready cede defeat when I got a call back. It was a three hour bus ride and it only paid minimum wage, but they wanted me.
The first day of work was like that first day of school, full of hope and fear as I familiarized myself with my station and my duties. The salon was slow, hardly any customers walked in. The people who did come requested specific stylists and I was left with no one in my chair and no one who had time to train me. I filled the long hours with busy work and I watched my fellow employees. The few times I had a customer were horrible. Cuts I had done well in school turned into horrible hack jobs when I tried them at work. If I felt that I had done a good job I would be told the next day that the customer had come back unhappy. Work had become a nightmare. I had been working for a month and a half when I decided I couldn't do it anymore. I quit.
Suddenly I could breathe again. There was some guilt over giving up but the feeling of freedom was so much stronger.
There were a couple of interviews after I quit but no call backs. I started to fear getting hired as much as I feared not having a job. I had even missed an interview because I had spent the night before lying awake, heart pounding, until the sun rose and my sheets were soaked with sweat. It was a relief when the interviews stopped coming.
A year after my graduation I was left wondering, “What now?” What was it that I really wanted to do? The “loser” word threatened to come out again so I made a decision to go to college. That first day of school was filled with hope and fear but I knew that this time, it would be different.