“Sarah, you need a job,” Anna informed me one day.
“Pffffffft,” said I, “jobs are for stressed out adults who have too much to do, can’t pay their taxes, and survive on a diet of saltines and microwavable Kraft macaroni–”
–and then I realized I was all of these things.
There was no dispute after that.
So yes, hello people! The strange Sarah creature finally got a job. Multiple factors influenced this decision, the least of these being I’ve come to that fated point in my life where people start asking me where I work, and responding with, “Oh, I’m a writer,” has long since ceased to dazzle them.
Also, money. Money is nice.
At the beginning of this year, Anna found a job at a local, privately owned bulk-food/grocery store, and has been death-bent on getting me to work there too. “Think how fun it would be! We could work together! Make fun of customers together! You could meet all my friends!”
“Pfffft,” said I. “Peasants.”
I’d set my sights on a higher goal. Something more in line with what I already do, and what I’m good at — writing, perfectionism, meticulous organization, yelling at people when they get too loud. Friends, I wanted to become a librarian.
“I’ve decided to do it,” I said–
–which is the equivalent of spending six months going through every pro and con in my head, weighing my options to an obsessive degree, and never actually doing it.
(In my defense, I like to be prepared.)
Anna, however, had different ideas. She knows how my unmotivated procrastinator’s brain works. She knows how unrealistically, irrationally, obsessively prepared I like to be. She knows how terrified I am of the unknown. Anna is aware of these things, and, having never had to deal with them herself, is perfectly fine with disregarding them.
And so, one day as I stood innocently browsing the library shelves, totally naive to my sister’s diabolical schemes, she grabbed me by the wrist and said, “LET’S GO CONVINCE THEM TO HIRE YOU!”
(Except she wasn’t actually that loud. Because libraries.)
Before I knew what was happening, I found myself face to face with the front desk librarian as Anna piped up, “My sister was wondering about job availability!”
There was a long moment of silence. I stared at the librarian with glazed, dead fish eyes. She stared in wrinkle-browed consternation at the scene of violent sibling abuse going down in front of her. Anna beamed in the background.
Needless to say, I left the library several minutes later, clutching an application form and quietly fuming.
“I don’t get it,” Anna said on the drive home, as I stared out my window in moody silence. “You want to work at a library, so what’s the problem?”
“The problem,” I wailed, “is I’m not ready. I not prepared. I haven’t thought about this enough. What if it’s actually a bad idea? What if God has other plans for me?? What if there’s some crucial detail I’m missing that will ruin this entire scheme???”
Anna shrugged. “Well, if it’s a bad idea, I’m sure our parents would tell you or God would shut the door. Relax, Sarah. This isn’t a big deal.”
Oh to be as unbothered as she.
And so, I found myself praying that night. As it happened, I really did want the job, and I’d been pushed into finally making a move. If this wasn’t a path God wanted me on, I asked Him to close the door. But otherwise…
Lord, I really, really want this job.
So I filled out my application. I turned it in. (The librarian even remembered me from before — apparently, my dead-fish stare doesn’t fade easily.) I waited. And waited. And waited.
Mom suggested I go in and talk to the manager. Ask about the application status. See what was going on.
“HA!” The contempt in my voice was muffled by the corner of the sofa my face was shoved into. “PEASANTS. If you think this reclusive, introverted skeleton is going to march in there and demand to see the manager, THINK AGAIN.”
The next day, I marched into the library and demanded to see the manager.
(Except my “demand” came out more as a stuttered squeak, my hands were shaking, and I’d written my Last Will & Testament that morning.)
The librarian wanted to know what I’d come to ask him. I told her I was inquiring after my application status. “Oh honey,” she said with a confused frown, “don’t you know? There are no more available positions. We hired someone last week.”
“Hey, now you can come work at the bulk-food store with me!” said Anna, who possesses not a scrap of tact.
I’m not some naive teenage brat who goes through life thinking the world will bow and scrape to me. I didn’t expect things to go my way, nor that my first application would be accepted just like that. But still, rejection is hard. So yes, maybe I was a little upset. And maybe I laid on my bedroom floor for an hour, quoting sad Shakespeare because only Richard II understood the state of my soul at that moment.
But just as I was caught up in the tragic throes of yelling, “LET’S TALK OF GRAVES, OF WORMS, AND EPITAPHS–” an unpleasant thought struck me:
Lord, if this isn’t the path You want me on, close the door.
I said that, huh?
Grudgingly, with a few muttered complaints, I conceded the point and prepared myself for the long, tedious path of doing things The Hard Way™. More libraries were visited. More applications obtained. I became a master at marching in and demanding to speak with the manager. Months faded away Life progressed. I graduated.
It was at my graduation that I finally met her — the woman who’s sat directly in front of my family every Sunday since we started coming to this church. I’d taken note of her, but never talked to her. I didn’t even know her name. But as I waited with the other graduates for the endless line of hand-shakes and well-wishes to be over, she came up to me, gave me a card (and money, I might add), and said a fated thing:
“You and your sister have come into my library before, haven’t you?”
I stuttered something incoherent. She smiled at me, told me which library she was referring to, and finished up with, “I thought I recognized you there! I’m the director.”
Of a library.
Goes to my church.
And literally gave me money.
I would like to say I didn’t put all my eggs in one basket, but I totally put all my eggs in one basket. Because holy snickerdoodles, this was PERFECT. This was beyond perfect; this was unmistakably an answer to prayer! God closed the door to the first library because He knew what was coming along — a much, much better opportunity, with a much, much greater chance of success.
What could possibly go wrong??
I began campaigning in earnest. I memorized the Dewey Decimal system. I looked up the application for her library and filled it out. People would ask me where I worked, and I’d smugly tell them I was two-steps away from becoming a librarian at my favorite library.
(Was it my favorite library before I met the director? Probably not.)
(…golly, I hope she never reads this.)
At long last, I summoned the courage to go in and talk to the director. Anna came with me and gave me a long pep-talk in the car (“have confidence,” “make her remember you,” “don’t be boring,” “don’t stutter,” “actually, maybe it would be better if you didn’t say anything at all, Peregrine Took”), to which I told her I certainly thought it would be memorable if I tripped over the carpet and ended up with a concussion on her library floor, so relax, Anna, I got this!
(I didn’t got this.)
I was considerably less cocky when I actually strode through the library doors, steeling myself for the confused looks on the front-desk librarians’ faces when I demanded to speak with the manager. I looked up, braced myself, and–
IT WAS THE MANAGER.
Composure crumbled. She said hello. I said something barely coherent. Anna somehow ended up on the other side of the room where the director couldn’t see her and started pantomiming all the things I was supposed to say.
It didn’t work.
We had a long conversation about air-conditioning and overdue books before I somehow managed to express the purpose of my visit. Anna’s expression changed slightly.
And guess what!!!
I GOT REJECTED.
“But… but GOD,” I wailed that night, “WHY would You DO that???” It was so perfect! It seemed exactly right! Everything that had happened so far pointed to this! C’MON, WHAT’S THE DEAL???
Lord, if this isn’t the path you want me on, close the door.
Me and my overly specific prayers.
“Heeeeeeey,” said Anna, who was never one to waste an opportunity, “maybe now you’ll come work at the bulk-food store!”
I lifted my head from where I’d previously stuffed it in the corner of the sofa and gifted her with the frostiest glare I could muster. “For your information, I will never work at the bulk-food store. NEVER. So quit wasting your breath.”
(Yeah, I’d heard my fill of stories about work-place drama and 50-lbs. sacks of beans. I was too smart to get caught up in all that.)
Once again, I found myself asking God to shape the direction of my job-hunt, but this time, I saw the writing on the wall and gave up the library dream. Not forever — but not for now, either. “Show me where You want me to go,” I prayed. “If not the library, then show me where I’ll be the most useful to You.”
I had my eye on another place, a small privately run shop with a clean environment. Anna, meanwhile, began a campaign of her own. The bulk-food store was short on staff and dying to hire anyone they could get their hands on — siblings of employees were fair game, and apparently, I was a highly coveted human.
“The managers were asking about you,” Anna told me one evening. “They pretty much offered you a job.”
Yeah, no thanks. I said I’d rather be eaten by Ungoliant than sell my soul to a cash register and spend the rest of my days frying chicken and bagging beans. Anna told them so (albeit with a bit more tact), but they were undeterred. She came home that evening, and this time, four people had asked about me coming to work there.
This was just ridiculous.
Anna stared at me with big, guileless eyes. “Will you at least think about it?”
Considering the fact that it was one of the few options left, I had to think about it. But I still didn’t like it. People don’t work because they enjoy it, but this was beyond petty comfort. I don’t like people. I don’t like drama, or chaos, or fast-paced systems that make my head spin. The bulk-food store is large. It’s crowded. It’s locked in a never-ending state of hyper-productivity, only worsened by the fact that from now until January is their busiest season. I don’t get overwhelmed by much, but that prospect was enough to send me into traumatic shock.
And besides everything else, I would be entering into an environment where my older sister was already known and loved, an environment where she seemed to be continually succeeding — and when pushed into that, I knew I would be measured by the standard of competence she’s set, a standard I’ve never been able to meet. She is chipper and quirky and personable and excels at improvisation, whereas I am reserved (almost stand-offish), awkward, independent, and need to know exactly what’s going on at all times. She works well in a place like the bulk-food store. I, on the other hand, would inevitably die of terror.
I wasn’t quite ready for that yet. So I got an application for something else.
(Anna came home with the information that one of the girls was praying I’d come work there.)
I filled out the application.
(Anna told me they’d figured out what jobs I’d do if I did indeed decide to work there.)
I was on the verge of turning in my application–
And dad, for whatever reason, advised me against it. It gave him a bad feeling. He didn’t know why. And as the God-ordained spiritual and physical head of our family, there was no way in tarnation I was going to ignore his bad feelings.
Lord, if this isn’t the path You want me on, close the door.
Slowly, my inevitable doom inched closer. But I saw it coming, and I fought tooth and nail. Having come down to the wire and feeling the pressure most acutely, I set out to finagle God into giving me what I wanted:
Namely, to not work at the bulk food store and to find a library that would take me.
“Okay,” I said, “so here’s the deal. I need to be absolutely certain this is the path You want me on, because, y’know–” I shrugged self-righteously– “I don’t want to do something contrary to Your will!”
(I’m such a saint.)
“So here’s the deal: If You want me to go to the bulk-food store, I need at least ten people there asking Anna bout me.”
I paused, wondering if ten people wasn’t enough, and decided to play it safe.
“Actually, I need fifteen.”
Insanely smug with the loophole I’d created for myself, I went about my business, determined never to think about the sordid matter again. Until the next day. When Anna crashed through the door, and–
“Sheesh, Sarah, I think almost everyone in the store asked me if you were going to come work there!”
. . .
“…can I get a number on ‘everyone’?” said I, who was fighting a losing battle.
Even though I knew she was exaggerating, I could still hear the sound of God’s mic-drop reverberating through the sky.
And I guess that’s the danger of giving your future up to the Lord’s direction — even though it’s a gamble we all think we’re willing to take, the surrender comes with a fine-print: Thy will be done, especially if it’s what I already want and definitely not if it’s something I hate. But gambling with God isn’t so easy.
I asked for the library. He said no. I kept asking for the library. He kept saying no.
And sure, the bulk-food store isn’t where I wanted to be, and I can’t promise I’ll be there forever. But at the moment, it’s where God wants me. And despite the struggle of coming to this point, despite how vehemently I was against it — I’m excited. Because if God wants me here, He has a reason. And if He has a reason, well…
Look out, world.
And THAT, friends, is how I started working at bulk-food/grocery store. Tune in next week for Part 2, where annoying customers are dealt with, a limb is almost dismembered, knives become a workplace routine, and technology spits upon my name!