57.8 F

Davis, California

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Folding things, selling things and getting coffee for your boss

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I wedged my thumbnail into the crevice where my perfectly polished ring-fingernail met my flesh. With a rhythmic picking, I scratched away at my dry cuticles until a small droplet of blood appeared. Pressing my now throbbing finger into a kleenex I found at the bottom of my purse, I stared out at the grey, choppy bay, hypnotized by the methodical rising and falling of each individual wave. The Larkspur Landing Ferry Terminal shrunk behind the boat. To occupy my mind, I ran over all the items in my purse to assure myself that I hadn’t forgotten anything. Pen? Check. Wallet? Check. Compact? Check. Oil blotting sheets? Check. Resume? Check.

As I began to tear away at the remaining, shriveled cuticle on my ring finger, I stared into the cold water whizzing by beneath my window. It reminded me of a Ted-Talk I had watched back in May. Back when the air was heavy with heat, and my bedroom on Sycamore Lane was filled with the off-putting scent of the cherry blossom trees that surround my apartment building’s parking lot.

The speaker was Diana Nyad, the 64-year-old woman who swam from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida, the first to do so without a shark tank. Nyad completed the swim after three failed attempts. In the Ted-Talk, she harped on the message of not giving up and following your dreams at any age, but the thing I found most interesting was the credit that she gave her team. Although no one was allowed to physically touch her during her swim, her team provided her with water, food, medicine, navigation, lighting during the night, in addition to unwavering dedication and moral support. Nyad said that this swim was as much their accomplishment as it was her own, because she could have never done it on her own. She wasn’t afraid to recognize that she needed help.

I had never been like that. I never ask for help if I can avoid it, taking the longer way around instead of asking for directions, printing from the library instead of admitting I couldn’t set up my own printer. I didn’t do this because of pride, really, it came more from a place of deep desperation to be considered an adult. To me being a grown up meant not needing help, being independent.

If that was true though, I was far from being an adult. Approaching the end of my last Fall Quarter I had spent the last three months asking everyone and their mother if they knew anyone in human resources that would give me an interview, nagging my parents to read dozens of cover letters and being at the mercy of my friends with printers for last minute copies of my resume. I wasn’t getting to this job interview by my own accord, not even close. I wasn’t even dressed in my own clothes. I was donning my sister’s stockings and my mother’s sweater, both of which she picked out when I struggled to piece together something interview appropriate on my own.

Through the thin blanket of fog the “Port of San Francisco” sign glowed brighter and brighter red as the ferry approached its stop. I checked my hair, swept away from my face and gathered at the nape of my neck, in my reflection on the scratched up window adjacent to my seat. Making a mental checklist of all of my things again, I pushed my way to the door of the ferry, desperately trying to avoid getting caught behind a mother with a double stroller. The heavy metal door clanked open and I half ran out of the boat and toward the bustling Embarcadero sidewalk. I had an hour to get to my interview, but I figured that I should make haste because somehow I’m always always getting myself lost.

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I passed by a couple of teenage boys that were cheating death on skateboards. I’ve passed by them so many times. When I was in high school, I used to come to the city nearly every weekend just to escape the monotony of the suburbs. I felt alive keeping pace with all of the hustling people in grey suits. If this job interview went well maybe I would join them, the pulsing blob of grey suits. I honestly didn’t know if the grey suit life was one I wanted, a question approaching graduates tend to ask themselves. The only thing I confidently knew I wanted out of my post-grad life was some kind of employment.

In my job search, I learned that the only jobs I was qualified for were executive assistant positions, retail positions and sales development programs. That is all corporate lingo for Anne Hathaway’s character from ‘The Devil Wears Prada” — folding things, selling things and getting coffee for your boss.

I’d been told by a lot of people that I would be good at sales, and being sort of lost, it was hard to ignore the same advice repeated to me over and over again by both people who knew me and people who didn’t.

I clung to the pole of the Muni car, despite the fact that it felt sticky from all of the clammy commuter hands that had been groping it all morning. I thought back to Nyad’s words of wisdom, about needing a team to accomplish your dreams. Maybe adulthood is less about self-reliance than I thought. My time at Davis has been all about teamwork. I don’t mean on school projects — that’s forced teamwork and let’s be real, we’re not relying on each other, we’re just praying no one in the group will screw over the grade for everyone else . I mean your team of friends that have become your family. Your team that helps you pick out an outfit to impress the boy you like, your team that saves you a seat in the CoHo so you’ll have somewhere nice to study, your team that shares their reusable bag at the farmer’s market and your team that braves an 8 a.m. P.E. swim class with you so you can stay in shape. Without my team, my time at Davis wouldn’t have been nearly as special.

With my graduation date quickly approaching, I am learning to appreciate this era of lasts. My last time studying for finals next to the Christmas tree made of books in the library, completing my last stamp card at Yoloberry, my last jog in the Arboretum. Although this era of lasts is heart wrenching, to put it lightly, there was no one I would rather share them with than my team. I understood Nyad’s appreciation of her crew now, why thanking them wasn’t watering down her accomplishment, but how in fact it further celebrated it. Without the people in our lives, the rejections and the accomplishments, they don’t matter unless they are there.

After my walk out of Montgomery stop and down the scaffolding covered sidewalk, I approached the building where my interview would be held. I sucked in a big gulp of dirty tasting air and walked in.

As I was checking in at the front desk, the boy next to me overheard and asked, “Are you here for the Account Executive interview? I had mine yesterday!”

I said I was.

“You’ll do great,” he said, sounding surprisingly genuine.

I smiled back and thanked him. As I followed the doorman to the elevator he called after me.

“Wait, you have something on your face!”

I turned around and he picked a piece of my makeup brush off of my forehead.

“Good luck!” and he walked away.

As I rode the elevator up I thought to myself, who needs self-reliance, when I can share this with my whole team.


Sydney Cohen is a Staff Writer for The Centennial Magazine. She enjoys lime flavored tortilla chips, the Jack Johnson Pandora station, and spending time in the woods. Her favorite pastime is being #basic with her #basic friends. You can reach her at sjcohen@ucdavis.edu, find her on her instagram account  @thesquidney —because she just looks better with a Valencia filter, or shoot her a tweet @sydnoosh #shamelessplug.



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