I interviewed at a large pharmaceutical company on the east coast immediately before my traveling to my current institution to give my final job talk. After a lengthy interviewing process overall, I decided to narrow my choices to the final two destinations.
I loved the east coast option. The building was gorgeous – glass elevators, aqua colored translucent walls, young employees who were sharp and dynamic. It was elegant, sophisticated and cutting-edge. And I was as impressed as I was intimidated. They were the most aggressive of the interviewing bunch – seeing past the buzz words and pseudo-answers and probing to the heart of my knowledge. I knew I would work incredibly hard there. And though the location and people and company were incredible, I was insecure upon leaving. What if I wasn’t good enough?
I arrived in the gracious southern city I now call home to a rainy couple of days. Boss – an older gentleman who opened the hotel and car door for me – was effusive in his praise of my graduate work. They were kind and appreciative that I had found time to visit them. He was eager to introduce me to people who were – with a couple of exceptions – equally enthusiastic and eager to see me start. Jill hugged me upon my arrival in the basement of a 70 year old building that badly needed redecorating. The faculty in my particular department were aging, but in their experience had gained a kindly approach to science. Their criticism was gentle and constructive – they had no interest in bruising feelings to make themselves seem more important and knowledgeable. I left feeling confident and important and lovely.
I returned to my parents’ house to consider my options. In a time when I was still reeling from defense problems, feeling miserably betrayed by my advisor and committee, I made a mental list, not wanting to take the safe route just because I wasn’t as strong as I might have wanted at that point.
The money evened out. The higher industry salary was in an area with a high cost of living. My current post-doc salary is sky high for the academic world and easily afforded me the house I sought. The southern institution was closer to home – by a significant amount – and Cousin lived in town as well. The projects in academia (since it came down to industry vs. academics for these 2 choices) closely mirrored work I’d already done. They’d allow me to fill in the gaps, make considerable progress, and hit the ground running.
With such a pivotal choice – seeing my life go in one of two directions that would be decided by my choice of initial jobs – I comforted myself by dreaming about boys. If I went to Boston, perhaps I’d meet some urbane young man. Highly educated and probably artistic as well, I decided. He’d know all the right places to drink and hear music and meet people. He – and I pictured him as long-limbed and elegant with dark hair and light eyes – would enjoy art galleries and be well-versed in politics. Eloquent, he’d likely come from a good family and have access to vacation homes that belonged to well-connected relatives that he rarely saw. I would love him to distraction and would seek to become more elegant myself. Fit into his life. Perhaps lose part of myself in doing so, but would gain a partner who was unquestionably attractive to me.
Conversely, he had competition from the south. No clipped words and ironic statements from the southern boy. His statements would be softened by a vague drawl that only emerged on certain words. He’d be polite and gracious, kind and funny. I saw him with brown hair and eyes – comfortable, average, very familiar. He would like sports and cars and spending time with his dog. He’d own a home, perhaps with some surrounding property where he’d grow a garden and tend his lawn. There would be large shade trees and perhaps a large porch with a swing out front. Aunt has a porch swing and it’s immensely soothing to rock back and forth while watching the world go by for a few hours. He’d be smart, but more sensible than brilliant. He’d think I was special for being so educated, but would put more value in how I thought and treated people than in what I did for a living. He’d enjoy Waffle House more than sushi places. He’d get along with my family, fitting easily into the noisy, loving dynamic. More Disney World than Europe, he could help fix my car or climb on my roof if it was damaged in a storm.
I pick you, I told him in my mind when I signed the offer letter to my current institution. The comfort and safety. The knowledge that I could fit into his life, and he mine, without changing very much at all. Things might not be thrilling and new, but they’d just click into place since we were so well-suited. It wouldn’t be striving to be who I wanted to be – the sophisticated beauty I’d always admired but could never pull off – as much as accepting and enjoying who I am. It seemed right. I was quite proud of my insight and maturity.
Then I fell for a brooding writer from California who had more in common with my east coast fantasy than the southern man I decided would be right for me. I wanted to change for him – to fit in, be what he wanted, do what I thought he’d like. The more I think of it, the more grateful I am that I didn’t have a chance to do that. To change in ways that would have been wrong in order to try to force someone to love and appreciate me.
“So things are good at work.” Dr. Counselor said yesterday. “You’ve been home – your family’s doing well. You have a church. And a friend you love. So where are you lacking? What’s the problem?”
“I’m not in love.” I said and smiled. It’s our recurring theme.
“Well, what can you do about that?” He asked.
“There is a man.” I said, thinking. “His phone plays rap music instead of ringing.”
“Rap?” Dr. Counselor confirmed. “Huh.”
I laughed for a moment then shook my head. “I think I like him.” I confided. “I’m not sure and I really don’t want to be hurt again. But I liked talking to him on the phone. I was happy that he sent email the next day to say he was glad I called and hoped I was having a good day.”
“He likes dogs.” I said, warming to my topic. “He rescued greyhounds for a while, but has a spaniel mix, I think, after his greyhound passed away. I love dogs and find myself fond of people who like them as much as I do. He talked about his family. Seems content and stable in his job. Goes to church, owns a house, has friends in town. I like him, I think.”
“Has he called you?” He asked.
“Not recently.” I responded, suddenly sad. Perhaps with all my indecision and lack of initiative, I’d lost the opportunity to get to know this particular southern boy better. “He called a few times in the beginning and left messages, but we’ve only spoken once.”
Dr. Counselor nodded and waited. “Maybe I’ll send him email.” I offered softly. But I don’t want to chase another boy. I want someone to like me. He should see that I’m delightful and call! Or send email! I shouldn’t have to work so hard at this relationship stuff. So I pouted.
But I sent him a short note yesterday – just said that I hoped he was having a good week so far and that he had enjoyed his weekend. Within an hour, I got a “Same to you!” reply. I puzzled over it last night – was he being polite? He’s not so great at email in general. But couldn’t he give me more than one line? And did I really care that much at all? I’ve been back and forth on him from the beginning.
As I was driving to work this morning, I checked my voice mail. I don’t do it often at all, so I tend to listen though several old messages before reaching the new ones. The first one was from Saturday and I heard a mild drawl in his deep voice as he said it had been awhile since we’d talked. He hoped I was doing very well and that I found time to call him soon. After he said goodbye, the automated voice came on to offer me options. Press 7 to delete this message. 9 to save it in the archives. 0 for more options.
Wearing a rather wide grin, I thought for a second and pressed 9. I wanted to hear it again, I decided, then listened to more messages from M and one from Chienne’s vet. Her allergy test results are in. I sent a longer email from work today, thanking Chris for the message and letting him know I’d call him soon.
There might be a boy I like. While I’m not convinced I know exactly what I want and would recognize it when I saw it, I’m rather enjoying that there might – just maybe – be someone with whom I’d like to spend some time.
As for when I'll call him, I'm thinking tomorrow night sounds about right.