Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love
Chapter 9: The Comeback
After completing college, I threw the original plan of earning a teaching credential, which would have taken another three semesters, to the wayside. My dream of becoming a teacher was subservient to my need to begin a career. Not sure what a twenty-nine-year-old college graduate with a history degree could do other than teach high school history, I wondered what direction to pursue and where the opportunities might be.
I applied for jobs with the city of Santa Clara, the high school district, a state assemblyman’s office, and secured a job interview as a legislative assistant to an acclaimed San Jose councilwoman who was an icon in the neighborhood of my youth. After two more months of anxious job hunting, the councilwoman offered, and I accepted, a three-quarter-time position in her office. She also had recently been named vice mayor of San Jose.
The next three and a half years were an exciting time for me. After several months, I earned a full-time position as a legislative aide, working on community development and controversial public art projects. In this capacity, I had the opportunity to learn about the public policymaking process and the rough and tumble world of local politics. I worked tirelessly, never turning down an assignment or a night out at a political event. When her tenure ended because of term limits, she asked me to manage her campaign for the county board of supervisors. I was flattered, excited, and apprehensive as I had never even worked on a campaign, much less managed one.
I learned invaluable skills and lifelong political lessons during the intense six-month campaign. The race wasn’t decided until the wee hours of the morning after Election Day. I had taken myself to the limits physically, emotionally, and mentally. After the early morning victory, I spent the next thirteen months in her office as a senior policy aide on the county board of supervisors. Within months of assuming my new position, I was itching to do more.
I was thirty-one years old working as an aide to a local politician. While it was a job I couldn’t have imagined as a kid, it wasn’t good enough to erase the years I had lost in my personal wilderness or dispose of the demons that continued to haunt me from that time. Research professor and author Brené Brown refers to the phenomenon as a Culture of Scarcity. She writes that we get stuck in a cycle: “We’re never thin enough, extraordinary enough or good enough.” A strategy many people use to overcome the pattern of “never enough” is to work harder, achieve more, and broaden ambition. These tactics usually lead to a deeper sense of scarcity that intensifies the desire to succeed, which perpetuates the cycle of never enough. It was just a couple of years post college graduation, and I was rushing headlong toward a hurricane of insatiable aspirations.
One Sunday morning, I stumbled onto a rare job announcement for a government affairs manager at the local cable company. I dazzled the hiring manager at the interview and was invited to meet executives at the division office in Walnut Creek a few days later. I was nervous and excited to meet corporate executives, something I never would have thought was possible just a few years earlier. The meetings went well, and I got the job. My life would never be the same.
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