Smooth and bumpy

On this day sixteen years ago, I lost my first tooth. I believe this was the one that actually got lost, as in jetted out of my mouth in the kindergarten play kitchen and was never seen again.

By “never seen again,” I mean, of course, that I never saw it again, but odds are, someone else did and had a horrid realization that what they had found was, indeed, a human baby tooth.

I’ve come a long way since that day.

Today, I drove my car through multiple inches of snow and fishtailed beautifully (and got myself out of the perpendicular-to-traffic position quite nicely without freaking out). I closed the store by myself for the first time (though “by myself” includes relying heavily on the sales associate who was with me and making two phone calls to another sales lead).

And I did it with all my adult teeth in my mouth.

I had two small, panicky breakdowns this week about the job search. Not car breakdowns. Ashley breakdowns. Just two. A little anxiety over networking and feeling like anything I do will be fruitless and a little uncertainty about where I’ll be working in a couple months. Everything feels bumpy right now. There are few answers and lots of questions, which feels a lot like driving an old car down the highway at 70 miles per hour and hearing the wind blow.

I’ve been driving on the highway a lot lately, going in and out of Minneapolis, back and forth from Eden Prairie (where my sister lives). My car is your typical I-just-graduated-and-got-my-dad’s-old-car vehicle. It’s a lightweight, so on the highway it kind of veers when the wind blows. Also, it’s old and when you drive super fast it sounds like all the colors of the wind are in the car with you.

My friend at church asked about my job search this past Sunday. He’s on the other end of this. He’ll retire in a few years. And I told him I hadn’t heard anything back from my applications and had a couple small panics about it. He gave a knowing nod, just like yep, that’s how it is. I told him I sometimes wonder if my resume is any good. “I mean, I thought it was. I know it’s just second-guessing everything because they haven’t gotten back to me.”

He said, “Yep.”

That’s about all I needed to feel understood. the self-doubt, the insecurity, the impatience is normal. He remembers that. It’s a phase, a bumpy phase before having something more secure. He was there at one point.

My dad’s car, which I drove on Sunday, is more solid than mine. It’s about eight years newer, same make and model. Something happened in those eight years to make the rider smoother. You can’t hear the cyclones outside when you drive in his car. The wind doesn’t have as much effect on the car. It has a few amenities that mine doesn’t have (a CD player, auxiliary port, automatic transmission, and radio controls on the steering wheel). Nothing luxury, but it sure does feel different.

As I drove his car, I thought about how much more in control I felt. Driving was easier. It was simpler. But if you asked me if I wanted to trade cars with him, I wouldn’t. I’m doing my time with an old car, caring for it in its old age, wearing it down until it won’t run any more. I’m learning to operate in less optimal conditions, knowing that when I’m forced to buy a car when mine dies, it’ll be an easier ride, something a little nicer.

Just the same, I wouldn’t trade the job search for being in a secure job right now.

Well, maybe I would.

But I know that this process of waiting and wondering and connecting and reaching out and networking and searching is molding me and teaching me. The time spent here is valuable. Where I could have had a job right away, there’s something about going through the bumps of the process that I know is worth it. I’m here because I’m learning, and learning is often a bumpy process.

It’s worth it to be here.

But that doesn’t mean I’ll be able to get through the next week before I have the same breakdown.

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