I sit at my computer and stare at a blank page. Two lone words are centered in the middle: Curriculum Vitae. I wonder if I'd be better off with a simpler resume. Ten years and three kids later, I no longer seem like a C.V. type of gal. I take a swig of coffee, consider ditching my efforts. Maybe filling out a paper application at The Gap would suit me better.
A decade ago I was a snobbish, straight-A graduate student studying international affairs. With an abundance of confidence, I would stroll casually into the teacher's lounge, sink into the tweed sofa, and sip coffee with the leather elbow-patched professors. We'd discuss political thought, the theoretic notions of Plato and Socrates.
I would sprinkle my sentences with all the right words like I now sprinkle my cereal with flax: epistemology, endemic, pedagogical. When I would hear laymen discussing politics, I'd think to my superior self: where'd you get your information, from the television? Oh, please. I read Foreign Affairs, researched at the law library, attended conferences. My well of knowledge was deeper.
Now I sit at my computer, frustrated that I can't remember the meaning of epistemology. A decade later, the only thing I am snobbish about now is my children. How amazing they are in a thousand different ways. The confidence I once felt for myself, I now feel for them.
I take a deep breath, another chug of coffee, and place my hands on the keyboard. The other day I chastised my nine-year old for not using the right fingers. "Really?" she asked. "Because my teacher says that typing is going the way of the dinosaurs. It's all about text-typing, now." I look at my yellow pad. Under skills I have listed: typing, 80 wpm. I cross it out. I don't want to seem dinosaur-ish.
I start with EDUCATION. I list my degrees. A Bachelors, a Masters, a summer studying abroad. Good, solid, education. But it was forever ago. The ten year gap mocks me I want to write that I have been to school. Pre-school through fifth grade, to be exact. That I studied George Washington in the First Grade, the cavemen in the second grade, the Greeks and Romans in the third grade, American history in the fourth. That I diagramed sentences, reduced fractions, found the least common denominator. That now, with my oldest in fifth grade, we're working on inventions. Most recently, I've read up on pulleys and inclined planes and levers. I consider putting that under my research skills.
I think back and remember the pride I felt in graduate school. In the window sill of my on-campus apartment, I displayed like trophies stacks of Blue Books. Comments from my professors were scrolled across the front page: insightful, perceptive, apt. I co-wrote law journal articles with tenured professors, held study groups for undergraduates, defended my thesis using a quantitative method that impressed even the math department.
But that me isn't the me I am now. The me I am now has other skills. Such as, I know just when to add bleach to a load of grimy whites. I know how to grind a lemon in the garbage disposal for an infusion of citrus fragrance. I know how to pack lunches with the perfect balance of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates.
Following graduate school, I had one thing on my mind: moving to Washington, D.C. More than anything, I wanted to work for the CIA as an analyst. I had written the Agency months early, submitted a thick packet of an application, and written an essay per their requirements. The essay I wrote was on the potential increase in strife in the Middle East and terrorism in particular. This was a year before 9/11. Oh, how insightful I was! My finger right on the pulse of international relations.
So I drove across country to our nation's capital, settled into the basement apartment of a Capitol Hill brownstone, and waited. Finally, I got the call and was scheduled for my three-day interview. I was put through the paces -- tested, screened, strapped and wired for six hours to a jumpy lie detector machine.
I stare at the computer and watch the cursor tap impatiently: Come on! it seems to be saying.
Fine! I grumble back, and type: EMPLOYMENT. Mom and housewife? No health insurance, no FICA, no 401(k). It probably wouldn't count as a real job. What about my volunteer work at the kids' school? Brownie Scout leader, Room Mom, Treasurer of the PTA. A variety of skills abound: leadership, responsibility, accountability. Not to mention my perfect attendance: have shown up with open arms every day of my children's lives.
I read again the job I'm applying for: INTELLIGENCE ANALYST, JUNIOR. The employer is a defense contractor. They're looking for a person who knows code. My mind flips to code-ing, like my kids did in the first grade as they learned phonics, dissecting words with breves and macrons and schwas. What about mnemonics, they're codes, aren't they? The order of the planets. The succession of presidents. The taxonomic classification of humans. Throw one at me. I can make one for anything.
I minimize the resume screen and start on the cover letter. Maybe I can craft a sentence, build a paragraph, to describe what I've been doing this last decade. Words to fill in the gap. I want to explain that yes, I was offered a job from the CIA. That out of a large pool of candidates they chose me. That back then, I really was hot stuff. But that I declined to take it.
Why did you turn it down? The interviewer will ask.
I'll have to lie. Maybe I could make something up about having to take care of a sick relative.
I can't tell the truth. Not if I'm trying to sound strong and professional. Not if I'm trying to prove my commitment to the work place. I turned down the job because at the same time it was offered to me, I happened to meet the man who would soon become my husband. And as quickly and with an even stronger desire than I wanted a security clearance and a desk of my own in an undisclosed location, I wanted to be married with babies. Lots of them.
Clearly, the truth won't do.
I no longer read Foreign Affairs, I could explain to the interviewer, but Dora the Explorer does provide an impressive amount of knowledge about South America. I no longer read policy studies on the state of our country's health care. I tend to collect plenty of empirical data myself, logging trips to the E.R. for split chins and fractured bones and lungs too tight to breathe. I no longer read St. Thomas Aquinas in search of evidence of faith because I tuck into bed each night three perfect examples of it.
My vocabulary is smaller than it once was, my computer skills are out of date, and the last time I was offered a security clearance was ten years ago. But pick me, anyway. Because for the last decade I've raised three children which means that I'm steady under fire, can juggle many tasks at the same time, and can listen to multiple people talking to me at once. Pick me because I can learn in a month what I've forgotten or never knew. Old skills can be resurrected, new ones can be acquired. What I can't do -- is get back my children's youth, the ten years I would have missed if I were more driven in the workplace. As you can see, I make good decisions. Let's add that to my list of strengths.
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