In high school I was average at just about everything. Most people knew me; some liked me, some found me annoying. I did okay academically (my guidance counselor used the word, 'underacheiver' a lot). I could throw a ball alright, but was afraid to catch it.
Generally, I was comfortable in my own skin, until walking in to a room where the cool kids were; 5th period study hall, or a party at the football player's house. I guess that's pretty standard stuff for a teenager; for confidence to wax and wane.
A few days ago I landed a job interview to write about food for a good size magazine. I was full of confidence. I was in an improv troupe in college, which is really all that job interviews are-- improvization, right?
Not so fast. Even as an adult, confidence is a tricky mistress.
It started last night, when I realized (as the babysitter stood in front of me, hand extended) that I had lost my wallet. And inside my wallet was not only the usual suspects like credit and debit cards, cash, drivers' license, but also my check book and, especially worrying, a small folded piece of paper with all of my family's social security numbers written on it, name by name with the words, "Social Security Numbers" written in bold at the top.
Keeping this paper in my wallet, was not so average. I would classify it more as an exceptional move.
Needless to say, this morning, after spending the night fretting over the identity theft of my family, I dropped the kids at my neighbor, Kracker's house (that is a story unto itself) and rushed to get to the interview in the city (a city in which I had only even been once before). I was a bit of a basket case. I had chosen to wear the most fashionable shirt I owned; I floaty, black, swishy thing that was sort of see-through, so I wore a black camisole beneath (my black bra was in the wash, so I went comando, which in my case, is perfectly doable) and a pair of baggy cargo pants. It was an acceptable outfit. I looked, average-- Not a head-turner, but not offensive, either, which is where the bar has been set for some years now.
I inevitably got lost making my way into the bowels of the city, stopped and asked for directions at a derelict gas station and arrived at the interview, sweaty and more flustered than I had been in years. So much for the confidence.
We were meeting at a Starbucks, and here's my confessional: I have never been into one. Except for that one particularly cold, damp winter in England, I don't drink coffee, so I've really had no need to enter a coffee house.
In the parking lot I noticed many, very fit, very stylish mommies entering the building. I thought about my baggy pants and sagging body and felt a bit sheepish. But this emotion passed as soon as I entered, and was replaced instantly with self-loathing. Everyone, I mean everyone in that Starbucks was gorgeous. Even the counter girls. Gleaming teeth, shiny hair, sun-tanned faces-- and everyone was thin. And (AND!) everyone was either on a Blackberry, an IPhone or using a laptop. It was like walking into the imaginary office of Playboy Magazine-- Everyone happily multi-tasking and gorgeous in Lycra. I stood there breathless and sticky, holding my empty purse, a notebook (as in paper, not computer) and a map.
I felt as if it was 1985 and I had just absentmindedly sat down at the cheerleader's lunch table, and by the time I realized, and noticed them all staring at me, it was too late to leave. And a few people were staring at me; some with bemused expressions and some in an uncomfortable way.
My nose whistled loudly as I exhaled. I was waiting in line to order an ice tea. Finally, it was my turn and a very polite, absurdly beautiful, blonde girl took my order. After I paid her, she said, 'Ummm...', cleared her throat, then looked at my chest and quickly away. I looked down and realized that my left boob had popped out of my camisole and was staring right back at all the attractive people in Starbucks. 'Oh shit!' I whispered as I readjusted. Without eye-contact, I thanked Miss America and took my ice tea to find a table and wait for the interview that I was now preparing myself to epically blow. At least I'd have a good story to tell friends.
But life doesn't always work out the way you imagine it will. In the end, I got the job. I tightened my camisole straps, pulled my confidence back out of the abyss and somehow managed to make a good enough impression on the editor that she gave me my first assignment on the spot (and that was after admitting my wardrobe malfunction to her... to be honest, I think the idea that I had never before been in a Starbucks made more of an impression.)
In so many ways, I am average. But in other, sometimes disturbing ways, I am exceptional. And that seems about right.