WHAT A MONDAY amanda's Story

“Clinton and Jackson,” said Lola. For kicks and giggles, Lola was what I named the monotone voice announcing each stop on Bus #60 routed to Cicero and 24th Place. Among the foothills of Chicago’s high rises and monuments, today’s bus ride had me nestled between an angelic grandma and a bearded hipster.

Leaving these travel companions behind, I stepped off the bus. Within seconds, I tightened my wool scarf to barricade me from the chilly November air. In hand I had my trusty sidekick as I walked a few remaining blocks to work in the West Loop. Every morning a Starbucks vanilla latte with no whip accompanied my trip to the office. As today was a Monday, the latte was a Venti with an extra shot of espresso.

Upon entering Aumiller Younquist, a commercial interiors firm, I surveyed the office. The loft-styled space had white brick walls decorated with various inspiration boards. Each were pinned with architectural drawings, images of modern furniture, and articles about the latest design revelations. Occasionally there would even be clever quotes. This morning the words of Dr. Seuss made me crack a smile. My eyes caught the bold letters exclaiming...

Despite such a warm welcoming, something felt amiss. The early birds at the office, a.k.a the owners, seemed incredibly quiet and focused. I figured there was just another tight deadline. Brushing it off, the wood floors creaked with each footstep en route to my desk.

And ah, my desk...

It was the best part of the office and such a lovely sight. Although this was my humble, and of course nonbiased opinion, the claim could not be denied. Multicolored Post-Its decorated the corners of my computer screen. Detailed floor plans were perfectly stacked. Pastel folders comprised of critical documents were carefully collated. My best friends from college greeted me each day in a black-and-white photo framed beside my external hard drive. Following suit of Mary Tyler Moore, a small bouquet of flowers even adorned my desk. The flowers were fake, but no one needed to know that.

Although my desk was incredibly accessorized, it really meant something to me. Having graduated alongside the recession’s kickoff in December 2007, my desk said “I made it.” Although I was only six weeks into my dream job as a commercial interior designer, I had this feeling of satisfaction. I proved to myself that four-and-a-half years at UW-Madison supplemented by nine months of interviews, rejections, and high hopes were not a waste.

After setting down my vanilla latte, Danielle tapped my shoulder. She wanted to privately meet. Danielle was great. She interviewed me for the job and was one of the firm’s senior designers. Although usually dressed in skinny jeans and sweaters, she was polished with her perfectly highlighted hair and linked jewelry from Tiffany & Co. Danielle certainly knew her stuff too. As a well-traveled and certified designer with over a decade of experience, she could give Frank Gehry a run for his money.

Despite my wool scarf still around my neck, I followed Danielle to the conference room. She is typically very friendly and it was odd she didn’t wait for me. Instead, Danielle feverishly departed from my desk with her head down as if she were on a mission.

To my surprise, already in the conference room was Dan, one of the “quiet and focused” owners from this morning. Danielle sat down next to him with me on the opposite side. Each uncomfortably stared at me with dropped eyes and frozen faces. My heart started to race with confusion and worry. Then Danielle started to talk.

“You must know that you are very talented,” she said. “This is what makes my next few words incredibly difficult to say.”

Uh oh…Gulp.

“We recently were notified that your project has been cancelled by the client. There was not enough funding considering the state of the economy. What this means is that we have to let you go.” Her voice started to quiver when she said “I am so sorry.”

My eyes started filling up with water while my face turned white as a ghost. Within seconds Dan handed me a severance check that would hardly pay my next month’s rent. Danielle handed me a list of references to contact for new employment.

Feeling like the rug was just pulled from under my feet, all I could fathom was “I understand.” As I walked back to my lovely desk, I wiped the first tear to roll down my face. Danielle followed me for a few steps. Then she briskly turned right toward the desk of another young, brunette designer. This was Claire. Occupied by a detailed email from a contractor, Claire was a little startled when Danielle tapped her on the shoulder. Claire started on the same day I did and was on the same project that got cancelled.

Within a block of my former employer’s office, my eyes were no longer full of water. Instead they were emptied as countless tears streamed down my fresh rosy cheeks after returning to the chilly November air.

“I just lost my first job."

My brain could not stop saying this. “I just lost my first job.” There was a silver lining, however. Not only did my Starbucks vanilla latte leave with me, but it was also still warm. Hardly enough time passed during my layoff for it to get cold.

Ugh, what a Monday.

I couldn’t bear getting back on bus #60 and hearing Lola’s voice to go home. It would just remind me of a trip I likely would never take again into the West Loop. Instead, I dragged my feet almost two miles to my studio apartment.

After settling in and breaking the news to my parents, it was about 6:30 pm. Exhausted by the disappointing day, five minutes later I became chilled by the freezer air to grab food for dinner. A fresh pint of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream sat before me. It was Dublin Mudslide, my favorite. This particular pint had countless chocolate swirls. Thank goodness. Having embarrassingly reached the bottom of the container within minutes, I embarrassingly felt like I hit an all-time low. Then, something happened...

My brain went off autopilot. No longer was it saying “I just lost my first job.” The site of an empty Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream container must have triggered me to think something else. Instead, I started thinking “There is nothing to worry about.”

And quite frankly, there really was nothing to worry about.

Don’t get me wrong. There was no doubt that what just happened was incredibly disappointing, but life was not over. I had money saved up. I had my degree. I had my health. I had gumption. Having already gone through the belaboring task of job searching, I knew what had to be done.

The next day I woke up at 6:00 am to carpe diem.

The chilly November air was again part of my morning routine. Only this time it kept me awake on a four-mile run along Lake Michigan. Within blocks of returning home, I managed to make a pit stop at Starbucks for a vanilla latte with no whip. Although today was not a Monday and I was not on Bus #60, the recent unraveling of life events required a Venti with an extra shot of espresso this morning.

In my studio apartment, I sat at my desk. It was incredibly lovely, like the one I had 24 hours ago. However, this one didn’t really say “I made it.” Instead, this one said “I can do anything.” I still needed a bit more encouragement, though. After turning on my computer, I couldn’t resist searching for some refreshing quotes…just like those on the inspiration boards at Aumiller Younquist. Within a couple minutes, the words of Dr. Seuss made me crack a smile again…

Taking a deep breath in, I let go of yesterday. In attempt to steer myself forward, I logged into my Gmail account. A few seconds later, the list of references from Danielle sat before me.

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