Karen Trembley walked up the front walk of the Greenville Teen Center excited to interview for her first job since (finally) earning her Bachelor's Degree (in psychology). The Teen Center was located in a formerly shuttered elementary school that the organization rented from the town.
Once she stepped inside, Karen saw that the interior had been painted in bright colors and that the walls were covered with posters, art work, announcements, and other information. She entered into what she imagined was once the school's administration office where she was greeted by a woman behind the counter.
"I have an appointment to interview with The Director," Karen announced.
"Have a seat," the young woman replied, gesturing to a row of seats along the wall. "The Director will be with you momentarily."
Karen glanced toward the door of what was probably the Principal's office back in the day and almost smiled at the ironic thought of the situation. She took a seat and tried to relax but she was understandably nervous about her first opportunity to work a real job of depth even though she was nearly thirty.
The door to The Director's Office opened and a man around thirty stepped out to greet her. Karen smiled and stood to accept his hand but there was something familiar about him and her face sank when she realized who it was. He noticed the crestfallen look on her face as she limply shook his hand as if it was the last thing she wanted to do and it took him a moment to place her. He glanced at the resume in his hand, momentarily confused.
"Oh," he realized. "The name's different."
"I was married," she said meekly.
"I see," he said.
"Maybe I should just go," she sighed with defeat. All of her previous interactions were with the Human Resources Manager. She had no idea who she was interviewing with when she arrived.
He gestured toward his office. "You're entitled to an interview."
Karen sucked in her breath knowing she was wasting her time. There was no way in hell this guy was going to hire her to work for him. She followed him into the office and saw his name plate on the desk: Zachary Adams, .
He had done well, earning his Master's in Education, although she was surprised he was working for a non-profit instead of in a school system somewhere. Karen thought that he looked pretty good all these years later. He wore his hair short, he was thin, and he looked confident and self-assured in his environment.
"I didn't know you were around," she said quietly.
"Came back last year," he let her know as he took his seat behind the desk. "My mother's sick."
She nodded with understanding as she took a seat across the desk feeling as foolish as she never though she ever would be again in her life.
"So," he said, her resume laying on the desk in front of him. "Congratulations on getting your Bachelor's."
"Only took twelve years," Karen mumbled, not able to look him in the eyes – focusing on a plant on the table behind him instead. "You probably thought I was younger, fresh out of college. I didn't list my previous employment."
"What was your previous employment?" Zack asked with interest.
"I waitressed," she answered. "I worked at the Dollar Store. I pumped gas. I loaded stock in a warehouse. I cleaned toilets at the hospital." She was embarrassed to reveal her unimpressive work history to him. "You can understand why I didn't include that on my resume."
"Did you enjoy Green?" He asked, referring to Green College where she took mostly night classes to get her degree.
"I was proud of my GPA," Karen said as she stood. "Look, I don't want to waste your time."
"Why do you think you're wasting my time?" Zack asked.
"We both know you're not going to want somebody like me around a bunch of teenaged girls," she sighed.
"Why did you choose Psychology?" He asked.
Karen shrugged. "I wanted to help people."
"Exactly," Zack nodded. "Who's better qualified to help at risk female teenagers than someone who's been there done that? None of the girls here will be able to bullshit a bull-shitter."
She looked at him, stunned. "What about what I did to you?" She asked with embarrassment.
"Are you clean and sober?" Zack wanted to know.
"Six years," Karen said, taking her seat again. "I go to three meetings a week. I have a sponsor." She tried not to let her eyes tear up, surprised at how vulnerable she felt in front of him.
Zack sat back in his chair and examined her with a weird smirk on his face. She must have seemed a sorry case to him, looking older and more beat up than her age. She probably was wearing too much make up in an effort to hide her battle wounds She wore her dark hair simply, down to her shoulders and she had purposely dressed modestly to show that she could be a good influence around teenaged girls. Zack noted that she was nervously picking at the end of her skirt as she sat in her chair looking everywhere except at him.
"Would you be able to work for me?" Zack asked after a long pause.
Karen chewed on her lip. "I really want this job," she said. "I think I could help the girls here. I think my life experiences and challenges gives me added insight and would make me a good mentor, advocate and counselor."
"I agree," Zack said.
"Would you be forgiving enough to allow me to work here?" She asked nervously.
"I forgave you long ago," he answered plainly.
This time she did brush a tear away from her eye. "I busted my ass to get to college to better myself," Karen said quietly. "I sobered up because my life was going nowhere. I know I've been given a second chance. I appreciate your willingness to consider me. I would be a good employee because I would never forget what it took to get here."
"When could you start?" Zack asked.
Karen finally made eye contact with him. "You'd really hire me?" She asked with disbelief.
"I have three more interviews set up but I already know you're far and beyond the best candidate I'll see,' he said.
Karen felt the emotions welting up inside. Finally, a real job, practicing a real skill, doing something important and meaningful, giving something back. "I appreciate your trust in me. I won't let you down."
Zack stood and offered his hand. "I'll call Becky over at HR and let her know you're the one. You'll have to do the background check and all that. Give her a call later today and set that stuff up."
"I will," Karen promised as she stood too and accepted his hand in a hardy shake this time. "Thank you, Zack," she said softly.
"Welcome to The Teen Center," Zack grinned. "We'll give you the grand tour once all the hire paperwork is done."
She nodded, too overwhelmed to speak.
"Thanks for stopping by," Zack said pleasantly.
She nodded again and almost stumbled toward the door, her head spinning. She got the job! She got the job! Holy Christ, she got the job!
It wasn't until Karen got to the privacy and safety of her car that she burst out in tears, overcome by all the confusing emotions she was feeling simultaneously. Relief and happiness to land her dream job but guilt, remorse, embarrassment and humiliation at seeing Zack Adams again and remembering that surreal day so long ago.
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference," she recited as she drove away from the Teen Center to find the nearest AA Meeting available.