At the end of the summer of 1993 I moved from Burlington back to my parents’ house in Connecticut. I do not think I seriously considered staying in Burlington. I did not see a future there beyond working in the restaurant. But looking back on it I think I saw Connecticut as a safe place for me. It was safe but it was also stifling. It was safe because looking back on it I feared failure (not making enough money to support myself) by staying in Burlington. It was stifling because I was cut off from my friends and imprisoned by humiliation.
Soon after moving back the feeling of humiliation kicked in. The source of the humiliation was the mental calculation I made that because I had graduated from college I should therefore have a job and be supporting myself. At this point I had neither. The humiliation stopped me from networking and looking because every time I did that I felt such deep shame. I feared shame. It felt better to hide, which was probably the reason I moved back to Connecticut and into my parents’ house in the first place.
So there I was again, feeling like the last one picked for the kickball team in elementary school. Up until this point I was on par with my peers. I went to college like everyone else. Once I graduated without a job I was now on the bottom of the heap. All the success I had achieved in college socially was washed away. I was back to being the kid everyone else picked on. Instead of having kids picking on me in the outside world they moved into my brain and shamed me every day for the predicament I was in.
I’m not sure why I felt that moving into my parents was safe in that I still felt deep humiliation. Perhaps I felt that I deserved to be humiliated. This was my punishment for being me. Since my parents instilled that feeling in me all my life maybe on some level it felt right to be humiliated in front of them. Humiliation out in the world was too much to endure. I remember one night feeling so anxious and depressed I was on the verge of tears and my father asking me that if I could not handle this situation how would I be able to handle real problems in life? I know now what I needed was support and encouragement. At that point in my life, however, it was too late. If my parents somehow were able to give authentic support to me it would probably have only resulted in more shame, like I was taking something that did not belong to me or being offered something I did not deserve. As it stood, in their eyes my feelings of anxiety and depression were wrong. They were a sign that I was weak and would never be able to support myself out in the world on my own. If my feelings are wrong, then I must be innately flawed as a person because I generated the feelings.
The days alone with my parents were so long. I always felt like I should be doing something other than what I was doing. In my mind, I had no right to do anything I enjoyed because I should be spending my time looking for a job. I remember looking at the job listings in the newspaper and feeling so anxious and depressed. There were no jobs listed that I wanted and even the ones listed required more or different experience than I possessed. I remember calling a phone number and not being able to speak to the person on the phone because I was in tears.
My father set up an interview for me with the insurance company he worked for in Hartford. I remember meeting with the woman in charge of the department hiring. I felt totally unqualified for the position and that she did not take me seriously. After not hearing back from her a few weeks after the interview I called her office to inquire. She seemed surprised that I called. I got the impression she did not view me as a legitimate candidate worthy of a call back.
I interviewed at this other shady company. They offered me a position but I would have to pay for the training. I declined the position because I felt it was below me. I then got another job through a temp agency working in an office filing these slips of paper into filing cabinets. At about 2:00 pm high school students came in and started doing what I was doing. I did not finish out the day because I felt this job was below me as well. I felt like I should be doing something more important but nobody valued me. I felt totally hopeless.
I remember getting a bad haircut at the local barber shop. I told the barber not to cut my bangs so short but he did it anyway and acted annoyed with me for telling him what to do. On the drive home to my parents’ house I looked in the rearview mirror at myself. I remember yelling at the top of my lungs, “I hate living here!” I felt completely trapped, stuck and hopeless.