At my going-away party at The Pilot I told the story of how I'd gotten there, of how I'd interviewed on the day after I'd learned that my mom's cancer had metastasized, how I told Denis while I was there that I was going to go home and take care of her. How Denis and I stayed in touch during the months that I was home, and how on the day my mom died he offered me a job that someone had turned down just the week before. A Claire something, I learned later, who didn't want to leave her hometown.
That always felt sort of magical to me, like my mom was watching out for me. I ended up staying there for 16 years. When I was ready to leave, it happened again.
When I applied for my current position, it was after what had already been a very long hiring process. This time, the person who turned it down was a Charlotte someone. She, too, did not leave her home state. (I guess that's a thing? I couldn't get far enough away from mine.)
And though I didn't even hear about the job until after she'd already turned it down, I felt pretty insecure about her for a long time. It preyed on me in a way that it hadn't at The Pilot. What would Charlotte have done in this situation? Is she nicer than I am? (But I mean come on, who isn't.) A better editor? A better manager? Is she (gasp!) funnier?! (Because do not even.) Even though I never met her or competed directly with her, I constantly felt like I was in second place. I tortured myself with it, and I tortured my boss with it. Once, in a fit of neediness, I made him tell me that he was happy that Charlotte had turned down the job. Like, with those words. To his credit, he was pretty convincing. To mine, I worked hard to very nearly believe him.
But it's been almost a year now, and I'm finally comfortable enough to say that it doesn't matter. I'm the one working my ass off now. Even if I had come in second to the two of them in direct competition it wouldn't matter. Because I am the one who did the job. It turns out that I've made a career out of other people's missed opportunities. Like, a pretty good one. And instead of competing with these ideas of women I've never met, I can finally just be grateful. So thank you, Claire Something and Charlotte Someone, for deciding that these jobs were not for you. They have been wonderful opportunities for me, and I have enjoyed them immensely.