Pressure

Approximately seven months ago was my last day of high school. I wasn’t completely sure what to expect would happen after graduating. I knew I was taking a gap year before going to Britain to study physics, but what exactly would I be doing in the meantime? I was still undecided.

The period, leading up to our graduation ball was one of excitement for the event and also stress about the closely scheduled matriculation exams right before it. Following the short recuperation period after the party, on the other hand, there was only one thought left drifting in my mind:

What now?

In a time of deep uncertainty, especially one of an existential importance, such as my life’s purpose the critical faculties tend to give in first under the pressure. I panicked. Right up to this moment I had been given a default purpose (which I strongly rebelled against) of attending school and doing my best to participate in my forced indoctrination and malicious murder of creativity (at least that is what I thought of the process in my early teens). But now, there was nothing. Well, there was something – my university degree, but that wasn’t going to be a thing for over a year.

I had to make myself useful. With every moment of every day I grew more and more restless.

I had to make myself useful. Couldn’t bear standing around while the time passed me by.

I had to make myself useful. Feelings of inadequacy consumed me, while I looked for a way to escape the confines of my skin.

Money! Of course! I had to make money. Any money. If I could make some money then that would mean my whole existence wasn’t a farce. That is what people think of when they judge someone’s life success, right?

My neurotic energy now had a clear goal and I unleashed it completely. In a matter of less than 5 days I had applied to every existing freelance platform, written a handful of application letter drafts, made an educational YouTube video, watched lessons on Inkscape vector logo design, learned how to use translation software and scoured job-posting websites for any opportunities, fit for a recent high-school graduate with no work experience, poor social skills and only an awesome english certificate to his name.

Five days of constant seed-planting later, almost at the peak of this cocktail of insecurity, existential crisis and neuroticism I received a phone call. Local manager for a popular chain of bookstores, calling to arrange an interview. We scheduled for the next day. That night, my previously comfortable bed felt akin to a pile of hay bales. I didn’t sleep.

Next morning I somehow felt exhausted, and simultaneously – hyperactive. The four or five hours to the interview could be described as an iron maiden for the mind. The only thing I can stand doing in such a state is reading about the details of my impending doom in a vain attempt to disperse my anxiety by tackling the uncertainty behind it. It reminded me of the numerous times, while waiting for a dentist appointment when I frantically attempt to learn all of dental medicine. For two of those five hours I was trying to decide on an outfit. Of course, nothing felt right. I ended up with a semi-formal combination of brown leather dress shoes, beige chinos and a grey sweater… Sweater…. In the middle of the summer!

In almost opiate-type haze I made my way to the bookstore, torturing myself over every detail of the situation – from considering the most appropriate way to introduce myself, down to constantly adjusting the position of my wristwatch. Wearing a sweater under the blazing heat of the sun was not helping with the stress-induced perspiration. As the store grew closer I began physically hearing the frantic beats of my heart. I was probably pushing 160 BPM.

I walked through the door. Immediately in front of me was the cash register. I asked if I could speak to the manager about my interview. At this point I was under such an intense mental fog that for the life of me I am still unable to recall to whom I made that request. A young woman, late twenties walked up to me and invited me to take a seat just outside the store. I immediately forgot all of my previous preparation and completely let her take the lead in the conversation. After I answered a few basic questions about myself, she gave me a brief overview of the specific details of the job, gave me a form to fill in and asked me if I needed any more information.

And that was it.

5 minutes, two or three personal questions and a form.

Moral of the story? Relax. When will I start taking my own advice? Never.

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