Talent Show

7 01 2012

I was born assuming the world revolved around me. And while there  is no evidence to the contrary, besides all that science stuff, unemployment has provided abundant opportunities to reflect, and question the nature of my universe.

In the last three months, I’ve suffered through a dramatic bust to my ego. I haven’t felt this way since I lost the talent show in 7th grade. Niya was the only black girl at our school, and a gospel bomb-shell at her church. We were the choir directors irrefutable favorites, and expected to win the whole damn thing. Teachers doted over our talent, which gained us a reputation we both reveled in. I remember thinking on the way to the evening throw-down, that it was in the bag. I was almost  sure I didn’t need to show up. We had practiced for hours through several weekends in her garage, where her father directed us on how to work a crowd, handle a microphone like a pro. We covered, The Boy is Mine, by Brandy and Monica. It was a popular song at the time, but a strange choice on our part. What the hell do two 12-year-old girls know about fighting over the affection of a playboy? Maybe more than I give us credit, but still. He drilled that song into us like Joe Jackson, and on the big night we gave a dazzling multicultural performance, complete with backup dancers in sparkle tops and suggestive choreography.

When we didn’t place, I was embarrassed, emotionally busted, scraping my self-esteem up off the stage. I thought I would never recover. Niya was cool and collected. I was shocked. It was the first time I expected an outcome, something I assumed was possible, because I had done all the right things.

Unemployment has cut  me down: like a drunk lumberjack wielding a rusty axe to my core. Please excuse the dramatic hyperbole, but this is emotional! My edges are jagged, bleeding, and on the verge of timber. I’m close enough to a breaking point, that it reveals how high I’ve grown with ambition, and what a long way down it seems. I am humbled. Countless interviews concluded I was too young, too inexperienced, bleeding all over their office floor, not passionate enough, and a list of other things that made me feel like garbage. But I feel genuine in saying that it’s been a good thing, a reminder that sometimes when you expect something, even when you do everything you think is right, what you think you know, doesn’t mean jack.

When you spend hours working on a resume, cover letter, networking or whatever bullshit that’s supposed to matter when you attempt to impress an employer, you inadvertently inflate your expectations. My generation was promised that college was the gatekeeper to our wildest dreams. So in typical center-of-the-universe fashion, we graduate assuming, even expecting certain doors to open, calling us forward by our names. The gap between academics and corporate America is  becoming dramatically more divided, resulting in the degradation of young professionals who question their skill set in a flooded work force. 

I get it. The world doesn’t revolve around me. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around that idea for 25 years or so, and still I have incredibly self-centered moments that would make most people red in the face. So okay, I get it. In respect to the unfortunate circumstance of unemployment, I want to acknowledge the bitter truth that maybe, just maybe, it has made me better.

I started working full-time this week. I am no longer unemployed.

Life is a talent show- Oh! A metaphor! Everyone wants to win, but it doesn’t matter if you practice all night in the bathroom mirror, have a Master’s degree in some obscure academic discipline that nobody understands or cares about. The only thing you can do: never quit. The year after Niya and I lost the  talent show, I took first place. Though I may be humbled, I still sing.




4 responses

18 01 2012
Robert Rodriguez

Whitney; you are SUCH an amazing person! I mean it; you really do…get it. And for some reason this piece really moved me. Being raised by a single mom and looking back at what I’ve had to go through as a ‘high-school drop-out’, it really is ALL about not keeling over and giving up. You rock. You’re well on your way to big thangs, big rangs, big chains!

So hey I don’t work till Saturday; let’s do Friday. I’ll call you later; you BETTER answer. Especially if it’s a weirrrrd number, cuz it’s probably me. 😉 ttyl, friend.

19 01 2012
Whitney Marie Butler

I’m glad you connected Bobby. Friday sounds great! And I’ll be watching for weird numbers.

19 01 2012
Migdalia Gonzalez

Hi Whitney,

I love this. I was unemployed for a year, and then got a job and then unemployed for 6 months after that. Me and unemployment… We’re like bff. hhah- You capture the feeling of being on a high horse after college so perfect. We are the generation of the entitled. We deserve a good job, we deserve to make good money. If we don’t… then we are angry, confused and desperate. Blah it’s a sucky feeling and it’s sad we all have to go through it, but I am convinced it will come in handy later down the road.

I hope your new job is awesome and that it has something to do with writing because I love your style 🙂

BTW: Thanks for the email, I’ll be getting back to you soon!


29 01 2012

Awesome Whitney, I really like this piece. I remember you and Niya singing at the talent show, was that when Chris O’Rourke and little Rodrigo did “Just the Two of Us” as Dr. Evil and Mini Me?
Congrats on the job, thanks for keeping us inspired and looking ahead, and please don’t ever stop writing and singing and sharing your gifts with the world. We need more like you Whit.

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