As I sat on the bus, I was a perfect mix of excitement and nerves. We’d only been in England for two weeks and here I was, on my way to a job interview for a position that would combine my communications and marketing skills with my love of travel. On paper, the position seemed perfect for me and I for it, and I was beyond pleased that the puzzle pieces seemed to be coming together so quickly.
But it was my first job interview in nearly two years and my first since taking a year off to write, travel, eat and enjoy Spain. How rusty would my skills be? Would I be judged for taking a break?
I calmed my nerves, focused on the resume that sat on my lap resume and silently mock-interviewed myself until it was time.
With a firm handshake and a warm welcome the interview began. Although I was nervous, I thought everything was going well. I was speaking clearly, confidently, and answering all of their questions with experience and examples. I felt like I was semi-knocking it out of the park until mid-way through when it all came crashing down.
Over the next 45 minutes I had to sit there while on of the interviewers, a stranger, interjected at random periods to explain to me what was wrong with my personality while also asking me very personal questions that had no bearing on the job whatsoever:
“Are you here following your boyfriend he can pursue his dreams?”
“How important is it for you to work in the UK?”
“You’re a bit intense, you know.”
“I’m not sure if I’ve gotten to know the real you, or if you’re putting on a mask.”
<sarcasm> Clearly, it was a super fun and not disheartening afternoon at all. </sarcasm/>
I left the interview feeling crushed, not because it hadn’t gone well (because it had, after knocking me down he told me my answers had been perfect—too perfect, perhaps–and that he was wholeheartedly recommending that I be brought back for a second round of interviews, and I was invited back for a second interview, wtf?!) but I felt crushed because this bloke, this stranger, had made me feel like being myself was bad, that it was fake, that it was wrong.
He made my choice to move abroad and take a year off feel small and stupid.
I felt disheartened that this was my first interview, and I worried that it would be a precursor to all interviews I’d go on in England. Maybe, I just don’t work well in England? Clearly, I was never going to work again in my entire life, I thought as I sadly waited for the bus.
But then, halfway through my journey back into town, a light bulb went on. Would he have asked me those same questions, would I have been treated the same way, or been vilified for being confident, sorry, intense, if I were a male candidate?
And that’s when it hit me, like a tonne of bricks to the face. (Seriously, I may have given myself whiplash thanks to the head jerk I had when I came to this realisation.)
Had I been a dude, none of those things would have come up or been an issue.
A male trailing spouse would never be asked if they were following their partner while they pursued their dreams. No, in fact, that person would probably be revered for being supportive, encouraging, and kind; whereas, I was looked down on for encouraging my partner to follow his dreams while also pursuing my own.
He also took my confidence in my skills and knowledge, and my passion for my career, and turned it around, making it something ugly by calling me intense. If I were a male candidate there would be no questions, I would just have been confident, skilled and knowledgeable. The perfect candidate.
He felt comfortable saying those things, asking me those questions and treating me that way because I was a woman.
And that’s not okay.
Being a trailing spouse is incredibly difficult without having someone make you feel small or bad about your decisions. While I understand that not everyone will like me or agree with my life choices, there’s no reason to make me feel bad about them, because they are mine. I’m not a hostage, a follower or a secondary player in my own life; I am the captain of my own ship – and no one could or should make me feel anything but.
I spent the rest of the day, and the week following feeling angry, bad and sad; I told myself it was just one horrible bloke, but really I kept wondering if I was, in fact, the problem. While I could have let these negative thoughts consume me, I didn’t. I pushed on because working in the UK is very important to me (take that bud), I continued to apply for jobs and not long after I was invited in for not one, but two interviews.
After my first experience, I was nervous. This would be the test, I thought. If they don’t get me then clearly, I am the problem.
Once again, I found myself sitting in a small boardroom detailing my skills, knowledge and what I could bring to the table. I conducted myself in much the same manner, but the reaction from the interview could not have been more different.
“You have a great personality, and you have a great confidence,” he said with a smile.
I could have cried, but I didn’t. Instead, I awkwardly blushed, said thank you and then mentally told the first interviewer to shove it.
Being a trailing spouse is hard at the best of times: it can be lonely, confusing and downright tough, without outside forces making you feel bad. But what’s there to feel bad about? You’re off, living in another land, having fun, adventures and awesome experiences with your partner. I might be biased, but to me, it sounds like a pretty great life to lead. And, one I’m so totally enjoying.
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