the art of getting what you want


The art is in picking a worthy thing to want.

We’re not designed for endings. Two years ago, I desperately wanted a job. I had one that paid $13 an hour as seasonal customer service for a startup. I answered phones, troubleshot problems, stared out the window onto a brick wall when I had nothing else.

I was commuting two hours each way into D.C. because I couldn’t afford to live there if I wanted to eat. This was six months out of grad school, when I was twenty-seven years old and the hungriest I’d ever been, alternately despairing and prideful.

On the train in and out of D.C., I wrote four cover letters each way. Nights, I sent them all into space and rarely heard anything back.

I heard back so rarely, in fact, that two years later, I was still a temp.

If I was hungry before, those years honed me to a fine edge: I became frugal, resourceful, full of want. I scrapped and rewrote my cover letter for every job. I had a dozen iterations of my resume. Before interviews, I designed handouts that studied the organization’s problems and offered solutions.

And then it happened, in a course of two interviews over two weeks. Last spring I was offered a better job than I could have imagined. A good cause, max-my-Roth-IRA pay, benefits, all of it. That month, after I’d gotten the offer and before starting work, I wrote one journal entry:

There is nothing better than the prospect of something, the almost-taste of it. D.C. never held more glamour for me than when I had just put my toe in it. I didn’t know that at twenty-seven.

Two years ago I was about trembling with excitement and fear. I feel it again. I hope I never grow out of this love for the possibilities there are.

Wrought, yes, but real: there is nothing better than the almost-taste of it. I was twenty-nine and the want in me was the same as before, an ageless thing. In Excess of Being, Lera Auerbach writes,

“Aging happens when growing stops.”

When we want, we grow.

The job–beautiful, lovely, wondrous–is the ending. But it’s those years before that I look on fondly. It’s just grit, grit, grit, and by the end, it wasn’t about the cover letter, or the interview: it was about everything that had grown as a girding for my want.

So that’s what people do: we want and want, and if we want enough, we grow. We become better. The almost-taste, the prospect, is the art.


photo credit: Autumn Arboretum Stairway – HDR by Nicolas Raymond (license)

Published by shavonneclarke

Writer, web editor, and hobbyist photographer living in Washington, D.C.

One thought on “the art of getting what you want

  1. Outstanding writing! I can understand exactly what you went through, having moved across the country twice and written countless cover letters and completed so many applications it was hard to keep track of them. I got lucky here in Virginia two years ago. I was about time.

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