Don’t quit your daydream

Back in September I applied for a job at the College of Charleston. This wasn’t just any job, either. This was my dream job as it combined my passion for journalism and my newfound love for higher education.

I was shocked when in October I received a request from the hiring committee to do a Skype interview. Because this was a fairly high-level position within the communications division at CofC and because I am only 4 years out of undergrad, I couldn’t believe my application had been pushed through and these folks were actually interested in me.

I wanted this job, possibly more than any of the other candidates.

You see, when I was a junior in high school, my parents took me to CofC for a college tour and I fell in love. The moment I stepped foot on that historic campus with its ancient live oak trees draped with Spanish moss, the College of Charleston became my No. 1 choice.

Then, life happened and my mom was diagnosed with stage IV cervical cancer. Going away to school, especially out of state, was no longer an option. At the age of 18, when all my friends were moving into college residence halls and starting these exciting new lives away from the small community we all were raised in, I did what I had to and stayed home with my mom. I attended UNC Asheville and received a fantastic liberal arts education, but College of Charleston always lived in the back of my mind.

That is why I cried tears of joy when I read the email from the senior director of communications asking if I would be interested in doing a Skype interview with him and the rest of the search committee. It was like life was coming full circle and in that moment I felt as if CofC could finally be mine. My dream was (hopefully) finally coming true.

I spent the week leading up to my Skype interview researching the school, reading over the details of the position, immersing myself in the online publication the position oversees, and refining my answers to questions I knew they would ask.

I also got ahead of myself, only slightly, and started looking at potential housing options in the Charleston area. I had already decided that if CofC offered me the position, I would take it, and that meant Justin and I would have to pack up and move quickly. I wanted to be prepared if that happened.

As if that wasn’t enough, I also started taking notes for a blog post I was planning to write about life coming full circle. I was going to call it “Don’t quit you daydream.”

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While looking through old photos for my engagement party, I came across a series of images taken during my College of Charleston tour in 2007. I told Justin that if I get the job at CofC, I was going to recreate this photo for a blog post about how life comes full circle.  

I was poised and ready when my interview rolled around on a Tuesday morning in early October. As I sat staring at the faces of the three-member search committee, though, it was like my brain fell out of my head and I couldn’t form clear and concise answers to their questions.

I started out strong but stumbled over a question midway through the interview and couldn’t seem to regain composure after. I could feel my dream job at my dream university slip through my fingers and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

When the call ended and I could breathe again, I replayed my answers to their questions over and over in my head. I was my own worst enemy as I critiqued each thing I could remember saying and hung my head in disappointment at the things I didn’t tell them about myself and my experience as a journalist and editor. Honestly, I felt like I came off as green and that crushed me.

This interview and the weeks that followed shattered any amount of confidence I had inside of me.

When one week then two weeks, three weeks, four weeks and so on went by and I hadn’t heard from the search committee about extending an offer for me to go down for an on-campus interview, I assumed they had moved on with their search. So, I began to move on as well and started throwing myself into my current job.

Now, here it is Nov. 16 — exactly 6 weeks and 1 day after my Skype interview — and I receive an email from the head of the search committee asking if I had a few moments to chat. “Of course I do,” I screamed in a gasp of excitement. My gears immediately began turning again. Maybe I had been wrong? Maybe their search got delayed? Maybe they want me to do an on-campus interview? I need to start looking at housing in Charleston again! I need to find all my notes I took for the blog post I’m going to write! And so on.

I scheduled a time to talk with the man who was holding my future in his hands and waited patiently the next day for him to call.

I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. He wasn’t calling to ask me down for an on-campus interview. He wanted to inform me that the search committee decided to go with another candidate who had more experience. My heart sank when I heard those words.

What now? I had just received the closure I needed to confirm that College of Charleston is, in fact, is off the table (at this time).

While I am not actively looking for new full-time employment, I still feel like I need something more — something that challenges me creatively, something that will allow me to write, edit, and design (and get paid for it), and something that will nourish my soul.

So, why not hold my future in my own hands? That’s the way it should be anyway, right?

Freelancing — that’s my solution to my need for something more. It’s something I did when I was in undergrad and for a short time after graduation. I thoroughly enjoyed those times and miss the freedom and  fun I had talking to people in the community, telling their stories through the written word, and getting out of my comfort zone by exploring new parts of town.

So, I am officially “Hali Ledford: CLT freelance writer and editor for hire.” That’s what my social media accounts say, at least. I still have a ton of work to do and many connections to make at publications in and around Charlotte. I am making it happen, though.

If there is one thing I learned from this experience with CofC it’s don’t quit your daydream. Even when someone tells you no or that you that you don’t have enough experience, never give up on what is important to you. Pick  yourself up, be a boss, and make your own dreams come true.

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