Nobody dresses up to go to the post office. There's the stay-at-home mom, picking up stamps on her way to the gym. The white-haired grandmother, hair pinned perfectly in pink rollers. And me, grass-stained Nikes, cutoff jeans and a ponytail. Last errand on the way to my latest odd job: mowing lawns at my dad's apartment complex. I'll make $8 an hour today.
They don't like me too much here. I dragged in two garbage bags full of manila envelopes, each carrying the hope of my first post-college job: my résumé, cover letter and a six-minute videotape of my best work. I'm trying to earn a job in television news. Today's bag is full of envelopes destined for Bismarck, N.D.; Juneau, Alaska; Marquette, Mich. This batch is no different from last week's, headed to Kearney, Neb., and Victoria, Texas. I've shipped more than 100 packages since graduating from Ohio's Miami University in May.
I knew it would be difficult, but I've wanted to be a reporter since I learned to tie my shoes. In college, I started taking any and all writing jobs. By the time I graduated, I'd worked in commercial and public radio, newspapers, and local and network TV. I even landed a stint at CNN, interviewing grieving relatives for post-9/11 coverage. If "professional intern" were a real career, I'd take it.
WSBT–TV South Bend, Ind., offered me my first television job. I helped start its Saturday-morning news show, a job that required a 4 a.m. wake-up call—not exactly ideal for a person working for free. But the show gave me responsibility. Once, I asked the news director for advice, and we popped in my tape.
"Ya sure ya want to be a reporter? We need producers."
"I'm sure," I answered, maybe a little too quickly.
But did I mention I've wanted to be a reporter since kindergarten?
Next comment: "Your voice ..."
"Too high?" I interrupted.
"Well, yes," she said, echoing other news directors.
I know I sometimes sound like an eighth-grader. One radio boss moved me to a less-desirable time slot, persuading me to invest in the $100-an-hour voice lessons. I still do those drills, lying on the floor, feet propped in a chair, hands on my stomach. "Ohw, Ohw, Ohw, Ohw."
My critic then offered helpful advice on my appearance.
"Your hair's a little messy sometimes. Hair spray," she advised. "And your nose is a little wide. But makeup will help that."
I almost laughed. But my issue of Cosmo arrives the same day as Time and Newsweek.
She ended our meeting with words I desperately needed. "Don't worry. All those problems can be fixed. I'd be worried if you couldn't write or didn't know how to pick a good news story."
Thousands of beautiful women want the same job I do. Thousands, like me, are still wading in that pool, waiting for our turn to dive in. And we're all at the post office, hoping the next envelope will earn our first job.