Jackie Thomas graduated from a top university but found herself back at home working as a mascot after she was unable to secure a job in her field. But thanks to others’ belief in her, she was finally able to find the perfect role.
Jackie Thomas: Imagine you’re 23. You just graduated from a top 20 university. You should have an amazing job, one with health benefits preferably, but you don’t. You live in your hometown. You work as a mascot, and you smell like a foot.
You get a pressure and you think, “I got to compete.” I’m evaluating myself. I’m comparing myself. I’m thinking, “I need to get to that level. It happens for them. I got to do it, too.”
It just creates a madness inside, because it’s a comparison. It’s a game I’ll never win. For example, they go for runs in their lunch. I mean, I could probably do that but it’s just … Sometimes you get tired during the day. I get tired. This person never gets tired.
They get to travel all over the world. I don’t know how they do it. I think it might be their job but they get to bring their baby with them and that’s pretty awesome. The child has traveled more than me. Amazing.
It’s just hard to see it, when you’re comparing your everyday to someone’s best day. You get tired of it and you start to feel hopeless, and you feel like this will be my life. It’s not going to happen for me. I’m not going to launch.
I graduate from college. I go back home, and I don’t have anything lined up because I didn’t plan to be here. And I remember there was a flood at home during this time and I can remember just sleeping in the living room at the house and just having a malaise and just apathy wash over me. Actually it was a depression. It’s just being depressed and thinking, “I have no idea what to do. I have no interest in anything right now.” I just felt like I was missing out on a whole part of life. I was watching it just drift by while I was just trying to make ends meet and clobber something together and thinking about how I’m going to wade myself out of this mess.
My journals are full of me pleading for something to change. Like, “How could you have done this? You were so stupid. You should have done this. You should have done that.” There’s a lot of drawings of me like that. Just the frustration, the anger, the disappointment, the depression, all of that and then compound that with expectations of what you’re seeing on social media. Oh, it’s completely crippling.
I think everyday every time I had a hard shift, I think I was like, “You got to figure something out.” When you’re in the minutia of it all, it takes a lot of extra energy to try and get a game plan together. But it wasn’t until other people started having confidence in me that I was really able to get the energy up to do something myself.
My mentor had a link in an email for me, and it was for young alumni program director at my university’s alumni association. I applied for the job, and I get it. I help our young alumni and our current students connect and make connections with each other. That’s what I do.
It’s so fitting, because I’m working with students and young alumni who might have been in my very position: lost, maybe feeling a lot of anxiety, maybe apprehensive about the future. I take my job super seriously, because the kindness I was shown is something that helped me get out of the rut. I’m hoping that the programming I do can help others, as well.
Thinking of yourself as a small child is actually really helpful in trying to just be nicer. Be a nicer human being to yourself. What I would say to small, wee Jackie… I would say, “You’re okay, kid. You’re very goofy. But you have a lot of heart, and you’re super goofy and you’re super energetic. But you’re not your job, and you’re not your salary. There’s a lot more to you than just what you do for a living, because you make a lot of people happy and you should remember that more.” That’s what I’d tell her. She’s embarrassed for me right now.
Grotto: Thank you very much.
Jackie: Oh, you’re welcome. You’re welcome.