“Congratulations!” Steven’s Mom wrapped him in a massive hug, the smell of her overly strong perfume catching to his university graduation robes. “I’m so proud of you!” She went on. “It feels just like yesterday you were first off to school, and now you have your Bachelor’s degree! It’s incredible.”
Steven’s mom released him, and his dad offered him a firm handshake with a simple, “I knew you could do it, son, I’m proud of you as well.”
“Thanks.” He replied to both of them. His mom started reminiscing again, and Steven’s brain tuned it into the background as he started glancing around for some of his friends. He knew Geoff’s parents had invited his family to join them for a graduation celebration dinner, and that meant that Sarah would be going… a lot more interesting that spending time here.
He thought he caught sight of them for a moment… “Sorry mom, do you mind if I go congratulate my friends for a minute? I should check what the plan is with the Watson’s anyway.”
“Oh yeah, of course. We’ll go with you, I’d like to talk to Nancy anyway.” Steven rolled his eyes on the inside knowing that for the rest of the night he’d be tethered to his parents. He also knew he shouldn’t be ungrateful, but tonight was his last chance to be a kid, he knew that come the morning his dad would bring up his career plans, and it would be an undying topic until he either moved out or got a job.
Geoff was there, along with his sister Sarah and their parents. Steven gave an undirected “Hey!” To the group and a “Congrats bro” to Geoff as they shook with a one armed hug.
“Is it everything you dreamed off you two?” Sarah asked with a sidelong grin. She was working at the Gap down the street from their house. She had even been a business major too. It made Steven wonder about his communications degree for a split second before answering.
“We’ll see, though I think we shouldn’t waste a moment though…” He looked towards the parents who were already engaged in conversion. “Think we can all get away from the adults and get wasted?”
“No way man,” Geoff replied, my mom, has us locked down. I’m surprised we’re even going to have dinner together. From what I know of your mom she’s just about the same.
“Yeah, I was worried about that… still, I think we could get away with a few drinks at dinner.” Steven mused and glanced at his mom again.
“Better than nothing,” Geoff said, “if we don’t get stuck here forever.”
“You two whine more than a bunch of girls” Sarah interjected, and Steven felt his checks redden, fuck. She gave another rye smile and pivoted to join the parent’s conversation.
It turned out that the rest of the night went pretty much how Steven dreaded it would. His parents hogged most of the conversation, he was questioned as to his career plans, and Sarah pretty much showed no interest in talking to him beyond making fun of various points when he put his foot in his mouth. He had always had a crush on her, and he had hopped that now with his graduation she would regard him more as an equal, but that was quickly proving to be not the case. He was firmly stuck in the ‘friend of little brother’ role, and that trench was deep.
Finally when it was time for them to leave he jumped at the chance to go. Hopefully, this sad start wasn’t an indication of his future graduated self…
He was wrong of course.
After four months he was gainfully employed at his local Target. He had managed to snag a few interviews in copywriting jobs, but they always went for those with “more experience.” Seeing as he’d already done several unpaid internships during his collage career, he wasn’t sure how he’d get a job to get more experience if he needed the experience to get a job. Even most entry level positions seemed to want him to have more than the year and a half he’d already had.
To compound all this, his parents had been breathing down his throat. “Why did we spend over $60,000 on your collage if you were just going to work at Target?”
Steven, of course, had no right answer. It was as if they didn’t realize it was more frustrating for him that it was for them. Geoff was faced with a similar dilemma for about a month, but thankfully his major had been IT so after a short stint for a Geek Squad at the local Best Buy he was able to snag a good starting position at a new tech startup.
At least Geoff still had time to grab a beer after work on Friday nights.
“So you remember Molly?” Geoff asked, peering quizzically at Steven over his beer.
“Yeah, you guys dated for a little while last year right?” Steven answered, wondering why Geoff brought her up… she had been a sweet girl but not particularly exciting.
“Well, we started going out again a couple months ago… I know you had never been super keen on her, so I didn’t tell you.”
“I liked her! I just thought she wasn’t your type is all.”
“Ok sure, but I never said that and you just got that idea in your head.” Geoff took a drink.
“I mean she was just a bit, I dunno, basic? I didn’t feel like you guys had much in common.” Steven felt this had taken an award turn.
“Well, I’m gonna ask her to marry me. Look.” And with that, he pulled a box out of his pocket and popped open the lid… by the size of the diamond, it must have taken several months of Geoff’s salary.
“For me?” Steven tried to make light of it. “You shouldn’t have.”
“Cut it out jackass, I’m serious. I know she’s the one… and I finally have something stable… though once I move out of my parents, it’ll take a bit before we can get our own place…
Shit. He was serious, Steven thought. “Dude, you’ve thought this through right? Shouldn’t you at least move out of your parents and have some space first? You only just got a decent job, and it’s still only entry level.”
Geoff looked at Steven with a cold stare and put the ring away. “Man, you could support me. I mean just cause you don’t have a job and won’t stop pining for my sister doesn’t mean you can’t let me be happy.”
Steven looked down at his drink for a moment before he responded. “I do, I’m just concerned is all. If you’re sure about this, and she makes you happy… then cool.” He raised his glass. “Cheers bro.”
“Yeah, cheers” Geoff raised his glass in return.
Steven continued to try to find a better job while Geoff it seemed had everything he wanted… at least that’s what Steven saw. Geoff was wedding planning while Steven was still job hunting. He tried eventually posting his resume on his university’s job board. The pickings were pretty sparse, but it was worth a shot.
About a month away from Geoff’s wedding he got a call while in the back of the store packing boxes.
“Mr. Robberts?” The caller inquired.
“I’m Tracy, calling because you had your resume on your universities job database. I recruit for a school in Henan China. We’re looking for teachers and thought you might be a good fit.”
This was not what he expected. “I’m not sure, I mean I hadn’t thought about moving to China…” Steven responded slowly, not wanting to outright turn it down but not sure that a move like that would be the right choice.
“Of course, it’s a big step” The voice named Tracy continued. “If it’s ok, I can send you an email with some more information? We pay well and cover your airfare as well.”
Why not? He thought, “Why not? Sure, do you have my email?”
“Yes, it is same as on your CV? firstname.lastname@example.org?”
“Yeah, that’s it!”
“Perfect. I’ll send it along. You have a great day!”
And with that, his day proceeded as usual, but he couldn’t help his mind wandering back to China. China! What would that be like? During his lunch break, he pulled out his phone to check the email. It was poorly optimized for Moblie, but he was able to read a bit of the job description. The pay was certainly better than his minimum wage job…. And China? He kept mulling over the idea in his mind.
The problem, of course, would be to leave all his friends and family and move around the world. Likewise, it’s not like he spoke any Chinese or knew much about the country other than martial arts movies and the headlines in the news. He had heard of people going there to teach… it still seemed a bit far off.
By the time he got home and sat down to dinner with his parents the idea had grown in his mind tenfold.
“Hey Mom, Dad?” Steven started to ask.
His father barely looked up from his newspaper. “Yes, son? Work go ok?”
“Yeah Dad, but that’s not it…” He started. “I want to go to China.”