With Every Breath (Wanderlust) by Lia Riley
All the online “how to land your dream job” advice stresses the same point—expect the unexpected during an interview. But come on. How can one expect what’s unexpected? Then again, my imagination is vivid. Surely I can expect anything, right? And if I expect the unexpected, maybe the unexpected will cease to exist. Or what if it never existed?
My brain fights not to implode while I fidget on the beanbag, the only available seating in the lobby. No, I didn’t just smoke up outside in the parking lot—my messed-up lungs would never tolerate that sort of activity. For better or for worse, this is the usual functioning of my sober mind.
The Outsider magazine headquarters have evolved beyond sad little cubicles, beige carpet, and soul-sapping artificial light. I anticipated capital C cool, but this is a whole other alphabet of awesome. Platinum LEED-certified building? Check. Koi ponds? Check. Floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic views of Bear Peak and the surrounding Flatiron rock formations? Check. And let’s not forget about the team-building zip lines near the main entrance, the electric-car charging stations, or the indoor climbing wall.
It’s office nirvana.
My heart does a pretty damn good imitation of Thor’s hammer striking against my rib cage.
What’s the name of that hammer again? Muehler? No, wait. Mjölnir.
Stop! Focus. Random factoids won’t save you. Get your head in the game.
I valiantly try to look like the poster child for calm and collected. Pursuing a job with the country’s oldest and most prestigious outdoor lifestyle magazine is the last thing anyone would expect me to do. I’m a play-it-safe girl suited for an entry-level role in the state capitol press corps, a reliable and responsible career path. Not this—guns blazing into the land of adventure junkies. But being here, pushing my limits, feels damn good, like I’m stepping from black and white into a world of color.
I shift position to scratch my knee, and the resulting bean crunch is noisy enough to cause the receptionist to glance over the plant-filled stack of timber beams that passes for her desk. Her gaze is cool, slightly annoyed, no doubt thinking that I don’t have a prayer of fitting in here if I can’t even manage to sit without making it an awkward production. I drop my eyes, diligently studying the ankle zip of my slim-fitting gray dress pants.
Everyone strolling past is the epitome of laid-back and earthy while simultaneously projecting this indefinable aura of capability. They are also really, really, ridiculously good-looking. Even the receptionist must moonlight as a Pilates instructor or a fitness model. The large yellow VISITOR sticker on my shirtfront makes it clear that I don’t belong, especially with my poor attempt at a sophisticated French-twist hairstyle and awestruck stare.
My lips are dry so I lick them, resisting the urge to hum the “One of These Things (Is Not Like the Other)” song from Sesame Street. I’ve gone on hikes—it’s hard to grow up in the Colorado Rockies and never spend time outdoors. But while I might be considered adventurous to someone in Manhattan or LA, the fact that I don’t ice climb, whitewater raft, backcountry ski, or mountain bike makes me pretty darn boring around here.
An unaccompanied golden retriever pauses for me to give it a quick behind-the-ear scratch. In yet another unconventional nod, dogs are welcome around the office. The DIY espresso cart across the lobby offers complimentary organic, fair-trade coffee while understated indie folk music plays from the surround sound.
Holy Mother of God, I long to be part of this cool club.
Except you’re nothing compared to these people. Why are you even bothering? They’ll laugh you out the front door.
My cheeks burn as my breathing gets shakier. It’s funny the way all my internal negative self-talk whispers in my twin sister’s voice. Not funny ha-ha, either—funny, weird. But now isn’t a time for dredging up self-worth issues. I need to pull it together. I can do this…………………………………………………..
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