In Search of a Distant Dream
My eyes burn. They water, tearing up from the strain. The little red icon just laughs at me, taunting me, creating wrath, hate, fear, mistrust, and all the vices of the universe in my soul.
And yet I stare on, hopeful, the icon unwavering in its scorn.
I have this dream. It’s not selfless nor as beautiful as Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, but it’s a dream nonetheless. It’s a dream of a far off, storied land known as New Zealand, and it’s been recurring for five years now.
I applied this Winter to teach skiing for NZSki, one of the larger ski companies there. I’ve had a couple of friends work for them, and everyone involved speaks highly of them. The application process, while impersonal thanks to being online and perhaps overly involved with the proof of certification they requested, was a great a deal of work but nothing I wasn’t willing to do. To realize my dream, there are few limitations to the lengths I would go.
When I received the email saying I had made it to the interview stage, I was ecstatic. There were, however, trials and tribulations to come, ones for which I was totally unprepared.
New Zealand is 18 hours ahead of Rocky Mountain Time. That means when it’s 1 PM here, it’s 8 AM tomorrow there. NZSki requested that we call them between the hours of 8 AM and 3 PM their time. However, they didn’t request that just I or another applicant call, but all of us, all during those hours, for one on one interviews that might last a while. We shouldn’t call when they’re busy in an interview, but patiently wait our turn.
8 AM to 3 PM their time is 1 PM to 8 PM my time, albeit the day before. This is good, since my internet shuts of at 8 PM. This is good because work ends around 4 PM for me. So other than being tired, this is possible.
Except my internet is mooched. And it sucks. And everyone and their sister is trying to call at once. And for those of us forced into a strange Luddite phase by our circumstances, it’s impossible to even see them come available before someone else has called. So that little red “do not disturb icon” remains burned into my retina.
On day 1, I got off work at 3:15, rushed home, and sat at my computer for 3 hours, staring at the red busy signal. The two times they appeared available, I called with no answer, finding they were busy once more after it stopped futilely ringing. I couldn’t even work on other things, because if my eyes left that symbol for a second, they might go busy again. Other windows were out of the question, drawing my attention away from my pressing need, my staunch desire.
On day 2, I begged off work and rushed home. I sat in front of my computer from 1 PM all the way until 7:30. By 7:30, I was convinced they would need more than 20 minutes, so I gave up, knowing there wouldn’t be time for an interview at that point. My day was wasted. The three times they appeared available to me all resulted in no answer. I sent them a message asking for other options, a scheduled interview (my friend had been granted one the previous year). They responded with apologies and excuses, which at least made me feel better. “Try again tomorrow,” they said. “I will,” I promised.
On day 3, the last day for their first mountain, I sat for four hours after work staring at a screen, incensed that the dream had taken over my life. It was futile. It was terrible. It burned a gaping hole in my heart. I felt dejected, at a loss, miserable.
On day 6, they would open up the second mountain’s interviews. On day 5, I logged on to find a note that they hadn’t complete interviews for the first mountain on schedule. The note said to try after day 3 since they’d be doing extra interviews. They didn’t email. They didn’t call. They left a Skype message which I didn’t get because I’m not on Skype. And already it was day 5 and I couldn’t go back in time and try again.
I sat for an hour and a half on day 6. I couldn’t get home early. I couldn’t get online. My internet outright failed. I was despondent. I started sending emails, seeking help. I contacted my friends who had worked for them. I tried other avenues. I tried to channel my rage, feeling jerked around, hating the process.
On day 7, I brought my laptop to a bar and sat there staring at the screen and drinking, worried I’d be too inebriated to interview by the time I got through. Day 7 marked the last day for the second mountain. There was only one left, starting on day 10. I sent them a note as I closed my laptop and sought food. When I opened it again later, they had responded with more kind words, spelling my anger.
On day 9, as I waited to try for that last mountain, I got my first email response. “Sorry,” it read. “We’ll be having makeup interviews on Day 13 and 14.” Those were in the middle of my snowboard ITC exam. Day 13 was the day of the All-Mountain End-of-Year party. If I didn’t get through on day 10, I resolved to talk with the IT department at Eldora about using their internet to interview. Between the exam and the party, I would have 45 minutes to an hour and a faster, better connection.
On day 10, it was once again a waste of time. I got home with two hours to spare. They never came available.
On day 13, the exam ran late. I couldn’t get to the IT manager. The lady from HR stonewalled my attempt to even talk to him for a minute. “He has other jobs and duties,” she said with a snarl at my begging. “Well fuck you too,” I said as I walked off. I couldn’t contain my rage. It boiled over. Her poor demeanor did not help.
I bolted from the mountain, knowing I would miss the festivities, miss the prizes, miss my opportunity for joy for the evening. I bolted the mountain, knowing that if I didn’t get through tonight, I wouldn’t even be able to find out if I passed my exam; I would have to leave the mountain immediately following the end of the test, before results were tabulated, to go try one last time.
I arrived to find the library closed for the day, the coffee shop next door closing early, and my neighbor, who had offered me a connection, was out of town for the night. I was stuck with the same crappy connection I had been trying on for days.
And I was livid.
I cried, I changed, I got water, I stared blankly at the screen, praying. And I hoped I might somehow get through in time to go back to the party, back to the mountain, not that I had car or the means to travel. I was angry at NZSki, angry at Eldora, angry at the circumstances of life.
The red icon glowers at me, taunting me. I tried telling it jokes, but it doesn’t laugh; it just sits there like the inanimate collection of pixels it is. I glance up and out the window, but then chide myself and slam my eyes back to the screen.
And that’s when it happens.
The icon changes. It’s green. It’s available. And my heart stops.
I try to keep the tears back, the relief spilling over. I wonder if my voice is wavering. In moments, my resolve and determination will take over, but for now, I’m overcome with relief that they answered, that all is not lost.
The interview is cursory, the connection terrible. It takes nearly a minute to send a jpeg as part of my presentation on accomplishing a goal. I have videos, PDFs, stories to tell, and my presentation is cut short, an aire of annoyance sliding across the garbled digital line.
And just like that, it’s over.
I’m relieved. I’m angry. I’m happy. I know my resume speaks for itself. And tomorrow, I’ll hopefully be the proud owner of a level I snowboard certification that will further enhance my credentials.
It’s a rainbow of emotion: the success at the level I, the incredible joy at the wonderful life I lead, the pain of respraining my wrist in a fall of stupid proportions, and the utter sense at loss at my rejection from New Zealand. All of this in a crazy 24 hour period.
The email is curt, cordial, and seemingly automated. And I’m shocked I’m not upset.
The process left me sour. The questions they asked seemed strange. And my prospects seemed dim from the get-go.
The agism isn’t the fault of NZSki, by any means. The way New Zealand sets up its immigration and work visa limitations are ageist and protective. It was a stretch to think that my mass of credentials would be enough; though they’re close.
I don’t cry or whine. I don’t shout epithets or want to scream. I simply feel empty and scared, not because I didn’t make it to New Zealand this summer, but because I don’t know where I am or where I’ll be if I’m not in New Zealand.
I sit, contemplating my future, the uncertainty a far cry from my confidence of only three weeks ago, the emotional strain of the ordeal gratefully replaced with disparate fear and wonder. There are still other irons in the fire, and though New Zealand has fallen from the center of the flame, in my mind it’s still hot, still smoldering.
Next year, I think. Or maybe the year after that. Someday for sure.
And I know my dream is not dead.