When I fell into my depressed state earlier in the week, everything started to spiral out of control. My body was out of wack. I wasn’t hungry. Me—someone who can’t go more than a few hours without eating. I don’t lose weight nor do I gain weight. I always stay within a two pound range, but I started to lose weight rapidly. I got down to my high school weight. I couldn’t sleep even with Ambien. I woke up intermittently throughout the night, sometimes jolting out of bed, crying out, “Why does shit like this always happen to me?” I couldn’t focus at all. I stared at analyst reports at work with eyes glazed over. I wasn’t really reading anything. I just stared and zoned into the tables. My head was in the clouds. I couldn’t wait to get home so I could sulk alone without people whizzing by my desk. I thought about taking a day or two off, but I knew that would only make things worse. I saw myself in bed, drugged out on a couple pills of Ambien, trying to sleep the pain away. At least in the office, I could pretend to be ok. I could answer questions, make a few phone calls, check the stock price…do something. At least I was doing something.
During all this, I thought about the Bachelorette interview. It had been scheduled at least three weeks in advance. It had been confirmed twice by each side (twice by the matchmaker and twice again by me). “Just want to confirm that you’ll be at the interview on Wednesday at 7pm. Please don’t be late as you only have 25 minutes to pitch why you should be the inaugural VIP.” I didn’t have it in me, but I couldn’t cancel so close to the interview. I didn’t want my matchmaker to think I was a flake. I wasn’t a flake! I needed to pull myself together and get back to my normal self.
So I did. I started to focus my energy on the interview. Why should I be the Bachelorette? What messages would I try to convey about myself? The creativity emerged. I started writing down ideas, brainstorming. Then I started organizing my thoughts. I wanted to be prepared. I wanted to be different. Even if I didn’t get the position, I wanted the interviewers to think that I was a dynamo, that I gave it my all, that I don’t do anything half ass. Day by day, I honed in on an almost perfect pitch.
The day of my interview, I left work early. I came home, showered, and got ready. We were asked to come dressed sexy and sassy a la Sex and the City. I wore a burgundy form-fitting dress I had purchased at a lingerie store in NYC a couple weeks before. Primped and ready, I drove down to Palo Alto. I was calm and collected, practicing my presentation in my head while driving. No NPR, no music…it was all about the Bachelorette. I was confident. I felt good. I looked good.
I had allowed myself plenty of time to get there. 90 minutes. But there must have been an accident. Traffic was completely frustrating. I started to hyperventilate. I was three exits away, but stuck practically in a parking lot on 101 South. 6:45. My appointment was at 7:00. My heart started beating furiously. I’m never late…ever. I only had 25 minutes to present. I started to think of my options. What portions of my presentation would I cut out? Should I call my matchmaker and tell her I was stuck in traffic and probably wouldn’t make it in time? Could I possibly reschedule? Desperate, I maneuvered myself into the very right lane, then drove hurriedly down the shoulder. “Oh God,” I whispered. “This is so bad.” I gripped the steering wheel; my knuckles whitened.
Calmness turned into anxiety as I sped to the wine bar. I leapfrogged past cars. I didn’t wait for pedestrians to make their way across the street. It was 7:01 exactly as I pulled in front of the wine bar and parked in a red zone. Oh well. I can’t get towed within a 25-minute timeframe. Besides, I’ll watch my car from the window.
I flew into the bar and spotted my matchmaker with her two interviewers beside her. I was a little perplexed to be interviewing in the middle of the bar with throngs of people milling about. How would they be able to hear me clearly? I told them my circumstances, how I’d just driven two miles on the freeway shoulder to get to them in time. They told me to take a deep breath and relax. They each had to take a break and run to the restroom anyway. My matchmaker even returned with a bottle of wine for the three of us to share.
With all of us settled, she started. “Well, Catherine, you know what this is about. If you could simply go ahead and pitch why you think you should be selected our inaugural VIP Bachelorette.”
“Well, I thought I’d start out with a story.”
“I love stories!” One of the interviewers exclaimed. “Go for it.”
“I think this story gives the best background on who I am as a person and will help frame why I’m here talking to you.
“I started high school a total dork. I was short, skinny. I had braces, acne. I wasn’t attractive. And I was a nerd, the teachers’ pet. I had friends in elementary school, but once I got to high school, it all changed. When you make that transition, kids are trying to figure out who they’re going to befriend and what cliques they’re going to be a part of. I didn’t have any value add, I guess, unless you needed help with homework. I didn’t have any friends. I distinctly remember sitting in the quad or the cafeteria, eating lunch alone because no one wanted to sit by me. I was so embarrassed I skipped lunch altogether and sat in the library studying which propagated my nerd image. I figured I was going to be that girl who hated her high school experience. That was going to be me. No friends, a loner, just a dork.
“Then cheerleading tryouts came around and I thought, ‘I could do this. I can dance. Maybe this is my chance.’ The cheerleaders were pretty and popular. Everyone liked them. They had tons of friends. They were the high school darlings. They dated the athletes. They were fun and fabulous. Tryouts lasted a full week. We had to learn routines, perform the routines in front of judges. We came up with our own routine, performed that in front of the judges. After the week was over, the following Monday afternoon after classes were done, the judges called us into a room where they announced the squad.
‘We all know that you put a lot of work and effort into these tryouts, but there are only so many positions and it was especially tough this year. We are going to call out the names of the squad now. If you don’t hear your name…again, I want to thank you all for giving it your best. The following people will be our Junior Varsity cheerleading squad.’ I breathed out and said a little prayer. All the names were announced. Mine wasn’t called. I sighed, but was surprisingly not too disappointed. I was proud of myself. I’d made friends. People didn’t think I was a dork anymore. It was good. It was a really good experience. I was happy I did it.
‘Next I’m going to call out the names of our Varsity cheerleading squad.’ All the names were announced. I was already packing up my things, getting ready to exit the classroom as girls congratulated one another. Some looked disappointed. One girl called out, ‘Not fair. So not fair.’
“Then the judge had a final announcement. ‘For the first time in our history, we’re going to name a freshman to our Varsity squad. And that person is Catherine Gacad. Congratulations.’
“I was shocked. I wasn’t even happy. It didn’t register. I couldn’t believe it.
“The next day, classmates cheered me on when I walked into class. Here I was representing my class and I’d accomplished an unbelievable feat. Everyone was so proud of me, happy for me. Overnight, I became popular. Finally, I could eat! I could sit in the quad or the cafeteria and I didn’t have to sit alone. People would congregate around me. But the main point of my story is this…I never forgot what it felt like to be alone. So I would spot people out of the corner of my eye sitting alone and I’d run up and grab them by the arm, ‘Gavin! What are you doing? Come over here and sit by me, silly!’ And I’d stop by the library and say, ‘People, it is so nice outside. Come on out. I want you all to come out and join me on the grass.’
“And with that story, I think you have a good background on who I am as a person. So now I’d like to launch into this PowerPoint presentation I created.”
The interviewers expected a quick pitch. Similar to my shock when I was announced a cheerleader, their eyes widened as I handed each of them a copy of my presentation.
The VIP Bachelorette: Catherine Gacad