What Happened When I Went From Temp to Perm

August 12, 2017

While I will always love the excitement of movement, there’s a beauty to staying still and creating a life in front of you.

Related: 7 Life Truths I Wish I Knew Sooner

The summer after graduating high school was the first time I entered the temping world. I stood on the D train from Brooklyn to midtown Manhattan in my best-pressed navy suit, wearing pantyhose for the first time and feeling stunned how a little piece of tan material could stretch to fit over my legs. I had an appointment with a recruiter on Madison Avenue.

The receptionist buzzed me in through the glass doors and told me to have a seat. I looked around and noticed all the women wearing nicer suits, some with leather briefcases sitting upright in a row in the lobby.

My blouse wrinkled and feet blistered, I felt out of place. She handed me a clipboard filled with various forms to fill out. I wrote my name, social security number, address and then started to panic. All the questions were about computer programs, typing speeds and other skills I didn’t have. So much for my college degree. I handed the near empty papers back to the receptionist.

“How fast can you type?” she asked. 

“Um, I can’t really,” I replied.

She marked something on my paper and told me to have a seat. All the other ladies were taking typing tests and chomping away on computers like classical pianists. I was adjusting my panty hose and unnerved. Then a friendly woman named Lizette with a raspy voice and oversized red glasses called me into her office. She took a liking to me right away and got me a job at a top-notch magazine company starting the next day.

I was excited to use my creative skills, but the job was anything but. It was lonely really; sometimes I was forced to eat my lunch quickly in the company’s bathroom because I had no place to go. I thought it would be glamorous to work in the city. I wasn’t writing copy or meeting with executives. I was either answering a phone that never rang, or transferring calls like an auctioneer, faster than I could handle.


It’s only temporary. I would repeat every day. This isn’t my real life.


I think I hated the commute most of all. The heat and humidity trapped in the subway platforms. Within seconds of standing there, feeling puddles of perspiration flooding down my face. How I wished I was in the country, drinking black and white milk shakes, swimming in a lake—I would even take a rash of mosquito bites instead of going to the 45th floor of an office building. It’s only temporary. I would repeat every day. This isn’t my real life.

Related: 5 Simple Steps to Plan Your Dream Life

As years progressed, for better or worse, Lizette would always find work for me: college breaks, summer vacations, even long weekends, and I was always grateful. It’s now for the first time that I question this gratitude. What would have happened if I did not get temporary assignments? What if instead I was forced to hone in on what I wanted to do or how I truly wanted to spend the lost summers of my youth. While these jobs led me to numerous exposures and communications, it also set off a trend in my life—that things were temporary and need not need any permanence.

And so my life imitated work as I began a world of part time and sublets, a vagabond member of a lease less society. In college, I transferred schools and moved a minimum of twice a year, because for some reason, I thought I “had” to—that comfort equaled entropy. Eventually came larger moves, cities, jobs, etc. I thought this movement was a result of my adventurous spirit, a refusal to accept conventionality and the status quo. I was like a child without Ritalin. I simply could not sit still.

Occasionally my temp jobs were offered permanently, and I would never take them. Something better would come along, I imagined. How could I settle? Then I decided to leave New York. On my last day, Lizette called me into her office. She told me I was crazy to move without a job lined up. I told her I would be crazy to stay. After four years of consistent help, I left the office and never heard that sonorous voice again.

I spent over a decade temping, traveling and working two jobs without insurance. Anything not to be a 9-to-5’er. But by the time my 30th birthday rolled around, I seceded. I’d moved back to New York City as a freelancer. I would have remained so for a while, because I still liked the flexibility. But then 9/11 happened, and everything about how I saw the world changed. So when an opportunity to teach opened up, I took it. I think I needed something to be permanent to compensate for all that was taken. And it worked for me.


Instead of packing everything up in old supermarket boxes, I could stack my life, my accomplishments, in front of me.


All of a sudden, my life wasn’t as seductive, but it wasn’t as chaotic, either. I realized I didn’t have to give up travel or adventure; the only thing I had to let go of was the fear of the unknown. I had insurance for the first time ever, meaning when I got sick, I actually went to the doctor—it was satisfying knowing that I could really take care of myself, be independent just in a different way. And I even bought an apartment, no longer held hostage by Craigslist to find a roommate. I finally felt like I could create my own life and watch it grow. Instead of packing everything up in old supermarket boxes, I could stack my life, my accomplishments, in front of me.

I’m permanent staff now. Tenured. Pension. Grown-up stuff. And truth be told, I actually like it this way. There’s a comfort knowing that I have a steady paycheck coming in, that my life has some sort of structure to it—flow. I wonder if I discovered this stability earlier on, if things might have turned out differently.

Sometimes I doubt myself. Like when I hear a friend is relocating, I want to pack up my things and go. That by moving, things will magically get better. Then I pause. I look around at my life and realize that while I will always love the excitement of movement, there’s a beauty and a peace to staying still and creating a life in front of you. So that’s what I am doing.

Related: 10 Pieces of Career Advice for My 21-Year-Old Self

You might like

8 Powerful Ways to Mold Your Children Into Leaders

8 Powerful Ways to Mold Your Children Into Leaders

We can mold our children into leaders, but only if we work at it. Few things in life are as worth your time and effort as this.

August 14, 2017
The 7 Laws of Healthy Old Age

The 7 Laws of Healthy Old Age

Based on nearly 80 years of studying adult development, researchers narrowed down seven tenets that lead to a long, healthy, fulfilling life.

August 11, 2017