Don’t grin and bear it.
When something’s wrong, don’t sit back and accept my fate. Say no. Take matters into my own hands. Don’t stop fighting until I’ve flipped the situation for myself.
It’s the most important lesson my parents ever taught me.
For the first time in my life, I’m ignoring their advice. The semester ahead of me is shaping up to be a complete and total disaster, and I have no choice but to trek through with a fake smile on my face.
“You could decline the offer and apply somewhere else next semester,” Mom suggests, running her fingers through my subtly purple ombre hair.
This morning, I received an email from my academic advisor informing me that my fall semester internship won’t be at Brooklyn Studios, the boutique interior design firm I desperately want to employ me. That wasn’t the exact wording, but it was the main takeaway point. What it actually said is that my school-sponsored internship will take place at the Sumner Museum of Fine Arts and Natural History.
I don’t remember applying there, but I hate myself for filling out that application, which I probably did when I was sleep-deprived and delirious during finals week last semester. That’s the only possible explanation as to why I would willingly submit my resume to a museum that feels the need to display art alongside dinosaur bones.
Why they need an interior design intern, I do not know. My dad made a bunch of jokes about dinosaurs decorating meteor shelters until Mom whacked his arm to shut him up, so maybe that’s it.
“I already told everyone I was applying to internships,” I sigh. Clearly, this is why Brooklyn Studios doesn’t want me. I’m a dumbass. I shouldn’t have divulged anything until I had a cool surprise.
“You can’t say you changed your mind?” she asks.
I could, but people will ask questions that I don’t want to answer. “Eh. It’s paid, so maybe it’s better than Brooklyn Studios,” I sigh, because sighing is really my only way of communicating today.
“No matter where the internship is, it will be a resume booster, and they’re paying you, which shows that they value their interns. You aren’t just free labor,” Dad says in his business voice, his enthusiasm somewhat undercut by the massive glass of wine he pours me as he speaks.
My eyes flit from the chardonnay to my vibrating phone, and yet another sigh escapes my lips. A minute ago, my roommate and best college friend Casey responded to my paragraph-long rant about my dreaded new workplace with a motivational speech punctuated with festive emojis. I appreciated that text.
The one flashing on my screen now, not so much. Hence the sigh.
According to the second message, I’m not the only Cordray College sophomore interning at the Sumner Museum of Fine Arts and Natural History. Grayson Waters will also be doing his fall internship among paintings and taxidermal animals.
Grayson, Gray for short because that makes him more mysterious or whatever, is Casey’s boyfriend. They’ve been together since February, and I’m still trying to figure out what she sees in him. I suppose he’s nice enough, and he can be funny on occasion, albeit unintentionally, but the man is dumb as the dinosaur fossils we’re soon to spend long hours with.
“You alright?” Dad asks. My dramatic sighs are anything but subtle.
“Grayson’s interning there too,” I sigh.
He and Mom wrinkle their noses in support. They met my future colleague while helping me and Casey move into our new apartment at the end of the last school year. Mom thought Grayson—I will not call him Gray because he’s too stupid to be mysterious—seemed friendly but a tad dim-witted. Her words, not mine. Dad said he was surprised that Grayson figured out the elevator and made it to our seventh-floor Brooklyn shoebox of a living space.
“That means you’re already doing better than one of their interns,” Dad points out cheerily.
My sweet, sweet mother’s jaw drops for a moment before she exclaims, “It’s not a competition!” with indignation in her voice.
“Yes, it is,” Dad and I inform her at the same time.
She downs the rest of her wine. “Well, you have him beat then,” she mutters, shaking her head.
If my mom ran the world, we’d all hold hands and sing happy songs. Thank God she doesn’t. I wouldn’t last a day, and I’m my parents’ only kid, so they’d be shit out of luck.
“Is Dylan back at school yet?” Dad asks in an unreadable tone.
I was wondering when the boy-related questions would start. Dylan is my fuck buddy. I’m pretty sure he caught feelings at some point last year, so I should probably cut him loose, but he has a great dick. He’s also witty and hot, two important boyfriend qualities. If I didn’t find relationships repulsive, I might give him a chance.
Dad thinks Dylan is my boyfriend. The day after my parents had the misfortune of meeting Grayson, they ran into Dylan in my apartment. I left an hour-long window between our end-of-the-year fuck and the time when my parents were supposed to return from lunch, but they got back early and encountered a shirtless Dylan in the living room.
Because Mom and Dad already knew about Grayson’s existence, I couldn’t pretend the random blonde guy in our apartment belonged to Casey. After a moment of pure panic, I blurted out that Dylan and I were dating, which I think got his hopes up.
Mom figured it out pretty quickly. A week into summer break, she knocked on my door, sat on my bed, and said, “Dylan isn’t actually your boyfriend, is he?”
I shared the truth after she swore to secrecy. I probably would have been honest from the start if Dad hadn’t been around during the meet-Dylan encounter. My dad and my friends’ parents get all psycho about dating and sex, but Mom has always let me be open with her on those rather scandalous topics. She was totally unfazed last night when I asked for wisdom on if and how I should dump Dylan. Her advice was to politely but firmly tell him that I’m not looking for a relationship and don’t want to lead him on.
To answer Dad’s question, I haven’t the slightest clue if Dylan is back at school yet. “Uh, no idea. I’ve been ignoring him a little. I’m probably going to end things whenever I see him,” I reply.
Dad pretends to shiver. “Let him down easy. He seemed like a nice kid.”
I shrug. I’ll try to let him down easy, but he can get real whiny, and I don’t have the patience for that. “I’ll do my best,” I promise.
Dad shakes his head lovingly and wraps an arm around my shoulders. “It’ll be a good year for you, Autumn. I can feel it.”
Considering I have a weird-ass internship and an ‘it’s not you; it’s me’ talk waiting for me to kick off sophomore year, I’m not so certain I agree, but whatever. That’s literally a tomorrow problem, so I pour myself another glass of wine, lean back, and try not to think about how much I’ll miss my parents when I’m on the other side of the country for the semester.