Step one: lay your cheap sheet of solid-colored origami paper flat, white side facing up. You just got home from winter break—no, it’s not a vacation, it’s the rest of your life now, and you’re unemployed and can’t afford the fancy paper right now, with the breathtaking designs that would make you feel like a real artist.
Step two: fold one corner of the sheet over to meet the corner diagonally across from it, and make a crease. You should have a colored triangle. Now, unfold it and do the same thing with the two opposite corners. You’ll have a big X from the creases in the middle of your sheet. Simple enough. Focus on making the creases as precise as possible to reel your brain back from the edge of your panic attack. If that’s not enough, minimize your Internet browser on the laptop in front of you with the search results of your query for “write + edit jobs”—bathroom cleaner, meat technician, phlebotomist, administrative assistant, administrative assistant, administrative assistant.
Step three: fold a corner of your paper in toward the center of the X-shaped creases you made. Do this with the remaining three corners. You’ll end up with a smaller square with four triangular flaps facing up toward you. This is easy. You’re good at following directions. You’re a quick learner. Consider enclosing one of your lotuses with each resume you mail out as an illustration of your marketable skills.
Step four: with your first set of flaps facing up, fold a corner of your paper in toward the center of the sheet. Do this with the remaining three corners. You’ll end up with a double layer of flaps. As you examine your handiwork, you’ll note the shape of your square looking less than perfect. You’ll itch to fix it, but you’ve already made your creases, and any corrections you try to make will only make things worse—just like considering going back for a bachelor’s in a foreign language because you realized what you really wanted to study was comparative literature, not the old dead white guy bullshit Western English-only canon. Think about telling Harold Bloom and the Educational Testing Service to kiss your ass while you turn your square of paper over so that the flat side faces up.
Step five: fold your corners in toward the center again, like you did in the last two steps. Redundancy, redundancy, redundancy, as with every other part of every day—wake up, eat breakfast, look for jobs, go to the gym, take a shower, dick around on the Internet, stare at a blank page of your notebook, eat dinner, dick around on the internet, go to sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat. Wake up, do it all again.
Step six: the hard part. With your single layer of flaps facing up, fold over a tiny bit of each of the four corners. Push down on one of these bent corners while bending the flap on the back side of it over backwards and gently pulling the corner inside out, so that the flap stands up straight in the air, like a petal. Do it gently—pulling too hard or with the flap too far away from the rest of the corner will tear it. If you’re lucky, you might be able to tape it, but it’ll likely end up just like all your job applications—one little thing works against you to ruin any hope of your having a shot at an interview: you’re too young, you just graduated from college with a degree in English and Creative Writing, you don’t have enough relevant soul-sucking work experience, your cover letter doesn’t balance groveling and self-promotion well enough, you haven’t pretended to know enough about the company or faked enough excitement for waiting months to get a rejection letter. Do this with all four corners. Gently.
Step seven: fold your remaining set of flaps out as far as you can to create a “pad” for your lotus to sit on top of. Study your delicate, tiny success for a moment, turning it over in your hands. Set it beside the seven others you made yesterday morning between looking through job listings and going to the gym. Take a deep breath and close your eyes, trying not to picture yourself, your life, your aspirations falling apart. Open your eyes and reach for another sheet of paper. Focus on the paper. Focus on your hands, the only part of you that seems able to achieve any success at the moment. During those brief instants, forget everything else.