The Unemployment Chasm: from someone who’s made it to the other side


mcdonaldsI will own up to having gone into a kind of hibernation for the past months. This blog was supposed to be about consciously constructing and living a better life and figuring out how to be the best version of myself as I navigate my transition into adulthood. In that I have failed myself and the handful of readers who used to frequent this blog by standing quiet while I go through the most epic struggle of the transition process.

Why did I allow myself to fall off the face of the planet? I don’t just mean from the blogging world. I pretty much went into full hiding. Why did I do this? Because I was ashamed. I have always suffered from the need to keep up appearances (will probably blog about this at some point) and it was easier for me to keep them up if I simply didn’t emit any data at all.

After tremendous investment and high expectations, I had no job and being 3, 4, 5, 6 months out of school and with no reasonable idea whether or not things were about to change. I’ve found a job now, but I feel responsible to share my experience with that seemingly endless purgatory. The job search is something anyone can relate to, but I think it is important to illuminate what it is like NOW. The landscape for those who graduated after 2008 is largely alien to those who graduated before. I want to offer another snapshot into what they face. I have no magic tricks for finding a job, or comforting words about how it will get better. I hope only to relive some of the shame and insecurity for the many many out there who have not yet found their place.

It is one thing to read articles and statistics about unemployment, the “jobless recovery,” the woes for today’s new grads, or the changes in employer demands or expectations. It is quite another thing to live it, and unless you have, you will not fully understand. Right up into my senior year, I didn’t. I saw the struggles of the girls on my athletic team who graduated in the years before me and could only assume they were doing something wrong. They were all fair to excellent students and athletes holding a diploma from an elite school and most of them did not lack for connections or resources. Their failure to find something I considered appropriate employment I assumed must be up to some kind of personal failure.

Obviously that assumption was harsh and naïve, but I am certainly not alone. Nearly everyone who has not crossed the post-graduation unemployment chasm in the last four years makes similar assumptions. Which is why, in the midst of my most epic part of my transition to adult life, I removed myself from the world view and why I am speaking up now. With as many people as I talked to and with as many statistics as I read, I could not shake the feeling that I was better than the statistics and that I should be doing better. In the eyes of the world I was sure I was a failure, and even in my own eyes, I began to suspect that they were right. That was not something I wanted to broadcast. 

I am no super-star, but I had put myself in a very good position to be employable, or so I thought. I graduated from a top-5 school, with a 3.4 GPA, successful D-I athlete, double major, overseas experience and a foreign language, internships with tons of responsibility, a 100pg thesis under my belt, good recommendations, and a fair collection of promising connections. I’d done everything I was supposed to do, right? If the statistics said 50% of new college grads are unemployed or underemployed or whatever, surely I fell on the favorable side of that 50, right?

Well, as I soon found out, it wasn’t that easy.

I had been stressed about finding a job before graduation, but sometime around the beginning of March with my thesis due, the spring season just beginning and needing to play catch up with everything I had put off while writing that stupid thesis, I made the decision to put my search on hold and focus on the tasks at hand. I got the go-ahead from my lovely father to stay on the east coast rather than return to my middle-of-nowhere hometown so I could stay close to interviews. I decided to stay near school so I could continue to have access to my student privileges over the summer, not have to think too hard about getting settled and I would be conveniently located near the cities in which I would be most likely to find a job. It would be weird staying on campus after graduation, I knew, but figured I wouldn’t be there for long. Besides, now I could take advantage of all the wonderful things on campus and in the city that I had never taken advantage of because I was too busy.

The first month was rather nice. I gave myself about a week and a half to chill out and read, then I started looking with excitement and ambition. I even got to last-round stages of interviews at a likely looking place in New York. I felt awesome. Then I didn’t get the job. I had slacked off applying during the weeks of that interview process wanting to focus exclusively on the opportunity at hand and because I felt pretty sure I would get the job. Not getting that first job was such a huge slap in the face. WHYYYyyyyyyyyy?????? I alternately whined and screamed inside my head. They had not given me a credible reason and so I was lost alternately in self doubt and defiance. What was wrong with me? I was awesome…right? Yes. Right? I didn’t know.

The second month, I realized that even if I got an interview right then, interview progressions often lasted a month or more. That meant that I needed to get a job IMEDIATELY in order to be able to start/move out in time. I was only subletting a room for the summer, I didn’t think it would take longer than that. I applied to things like a mad woman. Nothing.

The third month. More doubt and fear. Maybe that job in New York had been a one in a thousand chance. When would the next chance come? All the time I was rethinking my strategy. I bought books, revamped my LinkeIn page. Sent my resume out to anyone who would look to comment on, got my coach to connect me with old alumni. I HATE NETWORKING. I used to spend literally an hour or more agonizing over a one paragraph email.

I resigned. I had the talk with my dad. I had failed in the United States. I would simply have to move to China and teach English. I couldn’t keep sucking my dad’s recourses month after month. It was my responsibility to figure it out now. It was slightly more glamorous than waiting tables and maybe it would lead to a job there, or maybe improving my Chinese would help me land a job when next I tried to land a job on home turf again. I already knew scores of my peers who had fled to China, Japan, Korea, even Thailand to peddle their fancy degrees for some of the choicer English teaching positions. It was a respectable if not ideal alternative.

My dad can be harsh and exacting, but to his credit, he was incredibly supportive through the entirety of this process. For obvious reasons, he also did not want his only daughter disappearing to the other side of the world again. He convinced me to stay and continue my search state side. I knew there was sense in his argument. Even if it took longer, I would be better off getting a job here with increasing responsibilities than going to teach English. Teaching English wouldn’t hurt me, might even help me, but it would only delay what I really needed to do. I wanted so badly to be self sufficient. I felt like a slug not working, not going to school, and accepting a parental check each month. I moved to another house, signed a year lease, and hunkered down for the long haul.

I needed money. I wouldn’t ask dad for more money, I felt guilty enough as it was, but without a meal plan, I was barely making it month to month. I needed a job. Anything. But anything I did would cut into the time I was supposed to be looking for work. That was the whole point of accepting a check each month. Not only was I supposed to look for work full time, I NEEDED to. I lucked into a job at the info desk at the student center of my school. I say lucked into because it paid me $8.50 an hour with extremely flexible hours to sit at a desk and continue to look for jobs while I occasionally told a visitor where the bathroom was. The price for such a lucky gig? Daily humiliation.

I had spent the summer withdrawing into deeper and deeper seclusion. When the school year started I moved farther away from campus and only took secret back pathways to get to my work. But when you work at the main information center at the primary student hub and cafeteria at the center of campus, there is no hiding. Every day I saw multiple people I knew. Grad students, old TAs and professors, younger teammates, even the shop-keepers I had become very friendly with all recognized me for what I was: someone who had failed to move on. Some were more tactful, asking me how I’d been etc. Others obliviously asked me “What are you doing here, didn’t you graduate?”

At first I had been glad that going home would have been a strategically poor move. Who wants to move back into their parents house? But after hearing again the varying degrees of judgment, pity and concern in the voices of those who had expected more, I began to envy those who had gone home. I had checked up on enough of my peers, and staying on campus I had heard enough of people’s activities through the grape vine to know that I was not alone. The only thing I was alone in was in being publicly visible.

Know this: what you see on your peers’ facebook pages is only a glorified version of themselves. People conveniently forget to remove things they are no longer a part of and are quick to put new things up—carefully embellished. It took me a while to figure out just how many there were like me. They, like me, had gone into hiding. Many of those with seemingly good jobs turned out to be part-time, unpaid internships, or facades. Those who had nailed down the glamorous much sought after jobs before graduation seemed to be miserable.

Of the eight girls I graduated with on my team, I am still the only one with a salaried position in my desired field and that is only because I lucked out. That’s what it takes. Luck. I said once in a moment of frustration and defiance that I would not settle (this was a lie, I was totally ready to settle) and that I would just keep aggressively applying to jobs. Sure hundreds of people were applying for the same job, but eventually someone would make a mistake, I reasoned, and let me in. It only took one.

And that’s what I did. And that’s what happened. Hundreds of people applied for my job.  I followed up aggressively and I was blown off the first time I applied. Out of the blue I was called up again a month later. I interviewed over skype and still didn’t get the job, but I had been their second choice. I sent a nice follow up anyway asking them to keep me in mind. Two months later, I got a call. The guy who they hired instead of me had a personal emergency and they needed someone to take his place right away. I took a bus down for an in person interview and started work that week.

Dumb. Luck. But unless you are a super star, that’s what you need. You only need it once. It’s up to you to generate as much luck as you can. Keep applying. Early, often, repeatedly. Follow up. If you don’t get an email, try to call. And don’t hide. You have nothing to be embarrassed about. The only thing to be embarrassed about is giving up or not giving it your best effort. Talk to EVERYONE. It probably wont go anywhere, just like each of the hundreds of applications you send out probably will be deleted before the first line of your introduction is read, but it only takes one.

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“Hey baby, what’s your name?”- Why ask me my goals?


I have become a job whore. I feel so yanked around I don’t even know what I want anymore. “What’s your name, baby?” the man asks the streetwalker. “What do you want it to be?” she asks. This is a transaction. It’s not personal; it’s business. She will be whoever she needs to be. Walking into a job interview, I think, “I’ll be whoever you want me to be.”

“What are your goals?” my they ask me. I don’t know how to answer that question. My true answer is much the same as the street walker’s and in much the same spirit. My skills and interests are tailored and stated for the satisfaction of my potential employer. What does it matter, who I am or what I want? I am looking for a job and I have already accepted this as an acceptable occupation or else I wouldn’t be here. Just play along and I will be whoever you want me to be.

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For the Joy of Being


For the last couple of months, I have felt the same urge to write, but have felt that I have nothing of relevance to say. In order to avoid adding to the oversupply of Internet blather I have remained silent. I have been busy both externally and internally. Thesis, finals, graduation, final sporting competition, goodbyes, and trying to hold it all together. This last year, has been dark and chaotic. The last four years have been chaotic, and as they have drawn to a close I have hardly tried to sort out all that I was thinking and feeling. I preferred instead to stand back, as though outside myself, and listen to the buzz of circular thoughts and feelings without trying to name them or trace their origin. Maybe if I did not disturb my emotions with more thoughts and simply let them be, they would settle into a quiet.

I concentrated on the improvements I have listed in my last post. Starting with the basics. Starting over. With myself, with my relationships, and now, as I write this, with my life.

I did not find a job before graduation. I did remain, subletting a small room just off campus. Everyone left. I was alone with nothing more to do. I spent several hours every day searching for jobs receiving a few rejections, but mostly not ever hearing anything at all. I felt like a ghost. Walking through familiar walks and intersections but without anyone ever seeing me or acknowledging my presence. No where that I had to be. No schedule to keep. Nothing to distinguish Sunday from Tuesday. Only the rising summer heat marked the passage of time. How glorious.

It has been like taking a long and thorough bath after weeks of a wandering journey. I welcomed the quiet. I looked for jobs, but I spent most of my time just living life. Doing things for the joy of it. Exercising, because I wanted to, because I delighted in my own body. I went for long walks and bike rides exploring the city I have lived in for the last four years, but never really seen. It is a wonderful place. I will be sorry to leave it. I’ve been reading. What I am reading now is marking a fundamental change. So often I am attracted to books because they have titles about things I feel I should know about, or because I think the book will make me a more awesome person. I have been reading based on what I feel I should read and not what I want to read. Now I only read what I want. When I sit down to read the Economist I have stopped trying to read it from cover to cover because I feel I should  know this stuff. I now skip strait to the articles that I find most interesting and let it trickle down from there. I treat my non-fiction books the same way now.

I am marveling in doing things for their own sake. No end goals. It is as though a fog has lifted. Living a better life and being a better person has nothing to do with the person I think I should be and everything to do with being true to the person I want to be. Not the person I want to be perceived, as by other people, but the person I want to BE.

Now that my thoughts feel clearer, I feel I have something to say and hope to write more on my experiences as I begin to make my way as a young professional. Read, but only if you wish.

Thoughts, questions, concerns, encouragement? Pease comment!

Live well,

J

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Starting Over Part III


Hello all,

It has been a while since I have written for a couple of reasons. First and formost, I have been occupied writing my senior thesis for which I put everything, and I really mean EVERYTHING else on hold. The second reason is that for all my desire to start afresh, I was paralyzed with anxiety about the future compounded with the distress resultant in interacting with the one who got away.

The low:

After we broke up, we have kept in loose contact, and he had promised to visit me sometime soon. I was both looking forward to and fearful of the visit, but we had never decided on a specific weekend. Every time we tried to make plans, there were schedule uncertaintys and so we agreed each time to just wait and see. Of course he never came, and I never forced the matter. One day when we were chatting he indicated that he was seeing someone else. I had assumed this, but it was the incredibly crass manner in which he brought it up that stunned me. I told him something had come up and I had to go. I logged off immediately and spent the next half hour crying, curled up in the bottom of my running shower.

I am telling you this because it brought me to an important realization: sometimes you can’t stay friends. That man means the world to me, but when a careless world from him can wreak such havoc on my emotional well being it isn’t healthy. Maintaining the relationship, even as friends, was keeping me from letting go.

And so I took a long overdue and positive step:

This time, I really let go. I threw away his pictures, and took all the pictures and files relating to him off my computer. I even deleted the programs he had transfered to me and reloaded them or bought them myself so I wouldn’t have to see his name when I updated them. I could not throw away his key with the keychain he had given me, so I gave it to my friend to hide away somewhere I will never see it. I have written dozens of emails to him telling him how I felt without sending them. I wrote him one more, saying that we could not be friends and this time, I sent it. Then I blocked him from skype and g-chat.

The low:

I had completely cut him out this time, and while I could feel I was doing the right thing, it was like breaking up with him all over again. Two weeks later I received a long email from him, explaining himself and his behavior toward our relationship. This sent me into another wave of grief.

Durring this time, I finished up my thesis and turned my attention again to the impossible pile of work that had accumulated durring that time and to the daunting task of finding a job. Most people in my year are finally signing offers and planing last trips and excursions before they enter the real world. I have decided to stay here in this city after I graduate if I am not yet employed. I will sublet summer housing while I continue my search. School will soon be over and there is much to be done in the meantime leaving me little time for my job hunt. The inevitability of my summer purgatory was disheartening.

Between my sense of loss and my yet undecided future I felt like a failure. I wasn’t sleeping well, I wasn’t thinking clearly, or using my time well. I wasn’t eating much because the anxiety had caused me to get too many kanker sores to have much more than soup.

I decided it was time to make a real shift in my daily life. 

The shift has been small, but powerful. Its based on the idea that if I keep doing what I’m doing, I will keep feeling what I’m feeling. I felt like I was already doing  everything I could, and no matter how hard I worked, it would never be nearly enough. The last time I felt that way and made a shift, it changed the entire way I looked at life and myself for the better. However, it was a change made by increments.

I realized I needed to start at the beginning. I am starting out with some very small, basic changes.

Objective 1: Regaining mental and physical health

This sounds self-evident, but before you can make more positive changes in your life, you need to have the mental and physical energy. This was something I was already short on and so my changes start here.

1. Sleep more. I can not stress this enough. I don’t care how much you have to do. Skipping out on sleep is more damaging than helpful unless it is in a rare and isolated situation. If you are regularly under-rested, you are only waisting more time and energy. Your body can’t recover, your mind can’t recover, you tend to make other self destructive choices in what you eat, drink, and do as a result. Get. Sleep.

2. Reduce your dependance on (fill in the blank). Drugs that get you through the day are typically unhealthy, but are habit forming because you build up a tolerance to the drug. If you are taking a drug just to get you to a basic level of functionality, it is time to ween yourself off. For most of us, our drug of choice is some kind of stimulant, whether in the form of coffee, soda, or even energy drinks. Not only are these things bad for you, but they often take the place of necessary water throughout the day. Coffee itself is a powerful diuretic and can further dehydrate you. Durring my time in college, I have become a coffee addict. I mean, get headaches, can’t think strait or do anything without multiple double shots of espresso a day. I have spent the last couple weeks weaning myself off, but it has been well worth it. Combined with the other steps I’ve taken, I don’t need the caffeine anymore. I still have a cup on occasion because I believe in all things in moderation, but I now have less coffee in a week than I used to have in one day. I feel better and I’ve saved a lot of money.

3. Drink more water. Now that you are drinking less coffee or other less than healthy beverages, you may find yourself casting around for something else to drink. Water, drink lots of water. Yes, you can hydrate with other drinks but there is nothing better for you than strait water. As an athlete I am very aware of my hydration levels and I will tell you that one of the first signs of dehydration is fatigue. If you are looking for ways to have more energy in your day, drink, drink, drink. I have a 1L. water bottle that I carry with me everywhere. This may be a little big for the average person, but I highly encourage making a reusable water bottle your companion. By doing this you’ll save money, save the planet, and save your body.

4. Forget the diet plans, go for nutrients! Instead of thinking about what you shouldn’t eat think more about what you should eat, what your body really wants. This is a much more positive way of thinking about your food and it makes meal decisions much easier. Your body wants vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables. It wants protein and complex carb that are going to give you long lasting energy. If you make your choices based on how awesome its going to make you feel, you will appreciate your food a lot more while making better choices.

5. Take your vitamins. Sure, your making awesome food choices now, but you are also a busy person working within a limited food environment, and you still probably gravitate more towards some foods than others. A good multi-vitamin can help fill in those holes. I take a few extra supplements for special needs such as my joints.

6. Meditate. This is the most important component of improving mental health and reducing anxiety. Even if its only for 5 min. I usually go for about 15. There are loads of meditation techniques on the web. Choose what works for you. The point is to focus your mind. I personally like to focus on my breath and my body. There is a whole body of science demonstrating the benefits of incorporating a daily meditation practice into your life. It improves a number of factors contributing to your health, well-being, and daily performance.

7. Dress for success. This is a little step that makes a huge difference. It signals to the world as well as to yourself “I care.” I don’t mean this in a shallow way, but in a very deep and significant way. By transmitting this signal you are demonstrating you are ready to invest in yourself and others. This is an easy way to elevate your mood, and the way you feel about yourself. This is transmitted to the people around you who will be more inclined to react positively and invest their energy in you. This becomes a positive cycle.

8. Keep a record. None of these are huge changes, but what is particularly important about them is the mindset behind them. An active and positive mindset is the biggest driver of positive change. While these little actions will go a long way in improving your life they are also important signals to yourself that you are taking an active role in moving your life in a better direction. This can be very empowering and can make way for further positive changes. I like to keep a notebook where, at the end of a day, I list all the positive actions I have taken that day. “Today I…took my vitamins, ate a nutritious lunch, spent time connecting with an old friend, cleaned out my desk, meditated, etc.” For me, this has become a powerful psychological exercise.

———-

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t take your vitamins or don’t meditate one day. I don’t. That is what the list is for, so I can focus on what I’m doing right, rather than what I’m doing wrong. If you aren’t good at keeping a record, no sweat. Remember, each little step you make is for you. There is no falling off the wagon here. Just you. One step at a time.

Live well,

J

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Starting Over Part II


Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

I hope that you have had a chance to exchange a word or note with your loved ones, and maybe even got to spend time with them. On Valentine’s Day, I try to remember all the loving relationships I have around me and less on the romance.

Though it’s a nice thought, I will not try to hide the fact that this is also part of a coping mechanism. Though I certainly have been granted more than my rightful share of romantic intrigues, Valentine’s Day historically finds me alone. So, I focus on all those who DO love me and happily plot my next day’s plunder of discount candy at the nearest CVS.

I am not all healthy thoughts and smiles though. Tonight I have not been able to resist the urge to check repeatedly on my ex’s skype icon. I pray that the little icon stays green, indicating yet another late night in the office for him tonight, before I remind myself not to care.

It is hard for me to think about moving on. Even in the few moments of clarity when I can see myself with someone else, my vision of a relationship, what I look for, what I expect, how I react, is colored not only by him, but by everyone I have ever dated. While I am grateful for all these experiences and what they have brought to me, in knowledge both about people and about myself, I cannot help but feel that something has been…lost in the process.

My grandmother frequently reminded me that, “you have to kiss a couple frogs before you find your prince.” I have kissed a LOT of frogs, and a few toads. It’s true, this last relationship did enough damage that it alone will take a while to recover from, but every one of those others left their own mark. I have become a jaded and I don’t approach or enjoy dating the way I used to, and my relationship with men has changed.

I want to start over, from the beginning. Before the drama, the baggage, the heartache or the expectations. I want to start fresh. I have been talking to my high-school boyfriend a lot lately. We dated for three and a half years, and while it took us a long time to fully get over each other, we now have a solid friendship that I would not trade with the world.

I like talking to him when I feel confused, not because he is my fallback or anything like that. It is only that talking to him reminds me of another time within myself. He is a link to my past when my thoughts were simpler. All I wanted was for someone to hold my hand and share an understanding.

I don’t want to try to replace my ex. To try to do so, I think, would surely drive me crazy. Instead I want to start over completely. I want to go back to the way I was, before I was colored by all I know now.

In the movie Eat, Pray, Love, the heroine breaks from her dependent cycle of men to embark on a journey of personal awakening. I do not have the option of fleeing to India or Bali, but for the first time in my life, I am ready for a break. I will still grieve, but as I mentioned in my last post, I will be leaving my grief at home as much as possible. As I enter this time of transition, I cannot think of a better time for self-renewal.

This Valentine’s Day, and for many months to come, it will be time to focus on me and my relationships with all the friends and family around me that I hope to carry into the next phase. So, on this day of romance, I am opting out. I recognize that I need time to hit “reset” before I can start again.

J

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Starting Over Part 1


Dear all,

I have not written much of late, I would say because I have been busy, but that is not true. I should be busy, but I have found myself curled up in my room for hours watching Hulu.

My room is a mess. I often find that my personal space is a direct reflection of how I am feeling on the inside. If I am feeling at peace and well organized internally, my space tends to follow suit, but if I am distressed, feel disoriented or overwhelmed, my space quickly mirrors my internal clutter. So, not busy, I have been letting my mind accumulate clutter from many things.

Today I have been thinking just how important starting over can be. Sometimes in life, we need to hit the reset button.

This week, my teammate’s father passed away. He died very unexpectedly of a heart attack. I love my teammate dearly and wish I could do something for her, but having been through the same experience myself, I still don’t really know what to say, or how best to be there for her.

I thought back on my own experience. Grief is a funny thing. It is always with you, but sometimes more than others. Sometimes it is very real and very present, but at other times its reality is seems far away. Sometimes you want it to be far away. Everyone is there if you need to talk, if you need a shoulder to cry on, but after a while I became tired of crying. I got tired of carrying my grief around with me. I missed my mom, but I realized it was as important to give myself a break from what had happened as it was to cry it out.

Just as it was important for me to choose to be happy, it was just as important for me to choose when to put my burden down and start fresh. I will never forget my mom, all that she was to me, and I will always wish that she was here to see what I was doing and to offer me her sound advice. I will always have that sense of loss. But I have also learned how and when to leave it behind.

It is not being callous. It is not denial or suppression. It is important to acknowledge and learn from all your experiences, the good and the bad. Sometimes, however, in order to fully live your life, you have to allow yourself a clear mind and a clear and open heart, free from the past’s clutter.

The other thing that my experience with mom taught me is that a lot of people out there are carrying their own burdens. Whether it is someone they lost, someone who has hurt them, someone they hurt, grief, regret, or shame, warranted or imaginary, most people have something that they carry with them.

If you feel burdened or that your mind is cluttered, try something for yourself. Today, before bed, sort out all what you have been carrying with you and write it down. Write that letter to someone; list your worries or regrets. Put what you’ve written in a safe place. Clear your mind before you sleep and when you wake up in the morning, leave them at home. Give yourself a day to hit “reset” and start over.

Live well,

J

 

 

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To stay or go?


I mentioned in a previous post about fear and reticence and how I wasn’t going to let it drag on me in my search for a better future. Translated into actual action, I said that I was going to more actively look for and apply to jobs. I have kept my word. I have written many many cover letters, talked to people, gotten advice, sent my resume thither and yon. This effort has brought one startling and wonderful side effect. Lately, I have begun to dream again.

Instead of looking into the future with worry and wondering what kind of job or situation I could live with, I begin to think of all the wonderful ways I can really LIVE! The possibilities I could reach for! I have begun to imagine my life a year from now, five years from, ten years from now with a fresh mind. I am excited again.

So often the word “potential” has haunted me. What once was an inspiring word became a dirty word. It represented things that could have been done, but hadn’t, or things that could be done, but wouldn’t. I don’t know when “potential” turned into a dirty word, but it is beautiful again.

I could live here…

I find myself now, at a happy crossroad. After all the cover letters and resumes that I have sent, I received 1 interview this month. That interview turned into a job offer…in CHINA. A little over a year ago, I returned from a 6 month stint studying in Hangzhou then Beijing. I have since wanted to go back. I have invested a lot of my education in trying to understand China, but I will never understand it in a way that is useful if I do not go back and learn the language and immerse myself in the culture. Many people who find themselves in such a situation go to teach English. The job I would be taking would offer me the opportunity to interact with companies all over the world as well as about conducting business in China. If I wanted to go live and work in China, this job is one of the best opportunities to do so that I could ask for.

Though most days it would look more like this…

There are a lot of drawbacks of course, aside from the obvious strain and commitment of being on the other side of our planet from my friends and family. It is not the most wonderful city. It is VERY hot and humid and polluted, which is no small matter in China. It pays well enough to live there, but when translated into USD, I would be working for pennys. It would pretty much be an extended investment in education. I have toyed with the idea of going to a grad school in Nanjing, and working in China would bring my Mandarin up to the level I would need to attend. All the drawbacks would be small in relation to the experience and knowledge I would gain from working there.

So what holds me back? Part of it is fear. I am already jumping into an unknown situation: the world of self-sufficient adults. To do this in a completely foreign environment might be a little overwhelming. Another thing that holds me back is not a good reason, but something I need to be aware of. I am tired. Years of school/athletics has burned me out pretty bad. Living in a totally foreign environment where you are not completely literate is a real struggle. Rules are different, and they are much harder to understand when you can’t read. Normal tasks become a huge undertaking. It’s all part of the adventure. I CRAVE adventure, but without a break, I worry that my energy levels are a little low to embark on such a one.

The last thing that holds me back is after months of thinking and searching, I have found my “dream job.” Just reading the job description makes me tingly. I have not yet applied, but if I had an offer from them, it would be a no brainer. I am still trying to figure out, if I can’t snag that job, how many other positions are there out there, like it?

Both options here would be a bold move. On the one hand, I would leave the world I know and the people I love. With nothing but myself and a suitcase I would start a new life in a foreign land. I would forfeit pay, the security of a larger company, and the comforts that come from making a decent living in the US in exchange for ADVENTURE and OPPORTUNITY. Its a small and growing company, and there is room for me to take on a lot of responsibility and advance really fast.

To not take this job would throw me again into the abyss of uncertainly. I have a bird in hand already. To release it would be a great act of faith. No, faith is rewarded by another power. This would only be a gamble. However, the possible reward is the kind of job I’ve only ever dreamed of.

Happy crossroads indeed, but one over which I have lost a lot of sleep. Dear blogging world, if you have any wise words to share with me, I would appreciate it!

-J

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