Category Archives: Lost in Searching

POSSIBILITY, USA: Beach Front Property

My mind loves to wander. I will be driving to work or pushing a shopping cart in the grocery store and suddenly I realize that I’ve been thinking about redwood trees or beluga whales or World War II or whether lions and bobcats have the same reaction to catnip as house cats. What about cheetahs? I’m often not sure how these particular thoughts came into my head or what I should do with them once they settle in, but I try to embrace them. Who knows which stray thought might lead to something bigger?
CATNIP: Friend to ALL feline kind?

CATNIP: Friend to ALL feline kind?

Lately, I have caught myself pondering Emily Dickinson‘s poem about possibility. Particularly the first line, “I dwell in Possibility.”
I guess I’d always imagined this version of “possibility” as Hogwarts with its endless rooms, moving staircases, secret passages, hidden chambers–even the Great Hall’s ceiling which had been bewitched to look like the sky above. Do you think J.K. Rowling had this poem in mind when she designed the school? [If anyone knows her, please ask, because I’d really like to know!] Come to think of it, Hogwarts even has its very own private lake which in turn holds its own underwater world of unknowns. Dwelling in Possibility sounded like the best situation ever, I mean what kid in the Harry Potter Generation didn’t want to go to Hogwarts?
Tie-Dye/Bleach homage to the Battle of Hogwarts which I made for the opening night of Deathly Hallows Part II.

Tie-Dye/Bleach homage to the Battle of Hogwarts which I made for the opening night of Deathly Hallows Part II

Lately, though, I’ve started to view “dwelling in possibility” from a very different perspective. Since graduating from college three years ago, I have dwelt in nothing but possibility. I have hopped from temporary employment to temporary employment, from potential career path to potential career path, from small town to small city.
I have no idea what my life will look like one year from today. Will I have a full time job? Will I have my own apartment? Will I be living in the same city? The same state? I can’t picture it.
I always thought living in Possibility would be freedom, but in reality I have found it utterly terrifying. Well, sometimes, that is. True, the financial burden is daunting. Sure, it’s difficult to see all my friends coupling up and settling down with families of their own. Yes, it would be nice to have a few certainties or definitive life goals to direct myself toward. I would definitely like to answer the inevitable variations of “What are you doing with your life?” with a single sentence. And yet.
I find there is still some magic left for me in Possibility. I enjoy the mystery of what lies a few months down the road or the future acquaintance that could change the course of everything. I was once asked by a job interviewer, “What drives you?” A question to which he felt I didn’t have a satisfactory answer. The truth is, the potential energy of “what if?” is what keeps me going. I’m not quite ready to be completely pinned down and defined. I am not ready for my life choices to fit in a single sentence. That’s why I am wanderlost (at least for now).
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Not a Cog in the Machine

Logon to a job website. Search for recent jobs.  Find one with potential. Scroll down to “requirements”: 3-5 years of experience. *sigh*

Other times I seem to find the perfect entry-level position. I send them my application and wait. I dream peacefully of a more certain future. I wait. I find more jobs with less potential. I apply to a few. I check my email multiple times a day just to see if that perfect employer wants to set up an interview. I receive “not selected to proceed” notifications from other potential jobs, but no matter, because the possibility of that perfect position is still alive. I keep waiting. I don’t apply to anything for a week or two, because really what’s the point? Then one day, about a month after I applied, an email pops up in my inbox. “Thank you for your interest in our company; however the position has been filled.” Disbelief. Disappointment. Realization that of course I didn’t get an interview—I applied to that job ages ago. The next few days pass in a haze of frenzied job searching. I apply to jobs that I don’t really even want because I don’t know what else to do.

Sometimes it feels like the job I'm looking for doesn't even exist.

Sometimes it feels like the job I’m looking for doesn’t even exist.

So it made for a nice change when a potential employer actually contacted me. My online resume had hit buzz words on some HR search engine and he sent me an email. A new position had opened up at his company. It wasn’t exactly close to home, but it wasn’t that far away either. It would mean some commuting, but that wouldn’t be so bad. What kind of job was this, anyway? A marketing job. Marketing—maybe it was writing commercials, designing billboards, maintain social media—I could do that. I decided to accept their request for an interview. I felt powerful, valuable, worthy.

It made a nice change when a potential employer contacted me. I felt powerful, valuable, worthy.

It made a nice change when a potential employer contacted me. I felt powerful, valuable, worthy.

I walked into the lobby for my interview and found myself in a room full of well-dressed people. “Are you here for the job interview?” asked the woman seated behind a small desk in the corner.  The interview? “Yes, I am,” I replied. “Okay. Find a seat and fill this out.” She handed me personality assessment. There weren’t actually any seats to be found in that lobby, at least not any that didn’t have someone in a suit-jacket filling out a personality assessment. There had to be about 20 people in that little room. What kind of interview is this? I filled out the paperwork and handed it back to the receptionist.

After a few minutes, we were herded into a small conference room and debriefed: this business sold life insurance and was looking for a few new salespeople. This would involve travelling to private homes and selling policies to people in their own living rooms.  Umm…what? I am not a salesperson.  I do not like forcing people to make decisions. I am also very good at getting lost, so asking me to drive around to unknown locations probably wasn’t a good idea. Why am I here? The current employees finished with their presentations and opened the floor for questions. Then they let us go saying, “We will call you sometime this evening if you are chosen for a private interview. I crowded out the door with the rest and drove off with one thing on my mind: I do not want this job.

I did not get a phone call that afternoon. I wondered if they would call those who were not chosen to let them know. I did not get a phone call the next morning.  Maybe they would send me a rejection email. I’ve received lots of those. That afternoon, however, my phone rang: I had been chosen for a private interview, could I come in tomorrow? Yes, I could. The internal argument started once I hung up the phone. You don’t want this job. But the job wanted me. You aren’t a salesperson. They thought I was. Maybe they were right. You have no experience with this. I had no experience with anything. Why not give this opportunity a chance?

The next morning I chose a professional-looking outfit, straightened my hair, and even dabbed on some makeup. I drove back to the life insurance office and walked into a much emptier lobby. I was told that of all the people who had filled out the personality assessments, I was one of three who had made it this far. That’s pretty cool. Perhaps I was valuable.

I was led into a small office where I was interviewed by a balding man in a dark suit. I have since forgotten the majority of the questions he asked me, but one stood out: What motivates you? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What drives you? I don’t know. That’s why I am writing blog: I am lost, at least for now. I do not know what exactly I want out of life or what I want to do with it. I do not know who I want to be. I skirted the question, but my interviewer kept coming back to it. Finally, I told him I was motivated by what I do not know. The search for who I am and who I am becoming is my reason for being. I get out of bed in the morning because I want to see what little discoveries are in store for that day. Also, if I stayed in bed all day I would be bored out of my mind.

My interviewer did not like that answer, “But what drives you?” he repeated. That’s when it hit me: he’s going for someone who wants to make money. The ideal candidate would be someone who could be relied on to make sales simply for the commissions. I am not that person. I am not right for this job and I definitely do not want it. I told my interviewer that I was driven by the desire to make my parents proud of me. He nodded. It wasn’t the answer he wanted, but it would do. He had discovered what he needed to know. A few minutes later, he walked me out to the lobby. I thanked him for his time and strolled out the door, never to be heard from (or contacted) again.

I’m glad, now, that I did go to that interview. Not because I wanted the job, but because it made me realize what I didn’t what and who I don’t want to be and sometimes that is just as important.

I found this on the floor one day. It felt like the Universe was speaking to me.

I found this on the floor one day. It felt like the Universe was speaking to me.

Leaving the Nest (Again)

I am a Boomerang Kid. In other words, I graduated from high school, flew off to college, got my bachelor’s degree, and because I had nowhere else to go, returned to live with my parents. What with the Great Recession and all, this has become a pretty common thing. (“Boomerang child” even has a definition on merriam-webster.com) Twenty-somethings, many with college degrees, are flocking back home to Mom and Dad. Professionals are concerned about the added stress for aging parents.  What many articles on the subject don’t seem to cover, however, is how psychologically damaging this situation is for the twenty-somethings.

I have always been successful. I got my first job at the age of 14. I did well in high school and received several college scholarships. In just four years, I earned a Bachelor of the Arts even though I double majored—biology and English.  The problem was that I did not know where to go from there.

Graduating seems like the easy part now.

Graduating seems like the easy part now.

Well…I sort of knew. As a college student, I became very involved with Habitat For Humanity and through HFH I learned about the AmeriCorps. As graduation loomed ever nearer, I decided to spend at least one year as an AmeriCorps member, but I wasn’t sure how to go about doing this. I moved back home and spent the summer waitressing. In early August, I applied to and was accepted for an AmeriCorps position in a nearby community where my father worked.

[My time as an AmeriCorps member completely shattered my view of the world. I see everything so much differently now than I did immediately after graduation. I’ll probably blog plenty about that in the future, but for now, let’s return to the subject of Boomerang Kids.]

In theory, I was doing pretty well for someone just out of college. I had a full-time job (though technically it was a volunteer position. This meant that instead of getting “paid,” I received a small bi-weekly living stipend and, if I finished my term, an education award.) Since I was living with my parents and car-pooling with my father, I was able to devote almost my entire living stipend to paying off my student loans, which gave me excellent credit. I was even able to make some extra money by waitressing on the weekends. On the surface, I was doing well.

Meanwhile, my friends were getting married, finding jobs, or both. They were starting new lives in new places with new and exciting challenges. They got to make their own decisions and take their own risks.

Even after years of college, it was so easy to slip back into life at home. I found myself arguing with my youngest sister—the only one still in high school. I ate whatever my mother made for dinner, since I was away from home from roughly 6:30am-6:30pm every day and didn’t have time for things like preparing meals. My father was my ride, which meant I was completely dependent on him to get to and from work. In short, my life was not my own.

I decided to apply for a job at a nature center in Minnesota for the next year. I managed to merit a face-to-face interview, but I was declined in the end. I was so sure that I would get that job. I got the news via email during a big community expo that I was participating in for the AmeriCorps. That’s the only time I can recall ever crying in public.

I decided to spend another year as an AmeriCorps member. My second year was even better than the first. I learned so much and was able to touch so many lives in a positive way!

I had a lot of fun as an AmeriCorps member. I especially enjoyed sharing simple but fun science experiments with my after-school group.

I had a lot of fun as an AmeriCorps member. I especially enjoyed sharing simple but fun science experiments with my after-school group.

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Elsewhere, life went on. All across Facebook, classmates seemed to be announcing amazing new jobs. One of my college roommates got into grad school. My best friend had a baby. And there I was: still arguing with my little sister, still eating whatever was put in front of me, still getting dropped off and picked up from work.

On the advice of a teacher at the school where I “volunteered,” I applied to a program teaching English in Japan—I didn’t get in. I applied to a company that “loves grads from [my college]”—I didn’t even get an interview. I threw myself into job searching. I revamped my resume. I contacted college professors. I found a copy of “What Color is Your Parachute?” I started asking friends/acquaintances if they knew of any job openings. I updated my LinkedIn profile and joined several groups. [NOTE: If you are an AmeriCorps Alum, definitely join their LinkedIn group—they have lots of resources are very fond of networking with fellow Alumni.] After six months, I was still jobless and my final term with the AmeriCorps was coming to an end.

I made an appointment with a career counselor from my college. Even though I had graduated two years earlier, he was very willing to meet with me and help me figure out my next step. I spent a week revamping my resume (again), searching for entry level positions, and driving around much of the Midwest to make contacts. The career counselor explained that while something may come immediately, most of this was long-term stuff. I returned to my parents’ house. My time with the AmeriCorps ended. I started waitressing full time.

It felt like my friends were all going off into the Tunnel of Life while I was just biding my time at home. It was like my own life hadn't even really started.

It felt like my friends were all going off into the Tunnel of Life while I was just biding my time at home. It was like my own life hadn’t even really started.

Meanwhile, my best friend (the one with the baby) had been trying to convince me to move to Green Bay. I kept saying no. I was waiting for something to happen. Just waiting.  And then I woke up. Why was I waiting? What was I waiting for? What on earth was the use in waiting? I called my friend. She checked with her fiancée and said it was okay. Two months later, I was moving into her baby’s room.

I am now in a new city with new challenges and new opportunities. I feel like I am alive again. I’m still not exactly on my own, but it’s a start. All I need now is one opportunity—I just don’t know what it is. I do not know if I’ll stay in this city. I hope to find a job here, but really who knows? Who knows what tomorrow will bring?