Tuesday, September 2, 2014

An Unexpected One Year Anniversary

Meet in the Street // Small Town Night Festival

As of yesterday afternoon, I've officially been back at home for a year.

365 days of being officially unemployed. Post grad, not interning, not "working."

I'll come back to the quotation marks later.

But yeah. It's weird. This really wasn't part of the plan, guys. I grew up with my mother telling me that after college, I was on my own-- if I came back to live at home, I'd have to pay rent. She always said it while laughing, but that didn't make it any less real. So then to have her insist that I come back home last summer after a potential job offer fell through... I felt like I'd failed them. The parentals had already done so much in terms of providing for me and going above and beyond the necessities in order to encourage me to pursue my interests... and I couldn't even hold up my end of the bargain.

There have been times during this past year where I've had some serious pity parties and felt like I was "wallowing in the depths of despair" and all that. It sounds melodramatic, but really... living in this limbo area of life where you're not sure how things are going to turn out because you don't really have control of other people's decisions? It really sucks.

You have a hard time sleeping deeply because your mind is always whirling over how many applications you need to work on the next day, worrying about what you could have communicated better during that interview, wondering what else you can do to keep busy and stay productive while you wait. You realize that if ulcers are solely caused by high amounts of stress and anxiety, you're screwed. You dread attending family functions or seeing people you KNOW are going to ask, "So what are you doing now?," because your answer, no matter how cheerfully delivered, still warrants pitying looks. You can read the thoughts of "Well, maybe you should have majored in something more useful" and "You must not be trying hard enough" running through their minds. You've mastered the cute, happy-go-lucky smile that automatically accompanies the doling out of unsolicited advice from such folks.

Sometimes those doubts start creeping into your brain, take up residence, and begin to whisper, "And what if no one ever hires you. What if you're not good enough for anyone. The more time it takes for you to find a job, the lower the chances become of you finding something. No one wants to see that giant blank gap year on your resume. What are you going to do now? How many more second interviews must you go through, only to be turned down again? How many more times can you wear your heart on your sleeve and get your hopes up, only to get that email, pick up that phone call, that tells you you just weren't quite good enough? What's the plan, Sam."

But that's just the problem. I don't HAVE a plan right now. I can't. I have an outline. I have hopes. I have an excellent idea of what I'd LIKE life to turn out like. But I can't plan anything because I can only control so much of my environment right now. And as someone who's a recovering Type-A, who spent a lot of her college years learning to let go of that tight grasp of control, and keep remembering that God never gives you more than you can handle... this is still stressful. I'd like to meet the person who enjoys this odd sort of torture.

When I get asked "So what are you doing now?," I usually smile and just say, "Job-hunting. And--" The "And" varies, depending on whom I'm talking to and what's the latest way I've found to keep occupied and useful. I've found if you don't offer a lot of info, people are usually a tad more reluctant to pry. And it keeps my bruised heart a little safer from those awful pitying looks. I hope to high heavens I never give one of those out to another soul. Someone smack me if I do.

Lake Chabot // On the Trail

Want to know what I've really been up to these last twelve months? Hmm. Okay. {Potential employer, if you're reading this, at least I can say I've lived and learned. A LOT. So know that I'm older and (hopefully) a heck of a lot wiser now. I'm aware of the risk it poses posting this online, but I need to write this out, for me, so I hope you don't count this against me}.

I came home in September and was much too overconfident in terms of how long it would take me to find a job. I decided full-on job-hunting could wait, and that it wouldn't hurt to take a shifted summer break. My, was I dumb. To appease the madre and also because I was interested anyways, I registered for classes at the local community college late November, early December. I sent out a few applications over the holiday season, but alas.

My graphic design and computer programming classes started in January. If there's one thing I KNOW I'm good at, it's school. I don't think I'd want to be a perpetual grad-student, but I do love learning new things. Received my first "Hello, we're interested in talking with you some more" email from a company I was really excited to hear from in February. We went through a video interview, a phone interview, lots of emails, and then a "Thanks, but no thanks." That one broke my heart. First flat-out, unexplained rejections tend to do that sometimes.

When I came across a posting for the exact same position with their competitor in March, I was amused. Wouldn't that be funny if I got the position there instead? I still fit the job description quite well, and I know the industry... Again, phone interview, phone interview, ON SITE INTERVIEW... no. This one didn't hurt as much. Don't get me wrong, it still hurt. But it wasn't as bad because I knew, I knew, mid-on-site that I wasn't getting the job. I was nervous beyond belief which translated to jumbling over words and not explaining my answers properly with my interviewers. You know that sinking feeling where you're like, "Well. There goes that"? I had that walking out their front door.

But you live and you learn. I recognized that I had to keep myself calm during interviews and that my tendency to overprepare and research ALL THE THINGS could be a detriment because I'd be worrying about all the wrong questions. I found out that if I approached interviews like a conversation {albeit one with impressive consequences}, I'd relax just enough to squelch my nervousness so I could think more clearly. I ironed out some kinks to my answers when asked unexpected questions; things I needed to rephrase, expand upon, or change entirely. I was disappointed with myself, but you get up and go on.

I aced my classes in May. And figured since I was home and currently not working, I would volunteer again mid-June to help out with the local two-week kids camp that I attended myself when I was in elementary school. I love helping out there. I discovered the wonderful world of edutech and learned a lot from places like CreativeLive and Lynda. The idea of applying to OT grad school was mentioned sometime in July, though I didn't fully consider it until beginning of August. That was the exact time I got another "Hi there, potential employee" email and started the whole interview process again.

It went a lot smoother this time. I was better with my answers, handled unexpected questions with a surprising amount of calm and ease if I may say so myself, and just had a better understanding of how these interview things worked. Again, high hopes. Again, got that phone call, but this time with the reasoning "not enough experience." Let me tell you, not the best way to start off a long weekend away with friends you haven't seen in over a year. Because you begin doing that contemplative, pensive, slightly morose thing that comes with getting over another rejection, but you can't really because all your friends are so happy around you. Thankfully, those same friends are excellent at taking your mind off it all, even if they aren't aware that's what they're doing.

Bayfair Bart // At Sunset

I'm currently volunteering at a couple different OT offices in order to get in my hours for the OT school app and to get a better understanding of the profession itself. The letters of req part of the app is kind of a problem at the moment though because it's hard to ask professors for a letter when you're a year out of school. They're like, "who are you again?" even if you were in several of their honors classes and talked with them a lot. So. Yay.

So that's where we're at. I've also been thinking about applying for things outside the Bay Area or straight up writing to smaller companies in the creative industry and asking if they'd happen to need someone like me. People keep saying that opportunity is what you make it and maybe I just haven't been looking in the right direction.

Living at home again wasn't part of the plan. But it could have been so much worse. I have parents who love me even when I'm being a pain or freaking out and are willing to support me no matter what my career path. I have friends who are the sweetest and don't make a big deal of the current unemployed status whenever we talk. I've had the opportunity to figure myself out and mature as a person. When it takes this long to get a job, you end up questioning your choices along the way. When you come to the conclusion that you'd do it all again {with some minor modifications here and there} given the chance, you know you really want it and that it'll be okay at some point. 

There's nothing I'd love more than to be working right now. This in-between period makes me antsy, yes, but I'm still on the lookout for all the good things that have happened along the way. I guess I just haven't learned all the lessons God wants me to learn pre-job yet, so we'll have to keep working on that. If anyone happens to hear of any open job positions that they think I might be a match for though, let me know! (:

{All photos from my Instagram; edited with VSCOCam}.

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