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Hakuna Matata

Dear Q,
With the calendar flip into September, I became suddenly aware of the passing of time. On August 31st, it was totally fine that I didn’t have a full time job lined up yet; I was in the internship till October! Plenty of time! Hakuna matata! And then suddenly, it was September, and I was out of a job next month – nay, six weeks! – Quite abruptly, unemployment was staring me in the face. So I’ve started to get really stressed about that, especially when, on Tuesday, I heard that another intern (who has only been here 3 months to my 8 or now 9), got an interview for a position with a different division of our company – a position that I had also applied for. Granted, it was a position that, big picture, I didn’t want; I knew some of my would-be coworkers, and they would have driven me nuts, and the job was largely unrelated to what I want to do long term. But still, the awareness that he got an interview and I didn’t, especially in the face of my prospective unemployment, just piled on the emotional chaos train just as it was pulling out of the station. There also aren’t many positions open at this point; 3 in the past month and a half that I was qualified to apply for – 2 I didn’t get an interview for (one of them the one I just mentioned), and the other I hadn’t heard anything on, though it had been a couple weeks.

No new postings have gone up in a while, and I’ve been starting to look outside of THEM, and outside of my field; especially now that I have an apartment with a bed and that $2 Chinese vase I bought last week (every time I look at it, I’m glad I got it), I really don’t want to leave the area. I just got started working with a skating coach here, I’m starting to make acquaintances at the rink (friends seems like a bit of a stretch, given that I don’t see them outside of the rink), and I love my gym and the community; I really feel like this is where I’m meant to be long term, so I really don’t want to head home. But I also don’t particularly want to work in a call center, but with no prospective jobs with THEM, I had to begin asking myself what I was willing to do to stay here, and at what point I needed to start applying at Starbucks and McDonald’s.

It’s also been a really stressful week at work; we are now three weeks out from the big event and there’s SO MUCH to get done. Indicative of how this week has been is how it ended the week before – our boss kicked everyone out of the office at 3 last Friday for the holiday weekend, but my immediate supervisor and I were there until 6 working on issues with event registration. So this was the longest short week ever – I’ve been up to my ears in spreadsheets, and made a couple stupid errors (verifying info based on an outdated spreadsheet, rather than a new one – admittedly, they were only 9 hours apart, but a lot of stuff had changed), and I’ve been so swamped (combined with having to train the new intern who started this week) I had to miss lunchtime yoga and zumba this week, which just added insult to injury.

I once told you that unless you’re at the point where you want to curl up in a ball and forget about the world at least twice a week, you’re doing life wrong; I’ve hit that point every day this week. It’s been a long time since I’ve looked forward to the weekend that much.

So by Friday, I was just relieved that I’d survived. And riding the elevator down from the top floor of the parking garage, looking out at the mountains and thinking about how much I didn’t want to leave them, I thought, “Lord, please just give me a sign if I should start applying for jobs at call centers and Starbucks to stay here”. That was immediately followed by the thought, “Ha, be careful what you wish for, signs are never what you think they’re going to be”. I get into work and check my email, verify another spreadsheet, and then quickly pull up my personal gmail – and there’s an email from someone I don’t know with the subject line “THEM DIVISION” (the one I applied for a job in). So I immediately assumed that this was the sign, and a rejection. But no! Instead, it was from the supervisor of the position who asked if I’d be able to come over to their office that afternoon to meet casually with them!

OhthankGodImightnothavetoworkatMcDonaldsafterall!!!!

So after working through cross-checking three different spreadsheets and missing lunchtime Zumba, I headed over to their office; they’re in the same corporation, but a different location, so my commute would almost double if I worked for them (okay, so only from a 5 minute drive to 10…). And their office is small (no more than 15 people), but everyone was really nice and we got along wonderfully. It was basically a pre-screening interview, and it went really well. I think the job would be a good fit – getting to work with several different departments, managing events and regional programs, with some travel involved (MAYBE TO NEW YORK CITY!). And it’s a new position and the start of a new department for them, which means that I would get to help develop the position and the department, and that there’s a lot of potential for growth. It sounds great, and I’m really excited about it; they are doing more interviews next week, and then second round interviews the week after. I’ll have a second round interview probably between the 15th and 17th, and I think she said they’re hoping to have a decision by the end of that week. So the timing will likely work out perfectly with the end of my internship. It sounds really great but I’m trying not to get my hopes up; haven’t gotten the job offer yet, though I kind of feel like it’s meant to be. So I’m praying it is, but in the meantime, trying to learn as much about their division as possible and come up with good questions to ask for next week (!).

I told you how much I’d be making; for someone in investment banking or software engineering, it’s not very much, but for someone currently on an intern salary, the jump would be huge. This would be my first real job with a real paycheck to go along with it. Which is really mind boggling to me, because I’d have so much money. I could buy a latte occasionally! I could buy cute binders instead of the plain white ones! I could buy more stuff for my apartment, I could even get wifi! (Just kidding, I kind of liken not having internet in the apartment. Certainly makes me more productive). Everything I’ve looked at and said, “I don’t need it” and put it back, I could get! Bear in mind, these aren’t bank-breaking purchases here – we’re talking like an $8 binder, a $30 end table. But it’s hard to justify those purchases when you’re on an intern salary with student loans and buying $700 figure skates. And admittedly, a lot of things wouldn’t really change: I’d still be buying a lot of pasta-roni and cheap instant coffee, because skating and student loans are more important. But to not be at the point of yikes-4-dollars-for-a-pumpkin-spice-latte would be really nice (because I love pumpkin spice lattes).

Getting the job would also relieve two (or three) major forms of stress, by 1.) giving me a permanent job so I don’t need to worry about where I’m going to be in two months, 2.) paying me enough money to live on, and 3.) providing full healthcare (which, while I’m not really stressed about, would be really nice to have – I’m fine without it right now, because I’m a perfectly healthy young person, but as an athlete – what if tear my ACL or have a freak fall and get a bad concussion? Because if you’re writhing on the floor in pain or completely unconscious, people aren’t going to listen when you say, “I can’t go to the doctor, I don’t have insurance – I’ll just walk it off!!”). And removing those stressors, which as I noted above, I’ve been feeling a lot lately, would allow me to focus on having stress in more important areas, like my application for Oz and when I’m going to land a quadruple toe loop.

Funny how one email on Friday turned the whole week around.

Also – know that as rough as this week has been, I’ve also woken up excited to get out of bed each morning – mainly because with school starting, the rink is busy in the mornings again, and I get to see everyone and laugh at the boards and be involved in all the ice rink hijinks that go on. And I still love working for THEM; even just moving over to a different division would make me sad, because I love the group of people I work with. But getting to stay here and working for THEM would be a tremendous relief and really exciting.
Hakuna Matata,
~K

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West Meets East

Dear K,

I’ve been thinking a lot since I moved to NYC about how my Western upbringing matters to the person I am today.  I noticed the differences between Westerners and Easterners less when I was in school and it seemed like there was a lot more diversity (or at least, there were people from Texas and California and Illinois to balance out the Northeast).  But sometimes it seems like there are only Easterners around here, and that’s so different from what I’m used to that it’s almost comical.

Easterners, in my experience, have absolutely no concept of what life in the West is like.  I see this when they try to write about the West (descriptions always come out deeply suspect—you have no idea what mountains are, let alone a desert, and your one trip out West was not sufficient).  And then there was the very ill-advised conversation I had at lunch one day at the CPC, when Easterners were talking about guns and I tried to explain that in the West, we do not think about guns in the same way as they do in the East.  No one really got it, and I’m pretty sure a few people now think I’m a Tea Party member/flaming gun rights activist (I am not even close to either of those things).  On the other hand, I guess I learned my lesson?  Don’t even talk about the importance of gun safety with people from the Northeast?

On the other hand, there are also things I don’t really understand because I am from the West.  After a dim sum lunch, a couple of friends from school and I walked over to the Brooklyn Bridge, and from there to the 9/11 memorial.

I love the memorial.  I’m sure not everyone will agree with me—but I found it subtle and reverent and moving.  When you walk onto the grounds, the noise of the city hushes just a little bit, even with the hordes of people.  The footprints where the towers once stood are now deep, square holes in the ground, with water flowing in from all sides.  Surrounding the pools are raised, sloped surfaces with the carved names of all the people who were killed that day—it reminds me a little of the Vietnam War Memorial in DC, in its solidity and simplicity.  The sound of the falling water adds quietness to the already subdued atmosphere.  I knew approximately what the memorial looked like, but I was still surprised, somehow, at how appropriate a tribute it seems to the people who should not have died.

There is another memorial across the Hudson in Jersey City, near where I watched Independence Day fireworks with my aunt.  Going to both of these memorials reminded me how little I understand the tragedy of 9/11.  I was so young, for one thing, so I did not have the years of planes not crashing into buildings to strike a contrast—but I think more than that, I was just so far away thirteen years ago that the events did not really touch me.  I knew no one in the faraway place that was New York City, so at least at first, it almost might have been another country that was attacked, and not mine.

But it was mine.  Sometimes I wonder if one of the great struggles our country will have this century is trying to stay one country.  We are united in so many ways, but we are also regional.  I would never try to break down regional identity; that would undermine the diversity our country stands for.  But my regional identity is something I’ve been thinking about.

-Q

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Doors

Dear Q,

If I thought I needed a job before, now I really need a job. Today, I spent almost $700 on new figure skating boots and blades – a lot of money, but not so bad when you consider that at retail price, it would have been closer to $1500. I just happened upon a super nice pair of blades in my size on ebay this morning, brand new, listed at $399. I made an offer of $300, and was super nervous all morning that someone would buy them before my offer could be accepted or not. So nervous, I almost considered buying them outright. But I reminded myself that if it was meant to be, they’d stay available, so I waited to hear back from the seller. Right after lunch, the seller countered my offer with their own of $375, and given that I also had a 10% off coupon, I agreed right away. These are the kinds of blades National Champions use, the kind I thought I’d never get to skate in – the super new technology, super pretty, ultra-light blades. So to get such a great deal on brand new ones (I always buy everything used, which shortens the lifespan but is much cheaper), I’m so excited I can barely focus on work.  And the boots I’ve had my eye on for a while; the company is discontinuing some old models and introducing new ones, which means brand new, perfectly good skates are ½ off. So I finally bit the bullet and bought them, too. I need new blades but not new boots, so ironically enough, I’m still going to try and find a pair of used blades (to go with my current boots) so I can start the new boots and new blades together (and since getting them mounted costs money, and switching blades is a hassle, it does make sense, I swear). I probably won’t get to try out my new equipment until I’m home for Thanksgiving , since it will be cheaper to get the blades mounted there, and I probably won’t actually start skating in them for realsies until next March or so, hopefully. But this means I’m set on skates until…..late 2016, maybe early 2017, so it’s okay to spend that much money, right? I’m freaked out about how much I spent, but this is why I don’t go out on weekends and buy the processed cheese slices at Walmart; because these new blades are way prettier than multi-grain bread or having a nice end table to go with my reading chair. The blades should be here Thursday, I’m SO excited for them. They’re so pretty, I seriously never thought I’d get this type because they are so expensive, so I can’t wait!

A lot of times when I text you, you think my job is so cool, because I have a tendency to mention the awesome stuff, not the boring day to day stuff. Well, on Friday, my job was decidedly less cool. The big event I’m working on is the beginning of October, and I had to go pick up all the volunteer tshirts from the printer and sort them by size and count to make sure they were all there. My supervisor told me I could take a van to go pick them up, so I went to get the van and…..it was made in 1900. 1910 at the latest. The transportation tech I picked it up from referred to it fondly as “the creeper van” (picture below).

The creeper van in all its glory.

So I spent my day wearing super cool reflective aviator sunglasses, bopping around in a creeper van, the epitome of cool. The other two interns were conveniently out sick or at a job interview, so I spent the majority of my afternoon in the delivery bay of a warehouse sorting t-shirts. The previous day, when I asked the volunteer coordinator how many t-shirts there were (so to gauge how long it would take me to count them), she said 600. That was incorrect. There were 1000. Suffice to say I was there awhile, but it was okay, because the delivery bay was open to the outdoors, and so I sorted barefoot and in workout clothes while listening to my iPod. Really not a bad way to get paid to spend a Friday, but decidedly less cool than some of the other stuff I’ve done, so I felt you needed to know.

Registrations for said big event were due on Friday, so I’ve spent the last two days quagmired in registration forms and corrections. On the positive side, it means the workday goes really fast!

As you know from the text you received this morning, I’m thinking about applying for a job in Reykjavik, because you should always apply for jobs in cities you can’t even spell. It would actually be a lot of fun,  and I’m half thinking of actually applying for it – I’m slightly underqualified, but really, how many people are there who want to live in Iceland? It seems to be the kind of randomly awesome thing you should do in your twenties – see, this is why not having a boyfriend is a good thing! The irony did strike me, though, that the past couple posts I’ve talked about how excited I am to settle down here,  to not be transient and have all my stuff here, but here I am thinking about Iceland and continuing to move forward on applying for a Fulbright (though I’m kind of iffy on that, more on that below).  I readily blame Graduates in Wonderland for giving me wanderlust, though maybe part of it is my transient lifestyle growing up. And the fact that I want to do really cool things, and Iceland and Australia make that easier. But places just start to feel stale after a while, you know?  

One of my favorite analogies for life (and I have several), is that life is like a big hallway full of doors, and your job is to try and open as many doors as possible. Some of them will be locked, some will lead to other doors,  which lead to other doors, and so forth. Sometimes you just end up back in the hallway, but that’s okay; you just have to try as many doors as you can. And one of the reasons I’m a little resistant to apply for the Fulbright is that I’m hoping some other doors a little further down the hallway will open up, and I don’t want to be following a door to an Australian hallway if that’s the case (is this analogy still holding up okay?).  And the Australian doors seem to be opening rather easily – as if it’s meant to happen – but what if I want other doors to open up more? And if the other doors are in fact locked, but I don’t know because I haven’t gotten to them yet, maybe I could still break in? I guess basically I’m resistant to things that seem too easy in my life, maybe. Though the Fulbright isn’t in many ways – it’s scary to email someone on the opposite side of the world, and tough to muddle your way through another country’s academic requirements. But I keep reminding myself, it’s not as if I’ve gotten the Fulbright yet, I’m just applying. And I have a tendency to jump ten “what-ifs” ahead of where I’m currently at. So I am reminding myself that my only job is to follow each door as far as I can, and one door opening doesn’t preclude another one from opening later (or maybe, in a roundabout way, door 1 leads to door 3). The same kind of thing with that job I applied for – it sounded pretty good, sure, but what if something better came up a couple months later? I dunno, I’m silly sometimes.

That analogy, by the way, comes from this book, which you should add to your list to read. It’s funny and brilliant, and I’m not just saying that because she used to be a figure skater.

So that’s my life right now, it’s not been a very exciting past month and a half, but maybe that’s okay. I’ve been missing ST recently – just hanging out for hours talking with him – and that job has been taken off the website, but I haven’t heard anything yet, which makes me a little anxious. Especially since I just got those beautiful new blades, haha (update: THEY ARE IN MINNEAPOLIS. THEY WILL BE HERE THURSDAY, IF NOT WEDNESDAY).  

I feel like my posts are always longer than yours. Maybe because I don’t write for a living. Also, because I miss your face.

~K

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First Days

Dear K,

You asked for a minute-by-minute of my first day.  Here are the minutes I remember.

  • Late Monday night/Tuesday morning: Can’t sleep.  Can’t sleep.
  • Throughout the night: Wake up.
  • 5:37 AM: Wake up TOTALLY.
  • 5:45 AM: Definitely can’t sleep now.  Might as well drag myself out of bed.  4 hours of sleeping badly urgh.
  • 7:30: Showered, dressed, breakfast eaten, lunch packed, everything ready––and I have 45 minutes before I need to leave.
  • 7:45: Discover that my commute is shorter than I thought.
  • 8:20: Set off for my Grand Working Adventure!
  • 9:05: Arrive!  Turn my passport into HR!  Say hello to my supervisor and set off on a tour of the office.
  • 9:35: Start reading the company catalog, to familiarize myself with the Fall 2014 list.
  • 10:00: Meeting!
  • 10:16: Turns out that I’m starting work in the two slowest weeks of the publishing industry.  No one is in town, so there were about ten people in the meeting and barely anyone had anything to talk about.  Future meetings should be longer.
  • The rest of the day: deal with HR stuff; submit several books to national book award competitions.
  • 1:36: Take a very late lunch in the square nearby.  Run into someone from CPC and eat lunch with him, because in spite of what people will tell you about there being eight million people in NYC, there are actually only two hundred.
  • 5:47: Finish packing books into boxes for submission, obtain permission to leave for the day.
  • 6:25: Arrive home!

Keep in mind that last Tuesday, I spent the day in the city with an old friend, and after I got home that night I didn’t leave the house again until church on Sunday.  (I told myself that I was caring for what I now think is hip bursitis, but…)  It was very exciting.

Yesterday and today were more of the same––HR stuff and packing dozens of books into bubble mailers to send all over the world.  Some of the books I shipped today were going to people who would then give them to Important People.  (I’m not sure if Who is proprietary information or not but I had a loooong training about the employee code of conduct today so I’m keeping my proverbial mouth shut.)  What is my life.

Oh, work also fed us PIZZA yesterday for lunch, which was great, and I ate lunch with a group of the young people in the office (my supervisor, two women who did CPC last year, one woman who did the NYU course last year, and one who did CPC two years ago).  I’m not so good at meeting people in a work setting, so I was glad that my supervisor thought to ask me to join them.  I don’t like inserting myself where I’m not sure that I’m wanted.

Tuesday night I got about six hours of sleep, which was a problem because I was meeting people from CPC for dinner on Wednesday, and someone decided it would be a good idea to have dinner on the Upper West Side at eight thirty at night.  Budgeting two hours for dinner (it took longer than that) and my hour-long commute back home…I was out past my bedtime last night.  I’m glad I went, because it was lovely to see people I know and hear about their apartments and job hunts.  As I mentioned, we also decided to establish a monthly Potluck Club (the CPCPC) so we can be sure to see each other with some regularity.  I’m glad it’s a Potluck Club because potlucks are less expensive, and I don’t want to deal with the same kind of check-splitting I somehow fell into managing last night (the waitress actually thanked me personally for dealing with it; I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to just pay what they owe and a little more to be sure––and yes, I know exactly what aspects of my personality meant that I ended up taking care of everything so you can be quiet now).

But getting home at 11:30 on a school night work night?  Not so fun.

I should get to bed soon before I cross my evening wide-awake threshold; after about 11 I become suddenly very alert and awake, as if the past four hours of fatigue meant nothing at all.  And maybe I’ll get some sleep tonight.  (My brain just started singing Teardrops On My Guitar, which is as good a sign as any that I really need to get more sleep.)

-Q