Inundated with the Ineffable

Three months have passed since I posted something on here.  It’s been even longer since I’ve actually written something for this blog (because the last post was an interview I did).  The problem I’m having is that my life has seemed to change so much in the past few months that I am having trouble keeping up with it, let alone find the time to blog about it.  It also doesn’t help that I’m not very eloquent and writing a blog post I actually find ‘post-able’ takes time.

I’m sitting in a coffee shop/bakery in Washington DC.

[screeches to a stop]

Wait, what?

How did I get here?  Well, here’s what has happened since the beginning of May.

  • I took my final finals of my undergraduate career.
  • I walked across the stage and received an ersatz diploma.
  • I moved back home to LA.
  • I babysat my adorable nephews and caught up with some friends.
  • I sent out many resumes/cover letters.  I had two terrible interviews.  I was realizing that I clearly wasn’t getting hired.
  • I bought a one-way ticket to Baltimore.
  • I am currently occupying a room in my aunt’s house in Maryland, where I am a 45-minute Metro ride into Washington DC.

In those bullet points, a lot happened.  It’s been a lot for me to process, which is why I’ve been inundated with the ineffable (throwback to high school vocabulary lessons!).  Okay, back to the story.

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Proof of where I am! This is how I spent my Independence Day!

First, I shed my number one identity, which is my identity of being a student.

I’ve had 17 consecutive years of being a student.  I know how to be in a classroom, and I understand the expectations of being a student.  I was very comfortable – despite the stresses, sleep deprivation, and abundance of coffee – in that space.  But, now I’m a different identity, or a different combination of identities: recent graduate, adult, unemployed.  So long the perks of being a student (ie. semester bus passes, cheaper tickets at certain theaters/museums, etc.)!

Logistically, this period of time is a mindful space to be in.  Where will I live if I don’t live in Berkeley?  Where will I get health insurance?  What will I do without my free access to the New York Times, The Diplomat, The Economist, and other journals/magazines?

Mentally, this is a challenging space for me to be in.  What will I do now that I don’t have to read 100+ pages a week?  What else am I good at?  What does it mean to no longer be a student?  Will I like the post-student life, and how could I make the best out of it?

These are big questions that I don’t have the answers to.

Second, I made two big geographical moves.  

At the end of May, I said goodbye to my friends and my (former) coworkers, packed up what I could from my apartment, boarded a bus, and started crashing on my parents’ couch.  This was hard for me because throughout my last semester of college, I was working really hard to not end up back in my parents’ house.  I applied to jobs in the Bay Area, Washington DC, Boston, and even to the United Kingdom just to increase of chances of not living back in my parents’ house.

But, there I was.

It was a hectic few weeks home.  It didn’t take me long to miss Berkeley and my old student life.  A life, which meant independence and privacy (reminder: I was sleeping on the couch).  More than that, family was over a lot (which I am thankful for) and my time was constantly interrupted so I could run errands or babysit or entertain them.  It’s not to say that this was a bad thing.  I love my family very much, but it meant that I couldn’t dictate how I spent my time, which adds difficulty to a period of my life when I am trying to decide what’s next for me.

Then, I made the decision to essentially, move to the DC area.

I am living in my aunt’s house in Silver Spring, Maryland.  I never thought I would be here.  Honestly, I thought I would be in Vietnam first even before here (another long story).

So, how did I get here?  It wasn’t a spur of the moment type decision (even though my dad could probably offer you a different perspective).  I was looking for jobs in the Bay Area in March, and I was connected to GPP alum that gave me some job seeking advice.  She heard that I’m interested in doing work in economics, research, development, policy, etc. and in the middle of our conversation, she suggested, “Why don’t you come to DC?”

At the time, I dismissed that suggestion, even though she did make some good points about DC being the place to do the work that I wanted to.  I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to really consider that as a valid option.

But, the job search got more frustrating and depressing.  I would sit in my supervisor’s office on Friday mornings, and I would update him on the rejections (in the middle of conversations about the absurdity of the presidential election, global news, and our lives).  I had feelings of hopelessness.  Of inadequacy.  Of disappointment.  Of shame.

And time was running out.

So, I needed to do something differently, and DC was always in the back of my head.  When I told more people about it, I was usually met with encouragement.  But, a part of me was always thinking, “That’s crazy! The east coast? Me?  Where it snows?”

But, then I graduated and realized that I had already been applying to jobs in DC.  I had an informal conversations with my aunt about checking out the DC area, still in the hopes that I would be able to get a job before that would have to move into her house.  I talked to more people for advice.

Then after 3 weeks in LA, after so much thinking, I decided that I needed to go.  I needed to experiment.  I needed to at least try.  Because things weren’t working there.

So, I took a risk, bought a one-way airplane ticket, and now I’m in DC (at the moment of writing this post).

Third, I am trying to navigate uncharted waters.

Maybe this sounds like a good idea to you – this moving to DC thing.  I’m challenging myself to push beyond my comfort zone by: acclimating to a new environment (and climate), living away from my parents, and putting myself out there.  Post-grad life is about becoming an adult, right?

The game plan in DC is basically to network and meet a lot of people, who might introduce me to other people, and ideally, one of these connections will be able to help me with a job.  In the process, I’ll be able to explore DC, learn what it means to work in the labor force*, and be inspired by all the amazing people here (there are amazing people here).

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StartingBloc event: an example of the amazing people I’ve met here.

Sounds like a good plan, but to me, it doesn’t really sound like a plan, and that’s what makes it so terrifying and also at the same time, exciting.  Anything can happen, and it’s really up to me.  How much I am able to do will dependent on my own discipline and partly, desperation.

My whole life up to this point, I felt, followed a very linear path.  Mind, there hasn’t been a lot of steps.  I went to school, I applied to college, I got into college, I went to college.  According to my parents, the next step would have been to  go to graduate school.  Get all the school out of the way first and then, get a job.

My dad wanted to me to go to law school after my undergrad (like my sister did).  But, during my junior year of college, I didn’t know what I wanted to go to grad school for.  Business?  Public policy?  City planning?  I didn’t want to go to law school.  There were so many options.  There was no way that I could have made such a decision at that time in my life.  Heck, I can’t even make that decision now.

But, I guess it didn’t comfort him that I had no concrete plans after I graduated, especially when all three of my roommates were applying to medical school at the time.

Going back to the present, this space has been difficult for me.  I definitely like that I can dictate what I do and if I want to hop on the Metro and go to the Air & Space Museum, I can (I did that for two consecutive days).  I go to a café or read at the National Mall.  I like that there aren’t deadlines.

But, at the same time, I realize I’m not here for play.  I need to get a job.  If you know me, networking isn’t for me.  I like new meeting new people.  But, I don’t like small talk.  I definitely don’t like meeting people for the purpose of getting a job.  Mind, the people I’ve met have been great and seem to really want to help me out and teach me things.  But, I think it’s the mindset of going into an event or paying attention to a person because they might be doing something that I want to do.  And I’m so awkward!  I don’t know; it’s a mental game.

Some days, I walk home tired (taking the Metro can be exhausting and the heat doesn’t help) and feel like I haven’t done anything.  On those days, I just want to lay down and cry.  Watch Netflix for the next couple of hours.  But then, there’s a voice in my head that is telling me that I can’t.  Instead, I have to do more research.  I have to make more connections.  I should write that email.  Because I’m living with my aunt and I don’t want to be a continuous burden to her, I feel like I need to get a job as soon as possible.  That just creates a lot of pressure for me to perform and be productive all the time.  But, I’m not working with linear processes either.  There are so many unknowns, which is why how I feel is also hard to explain.

So, essentially, this experience is new to me.  There’s no direct path from point A to point B.  Overall, I’m truly liking it.  I’ve been told that you don’t find yourself, you create yourself.  And that’s what I’m doing.  Yes, it’s hard and challenging at times.  But, all I want to do is learn, grow, get a job, and create myself.

Over and out.


* As a student, I was never counted in the labor force.  Technically, I am now part of 5% unemployed in the United States. #econnerd

PS. I am always a student of the world.  I may not be enrolled at an official learning institution, but I always want to be learning.

PPS. I wasn’t able to finish writing the entire post while at the café in DC.  I posted it in Silver Spring.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Catherine, when I read this, what stood out to me was not only your wonderful writing (“not very eloquent” — I don’t think so!), but also your incredible courage and strength. Times of transition in identity are super hard… but you’ve also been brave enough to put yourself out there and knock on new doors. I am cheering you on, and I feel inspired by you!

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