My Future Job

I didn't mean to, but I made a huge mistake yesterday: I started thinking about real life while on vacation.

Right now I'm in what feels like a life hiatus, or some kind of sabbatical from reality, or an adolescent dragging of the feet, or anxiety paralysis, or a YOLO complex, or a standard American millennial work crisis.

When I return to the states in six days I have no job, no place to live, and a dog to take care of.

I thought that institute might open doors and present my future openly to me. I applied for one job as a result but have heard zero back, a text to the Executive Director unanswered, and the lack of response having me wonder if I even want to be on that team.

I've thought about spending a semester getting fancy English-teacher certified and applying to work abroad. Issues: don't have the funding for the program and don't have a huge desire to teach abroad (live abroad, yes; yeah abroad, meh).

I've thought about applying to PhD or other additional degree programs. Issues: struggling to articulate the research I want to do, feeling inadequate in general, no desire to study for or take the GRE…

I had a fleeting thought to go to cosmetology school, something I've wanted to do since I was really little. But where would I go? How would I fund it? And do I want to be part of that scene in general…?

There's also the more beautiful thoughts, like Is now a time to focus on crafting and art, after abandoning it for so long? And Do I have any skill or ability I can market and capitalize on independently? And How can I be creative now before getting trapped in another job? And What do I love? What do I WANT?

It's a millennial problem, right? To know I have skills and two degrees and family and friends and professional networks to lean on, but still feel utterly professionally lost. My life until last summer had such an even path, my finances are mediocre at least, I know I have an Extremely Privileged Life. I want to be careful to own the feelings an uncertainty and worry I have while recognizing the ridiculous about of privilege I have in my hands.

So right now… if anyone has

  1. ideas for simple work that I could do, especially temp and/or art based, ideally in a city
  2. An inexpensive place where I and my pooch can live
  3. A really great life plan or a desire to life coach me for free (😜)
  4. A personal story of a similar time/ situation you've had in life and how you got through it

…it would be greatly appreciated.

For now, enjoying a home cooked dinner in our hostel in San Jose, refusing to worry. ❤️

Costa Rica

For me, a feeling of home often includes doing my own shit (usually reading) in a fairly open space without being bothered, with lots of background noise from other rooms: laughter, water running, music, food being made. That's how this hostel is, Selina, it's a chain through Costa Rica and a few other countries. The decor reminds me of Anthropology and literally every human here is gorgeous. There's an on going soundtrack and a beautiful pool.

The first two weeks of this trip included Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Included countless hours on shuttles and buses and taxis (and in one case, a ferry). Included a complete disconnect from Work, from any real conversation with anyone not Here Right Now, and from the Anxiety that's plagued me for months.

Of course escaping, walking away from jobs to days of listlessly bobbing in and out of pools, of hours staring out bus windows in contorted positions, listening to others' Spanish- of course these things let me let go of everything I've been clenching so tightly: Children Racism Relationships Worthiness Plans The Future.

A few nights ago we stayed in San Juan del Sur in a hostel called the Surfing Donkey. While bro-y as hell, it held some lovely humans who all came together at night to play beer pong with water. As the bracket continued, I slowly started to braid hair: first Rosa who I'm traveling with, then the volunteer at the hostel, Michelle, then Caroline with Long Red Hair, then a 19 year old surfer chick from Canada, then a woman with the perfect kind of curl who asked if I could do a fishtail. The boys, all with short trendy hair, some shaved in spots, would walk by and say How Do You Do That? By the end of the night I had braided eight heads of hair and acquired a free drink by a woman staying at the hostel who didn't get her hair braided, but had noticed that with my hands so busy, I hadn't had any drinks all night.

Backpacking, before arriving in Costa Rica, has so far included primarily people from Australia, Canada, and Western Europe. They are usually 19-22 or 30+, from families that can afford to send them off before university or people set in careers who can afford to send themselves. People are kind. I fall somewhere in the low middle of Spanish proficiency compared to them.

I applied to a job in Las Vegas with Teach For America and haven't heard back. I've spent time wondering, especially post-braids, if maybe I'd want to spend a year going to cosmetology school. I've read a lot without the fear of not doing something More Productive. The only man I spent any time with on this trip is a 28 year old from Chicago named Dee. Ive acquired a handful of Central American musicians I now love.

I have a week left before returning to the states. Tomorrow is our last full day in Costa Rica before heading to Mexico City, our final stop in the trip. I'm not ready to go back – jobless, homeless, without health insurance, with a pup to take care of and financial concerns looming… not things I'm ready to talk about.

This trip is Everything.

On Travel

I am sitting in the San Pedro Sula International Airport, fresh off of four consecutive flights to arrive. 

I have four and a half hours to sit in the food court with 30 strangers and contemplate how to effectively not take this trip for granted. To consider how to counteract the piles of privilege that allow me to sit here, that give me the very tiny bits of Spanish I can speak and comprehend, that give me the contacts that invited me on this trip in the first place, that made this affordable and feasible, that make me not too scared or too attached to home to leave for three weeks with only a backpack, that got me here. 

Ive read a handful of articles about the elitism of travel recently and am ashamed to say it put myself in new light. I’m another white girl that had a picture in front of the pyramids and a picture on a camel on Facebook. I’m someone that got invited to Mexico for Christmas by a cousin. I studied abroad for six weeks in undergrad. I visited Shoshana while she taught in Taiwan. 

I did these things because I had access to money, because I had friends and family in other countries. Because I live in a world where international travel is beginning to feel as common as crossing the United States.

The past few years have made me reconsider a lot. I’m thinking about:

  • How international travel can be empowering and meaningful in a very different way for my POC friends, especially African American/ Black friends
  • How people I love fear or cannot travel abroad due to the potential inability to return back to the states
  • How people I love have home countries that they have few memories of and limited access to revisit and to know. I remember the first time my high school friend went to Romania, and the stories he brought home that are a part of him in a way my travel never will be
  • How casual myself, my friends, and my family discuss international travel, Here I Go To This Place and how clouded my perspective on travel is when I’m comparing

This post doesn’t approach the topic in a way I’m happy with- the more I read, especially essay collections, the more I realize how badly I want to be A Writer and how much work I need to Get In That Direction… so for now, posting inadequate blog posts in the middle of the Honduras night is the first step. 

PS: before I forget, other topics I’m meaning to write about include a) my summer job, b) my future 

My Summer Job

I just finished working on slides for tomorrow, for the 150ish new teachers I’m facilitating for in the next two days via four sessions facilitated across two schools. This session is the Cycle of Socialization and the personal example I’ll model is a part of my identity I’ve been grappling with since I was little: gender. It’s the first time I’ve allowed myself to think through and articulate my experiences with gender, and not conforming to it, pretty much ever. I’ve never put words to it. 

In Tempe, which is where I really am, despite driving through Phoenix each day to get to school sites, I am learning massive amounts daily. I’m building relationships with hundreds of people. I’m engaged with work and life from six am until midnight most week days. I am exhausted and filled with love. Filled with fulfillment. 

I have a habit of reminding myself that I Am Not Special. That we are all capable of all work and This Is Normal I Am Normal. Here I am slowly facing the fact that my passions (the alignment of relationship building, teaching, social justice, deep desires to learn) are kind of unique. In training they kept saying that we, the Diversity Equity and Inclusiveness team, have niche knowledge. 

You mean not everyone loves deep dialogue about race and social identities in general? Not everyone likes being called out for microaggressions in front of 80 people? Not everyone is obsessed with reading nonfiction about race, class, and historical inequities in the United States?

I didn’t confront my unique skill set (or find it) until I arrived here and began working with three perfect humans who have this in common with me- crossing all kinds of lines of difference. This is unique. It is valid. It is the work I want to do for a long time. 

That said, anyone know of any full time jobs that are appropriate for a white woman in this space? I’ve been forward some “Director of Equity” type roles but really feel those belong to different identities than mine… but working in partnership across lines of difference like this, This Is My Shit. 

Send me mail. My birthday is Friday. ❤️

Home

There is a feeling in my chest I would like to carefully pull out, like blood or bone marrow or plasma, and put into a safe container. I would save it for when I feel my life is draining out, and pump it back in. I would save it for the kind of months I just left in Denver – when I cannot figure out why it is so damn hard to eat, and I cannot figure out what I am supposed to be doing or feeling – and I would bring it back to my body and I Would Remember.

There is a thing people feel compelled to tell me, people I am close to and not close to, they say You Love Teach For America. I respond, usually, in utter silence. I usually have too many feelings to respond with anything else.

Some things that I consider are are,

  1. No, I don’t.
  2. Why do you have to say this as if you are spitting? Why do you say this as if you are angry at me? Why do you say this as if I Am Wrong?
  3. (Am I making all of that up, am I projecting some feeling onto you?)
  4. Teach For America does a lot of things wrong.
  5. You’re right.
  6. You’re incredibly right.
  7. …but that doesn’t change the fact that only I get to claim how I feel, and when I choose to share it, and with who, in what circumstance.

do love Teach For America, I just love it in such a complex way I would never say that, in such a complex way I could never explain what that love means, or what it has done for me, or why when I come to institute after five years away I feel like I’m Coming Home.

I have felt more myself, more whole, more happy, in the last five days than the last two years (okay, professionally). It is only writing this out that makes me cry, only writing this out that makes me feel an allowance to own how incredibly, incredibly difficult the past year has been. How lost I feel. How Not At Home I have felt for a very long time. I feel my home, my self of self and security, were destroyed my last 10 months in Arkansas. I feel my home, my self of purpose and value and confidence, were silenced my last 10 months in Denver. I feel my home has come back to me in the form of a desert I have never visited, in people I have never met, in the potential of tomorrow and the five weeks after.

It is so, so relieving.

I cannot claim that this new job has fixed me. I cannot claim that the Celexa is finally kicking in. I cannot claim that I have just grown up. I cannot claim that the people around me are better for my soul.

What I can say is: I eat comfortably three times a day, and I get hungry. I feel deeply connected to many people; I feel so much trust I am crying for the lack of it the past few years; I feel so much meaning and value in my job I happily pour hours into the smallest things; I am so enthralled with my long days that even when I have the chance to sleep more than six hours, I don’t; I go running every day, with joy.

I Love Teach For America. I love that I have a place in which I feel belonging, even when I don’t. I love that I get to struggle with questions I feel worth putting my time into. I love that this organization forced me to interrogate every bit of my beliefs and my powers and my connections and after chewing me up and spitting me out I am stronger, and happier, and passionate, and purposeful. I love the network of humans I have the enormous enormous privilege to learn from, to laugh with, to work beside. I love that Teach For America asks me to be critical, empowers me to know and hear my voice, and cares about me.

I almost deleted that entire paragraph, just then. Thinking What if someone sees it, talks about it, quotes it as garbage, scoffs at my being a cog in a machine. 

That’s fine. I understand that. My lived experience, though, the already-sleep-deprived emotions pouring down my face, say that in its imperfect self with its imperfect people, coming to Phoenix has been my opportunity to finally arrive in a temporary Home.

Summer Address

Greetings.

I am a massive, massive lover and returner of mail. I recently found a photo of me from a sixth grade slumber party, where I am on the ground in pajamas hunched over a piece of stationary. On the back it says something like, “Writing letters at a sleepover!”

If you’d like to send some love while I’m in Phoenix, my address is:

Caroline
Teach For America
711 East Lemon Street
Tempe, AZ 85281

Home, An Unlikely

It is good to drive for thirteen hours alone, from Denver to Phoenix, between two parts of your life. 

It is good to ruminate precisely how you will text the tinder person you feel both icky and warm about – then to spit it out, delete the chain, breathe and let go. 

It is good to decide that you will begin wearing your mother’s necklace, a black butterfly on a delicate chain, and her mothers engagement ring. 

It is good to incessantly text the women who have lived you for years, through struggle and despite it. Who have been a support system for you and who(m?) you have supported. It is good to be candid with them about loneliness, sex, goals, pain. 

It is good to fight back tears hugging your shaking dog goodbye, good to realize how much this tiny breathing thing has come to mean to you and your health. 

It is good to resolve quietly to strive for things you used to have: less alcohol, less cigarettes, more running, more relationships, less dating, more love. 

I have a reputation for packing up and leaving, for driving more than 13 hour stretches alone, for changing my environment. The travel itself feels like coming home.