Let’s be real, I’ve been talking about quarter life crises since I was 16. I clearly didn’t believe I had a long shelf life going for me then, but as I’ve recently settled into the strange thing they call my early twenties, I suppose “quarter” is finally almost appropriate. I have lately found that I have some trouble staying present, resulting in a quarter life crisis or two every few months.
One of my best and most brilliant friends from college got into a program in NYC and part of me wants to sign on and start school in the fall with her just to fulfill our life plan to live out there at the same time. It makes me a little anxious (read: VERY anxious) thinking about the fact that I can’t defer my offer again. If I pass on it again this year—I’m pretty sure I’m actually passing on it— as in saying I don’t want it — and prolonging the gameplan-less wonder.
Don’t get things twisted. I’m grateful for where I am right now. I live in a great city where family is only an hour flight away. I have a full time job with benefits—I get to work part-time for an NGO I really care about, work on my research project, and make music in the spare time. I’m generally quite happy and completely self sufficient of mom and dad. However, I don’t quite feel like I’ve made it and am instead, rendered an eternal work in progress.
Now ordinarily, that would be okay, but progressing towards what exactly? I’m almost a year out of graduation and I haven’t made the decisions I thought I would’ve yet. This time last year I thought I would’ve had a solid verdict on grad school and that I’d have a clearer picture of how I want to translate my life theories into praxis. I haven’t and I don’t, and I’m actually more confused than ever.
My current goals are nebulous and frankly, right now I feel over-interested, excited by too many things, and a little bit wayward. So I suppose the biggest indication that I’m not ready to go back to school is that I don’t feel all-in and ready to commit. But who ever really does? Not a rhetorical question, I’d like to grab coffee with you.
Quick update of little consequence. Currently uprooting—woke up yesterday morning in Arusha, said good bye to co-workers and good friends, met up with another friend in Dar for the night, and just now, watched the sun rise in Zurich. In a flurry of changing flight agendas, passport check-points, digital departure boards changing by the minute, and converting celsius to fahrenheit just to know whether or not to wear my sweater—I still love airports. Such strange places, full of so much potential for hellos, good byes, returns, and runaways. I’m actually having so much fun watching. Next time I write to you, I’ll be somewhere new.
I’m finishing up my time in Tanzania. I’ve had a few leads for jobs here and one in South Africa—but family things and matters of my spiritual and mental well being are telling me that it’s time to be back in the states, at least for a little while.
Plus, when I was fairly certain I was gunning for a PhD, I was lucky enough to get a small grant to start some oral history research with a few communities/collectives in several metropolises across the states, you know possible dissertation research. I won’t bore you with the details just yet because it would derail my trajectory, but basically grant wise, I have enough to either pay very meager rent or do some research—but not both (rendering this opportunity an option [and a difficult one at that] rather than a given).
But it’s always been one of my dreams to move to the big city—and now that I have a reason—it’s a little disappointing, albeit sadly typical, to not have all the means. Since my volunteers have left, and I’ve been able to stay in town where electricity and internet is more consistently available—I’ve been sending out my resume and cover letter to any job I feel even remotely qualified for. At the same time, after officially getting my degree (yes, the diploma came in the mail), a few years of unpaid interning (working more hours a week than in my paid positions), and a few part-time jobs in various sectors, I want to have a “big girl” job where I can use all the skills I’ve accumulated, where there’s some room to grow—maybe be challenged, maybe learn a bit. Oh, and where I get paid enough to buy good cheese, okay, even decent cheese.
I know this is a fairly typical plight for recent grads at this point in the game, but having been here and being consistently on the clock pretty much all day every day here in Tanzania—it’s frightening to imagine being in that weird jobless limbo again.
So Dear Every Employer Ever,
I understand you have a high volume of applicants, but it’d be nice to get something from you considering I spend way more time tailoring my resume and cover letter to your company than you will spend reading it. A job offer would of course be ideal, but even a “look elsewhere” would be more helpful than an unacknowledged application that I’ll keep hopelessly checking up on.
You’re right, it is unfortunate that you have no paid entry-level positions available. And while I would love to share my talent with your company as an unpaid intern, the invaluable experience I would gain in the position sadly does not pay the rent.
Take my above snarkiness as more than frustration, but rather as a sign of my quick wit and strong character. I’d be a fun and very grateful addition to your team.
Just Skyped with Olivia when I was having a momentary mental meltdown. And let me tell you—being in a foreign country can make you feel the weight of that two fold. It made me incredibly thankful to have these women in my life. As much as opening new doors and starting new chapters is exciting—it’s nice to have a few good friends who’ve already read your entire book.
Home. Ever since I moved out of my parents house for college that four plus some years ago, my sense of home has been off and harder to put my finger on. My imagining of home has been shifty—it’s spatial, social, and most notably temporal—informed largely by my own complicated feelings of nostalgia. Home, in all it’s figurative and literal warmth is a thing I’ve made from afar.
In the fiercest moments when I hated La Jolla as a heart broken 17 year old, home was a tree on a playground at Mariposa Elementary where I used to sit and write love songs in Redlands’ dry heat. Or lying in bed next to my sisters who told me that it would make sense some day. When I moved to Berkeley that first summer, I lived alone in a mostly empty apartment that I sublet from a friend—a twenty minute walk from campus in the dark after my film class let out at night, a dinner for one, spotty internet—I’d watch a heavy rotation of the same five DVDs over and over and wonder if my dream of going to Cal was worth giving up walking the sands at Blacks and withstanding long distance relationships with my best friends for the rest of college. My sense of home has always rested in distant hearts and feels.
Being back in Tanzania this time in particular, however, has felt a little different. When I’m out in the field, I live in my own house. It’s in a ward forty-five minutes outside of Arusha called Kikwe, in a village called Maweni. I have no electricity. I have an out-house style bathroom in which one must squat, concentrate, and exhibit an excellent understanding of geometry to hit the mark. I spend afternoons walking around the ward to visit my volunteers’ teachings or listening to music while reading on my porch. Instead of dodging eye contact like I do back in California, I greet everyone that passes by and we exchange as much conversation as my variety of gesticulations and limited Swahili vocabulary allows. Night comes around and the view of the stars from from the corn fields that surround the house is so beautiful that I’m doing violence to them right now because language can’t adequately describe the feel of them. I know a lot of this doesn’t sound like real life, but for small moments, I’m arrested by an unmistakable sense of “this is where you are right now.” I’m present. Staring at them is about the only time I’m able to find some quiet inside of a mind so accustomed to long. Home.
Finally made it to Tanzania after three flights. I currently only possess what I have in my carry-on at the moment which luckily included my camera and laptop. My luggage, dildos and all, didn’t make it on the TINY plane I took from Ethiopia for my last leg of the trip. And of course, it didn’t make it to the airport luggage claim until late my second night. Yesterday was a public holiday and today is Sunday, so the office has been closed. I bought a few things to wear and wash with, but be thankful, Tumblrs are not scratch and sniff—because I’m wearing the same pair of jeans I left Los Angeles in for about the sixth straight day in the row—which ordinarily wouldn’t be so bad had I not been out driving through the rural areas yesterday. Let me just say, wind, dust, and sweat leave a little bit of an impression.
That situation aside, I loved visiting the village yesterday. I crashed a meeting for the second volunteer program of the summer that’s being held in a ward called Bwawani. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves for the most part, but I will belabor the obvious and say that the volunteers seem so close and enthusiastic to get started with their teachings. The NGO I work for sends these volunteers into rural areas to host HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns.
I’ll be coordinating a group of volunteers like these ones in the next coming weeks in the Kikwe ward. I’m excited and nervous. I love watching all manner of relationships form and this position is going to be an opportunity to live in the muck of it. I don’t just mean relationships between different people (even though those are some of the best ones), but even the changing relationships that people have to their perceived places in the world, their pasts, the circumstances they’re coming from. I know I’m finding myself in a constant flux—a perpetual negotiation of who I am within my changing relationships. I’ll be sure to update you more when the time comes.
I’ve been on a perpetual quest to not pack today, so I figure I should take a moment to sit down and write a bit and at least let the moments be somewhat productive. I don’t know the quality nor quantity of my internet connections to come, so my posts here may be fewer and farther in between—so I’ll try to at least make this one entertaining because as of right now, I have no trajectory for a life lesson.
The days are finally numbered—I’m leaving for Tanzania tomorrow out of Los Angeles to Frankfurt through Ethiopia and finally into TZ via Kilimanjaro. Am I ready for the travel? Probably not—I’m packing at a glacial pace. But I bragged (more like lied) to a friend last night (with much bravado), that all I really need is my passport and a couple bucks, and I suppose that’s really true. However I’m actually bringing two nearly-fifty-pound pieces of luggage filled to capacity with all sorts of things like a solar charger, packets of low-sodium ramen, 4 pounds of snack size chocolate bars, and then ten dildos my in country staff asked me to bring over. They are for condom demonstrations. Let’s remember I work for an HIV/AIDS focused NGO, not in the porn industry. Dildos aside, I am still a TSA worker’s dream; and with all this baggage, I am an embarrassment of a back packer.
But I’m smiling because I also have some really good baggage. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like I had good baggage before or if you’re even supposed to, but I feel like I have the kind that intrigues me so much so that I don’t mind carrying it around with me for the next few months. This past Saturday, my family hosted a graduation/bon voyage party for me. More family and friends came than I could’ve hoped for. I ate too much, cracked jokes, sang overly dramatic karaoke, and probably mixed stronger mojitos for my party guests and myself than I should’ve. I kept thinking the whole time “I’m always in such good company.” That bit is making it hard to leave, but also a whole lot easier to. I have good people on my team who have my back whenever and wherever. I guess it always happens like this, but right as I’m preparing to leave, I’ve started talking to some new people and seeing some old people in new ways. And I think it’d be fun if these conversations lasted just a little longer—even (or especially)—over the distance.
Because Katharine Ross’ character is my namesake, and I am a graduate, this seems extremely appropriate. Anywho, happy Father’s Day! I wouldn’t start any conversations with him with this question today.
A mysterious package landed on the door step of my parents house yesterday afternoon from one of my best friends. I foolishly allowed myself to become close with Mel even though she is two years my junior (in age, but not in deportment). In the past two years, she’s seen me through my darkest days and knows every possible secret I have. We were classmates, hall mates, best friends, and conditional life partners in an open marriage (given we are both single, over 50, and same-sex marriage is allowed where we live).
College is stupid because graduation dates often translate to expiration dates for these types of friendships. And now that I think of it, most college relationships. I may sound like an asshole, but I’ve always been really good at falling off the face of the earth. It’s not that I’m non-responsive to attempts to keep in touch, but I’ve certainly not always been the first to reach out.
This really has been something I’ve been trying to work on especially considering that the already long distance between me and the people I care about is going to increase by thousands of miles in a few weeks when I move to Tanzania. The majority of my relationships, at least for the next 4 or 5 months, are going to be long distance relationships.
And while that scares me a little bit, I know that it’s not impossible. I’ve been in a long distance relationship before and taking off the bubble wrap from this present from Mel reminded me that maintaining these friendships takes care and effort. When I used to be on breaks during the school year, the urgency to talk to friends from Berkeley wasn’t all there because I knew I’d be seeing them again in a matter of days or weeks. But today, I’m realizing that I don’t have that return date anymore. If I want these friendships to last, there has to be that effort and that urgency. The people I said goodbye to—if I really wanted to or didn’t care enough—I would never have to see them again. That’s empowering and at the same time that sort of agency breaks my heart. The movies tell you that great loves (romantic, platonic, whatever) are easy, effortless, kismet—but what is so great about that? I may be running the risk of sounding like an asshole twice in one post, but I’m learning now that I have to decide who’s worth the check-in or letter or hello, and they will have to choose if I’m worth it too. Just so you know, I’m a good person to have on your team.
There’s something very silly about falling asleep at 7PM PST in the evening. It means that by 3AM PST, I’ve already had the recommended eight hours of sleep, which considering the “sleep when I’m dead” philosophy of my recently completed undergraduate life style, is too much sleep. I’m in an unwelcome yet undeniable feeling of wide-awake. And in it, I’m left taking silent stock of myself in the dark. I am at a loss of what else to do in times like these. So here it goes, I apologize if it’s a long one.
For a few years now, I have been secretly collecting life-lessons in the form of narcissistically re-contextualized bits of sage wisdom accumulated from things I’ve read or people I’ve met.
The first life-lesson I’d like to begin with, I strangely actually did learn in school. I had just completed a draft of my first chapter of my honors thesis and during a workshop another honors student had made it bleed with pretentious comments like, “You comb too much” or “This read seems too micro—it’s seems like a stretch” or “You’re close to the text but not” or “I don’t know what you’re trying to do with your voice.” While I didn’t understand what my reader was trying to say with these ambiguous douche bag comments, they hurt. Forgive me if I get too rhetoric, but writing for me has become an extension of my self. I thought I had to make changes somewhere and somehow to my work, and by extension to how I think, and by extension—to how I understand the world in which I act. After frantically expressing all of these concerns, my honors thesis advisor said one simple thing that I took to heart not just for my paper, but also for all of those extensions.
“Do you like it as it is and as it’s going? Are you proud of it? Then, if it has no purchase to you, forget about it.”—Michael Mascuch
So if my thesis was meant to be a metaphor for me, I loosely translated this to mean “Do you always and fuck the rest.” Pride and selfishness are not always negative things; in good doses, they are means of self-preservation. While I was away on my trip, I would find myself in these comically blissful moments and right as the wave of gratitude to the universe was forming, so was a big old grain of salt—some negative thought or painful memory. And whose fault is that? I am starting to see: my very own. While this is one of the lessons that’s better manifested in theory rather than practice for me, I am starting to realize that if something does not serve my most authentic self in a positive way, then it isn’t worth a second, third, or millionth thought. I can only internalize what I allow in. It is my responsibility to drop the dead weight, recycle misplaced energy and devotion, and just ride those waves of goodness, pride, and the healthy selfishness for as long as I can.
And “doing me” has recently shown itself as a desire for one of those “big moves.” I contracted my very own insatiable case of wanderlust. We find so many excuses not to travel and uproot ourselves. ”It’s not the right time for me. I can’t get off of work. I don’t have the means.” But if something calls me strong enough, I’ll do whatever I have to. I’d spend money I have yet to save. I’ll say sincere, heart-felt goodbyes and see you laters. I’ll pack lightly and I’ll leave my ducks haphazardly scattered because maybe getting out there is exactly what it’s going to take to put them in a row. While I do have so many ties, I feel as if for the one’s that matter, the strings that hold us together are endless. Home feels a bit more liquid and more nebulous. For the first time in a while, I’m not subconsciously negotiating where I want to be and what I want to be doing with anyone else. I want to feel the sensation of a voluntary loneliness. You know, the perfect kind where it feels incredibly good to sit outside for lunch alone—to choose the company I keep rather than gasp for someone like air.
While I was in Krakow a friend of mine posted something on her blog that really put things into perspective for me. It made me open up to all the lessons to be learned when you’re out in the world not searching for lessons.
“Travel is a luxury, but an important one…Travel rattles your internal story a bit.”—Christine Deakers
It is, isn’t it? It does, doesn’t it? I am so incredibly lucky and grateful to have had the opportunity to take that cliché post-college Euro trip. I was initially thankful because I was in search of an escape from a pretty weird headspace I’ve been in. But it ended up being more of a frame-shift. Escapes are temporary and only pretend to be solutions. We escape to new places or new people but someday you will always either physically or mentally return to wherever or whatever it is you’re running from. But frame-shifts expose and generate new things—goals, wants, desires, skills—in spite of, or rather because of, what you were trying to outrun. You see what you have, but you see it differently. I discovered that it wasn’t a matter of trying to “find myself” but more a strong want to destroy myself—the self that lives so much in her head. And you know what I discovered? I learned that sometimes you just need to get the hell out of there because it’s nice out here (wherever here may be).