Make A New Plan, Stan

July 31, 2008 at 9:18 am (2008)

As I wrote in my previous post, I’m trying to put together a plan — a six month plan, to be exact. Three months is too few and a year is too long…much, much too long. So, while I need to be flexible, have patience, and appreciate what I have, I also need to have some kind of goal in mind — both personally and financially — if I want to move forward and try to achieve my dreams.

This past year I’ve been “going with the flow,” trying to let life guide me. That’s easier said than done and has resulted in a very slow-go. While that “ride the tide” mindset has been freeing in some regards, I also believe that it has contributed to the familiar, uneasy feeling of stagnation — kind of akin to walking on a treadmill: I could walk for miles, but I would still end up in the same exact spot.  Creating some kind of plan is the only course of action I can think of that will ease the restlessness and anxiety I’ve been harboring and get me off of that treadmill.

Here’s the lowdown of where I currently stand: I’m working a temporary job as I actively pursue a career in the publishing industry, which I’m eager to relocate for. My lease on my apartment is up in two months, and I can’t renew because a) I can’t afford another rent increase and b) it’ll put a hitch in that whole relocation thing. And, finally, most excitedly, I’m going to France for a month.

Taking all of this into consideration, it’s time to formulate a game plan.

First up: Identify the problems.

Problem 1: Let’s say that I’ll be staying in the area for the next six months…I’ll need to have a job that can support me financially while offering the flexibility I would require for opportunities that may arise. Problem #1 has been solved, thanks, in part, to my employers (see Solution #1).

Problem 2: Habitat. Residency. Domicile. Whatever word you choose (and trust me, I sat here with Roommate and a thesaurus for a good five minutes), the fact remains the same: my lease is up, and I need a place to live. While other problems play a role, this is by far the greater issue.

Problem 3: Financial stability. Right now, I have none. If I were to sign for a third year, I would really have none. Negative none. And I can’t go on like that for long.  If I do go to France, I will need money to finance it, and if when I relocate, I’ll need to have money saved up in the case that I relocate without a job.

Ok, so now that we’ve identified the problems, let’s talk possible solutions.  The good thing is that I have options; the bad, I’m still uncertain which one to take. 

Solution #1: I had a meeting with my supervisor yesterday; they want to extend my assignment throughout the rest of the year, possibly longer.  They are fully aware that I’m seeking a job in my field and that I have plans to relocate, and if I find my “dream job,” as they put it, they encourage me to pursue it.  In the meantime, I was told, they would love to have me continue, even acquiring more responsibility. I told them that I would be more than happy to stay for as long as they might need me, but that I also had the opportunity to go abroad for a month.  That’s an opportunity you can’t pass up, they said, and it wouldn’t be a problem — as long as I come back, they would have my job waiting for me. 

It feels good to have established myself as a valuable employee, even as a temp, and having the support of your employers makes a world of difference. I could be cynical and say that maybe they’re making promises that they can’t keep, but that’s why I’m suddenly grateful that I’m working at a temporary agency — because it offers me the flexibility I need to inspire dreams and pursue opportunities that may never have been possible before.  In short, one way or another, whether at this placement or a new one, upon my return I’ll still have a job.  And that’s pretty reassuring.

Solution 2 and 3: These go hand in hand because what I decide as far as living arrangements will directly impact how I stand financially.  I have two options:

a) Find a place where the rent is substantially cheaper and that will allow for a shorter, possibly month by month lease. 

b) Move back home.

You know those “bang head here” signs that you see taped to the back of doors and desks? That’s kind of  how I feel when I think about the situation.

I love home. In fact, lately I find myself spending more time there than at my own place. It’s absolutely a comfort thing, I’ll admit it. When everything else is so uncertain, it’s my one stability, the place that will never change.

With that being said, however, I really, really, really don’t want to move back home. I value my independence, I like feeling like an adult and having a place to call my own, and I can’t tell you how much I don’t want to be a part of the statistic. And yet, it’s the only thing that makes responsible sense right now.

  • I will be saving $500+ a month on rent and utilities. Saving. Meaning, whatever I earn will actually go into my bank account. And stay there! Imagine that!
  • It will provide me with the additional flexibility I need — if I go abroad for a month, I won’t have to pay for an apartment I won’t even be in, and if I find a job, I can easily move without any stipulations.
  • My parents are cool. I’m really lucky that they are so supportive, and I know that they will respect the fact that I’m an adult (or at least trying to be).
  • I won’t have to give up Riley (which I wasn’t really willing to do anyway, but this is an added bonus). The only negative is having to separate from Mikey for awhile,  as a cat in the house is a no-no because of their dog; however, Mike is head-over-heels for Roommate’s cat anyway, so her taking both is one possibility, and I have some other friends who may be willing to take him in for awhile as another option. 

Well, now that I’ve just sorted everything out, the answer is clear. I don’t exactly know how I feel about it all yet — relieved? depressed? I’m not entirely sure. 

I do know that I feel optimistic now, as there are suddenly possibilities. I may not know exactly where I’m going, I may not have it all mapped out, but that just means that there’s room for flexibility and change. My plans are temporary and tentative, but they are serving as something to aim for, a direction to guide me as I navigate the next few months and move onto a new phase of my life.

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Just Get Yourself Free

July 28, 2008 at 4:57 pm (2008)

I don’t know why I’ve been in such a hurry for my career, for my life. I think that when I put everything into perspective, I’ve been doing just fine, and that what may seem slow to me is really just life catching up with the pace I’ve set for myself.

It seems to me that for our whole lives, we’re put on the fast track – you get a brief break when you’re born, but you don’t get to appreciate it because 1) you’re not really fully conscious of the world and 2) your daily routine consists of eating and sleeping…

Let’s take a moment to relish that thought.

Then you’re moving full steam ahead — forced into schedules filled with play dates and activities and 12 years of school before you’re encouraged instructed pressured into making a decision: jump into a career or go to college for more schooling. 

So your life is moving forward, with expectations and goals and plans, and when an unexpected lull like this occurs, you somehow think that you’ve fallen behind, that you’re failing.  And you’re left wandering around thinking, what the hell do I do next?

Make a plan.

For me, it’s the best answer. I’m a planner, I always have been, which is probably why this situation has been so difficult for me. 

I’ve tried throwing my hands up in the air and exclaiming, that’s it! No more planning; things will happen when they happen. But that theory lasted about two days before I looked for another course of action.

Other times, I’ve made plans only to have them change in ways I never expected.  This I can handle. The wandering, the wondering, I cannot.

There are so many changes coming up in the next few months – positive, exciting changes, but additional stressors nonetheless. My lease is up, I might be going to France for a month, and I want to move to another city so that I can begin a career.  While I’m grateful to have these opportunities, they have presented me with an array of questions that I just don’t know how to answer at the moment: Do I move now? Do I save money and then move? Do I settle down where I am and forget about moving? Do I forget about my dream entirely and forge another path for myself?

I’m having a really difficult time accepting that the last two are even options, but there they are, questions that I have to ask myself, regardless.  Things that I have to plan for.

I was talking with my parents’ neighbor yesterday. He asked me what I was up to and I explained that I was trying to figure out what to do and where to move.  His face kind of lit up with enthusiasm for me as he asked where I was planning on moving.  I told him I was thinking of Boston or New York – I wasn’t sure which city yet, but I needed to go to one of them for a career in publishing.

“Do you have friends in New York?” he asked.

“Nope.”

“How about in Boston?”

“Nope.”

“Wow.” He sounded surprised, and truly, when I really step back and think about it, so am I.  “You’re going to love it up there.”

Hopefully, once I figure out where “there” is.  He continued to ask me what I planned on doing in the meantime, and I explained that I may have the opportunity to go to France. 

“Do you have any friends over there?”

“Nope.”

He grinned, and I laughed at how ludicrous and exciting it all sounded. But this is the best way to do it, he said – move and travel and explore your options now, before you become attached and tied down and have a family.  

His wife came out then to tell him that their steaks were done cooking, and he wished me luck and said that he needed to get back “to do the family thing.”  But as he began to cross the yard towards his house, he said that if he could do it all over, he would.  Those words resonated with me more than anything else.

It has taken me a long time to get to this point – to the point where I’m ready to move forward with my dreams.  I’ve said time and time again that I don’t want to have any regrets, and I’m afraid that if I give up on my dream, that’s exactly what will happen.  Do I want a family? Do I want to be settled?  Absolutely. But I’m young, I’m single, and as much as I’d like to imagine it, I’m really nowhere near the point in my life where I actually want to be settled.

All this time I’ve been rushing to get my life started, never fully realizing that I’m right in the midst of it. I might not have achieved my success yet, I might not be where, years ago, I had imagined I would be, but I’m headed there. Slowly, but surely, I’m getting somewhere.

And that makes it all worth it.

 
Coming Soon: Make A New Plan, Stan

 

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The Cheshire Cat and A Little Black Dress

July 24, 2008 at 11:03 pm (2008)

Here’s the quandry: I’m trying to begin a career in the publishing industry.  What specific job I’m seeking has yet to be seen because I’m interested in learning every facet of the industry.  I love editorial, I don’t think I would mind acquisitions, I’m interested in publicity,  and I think I might like to become an agent later down the road.  I’m insatiably curious, and so I’m eager to learn as much as I can about the different areas of the industry.  And I don’t mean going to the local bookstore and picking up Publishing for Dummies —  I want the hands-on experience, the hustle and the bustle, the challenge.  I want a job.  I want to work

When I read all of these job postings for editorial assistants and associate editors, I immediately skim past what would be required of me and go to their list of recommended/required considerations.  Half the time, all that’s listed is “Bachelor’s degree in English/Communications/Journalism” and “some office experience.”  “Dude,” I say.  “I can do that.”  Because, really, I can.  If there’s anything that my temp work has shown me is that I catch on quickly to pretty much anything, and if I don’t know something, I’ll be the first to raise my hand and admit that I’m not the right person for the job.  But for this?  This I would be qualified for, and everything on my resume would seem to show that.  So, why no interest?  What’s the problem? 

There are a number of them, evidently.  Maybe my resume just isn’t good enough; maybe my cover letter isn’t catching their attention; maybe there are too many similarly qualified applicants.  Maybe it’s all of the above.  I have absolutely no idea why they bypass my application, but they do.  And because I could go on forever with the possibilities of what could be wrong with what I’m doing, I’ve narrowed it down to two blatantly glaring factors:

1) Location.  I’m not in the correct place for what I want to do, I know that.  I’m in small town USA and career opportunities for publishing are practically non-exsistent here.  If I could get a job with a small publishing company in my area, I think I would be happy — it would eliminate some of the stress of other, related situations as well as provide me with great experience.  However, there are only small niche publishing companies in the area and either they aren’t hiring or I haven’t met their expertise requirements.  Which leads me to:   

2) Experience.  I have experience — college experience, freelance experience, professional experience…For someone just starting out, I’d say I should be doing fine.  But then I start comparing myself to others and it’s all downhill from there.  Particularly when I’m comparing myself to someone who has had an internship.  Internships, it seems, is the new IT factor, the little black dress for recent grads — it’s what gets you in the door and leads to opportunities.  At least, having never had one, this seems to be the case.   

My school didn’t have a very good internship program for English majors.  In fact, I don’t think there even was one in place.  So I gained experience in the professional world by working during breaks in a bank.  Yes, yes…an English major at a bank.  I know.  I don’t regret the way this worked out because I did learn how to be professional, how to handle myself with customers, how to count manage money…I gained an appreciation for, and learned that I actually liked, the business aspect of things as it can be combined with the creative.  I actually think that this is why publishing has always appealed to me. 

So I don’t regret not having an internship, per se.  What I do think I missed out on, however, were the networking opportunities.  Because it’s becoming more and more apparent to me that who you know is more important than what you know (or can do, as the case may be).  However, as ideal as an internship would seem to be for all that it can do for you, it’s now completely out of the question.

I can barely afford to buy groceries, nevermind be able to finance a move to New York or Boston or some other city with no supplemental income whatsoever, even if it means losing the chance to make these professional connections.  There are many chances that I’m willing to take for a career, but (un?)fortunately, this is not one of them.

Which leads us to this: a link led me to this article, which is, more or less, what I’ve been shouting from the rooftops: “Today’s young graduates are often stuck in a classic Catch 22 situation: they need experience to get a job (since most international NGOs will not hire graduates without work experience), but they have no way of getting it without volunteering to work for free.”

As much as I hate to say it, I’m glad that I’m not the only one in this bind.  The Catch-22 reference applies to everything and everyone, it seems:

I can’t find a job unless I relocate, but I can’t relocate unless I find a job.

I can’t get the job unless I have experience, but I can’t get experience until I get the job.

And finally,

I don’t have the money to move for a job, but I won’t get the money unless I move for a job (and if I don’t have a job, I won’t make the money, which means I can’t move)

It’s a very exhausting cycle that, logically, has to be broken sooner or later.  If only it would happen sooner, rather than later, to get me started in some sort of direction.  Maybe if I get one thing going, the rest will fall in place behind me.

In the meantime, a little something to keep in mind:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where  you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where –” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
” – so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if only you walk long enough.”
                                  – Lewis Carroll, “Alice In Wonderland”

 

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