Tuesday, January 26, 2010

No Job? Volunteer

Yesterday I went to a volunteer information session. To start off, you always have to go around and say your name, what you do in grown-up life, why you're interested in the organization, etc. I've done this enough times to have a staple what-I-do joke ready. I say "My name is Betsy and my job is to find a job." People laugh. I'm pretty funny.

I do one of the first introductions, then listen as every single person after me also introduces himself or herself as unemployed — recently laid off, working part-time at a clothing store, whatever. From the little I gather about them, these people sound super educated. Between the five of us, we speak German, French, Mandarin, Spanish and Hebrew. I am the youngest and probably least educated person there.

In 2008, I left the country for a year just when our economy got really yucky. I heard a lot about the doom and gloom, but I wasn't around to see how the economy was affecting people's lives. Well now, here I am. Sitting at this table. These people are smart. These people have marketable skills. These people probably have plenty of solid work experience. These people do not have jobs.

On one hand, it makes me feel nice that as white do-gooders, we are all finding constructive things to do with our unemployed selves. By volunteering, we're making the world a better place, you know? But at the same time, I am remembering when someone told me "Just think. You don't have a job, and you have all these skills. Think about the people that don't have jobs and don't have any skills. You are much better off than them."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Dangers of Job Hunting*

I knew looking for a job would require fortitute, patience, and confidence. I knew it would require thick skin. I did not, however, know that my skin would have to be thick enough to withstand flying shards of glass.

Wait, what? Ok, rewind.

Folks say networking works in the job hunting game, so I've been trying my hand at it. I've been actively meeting new people in my field at events and such. Last night, my friend organized a tweetup at a sushi restaurant. We had a good time, met some cool people, were weirded out when a woman whipped out some Tupperware to take home the free salad leftovers. Things were winding down when a fight erupted closeby. Flying tables, broken glass, roaring tempers… it was time to get out of there.

We piled into my friend's car and started driving away when we saw another friend leaving the restaurant. The guys who started the fight started to approach him, so we tried to encourage him to get in the car so that we could all leave safely. Unfortunately, the dude had more fight left in him. He ran towards the car and judo kicked the back passenger window.

So that's where the glass shards come in. There were some minor injuries, but nothing that required major medical attention. It was mostly really freaking scary. If I hadn't gone to this tweetup, I never would have been involved. But I need a job. And I am going to keep looking for one, and I am going to keep going to tweetups. Apparently, I just need to build up my immunity to breaking glass.

*Thanks Anna for suggesting this title.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Moving Day Come Soon!

Today I picked up the keys for my new apartment and stopped by to check the place out one last time before the move. I stood in the empty shell of what will be my new home, and it felt so so good. I felt like amazing things might happen there.

I'm going to bring this back to Paris — don't act surprised. I started feeling myself in Paris when I had my very own space. Sure, it was an 8m x 8m teeny tiny room with a futon, peeling plaster and one bitty square window, but it was mine. I was free to close the door to the world around me, uninterrupted and typing like a madwoman and sipping cup after cup of tea. And I was free to open it and step outside and explore. Either way, it was my decision, and I took full advantage of that.

I crave this sort of freedom in Chicago, and soon I will have it. Except now I will have a room and windows twice as huge. All the more space for my big ideas and big dreams to grow behind my closed bedroom door. And that means bigger ideas and dreams to escape when I open it and step outside to explore.

Friday, January 08, 2010

My Adoration of Snow

One of my biggest complaints with Paris was the weather. Specifically, the winter weather. When I think about winter in Paris, I think mainly of icky grey skies and rain. Perhaps an occasional centimetre of snow, enough to get the Parisians in a tizzy, but nothing for this Midwestern-born girl to blog home about.

When I think winter, I think snow. Lots and lots of snow. The 10-inches-overnight kind. The traffic-ruining kind. The no-we-don't-get-a-snow-day-this-is-freaking-Chicago kind. The did-you-shovel-your-sidewalk-three-times-today? kind.

And, precisely one week after I removed my heaviest winter coat from its dry cleaning bag and coated my boot zippers with PAM cooking spray to loosen them up for the season, it is here. The snow is here.

Yesterday Chicago was put under a winter storm watch. It started snowing last night and hasn't stopped all day. And it's not going to stop all night, or tomorrow night maybe. Lucky for me, I don't have a car that could possibly get towed, nor do I have a job to commute to. So the snow isn't ruining my life as it is ruining other people's lives. Instead I shall focus on the minute details of my own simple life, which are mainly Nestle chocolate mint hot cocoa, not slipping and falling on my runs, and reveling in the fact that right now, Chicago is the only place in the world I want to be.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

December 31, 2008

Part 1:

When 2008 came to an end, I was standing in my own apartment in a room full of people I didn't know. I was dressed as Parisian as I could pull off, thus as colorless as possible: black dress, black tights, black shoes. Due to some roommate tension, the night had not started off well. But I was moving out the next day, so I did my best to forget about it and enjoy myself. At midnight, there was champagne and kisses on the cheeks for everyone.

The last few months of 2008 had been tough. I had moved to Paris. I hadn't made many friends. I was getting ready to move for the third time. I still stumbled over my French. I felt like I was barely keeping my head above water in the classroom, even though I had been teaching since October. I felt sorry for myself a lot.

But a lot changed in 2009. I immediately hit it off with my new roommate. My French started improving, as did my teaching. I started writing and exploring and living Paris more. The last time I felt sorry for myself in Paris was when I knew I had to leave.

Part 2:

When 2009 came to an end, I was standing in a room full of people, most of whom I hardly knew. I was in America now, so I dressed it: my dress and shoes were red and gold. As Jake's cell phone ticked to midnight, he opened our $6 bottle of champagne. I clicked red Solo cups with the people around me. I gave someone his first high five of 2010.

The last few months of 2009 had not been particularly easy. I didn't have my own apartment yet. I missed Paris, and sometimes still dreamed in French, or accidentally started to speaking French when ordering at a restaurant. I was only keeping my head above water by freelancing and temping as I looked for a job.

I couldn't yet tell a lot would change in 2010. Maybe I would find a writing job and would be able to afford to explore and live Chicago more. Maybe it would be some more time before that happened. But at least one thing had changed dramatically since December 31, 2008. I only sometimes feel sorry for myself.