Update

Alright, here’s the deal.

Since I last updated, a few things have happened. I would say I’m gonna keep this short and sweet, but we all know that’s not happening, so why pretend.

1. I turned 23. Not super exciting, actually was freakishly similar to turning 22 (spent the weekend alone with the dog, made my own cake, generally basked in the glow of quiet and frosting and wine).

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2. I have 2 part-time jobs at 2 non-profits. I think I mentioned that, so really I’m just saying…I still have them. They’re both kind of fake full-time jobs in that I pack about 40 hours worth of work into 20, which translates into a Saturday that is 90% sleep. And while they are both really great jobs, it gets a little difficult after a while to not feel like a part-time human being. I’ve also decided I consider my job too much a part of my identity. Not really sure how to fix that yet.

3. I applied to grad school for food studies.

4. I got into grad school.

5. I officially enrolled at Boston University and will begin my MLA in Gastronomy (Food Policy concentration) program this fall. I’ll be a part-time student, because I’m trying this new thing where I don’t get myself into 7 different jobs at one time. It’s a whole new world.

Preach.

Aside: Grad school applications were not hard and it was one of the most anticlimactic things ever. I got an email on a Friday afternoon on the train home telling me I got in, I said “oh good, so I can start planning my fall now,” signed some papers and that was it. I think this means I’m an adult. Or something like it.

6. I went back to Florence with my brother for Christmas. We ate all the gelato. I had a few panic attacks. Not necessarily in that order.

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7. The Boston Marathon happened. And then the Friday lockdown happened. So that was deep-down-in-your-soul terrifying. But it also showed how wonderful, strong and generally badass the city of Boston is, and that was pretty great wicked awesome.

8. I just went to NYC for work and remembered why I so, so, so dislike it. But I ate amazing things like morel vinaigrette and roasted radishes and porgy (the fish), so that made up for it. Also spent most of it talking about the amazing organization I work for, so it was mostly a plus.

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9. I’m going to South Africa in a week to visit one of my best friends who is there for Peace Corps. Because I don’t pay rent and I’m 23 and I can! Also so that I can start planting seeds about how awesome Boston is and all the reasons she should move there post-PC. True story.

Is this post a little disjointed? Probably. My brain doesn’t have much capacity left to fit in anything else. Thus the blogging hiatus. I’d like to say that’s going to change, but it’s not. I’m not shutting the blog down or anything, but I’m not going to be updating with any kind of frequency or regularity. Just FYI.

Here. Have some gratuitous pictures of Florence.

So.

Hi.

The last time I updated, if memory serves, I was about to go to Seattle for a food conference, I had no job and was getting towards the end of an internship.

A few things have changed.

The conference was great. But it was also one of the most fatiguing experiences I’ve had in recent memory. It was 3 days of relatively non-stop talking/running around like a crazy/losing my phone every 5 minutes/eating. It was awesome, and very educational, but OH.MY.GOD. I got to the end of the second day and literally just sat on the bathroom floor crying for five minutes for absolutely no reason other than overwhelmed-ness. Worth it, though. And I heard Ruth Reichl speak, which was very cool. Gotta love her. (You can watch a clip of her keynote speech here if you are so moved! You might need to have Facebook, fyi.) And then I got on the plane and died. Well, almost – I had a raging feve rthat caused me to shake/shiver violently for the entire 6-hour cross-country flight, at the end of which my body was in an agony I have never felt before and hope never to feel again. I have no earthly idea how I drove home and kept myself in one piece. Then I slept. And promptly woke up with a severe allergic reaction to I don’t even know what that caused the right back side of my neck to swell up like an egg.

Yeah, I was looking GOOD that week.

On the bright side, I also came home to a job. The Dedham School of Music, a local non-profit to which I have several different connections, was in desperate need of an organized office person and I was all, you know, there and stuff. It’s part-time and my responsibilities run from the newsletter and social media to grant writing, and it’s just me and the Executive Director so it’s a nice environment and a great cause. Yay music!

And then my internship ended. And then I got another part-time job with Chefs Collaborative, the organization I started working with as an intern last year and with whom I went to Seattle (it was their conference). I am also the organized office person there, and do much of the same activities as my other job but for an organization that speaks far more to my interests – yay food!

It’s a pretty good set-up. Quite frankly, it’s just so nice to be paid for working I have really no complaints. Not exactly a long-term fix, but I don’t really think at 23 I necessarily want to be in the job I’ll have forever. Maybe that sounds dumb. I don’t know.

I’m also in the process of applying for graduate school. (This program. Fingers crossed, please.) I’ll ramble more about that later.

The election is over. No more ads. MA has an awesome new senator. It’s all good. (Boo on Prop 37. California, that was a fail.)

OH. AND I’M GOING TO FLORENCE AFTER CHRISTMAS. IT’S KIND OF A BIG DEAL. IMSOEXCITEDAAAAAAAAAH.

There’s that.

As usual, I have a lot of thoughts to share about all of these developments. But since we’re all just barely resurfacing from our Thanksgiving food comas, I won’t delve into them all now. Instead, look at this adorable puppy picture.

That’s all.

Dream

Since I’ve come home, I’ve been having intensely vivid dreams every night. I’m prone to these dreams anyway, but I don’t usually have them so frequently or regularly, and they’re really getting old. I wake up completely disoriented and more tired than one should be after solid sleep. And sometimes they really screw with my head.

One of the more common ones I’ve been having involve time. I dream that I’ve woken up too early and tell myself to go back to sleep, or I dream that I wake up and start my day – and it’s so real that I don’t realize it’s a dream. It’s just not comfortable.

My mother made an off-handed comment that finally made these make sense: “You must be worried about time.”

Well, that’s a duh. I’m going to Seattle on Friday, have grad school applications to prep, letters to write, jobs to find, and it basically all revolves around time. Or perhaps a perceived lack thereof. The job stuff especially, because I feel like it has to be handled so delicately.

(I’m going to Seattle for the 2012 Chefs Collaborative Sustainable Food Summit. Ruth Reichl is the keynote speaker. Amazing chefs will be there. I’m running registration. It’s gonna be awesome. Follow me & the Collab on twitter – we’ll be doing lots of live tweeting! #natlsum12)

Oh yeah, and I’ve decided grad school is happening. More to be discussed about that later.

I think one of the greatest obstacles I’ve had to acknowledge and deal with is the two very contradictory messages I’ve been getting about careers.

On the one hand, people tell me “you’re young with your whole life ahead of you – stop worrying about finding the right job and just focus on getting one!”. And then there is this whole other camp – the YOLOs – preaching the whole “life is short, live your dream, don’t settle, <insert inspirational cliche here>.” Basically, pick something because you can always change your mind…but remember what you do now defines what you will do for the rest of your life, so don’t make the wrong decision. Live in the moment…oh, but remember that the next moment will be an aftereffect of this one so try not to screw it up. Keep calm & carry on…but if you don’t focus on what you want right now you’ll really regret it later.

It’s taken me a while to articulate that, but those two forces are pretty strong in our culture, and I’ve been getting two earfuls of both of them. And the funny thing is, neither camp seems to be aware of the other. Yet combined, they’ve left me feeling confused, disoriented, and really really really overwhelmed.

After a year of interning and doing everything from grant-writing to chive-chopping, I hoped I would have a clearer idea of a career goal or at the very least, a clearer idea of what I want to do next. And other than the conclusion that it’s time to go to grad school, I feel less clear than ever about what I want to do, in no small part because I’m overwhelmed with options. (In fact I recently bought this book at a commenter’s recommendation; I haven’t gotten far enough into yet but I’m hoping it helps, even if only a little – I’m sure I will review it soon!)

I have so many interests and ideas and passions (although I’m getting sick to death of using that word), and that makes me feel a little bit like a phony. Like I can’t be fully committed to one thing when I love another just or almost as much. I guess it’s especially hard for me to accept this, because I so strongly prefer to focus on one thing at a time – that said, this is coming from someone who apparently can’t help but hold at least 2 jobs at once (and usually more like 4), and those jobs themselves involve simultaneously balancing different projects. But when I write cover letters to all these different organizations and companies for so many different positions, I feel like they will just look at me and think, what a liar. She’s totally more interested in doing something else.  I know I would excel at any of the jobs I apply to, because I’m an overachieving perfectionist with a pathological need to please others before myself. I just feel like I’m running out of different ways of trying to communicate that. [Seriously, people. You have no idea what you’re missing by not hiring me.]

I was really hoping that this year would excite and energize me, make me look forward to all the options ahead, help me find a dream. But it didn’t. I’m exhausted, and the only dreams I have are screwy and disorienting. I do not regret what I’ve done this year for a second; I know I needed to a) not be in school for the first time in 20 years and b) see what the professional world is like and get some actual experience in it. It just didn’t result in what I hoped it would. [Yeah yeah, welcome to life, blah blah blah.]

I don’t know which side is right. Maybe neither. Maybe both. I can’t be the only person feeling the pressure of both. I will figure this out on my own, in my own time, for no other reason than because I have to. This post has no other point than to say “guys. this is dumb.” So thanks for listening.

And at least now that I’ve figured it out, maybe the dreams will stop. Or, you know, I just cleared up brain space for my dreams to focus on my irrational fear of rejection. Super.


The California Experiment

Let me start at the end. I’m not in California anymore. I moved back home to Massachusetts at the beginning of August after a very long, confusing, and painful month of July. I’m finally able (I think) to write about the whole experience and why I left, so here goes.

My decision to go to California was based on a lot of different things. For one, I’ve been hearing for quite some time from many different people how much I would like the West Coast. My dad is from NorCal, but most of my time spent there was before the age of 12 (it gets expensive to fly a family of 4 across the country more than every couple of years!) and my memories of it were scattered and few, making it a new place to explore. After living Italy – and moving back here – I found I was craving that sense of adventure, of exploring another culture, and that prospect was very exciting to me.  It’s also the birthplace of the sustainable food movement in America, so it seemed like a good place for me to continue my whole good-food-career journey. When I got the internship with MESA, it seemed like the right choice, or at least one of many right choices I could make: it would give me greater depth of knowledge about the agriculture side of sustainable food, I could build an organization’s social media strategy from the ground up, and it was in Berkeley. Visions of Chez Panisse danced in my head.

I didn’t go there with it in mind to “recreate” my experience in Florence, but I think to an extent I expected some similarities between the 2 here and there, not the least of which being the enjoyment of a little independence. Ok, ok, and really good food. (And by good, I mean local & sustainably-raised. Delicious is redundant.)

I went to Florence to heal, to get away, and ended up finding myself. I came to California hoping to find more of myself, and ended up getting more lost than ever.

I spent the month leading up to my move mentally preparing myself for the transition, something I’ve trained my introverted & highly-sensitive brain to do in such circumstances. I prepared to learn a new public transportation system, to find some kind of job, to learn as much as possible about the non-profit I was interning with, and to search for a little more clarity regarding my career path.

What I didn’t prepare for – the horridly uncomfortable living situation, the stress of managing 2 internships in one of the most expensive areas of the country, the fact that I had to do everything completely and fully alone – caught me off my guard.

But I have learned a great deal, and it has made the experience worth it.

  • I process things at a ridiculously slow rate. It’s annoying, but it’s also not changing, so I better learn to accept it and deal.

I’m pretty sure this is something everyone does, but I only just became cognizant of how incredibly slow I am with sorting out my feelings and thoughts about, er, most things. We’re talking months. And it’s a real bitch. It often means not taking chances and thinking a LOT before doing, and possibly missing some great opportunities in the process. But now that I’m aware of it, I can give myself the necessary time to deal with things. I’m sure there are people who disapprove, but this is important for my sanity, so I really don’t care.

  • Your gut is right. If you don’t love it or it’s not right, move on. Doesn’t matter what ‘it’ is.

I experienced some pretty intense culture shock, which is not something I’ve really ever come up against. And this was perplexing for many reasons, including 1) I’ve traveled to 9 different countries (and all over this one) and have never really felt culture shock before and 2) I did NOT think it would happen when I’m still in my own country, but it does and it did. And when the culture shock receded and I started learning more about the culture itself, I experienced something else completely new: I did not fit. I felt like a puzzle piece that was being shoved into the wrong part of the puzzle, and this was a very interesting feeling. There is plenty about Italy (and Florence) I could have done without, but it felt like home from day 1. Same happened with my college in South Carolina. They weren’t perfect, but I always felt more or less at home. But the entire 4 months I was in California it just felt…wrong. I don’t really know why. It’s a lovely place to live. The people are very nice. It just wasn’t the right place. And when you’re getting paid next to nothing and living in other people’s subletted living room, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to stay there.

  • I FINALLY understand why people don’t leave their hometowns.

This might make me sound like an asshole, but I swear I don’t intend this to sound condescending: I never really understood why so many people never leave the area where they grew up. And part of this is the fact that both of my parents did leave – my dad is from California and my mom is from Georgia – so I kind of grew up thinking they were the norm, and then I found out they were NOT, and I was kind of…confused. (Until second grade I also thought it was the norm for everyone’s mom to have 2 sisters and everyone’s dad to have 2 brothers like my parents, so I probably should have put 2 and 2 together a little sooner. Like I said…slow to process.) But when I went off to college, I was very specific about wanting to try living in a different part of the country. And I thought of studying abroad as a kind of requirement. I’m very pro-try new things/live in new places. And then I moved to a place where I really didn’t feel like I could identify with the culture, where I felt completely out of place, and I got it. Feeling like that, like a permanent foreigner, is HARD. Building a new network, a new friend group, a new life in a place that you don’t completely get, especially if you have to do it alone? It’s a unique kind of hell, and I do not blame anyone for avoiding it. It sucks. Really, I think I understand how important “place” is; even if I don’t stay in Boston, I do know that where I end up will have to be somewhere I can comfortably and confidently call “home.” It seems I just wasn’t Berkeley enough.


What it’s really come down to is that I simply can’t handle living my life on a temporary, month-by-month basis anymore. And maybe I should be able to. Maybe some think I should suck it up and accept this stage of my life, but I disagree and in this particular case, my opinion is the only one that matters. For the last five damn years I haven’t stayed in the same place for longer than 6 months. A very significant chapter of my life closed when I graduated college, and I was completely unprepared for the emotional side effects of that transition. Seriously, NO ONE told me that it was like dealing with a death. It is. It has taken me a full year to come to terms with that.

I am finishing my internship with WiserEarth virtually. At the moment I’m looking at all my options, including AmeriCorps, Teach For America, teaching English abroad, and of course, grad school. I am trying (but mostly failing) to be optimistic, but the ugly truth is I don’t know what I want to do. I may love food, but the movement behind it doesn’t seem to love me back, and I feel like it’s time to go back to the drawing board. I really, really hate being 22.

Instead of leaving it on that note, I’ll leave it on a better one. Frank is so much nicer to listen to.

#firstworldproblems

It wasn’t a great week.

I started to write two blog posts, only to realize I didn’t have the right pictures.

Every time I’m in San Francisco, I miss Boston a little bit more.

Work had its ups and downs. More downs than ups.

My building’s laundry machine just stopped working. After I lost one quarter under the machine. And 3 more dollars-worth of quarters trying to get it to work.

I miss my damn dog.

And when I decided to try out a local bakery because I had seen three different tv show episodes that prominently featured a large, amazing-looking cake swathed in that buttercream I love so much…

That failed too. Note to fellow North Berkeley residents – unless you prefer your buttercream frosting to taste like they took a stick of unsalted I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and spread that over some overly-sweet cornbread, don’t go here for your cake needs. Just don’t.

The world didn’t end. I got nothing on the starving children in Africa. Just one of those weeks where everything that could go wrong and/or rub me the wrong way, did. And I can see quite clearly that I’m headed for a “why am I even here” breakdown in the very near future. [Read: Mom, keep your phone handy.]

I’d really like to say something grandiose or at least articulate about how “this too shall pass.”

It’s not in me today.

On the plus side, I got my hair cut. I discovered a new flavor of kombucha to try. I got a pretty new dress. I made friends with the mailman. I have a crap ton of fresh basil in the fridge. And I started reading a new cookbook I hope to discuss here soon.

Feeling angsty/lackluster/self-indulgent this week? Do share.

It’s Complicated

Or, Why I’m Not In Napa Right Now.

I graduated one year ago from Converse College with a BA in English and a plan to enroll in the Baking & Pastry degree program at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, California.

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That’s the one.

After a major health crisis the fall of my junior year and a semester abroad in Florence, Italy the following spring, I got fed up with not listening to what I really wanted instead of what I thought I should do and embraced my inner food nerd. I took some classes, I read a lot of books, and allowed myself to proclaim my love for baking loud and proud. I visited the CIA’s NY campus, then their Greystone campus in Napa, and I was hooked.

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There are a lot of reasons why culinary school/baking felt right for me. First of all, I was dying to be surrounded by people who love food as much as I do. I was absolutely desperate to learn more about classical baking techniques – especially yeast breads. One of my many dream jobs is to own a bakery – preferably somewhere in Italy, in a little shop with an apartment over it that I can live in (think Chocolat.). The craft itself fits my personality – it’s all about measuring and numbers and getting everything exactly right. The hours were very attractive; I’d much prefer to have a work day that goes from 2 AM to 10 and have the whole day to take naps in the sun. [I’m dead serious. I love working in the middle of the night. Most of my best writing happens then.] Even the way the class schedules worked was right; the CIA has a block schedule where you take one class at a time for an intensive 4-6 weeks every day. That is precisely how I prefer to learn; I can multitask, but I absolutely hate it, and the thought of being able to focus all my attention on one subject was quite relieving. [<—Introverts. ‘S how we roll.]

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And to top it all off, it was in St. Helena, where my idol M.F.K. Fisher spent many years of her life. [Wrote my senior thesis on her book How to Cook a Wolf, memorized her entire life story, generally worship her every word.]

If all had gone to plan, I would be standing in a school kitchen with my whites and non-slip shoes, hanging on every word out of my chef-professor’s mouth right this very second.

Obviously, something changed.

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First there was my  restaurant, ahem, experience, otherwise known as Gillian Learns How to Quit a Job. Then there was another food prep internship – I pretty much hated that one, too. What I realized was that for all that I love spending hours in the kitchen trying new recipes and learning new things, that was only a part of who I am. A very wise boss/friend who had a similar experience said it best: my relationship with food is so much more complex than just its preparation. My real passion for food comes from my awe of its “basic-ness;” that something so essential to our lives can have so much embedded meaning and history is, I think, incredibly exciting.

And it is for that reason why I fell so happily into place in the sustainable food movement. It is about so much more than just “eating local.” It’s about knowing the person who pulled your carrots out of the ground, who fed the cow that produced your milk, who collected the eggs that go into your quiche. It’s about respecting your self, and respecting the food that gives your health and energy every day. It’s about discovering the narrative running under every meal and every bite. With food comes stories, and there’s always a new one to tell. That is what I love. And that’s why working towards a safe, fair and sustainable food system makes me so happy.

Yes, there are graduate programs where I can study the subject in the traditional way, but I’m not ready to go back to that life. Not yet. It is not out of the question, but in all honesty, just the thought of returning to those days of essay writing and endless readings  and exam-cramming exhausts me. Sure, I’m good at the academic stuff, but if this – I’m sorry, I have to say it – journey has taught me nothing else, it’s the importance of focusing on what I want, not what I “should” do. At some point, I may decide that a graduate program will get me where I want to go. But right now, I think I’ve found myself where I want to be.

And with that said, I think I’ll go search for a new cookie recipe to try this weekend. Because some things never change.

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The Wiser Choice

You know you are on the road to success if you would do your job, and not be paid for it.

– Oprah

My apologies for the lack of post yesterday – let’s just say, it was a rough week, and a long one at that. Yesterday’s activities included a long walk, delivery sushi, cookies (!), and lots of mindless television. Just what the doctor ordered.

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I thought now might be a good time to explain what, exactly, I do at my internship with WiserEarth.

When I made the decision to move out here for another internship, the first thing I started to focus on was finding a paying job. I took a weekend to fly out and look at apartments here, and managed to schedule a couple job interviews  – but none of them worked out. When one of them followed up with me, I was informed that I was one of hundreds of applicants – for a part-time administrative position. Great.

I realized that though I know I am capable of doing a job just as well if not better than most people, employers looking at my resume will be much harder to convince. I was feeling completely lost about what direction I wanted to go in – stick with social media? branch out into public relations? stay in the non-profit sector, or just look for a company I like? In the midst of this career identity crisis, a couple people mentioned off-hand that I might consider getting into grant writing. Between my writing skills and my insistence on working for something (not just someone), it made a lot of sense. And what better way to get into a field than internships? If it ain’t broken, right?

I’m pretty sure this was meant to happen, because when I searched for “grant writing internship” in the Bay Area, one popped up immediately: WiserEarth, a non-profit based in Sausalito, was looking for a grant writing intern – and it was paid. I’m not sure I could have asked for a more exact fit. I honestly didn’t think I would get it, but it sounded a lot better than waitressing or answering phones and I’m a huge proponent of the “why not?” mindset.

I flew out here on a Tuesday; I had an interview with the Executive Director on Friday, and was offered the position on the spot. THAT was a good day. It took a week to figure out the commute, which is…well, we’ll just call it “scenic,” but overall it’s been a really wonderful experience so far.

WiserEarth is essentially the “green Facebook” – its website, Wiser.org, is the social network for sustainability. (Its nickname is Wiser – just easier to say!) It was founded in 2007 by Paul Hawken, who is kind of a big deal in the environmental/social entrepreneur scene. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel just a tad stupid when I didn’t know who he was before, but luckily my mother knew exactly who he is and enlightened me. ANYway, WiserEarth was founded based on the idea that there are a bajillion people and organizations out there working towards very similar (if not the exact same) goals, but they have no idea each other exists. Just imagine if all of these like-minded organizations all over the world had a place to talk to each other, share resources, say “this is what worked for us, this is what we accomplished, etc etc etc” – their progress and impact would be so much greater. This concept is one I just love – I’ve been in the non-profit sector long enough that I have often thought, “damn, X and X organizations should really work together to get this done.” The other major project of ours is the WiserLocal programs, which are meetings that happen in various cities all over the world where individuals can meet colleagues in their areas and do exactly what they can do on the website, but in person. The idea is that through collaborations, people & their organizations can make a much greater impact, and while the global network of connections is important, the local level is where all of these solutions can actually be carried out. Everything is free, and our data is open-source so it can be repurposed by organizations who need a similar infrastructure but can’t pay for it. [Side note: My job is largely to communicate all of that, usually within a character/word limit, and make it even more coherent than that…it is NOT easy!]

My work there is all development, all the time – I research potential new foundations for grants, write letters of inquiry for grant proposals, assist in the actual writing of the proposals, and work in most aspects on the fundraising/donor support for the organization. I was hired first and foremost for my writing skills, and I love that – especially since I get to do a lot of proofreading, which I really enjoy. [I even got paid to do it in college. THAT was awesome.] Since starting in March, I’ve written my first LOI, helped write mid-year and closing reports for past grants, see the beginnings of a major donor campaign, and done TONS of grant/foundation-related research. And for reasons I am still trying to uncover…I really like it. This is another post entirely, but I find the whole fundraising world really interesting and that is not something I ever saw coming, like, ever. Seriously. WTF, me.

All jobs have their flaws, but I have really enjoyed the work I’ve been doing at Wiser overall. It’s not sustainable-food-focused, but the nice thing is that it is about sustainability in general, so it’s included under a larger umbrella. It’s also just an awesome organization to work with. Besides the fact that it’s a global network (making my inner travel junkie very happy) for a cause that makes so much sense to me, it’s a very well-run operation. Especially so considering our staff of 7 is literally all over the world: besides the ED and program director here in the Bay Area, our marketing/communications director is in Paris, our online community manager is in Australia, and we have three other staff in India, Indonesia and West Africa, respectively. We have interns everywhere (China, Germany, and the US at the moment), and an incredible number of awesome volunteers. I have been SO impressed with the responsiveness and constant self-evaluation of the leadership- the phrase “small but mighty” describes Wiser very well.

It’s definitely been a whirlwind, and I’m a little confused as to how it is JUNE right now, but I’m just trying to go with the flow and learn as much as I possibly can.

Now, did all of this make sense? Because I’m dead serious when I say most of my job is about explaining what Wiser does in as few words as possible, and I am ALWAYS looking for feedback as to how I can make it clearer. So let me know if I can clarify anything – it helps me! I think that just about covers it. Have a lovely end of your weekend!

As usual, all original sources of the photos are linked to the photo itself!

Hippie Digs

Moving is a bitch. It really, really is. I hate it. I basically stop sleeping the entire week before, I can’t concentrate on anything other than making packing lists on Excel, and my room looks like a closet threw up everywhere – violently. Unfortunately for me, choosing the internship path requires a rather nomadic lifestyle. Despite my best efforts to find one place to live for the duration of my internships here, well, you know…life happens. Landladies turn out to be crazy. Internships meet early ends. Life.

I moved on Friday to a new sublet, where I’ll be for the next two months. Apparently, my life “happens” in two-month increments. It’s swell.

The new place is completely and totally different from the last place, mostly in good ways. I was renting a spare room in a house, living with the house’s owner; now, I’m subletting the bottom floor of a small apartment and living with a fellow subletter (he’s in the actual bedroom, upstairs). I thought a tour of my new hippie digs might be in order:

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My “room” (the living room) is behind the curtain – but first, my bathroom, which is directly to your right when you enter the house:

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I didn’t wake up long before this was taken…don’t judge. And yes, I need a haircut. And probably less tea.

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Next, we have the kitchen [YAY!]. Small but totally workable for two people with very different schedules.

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The kitchen has 2 doorways (you could hopefully kind of tell) – one from the entrance, and one that goes into the living room. I took over the table for my groceries, as it is a shared kitchen, and you’re more or less in “my room” when you step outside the kitchen:

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[Sorry about the lighting! But you get the gist.]

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Groceries! At least, the non-refrigerated stuff.

As for the actual room:

hippie digs (1)

hippie digs (11)

The renters were nice enough to set up a bed for me, which is very comfortable. (In the last place, I slept on an air mattress on the floor courtesy of my family here.) The closet is collapsible/portable and takes a grand total of 5 minutes, if that, to set up. My family here also dug that up for me, and it’s been awesome to have as both a space-saver and an easy way to store my clothes outside of a suitcase/boxes. It’s obviously a little difficult to have a neat and clean looking room with the renters’ living room furniture there as well, but I have an uncanny ability to turn off my OCD-everything-must-be-in-its-place sensor when I really need to. (I learned how to do it in college – don’t tell me higher education isn’t useful.) Figuring out the computer desk situation has been the biggest obstacle, as I work from home two days a week, but I’ve got that figured out with the help of chair cushion pads.

I’m probably most proud of this, though:

hippie digs (10)

The living room is wide open to the entrance/stairs to the 2nd floor, so I knew I needed to create some kind of room divider that would give me a little more privacy – but I was not about to spend 80-100 bucks on an actual “room divider”. So, I went to Target and bought some steel wire, curtain hooks and a cheap sheet set (sheets, fyi, are cheaper than curtains) and made a DYI room divider using those hooks you can stick to the wall and remove without leaving marks. Concerning most things, I am my mother’s child – but this idea was 100% dad-esque. For $25 bucks, I have all the privacy I need. BOOM.

It’s nothing permanent [duh], but it fits the bill for another 2-month stay, it’s vastly more comfortable than my last situation, AND I’m saving quite a bit of money on rent. I’m pretty much just chalking up all this constant moving to building character. (For the record – this sublease ends July 31st, at which point I will know if I should actually find a permanent living place in San Francisco/North Bay, or if I need to find another sublet until October, when my internship with WiserEarth is set to end.)

Now that I feel a bit more comfortable in my living space, I intend to return to the kitchen. I haven’t baked – at all – in two months. This from the girl who baked at least once or twice a week while living at home. You can imagine how ready I am to jump into a bag of flour head-first. I cannot WAIT to go through the few cookbooks I have with me and start flagging down recipes to try.

I have a couple posts planned for later this week (she’s BACK, baby), with slightly less rambling than this – right now I’m thinking of publishing new posts every Monday, Wednesday & Saturday. A little random, perhaps, but that’s what seems like will work best for the time being. Anyway, I thought you might like to see my new digs and my hippie Bizerkeley lifestyle.

As I spent all of Friday moving, today is not a vacation day for me and I’d best get back to my to-do list – hope you enjoyed the tour! Smile

And of course…

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!

 

P.S. – did you notice the new site address? That’s right – I finally bit the bullet and bought my own domain: http://whenbreadisbroken.com ! No www – I figured that would make it a little easier/quicker to get to. Woohoo!

Experience Preferred

Internships. They’re a pretty hot topic nowadays, what with the recent court cases and all. And I can’t say as I’m surprised that this controversy is hitting the fan now, when my newsfeed is consistently being bombarded with articles all about how completely and totally screwed my generation is job-wise.

The real issue is about – what else? – money. Companies – for- and non-profit alike – strapped for cash in the current economic climate realized that unpaid internships were a win-win: college kids get that oh-so-desirable “real world experience” for their resumes, and they get work done at no cost to them. The trouble is with the guidelines for internships from the US Dept. of Labor, which state that unpaid internships have to do 6 things:

  1. The training has to be educational in nature – i.e., similar to what a student might receive in school,
  2. the internship is for the benefit of the intern first and foremost,
  3. the intern isn’t displacing any other employees – they might be supplementing work, but they’re not doing anything that’s not being done by a regular paid employee,
  4. the employer providing training gets no immediate benefit from the intern’s work – and, in fact, may actually be at somewhat of a loss for it (because of time, effort, mistakes made, etc.),
  5. the intern is not entitled to a job at the end, AND
  6. both employer & intern understand that the intern is not entitled to getting paid for their time.

Let’s be frank here – a very large majority of organizations run on intern support, and there is no way all of them adhere to these written rules. I know this from experience. I’ve been working for free for one full year now, and I’m on my sixth and seventh internships – the latter of which is the first one I’ve had that is stipended (“paid” – nowhere near enough to live on, but it covers my grocery bill and a few other expenses here and there). I didn’t learn about these “guidelines” until I was on my fifth internship, and found them very…thought-provoking, at the least.

Up to now, I’ve been pretty lucky with my various positions in that either they were fantastic, positive, and highly beneficial experiences for both me and the employer, or they sucked badly enough that I wasted no time in quitting. In fact, in a strange way the “unpaid” aspect can play to your benefit – if the internship is a poor fit or just not working out, it is MUCH easier to have the talk with your employer when you can say “it’s not working, and you’re not paying me, so…PEACE.”

Recently I’ve found myself in quite a different position, one that really doesn’t adhere to many of those guidelines up there (except, maybe, number 5). Don’t worry, I won’t be suing anyone any time soon, it’s just a matter of confrontation, which is not something I particularly enjoy. It’s not quite time to go into details, but suffice it to say: I’m in a bit of a pickle.

There’s another even more interesting issue at work here: who can afford to work without pay – and how do their friends and peers see them?

It’s ironic, really, that I (or anyone) should feel guilty and spoiled for working without pay for any amount of time, but that is precisely how I’ve felt. It was one thing to do them while I was living at home – that made perfect sense. But the reaction I get when I tell people I moved to one of the most expensive places in the US for an unpaid internship is a little more difficult to play down. No, it’s not normal that I’m able to do this – just like it’s not normal to have graduated from college without loans – and that can be downright embarrassing to discuss. I see myself as very fortunate to be in the position that I’m in, and that I’m in such an oddly financially-on-top-of-things family. I don’t see myself as spoiled – but I do think that’s how others will/do see me, and that’s a difficult and complicated thing to face.

When I read this article, it was absolutely cathartic. Hell, I could’ve written it myself. This quote especially had me nodding vigorously:

…I can’t even count the number of times people told me “it’s ridiculous that your parents are just letting you live in the city and make no money.” But was it ridiculous? In today’s world you’re expected to graduate with internship experience and if my parents decided to spend their hard-earned money paying for me to live in NYC and reach my dreams, was it wrong for me to take that opportunity? Should I have spent my summer waitressing instead? I don’t want to come off like a whiny bitch, but I want some answers on why I should feel bad that my family can afford this. Isn’t complaining about unpaid internships the same as complaining to a friend when her family goes on a week long resort vacation?

Furthermore, internships are becoming increasingly expected – I can’t tell you how many position descriptions I’ve read that say “previous experience in _____________ preferred.” That really pisses me off. You’re not paying me, but you expect me to have experience? WHY DO YOU THINK I’M APPLYING FOR AN INTERNSHIP? That, to me, just screams “fun with exploitation.” So if you oversee interns and you’re reading this, take note – nothing makes you look more like an ass than those 2 little words, “experience preferred.”

So if internships are so problematic, why bother? I could’ve gone to grad school. I could’ve spent a year teaching English in another country. I could’ve chosen a dozen other paths…but I didn’t. First of all, I kind of fell onto this path without realizing it. When I was planning to attend culinary school, getting food prep experience was an entry requirement, so that was my first step. Then my entire post-grad summer fell apart, and I was just looking for things to do; volunteering sounded good, and then I learned about internships, and boom! here I am. And you know what?

It’s been pretty awesome. I have learned SO MUCH in the last year – everything from social media best practices for non-profits, to how to recognize when it’s time to quit a job. These experiences have been more valuable than any advanced degree I could’ve pursued, and quite frankly have given me more clarity on what I want to do with my life than I could have found in any classroom. I am so, so grateful that I’ve been able to do this for the past year – it has been beyond worth the cost.

BUT – and there’s always a but – I’m kinda done working for free. I am coming to realize that all this experience has paid off, and I am incredibly well-prepared to start a real job. I’m young, have lots of energy to put into my work, have tons of ideas, and yet all that fancy book-learnin’ I got in college is still fresh in my memory. I really think there should be more recognition of the psychological toll of working for free on employers’ parts. To all my fellow interns out there, just remember: it’s a two-way street. Yes, you want experience – but they also want the free labor. The second you stop getting something out of the experience, whether it’s knowledge, connections, or skills, you need to rethink your time there. I suggest frequent check-ins with your supervisor to reevaluate your goals as well as theirs. Ask questions. Write things down. Go to the weekly staff meeting. Be proactive and do as much as you can on your part to get an amazing experience, but be objective – if you want to learn more about event planning, or marketing, or research – speak up. If they’re excited and open to getting you the experience you want, you’re in the right place. If they frown, mumble, throw more of the same work at you – reconsider your position there. I think Confucius said it right:

Were/are you an intern? Paid or unpaid? What has your experience been like?

[Note: all photo sources are linked to the photo itself; click for the original. None of the above images are mine.]

Pains, Trains & Automobiles

Photo from this post on Grist.

When I told my parents that I didn’t want to bring my car with me to California, I was pretty relieved. Don’t get me wrong, Daphne & I are bffs – we went through a lot together over the year and a half that I had her, and she gets fan-freakin-tastic gas mileage to boot. But I hate driving. Like, hate. I don’t use that word lightly. It’s part of the whole sensitive personality thing – it completely overwhelms me. I totally get how it’s fun for some people, but the fact that I have to pay attention to all other 50 cars around me while maintaining the correct speed, checking all my mirrors ALL with a strap around my stomach and neck…nothing exhausts me quite like driving. The day after long road trips I would literally walk around with a limp because my hips hurt so bad from the stress I was under the day before in the car. And it is for this same reason that I refuse to ride a bike, which is what most people here do. Non-conformism all the way.

But public transportation and I…we get along.

When I was offered the grant writing internship with WiserEarth, I couldn’t take it fast enough. I was so.effing.excited. I knew Sausalito was not exactly the most accessible place in the Bay Area, but I can be quite stubborn when I need to be (thanks Mom), so I knew I’d just find a way to make it happen.

Map picture

The pushpin on the right is where I live. The pushpin on the left is where the WiserEarth offices are located.

What’s that you say? That there MUST be a ferry to zip me right across the Bay? Yeah, that would be logical, wouldn’t it? And therefore, it doesn’t exist. To go the ferry route, I would have to take Bart to Oakland, a bus to Alameda, a ferry from Alameda to San Francisco, and a ferry from there to Sausalito.

NEXT.

Basically, there are two options to get from East Bay to Marin county (which is where you are when you get to the other side of the Golden Gate):

  1. Go north and across the Richmond bridge (that 580 sign you see over the water).
  2. Go into San Francisco and then across the Golden Gate bridge.

Option 1 involved taking Bart to a bus to another bus. Option 2 was just Bart to a bus. That decision pretty much made itself.

Most people hear about my commute and are all ,“WHOOOA, that must SUCK,” but  it’s really not as bad as it sounds. So, I made you a slideshow of my commute, and you can tell if it sounds AND looks that bad. Of course, it’s not sustainable and because I’m hopping from one sublet to the next, I am going to start looking for places in the city, but for now it’s perfectly doable. Really.

So without further ado, may I present…

http://app.sliderocket.com:80/app/fullplayer.aspx?id=339B78A3-A1AA-A272-5662-6BAE639A7468

(Not sure why the player isn’t working, but if you click the link you’ll see it!)