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!

Pros & Cons: Internships

I am a huge fan of Jimmy Fallon’s late night show. Mostly because I’m a huge fan of Jimmy Fallon, and specifically, his impression of Barry Gibb:

Once a week, he does a segment called “Pros and Cons” where he lists the – can you guess? – pros and cons of a random recent occurrence in pop culture (for example, when the President was his guest). It’s always quite entertaining and I thought it might make a fun blog post theme.

So, following up on this weekend’s post on internships, here is my list of the pros and cons of taking an internship. Agree, disagree, add to the list. Happy Wednesday!

PRO: It’s one of the best ways to figure out what you want to be when you grow up.

For reals. Read all the books, articles, and websites you want. Take every single career quiz you can find. Talk with people in the field. But I promise you that NONE of those will be as helpful as actually going in and seeing a career or industry first-hand. I’ll give you a good example: when I decided I wanted to go to culinary school, I knew exactly what I would be getting myself into. Chefs with egos the size of Viking stoves, early mornings spent trying not to burn myself while taking fifty loaves of bread out of an oven at a time, painfully monotonous work days. All this I could handle. But it wasn’t until I took internships in the food prep field that I saw why I couldn’t do it: food, to me, is way more than just something to slice, dice, bake and fry. I love the prep aspect, but not near as much as I love talking about it, writing about it, and exploring it from all sides. I needed more intellectual stimulation from my career. But I wouldn’t have figured that out if I hadn’t done the work myself.

CON: You will be asked “oh…so when are you going to grad school?” 522 times.

Well, I can’t promise that number is accurate. I can, however, tell you that choosing internships as an alternate form of education freaks people out. It’s normal – everyone has a different threshold for dealing with derivations from the norm. But that doesn’t mean you won’t get sick of explaining it.

And of course, there are thousands of students who intern while they’re in school, after receiving a higher degree, or still plan on getting one. The real thing to consider with grad school is the usefulness of the degree in your career field. If I were to go and get a master’s in food studies, it would be more for personal reasons; the field is so new right now that most employers would probably prefer to see the experience an internship provides than a fancy expensive degree.

(And for the record, I’m a huge fan of continuing education…I’m just saying it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t seem like the right choice for you.)

PRO: You meet lots and lots of people.

When you intern anywhere, you’re going to meet people. You’re going to attend conferences, make phone calls, write emails, interview a bunch of different people who do a bunch of different things. Networking is a beautiful thing. Even if an internship doesn’t result in a job with that organization, you still get awesome references and connections you would have never even known about before that will come in handy some day when you’re sending out resumes everywhere.

CON: It doesn’t exactly pay the bills.

If you’re lucky enough to find a cool internship that is also paid, it will most likely not be much more than a small stipend – and 85% of the internships I see nowadays are simply unpaid. This can be tough for a reallllly long list of reasons. Beyond the obvious “and I’m supposed to support myself HOW?” issue, there are psychological/emotional issues that can come up as well. I personally have really struggled with feeling valued versus feeling downright exploited, and that can turn a decent internship into a nightmare quickly if you let it. What I have found is that this starts happening after about three to six months, depending on how much you’re enjoying the experience. My advice: talk with your employer/supervisor people. The experience they are providing you with is very important – but not as important as your own comfort and self-worth. I wouldn’t recommend taking an internship that lasts longer than six months, unless there is clear discussion of job opportunities at the end or you love it that much.

I will say this though – internships are hella cheaper than any tuition around.

PRO: It’s fun.

Of my seven internships, I absolutely adore (still do!) 3 of them – and those 3 made the others beyond worth it. All of them have had major life-changing effects on me, and I like how interesting my resume looks. It’s given me tons of confidence and adaptability, to the point where I’m quite sure you could plunk me down in any professional position and I’d have it figured out within months. And it’s also the perfect answer for a recent graduate who can.not.sit. in one more damn classroom. I won’t lie – I graduated completely and totally burnt out on academia. It is liberating to feel like I am doing work that makes a positive impact on something other than a GPA.

CON: It ain’t easy.

Internships present completely different, even opposing, challenges than academia. You have to deal with bitchy customers/members and adapt to dramatically different office vibes. You have to prepare for interviews via phone, Skype, and in person. You have to write cover letter after cover letter, spending hours on a piece of paper some HR person will spend 5 minutes reading. You’ll be ignored. You’ll get frustrated. And you’re doing all of it for free. It’s enough to have you wondering why you ever left college.

BUT in my experience – and quite a few others of which I know personally – it will pay off. I have had a crazy year, but there so many wonderful things have happened. I uncovered a ridiculous and rather nerdy passion for sustainable food thanks to my time with these guys. I moved across the country on my own. I ate some really good food.

There are lots of reasons to choose grad school or internships or both or neither. I don’t think one is better than the other, at least not in general; I think everyone has to choose what’s best for them according to what they want. Of my friends, I’m the only one not in grad school right now – except for one who joined the Peace Corps and is pretty much the coolest person I know. And all of their decisions were the right ones – one wants to go into research, and two want to be professors. Higher degrees are THE way to get what they want. I’m still trying to figure out what I want, so jumping around and trying different things made the most sense for me.

And that was Pros & Cons. Got any to add?

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:

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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:

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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!)

PST…WTF?

Let’s do the time warp agaaaaaiinn!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0SqS2QJdj8

That’s right – I STILL haven’t forgotten I have a blog. You’d think such a thing might slip a girl’s mind after moving across the country, starting two internships and mastering the public transportation system of the entire Bay Area…but nope. Not me. As Monty Python would say, I’m not dead yet.

But, I should probably back up a little bit. If not for you, then for future me who will read this post in five years and wonder what the hell I was doing in May 2012 that would prevent me from updating my blog for over a month.

I graduated from Converse College a year ago almost to the day with a Bachelor’s in English, a minor in music, a shiny tray proclaiming my knack for getting As, and a life plan. I still have all of those…except for that last one. That one fell apart within a matter of weeks.

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Imma sum this up real quicklike, because even though you probably already know all this, it seems like it should be here: I planned (HA) to “work” (for free)  in a restaurant kitchen to get food prep experience necessary for culinary school, which I planned (haHA) to attend the following spring. As in, right now. Well, it sucked and I hated it. Plan B: go to grad school in Italy to become a licensed food nerd. 3 months of prepping for that before I realized….it sucked and I hated it. While I contemplated degree programs here in the US of A, I started an internship with Chefs Collaborative, a national non-profit dedicated to making restaurant kitchens more sustainable. It was awesome and I loved it. A lot. So much, in fact, that I decided to put grad school on the back burner and look into getting a job in the non-profit/sustainability world. I found an internship in Berkeley, CA with the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture and it seemed to be the right step. The West Coast is really where the sustainable food movement started (love me some Alice Waters), so it just made sense that I move out there and see what kind of action was going on. [Side note: The East Coast is an amazing place to be for sustainable food too – there’s really a lot happening there, I just needed to not live at home/explore a new part of the country.]

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So, here I am. Sitting at a borrowed desk in a rented room in North Berkeley, wondering why in the hell I ever thought I could make a plan for my post-grad activities and actually stick to it. Although, in my own defense, all my friends are where they thought they’d be a year later (grad school/South Africa with the Peace Corps…I have really cool friends.).

It’s been a wild and crazy two months. I guess that’s to be expected, though. Here’s what’s happened since my plane touched down.

1. I found someone who would actually pay me to do things. As someone on her sixth unpaid internship, this was a concept more exciting than words can explain. MONEY? FOR ME? YAY.

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A few weeks before the move, my uncle suggested to me that I look into grant writing as a career. I had really never given it much thought before, but it does make a hell of a lotta sense: writing, for better or for worse, is my strongest talent, and I’m pretty determined to find work in the non-profit sector. So as I started looking for paid jobs in the Bay Area, I decided to see if there happened to be any grant writing internships around. Lo and behold, I found ONE grant writing internship (thank you Idealist) with a non-profit called WiserEarth in Sausalito. Three days after I moved into my room, I went into San Francisco to meet their Executive Director for an interview, and she offered it to me on the spot. I was pretty much over-the-moon excited about this. I started the very next Wednesday and haven’t looked back. I was absolutely shocked by how much I’ve loved the grant writing/development work, but I do. It’s been a perfect fit, and I am so relieved that I found this internship! I’ll do a dedicated post on Wiser and why it’s awesome, but in the meantime I highly suggest checking it out if you’ve never heard of it & joining if you’re into anything social justice/sustainability-related. Yes, shameless plugging, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think it was awesome, and it realllllly is.

2. I started working with MESA.

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Now, technically my internship with them started back in February; I’ve been doing a lot of work on their social media presence, which I something about which I learned SO MUCH with the Collaborative. I actually had no idea just how much I knew about the social media world until I went to a class/lecture in SF on driving traffic to your website, and knew more than their social media expert. The majority of the lecture was fascinating (SEO is such an interesting topic, I think), but I was rather disappointed during the discussion of social media when I found myself raising my hand to add information and clarify statements the presenter made. On the bright side though, I left feeling pretty positive about my own grasp of the topic. ANYWAY. I met them face-to-face, I go to the office once a week, I do things.

3. Sausalito is the least accessible place in the Bay Area. True story.

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The WiserEarth office is in the beautiful town of Sausalito, just on the other side of the Golden Gate (in fact, it’s where my roommate & I went when we visited Cali last year!). It’s a lovely place to work. It’s an absolute crap place to get to without a car. BUT, my determination to making public transportation work for me came through, and I have the pleasure of a just-under-2-hour commute 3 days a week. Yes, it’s long, but it’s really not as bad as it sounds. When I got the internship, pretty much every single person I talked to said doing it without a car was impossible. Or stupid. Or both. WIMPS. I mean, no, it’s not ideal, but all I do is walk to the BART station [Bay Area Rapid Transit – underground trains], take the train into SF, then take a bus into Sausalito. It’s neither impossible nor stupid. Just…time-consuming. But I’m down with that. The sun is up by 6:30 now, when I get up, and I prep all my meals for the week on Friday & Saturday. It works.

4. I live…here?

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I have experienced more culture shock here than I have with any of the 9 countries I have traveled to. I think a lot of it is because I wasn’t prepared for it, at least not to the extent to which I felt it, because it’s still in the US. Well, that may be true, but it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it to me. I’ve also never really had to deal with much culture shock; I know that sounds dumb/naïve, but I’ve traveled pretty extensively in my 22 years of life and the few times culture shock might have thrown me for a loop, I was so well-prepared for it it just…never hit me. But NOW I get it. Culture shock is a pain.

And if the Bay Area is a different culture, Berkeley is a different planet. Mostly in a good way; I don’t think I have ever seen so much diversity – and tolerance for it – in one place in my entire life. You really get a sense that everyone here is just themselves, and everyone else is okay with that. Now, I’m from not just from the Northeast. And I’m not just from New England. I’m from Boston, the only city in the world that gives NYC  and Paris a run for the snobby-center-of-the-universe attitude. You think you know snobby? HA. Spend 5 minutes in a room with a Harvard professor, and your definition will be shifted for life. The only exception to that test I’ve met is my father, and guess where he’s from? Yep: Bay Area, born and raised. So, I don’t really know what to do with people who actually smile at me with some genuine feeling. Sorry about that, west coast people. I’m working on it.

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I am slowly adjusting to life in the Bay Area bubble. Adjusting to the time change – and making sure I translate everything to PST – was a lot easier than I expected. Adjusting to everything else…well, we all know I’m no good with transitions. Also I hate, hate, hate, HATE being without this every day:

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By far, that is my least favorite thing about this move. I miss her so much sometimes, it actually hurts.

Ok, ok, I know you want to hear allll about the amazing foodventures I’ve experienced. Um…sorry. Aside from discovering the tastebud fiesta that is Acme bread and enjoying the ease with which I can buy local food (living in the state that produces 80% of our nation’s food is pretty sweet), I’ve just been trying to keep my feet on the ground and my head in the right place.

I have multiple posts planned (yay!), and I know I say this all the time, but I really, really, realllllly am going to double my efforts to update at least once a week. I know I can fit it in to my schedule but above all, I REALLY need the writing practice. Writing is exactly like music, in that you should do it everyday to keep the muscle strong, and now that I’ve found myself work that heavily relies upon my writing not sucking, I have GOT to get more practice in. Even if it’s just rambling. (But I have quite a few cohesive post ideas with actual topics planned…so please bear with me!)

OH. And I’m moving. Again. To keep it short, the room I’m renting didn’t work out, so come this Friday I’ll be putting all my stuff into the Prius I use with City CarShare and moving into a new place. And then in another 2 months, I get to move again. Joy.

And that, dear readers, is my life on the West Coast. My next post: a day in the life. With pictures and everything.

Being “Quiet” Pt II: A Final Word

Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.

– Susan Cain, Quiet

Read Pt I here.

It’s occurred to me that my last post might have sounded a bit too self-centered, and it was, but you’ll have to indulge me as I complete my thoughts on this book. There’s a reason I (perhaps ironically) can’t stop talking about it. It’s really changed everything for me.

This is me at around 3 years old.

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Doing dishes is something I’ve kind of always loved.  When my parents had dinner parties, I would jump up and start washing the china and loading the dishwasher after everyone was finished. At a Thanksgiving we spent at a family friend’s house, I started doing dishes after dessert was put out. In fact, cleaning in general was always a bit of a hobby – I took over my family’s laundry duties in high school, and was known to spend a lazy summer day completely reorganizing our spice cabinet and tupperware drawers. I always assumed it was because I have some OCD tendencies and cleaning has always given me a sense of efficiency, that wonderful feeling of checking something off a to-do list while helping to relieve the stress of others.

What this book has brought me to realize is that, for better or worse, my propensity for cleaning is not primarily driven by selflessness. Doing these chores that no one else wants to do almost always translates into getting alone time with my thoughts. While the dinner party chatter continued in the dining room, I could be escaping from the overwhelming stimulation of having to be “on,” answering our guests’ questions about school, making small talk. I liked sitting at the “adults’ table” because I usually just listened, but after a while the multiple simultaneous conversations and the small talk got exhausting, and the kitchen sink was my escape. It’s a chore than no one wants to do, so I was generally left alone…and it was heaven. Plus, I was rewarded with plenty of praise and gratitude; it was a win-win.

I could give a million other examples like this. And this is a quality of which I’ve always been proud; I figured out pretty quickly that being “different” could frequently be used as leverage that impressed others. And maybe it was that, my ridiculous love for washing dishes, that gave me the strength to quietly rebel against other norms.

I don’t wear jeans. I just don’t. I pretty much never have. From 4th through 7th grade my closet almost exclusively contained the flowy rayon patterned pants that my mother wore to her corporate office job. We could even share clothes during the brief months that we were the same height. During 8th grade, yoga hit yuppie America hard and Old Navy started making yoga pants, and it was over. I wear them every.single.day. They are comfortable, quite flattering on me, and can even be dressed up when needed.

As you can imagine, being the single human being in a classroom not wearing blue jeans (teacher included) could have had some dire effects on my social status. And I got plenty of questions and weird looks about it, even in college. But I’ve never changed. I wear jeans like I wear make-up – when I’m going somewhere for a short period of time where tight, breath-restricting clothes are for whatever reason necessary (i.e., dance clubs or Halloween). Being different was hard as it always is, and perhaps even more so as a highly sensitive person who reacts to every look and tone around her, but for some reason I never let it change my style. And that, I think, says more about who I am than anything else ever could.

Quiet showed me that maybe I wasn’t as “different” as I thought. There are others – a third to a half of the world’s population – that could tell similar stories. People who became researchers because they craved the solitude and intellectual engagement, musicians who love most of all to play in the pit orchestra because they’re out of the spotlight, and maybe even a fellow happy dishwasher or two. Reading this book was like someone finally handing me a license to be who I am, to follow my natural instincts and know that it was okay to do so.  I don’t think there are words that can really fully explain just how huge that is – and trust me, I’ve looked.

I feel like I’ve been fighting against our extroverted culture my whole life. I know that sounds quite angsty and maybe a little grandiose, but I also know that I’m not the only one who would say the same thing about themselves. When you grow up in a culture that forces group work on you from preschool on, that only listens to the loudest ideas instead of the most thoughtful, and that tells you that being a socially-well-adjusted person means turning 21 and drinking your liver into a coma to the thumping beat of music in a crowded bar at 3 in the morning…it’s hard to tell yourself that you’re not weird for disagreeing with those things. I can still feel my stomach sinking when a teacher announced the next project would be in a group, or when someone would tell me they “don’t do email” and I’ll have to call them on the phone (the latter, as you can imagine, still happens). It wasn’t until I read Cain’s book, however, that I learned that I shouldn’t feel guilty when my stomach sinks at the prospect of personal interaction. It’s what I imagine a woman in the 60s would have felt reading Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique.

No one who knows me would have any trouble believing that I am an extreme introvert. I need a LOT of alone time, and as uncomfortable and guilt-ridden as it can feel, I’ve always been pretty insistent that I get it. That often translated into getting myself out of parties after a long week at school and spending much of my summers alone. I probably wouldn’t have survived college if I hadn’t been blessed with a wonderful roommate & best friend who is not only a wonderfully easy person to get along with, but was also gone on most weekends. College was an enormous challenge for me – I was 1000 miles away from home, being intellectually challenged more than ever, and was almost constantly surrounded by people. I made it through, and even thrived while I was there (and miss it terribly!) – but I also spent my three months of summer vacation mostly by myself. My [mostly extroverted] parents were always worried that I was doing myself major psychological harm, but I knew it was what I needed to get through the next year. Of course, there is danger in being alone too much, but I’ve learned that there are some signs my body will give me when that happens, and I do actively work to keep myself engaged – hence, I am currently working 2 internships at 42 hours a week and bounce all over the entire Bay Area via public transportation every week.

I don’t hate being around others. In fact, I crave conversation as much as anyone; the difference for most introverts is that we crave deep, meaningful conversation about topics that we’re very passionate about, and small talk exhausts the hell out of us. If you met me at a party, you wouldn’t necessarily know I’m an introvert, because I am perfectly sociable and I learned that the key to social interaction is asking people about themselves. Nope, you’d have no idea I wasn’t having a great time, because you wouldn’t see me go home afterwards and watch some tv or listen to music while reading blogs for hours to “come down” from all that stimulation. No one is purely introverted or extroverted (because, as Jung himself said, that person would be in an asylum), and part of becoming comfortable with who you are is figuring out how to keep a balance between the two.

As you probably know, three weeks ago I moved from my home in Massachusetts to Berkeley, California for an internship. I’ve said that I wish I’d had this book four years ago, because college would have been such a different experience for me, but I’m relieved beyond words that it came out just before this move happened because I know it has been the most helpful tool I could possibly have armed myself with during this huge transition. The power that this book gave me to honor my introverted self has made the turbulence of the last 3 weeks bearable and, at times, even enjoyable. And that is why I’ve talked your ears eyes off about this book – because, far-reaching and cliché as it may sound, reading it actually did change my life. It’s hard to shut up about something with that kind of an impact.

The author, Susan Cain, recently gave a TED Talk on her work, which you can watch here. She’s a great speaker. She was also interviewed by Arianna Huffington – who, it may surprise you to know, is an introvert – and it was a really fascinating conversation. Whether or not you’ve read the book, they’re definitely worth a watch (for extroverts, too!). Susan Cain’s site is also host to her own blog and a really cool forum, if you’re interested.

I hope these posts haven’t been interpreted as me whining about how hard it is to be an introvert; there has definitely been some of that, but my purposes were really more to share my own story because in reading this book I connected with so many of her subjects’ stories, and it felt wonderful to know I wasn’t alone. So if you stopped reading 800 words ago, that’s okay. But if you read it all…

Thank you for listening.

Being “Quiet,” Pt I: Sensitivity

When from our better selves we have too long been parted by the hurrying world, and droop. Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired, how gracious, how benign in solitude.

-William Wordsworth

*I apologize in advance for the, er, length of this post series. I had a lot of thoughts and am trying my best to organize them in the most efficient and easy-to-read way. I wrote this in a very subjective, “I-focused” manner and it may sound a little self-centered; it is, but I can only write what I know to be true about myself. My hope is that you will be able to relate, in some way, to what I describe – not that you’ll walk away thinking, “dang, that girl is obsessed with herself.” I’d love to hear your thoughts on any/all of this; it’s a topic I find endlessly fascinating!*

As I mentioned, I recently read a book. I do that every so often.

[Source]

And I started to discuss, in a somewhat lengthy and roundabout manner, what it means to be introverted. It’s a lot more complicated than just being “shy.” In fact, it doesn’t necessarily have to do with being shy at all – shyness is found to be highly correlated with introversion, but one doesn’t equal the other.

I am one of the most intense introverts you’ll ever meet. There is not an extroverted bone in my body. I was always fine with that; it’s just a part of my personality that I accept. But this book changed everything – how I see myself, how I see others, and generally how I engage with the rest of the world. It made my laugh, smile, cry, and nod in solemn agreement. It is a rare book that has such an impact on me; I’m usually focused on analyzing the characters, or fixing the minute grammatical errors I find – the joy and the curse of being an English major. But Ms. Cain’s occasional run-on sentence or overuse of commas barely distracted me from her incredibly well-researched, thoughtful and exhaustive book, and I simply MUST talk – well, write – all about it.

Where to begin? In an incredibly ironic twist, this book completely overwhelmed me. Can you read a mirror? If you can, then I certainly did. I could pick out just about any sentence in this book and give you a personal example of whatever it’s talking about from my own life. I have never been affected by a book quite like this, and I apologize in advance because as a result I am struggling more than usual to find the words to explain it. It took me a month just to feel that my thoughts were organized enough to write about it! So I ask again – where to begin?

Well, I’ll just take the word around which all of this revolves: introvert. To painfully oversimplify an insanely complex and dynamic word, to me it means that I need to be alone. Like, a lot. Unlike the majority of my family, I find being around others to be absolutely draining. Put me in a room to talk to a bunch of people, and I’ll be exhausted within the hour; put me in the same room all alone, however, and I’ll emerge with all the bars on my battery.

I already knew many of the definitions of introversion which Cain puts forth – hell, I’ve been living those definitions for the past 22 years. What really affected me about this book (I think) is what it brought to my attention: America is the most extroverted country in the world, and I am a minority here, with all of the struggles and prejudices that pertains.

It’s not so much what she writes about what it is to be introverted, but the frame in which she puts it in: introversion is basically unaccepted and unacceptable in American culture. Cain’s examples upon examples brought up emotions I’ve been feeling since kindergarten, that maybe I didn’t even know I was feeling. It was a difficult pill to swallow, but at the same time it felt wonderful – someone finally got me, and what’s more, she said it was okay to be who I am, which is unfortunately not the message I’ve been getting for the past 2 decades, despite the  best of intentions.

I’m going to rewind for a second. At the beginning of my junior year in college, I went through some serious medical issues. To sum up, I was very deep in the black hole that is depression. I had stopped sleeping. I completely withdrew from my life as much as possible. I went back and forth between crippling sadness and numbness. I felt alone, and worthless, and struggled with just getting through the day. After about two months, the tide turned and I started to drag myself out of it. During that time, my mother sent me a book she read religiously during my childhood:

[Source]

This book was written about me. Well, not really, but it might as well have been. I was – and am – an uncommonly intense and sensitive person, and that came out in very different ways as a child. When I say sensitive, I don’t just mean more likely to cry because my Barbie broke (which I did, quite loudly and violently) – I mean I hated wearing socks because I was bothered by the seams at my toes when I put my shoes on. I refused to wear jeans because they were too tight and rough; to this day, I own one pair of jeans that fits and I wear them once a year, if that. I just don’t wear jeans. This makes me weird – I’m well aware of that; it’s just not something I can help (and since reading Quiet, I no longer feel that I need to). This book also dealt with something Cain’s book didn’t, which is my struggle with transitions. Everyone, of course, has problems with transitions (moving SUCKS), but we “spirited children” take them especially hard and intensely. My mother learned that she couldn’t just tell me we were going to the grocery store; at least, not without a complete meltdown. She learned that I needed a “five-minute bell;” she would tell me that we were going to the store in five minutes, giving me time to adjust to the transition. I’m sure to many it sounds ridiculous, but to me, it was essential. And it still is. I have to give myself lots of time to wrap my head around major transitions. Case in point: I am moving across the country on Tuesday. I am just starting to pack today, because I have had to prepare myself to come to terms with it. Reading this book was HUGE for me; it felt like someone out there was telling me “you’re just different, and that’s not a bad thing, you just have to learn how to manage your world differently.”

Quiet, it seems, is the Lord of the Rings to the Raising Your Spirited Child’s Hobbit. I was constantly reminded of it while reading Quiet, especially when Cain began expounding upon the topic of “sensitivity.” As just as it was in RYSC,  it means a lot more than just crying a lot. Even though it means that, too.

Sensitivity is what I feel makes me as intense an introvert as I am. What I love so much about Cain’s book is the depth to which she goes in explaining all the sides of sensitivity. Part of it is tied to emotions; for example, I seem to be extra-inclined to empathy. I actually had no idea this was not normal. In any and all situations I am in myself or read about, I automatically put myself in the other person’s shoes and don’t find it particularly difficult (unless the other person is Rush Limbaugh or one of the, ahem, luminaries of Fox News – stupidity I can get, but not when it’s paired with heartlessness) to do. It’s part of being the very picture of INFJ, which is my Myers-Briggs type. (Introvert, intuitive, feeling, judging – click here to learn more about these types. Or just talk to my college roommate Monica. She’s pretty much a walking encyclopedia on all things Myers-Briggs. FYI – INFJs and ESTJs get along famously.) I’m incredibly intuitive, which seems to make me even more sensitive, because I can so easily empathize. I promise I’m not bragging – this is NOT always a positive trait to have.

For example, because I naturally empathize with and intuit the emotions of others, I am very easily affected when someone else is angry, sad, or uncomfortable. When I was a kid, I lost sleep when my parents had a fight. I can’t concentrate on anything when I think someone might be mad at me or that I caused someone discomfort of any kind. I will go to any length to accommodate others – often to the exclusion of myself and my own feelings. In fact, between dealing with job interviews, apartment hunting, and the various family dynamics involved with all of the above, I am have stretched myself thinner than Saran wrap. As a result, I’ve been oversleeping and moodier than usual. It frustrated me to no end that I force myself to accommodate everyone else to the extent that I do, but it seems like such an essential part of who I am and of the traits that I’m proud of, that I really can’t do anything to change it. I expect it of myself. And while it makes me an outstanding employee and an unfailingly reliable friend, it also makes me a very tired person at the end of the day.

But then, there is the more physical side of sensitivity. Cain sites several sensitivity studies, one of which came from Dr. Elaine Aron, an introverted psychologist who devoted her career to the study of this curious trait she herself has. She actually has a “Self-Test” you can take on her website to see how “sensitive” you are. [Please note that rating low on this test is NOT a negative thing! It doesn’t mean you’re “insensitive” or a terrible person; there are just as many good things as there are bad, just like there are for being highly sensitive.] I took it and checked off almost every single response. As a highly sensitive person, I am easily overwhelmed by sensory stimulation of all kinds. Incredibly chaotic atmospheres stress me out more than average; particularly expressive music can move me to tears; working under any kind of scrutiny or observation stresses me out so much that it can weaken my performance. Example: over the course of my last internship, I often had to make phone calls to members or prospective donors, asking about expired memberships, upcoming events, etc. Despite the frequent and enthusiastic praise I was given by my bosses (who are awesome people!) for my apparently fantastic phone etiquette (which I did NOT know I had), I tended to wait until the office was empty to make most of the calls because I would literally get so nervous I’d be shaking as I dialed the number. Phone calls, in fact, are pretty much the bane of my existence. I think email is the best invention since buttercream frosting.

Aron’s work actually succeeds the work of another personality psychologist, Dr. Jerome Kagan. Kagan did a rare long-term study in which he met with a group of infants and continued to meet with them through the childrens’ adolescence. As infants, he put them through several different sensory tests. He played loud noises, flashed bright colors quickly, and generally tried to stimulate their various senses to watch their reactions. Some of the babies were more or less unmoved by the tests and sat quietly through each. Others screamed, cried, and kicked with each unfamiliar and overwhelming test. In later years, he found that the babies who were “high reactive” – the kickers and screamers – were more likely to develop shy, quiet personality types. Introverts are more likely to be highly sensitive, uncomfortable with change and easily overwhelmed. This is not true for all introverts, just as the opposite isn’t true for all extroverts – but these findings were/are really quite groundbreaking in the field of personality psychology and sure are helpful to people like me, who struggle to be comfortable in a largely extroverted  & overstimulated society here in this country.

The next post will focus on quiet itself, and what exactly I mean when I say “America is extroverted.” It’s actually become somewhat of a source of anger for me. Again, I apologize if any of this seems incoherent or disorganized – I just didn’t want to wait anymore to get my thoughts down on [virtual] paper! You can check out Susan Cain’s website here – I’m enjoying reading her blog and the forums there, myself. Stay tuned! Smile

An Update From Somewhere

Hello. While I am working on my blog post series on introversion, I thought you might like to know that I’m still alive. Or something.

In case you’re just joining me, let me catch you (and maybe me, too) up.

About a month ago I took an internship with the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture (MESA) as the Member Resources & Social Media Intern. Yes, this will be my sixth unpaid internship. BUT, I really do think at some point they will get me a real job. Or at least, I hope so. I love the work, I truly do – but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t getting a little old. Ahem.

MESA is located in Berkeley – yep, that’s Bizerkeley, California – and so there I will be for the next 9 months. And that’s where most of the excitement and, well, trouble begins.

After about three weeks of Craiglisting ‘til all hours of the day and night and trying to set up viewing appointments from across the country, it was time to hop on a plane and find a place to live. So last Thursday morning, I did just that. And luckily, I accomplished my mission – I have found a lovely room on a quiet street in a pretty blue house with an incredible view of the Bay. I’ve even smoothed out the mild snag in the rent process. By most accounts, I should be feeling pretty good.

But after being vertical for 30+ hours with about 2 hours of a plane nap to go on, my last day at the best internship ever, a 4 am drive to the airport and a to-do list that doesn’t quit, let me just say…I’m not.

I have one week – one week – to somehow arrange my life in such a way that I can transport it across 2 time zones and land on my feet. I have several blog posts to write, jobs to apply for, suitcases to pack, emails to send, and a dog who scratches on the porch door twenty-two times a day (and only actually goes out about 10 of those times). My parents are on vacation. My brother is in Canada. And I am sitting in my house, somewhere between hysteria and depression, trying to figure out what the hell I’ve gotten myself into.

I have been sleeping. A LOT. And eating some serious chocolate. On top of all of this (and probably because of it), I’m having a serious career identity crisis. More on that later.

I do hope to use this week to get myself back on track and specifically, to write those damn blog posts that never cease to write themselves in my head at 2 in the morning. I have a lot to say.

But right now I’m going to go exercise. If nothing else, it forces me to breathe. I need to do more of that.

I will say this: when I get to the other side of all this, you better bet I’m putting it on my resume. Because if coordinating a successful cross-country move from 3,000 miles away while keeping family, bosses and landlords all happy as possible isn’t a highly marketable skill…then I quit right now.