Dealing With Unemployment

Dealing With Unemployment

What happens on May 15?

Two weeks ago, I finished a roughly complete draft of my extended senior project. That same day, another fellowship prospect I had applied for in the fall finally emailed me back to let me know that I was, unfortunately, not the applicant they were looking for. Though I wasn't too upset about not receiving the fellowship (upon reflection, fellowships seem to be a delaying tactic for many, and I don't believe Pitzer should push students so hard to apply), what it represented was, to me, certainty. I knew what I was doing for at least another year.

I faced a moment of serendipitous anxiety in that moment: one email converted me from a working academic student to a washed-up has-been. The truth of my impending unemployment hit me hard, and for the first time, I realized I am not going to leave Claremont so much as it is going to spit out my picked-clean psychic skeleton.

I've been thinking a lot about what life after school will be like. For the past 22 years, every single step has seemed like a natural progression: do well enough in school to get into college, leave home for college, go to college. The next step is more ambiguous: "Get a job."

To me, having a real career (not just something to make money on the side or a summer gig) is a representation of stability and self-worth, a particular neurosis that deserves an entirely separate analysis. (I've decided to not explore that too deeply here. While the issue of employment works as a frame for this article, at the end of the day it is just that: a frame.)

I've tried talking about what comes next with a lot of gainfully employed people, be they family, well-intentioned career counselors (there is nothing less helpful than going into Career Services with high expectations. Lovely people, but a useless, outdated position), or just folks I run into, and everyone seems to find their way to the same truth: "Everyone finds their way to a job they love, just maybe not right after graduation. You should just be calm and see what happens."

That's easy for them to say.

With rare exceptions (professors, especially those off the tenure track, are the most genuine people in regards to the daily struggle and anxiety of their position), every person who has "found their path" vastly understates the struggle it took to get to where they are.

A lot of people downplay the years of hustling it can take to get to a job that doesn't constantly wear you down, or even the fact that many people never reach that stage. Even public speakers are the same way; we want to hear about how you are a successful lawyer, not the years you spent earning minimum wage to afford night school.

That's not to say that people do not talk about the years immediately following graduation. A lot of the folks I have talked to glorify those days before they made it to where they are, and try to relive it through their consumption. And sure, buying cheap things is part of living as a young, poor adult, but throwing a six-pack of Coors Light into your Whole Foods basket in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood is just too strange a tinge of rose-colored glasses for me to really stand by.

Most of the people you talk to will not mention how much it sucks to get out of school and be unemployed. They remember being in college and they remember their first big break, but the in-between sometimes gets eliminated. That doesn't make them bad people by any stretch of the imagination, it just means that they're not ready to share what may have been a dark part of their life with you. Maybe they don't even think about that anymore; let sleeping dogs lie.

The thing no one will tell you is that, bar none, the hustle doesn't end with college. Unless you somehow managed to network yourself into a job you love (or you're one of the few incredible, wonderful individuals who landed it based on merit), life is going to get a whole lot harder after leaving here. For me, it's going to be the first time I haven't been associated with a large and loving community, the first time facing professional rejection from every angle without school to distract me, the first time swimming against the current every waking moment. There's nothing I can do about it, that's just the way it's going to be.

Full disclosure, with the help of my family and my own penny-pinching, I have enough of a cushion to be thoroughly unemployed for a hot second after May. In fact, I may even be able to get an unpaid internship this summer in a field I love while I stay rent free with my mother, a unique benefit of my class status. While the next few years may not be a happy or a fulfilling time for me, I have to acknowledge that my struggle is relatively minimal, and is by no means a descent into poverty yet. So, take everything this 22-year-old kid says with a hefty hunk of salt.

In dark times, I often turn to literature. As a kid, I was incredibly affected by Orson Scott Card's novels, especially Ender's Game. Though I've since realized Card and I don't agree politically, I can't deny he wove a mean yarn (think of him as Sci-Fi's Harold Bloom, or a less intellectual Ayn Rand). One concept that still sticks with me is having "Speakers for the Dead." Basically, a Speaker would go to someone's funeral and tell the whole truth, not just the pleasantries we normally hear about. That pure honesty of reporting the minute and painful details of a life grabbed me, and I haven't shaken it off since.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, no matter what happens I will not leave the next few years out of my story. When I finally make it to financial stability (if I do; hopefully my degree is worth something), I will not gloss over the nights I spent waiting to fall asleep so a new day at a temporary job can begin, running down the clock on a perfectly youthful existence. Neither will I forget the good times I had, new experiences I learned and grew from.

I'm ready to see what happens, I think.

Cover Image Credit: Richard Linklater

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.

Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.

7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.


Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.

I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.

I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.

As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

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