Thursday, January 15, 2009

the tyranny of choice.

So, the reason I haven't been posting isn't due to any exciting news on the job front. It's been a combination of insecurity and lack of direction and/or motivation. (Yes, this is one of those self-important posts you should probably skip.)

I went to New York last week and found myself talking to two people living in two cities I adore. They are both unemployed. One, my friend John, lives in Brooklyn in a great, cozy (yes, that's a euphemism for small, but it's so damn nice!) apartment. He graduated from UVA, is an accomplished writer -- WAY more accomplished than I am -- and is jobless. How can it be? He lives in the media capital of the country. His rent is doable, but the prospect of being unemployed in New York City terrifies me. I thought it'd be a place where I could certainly get a job, albeit a low-paying one. The reason I wasn't rushing to move to New York was the weather, the harsh competition, and the rents, not the prospect of unemployment.

My other friend, Alex, lives in Portland. He's been unemployed since August. Again, he went to a good school, has had two prominent internships working with places like Yellowstone National Park, and he cannot find a job. What gives? If they can't do it, how can I? I've had one good internship and a tiny handful of jobs that are semi-relevant to media (though more geared towards web design, which I'm trying to get away from).

Moving to either place (or anywhere) is making me flutter with insecurity. With my luck, I'd be doing the same thing I do now: applying to jobs all day, every day, to no avail, only with the additional stress of rent. I'd be in a cool city, yes, but if I'm spending most of my time on my computer, is it really worth it to pay so much for ambiance? I thought moving to the physical location I wanted to work would surely get me a job, but my friends show that's not the case. But then I think of the alternative: living at home, for not-too-many-months longer (my dad is moving to Florida soon), and maybe getting an internship (unpaid of course) in a place like DC, which I hate.

For now, I want to go to grad school. "Want" is perhaps not the correct way to put it, but I feel it's a viable alternative. Plus, now I have to go, because I paid $140 to take the GREs in April and spent an additional $90 on practice materials. (I have to admit, while I'm giddy at learning new vocabulary, the prospect of doing math sends my anxiety through the roof. I get nervous enough writing, and I'm pretty confident in my spelling abilities.) But most of the grad schools I'm looking at (The New School, NYU, Columbia, CUNY, Berkeley) have admissions deadlines in December and January. If I take the GRE in April, what do I do after that?

I was thinking about getting a sublet someplace cheap, like Portland or Richmond or, yes, maybe Brooklyn. At least that way I would have my sanity and could potentially find a job, either short- or long-term. But that requires spending money and I'm terrified I'll blow it all. My parents are no help, either, at least when it comes to emotional support. I'm supposed to have known better than to get a degree in a social science. I "should have" been an engineer.

My original point of this post was not to bitch and whine about not having a job. It was to bitch and whine about being so awkward. While I was in New York, I had a good time, but I felt so anxious. I do not do well around "new people", even if I've known those people for several years. I just didn't know what to talk about. Do I bring up being unemployed for the millionth time? Do I talk about music or politics or whatever and risk embarrassing myself with misinformation or plain ignorance? Do I talk about fashion and risk looking entirely vapid? I am socially inept.

My problem is that I think too much. I'm no genius, but I worry worry worry, think think think, ruminate on all that could go wrong, in life and in simple conversation. If I could just take some chances (like my friend Amalia, who just up and moved to San Francisco), things would be a lot easier. I make things complicated. I'm a product of my generation, because it's not like there's a clear-cut answer here. We're told we can be whatever we want to be, do whatever we want in life (as long as we're law-abiding. My mom's response to this, "But I was told I could do what I wanted" is that I should have known better.) Now that I'm wishing I had a simple clear cut path, but if there was simply one clear, viable, appetizing option, I'd suck it up and go for it. I like having choices, but it's paralyzing. I promise, this is not going to go on much longer. I'm going to make some decisions. I just don't know who to talk to about my predicament. (Can anyone recommend a free life coach? Oprah, I need your help.)

This post has no direction and, while sloppy, is a pretty good metaphor for my life.


Anonymous said...

If the type of unemployment matters to you more than the location, then search the entire world. There are billions of people in the world, right, and opportunities follow from such a large collection of activity. Sure, ideals lead to hoping for both the boss job and locale, but if doing what you love day to day will satisfy you more for now than being somewhere where you doubt your purpose, then maybe it's a good choice to scout globally. I'm thinking that I should listen to my own advice here, too. Heh.

<3 Daniel

Anonymous said...

girl.. i have to tell you, brooklyn IS NOT cheap. to live in a non-fear-of-being-shot neighborhood (i wish this stereotype weren't true, but it is) you'll be paying 1K or more/mo for a 300 ft studio. there are deals to be had, but not many, especially not in a good-to-middling neighborhood. good luck!

LMB said...

Hello Allison,

What is it that you want to do (for a job, that is)?

Maybe I am being dense, but I can't find anywhere where you say what you want to do.

I can help you bounce some ideas around, but we have to answer that critical question first.


allison said...


I'm not really sure what I want to do specifically. I like writing, so I was hoping to go into Journalism. I'd prefer to do any kind of communication or research for a progressively-minded organization or work in some kind of media. I like new media, so that would be preferable. I'd do anything as simple as answering e-mails for an organization and anything as involved as research or writing articles. I haven't decided whether I want to do Sociological research in an academic or professional setting or whether I'd like to pursue on more media-focused jobs.

I've had a few phone interviews for some internships, but I don't think I can live in DC much longer since my parents are leaving. Also, though I care, I clearly know nothing about the environment. I do much better with human rights.


LMB said...

By environment, do you mean THE Environment, as in Mother Earth? I am perplexed why you say you know nothing about it, and I wonder what you think you have to know, vs. human rights. And, are these casual interests, or do you want your work to touch either of these areas? You writing about issues concerning social justice has been spot on. I assume you are well read in contemporary social issues.

Media in general has always been tough to get into, and it has traditionally been geographically concentrated in a few areas: NYC, LA, DC, etc. Now the situation is even more complicated.

New media is different because it has no geographic boundaries, other than the organizational limits placed upon its workers. So, new media has enabled more people to get involved in its production, since it is, in a way, everywhere. However, since old media and new media co-exist at the moment, you have to deal with the old-fashioned geographic concentration, with a dash of global competition.

Old media suffers from physical burdens involved with printing and shipping, and no longer gets the classified ad revenue it did in the old days. The industry is in flux.

There are opportunities for you, but you have to systematically evaluate where things in the industry/economy are, where they are headed, and how you fit into it. This involves looking at the next year, as well as the next five.

I can give you practical advice, and I can veer into the philosophical, or I can hold my tongue (er, pen? keyboard?) and not say anything at all...

I tend to be a problem-solver and a plan-maker, so I am not sure how much you want me to dig into
this. All I can do is offer what I know. I can't make it simple, unfortunately.

If you feel like it, maybe you can start a post and answer the following:

What do you want to get out of a job (money, fame, travel)? Which jobs have you had that have made you the most fulfilled? Have you considered: not chasing work that you LIKE to do, but the work that provides you with results that the most satisfying? No one likes his/her job all the time. The results keep people coming back. So, what things do you find the most satisfying to accomplish (regardless of whether you like the process of doing them)?

Anonymous said...

a new earth by eckhart tolle helped me with negative thoughts/over-thinking.