What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

I've got skillz!

Where I am with life right now.

So I'm feeling like I'm just going to step back and do a quick assessment of life as it exists for me right now.  I graduated from college in 1999.  I spent about four years figuring a little bit of life out, worked in NYC, went to Prague and got some invaluable experience both personally and professionally, and then came back to the US to look at schools and the Peace Corps, while doing odd jobs until settling on school in England and another football season in Prague.  That gets us up to starting school in 2004. 

Going into school I had some good but eclectic business experience including managing a non-profit in Prague for a couple years.  2004 started a 5 year rather specific career path that really moved me forward.  I spent two years working on a masters that focused on post-conflict reconstruction and post/socialist societies.  After a summer in China I went back to Prague and got a job working for two years on post conflict areas doing research, development, management, etc.  I was really moving things forward even if the job itself and the company was an absolute and complete  nightmare.  I was getting valuable experience. 

When this job ended I went for more schooling focusing on anthropological perspectives on international development with a continued focus on post war areas.  Five years straight working towards one end which was going to culminate in getting in to  PhD program and keeping things moving forward.  It was a struggle for sure and I didn't always know that it was the right thing.  But the point was, at that point in my life I was carving out a niche for myself.  I applied to Phd programs for 2009 but didn't get in anywhere.  At that point I had little money, my EU work visa had expired, and I felt like I wanted to come back to the United States, get some stability, a job, and spend time with my elderly Grandparents.  It seemed like a good plan.  There would be no language issues, no visa concerns, no cultural variances.  Things would be simple right?

So here I am three plus years later.  What do I have to show for this?  During this three years the best I've done is 15 dollars per hour working with people with disabilities in Connecticut.  I was driving an hour and a half both ways every day (22,000 miles/35,000km in 6 months) and couldn't afford to keep the car going and pay rent.  I was living with my grandparents.  Over those three years I sold running shoes, I officiated girls lacrosse, I volunteered in local government, I tried starting several businesses and non-profits, and even lived in the woods for a brief time.

At some point in there, I said fuck it, and planned a trip and went to Sierra Leone.  I was wallowing away in suburbia, doing nothing.  Applying for hundreds of jobs, getting no where, and figured hey, if no one is going to give me a job, then I'll just go out and make my own.  I fundraised, I planned, mapped out a walking tour of the country for three months and just did it.  It was invaluable and I set up some amazing opportunities that you can read about in this blog.  But of course I got malaria and spent much of the next six months trying to get right.  Everything in Africa went on hold, life took over and I just tried to find work.  Yet I remained underemployed, disheartened, and disappointed.

I worked hard at it and put in a number of Phd Applications again.  I put my focus back into academia and a PhD.  I did an amazing amount of research on the programs in the US.  I was all ready to apply.  Then Occupy happened.  A broad based systemic critique of american and global society.  Exactly what I had been carrying with me my entire adult life.  I, like so many others, had been trying to make things work in our little American Utopia, yet it had been a disaster for me.  The country had been spiralling downward for decades and it was time to take a stand and try to make things happen.  So I left the underemployed shitty ass suburban existence I was meandering through and went all in with Occupy.  In the first few weeks I was engageing in incredible things, talking to truly important and exemplary people .  I was networking myself into a great community and surrounded for the first time in my life by people that shared my views of the world and my values.  It was amazing.

Now here we are almost a year later.  I have been steadily looking for work since January.  In that time I have been a failed political fundraiser, an unpaid hiking store employee, worked at a farmers market until it went under, and as a Nanny.  Luckily I have had a free place to stay due to some of the best people out there.  However, that time is up.

All this while I have been trying to work on Occupy.  Everything was supposed to be temporary until school started in September.  But then I didn't get in anywhere.  I found out April 15th, and have been working on what the heck am I going to do.  Do I apply next year, again?  Do I look at a new career choice?  Push for my Africa stuff?  Legitimize the Occupy Think Tank?  Just look for any work?  The bottom line is that on April 16th I started perhaps a new phase of my life.  Most profoundly I decided to start networking myself in to the development community here in NYC.  As I got back into my Africa work I realized how much I love and am passionate about all of these things that I had been doing for years.  It was what my PhD work was going to be about and what I have always wanted to be a part of.  Occupy, gave me a domestic outlet, but my heart has always been in international issues and injustices.  So be it.  Network network network while trying to peice things together here is where I came to.  Combining them would be great. 

But there just aren't a lot of jobs in this arena.  You don't just go out and start helping people around the world fro one day to the next as the glacial pace of my Africa project shows.  You have to eat, you have to have housing.  Also in the midst of all this here I am going through a tough break up as well.  It really sucks.

So I find myself today on August 8th, with no job, the several interviews I've had over the last couple weeks having fallen through or morphed into unsustainble things, my nannying work has dried up and I have no housing come September 1st if I still have no job to pay for it.

I have been back in this country for over three years now and I have nothing to show for it professionally.  I can't even put Occupy on the applications for the UN that I'm putting in.  Yes, the Sierra Leone thing is a huge thing from the last few years, but only because I left here!!  So what is the point.  I had this wonderful progressive carreer going, step by step for five plus years and then it just fell off a cliff, and now I have nothing really to show for the last three years of my life.  The worst thing about it all as well is that people look at me and they see an unfocused person.  They see someone that is thinking of a new thing to do every day.  One day I'm a nanny, one day I'm an occupier, a writer, a development expert, thinking about africa, a phd, organizing, food justice, athletic training, whatever.  I must seem like my own three ring circus.  But I'm not, I'm just desperate.  I had a plan and I was working towards it.  Then I came back to America.  In three years, it all just disipated into the fumes of an ever more marginalizing American and global economy.

So at what point do you say enough is enough?  For how long do you keep fighting the same fight and expect differeent results?  I want to stay in NYC.  I want to just get a job here that matters, that does not compromise all of my moral and ethical standards of human dignity and such and just work away on a career.  But that isn't happening.  I want to wake up every morning at 6, do chi gung, go to work all day, excercise and come home and work on Africa and Occupy stuff.  But its not happening.  When do you say fuck it and reavaluate what you are doing and what your expectations of 'the self' are?  At what point do you give in and just get some shit ass job and work for the man's system hoping that you can have a family and TV to distract yourself from the everyday bullshit that has become human life in America.

I'm not there yet, I still have hope.  I will hopefully never give up.  But it is about as low as it gets rigth now.  I hurt on every level.  I am not eating enough, I have no home, I have a car I can't maintain but am stuck with, no job, and little reason to hope on most accounting of the last few years.  But I have skills!  A lot of them.  It's just too bad they are skills only an employer couldn't like... 

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