The Year I Came, Saw & Conquered

I’ve been back in California for nearly a year now. As I’ve written before, the last year has been one of personal growth and introspection. I’ve lost and gained friendships and lost a noticeable amount of weight (26 pounds for almost 26 years alive LOL). I’ve seriously doubted my self-worth and struggled with some depression….and came out feeling stronger and more defiant than before. But most importantly: I’ve come to enjoy life without the sense of near-absolute certainty and security I had come to embrace for years.

Back when I moved to DC for the internship at The American Prospect, I expected to land some sort of job in the journalism world. But towards the end of my time with The Prospect, I realized that journalism wasn’t the career for me – it’s unreliable (especially in the digital age) and doesn’t pay well for the amount of work that has to go into it. I was feeling homesick and nostalgic for the Golden State and wanted to jump start a career as a political staffer in the LA area. After making several connections and applying for several dozen jobs, nothing really panned out. In the meantime I worked side jobs to keep just enough money coming in to make monthly payments on my (thankfully) small student loan and a couple credit cards.

My next step was to apply for jobs in DC, too. Washington is both the political and non-profit heart of the country – there are countless opportunities for a job-seeking millennial with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications. So I started applying for political and PR/communications jobs in DC a few months after moving back home. I scored a few interviews and made some great connections that have since helped me tremendously. But the biggest obstacle to being a young politico in DC again has been the fact that I’m no longer in DC…yet.

This past January, I had to go back to work at my old Starbucks store. Did I want to? Not really. But my source of income was small and unstable. My old employer would at least pay me a steady wage. My manager has also been incredibly understanding and kind by bringing me back onto the team. One never really forgets how to make a Caramel Macchiato or a pitcher of coffee once you’ve spent years making them so my transition back to Baristaland was pretty smooth.

Had I known that I’d be back at my old Starbucks store a year ago, I would have obviously made some different decisions. For one, I would not have quit Starbucks in the first place. Say what you will about the two-tailed, green siren – she provides a good work environment and exceptional benefits for a food service company…and she allows her minions to transfer to different stores across the country. I probably would’ve stayed at the DC Starbucks I was at until I landed a permanent job.

But I didn’t. And that’s okay.

I’ve been forced to accept the fact that life – no matter how well you think it’s being managed and/or controlled – does not always go as planned. I planned on having a career in my field by now. I planned on living and working in the City of Angels. I planned on living and working in Washington, DC. I did everything I knew to do and have accepted all the constructive input I’ve sought out. And yet here I am.

Don’t confuse my acceptance of life’s uncertainty and unpredictability as defeat. To the contrary – I feel more ambitious than ever. My drive to succeed and make my own life has never been stronger.

As a matter of fact, I’ve applied for nearly 30 internships and fellowships since the beginning of May – DC internships and fellowships. My new plan is to once again be an intern in the District while working at (preferably) the same Starbucks store I was at before. I learned my lesson from last year and won’t quit “the Bux” until I land a permanent and full-time communications/PR or Capitol Hill job. The goal: Get to DC, continue to network, and stay. I’ve already had an interview and have another coming up. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be back in DC by early June.

Of course this plan could easily change or be upended by another one. But building my resume with a third internship or fellowship – one I am definitely qualified for – is an excellent way to launch a successful career. Just being back in DC will only expedite the process, too. Life threw me some important, lesson-learning curve balls. I’ve taken notes and redoubled my efforts. It’s not in my nature to settle for mediocrity or collapse in defeat if things haven’t gone according to plan. I’ve only got one life to live and I want to look back on it someday knowing that I did everything in my power to make it successful and fulfilled.

As always, stay tuned. 🙂

just me

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It’s Getting Worse…Even Though It’s Getting Better…

As this election cycle has dragged on, we’ve heard two types of rhetoric (in this case, “rhetoric” means persuasive speech). One side says that things are getting worse and that the President’s “big government” policies are directly responsible for “killing jobs” and prolonging the economic recession. The other side says that things are looking better and that while economic recovery has been slow, it IS happening, thanks in large part to President Obama’s policies.

Facts are funny things. You can scream all you want, trying to persuade an audience to accept your view, but if the facts don’t line up with your rhetoric, you’re just a talking head.

Here are the facts. Last month (February 2012) the United States added 227,000 jobs, making it the 23rd consecutive month of private sector job growth. Most of these new jobs were in the fields of manufacturing, professional and hospitality and restaurants. Unemployment dropped to 8.3 percent in January and has since remain unchanged. Those marginally attached to the labor force (those looking for work) did not increase, nor did the amount of discouraged workers (those who have literally given up looking for a job). As a matter of fact, first-time claims for unemployment decreased to its lowest point in four years.

Oh, and under President Obama, the amount of people who work for the government has actually decreased, despite the claims of “bigger government.” In 2011, there was an average loss of 22,000 government jobs per month.

While the economic recovery has been painfully slow at times, it is pretty clear that things are getting better overall. Whether you attribute the improving economy to President Obama’s policies, the ingenuity of the American worker, or both, the fact remains that things are definitely not getting worse. And yet, despite the public availability of these facts, the President’s critics still believe that the economy is going down.

Listening to a campaign speech by Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, or Rick Santorum, one would get the impression that the country is about to sink into the Earth, or something. Is this dissonance with reality the way to win an election in modern-day America? Politicians have always been known to twist and distort facts or even make them up on the spot to win an election. That’s nothing new in American politics.

However, I don’t think it’s advantageous to the Republican candidates to claim that things are getting worse because of President Obama when the facts clearly show things are in fact getting better. The American people’s confidence and optimism about our their economic future is improving. We aren’t idiots. We can tell that things are getting better. More of us are finding jobs. Maybe the GOP should focus on continuing and improving upon the policies of President Obama….I know, crazy, right?!

If Romney, Gingrich and Santorum keep up the revisionist charade, they may as well drop out of the race. Treating voters like buffoons who have no access to publicly available facts and statistics is a losing campaign strategy. Of course, ignoring the threats of climate change and the deterioration of civil rights and liberties and the middle class are whole other blog posts… 😉

Revitalizing California (And The Rest Of The Nation) Via High-Speed Rail

In 2009, President Obama announced a plan to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within the next 25 years with funding from federal, state and industrial sources. To accomplish this plan, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) created the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program (HSIPR) to revitalize and update America’s railways. The program focuses on three key objectives (direct from the FRA’s website):

  1. Building new high-speed rail corridors that expand and fundamentally improve passenger transportation in the geographic regions they serve.
  2. Upgrading existing intercity passenger rail corridors to improve reliability, speed, and frequency of existing services; and
  3. Laying the groundwork for future high-speed rail services through corridor and state planning efforts.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed by President Obama in 2009, gave $8 billion to railway revitalization efforts. Since then, an additional $2.1 billion has been added to HSIPR, making the program’s total funding $10.1 billion.

One of the many projects HSIPR is investing in is the California High-Speed Rail project, an 800-mile-long route through the heart of the largest US state. HSIPR added a $300 million investment to the $9.95 billion funded by Proposition 1A, passed by CA voters in 2008. It will be the nation’s first 220-mph high-speed rail system and allow commuters and tourists to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than three hours (it currently takes around eight hours via one reeeally long drive). Passengers will be able to travel the amazing system beginning in 2020 and once it’s completed, it will be possible to travel from Sacramento to San Diego by train.

Is high-speed rail expensive? Definitely. To revitalize and upgrade the nation’s railroads, billions of dollars are needed. Current estimates for the California High-Speed Rail project put the cost at around $100 billion. Despite the high cost, high-speed rail investment is most definitely worth it. In the short-term, projects like the one in California put 600,000 people to work constructing the rail line itself. In the long-term, commuting times between cities hundreds of miles apart are shortened (by hours), almost half a million people have jobs working for the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA), existing routes are updated and improved, travel across the state – whether for business or pleasure – is clean and efficient, and goods and services can move quickly across great distances. Oh, and the fact that we’re in a bad economy is all the more reason to invest in improving the channels through which our economy operates.

Several nations around the globe have invested in high-speed rail and the results have been positive. Economies are stronger and the world is a little smaller and cleaner. California and the rest of the United States are going in the right direction by revitalizing their national railroad systems, laying the groundwork for a prosperous century.

*As a California resident, I think it’s amazing that my state is once again leading the way in innovation. I cannot wait to travel across the state in such a state-of-the-art, fast train. 🙂

The Big Picture: The CA High-Speed Rail Authority’s 2009 Business Plan

California High-Speed Rail: A Visual Tour

American High-Speed Rail System Plan