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

This year’s journey

This year’s journey

This has been one of, if not the, biggest year of my life. Granted, I’m only 25, the age considered “old” to annoying teens and “kiddie” to people collecting Social Security. But it’s still been a significant year. I lived in DC for several months while working as an editorial intern with The American Prospect. I connected with some incredible people. I improved my skills. Hell, I even endured my first snow storm (I now hate snow) and lost 25 pounds (hello again, pant size I haven’t seen in 5 years).

But perhaps the biggest impact of the year has been more self discovery and a deeper understanding of the connections that bind friends and family. I can truly say that I’m a different person than I was during December 2013. Then, I was about to finish college with a BA in Communication and was eagerly awaiting my internship with The Prospect. I was sure that I would move to DC and end up staying there – I just knew that I’d somehow get a job by the end of my internship. I was so sure that I packed up my room before leaving, that way my parents wouldn’t have to pack my room for me when I inevitably got a job (it’s still mostly packed, by the way).

I was confident that I’d land a job – I had met plenty of “important” people and connected with DC natives. Through a then-friendship, I had been able to score an incredibly low monthly rent rate. Everything was falling into place. I had worked hard to make sure it would all happen…and it was about to.

I should make it clear that I did accomplish a lot and have achieved most of what I wanted to during this year. And I really am close to landing a job in DC or LA – I’ve applied to several dozen different positions with a plethora of organizations and elected officials and met and connected with great people who have helped me along the way. But after living on my own in a completely different environment, coming right back to California afterwards, working side jobs here and there to keep some cash coming in, being (essentially) unemployed for half the year, and losing some friendships, I’m in a different place. Life threw me a bit of a curve ball. And that’s okay.

My perspective and understanding of who I am and who my friends and  are has changed. Aside from a sense of impatience (a result of job searching for several months) I feel more at peace with myself and life. I challenged myself by living on my own in DC. I improved my writing and research skills. I’ve learned more about the world around me and been exposed to different, vibrant experiences. Being without a full-time job has given me plenty of (if not too much) time to critique my priorities. I’ve realized that some people in my life were only passing attractions on my journey. Without the pain from being blown off, ignored, or rejected, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I know, now more than ever, that I am enough and that I have the talent and skill to make my future. Plus, I still have some incredible, amazing and lovely people in my life that are there for good. Their presence leaves me ever-grateful.

I feel stronger and more confident. Even my politics have changed, though just a little bit (yes, I’m still a “lefty”). I’m going out of my way to be challenged in my thinking and it’s made me a better citizen. I guess you could call me a center-left liberal who enjoys reading The American Prospect and Mother Jones…as well as The American Conservative and Reason magazine (I’ve also come to find the liberal websites Mic and Salon to be insufferable, pretentious messes – yeah, I said it). I don’t want to be a robot and I don’t want to worry about censoring myself within my own political camp or in other areas of my life.

The uncertainty of the future doesn’t terrify me like it did. After all, life is about learning, growing and making your own meaning, pursuing your own happiness. Will I be living in DC or LA by next month? Maybe…and maybe not. Am I rambling? Maybe. 😉 All I can do is keep living my life and loving who I am. There’s no other way to live as I make this journey.

 

 

My Two Cents On Our *Really* Big Universe

You are incredibly special. You are also incredibly insignificant. Once you realize your place in the universe, this little paradox makes more sense.

One of my favorite movies is Contact. Aside from the fact that it contains brilliant acting and a captivating plot, one of my favorite quotes is in it. When answering the question if we’re alone in the universe, the main character says, “If it is just us, it seems like an awful waste of space.” Waste of space is right. The universe is incredibly huge…mind-blowingly enormous.

The fastest thing in the universe, light, can circle the Earth seven times in a single second. Our galaxy, one of hundreds of BILLIONS in the KNOWN universe, is so enormous that it takes light more than 100,000 years to get from one end to the other. As far as we’ve been able to calculate and detect, the KNOWN universe is 13.7 billion years old…yes, it takes light almost 14 billions years to get from one end of the universe to the other.

Our galaxy alone has hundreds of billions of stars. We’ve discovered several hundred planets orbiting many of those stars. Some are within their star’s habitable zone, meaning water could be present in liquid form. Where there’s water, there’s potentially life. Liquid water may also be one of many ways life can thrive. There may be life swimming through oceans of liquid methane, like the methane ocean on Saturn’s moon, Titan. The possibilities are endless.

Want to have your mind blown again? This universe may be one of several…but that’s a whole other topic 😉

As insignificant as we are, we are also incredibly special. Life on this planet is present in many places, from the ideal pastures of the Great Plains to underwater, super-hot hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the oceans. It is resilient and when the right chemicals and building blocks are arranged in just the right way, simple life forms evolve. Climates and geography determine what life will be like. The rest is left up to time, lots of time.

As large as the universe is, it is entirely plausible and realistic to imagine that life is thriving elsewhere in the cosmos. At this very moment, while we’re pondering whether or not it is all just a big “waste of space,” there could be an intelligent species in some other part of the universe also looking up into the skies and wondering whether they are alone. The feeling one gets from imagining that we are one of countless intelligent species in the universe is almost spiritual; The universe itself is the thing that connects us all.

Before I end up writing a novel, I’ll leave you, the reader, with this stunning video. Astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History created this animation – to amazing detail – of the known universe. Watch and be amazed…

Let’s Get One Thing Straight

I value my relationships. I have friends and family of all different political, philosophical and religious stripes. Through all the disagreement and dialogue, we still love and value each other at the end of the day. Life is too short and too valuable to get hung up on things like ideological differences. Why reject a friend or a potential friend because they’re not just like you? Why go through life like that?

I don’t understand why many people take criticism of their beliefs/views as “hateful.” Sure, there are asshats out there who insult an opposing view outright. I completely understand the outrage from that.

However, I don’t understand when someone takes polite criticism as completely negative. The person takes all of their detractors (including people they were supposedly on good terms with) and puts them into one boat and then tells ’em all to f*** off. Am I missing something here?

I’m the kind of person who dwells on things like this. I take  more than I should to heart and I know I shouldn’t. Life’s too short to get bogged down by people like that. I guess I’ll just have to be more careful.

Live

It’s funny.

For so many years, we search for and crave the approval of our superiors and peers. Parents, extended family, friends, co-workers, managers, teachers, etc. We sacrifice our own dreams and ambitions to please this large group of people who we’re told has our best interests in mind.

Don’t get me wrong, these people do care and they do love. But, we eventually reach a point (or at least we’re supposed to) where we don’t care and learn to approve of ourselves.

We have to approve of and accept ourselves and reach for the stars. We cannot afford to let others get us down or prevent us from reaching our potential.

Life is short and there are no do-overs or game-overs. Once we take our last breath, it’s over. We should all live with this in mind, that way, we enjoy life even more and push for our goals and dreams.

My two cents.

 

The Amazing Survivor

On June 15, 1999, at 6:15 p.m., her life was forever changed. That night, Lisa received devastating news. The tests were in; she was HIV positive.

Lisa (name changed to protect her privacy) was stunned about the news from her doctor. In her strong manner, she simply asked, “Where do we go from here?”

The softball-mom and Girl Scout-mother of one had put the past behind her until it invaded her life five years later.

Five years prior to that unforgettable day, Lisa, then 35, was finishing her last semester of college at the University of Texas Houston.

Now, at age 52, she is in the process of obtaining her second college degree, this one in History from California State University Sacramento.

She and one of her girlfriends went out for a few drinks at a neighborhood bar one night in the spring of 1994.

They weren’t expecting to meet anyone or stay out late, but when a tall, blonde, handsome man caught Lisa’s eye, she gathered the courage to buy him a drink.

The gesture was returned with harmless flirtation and drinks with the man and three of his male friends…or so Lisa thought.

It was getting late and the handsome stranger offered to drive Lisa home since her girlfriend had already left. Excited, Lisa accepted…and that was the last thing she remembered.

Lisa awoke the next morning in her apartment. Immediately, she knew she had been raped. What was more devastating, she had an overwhelming suspicion that she had been infected with HIV/AIDS.

Lisa began to piece together what had happened the night before. The agonizing pain she was in and the intensity of the hangover she was suffering from was the worst she’d felt.  She said she had been drugged and that her clothes were not properly on.

She didn’t file a police report because she didn’t think a jury would be convinced from the available evidence.

A friend from the bar Lisa had visited the previous night told her that she had left with the group of four men seemingly happy. Lisa had been drugged, raped and forgotten.

While the world was awaiting the promise of a new century, Lisa became very ill.

The doctors performed several tests and what was thought to be a bad case of anemia turned out to be an aggressive case of HIV.

A month after the horrible news, July 1999, her body was literally ingesting itself to survive in what is known as HIV Wasting Syndrome.

T-cells within the blood are vital to defending the body against disease and infection. Without them, we die.

HIV/AIDS destroys the immune system, including T-cells, and essentially renders the victim defenseless to even the most minor disease.

The average person has between 500 and 1,600 T-cells per milliliter of blood. This number can fluctuate for several reasons, from stress to disease.

The United States Centers for Disease Control classifies anyone with a T-cell count of 200 or less as having AIDS. Lisa’s count was at 44.

She was immediately prescribed two AIDS medications. Her body reacted to the medications with a fever of 103 degrees and vomiting.

Her family discovered her condition that July.

Doctors believed that Lisa had contracted Tuberculosis and placed her under quarantine in the terminally-ill wing of the hospital. The only way she was expected to leave the hospital was in a body bag.

Family and friends had to take extreme precautions when visiting her by thoroughly washing their hands and wearing medical breathing masks and gloves.

Lisa should have died at age 40.

Eight days after being admitted to the hospital, Lisa walked out of the building in much better condition.

Lisa had an eight-inch-long tube (“pickline”) inserted into one of the arteries in her left arm so that she could self-administer antibiotics for 10 days.

A few days after leaving the hospital, Lisa returned to work.

Within six months, the level of HIV in her blood was nearly undetectable. By 2002, her T-cell count was around 300.

Lisa’s health has been improving exponentially. Her current T-cell count is a healthy 736.

If she wasn’t tested for AIDS, it would be impossible to tell that only a decade ago, her life nearly ended.

Advances in medicine and treatment have forever changed Lisa’s life. She has been on only one medication since September 2010.

Lisa has trouble paying her medical bills and has been unable to find a job for nine years. She didn’t begin to receive disability payments until two years after applying for it.

Despite Lisa’s financial troubles, she has gained a new outlook on life. Since her amazing recovery, she has removed major stressors from her life and is continuing to pursue her goals.

A Texas native, Lisa is a tough, no-nonsense survivor. Her visibly gentle demeanor is misleading. Don’t mess with Lisa.

AIDS nearly killed her at age 40. Now, at age 52, Lisa is continuing to fight. Through the insurmountable odds, she has overcome and once again taken control of her life.

When asked to describe herself, Lisa instantly said, “Honey, I’m going to be the longest-surviving person with AIDS.”

 

It’s Almost Here!

It’s already here: I’ll be leaving to Sacramento this Friday.

Time has gone by so fast. I still cannot believe that two years ago, I was a freshman at the local community college. Now, on Friday, I’ll be transferring to California State University Sacramento for a degree in Government Journalism.

I’ve already made some great friends and I am eager to make more. This new experience, this new chapter in my life…I’m ready and anxious for it.

Here’s to new beginnings and new friends.