In honor of receiving the keys for a new apartment this weekend, I have moved this blog to www.lauralisonash.com
My New Year’s resolutions for 2014 include:
(1) Finish writing and editing my book in progress.
(2) Find a job.
(3) Feel like an adult. (rent a house or apartment, pay bills, buy my own food, etc.)
I finished the first draft of my book a couple of weeks ago. Now it is in my friend’s hands (Thanks, Theresa!) for extensive, hard-love editing. (It’s fantasy/sci-fi fiction… Let’s not talk about it again until I know whether or not it is even worth thinking about publishing.)
I found a job–kind of, sort of. It counts. It does. However, I have accepted this job from my employers with their full understanding that I am actively looking for a creative job and could resign at any time. (They are the best. They’ve offered to do anything they can to help me find the job I want, and I want to give them all huge hugs every time I think about it.) I started being a Part-time Analyst this past week on Monday, January 27th and spent approximately twenty-seven hours composing and editing due diligence reports. I spent several more hours during the week doing freelance graphic design work, looking for and applying to creative jobs, and setting up informational interviews with people who are doing the kinds of things that I want to be doing. Again and again, I affirmed my belief that a design or marketing job would fit me incredibly well by getting so caught up in using Adobe Illustrator, as well as teaching myself HTML and CSS, that I repeatedly forgot to feed myself or go to the bathroom.
I’m on my way to feeling like an adult now. Again, kind of, sort of. The forthcoming paychecks help, but I am still not paying rent or bills. For the present, I am sleeping on an air mattress in my friends’ kitchen/living room. (Once again, I am amazed by the kindness and support of my friends.) Sometimes we remind me of a sitcom, especially when the three of us pile onto the couch to watch old Newlywed Game episodes or all brush our teeth at the same sink at the same time.
A week of hard work calls for a weekend of play. On Friday afternoon I took the train back up north to Tacoma. My lovely friend Chelsea picked me up at the train station. We gorged ourselves on blue cheese-bacon burgers and sweet potato fries, then spent Friday evening and most of the day Saturday watching the ninth season of Grey’s Anatomy. Afterward, we celebrated Theresa’s twenty-third birthday with homemade gyros and ice skating.
I’ve wondered if I would choose to fast forward over this transitional part of my life if I could. Transitions are stressful. I feel almost constantly unsettled and uncertain. However, it seems like my life has, for the most part, been made up of transitions: moving something like ten times, switching schools, dealing with my parents’ divorce, working through social anxiety and depression, fitting into new places and activities and jobs and friend groups. I can’t imagine staying still. Furthermore, the rewards will be so worth the struggle. I can’t wait to have a job that will challenge me and compel me to improve myself, and I will do everything I can to get there. I’ve worked my ass off just to get to this struggle, and I want to savor it.
Last week I had to make one of the most difficult decisions of my life so far. Of course, in retrospect the choice seems obvious. Doesn’t it always? And of course this decision doesn’t even compare to the decisions that government leaders and business owners and parents have to make on a regular basis. But I’m just me, and this decision would have a monumental impact on my life and my values.
Last Tuesday, the boutique investment consulting firm that I interned for during my senior year of college offered me a full-time, salaried position as an Analyst in their real estate department. It was a wonderful, generous offer. I loved working with the people who work there, and would love to work with them again. However, I had two big problems with the offer. (1) They wanted a two-year commitment. (2) I am a diehard humanities girl. I graduated with a B.A. in East Asian Studies and Studio Art, and more than anything I want to find a job that will use my creativity. The Analyst position would mostly involve working with numbers and conducting due diligence on real estate funds.
The decision would have been simple if money weren’t an issue. Unfortunately, money is almost always an issue. My number one New Years resolution this year is to get a job, move out of my mom’s house, and pay my own bills. Accepting this offer would have almost immediately solved this problem.
Furthermore, I felt guilty even thinking about turning down a well-paid job with benefits, working with people who I get along with, when so many people have lost their jobs and/or can’t find jobs. My father was laid off. My mother recently went through a long and stressful job search. Many of my aunts and uncles have been laid off. I have friends who have been searching for jobs since graduation. I felt like would be doing injustice to these people if I didn’t take the job, and I worried that it would take me eons to receive another job offer.
On the other hand, I knew that if I took this job I would be counting down the days until my two year contract was up. I would probably be miserable for at least half of my forty hours a week, merely because I wouldn’t be interested in the work. Additionally, it wouldn’t be leading toward the kind of job that I really want. And I wouldn’t do my best work, because I just wouldn’t care.
Then again, I would have money enough to pay off a good chunk of my student loans and save up for grad school.
But two years seems like a really long time. I could be done with grad school in two years.
These arguments and more batted around in my head all of last week. I hardly slept. I scarcely did more than stare into space and find people to ask for advice about the situation. I talked to my mom, friends, my boyfriend, my friend’s parents, and a Lewis & Clark College career counselor. On Friday, I called Pension Consulting Alliance to give them my answer.
I turned down the job.
My former boss told me that he thought I had made the right decision. However, he had a new proposal. Would I like to work for them on an hourly basis while I looked for another job? Yes! My answer was a definitive yes. Why hadn’t he suggested this earlier? Thank you! Thank you! I couldn’t have asked for a better situation, unless perhaps PCA’s employees secretly worked for an arts organization and offered me a job there.
This means that I move back to Portland and start my temp job this coming week. I’ll be living in my friends’ living room/kitchen until we find a larger space to rent. And I will be networking and applying for creative jobs like crazy.
Before the holidays I posted a blog detailing my plans now that I am done traveling. Well… then the holidays happened. I’m not saying that I have been completely unproductive. Over the past few weeks I made Christmas gifts, baked, worked on my fiction writing, read, went to Northwest Trek to look at adorable woodland critters, went hiking, played Cards Against Humanity and Yahtzee, celebrated New Years Eve in Seattle, and generally spent lots and lots of time with family and friends. In my opinion, spending time on relationships is extremely productive. However, it doesn’t usually lead to a job or an apartment or… you know, all of that good stuff.
Unfortunately, the holidays cannot be used as an excuse indefinitely. My boyfriend, Teddy, flew back to Miami this morning. So, after napping, shopping at Costco, and packing up all of the Christmas decorations, I finally admitted that my excuses have run out. The holidays are over. Unless you count Valentine’s Day…
After staring into space for a while, I eventually pulled out all of the notes that I took at my meeting with a Lewis & Clark career counselor last summer. This led me to Mac’s List, a job listing site exclusively catering to the Portland, OR area. Bingo! I wound up bookmarking all kinds of listings from Administrative Assistant at the Western Arts Alliance to Creative Director for Oregon Business magazine.
Most of the applications require a resume, a cover letter, and three references. So I spent the afternoon emailing people for permission to use them as references and tailoring my resume. My resume looks and sounds much more professional than it did before, if I do say so myself. And I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of experience I have accumulated over the last four years. However, I am still worried about finding a job. One of my friends and college classmates (Hi, Hannah!) has applied for over one hundred jobs since graduation and still hasn’t found anything permanent. I’m freaking out just a little bit.
I’ve decided that, for the next few weeks, I’m going to act like I have a nine to five job. I don’t have to get dressed in the morning, but I do have to work on projects that will hopefully lead to advancing my professional career, whatever that turns out to be.
For today, I just want to share something that I was recently introduced to: The Spoon Theory. This is an incredibly smart way to explain what it is like to be living with an illness, mental or physical. To everyone, no matter how many spoons you have, Happy Holidays!!! I hope that you receive a rainfall of silverware in the New Year.
Excellent question. Now that I’ve returned from my epic journey, what is next? Do I turn around and get on another airplane? Do I disappear into the woods and become a hermit in order to recuperate from all of the human contact that comes from traveling for two and a third months? Do I get a job? Well… yeah, I guess that last one is a pretty good idea.
A fair number of people have asked me how I paid for my travels. That is also an excellent question. The answer is that somehow I had enough money saved up. I’m not completely sure where it came from… some from interning at Pension Consulting Alliance for the last year and a half of college, some from selling the art books I made for my senior project, some leftover from student loans… Luckily I bought my airplane tickets for my trip early enough that they were about as cheap as they could be, and I had friends and family willing to host me. Somehow it all just seemed to work out. But now I should probably start adding money to my bank account instead of subtracting.
While I was in New Jersey, the last stop on my trip, I did almost nothing productive. I went to museums, spent time with my family, watched tv, and read. I only ran once, maybe twice. I started to teach myself how to use Adobe Illustrator. I drew a Christmas-themed toilet for the Loo Lady. And I played a lot of Fruit Ninja.
Those who know me well, or who read my introductory blog, already know that not being productive does not sit well with me. I get restless. I fidget a lot. I stare at my blank planner hoping that something needing doing will suddenly appear. I make lists, and I give myself homework assignments.
Since returning home, excepting the time that I have spent catching up with friends, I have been in a frantic state of action. I feel as though I must be doing something productive at all times in order to make up for the time that I was traveling. So I have been making Christmas gifts, reviewing Chinese, cooking a bit, running, and figuring out how to make money between now and when I hopefully officially move back to Portland at the beginning of March.
I am actually currently in Portland, lying in my friend Katie’s bed with her kitty-cat Toby purring in the crook of my arm. My sister drove me down on Monday night (The traffic was so bad that it took us seven hours to make a drive that is usually only two and a half. The shoulder of I-5 was stacked with trucks. Their drivers had pulled over and gone to sleep to wait out the back-up.) so that I could be in Beaverton for a meeting with a company that has hired me to make line art drawings of their products. So, yay! Temporary employment!
I have also made a list of websites that solicit articles by freelance writers and either pay outright for the articles or share ad revenue. So I am planning on giving that a shot. And I want to make a real website–not a blog– for my artwork and writing. Then, in January and February, the house and job searches will begin. I’m going to be keeping myself busy.
When I told Katie (who graduated with me) that I was stressing about not currently having a stable job, she told me that she was stressing about being an adult and having a stable job. This made me realize that whatever I do right now is going to feel strange, merely because I am not in school, and school is what I have done for the last sixteen years.
In theory, I knew that New York City was a cultural center before I visited it. But I didn’t really get it. I didn’t understand what that meant until I actually went to New York. It turns out that what that means is ART, THEATER, MUSIC, FASHION, PUBLISHING, TELEVISION, and, you know, CULTURE.
On the day after Thanksgiving, my dad, my sister, and I took the train into New York in search of last minute Broadway ticket deals. We wound up with seats at a 2:30 performance of Chicago. There was no way we could have gotten tickets for The Book of Mormon or one of the other newer shows at that point. The sidewalks beneath the billboards emblazoned with 1000 point font were teeming with people hoping to get into the matinees. However, there was no line for the Chicago box office. Apparently, the New York Times quote–“glitters hypnotically”–posted above the door and the posters sporting scantily clad ladies weren’t doing their job.
The show turned out to be a lot of fun. My sister the music major was excited to see that the orchestra was onstage with the performers. I particularly liked the song and dance Cellblock Tango, in which the murderesses housed in the Chicago women’s prison told the audience why their victims “had it coming.” That one is worth looking up on YouTube if you have the chance. Excepting a sparkling curtain of tinsel that descended for the last number of the show, there were no set changes for the duration of the production. And there were very few costume changes. The women wore short short dresses, or black bikinis, with fish nets. The men wore tight tight pants with vests or mesh shirts. In my sister’s and my opinion, they would have done better with nothing on top at all.
Speaking of “glitters hypnotically,” I have to mention Fifth Avenue. After the show, the sun had already set. We walked through Central Park for a bit, and then wandered over to Fifth Avenue. The shops had already been decorated for Christmas. It was like Vogue come to life. I dragged my sister and dad into Tiffany’s to gaze at all of the shimmering diamonds, gold, and silver. I don’t think I have ever been somewhere so sparkly in my life. A couple of blocks down, my sister and I were drawn into Saks department store by the window displays. We used the excuse that we needed to go to the restroom to lure my father in. We drooled over the dresses and the men’s jackets for a while, but we mostly refrained from looking at the price tags.
On my third and last trip into the city, my dad and I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We got there with four hours left until the museum closed for the day, and we didn’t get anywhere close to seeing everything. We covered ancient Greek and Roman art; Oceanic art; Native American art; some French art; medieval art from Germany, Italy, and England; arms and armor; some modern art, including a bunch of Picassos; Egyptian art, including the reconstructed Temple of Dendur; drawings and prints (Goya and Durer!!!!); and a glance at the Impressionists. However, my favorite exhibits were the temporary ones: a display of massive, ornate jewelry by the company JAR; a show called Girls and Cats with Balthus’s portraits of serious girls and smiling cats, as well as a series of drawings Balthus did when he was eleven about his cat; and a funky installation piece combining sound, video, and a nonfunctional wooden machine cranking away in the middle of a dark room.
Having gone to Grounds for Sculpture, a 42 acre sculpture park in Hamilton Township, New Jersey, a couple of days before, I was starting to feel like I was choking on ART. I think I just stopped absorbing it after a while. That isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy it though. But after the Georgia O’Keefe Museum and galleries in Santa Fe, the art museum in Minnesota, the Chicago Art Institute, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Grounds for Sculpture, and the Met, I’m planning on taking a break to digest for a while.
I have moved on to my final destination on this two month journey: the home of Snooki and the Situation, one of the thirteen original colonies, and my birthplace, New Jersey. This is the first time that I have made the pilgrimage back to my motherland in over fifteen years. Even though my grandparents house feels familiar, everything else seems brand new.
To be honest, most of the fun stuff that I have done since I flew to New Jersey last week has taken place in neighboring states. On Tuesday, my dad and I took the train from Middletown to New York City to watch a filming of the Late Show with David Letterman. For the first hour that we were in the city, we were underground. I think there might be as much of New York below ground as there is above it. We took the subway from Penn Station to 53rd and Broadway and popped out just across the street from the Ed Sullivan Theater.
Seeing the Late Show turned out to be more of a process than expected. First, we had to request tickets by listing three possible dates in an online form. Then, someone from Dave’s staff called and asked us a trivia question. Luckily they had my Dad’s number, because I had no idea who plays the keyboard for the CBS orchestra. When we got to New York, we had an hour to pick up our tickets (between 2 and 3 p.m.), or we lost them. After we picked up our tickets, they instructed us to come back at exactly 3:20 and line up behind the red rope. When we came back at 3:20, they ushered us all into the entryway, packed us in like cattle waiting to enter the slaughterhouse, and told us bad jokes. They also coached us on how and when to cheer. We were told to laugh loudly and clap, but not to “woo” or whistle. During the show, all of the Late Show pages, who were wearing letterman jackets (haha), stood in front of the audience to lead us in clapping.
The show itself was slightly disappointing, but only because Jennifer Lawrence was supposed to be the guest star, and she didn’t turn up. However, Anderson Cooper, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and David Letterman himself were all pretty funny and informative. Also, Jesse Tyler Ferguson told us about his non-profit organization that sells bow ties to support marriage equality, so I can’t help but like him. I also enjoyed watching the writers scramble to write material on the cue cards during commercial breaks. As soon as the musical guest–The Neighborhood–finished playing, the pages practically shoved us out of the studio.
On Wednesday, I discovered my new dream job. That is, I discovered my dream job if I had lived in Germany during the nineteenth century. My dad took me to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the first gallery we walked into was full of German Romantic Prints. Apparently, etchings were a huge commercial business in romance era Germany. They had art guilds. Members received a new print poster at the annual artists ball. Print artists designed and printed their own calling cards, as well as made illustrations for books and newspapers. Their prints were impossibly detailed. I can hardly describe them. It would be better if you type “German Romantic Prints” into Google and see for yourself. I can’t imagine it took less than a month to produce a single one. So, I sort of wish that I lived in a time when I could make money and have an excuse to go dancing by spending painstaking hours creating beautiful etchings. Actually, I wish that a lot. Oh well, I guess I will just teach myself how to use Adobe Illustrator instead. *Sigh.* The rest of the museum was pretty cool too, but seeing those prints was worth my whole ticket.
Before I end my blog entry, I would like to share some quirks about the East coast with my friends from other parts of the country:
1) People actually say “you’re welcome” in response to “thank you” here. Has anyone else every noticed that people don’t do that on the West coast? Maybe it is just me.
2) There are more Dunkin Donuts than Starbucks.
3) You have to pay to use roads. There are TONS of tollbooths.
4) It is possible to be in three or more states within in an hour of driving (visiting the four corners doesn’t count). The states are just that much smaller!
5) There seem to be more Republicans. But maybe that is just the people I have been spending time with.
6) Some of the buildings are REALLY old. Centuries old. Victorian and colonial old. Also, the graveyards are way overcrowded.
7) Real delis. Furthermore, real Jewish delis. Matzo ball soup, brisket sandwiches, bagels, rye bread, salad bars, pickles. Also, fresh tongue and chicken liver, but we can pretend those aren’t on the menu.
So it is my last day in Miami. I’m definitely not planning on moving here anytime in the foreseeable future. For one, the weather would kill me. Humidity and heat make me extremely irritable. If I lived here, I would become nocturnal so that I only had to go outside at night. Furthermore, I’m not a big fan of palm trees, and palm trees seem to make up about ninety percent of the Miami tree population. However, I have still had a lot of fun in Miami the last two and a half weeks.
Teddy took me to South Beach, of course. It wasn’t nearly as risque as I had expected. I only saw two thong bikinis and zero topless beach-goers. I suppose I was imagining South Beach during Spring Break rather than midday Saturday. The water was fantastic: warm and clear and shallow. The few waves were caused by passing boats. It was not until we left the beach to find lunch that I had a taste of the South Beach I had expected. Restaurants line the street parallel to the beach. As we walked past, hosts and hostesses in tiny outfits attempted to stop us by telling us about their happy hour deals and “free tequila! Do you want free tequila?” Many of the diners had massive, novelty sized margarita glasses sitting in front of them. Some of these glasses had two beer bottles upturned inside of them. Some of these glasses were stuffed full of fried prawns. And some of them just had margaritas in them. I can only imagine what that street was like at night.
We limited our bar hopping to bars and clubs that didn’t charge cover fees. According to Teddy, some of the clubs charge up to thirty dollars just to get in. They also require men to follow a dress code. So we didn’t go to South Beach at night. Instead, we stuck to Brickel and Midtown. In Midtown, we went to Bar Louie. Their happy hour deals included one dollar burger night on Tuesdays and one dollar draft night on Wednesdays, so we ended up there more than a few nights. On Halloween we went to a club called Blackbird. It was packed, and everyone was in costume. A DJ entertained the crowd inside, while a live band entertained the crowd outside. We spent most of the night dancing. When we went to Blackbird again on Sunday night, it could not have been more different. Teddy and I went with another couple. When we arrived, there were only two other people at the bar. We spent the night playing Jenga, Scrabble, and backgammon. On Sunday, we also went to Brother Jimmy’s BBQ so that Teddy could watch the 49ers-Panthers game. We ordered a drink called the swamp water. It came in a 64-oz fish bowl with seven straws stuck in it (presumably a sign that more than two people usually share it). When the waitress brought it, she blew on a whistle and stuck a plastic alligator into it mouth first. Red grenadine poured out of the alligator’s mouth into a mixture of pineapple juice and some kind of alcohol.
Saturday marked Teddy and my one-year anniversary of dating, so we celebrated by dressing up a bit and going to a fancy restaurant called Tony Chan’s Water Club. We ordered a three-course Peking duck meal. The first course consisted of the duck’s skin wrapped in little tortillas with cabbage and plum sauce. The second course was a soup made with the duck’s bones, mushrooms, and bok choy. The final course, by which point we didn’t have too much room left in our stomachs, was a duck meat and vegetable stir fry. If you haven’t had duck and you aren’t a vegetarian, do it! It is the fattiest type of poultry, and it is delicious.
After we ate, we walked to a street lined with art galleries. Once a month, the street fills with food carts and the galleries are all open and free to the public. My favorite part of this was not the galleries, but the street art. Many of the walls in the area were covered with colorful graffiti and murals. It was raining, but I didn’t care.
Other than sight seeing, drinking, and eating (Haitian food, by the way, is fried and spicy and wonderful), I have spent time here swimming. Teddy’s apartment complex contains a pool, as well as a gym. I’ve been working on some graphic design and illustration work. (Check it out! http://lootours.com/shop/index.html) And I’ve spent a lot of time watching all of the Marvel movies (hadn’t seen them before) and Supernatural (we’re on season 4). So not a bad two and a half weeks.
Miami reminds me of China. I probably say that about far too many things. This reminds me of China. That reminds me of China. I’m sure it doesn’t help that China is the one foreign country that I have spent a significant amount of time in. But Miami really does remind me of China in a lot of different ways.
For one, the weather here is extremely similar to most of the places in China that I have visited. It is hot and humid. As soon as I walk outside, I’m sweating. I want to turn around, go back inside, and take a cold shower.
The apartment complex that Teddy and many of the other City Year Corps Members live in is located in Little Haiti. This means that when we leave the complex we are two of very few white people. This is something that I have only experienced in China. Thankfully, unlike in China, most people here don’t stare at me openly for being tall and blonde.
The shops in this neighborhood remind me of China in a way that is a little difficult to explain. In Chengdu, a whole street will be lined with several shops all selling the same few products or services. For instance, all of the shops that sell computers, cell phones, and other electronics will reside within the same few blocks. Here it feels like every third shop is a hair salon. All of the pawn shops seem to be on the same street. Down the road, in the Design District, all of the stores sell modern furniture. And there are stores that sell very strange combinations of things, like a used bookstore/second-hand clothing store/pharmacy. Or a bar/tattoo parlor.
The delicious smell of spicy food drifts out onto the street from all the Haitian restaurants in the area. This reminds me of all the open front, outdoor restaurants in China. It was impossible not to smell the food in passing when it was cooked out on the sidewalk.
Another similarity, and perhaps this is just me, but the women here wear interesting combinations of clothing. For example, I saw a preteen girl wearing a floral jumpsuit, a knit headband, and high-heeled sneakers. Platforms and wedges are the norm. Skirts slit up to the upper thigh and crop tops can be considered day wear. Even old women wear colorful, knee-length dresses. In China, women and men alike don’t give a shit whether their outfits “match.” Girls often wear skirts so tight that they can barely walk and towering heels decorated with bows. Men wear polo shirts with fifty different contrasting logos (think the Ralph Lauren polo man logo and the Lacoste alligator on the same shirt).
Finally, the attitude here is very much like it was in the city that I studied abroad in in China. Things move more slowly here in Miami, just like they did in Chengdu. Shopkeepers and their families lounge on lawn chairs outside of their stores, only getting up to help customers. Public transportation does not run on time. Adherence to traffic laws is lackadaisical at best. And people rest up during the day and hit the bars and clubs at night.
Halloween was the first night that I had been to a club since I studied abroad in Chengdu. (Supposedly we went to a club in Minneapolis, but I don’t count that because only about three people were dancing.) In Chengdu, we would bounce from club to club by way of taxi until 1 or 2 a.m., then we would stop at KFC for chicken sandwiches. Last Thursday night, in Miami, we spent several hours dancing at a club called Black Bird (I don’t think I saw a single person at the club not wearing a costume), took over the stage after the live band left, then finished the night/early morning at Denny’s. We slept until 2:30 the next afternoon and went to a party again that night.
I’m not a partier. That isn’t my thing. But it feels natural here. It isn’t even a comfortable temperature until a couple hours after dark anyway, so it just makes sense to be out and about late at night.