100 Days Out: Off the Refugee Trail

When I returned from Guyana back in 2015, I wrote a post after 100 days of being back in America. I wanted to take a moment to check in with myself about how I was adjusting to everything. I’m now at that point again, having returned from Greece 100 days ago. This is the tried and true process of transition–my favorite!

I am off the refugee trail. I’m no longer a part of what is going on, I just get updates about what is happening. It feels a little bit like sitting on the sidelines, but at the same time, it’s a relief. I’m experiencing the all too familiar feelings that come with having existed in another piece of the world for a length of time before returning “home” or to “normal”.

At this point in the process, right at that magical mark when the number of days since the return clicks from double digits to triple, I find it’s the time when the universal “you” is at the bottom of the canyon. On one side, a towering cliff, the same on the other. And there before you is a valley, with no direct path to guide you toward either piece of yourself, who you were or who you’ll be. You’re just at the bottom of the gorge, watching the river go by, wondering what might be on the other side, knowing that the only place to go is up the steep cliff on the other side.

This time around, this time while transitioning, I’ve payed as close attention to my thoughts as possible. Are they fleeting? Do the same people and events and squabbles and disasters flash through my brain over and over again from my time abroad? Do the memories tend to come and go like waves on the beach, accepting them for what they are? I’m here now. I’ve been here for a while and the experience of Greece is behind me. But, at the same time, I’m still at the bottom of the canyon. I don’t know what I’m suppose to be doing exactly. There isn’t a grand plan, there’s just the day to day. There are ideas about what this time should look like, and there are sometimes thoughts that become actions, but still…I’m not sure.

I think, in general right now, I wake up in the morning and I just kind of…”do”…the day. I work a little bit. I spend too much time drinking coffee. I wonder about different people that I’ve cared about throughout my life. Sometimes I read a little. Sometimes I read entirely too much. I watch “Madam Secretary” on Netflix and wonder what it would take to turn the State Department into the Peace Department. My time in the canyon has also allotted me more time than ever before to pay close attention to the elections. I think about all of the candidates and why some of them seem to be doing better than others, then I have lengthy discussions with my brother about it.

I look for work a lot, too. Every time I get a phone call or an interview with a potential job scheduled, I hop back on the internet, almost out of instinct, and start submitting resumes again. I think this is my way of keeping my options open, of always having a few irons in the fire. In this 100 day span, I’ve officially applied to more than 50 jobs. Unfortunately, with the internet being as sterile as it is, so many of my applications disappear into cyber space. But even still, I’ve garnered quite the expansive list of interviews and job offers thus far. It’s one gigantic, hilarious rabbit hole, and it looks like this:

Not knowing exactly where I want to be or what I want to be doing, the following has occurred since the beginning of November:

  • I had a phone interview to work at a pharmaceutical company in Manhattan. I don’t even remember applying for this job, but the interviewer made my prospects sound promising. I never heard from her again. Probably for the best, considering I would have had to work for “the man”.
  • I had a phone interview to be the personal assistant to a fashion designer in New York City. The interviewer admitted that I wasn’t your everyday applicant, and was curious as to why I had applied for the position. I openly admitted to having no experience or interest in the world of fashion, hoping that this might peak their interest in me as a candidate. Again, thankfully, nothing came of this. I don’t think I would be happy working in the world of upcoming fashion trends.
  • I went through the entirety of a four step interview process, all the way to a two-day trial period to be an administrative person at a Charter School in the Bronx. I was signed on to do two ten-hour days, to see if I liked the job and to see if the job liked me. I left about twenty minutes into the second day, well aware that I would not be compatible with the position I was one step away from getting. I walked out of there with my sanity intact, reminded that I’m not meant to work behind the scenes in environments that are suppose to be helping empower people. I like faces.
  • I had an in-person interview with a community center in Manhattan that services seniors and low-income individuals. My job would have been organizing volunteers to help with a variety of different organizations that the center worked with. It was all really promising, the environment was pleasant, I really liked the people I was meeting, and the job seemed right up my ally, it’s just that the pay was frighteningly low, and I’m trying to put a literal price tag on my worth right now, so I turned it down.
  • Most recently, I was hired (yes, actually hired) to work as a case worker for young adults between the ages of 18 to 26 who have aged out of group homes. I would have assisted them in securing and keeping jobs and housing for themselves. The pay was also insultingly low, but this time I decided to accept the job, just because I was ready to start working more full-time hours. A week after being hired, I backed out of the job.
  • In January, I had an interview at the local LGBTQ Center to work as their Program Director. I wasn’t offered the position, but I was also skeptical about taking on such an important job in this part of the world since I’m not stoked about the idea of living here long-term.
  • After walking away from the position at the school in the Bronx that I knew would eat my soul, I applied for a job working at a center in Queens that caters to individuals with refugee backgrounds from Arab speaking countries. I was really excited about this place as a potential chance at employment, but none of the open positions were anything that I would have been a good fit for. I did score myself a phone interview, but there were too many questions that I found myself answering, “no, but I’m willing to learn!” to.
  • For three weeks in December, I was offered, accepted, and actually completed a seasonal job at Kohl’s. I think it was my first time working retail during a holiday season. I learned a lot, and it filled some time.
  • I also took a job working weekends at a local bakery. I’m still currently holding down this position.
  • I also took a job teaching English online in the mornings back in October while I was still in Greece and continue to pull my bones out of bed in the dark morning hours each day to chat with Chinese kids thirteen time zones away right before they go to bed.
  • I’ve also been hired at a local hospital to work as a medical technician. This is the reason that I opted to step away from the case worker job, because this position was offered to me two days later and sounded like quite the adventure.

Having the job search on the front burner this whole time has been an experience. I’ve been looking for work, but I’ve been wishy-washy about what I want, mostly because…I don’t know what I want. It’s been a ride listening to all of the thoughts in my head about these potential jobs. What was I thinking when I applied to some of these things?

The real trouble with all of this at the end of the day is that I’m not seeing any of them as overly adventurous endeavors. There isn’t anything magical for me about working at a desk, in an office, or as somebody’s assistant. I’m just holding out hope that I am able to look at the approaching positions as their own unique adventures, even if they aren’t taking place somewhere exotic or attached to a sexy title.

Time will tell. Until then, the cupcake slinging, early morning English squabbles, and venturesome task at the local hospital will have to do.

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