Why your “Dream Job” Doesn’t Exist

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about employment. This tends to happen to me when I am unemployed, as I currently am. (P.S. Know anyone hiring in Austin, TX?)

A fair number of the posts I see online about job searching and living your best life encourage us all to find jobs we really enjoy. They push us to create our ‘dream job’ because that’s a part of what leads to the ever-elusive ‘happy’ life.

And yet, when I look at online job postings, and when I examine the world around me, I find that there is quite a disparity between the jobs we’re supposed to strive for and the jobs that need doing.

Of course I think everyone deserves to have a job that fulfills them. We spend too much of our lives working to do jobs that we hate. But, I think there is a big expectation difference in this generation. No one expects to have to work as a plumber or a mover or the person who installs your cable. We all want these jobs that give us the goods along with a little glamor.

I think about how many marketing advisers or television newscasters or event planners we, as a society, really need, compared to how many people we need to figure out what to do with the trash we produce as a country, or how many people we need to assist the people who are ill or dying or disabled, how many people we need to ship things, build things, fix things.

Yes, I believe services that add to the quality of life in this country are important. But are they more important than making sure the basics are covered for everyone?

I think our western culture has a lot of priorities to sort out, and I wish we paid people based on the social utility of their job rather than what the most privileged and wealthiest among us think is most important. Money obviously isn’t a real indicator of someone’s value, but in this country, where money goes or doesn’t go is pretty significant evidence for what we believe to be most valuable. When we have people paying as much money for cars as most people make in an entire year in some of the most vital roles in our society, I think we have some problems.

It’s when I get to this point in my line of thought that I remember how few truly useful skills I’ve learned so far in my life. My heart reminds me that listening to people, giving them their humanity in a momentary, interpersonal way, is vitally important. But, it isn’t enough. It certainly isn’t enough when I know I am capable of doing so much more.

I just don’t know exactly what that looks like yet.


Why I Haven’t Deleted Those Facebook Friends

Everyone has those friends on Facebook who fill up your newsfeed with posts that completely and totally disagree with your line of thinking. Particularly in times of heated political and social debate, these people can become fervent with the opposing viewpoint, posting inflammatory statements one after another. Most people I know take one of two approaches to these friends: actively arguing with them via the comments section, or deleting the ‘friend’ entirely.

Every time I find an “anti-vaccine,” “anti-Islam,” “anti-refugee,” “all lives matter,” or “planned parenthood secrets” post on my feed, I am filled with dread and anger. I hover over the post for a moment and decide whether the source looks reputable enough to bother examining the content, almost delete the post, contemplate deleting the friend, and then ultimately move on.

In most cases, the people I would consider deleting are the sorts who just wouldn’t be convinced by anything I could tell them or show them, so arguing seems futile. So why don’t I just follow along with the trend and delete them?

Well, whether or not I like it, there are a lot of people in this world who agree with these Facebook friends of mine. It’s easy for me to forget this fact when I am generally surrounded by family and friends who are mostly in agreement with me, and when the internet automatically censors and sorts my content with an intention of showing me things I ‘like’. I rarely listen to the news unless it’s NPR, and that’s hardly what the majority of the United States pins as their top news source.

These Facebook friends actually serve a vital role in my life. They are people I vehemently disagree with but have some sort of personal connection to. They are real people, and I have probably seen something about them that I really like. Unlike when I listen to Fox news or hear Donald Trump speak, I am forced to realize that people actually do believe this stuff that I often think is totally unbelievable. As much as I want to, I can’t dismiss these viewpoints as unimportant or uninfluential. These friends are a bright red stop sign, checking me on the so-called-progress I think our society is making.

It’s so easy when you’re in a city like Seattle or attending a liberal-leaning college to see the world as you think it should be within your reach. The bubble I create wherein everyone is ready and willing to discuss issues sensitively, openly, vulnerably… Well, that is a bubble that needs to pop every so often or else I run the risk of becoming complacent. Particularly, being white and not witnessing much of the racial violence that occurs on an everyday basis, I am at a great risk for becoming complacent and therefore a silent and complicit bystander.

So, today, I say thank you to the people I don’t agree with for sharing articles and opinions that I want to hate. I need to see conflicting beliefs, and I need to know what you’re thinking. I know it’s not all that I can and should do to work toward cooperation and better dialogue, but I think it’s important all the same. I live in my bubble a lot of the time. I’d like to spend more time trying to find ways out of it than building mechanisms to keep me in.

El Paso: On Border Towns and Building Walls

Let the record show that I’m not an economist. I’m not a resident of El Paso. I know much less than I wish I did about the state of immigration in the U.S.A., and I know even less than that about the violent conflicts in Central and South America that are driving people from their homes.

But here’s what I do know. I visited El Paso a couple days ago and stayed with one of my best friends, who is doing amazing work helping those people who many systems in the U.S. try to diminish, deport, and demoralize.

El Paso is a big city, and its population is about 80% Hispanic. Spanish is spoken as often as English is–both by residents and visitors. Most amazing to me is that El Paso is a city divided by a big metal fence. It’s conjoined twin, Juarez sits just on the other side, and if you’re looking out over the city, the dividing line is almost indistinguishable.

When I think about the U.S./Mexican border, I don’t usually think about cities like El Paso/Juarez. The media tends to portray the border as a war zone a mile wide with a huge fence running down the middle, no people in sight. Somehow in the U.S., Mexico still seems really far away from us. I’m sure my childhood understanding of the Mexican border is hugely shaped by where I’ve grown up (pretty much everywhere except the southwest), so I’d be curious to talk to people who grew up in San Diego, Las Cruces, and other more similar border towns to find out if they felt the weird, negative, distanced perception of the border was present in their lives or not.

But, the real reason I wanted to write something about my experience in El Paso is linked to a conversation I had with my friend that made me really stop and think about the ‘immigration crisis’ in a new way.

Not only was it obvious to me, being so close to Juarez, just how silly and arbitrary political borders really are, but I also met a lot of women and children who were guests at the Annunciation House (where my friend works) who were refugees of violence. I had never really thought before about the ‘immigration crisis’ as a ‘refugee crisis,’ and suddenly it occurred to me that the country was discussing this issue completely inaccurately.

There should be immigration reform, definitely. But it seems to me that in a world where there is so much violence and persecution so near our borders, we should be taking a long, hard look at our policies on granting asylum and refugee status. From my limited research, it appears that the U.S. does take in numbers of refugees that close to double the U.N. standard of 50,000 annually (which seems a small number in the grand scheme of things). But none of the countries mentioned as top refugee contributors are located in South or Central America.

Something about this feels off to me. Why exactly is the U.S. so afraid of talking about the crises of Hispanic populations on the same level as populations in countries like Iraq and China? Why don’t we ever refer to the refugees attempting to cross into our country within these ‘immigration crisis’ conversations? What is it about these populations that gives us perceived permission to dismiss their hardships as ‘deserved’ or ‘just a part of their country’ or some other excuse?

I can tell you one thing–walking across the border from the U.S. to Mexico and back will call you to attention. It will force you to realize that people are the issue, that policy is the thing in the far off distance. When you hear the stories, meet the people, walk the streets they walk, you have to believe that there is a better way than building a new Great Wall and forcing everyone onto their ‘own’ sides.

I would love to hear from anyone who has knowledge about this issue. I am frustrated by the quality of dialogue in the United States in a lot of ways, and this one seems particularly damaging to the general population’s understanding of the issue. Tell me what you think, what you know, what you’ve heard. We can only start to change the conversation by participating in it.

Off Again: Leaving the City I Love

Today I officially hand over my heart from one city to another.

Seattle has been my emotional home since my sophomore year of college (2010), comfortable with the dreary, coffee shop streets nestled in the middle of mountain and sea., Dripping from winter rain storms, boots squishing into tiled university buildings, the strongest bitter kick of a Stumptown latte, diving into chilly Washington water, the indescribable perfection of a spring forest smell, swing dancing swivels on shiny wood floors… So much of the beauty of life in this city is sensory.

As I type this, I sit in yet another coffee shop near Greenlake–one I’ve never been in (and that’s saying something)–finalizing plans and getting things done before working up the nerve to drive down I-5 and not look back.

Of course, I will look back. I will even come back. But right now, I know that it is important for me to move, without hesitation or regret, forward. My adventures this summer have brought me through so many new places–physically, of course, but also emotionally and mentally. I find myself a little more awake than I was when I left, and for that, I am most grateful.

I never would have expected that this year would bring me so many positive things. I enter this new space of love and relationship and connection with people that I had almost thought was impossible after my dad passed away. I still struggle, don’t get me wrong, but unlike the first year after losing my dad, I can see the beauty in that struggle a little more now.

My hope for my move down south is that it feels fresh, revitalizing, new. I feel like a different person now, one who has been shaped by my specific grief and love, and as much as I love Seattle, it represents me as I was and not necessarily who I am becoming.

A new place doesn’t necessarily mean things will be better. It isn’t a solution to any problems. But, there’s a lot to be said for the way places hold memories. Seattle has me all over it. And I have Seattle all over me. I’ll take a little bit of this great city with me to its southern sister, and I’ll let it keep little ghost memories of the Elena that used to live here. College-age Elena who made goofy YouTube videos and did choreographed dances and sang in the choir and didn’t know what she was doing at all. The most carefree Elena will always live here. I’ll miss her, but she won’t be forgotten.

So, Seattle, take care of yourself. I’m sure I’ll see you around.

Flash Back to Spain

Today is October 20, and one year ago, Colleen and I were entering Galicia in Spain on El Camino De Santiago. I remember vividly this section of the walk because it was probably my favorite. We had already accomplished 400 miles of our journey on foot, so we had the confidence that we could get to the finish line. Our aches and pains had become mostly subdued, our muscles now taut and strong, our toes well calloused, our skin tanned and thickened under our shoulder straps.

The first day we entered the green, hilly, coastal region was the perfect example of why I look back so fondly on my time walking the pilgrimage of St. James: it was a hot, buggy, long uphill of a day that ended in gratification, friendship, wine, and the amazing beauty of a mountain-top town made of stone. O’Cebrario, for me, was a turning point in my trip. By then, so many thoughts and grief-filled moments had been examined and left behind. The miles ahead felt like a challenge that I was certain we could overcome. The beauty and friendship around us was even more amazing with the lightness I was coming to accept and embody.

After a year back in the United States and having accomplished another long walk of a very different nature, I have to admit I still search for the peace and lightness that became the undercurrent of the Camino. It is amusing to me that so many people write books about these big adventures as if they were permanently life altering. Because in my experience, amazing adventures may change my perspective, but I am the only one who can translate that into a change in my life.

That change has been gradual. Examining the pieces of my experience to determine which I can recreate, and which are worth recreating, takes a lot of thought. Enacting those additions or alterations then takes a lot of willpower. Never underestimate how much easier it is to swim with the current of your life than against it.

But if there is one thing I can definitely take away from my trip, it is recognizing the moments when I feel that peace I felt at O’Cebrario about a year ago, taking a deep breath, and appreciating. It is a gained understanding that I literally cannot manufacture moments as amazing as these. I can only be open, willing to listen and look and love them.

10 Things to Keep in Mind During an Unpacking/Repacking Extravaganza

  1. No matter how little progress it looks like you’re making… you’re making progress. I think.
  2. Always remember to bring a trash bag and a recycling bag.
  3. Have snacks handy. And a water bottle. A full one.
  4. Don’t attempt to do a day’s work without a fully charged phone and ipod. Music makes this so much better, I promise.
  5. Try not to trap yourself into the room/unit you’re cleaning with your overflowing trash/donation/keep piles.
  6. I find it helpful to make a trip to Goodwill every day (sometimes twice a day if it’s really bad). Because ultimately, the less stuff you have to move around to get to your other stuff to sort… The better.
  7. LABEL THE BOXES. For goodness’s sake. Wouldn’t you like to know which box is the one full of breakable china? Yes, me too.
  8. Pay attention to the weather. Do not let yourself be lulled into believing that what you can comfortably wear for your 40 minutes in a temperature controlled car will be sufficient for standing for hours in an open-air storage unit. Also, keep in mind that your clothing will get dirty. There is just dust everywhere. Also, sneezing.
  9. Choose one task (something that you hope will take an hour) and make that your ONLY priority for that day. This ends up being a win no matter what because if the task takes longer than expected, you can still accomplish it, and if it takes less time/effort than you planned, you get to feel like a badass and start on something else.
  10. Let yourself be sentimental and keep a couple ‘stupid’ things. You’re getting rid of so much already that it’s really natural to want to cling to that one last item. Besides, if you’re like me, you’ll come back the next day planning to repack what you’d said you’re keeping and find that your passion for getting rid of everything will have returned with gusto.

My Next Adventure is…

Much more local. I had to put a lot of my dad’s stuff into storage a year and a half ago because I had no other place to put it all. I don’t own a house, and all my family lives more than 12 hours driving distance from me. Even then, most of them don’t have the space to store this stuff for me.

So now, I’m moving out of state, and I needed to feel a real fresh start. So, this stuff has to be figured out. A lot of my goal here is to sort and sell. Some of this stuff is being shipped to family members, some will be shipped ahead of me to my new apartment. But these videos will hopefully keep me sane while I figure that all out. Wish me luck!