Monday, April 14, 2014

Broke, Soon-to-be-Unemployed and Still Happy -- Can't Wait to See What Life Gives Me at 25

I just wrote the most honest email I've written in ages - to my parents.

These last few days have really surprised me with realizations of how much I fear things now. I'm afraid I will forever be unemployed, or that a prospective employer will read my blog and social media posts and judge my professional skills based on what they see. I am afraid I won't be able to pay off gigantic student loans that put me through graduate school. But mostly I am afraid I will lose my mind if I have to live away from the man I love, again.

I am oddly at peace with my current situation - I sent a '2 week's notice' to my boss yesterday, have no sure-shot opportunities lined up, am applying to interesting jobs as and when I come across them and may be moving across the world in a few weeks.

The part-time job I just resigned from was my only source of income, helping me cover living a thrifty life but still allowing me to send some money back home to start paying off that mountain of a student loan bit by bit.

Broke, without work and still happy? 

This state of mind seemed unreal to me a few weeks ago when I was frantically scouring the web for 'that perfect job'.

A recurring and super annoying voice kept telling me, "You can't afford to be so picky right now. Take whatever you get."

I'm finally facing that voice now. The voice of Fear.

I couldn't be more nervous about this once-again-life-changing decision I've made because like all non-weird people, I have no ability to see the future.
I don't know if I'll find work or where I'll find it. I don't know when I'll see my family next, or when my dog will make a mad sprint towards me and start jumping like a Lab-araoo with uncontrollable excitement.

All I know is, the time is now. I wouldn't be able to live with myself when I'm old and toothless, if I always wished I had placed enough faith in myself to take a calculated leap of faith.

About a month ago, I read an article on an education advise website about foreign students in the USA, vying for that coveted H1-B work visa.

Believe me when I say, my eyes were so wide for so long that I could actually see the horizon without my glasses. (Or something a little less lame)

Anyway, the article advised these young, warm-blooded students that if they wanted to continue 'being in the US', these were their options:

  1. Students on an F-1 visa, can apply to other degree programs/schools for higher education etc. to extend their "presence" here in the United States,
  2. 'Find a job' - it said. 'And get a work visa.' [Yes, because that's like waking up and 'getting' coffee from Starbucks or something. "Hi! Can I get one Environment and Science Communication latte with a shot of Web Producer? Thanks!" ]
  3. If your visa is going to expire soon and your OPT (Optional Professional Training period after graduation) is running out too, and you have nothing lined up, go back home and deal with the social stigma that will immediately be bestowed upon your sorry ass. Basically, this point told the poor readers that they should consider themselves total failures if they fit into this category. Well, "Mutant and proud," I guess. 
  4. Marry a U.S. citizen and get a green card. All clear. No one can stop you now!

I'm going to play the devil's advocate or possibly the devil herself (don't get ideas about feminism).

I already have a Master's degree in Journalism from a wonderful school where I had an absolute blast of a time. I don't feel like I want to immerse myself in another 3-4 years of graduate studies as a PhD student. I would love to teach some day but right now, I'm young, enthusiastic and curious. I want to be out on the field, working my butt off at a job I love doing. So - sorry, no more F-1 visa for me. 

Next - We all know how cooperative this economy has been to those looking for work. Also, my skill set is a little out of the ordinary in that I am not a math expert and I would be an awful engineer or computer/I.T. person, and yes, I'm Indian. 
I am an environmental scientist-turned-journalist. How many people do you know who have an open position for someone with this niche combination of experience and qualifications? Not too many. [I'm not justifying being unemployed. There are people out there who are way more experienced than I am, who are looking for work too. And employers who don't want the hassle of hiring a non-local.]
So basically, 'getting a job' is kind of loooooong-term and not something on a shopping list. 

Number three is my personal favorite. 
I can guarantee that when members within my extended family find out I'm back home after an M.A. and a year of priceless work experience, my parents will get awkward glances and stuttering questions like, "What happened?" "Did something go wrong? Why is she back already?"
To all those people - if you're reading this, let's save some time for all of us. I'm back because I wanted to be back. 
I want to live the dreams I always so animatedly shared with my friends back in the day. They haven't changed since. But I have. Well traveled, educated, civilized and empowered with common sense, I've chosen to follow my dreams now rather than make that choice when my bones are all rickety. 

I don't subscribe to social and cultural stereotypes. So go ahead and assume I got deported or failed miserably at something. I will probably be too busy being happy to notice your twisted comments and faces. And the only reason I'm even giving you some footage here is to tell you - if you give my parents a hard time, you have a whole other thing coming. I will happily tear you apart. Don't wake the monster. 

Finally - seriously, how desperate do you think I am?

Desperate enough to "marry a U.S. citizen"? I was hoping that last one was a joke but when I scrolled to the comments section on that website, I was stunned. 
Not only is this apparently a valid thing to do, it is also something people ARE doing not-so-secretly. 

I'm not talking illegal immigrants or Obama's controversial policies or anyone's policies. I'm talking about the degree of desperation that consumes some people. I don't know whether feeling sorry for them is right or if I should be appalled. So, I'm doing both. 

Yeah it is appealing to earn in U.S. dollars and convert them to Indian Rupees while paying off loan installments. I get a kick out of that every month when I do that but come on! Even the soon-to-be-jobless me, isn't THAT desperate. 

Imagine being in a public, committed relationship for the 'card' of it. Does it make sense? Exactly. 
And this isn't some sort of short-term social experiment. It's got serious legal, emotional, physical and mental consequences. 

Someday, maybe I'll report on these 'Green Card relationships'. (Want to steal that idea? Go for it. I've got plenty more where that one came from.) :)

Growing up, I never thought I'd meet someone who'd make me all gooey inside, who would quite literally be my best friend. And now that I've been able to call him my best friend, boyfriend and someday soon, my fiance - I know I wouldn't marry a U.S. citizen even if it was Jon Stewart [he's awesome and you know it]. 

That article left me frozen in my seat for a bit before I could shake it off and convince myself that giving in to that "advise" was against everything I stand for. 

So coming back to the present - my days in the U.S. now look numbered unless I am offered one of the awesome positions I've applied to. Regardless of the who, what, where, how, I am excited to begin a new chapter of life, I don't know where or as what. 

I realize the only reason I am so chilled out about this situation - which would have had me in a fit if this was February - is because I am confident enough to know that no matter what, I'll make things work out and whatever I end up doing, I'll do it with all my energy and passion. 

In the words of an "Idiot" [Ref. '3 Idiots'], "मैं अपनी लाइफ के साथ कुछ ना कुछ ढंग का तोह कर ही लूंगा"

Translation: "I will do something worthwhile with my life no matter what."

For weeks, I've been fighting an internal battle with Fear and myself and now, after so long, it feels amazingly free to finally write all this down and not go to bed thinking, "what if someone reads that and decides not to hire me?" I wouldn't want to work with someone who can't draw a line between personal expression and professionalism anyway. 

On that note, good night world. Dream on! \m/