The Adventures of Unemployment

In my last post, I mentioned how the past four months of unemployment have been an adventure. The old adage rings in my ears, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” It hasn’t been easy, but I am reminded to take each day as it comes and to continue putting one foot in front of the other.

I wanted to share with you some of the ups I have found in unemployment. Gasp! Dare, I say it. There is a lot of good that comes with life’s unexpected, seemingly terrible situations:

  1. I get to sleep until 9 o’clock.
    I cannot explain to you how magical this has been. I used to wake up between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. to workout before heading to work. On weekends, I would wake up between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. for church, to run errands or, to be completely honest, just out of habit. These days, I start my freelance work in the mornings between 9:30 and 10:00, and I workout at night. Since my desk is just in the next room from my bed, I can literally roll out of bed, make some coffee and get to work. It is a beautiful thing to get some extra Zzz’s.
  2. Afternoon coffee dates have become a reality.
    When I was working full-time, I remember friends asking if I could meet for lunch or an afternoon coffee. The answer was always a quick no. Distance, traffic and time kept me sanctioned to the area surrounding my job. I never left that area except for an hour at lunch. Nowadays, I can get a noon coffee or go for a 3 p.m. Chic-fil-A run with a friend. It’s such a great feeling to get up and go as I please.
  3. Travel is possible.
    At my previous job, we had unlimited time off, which was great, but anytime I asked off for a long weekend or for a wedding, I felt an endless amount of guilt. So much so, I usually would work while traveling. Nowadays, if I want to take a weekend trip to Portland, go home to see family in Michigan or go to a friend’s wedding in Texas, I can! I take my work with me, or I pause on taking freelance assignments. The luxury of flexibility is something not to be taken for granted.
  4. I have become more confident in my abilities.
    The freelance life is not for the faint of heart. Freelancing takes hustle, determination, grit and an entrepreneurial mind. If I am going to pay bills, then I have to write, period. There is no option. My ability to pitch stories, turn over copy in a timely manner and maintain working relationships has grown stronger.  I have grown exponentially as a writer, and I am more confident than ever in my skills. Through all the fears of unemployment, I have learned to believe in myself.
  5. My day-to-day is in my control.
    The coolest thing about working as a freelance journalist is that I set my hours. I come and go as I please. I determine how much work I take on and the type of work I get. It is up to me. I like being in control of what my days and weeks look like.
  6. I am free to use my time and energy on passion projects.
    Back in April, I ran my first half marathon, which has been a long time coming. I know if I was working full-time, I would have had less time to devote to it. Also, this month in June, a friend and I are hosting a benefit concert to raise money for Syrian refugees. Like many people, when I heard about the U.S. travel ban in March, I was angry. My friend and I wanted to do something. We put our heads together, asked some friends for help and Songs for Syria: A Benefit Concert was birthed. If you’d like to donate, check out our fundraising page here.
  7. I get to serve.
    Volunteering has been therapeutic for me. It has helped me get out of my own head and remember that there is a big world out there full of people. Since my lay-off, I have spent my time volunteering with kids and teenagers in L.A., and let me tell you. It has stretched me in a good way. The fourth Tuesday of each month, I have gotten to spend my days at in-school program where I help mentor high school girls by teaching them writing skills. Once a month on Saturdays, I read to elementary age kids in the LAUSD school district. On Sundays, I meet one-on-one with my mentee, and we work on writing exercises.

Life is all about perspective. I am so grateful for the new vantage point my time in unemployment has given me to learn about myself and to grow.

-Stephkt

On the Road Again

IMG_20150422_142851(1)There’s something magical about going home. It just feels good for the soul. Maybe it’s the familiar places, the roads you’ve traveled down before or the feeling of being in a place, where as the song from Cheers goes, “you want to go where everyone knows your name.” I got to go home to Michigan this last week, and it felt good to be back in the place where I first got my wings. When I got there, it felt like my inner gas tank for my soul was on E, but when I left I felt myself being recharged.

The twenties is a perfect time to travel to new places, pursue dreams, dabble in different things and allow those experiences to take you to different places, as far as the imagination can dream. In all the new cities and new places, home never loses it’s sweet allure. Nowhere else can you get momma’s cooking, see childhood friends or go back to the places where you had your first memories.

While international travel has it’s appeal, I have found that going home is as much needed as all the new experiences the twenties offer. Going home helps you gain perspective and it helps you see the world from a different vantage point. For me, home reminded me of the importance of simplicity like dinner with family, game nights, trips to the zoo, moments where you laugh so hard you cry, and early morning talks over tea with your godmom.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Finding your way doesn’t mean you always know where you’re going. It’s knowing how to find your way back home that’s important.” Clare Vanderpool

“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” George Moore

Home also encouraged me to keep going, to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Life is full of chapters and chapters close. My time in Michigan ended at 16, when my family moved away. While I love visiting, I know that I can’t go back and try to recreate the life I had then, what once was. Because that season of my life is over. Going home encouraged me to keep going along my journey. It’s okay to look back every once in awhile, but you can’t stay there. That’s why the rear view mirror is much smaller than the windshield.

To all my fellow twenty somethings, I hope you are reminded of the value of home and not to take people, places, and memories from there for granted. I hope that you go home often enough to refuel and to appreciate it, but I also encourage you to not stay there forever. Seasons change. Seasons end. If you have a dream or a desire for something outside of home, I encourage you to pursue that dream and not settle or get comfortable in the familiar.

Your focus should always be forward, on what is, not what was. So keep moving forward. Don’t give up on your dreams. Home is always there to refuel, but there’s a big world out there too, outside of your comfort zone, waiting for you to experience!

– Stephkt  IMG_20150426_234411Some of my family 🙂

IMG_20150427_000926My Aunt, who have been told I look like most of my life. I see it a little!

IMG_20150424_184143My cousin, Vinny!

A Great, Big World

So happy to be back in America and to be driving on the right side of the road again! Hello, motion sickness. I spent the first two weeks of this month on a missions trip in Ireland, and man was it life-changing

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If there’s one thing I can say to all the twenty somethings out there, it would be to travel as much as possible. Travel far, high and low. Go to as many different places as you can while you can. Even if you can just take weekend trips to nearby states, do that! Experience as much culture as you can because there is a great big world out there. How will you ever know if you don’t go?

Try the foods that look funny, things that you “know” you would never like. Talk to that person who looks nothing like you and whom you think you couldn’t have anything in common with. Learn that dance step that requires you to move parts of your body you have never moved. Go across the border. Book flights. Pack up, get in your car, and just go. Climb mountains. Travel cross country. Try something new.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

How will you ever know if you don’t go?

Once you start traveling, it’s like something inside of you comes to life. A fire gets started and you can’t quiet put it out. So don’t try. Keep traveling. Keep going to the hick towns, the uppity boutiques, the southern restaurants, the foreign dance bars. Keep living and discovering the world around you. Because it is a big, beautiful world.

It’s hard to describe how much of a cool place Ireland is, unless you actually experience it yourself. So I figure that I’d let some of the pictures we captured while we were there tell the story for me.

IMG_20140930_043854Window view as we landed in Dublin, Ireland

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Downtown Cork, Ireland

IMG_20141001_120635Eating at our first authentic, Irish pub

IMG_20141007_041005Downtown Cork

IMG_20141005_135655Another rainy day in Ireland

IMG_20141007_041423The gardens at Blarney Castle

IMG_20141006_005045We are at real life castle and we’re real happy about it!

IMG_20141005_170639The beautiful, Blarney Castle

IMG_20141013_085205Blarney Castle Gardens

IMG_20141009_042357We love Ireland!

– Stephkt