By early September 2007, I had finished my year of volunteering in Los Angeles. I still wasn’t sure what to pursue as my next step. I applied to various jobs but nothing panned out.
Part of my growth while in California was being exposed to the world of journalism. I realized I enjoyed that kind of writing, but it was challenging to approach strangers and ask for their feedback. I was a small fish in a big pond; I felt like I was thrashing around trying to make things work. But there was some excitement nonetheless, a bit of a thrill with figuring out how to piece many little parts together into a finished story, even if the interviewing aspect was nerve-wracking and uncomfortable. (If you missed them, you can read the pieces I wrote for my San Francisco assignment and the personal article on my brother becoming a priest.)
I had learned to some degree that I was better with computers than I had previously realized or given myself credit for. It was something I started to include as a skill on my resume. And I had gained plenty of real-life experience working at a paper: assisting in the circulation department, the editorial team and helping advertising in a few ways. Those opportunities allowed me to see the bigger picture of what it’s like to operate a newspaper.
Additional takeaways from my time in Los Angeles:
- I learned I could move to an unfamiliar area, far from my family, and survive. It was a challenging move to make, but I lived in community with women of faith, which helped.
- I learned I could live in a big city (really big!) and maneuver around traffic, even navigating the interchanges where multiple freeways overlap.
- I learned I can adapt to new computer systems. I enjoyed computer work. That my knowledge and skills aren’t necessarily universal and should be claimed as skills.
- I learned the importance of looking beyond the day-to-day details of a job and to look for its value and purpose.
- I learned I was a risk taker. Ok, this realization has only really dawned on me in the last few years, but this experience proves that I am a risk taker. That I have courage and strength to walk forward into the unknown.
There was a brief consideration of signing up for a second year of volunteering, but that didn’t seem very likely. I needed to be in a position where I could actually earn some money. Depleting my limited savings in California wasn’t a very good idea in the long run.
So the only decision I had left was to move back to South Carolina. And since I had no job at the time, that also meant living with my parents again. After four years of being at an out-of-town college and then a year in a big city, this was a huge change. And to make it more awkward, I wasn’t at my childhood home anymore; my parents had moved before I left for Los Angeles.
This transition was challenging. When I was away, the conversation seemed to be focused on what was happening in my life in general terms. But living with my parents again, it seemed that every little thing was under scrutiny. I’m sure that would be a typical response in many families, but it certainly didn’t ease the tension.
My parents were most concerned about my social skills. I didn’t seem to call up anyone or initiate anything. I tried to remind them how things had changed. I had made great friends in California, but news flash, I was no longer in California. And I had made some friends in college, but they were no longer five minutes away. It’s kind of difficult to make things happen when no one remains in the same town as you.
But they continued to be concerned. I felt like I had to be out of the house all day just to prove I was looking for a job and making some kind of effort.
And since looking and applying for jobs was happening online more and more, my parents especially didn’t understand how spending lots of time on the computer actually meant being productive. They just seemed to interpret it as Lindsay is being anti-social and reclusive. My parents weren’t necessarily wrong in their assessment of my social skills, but I really struggled to find my way and make improvements in this area.
I had made friends, but I still required lots of reassurance that other people wanted to hear what I had to say and that I was welcome to share. The verbal skills and opening up to others remained an obstacle.
Yet, despite the low opinion of myself that I continued to carry around, there was someone in my life who saw something deeper. She saw great potential in me and offered me a chance to participate as an adult leader in our church’s youth ministry program.