Philadelphia

Two Months - Ebb and Flow

Sometimes life is hard. Now more than ever I've felt the ebb and flow of emotion toward my current situation. Some days are easy, and it seems like opportunity is abundant. Others are difficult and it feels as though I may never find work.

May 9th was one of those days.

It signified that I'd officially been living in Philly for two months. Two months of applying to countless jobs with very little to show for it, professionally speaking. Two months of living in a less than ideal arrangement in a not so great area. Two months of trying to meet new people in a city I know very little about, despite what I had believed.

It was daunting, no it is daunting, still. That day was long and depressing, the fact that it rained the next few days didn't help either. I was trapped inside with my thoughts for comfort.

But in the end I survived, I'm still here and pushing through, which is what I had set out to do in the first place.

Now is one of the easiest times of my life to do things I feel uncomfortable doing, and I implore anyone thinking of making a big change in their life to try it. I have no ties other than family, have great credit and can deal with a few months of not working regularly.

In the end I know I will make something of this, be it a career or a building block for the next step. I just need to keep trusting the process, and dealing with the ebb and flow.

~~~

Update - As of posting this Gary Vaynerchuk (entrepreneur, youtube, all-around motivator) reposted an article that rehashes one of his videos. The gist of it is exactly what I talk about above, why now is the time to try new things, or "hustle" for the life you want as he puts it. Check it out here, it's definitely worth the read, or if you'd rather just watch the video it's here.

Almost Two Months - Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Like I've said earlier in this blog I gave myself about a month to land a real job. After that I began looking for other work, starting with jobs I thought I'd actually enjoy. Well that search came to a head about two weeks ago when I realized my savings was drastically dwindling and I needed a job ASAP.

Enter three new jobs: bar, gym and retail.

Sidenote - I'm not going to write the names of the actual establishments for the sake of my employment.

So let's start with bar. It's an Irish place in Old City (which literally does nothing to narrow it down) that had open interviews on craigslist so I thought why not. I had worked in a bar before. I went to the interview, talked myself up to someone that turned out not to be the person I was supposed to interview with, and was then offered a job on the spot. My first day was the following weekend.

That same day I had an interview at a mid-range retail store that had a a "fun" (their words not mine) vibe. They emailed me an hour later to offer me a job.

On the day of my first shift at the bar I was also offered a job at a local gym. So now I had three jobs, but worked none of them. Things were going great.

Night one, and potentially only, of work at the bar. My shift was 4-3, I knew it was going to be long, and I knew it would be grueling, but I didn't realize how stupid they thought I was. I really don't want to go into detail about that whole shift because it could go on for pages, but here are the highlights.

From 4-11 it was incredibly slow, I spent most of my time standing around doing nothing because the other barbacks working would show me a job and then say they would do it since it's so slow. So I also learned nothing. I chopped limes, lemons and oranges from 8-10, so that was fun. From 11-2 the bar was somewhat busy, but with 4 barbacks to clean up one small area, there was a lot of downtime. Unfortunately for me this meant that I was yelled at for standing around a lot. Thanks for the warning guys.

Cut to the end of the night. We do the cleanup, more of the same "I'll just do this so go sweep or something" and then it comes time for tip out. This job was of the sort where the hourly wage was supplemented by a tip-out, so my $4 hourly wasn't so much of a slap in the face. What did hurt, and solidified my decision not to go back, was when they gave me around 6% of the tip-out while they walked out with 30% each. At the end of the night I didn't even make minimum wage for the hours I worked, which is only $7.25 here.

-Also fun addition, I haven't heard from them since and it's been a week, so there's that-

The Consequences of Removing Public Restrooms

So far I've been pretty lucky in terms of bathroom availability in the places I've visited, lived, driven through or all of the above. Never have I truly been far away from a gas station or McDonalds that has had facilities that are functional. Even when traveling abroad there were public restrooms in Paris and London that could be used. What I'm trying to convey here is that nothing prepared me for the amount of human fecal matter that I've seen in the street during my almost two months of residence in the great city of Philadelphia.

So you might have some questions/comments after reading that, the main one being "how do you know it's human?" Well for starters I have unfortunately seen it happening on more than one occasion, so there's that. It's not some thing you go out of your way to stare at, but when you see a man in that stance next to a car your mind draws that conclusion pretty naturally. At which point you immediately look away, but still keep him in the corner of your eye cause you have no idea what could happen next. 

Additionally there are certain characteristics of human poop that you can just kinda tell. Size, shape, color, it all looks entirely too familiar and you just kind of put the pieces together that form a terrible, terrible mental image. 

So yeah, I implore anyone that is going into public planning or city design to include public restrooms, because that shit is disgusting. Literally and figuratively. 

Job Interview - The One-Man Publication

When I search for work I pretty much use every job board available. LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor and even Craigslist. I know a lot of people shy away from craigslist, but sometimes you can find some gold there, even though mostly it's just ridiculous ads. Especially in the "gigs" section. So many ads looking for women for "photo-shoots" that are most definitely adult films, but that's not my problem.

Anyway in late March I had responded to an editorial ad that was for a theater publication. It was a lengthy ad, said there would be a stipend, lunch provided and that you would be learning from the editor of the publication as well as the owner. It seemed like a pretty great experience so I applied.

To my surprise I received a call later that day from a man, who I'll call Steve out of respect for his privacy as well as his publication. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't pretty excited after that call, even though it started off terrible. Steve had a thick accent and immediately began the call by telling me what was wrong with my resume and cover letter. It was a pretty terrible way to start, because while I listened and wrote down some of his points, it felt like he was rambling. 

He then finished that call with an offer to interview and an explanation of his teaching style and what I should expect, which was a mentor experience and the title of assistant editor. The interview was to take place in the form of a day with him at his house in Philadelphia, where he worked out of an office. I said sure, and next thing I knew I was walking up to his house the next day.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it was definitely something a little more composed and grandiose. He had explained his house as an old three-story home with character and vigor, which it had both for sure, but it also had a lot of other stuff. Like a lot a lot. My grandfather was a hoarder, and I knew the stages all too well, and the lack of seating and wall space wasn't a good sign for this man. There were paintings, trinkets and paperwork everywhere, and I had only seen the first floor.

In retrospect this was strike one.

He then proceeded to give me a tour of the house that ended on the third floor where his "office" was. I use office loosely as it was also a kitchen and a general explosion of stuff, including countless piles of paper and folders.

Steve said part of my duties would be to help him go through and organize these papers that seemingly had been sitting there since he moved in. Papers that were old tests and manuscripts of students long past. Oh, I forgot to mention that he was a tenured professor at a few schools, another reason I was excited. But that excitement was fading fast, and it wasn't even 10 A.M. yet.

As we settled in to a corner of the office I sat on "the good chair" behind his computer, which was an ancient dell laptop because his other was being fixed. Now I can neither confirm nor deny that there was any other computer, but for his sake I hope so because this thing was difficult to do anything on, let a lone run a publication which I was slowly realizing consisted of one man in an attic.

The next four hours was like when you visit your grandparents to get some information, but end up staying for hours listening to stories from days gone past. Interesting for sure, but not very educational. 

Also Steve couldn't keep his stories straight, which was really difficult to deal with. He would start talking about one thing and then branch off into another story over and over again without ever rounding back and finishing the first thought. The amount of notes I have that lead to nothing filled up five whole pages. Oh yeah, I was instructed to take notes. Not encouraged, instructed. 

Strike two.

I mean I would be taking notes anyway because I like to look back on interviews to learn more about what went well/didn't go well, but when I was already writing and he would interject to say "make sure you write this down" was mildly unnerving. The unlimited tea I was promised was bland also.

Strike thr-- actually I don't really like tea anyway.

As slow as the morning dragged it was now about lunch time. Time for the free lunch I was offered. If there was one bit of solace I had about this day it was that I was going to get a decent meal out of it. 

I was sorely mistaken.

For lunch I was tasked with walking his dog, something I was happy to do because A) dogs are great, B) I needed to get out of the house and C) dogs are the best, and his dog reminded me of the one my family has back home.

While on this walk Steve would make lunch where he gave me some options: lentil soup or bread and cheese. I opted for bread and cheese, hoping that he meant a sandwich.

He did not mean a sandwich, he meant literal toast with cheese and a side of boiled beets. I may be living in poverty while trying to survive a new city, but my god at least I was eating real meals. 

So yeah, that was strike three. And as we all know: three strikes and you're out, which I was desperately trying to do. Get out.

The afternoon proceeded much the same as the morning, except I took more bathroom breaks to try and get someone to pick me up to no avail. I ended up embellishing the fact that I had to make it to a friends workplace around 4:30 in order to attend a charity event, and to do that I had to leave by 3:30/4.

At first Steve was fine with this, but then he received a call saying his computer was fixed and offered to give me a ride. Apparently he also wasn't taking no for an answer.

We left the house and he gave me his dog to hold while he got the car out of the garage. As a distinguished man of foreign descent I assumed either an old jag or BMW would roll out, but to my surprise I saw an depressing red hatchback. Honestly I probably should've expected it by now, but I was still hopeful.

As I got in and we pulled away I was somewhat taken aback at the aggressive style he drove. Two blocks later I was actively gripping the handle as he swerved around potholes, parked cars and traffic. I severely regretted not putting up more of a fight to just take the train. 

All the while he told me more half-stories while also telling me that he really liked the way we worked together. To this I simply nodded, because I had done literally nothing the entire day except for check his email, crop a picture and walk his dog. 

Steve let me out on a corner three blocks away from where I wanted to be dropped off, but this was at my request. I said thank you and goodbye, knowing this was the last time I would be in contact with him. Walking away all I could think about was the severely bizarre experience it had been, while also trying to figure out where I was. 

Did I learn anything? Sure, life is full of experiences, and this one happened almost a month ago. The fact that it's still so burned in my memory confirms the bizarre nature that the day held. Always say yes, and always keep going, because in the end that's all we've got, our experiences. 

Weeks Three and Four - The Search Continues

After two weeks of living in Philly I told myself that I'd begin to start opening up my search perameters in regards to a job. Well, now that two weeks have come and gone that is exactly what has been done.

I started slow, looking for some places I'd be interested in/still have something in common with my overall goal. A bike shop with room for photography, a few fitness studios, a book store, places like this where I could potentially network while making a living. 

After a few interviews so far nothing has come to fruition, but so far that has just made me more resilient, but also makes me nervous for future bills. I know that soon push will come to shove and I'll have to get a job I wouldn't prefer just to make ends meet, but hey, I guess it's just another experience. And I've always said that experience leads to good writing.

Which is something that I've actively tried to do more of after moving here: saying yes to new experiences. In future posts I'll talk about some of these that have happened, including dates that I would never have gone on if I acted the same way I did a year ago, or job interviews where I just couldn't see myself there.

Because at the end of the day life is about experiencing new things. If they're good, then that's great, if they're bad, well that sucks but now you have a story and a reason to be wary the next time.

Weeks One and Two - Settling in

When I moved here I gave myself a two week window. Two weeks to settle, kind of figure things out and find a job in my field. 

Now that two weeks have ended, some of that list has been completed. Others haven't, but I'm still working on that.

What's Been Done

Well I got a mattress. That was obviously step one since I'm committed to staying the whole four-ish months, and I'd like to not sleep on the couch. Also with the number of online mattress retailers it made this process pretty simple. I decided to go with a full size Tuft & Needle mattress for $500, and it showed up like an hour after I moved in. 

Seriously - flags do wonders to make your room actually feel like home.

Seriously - flags do wonders to make your room actually feel like home.

And honestly it's the best mattress I've ever slept on. I actually have trouble waking up in the morning because it's too comfortable. Also I'm not affiliated with them in any way, which you probably could've guessed. Oh, and their return policy is 100 days (much like most mail order mattresses) so if I don't like it I can return it, or in their case work with them to donate it to a local charity. So that's pretty neat.

Second on the list was setting the room up. With the help of discarded furniture from around the house and a few flags I brought from home, it actually looks like a livable room now. Some people can live with just white walls, but I can't deal with that. Flags are the perfect cover up, or a tapestry, or anything else you can think of that packs light. So yeah, pro-tip: pack a flag so you don't go insane.

Other than that the only other things that have been done are just day-to-day things like figure out public transit, where the grocery store is, what gym works best (more on that in another post) and the like.

*quick side note, a lot of this wouldn't have been possible without the support of my family and roommates/their friends here. That's definitely helped a ton, psyche-wise and figuring out the area.*

What's Still To Do

Get a job. But yeah seriously that's next up, and it's definitely an ordeal. The only saving grace here is that it at least feels like there are more opportunities in fields that I would like to work. And worst-case-scenario I end up getting a job I hate for a month to pay some rent.

That's basically all I need to do though, I feel as though I've settled fairly quickly and feel relatively at home here. It was definitely a big change moving here, but at the same time it doesn't really feel that different.

I'm not sure if that's because I already knew some people here, or because I really do feel at home traveling, but whatever the reason I'm content with it. Also Philly is a great training city. It's not super big and over-bearing like New York, and it's not close enough to home that I could just drive like Chicago, so this is basically perfect.

I can get my bearings here, and then move on to the next adventure, wherever that may be.

 

But first I need a job.