Four things Turkey has taught me about myself

In the fall I applied for graduate school programs, but did not get in. In January, I told my current job that I wouldn’t be returning next year. In the spring, I began to apply for jobs back in the States—39 in all, but I did not get an offer. In fact, some schools did not even send an acknowledgment that they had received my application at all. I signed up with a teaching agency; they are incredibly helpful, but told me that prime hiring time had passed. Although, they did help me figure out how to make a video resume.

Then, just a couple weeks after school ended, my boss called and offered me a position with the high school. Another teacher had decided not to stay and they wanted me back and were willing to negotiate with me. After talking with my family and the agency, I have decided to stay. I like Turkey, but was ready to go home and still do miss the States in a lot of ways and I plan to return after this next school year (with more experience, skills, and money). I have a new apartment, I’ll take Turkish lessons, and I’ll get to travel a bit more. This decision was not easy, however, and made me really reflect on the past year. So here are some of the things Turkey has made me realize:

  1. Somehow I’ve done something right in the friend department. I’ve had so many friends take the time to Skype, put together care packages, send post cards or letters, or even fly thousands of miles to visit. When you’re that far from home, something as simple as a letter or a few minutes on Skype, or even an email, is incredibly rewarding.
  2. Believe it or not, I’m fairly good at getting context clues and reading certain situations. I have managed to learn a bit of basic Turkish, but there are still instances almost every day where I have no idea what people are saying to me. And telling them that I only speak a little bit of Turkish either makes them try their limited English or just speak more Turkish, but also use more hand gestures. When the latter occurs, all I can do is guess. And it turns out that my guesses are right 90% of the time. And 80% of the time my broken Turkish responses seem to be enough of a response. I thought this has to be something that everyone can do, but then I started dating my boyfriend and let’s just say that he’s much better at memorizing the vocabulary than I am. I keep him around for reading things, but he lets me do the talking.
  3. I take a lot of things for granted. Here are just a few: shower stalls, trees and scenery, internet freedoms, ranch dressing (and a variety of other foods), being able to express myself to anyone (ie doctors, parents of students, hairdressers, the clerk at the clothing store), having a car and the freedoms that come with it, being able to find books in English, all the difficulties foreigners have to deal with in the States.
  4. I can be more diligent that I have been. I’m working on it, but I’ve been getting a lot better about writing more regularly, taking initiative to continue learning, reading more, etc. Of course I’m not where I’d like to be, but being in Turkey has forced me to think about what I want and not waste my time. I watched two episodes of The Office before writing this blog post, though, so I’m still working on it.

Of course this isn’t everything, but it’s just a few of the things that come to mind when I think of this previous year.

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“The Great Recession”

When I was about to graduate from college, I was told that the economy was not the best–perhaps I should stay in school. I was an English Ed. major with a decent GPA and experience, so I din’t think I’d have a problem finding a job. However, I like school and didn’t think it could hurt to have an extra degree just in case. Three months before finishing my second degree (by the age of 24), I began to seriously apply for jobs all around the country. I got nothing but rejections in return. So I decided to pack up and spend what little money I had saved to move to Colorado. Once I got here, I continued applying with little luck and decided to take part in a youth program at the local Unemployment office.  Soon after I signed up, I received a job at a local enrichment program, but decided to still do the internship with unemployment just for the experience. They placed me in the Media Relations department at a university in town and it was awesome.

In order to participate in this program, we had to attend a pre and post session. I don’t know why, I was surprised to see how many people actually showed up. They were young, determined, qualified, and ready to work and I could relate. I felt bad for having a job (though only part time), and was glad to see that there was something available to my generation of job seekers. But what struck me most was during the wrap up session. The speaker facilitating the discussion began to compare our predicament to that of her grandfather in the Great Depression. She told us how we would tell our children and grandchildren about “The Great Recession.”

This was the first time I’d heard it phrased this way. After months of looking for a job, I have no health benefits, am $22,000 in debt from student loans, and have moved back in with family. At least five of my coworkers have also moved back in with family. I know many who have lost jobs or had their pay cut. But because I also know many who have it much worse than I do, I never quite considered the current economic crisis to be on quite the level of the Great Depression.

So I guess now my question is: Are we anywhere near or could we be anywhere near the magnitude of the Great Depression? Are we close enough to parallel and label this time as “The Great Recession”?

True, I have no health benefits. I owe over $20,000, which is more than I currently make in a year. I do not have a place of my own. There are tons of people without jobs and in worse situations than I.  Should I feel bad that I have a place to sleep at night?  That I haven’t had to go hungry? That I have a couple dollars in my wallet and plenty to pay off on my credit card? I don’t think so, but I also don’t think that any of these things can be taken lightly either, because I know that it’s bad now, but it can always be worse.

Being aware of that also makes me know that though I’m not in the ideal situation, I am in a comfortable one. And because of that, I (and whoever else shares my situation) can always afford to give back a little. I see the 99% protesters all over the news and internet and though I feel for them, I can’t help but think of the parallel made today. And I think of my time in college, when I worked with Invisible Children and am thankful to not wake up in a war zone wondering if I will wake up to a missing family. I guess I’m just saying what I said earlier: it could always be worse. And so I find myself somewhere in the middle. How do we make it better? And how do we better appreciate what we already have?