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[Jan. 15th, 2013|04:22 pm]
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Dear TQC, 

-It's with an organization I respect and admire, so the networking is good. 
-This is my first full-time job ever, fresh out of college. Everything else has been part time jobs or internships so it looks good on my resume 
-I moved all the way out here for this so it would be shitty to move somewhere else, and I'm not sure where I'd go
-See above, it's only for a year 
-It's techincally volunteer service (I get paid very little) so a little voice in my head telling me it's the right thing to do 
-There are times (maybe a couple times a month) when I have good days and I like it
-It's in a beautiful place
-I have hung out with a few people here/gotten into yoga, so things are looking up with my social life, although still really shitty comparitively 
-This is the slow season since it's winter, so I have hope that late spring/summer will pick up, and I want to see the changes that occur over the year here 

Why I often think about quitting 
-I am miles and miles away from anyone I love (across the country from my family, across an ocean from my most recent relationship, and my friends are scattered all over)
-I spend days literally doing nothing, like today for example. I think what my job does (collaborating and developing internships and trying to get the local community interested in seeking careers in natural resources) is valuable, but it should only  be a part time job.  However, I have to work 40 hours a week, 8 hours days for hardly any pay. Money isn't a huge issue; I knew it would be this much coming in, and I was okay with that. However, because of the rules of my organization, I am unable to seek part-time work on the outside. If I did and my supervisor or the organization found out, I'd be fired. 
-I think I'm fairly creative and intilligent, and people are impressed that I've already come up with a new program idea. I've been here about 6 weeks, and I've spent most of my day on this website, tumblr, facebook, searching for other jobs, and checking e-mails. Somedays i read; somedays I write creatively. I have anxiety issues, so sitting at a desk all day twiddling my thumbs makes me really anxious. Today, for example, I had to take a walk outside because I felt like I couldn't breathe from sitting inside for so long, and I started freaking out over irrational things. I am actually very calm when doing things that many people would consider stressful, like adrenaline sports, traveling by myself in foreign countries, etc. I'm not trying to say I'm badass, but i've noticed that I suffer from extreme anxiety when sitting at a desk job, whereas I find a lot of inner peace when I'm stimulated and outside of my comfort zone. 

Anyway, I wanted to state this to see if anyone is holding up red flags and wants to say, "NO! DON'T DO IT! QUIT NOW!" 
or..if any of you are in boring, mundane jobs, what do you do to pass the time? 
I've talked to my supervisor and basically she just apologized and said it'll pick up. I took her advice and was proactive last week and added a bunch of things to do, but it's getting hard to fill my 8 hours days up with things when I work mainly with people, and I just have to wait until meetings/events happen. 

I'm 23 years old and am stressed that I am going to spend my whole year in isolation/anxiety unless I change something. 

Any advice

[User Picture]From: stripedbeauty
2013-01-16 12:26 am (UTC)


I'm actually curious to know why they won't let you find work outside of the organization. I've never had an internship of volunteer position, so forgive me if it's obvious.
[User Picture]From: muffn_enchntrss
2013-01-16 12:29 am (UTC)


It's with Americorps and they forbid you from seeking outside work. It's something to do with them wanting to commit to your year of service fully, as well as so we can "experience poverty the way people in our community do." So if we got money from elsewhere, we'd be making more than the impoverished community member.

Edited at 2013-01-16 12:37 am (UTC)
[User Picture]From: tralfamadore
2013-01-16 12:30 am (UTC)


AmeriCorps intends for its members to live near the poverty line of the communities they serve. You don't become a member to make money, and with a lot of programs they want it to be your only commitment. VISTA is probably one of the most strict about that regulation.
[User Picture]From: tralfamadore
2013-01-16 12:28 am (UTC)


At the risk of sounding harsh or reiterating what I've already said, you don't seem to be considering your term of service with AmeriCorps with the spirit it's intended to be taken. Maybe you didn't know what you were getting yourself into, or maybe it's just a lot different than what you were expecting. But even the way you're referring to your service makes it clear that the purpose of the program hasn't made a lasting impression on you.

It was the most difficult and most rewarding thing I've ever done, and despite looking back on those eleven months with a lot of bad feelings I'm glad that I made it through and I'm glad for the opportunities it afforded me. But if you really can't grok what you've gotten yourself into, might as well get out now. They still might be able to replace you at this point. (Not likely, but possible.)
[User Picture]From: muffn_enchntrss
2013-01-16 12:34 am (UTC)


Don't worry about sounding too harsh. I really do value the work of what I am trying to do, but I guess I'm still unclear about the intention of my term of service. I just expected it to be more stimulating and challenging, as it sounded like a slightly difficult task to accomplish. My plan is to stay with it, as I am trying really hard to get into my work and to make it better. Last week was a lot better, and I was actually going to write to you and thanks for encouraging me to stick it out. But it seems to be on a cycle, and because I am having anxiety issues, I'm having trouble being so isolated and without things to do.
[User Picture]From: tralfamadore
2013-01-16 12:37 am (UTC)


Did you get any sort of orientation when you started your term of service? While it may sound trivial to someone who hasn't been a member, what really stands out to me is that you're describing your service with terms that are specifically disallowed by AmeriCorps itself. That was drilled into my head from day one, and the terminology was revisited and repeated often. When people from the CNCS visited our program site they asked us questions specifically designed to get us to say words like "job," "work," and "pay," and if we did our program as a whole was docked.

It might sound like a small thing, but understanding it could go a long way to gaining a better understanding of what AmeriCorps is, what its place is, and what the program actually manages to do.
[User Picture]From: muffn_enchntrss
2013-01-16 12:41 am (UTC)


We did have an orientation, and we were told that, but for the sake of TQC, I was just using those terms to simplify it. I guess it's hard to see this as a volunteer position when we do get paid and are required to work with so specific rules and times and hours. When I have volunteered in the past, the rules were always really different and looser, so the line (to me) is still hazy. This all very much be my fault, and I am okay with taking fault for not knowing what I was getting myself into, so that is why I am trying to turn it around to make it better, and in the end, hopefully do some good for this organization.
[User Picture]From: tralfamadore
2013-01-16 12:48 am (UTC)


It's neither a job nor a volunteer position, however. I noticed you said above that you feel the program's focus on keeping its members at the poverty line is basically just an excuse to not pay them what you consider an adequate amount. That was a huge red flag to me as well, and seems to indicate that you don't know what the program is about or what you got yourself into. I think you really should take a good look at why you wanted to do this in the first place, what you think you stand to gain from it, and whether you can commit to a few more months living like you've never lived before in an environment that really challenges you. It's not supposed to be easy. But that doesn't mean you have to be completely fucking miserable with no hope of an end in sight, either.

Additionally, you can't misrepresent the entire program through incorrect terms and faulty information and then expect people to be able to tell you whether or not it seems to raise any red flags.

Edited at 2013-01-16 12:54 am (UTC)
[User Picture]From: muffn_enchntrss
2013-01-16 12:58 am (UTC)


I understand that's how it might have come off, which is why I ediited it, so I guess I should clarify what I really meant. I was aware of how little i'd be getting paid for the year and was okay with that, albeit my dad was quite shocked and against it. I just think that I'll never fully understand what it's like to live at poverty level, since I was raised in a upper middle class and will most likely never have to worry about having enough food or shelter or health coverage, so I was a little skeptical that that was their true reasoning for us not to seek outside employment or pay us more. I'm fine with the pay, but I am just critical of the organization's overall success at decreasing poverty/changing the country. I enjoy the challenge of living in a different way like that. What bothers me is sitting at a desk when I have nothing else to do for 8 hours a day and trying to think of things to do, as well as the isolation that comes with being away from my friends and family in a small, rural town when I do something social maybe 2x a week. That's the challenge that I am struggling with, but I am joining some outside clubs and finding some friends I can get a drink with once a week.

I joined Americorps because I wanted to experience rural America, work in an organization for a year like the one I'm in now, be challenged, get my foot in the door with a full-time, year long stable position (and yes, have some extra income), and help make a difference. My problem is i feel like i won't make a huge difference, I'm not challenged the way I thought I'd be, and I'm homesick way more than I thought.

Edited at 2013-01-16 12:59 am (UTC)
[User Picture]From: tralfamadore
2013-01-16 01:10 am (UTC)


I wish I could, in good faith, tell you that's going to improve. It very well might, but you may need to be prepared for things to continue on just as they are right now if you stick with it. I think you can become more social, make new connections, and work on putting yourself out there. That's something you can do for yourself apart from your service. Anxiety, frustration, stress, and homesickness might make it much more difficult, but it's something worth investing in if you plan on staying for even another week, you know? Having people you can connect with and spend your free time with will help things immensely. It seems like you've been making good progress in doing that already, so it's great.

You may never see the good that comes from what you provide, though. Or this experience may teach you to look at your accomplishments in a totally different way. I know a lot of people who need to see a pile of papers on their desk at the end of the day, or a checklist all marked off in order to "prove" to themselves that they did important things and made progress. AmeriCorps can make things a whole lot more abstract. And as a VISTA member, you may very well see the thanks for what you do given to others, or not acknowledged at all. That's tough. It's really tough especially if you're used to being given clear feedback about what you're doing. If you stick with it, you may need to become your own best friend and give yourself all the compliments you're lacking in an admittedly thankless position.

The money... that's another thing it sounds like you're going to need to come to terms with. You're not getting paid. You're not getting a salary. You're not earning a wage. They are putting money in your pocket as a living stipend. It's meant to cover your expenses as you serve your term, and it's modest. It might require you to make tough decisions. It may stretch you to consider what you can go without. But at the end of the day, you're gaining a really powerful experience. It's a few months of your life, and you can return to your upper-middle class lifestyle soon enough.

You mentioned before that you're not gaining experience directly related what you're interested in doing as a career after this. But you are gaining lots of valuable experience. Even if you can't say, "I served with AmeriCorps doing exactly what I'd like to do for your business/organization," you're still gaining valuable skills. Skills that will impress people you interview with in the future.

I really don't know how to advise you further than that if you're looking for a definitive, Should-I-Stay-Or-Go? type of response. I cried every day. I witnessed horrible things. I hated so many of the people around me and felt isolated from all the others. But I still look back on that eleven months as the most rewarding thing I've done in my life thus far.
[User Picture]From: muffn_enchntrss
2013-01-17 01:59 am (UTC)


Thanks for all the advice. Mainly, I was looking for ways that would help me get through the really slow days or off-hours when I find myself lonely from the intense isolation. I'm definitely not going to quit at this point, unless something gets so bad that I can't live like this. But it's manageable as long as I can find a way to cope with my loneliness and anxiety.
And I'm really not at all concerned or bothered with the living stipend i'm making and am in no way itching to get back to a middle class lifestyle. i'm completely fine living on such a strict budget and I consider myself highly lucky with the fact that I am living in one of the cheapest houses i'll ever live in since I live on a state-owned property. I was just mainly commenting on how I think that for other people that may be deterred from doing Americorps because of the small stipend or really suffer with how little they make, i was just wondering if Americorps could do more to pay its members more, especially since VISTA gets paid less than any other group. I was also commenting on my socioeconomic background because I was just saying that their reason for paying us so little, to "experience poverty" may not completely reach people who grew up privileged, who may know that their parents are out there providing a safety net and they most likely already own things that they acquired when they were more provided for. I was pointing out that there is no sense me going around pretending like I'm living in poverty for a year, when for the last 23-years of my life I've been living in a different socioeconomic realm with my educational opportunities, etc.

Again, thank you for your comments. I really do look at this opportunity with new eyes after this conversation. I just have to figure out how to work with the loneliness of where I live and working out how to cope with being away from friends and the subsequent anxiety that accompanies not having anyone to talk to.
[User Picture]From: noodledays
2013-01-16 01:24 am (UTC)


I think six weeks is way too soon to make a firm judgment as to whether or not this may prove worthwhile. I believe this even more so when I read that winter is a slow time, and things are apt to pick up in the spring and summer.
[User Picture]From: yesterdayanew
2013-01-16 12:56 am (UTC)


i feel very conflicted about what to tell you, maybe because i can relate a little bit to your situation (although our circumstances are different). on the one hand, it is never good to be living in isolation and anxiety with a foreseeable way out. on the other hand, you have a set end date for this, you committed to it, and a year out of a lifetime is a relatively short period of time-- plus, it will look good for future jobs in the end.

i am a teacher and this is my 4th year. this year has been considerably worse than the last 3 (which were already challenging, but enjoyable). i find myself really struggling and have been suffering a lot of anxiety to make it through the year but i guess because of the nature of the job i never look at it as an option to bail before june (even though teachers do leave mid-year, sometimes). i try to keep the things i said above in mind and take things day by day, cross my fingers for next year, and start planning for then.

i don't know. i don't know if that is even helpful, but i feel for you coming from a different direction; good luck either way.
[User Picture]From: hikerpoet
2013-01-16 12:57 am (UTC)


Normally I'd strongly lean towards sticking with it. It's temporary, there have been few aspects you've liked, you've done the right thing by talking to your supervisor and being creative and taking initiative (it does sound like it'll pick up but once you're even a bit more comfortable with it you're apt to feel even that much more comfortable taking initiative or finding work). Plus, the post-grad workaday thing can be a bit overly routine even for people who are in their dream jobs, after the dynamics of their particular experiences. And my advice may very well be good advice to follow. But I would take what the "expert" i.e. the person who did the same program said into account. There's a decent chance it'll ultimately end up being a good thing on a lot of levels, but make sure you're into it for the right reasons.
[User Picture]From: holidaylights
2013-01-16 01:39 am (UTC)


I'm on my phone and haven't read the others comments, so apologies if I'm reiterating anything that's already been said:
I'm your age and also started my first job recently (hired off an internship). One of the biggest adjustments between the two, which I hadn't expected, is that dealing with occasional downtime is part of your job! And by occasional I mean, when I first started, I could go for a week without doing anything all that substantive. And it also drove me insane, although in my case I just felt bad that I wasn't being productive.

Part of the solution is to recognize that, especially if your job has a seasonal element, there will be days, even, that are pretty damn quiet. Part is subtly changing your job description to keep yourself busier with things that interest you. Part is making sure your boss knows you're underworked and would like more responsibilities - but it sounds like you've done that, so I'd back off for a bit (I've been the boss in these situations and having bored, antsy employees to deal with always made me feel awful).

Honestly, it's a year, which isn't that short but isn't forever. Stick with it. Network like hell and start planning for what you'll do when you're finished. Skype home a lot. Take up a new hobby you can practice at work, maybe. You will get through it, and you might be surprised by how much better it gets.
[User Picture]From: due27south
2013-01-16 02:07 am (UTC)


If you've been there for six weeks and you already hate it? Get out now. Run.
[User Picture]From: semi_sweet
2013-01-17 04:03 am (UTC)


Is there anyway to study the job or read books about it (preferably while sitting outside :-) or take related online classes? If the networking is good, and you can find something to keep yourself busy, its be good to stick it out for a few more months at least.