I have been in Portland for four and a half months. My days of sleeping on a couch are finally over. I put my John Hancock on a lease a couple of weeks ago (something I haven’t done in 7 years!) and moved last weekend with my best friends. I have my own room and a place to lay my head- it’s pretty great. But, it’s strange. I now know where I will be living for the next year. I can’t really afford to change my mind, nor do I want to, so I’m hoping that I fully settle into Portland. Perhaps the final thing I need to do is remove ‘Columbia, SC’ from my weather app on my iphone- then I won’t feel such envy on a daily basis when I see that it is 70 degrees in Columbia and 20 degrees in Portland.
I started a job about five weeks after landing in Portland, and to be quite frank, I am really, really, really lucky. Starting Amsha and a children’s foundation, I have learned how valuable my time is. I couldn’t decide if I could live off of part-time work or could make room for full-time work. I was confused on whether to search for education/non-profit work or try to jump back into the design field after being away for a few years. So, I did what any indecisive person does- I just applied for them all. I left it up to fate and figured that as long as I found a job, I would work out the details. I filled out one application for two jobs that ended up taking a couple of hours, and as I cursed it, I told myself that it better be worth it. And from that application, I got two interviews with the organization. One was part-time working with a high school tutoring program and the other job I had applied for, I was not qualified for, but they asked me to come interview for a different position. I walked out from that interview an hour later having accepted the job without even confirming the pay and benefits. I couldn’t pass it up. I was given the opportunity to work with newly arrived refugees on finding employment and I’d get to make use of what little Swahili I know. I was sold. While the pay is a lot less than I made working in design (or waiting tables for that matter), I get great vacation, allowing me to travel back to Kenya for Amsha and Stahili.
And you know what? There is no way, with only an interior design degree, that I would’ve been picked up for this job. As the only native-born American on my project team and without fluency in a second language, my boss took a chance on me because of my travels and my experiences abroad. Having previously volunteered with refugees, having a track record for working with other cultures, and having a passion for self-sufficiency as shown through Amsha, I got the job. If I had never walked away from my job back in 2010 and searched for something more, I would never be sitting here. The same is true for Amsha, as well as for Stahili. My work and my life have changed signficantly because of that trip I took back in 2010. I don’t think anyone needs to be told the benefits to travel; there are so many that are obvious. But I never knew that an 8-month adventure around the globe, that I saw as an escape from my job and a chance to see the world, would open up so many doors for me when I returned back home. (The reverse is true… I never knew that because of my travel decisions, I would be waiting tables as a 28-year old with a college degree. Oh how funny life is sometimes).
Of course there are days when I wonder what it would be like to just work a 40-hour work week and have my nights and weekends back. I run around all day at work (and field phone calls from employers saying things like, ‘Your client passed out and is unresponsive. Can you come pick him up and take him to the hospital or should we call an ambulance?’… and then I end up in Urgent Care), then I come home to process orders, work on social media, and check in on Amsha’s operations in Kenya. Then, I process donations for Stahili, answer questions regarding our program, and check in with our Kenyan manager to get updates on the kids and plan for donor visits. My plate is very full at the moment!
Life is good. Aside from rethinking my entire wardrobe so that I dress appropriately for cold weather, I’m enjoying Portland. I have my friends, a job that keeps me on my toes, a business, and an opportunity to help kids that I love. If I’m a bit quiet on here, it’s not for lack of content and updates… I’m just a tad busy doing a million other things at the moment :)
Speaking of the holidays, today is the last day to order Amsha jewelry and receive it by December 24th! Your purchase provides employment and education to artisans in East Africa. Consider checking out our shop and getting some last minute gifts!