On Discouraging Times


Time flies when you’re having fun, right? I’m quickly approaching nearly four months of “funemployment,” and most of it has indeed (surprisingly) been fun. I’ve gotten to spend a ton of time with family and friends in Chicago; experiment with random concoctions in the kitchen; travel to new places like the UP, Michigan; Montreal, Quebec; and Boulder, Colorado. Perhaps most importantly of all, I’ve spent significant time thinking about my next career move: from talking to strangers over the phone/coffee to brainstorming with my closest friends, I’ve been able to give some serious thought to my “next steps.”

Overall, I was doing pretty well – until this week. This week, for the first time since I’d quit my job in July, I felt fed up with the job search. I felt frustrated at the endless applications that went unanswered; discouraged by the drawn-out interview processes that thus far have failed to result in a job offer. People around me would tell me, “You have such a great resume; I know you’ll have no problem finding a job” – but the reality is, it hasn’t been that easy.

There have been positives, of course. Despite the fact that many of my applications do go ignored, I’ve been averaging at least either a phone or in-person interview almost every week for the past couple of months – sometimes different rounds for the same company, but I know I’ve been a lot luckier than other job seekers who struggle to even score an interview. I’ve visited downtown Chicago more times in the past few months than I ever did through high school – and usually, before or after my interviews, I’ve been able to meet up with friends in the beautiful city I never got to know.

But this week, I just felt frustrated. It’s definitely difficult not to get my hopes up after later-stage interviews, and my tendency to be optimistic unfortunately makes the fall a bit harder when it happens. I’ve seen my share of rejections over the past few months, but none of them had really bothered me. This week, probably due to a combination of multiple drawn-out interview processes (one of them has literally been ongoing for three months), I just felt so stinking discouraged. I know, cognitively, that there’s no way I’ll be unemployed forever – yet today was definitely a day where I felt like that “unemployed loser” I feared becoming. Luckily for me, most days have not been like today.

As always, my friends came to my rescue. One of the best parts of being unemployed is being able to spend time on Gchat, Slack, and Facebook messenger – chatting with friends as they go through their own workdays, albeit with slower responses from their end, of course. But despite their own stressful workloads, their office drama, their startup woes, their wedding plannings, their recent engagements – despite their own lives, my friends have been there to talk to me, to encourage me, to nudge me back onto the path of positivity. Even when times are tough. Especially when times are tough. So thanks to them, I kept going today. I let myself mope for a few hours, and then picked myself up and kept right going.

The job search finally got to me this week, but luckily for me, it was fleeting. I’m back on my feet and ready to go again, thanks to my awesome, supportive friends. My unemployment experience would have been so different without them – and I know everyone says this, but seriously…I have the best friends in the world.


On Hoffman Estates, Illinois


I miss Asia almost every day. There are triggers all the time – evil ex-coworkers tagging me in food photos around Asia, fluid Cantonese spoken in local Chinese restaurants, media photos of F3 reunited in Bali to attend a wedding. There have been so many things, since coming back to the States, that cause a little pang of nostalgia, of missing those two years I lived back in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

I was worried about moving back home to Hoffman Estates after I quit my job in New York this past July. After all, New York City was probably the most similar setting I could have to the urban metropolises that I’d lived in abroad; I worried that I’d find the suburbs too quiet, too limiting, and quite honestly too boring – especially after my grandparents left to return to China mid-August.

But I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that this Chicago suburb I grew up in has been more than ideal for my transition back to the States after two years abroad. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I’ve found those words to be true more than ever. And while there are multiple reasons why being in Hoffman Estates has been awesome, the greatest reason by far has been the people.

After my grandparents left in mid-August, I started to spend a lot of time catching up with different people, from childhood friends, to high school teachers, to college classmates, even to new friends I’d made in New York and in Asia. After every single meet-up, I have the exact same thought: “I am so incredibly thankful to be friends with people who I admire and respect so much.”

I’ve been repeatedly blown away by how my friendships haven’t changed despite years apart; by how career success or new life chapters haven’t diminished the strong, down-to-earth characters of my favorite people. And there was absolutely no need for me to worry about my newly found confidence declining, because I have been surrounded by the support and encouragement of people who believe in me more than I believe in myself.

It’s said that unemployment and job-seeking can often be depressing and lonely, and that insecurity increases while confidence plummets. But being back home in Hoffman Estates has prevented me from really feeling any of that negativity – and I realize how incredibly fortunate I am. Each hangout with a friend leaves me feeling warm, happy, confident, and thankful. Each visit to downtown Chicago leaves me satisfied with how close I still am to a myriad of opportunities and (more importantly) restaurants. And each night spent at home, cooking with my parents, leaves me feeling like I’ve made the right decision in quitting and taking a break to come home after eight years away from Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

It’s so good to be home.