When I applied to Haverford from abroad, I knew I wanted to work in this country after graduation, and to send some funds to my 65-year-old parents who are still working as tailors in a small shop in Vietnam. I just didn’t know how hard it could be to look for a job during senior year.
Fall semester started: friends were coming back to campus, professors were posting welcome lectures online, and hiring season for tech was starting; two of which I was excited about. At first, the job search was not that bad: one hour a day applying and studying for the interview. But discipline without luck was not enough. For two months, I didn’t hear back from any of the applications. I was scared… I feared not being able to help my parents financially. Being first-gen puts pressures: I was the one in my family supposed to “make it”, but am I gonna? I envied anyone my age who had “made it”. I blamed the situation, but not myself. All the ifs started creeping in my head like earworms: what if my parents get sick, if only I were a domestic student, if only I didn’t have to do theses, what if covid disappears tomorrow? After two months, the job grind becomes less preferable to umm other kinds of grind (with an r). Imagine that job security is the Patagonia jacket that everyone dreams about. Well, I started lying under my comforter instead of putting myself outside and embracing the discomfort. I thought that it was fine and started procrastinating on getting that jacket. I blamed the situation, but in fact I was the only one to blame.
Note that I don’t think I am a procrastinator: I like the feeling of turning work in on time and seeing good grades; and I have gotten good grades in my academics. But something about the job search made me become one. I applied, but didn’t hear back, so what was the point of applying? The grind has no end: no limit on the number of applications, no timeline of hearing back – nothing for that panic system to kick in and force myself to do work. Really, the worst part of being a procrastinator is the guilt you endure every day…
Sometimes, I just masturbated the guilt away, but it came back. Other times, I skateboarded to clear my mind. I learned from experience that the rough surface of asphalt helps keep the board in place; and the smooth surface of wooden floor can make beginners fall when they step on the board.
I remember one time when I was just getting out of the shower, having nothing on but a towel wrapped around. I heard laughter and requests from my suitemates that I come to the living room immediately. Apparently, there was a plate of Vietnamese sandwich made by my Pakistani neighbor. Quarantine life banned me from eating outside, so my friend made banh mi to eat inside. I wear clothes outside to keep myself warm; I feel the warmth inside my apartment with barely any clothes…
Now, I’m sorry if you imagined any of that. I’m not trying to say I’m a nudist (which might be true). Having a close Pakistani friend out-Vietnamese me in the US is one of the best things that happened in the fall semester. Having friends who I cooked with, skateboarded with, practiced interviews with […] during the pandemic is what kept me on that grind.
As the semester was coming to an end, I straightened up. I think back to Patagonia; most of their clothes were made by tailors in Vietnam anyway. Maybe Vietnamese tailors have their way of putting their heart in everything they make. I must do the same. I started doing interviews after interviews, and a month later, finally got the job offer call from my recruiter. I was beyond excited. I think my friend and I drank half a bottle of soju that night to celebrate. A feeling of warmth resurfaced again; not sure from the alcohol, the adrenaline, or the company… of friends.