At the time of writing here (luckily, safely tucked away up in the mountains of North Carolina), it’s been close to six weeks since most of the U.S. has been trapped in some form of lockdown from the Covid-19 pandemic. As it would happen, the virus hit the Eastern U.S. barely a month after I decided to move to Washington, D.C. to start a career in human rights and journalism the capital. So, for the last month – like almost everyone – I’ve been trapped indoors left to contemplate where to go forward if and when the pandemic subsides this year.
Not that that means I’ve been sitting twiddling my thumbs these past four to six weeks: from helping build a weekly Covid-19 Education Resource guide to researching and editing a Covid economic and health guide for the West Coast, as well as a bit of work for the local Hunger Coalition here, I’ve been keeping myself as busy as possible considering. Also, gardening. Lots of gardening.
Life under quarantine — which I am beyond thankful to only be an inconvenient disruption to life at the moment, rather than a complete catastrophe to health, life and wellfare as it is to so many in New York, Italy, and other hotspots — nevertheless has been a period of reevaluation. Besides realizing that sleeping in every other day and playing video games into the early morning hours feels indulgent for maybe two or three days (tops) before the lack of routine becomes a kind of personal hell, it’s also helped to prioritize a lot of things that get lost under day to day grind and worries. In no particular order, these include:
- Family + Gardening. These two go together in my head, maybe because both are just genuinely nice things that I don’t have in D.C. and am spending a lot of time with here. Also, something about growing and nurturing little plants is fulfilling a need for control right now, which is not insubstantial.
- Dungeons and Dragons + Board Games. I’ve been keeping up a (theoretically) biweekly D&D session with my father and sister for the past two years or so, and having time to create stories, immerse in a fantasy world, and just have fun and goof off with family and friends is really needed right now. Settlers of Catan is also a go-to evening activity, and it’s become a really relaxing way to end the day outside of T.V or video games.
- Walks. I do miss my 5pm workout slot at the YMCA in D.C, but popping in a (non-politics) podcast and going for a walk in the streets around my house, or at the nearby Greenway when it’s not too crowded, has had a meditative effect. Especially in the evening, it’s nice to take the headphones out by a river or field and listen/watch the butterflies, birds, and the occasional deer come out while it’s still and quiet. Exercise seems to have become, at least to me, a chore to check along with the other daily tasks, but I’m finding that the happy headspace that comes from a walk is hard to replicate in a gym.
- And finally, learning to cook. I mean, I can make a one-skillet meal like anyone else, but lately I’ve been doing more with the family’s instant pot – an item of magic if I’ve ever seen one – and making some really healthy, filling vegetable and chicken dishes. As a millennial, food is either take-out or whatever I can cook that is cheap and takes under 30 minutes to make. Having the time to enjoy cooking, as well as eating, is something I haven’t enjoyed for some time.
With the activities that usually make me happy – easily traveling and being in new cultures, debating politics of world events over a few pints in the SOAS bar, researching and writing on topics that I’m passionate about such as human rights or conflict – having fallen by the wayside ever since I came back to the States last September, rediscovering little wholesome things that are – sure – mundane but also bring about that kind of small joy that is different from, but not better or worse than, the big excitement of traveling or being in the thick of politics and debate has been all around a good thing.
Over the past 8 months, I’ve gone from finishing my dissertation in London and traveling to Switzerland and Copenhagen to working for a local NGO in my hometown to moving – without a job – to D.C and struggling to make a career work there to, now, sheltering in place, more uncertain than ever about my future career trajectory or where I’ll be in two months, let alone a year. It’s not been an easy year, and life hasn’t worked out as I thought it would after five years straight of higher education.
With that in mind comes the purpose of this site’s re-design and re-branding, my return to blogging, and the uncertainty of entering the freelance world. While I’ll still be sending countless cover letters and resumes to any IR or politics adjacent communications or writing job in D.C, I’ve also realized that I’ve let my writing fall by the wayside in the year since I left London. I want to change that, hence the current career re-pivot.
Because I love lists and bullet points, here’s another of why that is:
- D.C seems to be where every political science or international relations major ends up eventually. Not that I’m against that (I don’t enjoy D.C. as a city as much as London or Boston, but overall its fine, and the number of young people in a similar field is refreshing), it does mean competition is above and beyond what I expected for every position. Without a job as-yet, I need to find a way to keep pushing my career even if the method is outside the normal D.C. job circuit.
- Like I said above, I’ve largely stopped writing. Over the course of the last five years, my desire to be a “writer” has gone from wanting to be a novelist (see: every other College Freshman) to becoming fascinated with journalism, reporting, and being there as the world changes. I think working in journalism in Bosnia in ’17 was the start of that, but it wasn’t really until I moved to London that I realized that to be the direction I wanted to go. This is moving in that direction.
- In the end, the District has never had the pull to me as it does to true political junkies, and I don’t suspect to be there for more than a year or two. But between Covid, my own millennial income, and other assorted instabilities, it seems to be where I am for now. And so long as I’m here, I might as well make the most of being in the political capital of both the U.S. as the world. (Such as it is. Another Trump term – and, although less likely, even a Biden presidency – would likely mean the end of the U.S. as the global political force).
So that leaves what is next. Writ large, it’s getting back to writing and journalism, both through freelancing and through, hopefully, a writing-intensive full time job sometime in the next few months. It’s being D.C-based, at least for now, and trying to make a new life in a new city for the third time in five years. And it’s trying to get back to traveling as soon as possibly safe for both myself and others.
In the meant time, I’m just going to continue gardening, and maybe add a few Dungeons and Dragons sessions on the side.