Thursday, April 29, 2010


So many ideas, so many times trying to blog before. I'm going to make it different this time though.

My name is Emily. I graduated from Georgia Tech in May of 2009 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Policy. Since then, I have been pulling myself along in what is most commonly described as the "Quarter Life Crisis." Everyone thinks that once you graduate from college that you have the world and your whole life ahead of you, and endless possibilities and... blah, blah, blah. Now take those rose-tinted shades off and find out what the real deal is—

Once I got out, I found myself wondering what the hell to do with myself. Somewhere along the line, we all think that if you go to Georgia Tech, when you get out you’re just going to go get a $40,000/year job and end up living happily ever after… Yeah Right (then again, how boring would that be)! Everyone talks about the amazing career you're going to have, but committing to anything feels like a life-long commitment where you have to sign your soul away. Now, I'm not actually short-sighted enough to think that, I just have a tendency to be a Drama Queen, which will probably be reflected in my writing. Most of it is in jest, I assure you. Anyways, there are so many different paths to take, it's disorienting at times. Especially in a job economy where the media constantly preaches doom and gloom, with limited resources, it's hard to know exactly where to start.

I could go on and on about the many reasons, but the coolest and most important point I want to make is that I really feel like I'm coming out of it—and what's even better is that all of this change is coming from such an unexpected source. About 2 months ago, I got a job as a cashier with Home Depot. This was supposed to be a way to pay off some bills, including the monumental burden of student loans, but it turned into more. My dad also worked with Home Depot and he advised me to just go in with a positive attitude and a smile, do my job and try to have some fun; if I did that, I would get rave reviews. While I really didn't feel like it at first, I tried it and guess what? IT WORKED!

I discovered that when you have a positive attitude and try to exude a sense of happiness, even if sometimes it’s not true, employers and employees around you begin to feel it too and there’s a snowball effect. It was then that my attitude began to change. While at first I had the egotistical presumption that I was so over-qualified for this job, I realized later that that attitude was simply a defense mechanism—and a lame one at that. I suppose on some unconscious or semi-conscious level I felt that if I didn’t do a good job, it was because that job was somehow below me, therefore I could feel better about myself for not succeeding. Wow, I am ashamed to see that now! All along though, I should have been saying to myself: “Well, if you’re so over-qualified for this job, then you have absolutely no excuse to fail!” I should hold myself to a higher standard in everything I do. That’s the most important lesson I think I’ve learned since college, and it’s a biggie.

As sad and as strange as it may seem to reference him, Dr. Phil McGraw has a saying: “Fake it ‘til you feel it.” I began to see those possibilities that people spoke of, even in this crapper of an economic situation. It became easier for me to be positive, and in the end it paid off. In my first month at my new store, I was promoted to a head cashier (now keep in mind that I had accumulated around 6 months experience at a different store during the holiday seasons while in college, so it’s not like I was brand new and voila I’m in this new role of responsibility). It felt unbelievable. In addition, with my newfound attitude and growing confidence, I decided to reach out in the company to people associated with Home Depot government-associated jobs which applied directly to my degree in Public Policy. I was so excited to meet the woman I spoke with. She was filled with outward enthusiasm, positivity and passion for what she did. I’m sad to say that that was something I didn’t see much while in college (Yes, it is there, but not necessarily as expressively). I also saw that there is a place for someone like me, who is somewhat bubbly and even goofy at times, in the policy arena, which was something that always bothered me in college.

Long story short… is this my dream job? Not really, but for the first time in a while I feel positive about my future. Maybe I don’t want to be a head cashier forever, but what if I just got my foot in the door at a place where I can grow into a more major-specific career. I could live with that!

While I’m working at Home Depot however, I’m not necessarily exercising my policy brain muscles, and that’s where this blog comes into play. I want to use this as a sounding board for public policy issues, but not only from an academic perspective, but from my perspective as well. All the intellectual dialogue in the world is meaningless if there is not an understanding of how policy affects you and the people around you. And at the very least, a sense of empathy is vital in understanding how these policies affect people (Yes, I am a bleeding-heart Liberal, and I am indeed proud of it!).

In general, be happy and in an economy such as this, or even in a great economy, don’t look at any opportunity as below you. You never know where it may lead you. And as far as the idea of a Georgia Tech graduate working as just a head cashier at The Home Depot… my id and those alike who don’t like it can get over it! I’ve never taken the most direct route to anything in life, so why should my road to happiness and personal fulfillment be any different? There’s a song by the Dixie Chicks which I believe best describes me and my road so far, it’s called “The Long Way Around:”

I've been a long time gone now
Maybe someday, someday I'm gonna settle down
But I've always found my way somehow

By takin' the long way
Takin' the long way around

No I
I could never follow

It's been two long years now
Since the top of the world came crashing down
And I'm gettin' it back on the road now

But I'm takin' the long way
Takin' the long way around