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Expectations vs. Reality: Reflections on the First Six Months After Graduation

I learned one lesson from the college graduation day that I did not attend: expectations hardly ever become reality.

I graduated from college in May 2017, but unfortunately was not able to attend the day I had spent the past four years working so hard for. Less than a week before the big day, I was diagnosed with strep throat and pneumonia, and given about four different prescriptions.

When the reality sunk in that I wouldn’t be able to walk across the stage with my cap and gown and have the graduation day I had dreamt of for so many years, I cried. A lot.  Although my friends and family were very understanding, it somehow did not ease the sadness and disappointment I felt.

I write about the expectations and the reality of my college graduation day because, the more I think about it, the more I realize it illustrates the journey of a college senior entering adulthood and, most importantly, the journey one faces in his/her first post-grad year.

The expectations for adulthood started way before graduation. There was a lot of pressure, from both myself and the people around me, to have my ducks in a row in time for college graduation. The questions from my friends and family were all the same: What are your plans after graduation? Do you have a job? What will your salary be? Where will you live? They never seemed to stop. It made me think that getting a job immediately, moving into my first apartment and living the “perfect” adult life were the only options I had.

This was all exponentially heightened when my friends and I actually earned our diplomas. I felt as if all of my friends were moving through life at warp-speed, checking things they needed to accomplish in order to become a “real” adult. On Facebook, I would see posts of friends getting new jobs or moving to new cities, and found myself immediately hitting the red ‘X’ in the corner of my screen due to pangs of envy, pressure, and failure filling my chest.

I desired that “perfect” life more than anything. I thought that all of my newfound freedom would give me time to start crossing books off my ‘to read’ list. I thought that earning money would allow me to not feel guilty about eating my way through every brunch place in the city. I thought that it would finally be time to have a social life perfectly curated for Instagramcomplete with close friends from college and many fun nights out in our nation’s capital. I thought that maybe, just maybe, I would even finally meet a nice Jewish boy who would be parent-approved.

However, none of this happened.

Instead, my reality was spending all of my free time looking for a job instead of reading for fun. My reality was saving my money to spend on things I needed for my new apartment instead of spending it on brunch. My reality was saying goodbye to some of my closest friends from college as they started their new chapters away from DC (where we all went to college).

Now that I have been out of school for six months, I find myself reflecting a lot on my experiences since that day I missed my graduation in May. While it might not be exactly what I expected, the reality I currently live is still pretty great. I have found a great support system in DC (shoutout to GatherDC’s Mini-Gatherings for helping with that). I have continued to explore and experience all that this city has to offer. I have continued to learn about myself, and what I want out of life.

In the past six months, I’ve learned that it’s okay if the path I end up paving for myself differs from the one I expected to follow, as there is no right way to go about things.

Your priorities might be different than the priorities of those around you, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong. Decide what is important for you to focus on, and commit to it. For me, that has been spending time with friends, and finding ways to live a Jewish life that is authentic to me.

I also learned that the choices you make are not permanent. It’s not the end of the world if you realize a decision you made turns out to not be the right one for you. It is important to be comfortable with change, and be able to go with the flow.

As I ponder what the coming six months have in store, I feel ready to greet them, even if my reality is different from my ideal.

 

 

 

 

About the Author: Bryna Kramer is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. She is originally from the small, southern town of Danville, Virginia. She’s been in D.C. for just over four years, as she moved here in 2013 to attend American University. When she is not busy covering the Wizards on a nightly basis or hosting her own podcast, Meet Us At Molly’s, you can find her binging television or brunching her way through the city. Follow her on Twitter.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Life Changes: How to Know When It’s Time to Move?

After living in Chicago for four years, I moved to DC on May 31, 2017. Since moving, many people have asked what brought me here.

The common answers to this question people traditionally give are: moved for a job, grad school, to be closer to family, or for a partner. My answer was none of those.

I decided it was time for a change and wanted to fulfill my five-year dream of living in DC. I get two responses to this: people tell me I am brave and they could never do this, or people share that they are thinking of moving, but are afraid of uprooting their current life. Their life is good enough, so why move just because?

I understand that people don’t want to rock the boat. The saying that the known is better than the unknown exists for a reason. Why leave a life where you have a good job, great community, and a city you consider “home?” Why relocate for no reason besides you want to? Shouldn’t there be a good reason to make such a big change?

Yet, I did just that. For the past four years, I considered Chicago my home. I had a great apartment in the heart of Lakeview. I knew the best place to get deep dish pizza (Lou Malnati’s, trust me). I was working at an organization that not only cared about my professional development, but also my personal life. Lastly, I had made some amazing friends that had helped me navigate my post-grad years. I had built a great life for myself.

Let me just say for the record that I am not brave. I moved out of necessity. While from the outside (and social media) my life seemed great, I felt like I was living in Chicago with a permanent grey cloud hovering above me at all times.

Millennials are so concerned about how our lives are seen by our peers. I would look at people’s Facebook and Instagram profiles thinking how happy they looked and wondering how I could become that happy.

I am in my twenties, the decade society says is the most fun. Why was I not enjoying my life? Why was I not going out enough, or involved in enough activities? I tried everything to get rid of my grey cloud. I switched jobs, got involved with different Jewish organizations, and made new friends. I did not want to leave Chicago because I assumed that was giving up and people would think I failed.

I spent years bringing up the idea of moving to DC with my friends and family, going back and forth in my head about whether I should stay or move, and agonizing over what people I barely knew would think. Finally, the moment came where I knew it was time to give up trying to make Chicago happen, and just start over somewhere new. I started picturing my life six months or one year out, and knew I would be disappointed if I was still in Chicago. While I could not guarantee that DC would work out, it was better to try than not move at all.  

The ten months after making the decision to move were the hardest. I spent months applying to jobs, pricing out moving companies, and only making plans two months out so – that when I finally landed a job – I could pack up and go. But, I actually ended up giving notice to my last position before having an apartment or job lined up.

Making this big of a life change was not easy. For me, this decision was years in the making. To this day, I miss my Chicago friends and all the things we used to do together.

Life is not perfect, but I needed to be happy.

When I landed in DC, the grey cloud instantly disappeared. I knew it would be challenging to transition to a new home with little to fall back on. I knew it would take time to find new friends and create a new Jewish community. But in that moment I knew, regardless of what lay ahead, I had absolutely made the right choice.

I am now six months into my new life in DC. I frequently am asked if I have any regrets, and my answer is always no. I still regularly check in with my friends and family. I am still building my new Jewish community and making new friends. But I knew myself enough to know that I needed to shake up my life.

And if I can’t shake things up when I am in my twenties, then when can I? This was the perfect time.

 

About the Author: Marisa Briefman is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. She is a recent DC transplant who was born and raised in Sarasota, Florida – likely where your grandparents live. Her love of all things Jewish began at overnight camp and continues to thrive in her role at JSSA. She is coffee addict, lover of Mexican food, and on a permanent mission pet all the adorable dogs in DC (if someone is in need of a dog-sitter, email me).

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Jewish Person of the Week: GatherDC’s Newest Team Member Rachel!

BIG NEWS GATHER-ERS: Boston native Rachel Nieves has just joined the GatherDC team as our Community Coordinator! This Bostonian turned University of Maryland Terrapin turned DC-ite, is eager to meet each and every one of you! Rachel’s contagious smile, friendly demeanor, zest for life, and self-proclaimed flailing skills on the dance floor — has us more excited than ever for the year ahead.

After you read this exclusive 1:1 interview, send her an email at racheln@gatherdc.org to say hi, welcome her to the team, or arrange a coffee date!

Allie: How did you wind up living in DC?

Rachel: I went to University of Maryland, so I’ve been in the area for a while. A lot of my friends moved to DC after we graduated, and I’ve always loved this city, so I figured it would be a great move for me!

Allie: So, what are you most excited about in your new role as GatherDC’s Community Coordinator?

Rachel: A big part of my job will be meeting people who are new – or new(ish) to DC, and helping them navigate the city, and then hopefully find their people, their place, or their path in Jewish DC. I’m excited about all of it! I really love people. I genuinely love talking to people and learning about their lives, what they like, who they are, their personal story. Everyone has something to say and a story to tell, and I’m so excited to get to know all the wonderful people already in the GatherDC community, and those new to DC. I know how intimidating it can be to be in a new, unfamiliar space so I’m really looking forward to being a resource for anyone who wants it.

Allie: What would be your dream Sunday in DC – if money and logistics were no object?

Rachel: First I would wake up at my leisure, then get ready for brunch at 801 in Shaw (my new favorite bottomless brunch place). The waiter/waitress would really like my friends and I, and would waive the 2-hour limit so we could stay there all day. It would be a really sunny and warm day, so we’d be on the rooftop. After brunch, my friends and I would go bar-hopping along U St/Shaw, and we’d have a ball. It would be pretty late by then, so I’d treat myself to McDonalds for dinner (it is Sunday and I deserve it, after all). I’d go home with my McDonalds, hang out with my roommate/best friend and watch some amazing Bravo TV.

Allie: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday, and how do you like to celebrate it?

Rachel: Call me crazy, but I LOVE Yom Kippur. Every year I legitimately look forward to my fast, because I don’t dread it, but really revel in its meaning. Regardless of fasting, I think the holiday is extraordinary in that it sets aside an entire day to challenge you to think about the past year and how you feel about it – and how it made you feel about yourself. I don’t typically really spend time reflecting like that, and I think however that reflection and atonement manifests itself can be really powerful. Also, Break Fast, obviously.

Allie: Favorite show to binge watch right now?

Rachel: “Game of Thrones” – I know I’m so late on this but WOW. The other night I had a dream I was Khaleesi and it was the best night sleep I’ve gotten in a while.

Allie: What’s your best piece of life advice?

Rachel: Life goes by fast. Enjoy it, calm down, it’s all funny.

Allie: Complete the sentence – When Jews of DC Gather…

Rachel: it’s party time!!!

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Jewish Jeweler of the Week – Elana

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Elana was nominated to be the Jew of the Week by her roommate Emma, who was the past Jewish Musical Lover of the Week! Emma nominated Elana for her sense of humor and her exciting work in DC. Learn more about Elana in our interview with the Jewish Jeweler of the Week!

Jackie: You just moved to DC from Wisconsin. I know our cheese isn’t as good here so what brought you to DC?

Elana: A job! I graduated this past May from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. After graduating I spent about a month at home in Denver volunteering at Ryan Seacrest Studios in the Children’s Hospital Colorado and then made the big move out to DC in July.

Jackie: Emma told me you help run a jewelry business. Tell me more about that?

Elana: Dayna Designs is a small jewelry design and manufacturing company. We sell sterling silver collegiate jewelry for 100+ school and sororities and are just announcing our new designer line for 2017.

Jackie: What is your job at Dayna Designs?

Elana: My official role is Operations and Marketing, but given the small size of the company, the beauty is I really get to do it all! My daily operations incorporate business decisions/plans, strategy, creative/design, marketing, advertising, etc.

gather-the-jews5Jackie: Since you are new to DC, what are you excited to try out for the first time?

Elana: I haven’t been to the Zoo yet, but have heard great things about it. I am especially excited now that the Zoo Lights are open.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew?

Elana: My grandmother, of course.

Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?

Elana: Passover, without a doubt. My family goes all out – lots of guests, good food, lots of singing and discussions. Last year our Seder went until midnight…I didn’t make it past dinner.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…we play our favorite game of all time – Jewish geography. 

Jewish Resident of the Week – Sam

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Sam is the newest member of Moishe House DC. I got the chance to catch up with him to hear how living in the House was going and also hear what lead him to live there in the first place! Learn more about him and hear his recommendations for getting to know DC in our interview with Sam this week.

Jackie: You moved around a bit since graduating from Binghamton. Where have you been and what brought you there?

Sam: I originally grew up on Long Island and have moved basically every year since graduating college. I attended Binghamton University for my undergraduate degree and moved to Houston to teach middle school as part of Teach for America while also earning my Masters in Education. After that, I moved to New York City for a year, then Baltimore for a year, back to New York City, relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina and then moved to DC in March of this year. Some of the moves were related to work. Others were embracing opportunities to live in another part of the country and have an adventure along the way.

Jackie: What finally brought you to DC?14856074_10100587589263299_4070627615327562005_o

Sam: With every opportunity I take, I always consider how I can have an impact. I was surprised to learn that the third leading cause of death in the United States is medical errors. Looking to become part of the solution, I joined a fast-growing ed tech start-up based in Bethesda called Knowledge to Practice, focused on helping physicians with their continuing medical education needs. My role there is helping build the digital marketing team from the ground up. Everything from digital analytics, to content strategy, to marketing automation, and beyond. I’ll stop while I am ahead.

Jackie: You recently moved into Moishe House DC! Why did you want to live in a Jewish house?

Sam: Being part of the Moishe House represents an opportunity to be part of something larger than myself. A community that becomes a home away from home for many individuals who may only live in Washington, DC for a short time. Having the chance to build that sense of community and become a connector of the community is something that I strive to build in the many cities I have had the chance to call home.

Jackie: What has been your favorite part of joining that house?

Sam: The amazing people! Despite living in DC since March, I’ve met more people in the past month than I have in my total time here previously. The range of events all the Moishe Houses put on in the DMV area allows everyone to connect.

11824943_10101608180155952_7293008731603885208_nJackie: What are some recommendations for the seeing things off the beaten path in the DMV?

Sam: Walking tours are a great way to learn about the city. One of the best tours I recommend is food walking tours you can do in different neighborhoods in DC and VA. Walking around for a few hours. Trying 5-6 different types of food. Learning about culture and history along the way. You really can’t go wrong. I also recommend checking out different breweries.

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jew? 

Sam: Aaron Sorkin. The West Wing is pretty much as close as you can get to my heart. Besides Hamilton at the moment.

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather… The house shakshuAKES-ah! (I am so sorry).

Opening Your Doors During the Holidays & Hosting Those Who Are New to DC

After graduating from a university in the area, many of my friends had moved away. For the first time in a long time, I found myself without an easy answer for what to do for the high holidays. Knowing there were other people in similar situations, volunteering to become a High Holiday Host with Gather the Jews gave me the chance to explore young professional Jewish life in DC and meet people along the way.

On Erev Rosh Hashannah, I met up with a girl for happy hour before services at Sixth & I where we bonded over our love for Jewish summer camps and our new jobs. She later met me for Kol Nidre services and a break fast at my house. In the spirit of hachnasat orchim (hospitality), and because I believe that celebration is a group activity, I chose to invite friends and strangers without a place to go for the holidays to my house. Expecting only 6 people at first, I was overjoyed that my house was filled on break fast with seemingly endless food and 19 new friends. It felt great to help create a new community that far surpassed my expectations, but more than anything, my house filled with people with full bellies felt like home.

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In an effort to recreate that feeling, I  hope to host more holidays like this in the future, and I hope that if you are ever left without a place to celebrate a holiday, you reach out.

Happy Wednesday,

Andrea

 

Are you new to the DC area? Sing up to grab coffee with Shaina, our Community Coordinator!

Meet Nicole – the Jewish Professional of the Week!

Nicole AngelJackie: Tell us about your new role with Federation, what are you most excited about!

Nicole: My new role as the Young Leadership Associate and Social Innovation Coordinator will consist of engaging with members of the community who are in their 20’s and 30’s and building relationships with them to help them connect with the Jewish Federation. I want to help young professionals find an outlet within the Federation through community involvement, leadership development and philanthropy. I am very excited that I will have the opportunity to coordinate the ConnectGens Fellowship here which empowers social innovators with training, tools and connections to transform their big ideas into ventures that will enhance our community. I will also be working on the Nexus series this spring, which is a six-session young leadership course for young professionals who are interested in connecting to the Federation and the work we do.

Jackie: What is the ConnectGens Fellowship, who should apply?

IMG_3653Nicole: The ConnectGens Fellowship empowers social innovators with training, tools and connections to transform their BIG IDEAS into ventures that will mobilize our Jewish community. Fellows connect with talented mentors, motivated peers and inspiring coaches to invigorate social change and turn their innovative ideas into reality. The Fellowship is open to individuals of all ages and anyone living in DC, MD or VA with an idea to enhance community life

Jackie: Can you tell us about some past ConnectGens Fellows and what they are now doing?

Nicole: Elizabeth Weingarten a 2013 Fellow started Tribelle which is a multi-style jewelry collection with a mission to cultivate female entrepreneurship in Israel by supporting businesswomen and the organizations that incubate their ventures. Elizabeth believes that women’s businesses are the key to economic revival across communities and countries, and to healthier, better educated kids around the world. As a Jewish woman, she started TRIBELLE to support women’s enterprises in her broader community: Israel. You can check out Tribelle and the amazing work they are doing by visiting http://tribelle.co/
IMG_3647Max Levitt, a 2013 Fellow created a venture called Leveling the Playing Field which today has become a viable non-profit, where they donate lightly used sporting equipment to underprivileged kids. Their mission is to give underprivileged children the opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of athletic involvement. In just two years of operation they have donated over $500,000 worth of sporting equipment to over 40 programs. To find out more about the incredible strides that Max is making through Leveling the Playing Field please visit http://www.levelingtheplayingfield.org/

Jackie: Who is your favorite Jewish role model?

Nicole: When I was living in Israel for the past two years, I had the pleasure of meeting a very special soul, Rabbi Shu Eliovson, who truly changed my life and taught me a whole new perspective on Judaism. Rabbi Shu sees the beauty of everything in life and is able to connect the spirituality of Judaism to all of his teachings. If you find yourself near Kfar Maimon in Israel go pay a visit to Rabbi Shu at the Golden Shore, I promise you won’t be sorry!

IMG_3651Jackie: What is your favorite Jewish food?

Nicole: That’s a hard one; I’m going to have to go with my top two, brisket and chicken matzah ball soup. These are my two specialties that I like to cook!

Jackie: Where are most likely to run into you on a Sunday afternoon?

Nicole: Trumpeldor Beach in Tel Aviv J

Finish the sentence: When the Jews Gather…

Nicole: There will be excitement, disputes, ruach and an excess of delicious food!