Hey, you stayed with us

It’s no secret that I’ve been relatively quiet over here on my corner of the internet. Even the last piece I wrote really at all was pretty short — kind of a surprise to me, too. Especially because it was about my first marathon, which I could talk about endlessly. And after the fact, I wanted to write something commemorating how I felt…but I couldn’t do it. I’d open the word document, write a few sentences, and very quickly lose interest, or find that I simply couldn’t go on anymore. When it came to writing, I had nothing left to say. It persisted through almost every aspect of my life, it seemed. I couldn’t write about music, I couldn’t get things done, and it felt like I was just stuck in a constant rotation of a little bit of school, a lot of work (which was also starting to feel too monotonous and exhausting), running when I could, and cleaning my impossibly messy room all of the time.

After aging out, I think that the events from last spring finally caught up to me. I had gone so long without thinking about the loss my family had endured, because I had so many things I knew I had to finish out strong. Graduating from Columbia, and the entire summer with Spirit; all truly wonderful, amazing capstones to the last four or five years of my life. But then it came time to start something new.

I was enrolled at DePaul University for the Masters in Journalism, and I was supposed to wind up getting financial assistance to finish the program. Over the summer, I got an email that it wouldn’t be the case. After I returned home, I confirmed my financial status with the school and took a hard look at where I was debt-wise with Columbia and my monthly financial commitments (rent, etc.) I knew continuing school on my own dime would not be a wise decision. Once I informed DePaul of the situation, they offered to fund one quarter of school (the Journalism degree is a two-year program, and there’s four quarters in each year), but after that I would be on my own. I decided to take the bait, enroll in a couple of classes, and see if I wound up thinking it would be worth it after that first quarter. After all, I could push my loans back for another four months and get some time to actually save up, right? While I did enjoy discussing things at a higher level, and I felt good going down to the loop for class still, it was not the best decision on my part. I knew about two weeks in that I wouldn’t be continuing with the program, and I was falling even more short in my finances, especially not having student loan payments yet.

I wound up leaving DePaul at the end of the quarter. It was the right way to go, and I know that I will not regret it. Because mentally and emotionally, I wasn’t able to keep up. Maybe it had something to do with not hearing back from any of the dozens of job applications I blasted out, but I was feeling totally, utterly, completely stuck. I still couldn’t write, and I didn’t like talking about what I was doing. Outside of my relationship, I felt like I wasn’t doing anything worthwhile.

Until I binged an entire season of the podcast “Millennial” in a single day while traveling home from Atlanta. It was that podcast that finally started to snap me out of it. I was reminded why I moved to Chicago, that I have so many great things behind me, and that it was finally my time to show the world (or try to convince an employer) that I am capable of even better things. I just had to figure out how to get there.

I started working at House of Blues as a green room server close to the end of November. Having another source of income, (and doing another job I enjoyed enough to do until I left Chicago,) did wonders for me. I finally felt like everything was going to be okay, and I got to be around live music again. And get paid for my time!

Also around the end of November, I had an idea for a project that I still want to bring to fruition, but it’s taking longer than I thought it would. So you’ll have to just stay tuned for that.

In December, I finally fell into a nice groove. Nick visited for a week, I had spurts of my much-needed “me-time,” and started to find a good balance between House of Blues and Fleet Feet, plus I got time with friends outside of that. But I still couldn’t write. I got up to March in my “2017 Year in Review,” and I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to re-live any of the year that I had spent so much time dwelling on the negative aspects of, and it felt like twenty steps backwards in the progress I had made.

I had a few days at home over Christmas, then it was back to the south for almost ten days with Nick. During that time I had an interview for a full-time position. I didn’t wind up getting that job, but in the time between the phone call and receiving the email saying “nope,” I realized how nice it would be to have both a consistent schedule week to week, and the stability knowing how many hours a week I would be working. I wouldn’t want to leave Fleet Feet or House of Blues entirely, but I knew I’d enjoy them both more if I wasn’t relying on them to pay my loans, rent, and add to my savings for eventually moving.

At the beginning of 2018, with my Spirit family around me and Nick by my side, I silently made myself a promise. I want to improve myself. I want to get better. I want to write again, to do work I really believe in, and I felt had a lasting effect. I wanted to find employment, pay off my credit card, and save up enough to not only move to Atlanta, but have enough time to settle in and find at least a part-time job I enjoyed.

After returning to Chicago in January, I was applying to anything and everything I could think of. I searched for something in the realm of my degree in the city that I could do for a few months, and started to really think about what I wanted for a job once I moved to Atlanta. I spent a Tuesday off doing that for most of the day and went for a run in the afternoon. In the middle of that run, the Executive Director of the Chicago Area Runners Association (CARA) called, wondering if I would be in town until the end of May/mid-June, and what my availability looked like until that time. Absolutely flabbergasted, (and still am), I told him I was pretty available.

Turns out, the woman I directly reported to as an intern was going on maternity leave in March, and they needed someone to fill in. And had called me. We met the following Friday to hash out some details, but as of February 14th, I’ll be working full-time with the Chicago Area Runners Association until I leave for Atlanta.

That weekend was also an audition camp weekend for Spirit of Atlanta. I had been talking with the business manager off and on for a few months about returning to do media/marketing, but nothing had been set in stone yet. The Wednesday following that, I had a conversation over the phone with the Director of Operations for the corps, and was offered a copywriting job for the media team. It wouldn’t be paid much, but the most important thing to me was being able to be part of the corps doing something professionally that I was, sometimes, usually, good at.

And now, I finally feel like I’m moving forward. I’m doing work that I care a lot about, I feel like I have a purpose, and there are people counting on me to get my weekly to-do list done. I’m not saying that the two job opportunities are what helped me finally move past the events of last spring, what I’m saying is that they helped me move out of my funk, which is what has helped me move past those events of last spring, and appreciate 2017 for what it was.

And what I really learned is that it’s okay to be in a funk. It’s okay to feel stuck. And it’s okay to try something out and figure out a couple months later that it’s not the right thing for you — whether that’s a job, continuing your education, or any other big life change. Even through that period of feeling useless, I learned a lot about myself. I still ran my first marathon, I still helped people, and I finally stopped feeling so tired from stretching myself way too thin for four years.

This also doesn’t mean I’m not still working on myself. There’s a lot of things I need to be better with (self-confidence, time management, budgeting…oh man, the list goes on and on), but a big step in all of that was this: pounding out some text in a doc to share on my corner of the internet. It’s been too quiet lately, and I still have things left to say.

I have applied to the Kroc Fellowship at NPR, probably one of the biggest and most competitive internships known to public radio. If that doesn’t work out, I plan to move to Atlanta at the end of my temp position with CARA, and once I get there, I have at least a part-time job with the organization that has absolutely taken my heart away. I’m running another marathon at the end of April in Louisville, Kentucky; and I’m staying sober* until then (except for maybe one day, while Nick is visiting in March), in hopes of saving some money, getting a little healthier, and not wake up on any more Thursdays feeling like the world is going to end.

If you read through this whole thing, thanks for hanging on, and thanks for staying with us. Even when I didn’t ask.

*Just to be clear, I didn’t have a drinking problem in the first place, but I wanted to make another positive change for a short time. I think cutting alcohol out of my budget is going to be one of those positive changes. A few of my Fleet Feet coworkers inspired me, and now that it’s digitally etched on my blog, I’ll follow through.


Author: erikabunk

Raised in Northern Minnesota. BA in Radio/Business & Entrepreneurship. Painfully average marathoner. Spends too much time on Spotify, in search of the best record store in the world, and dreams of returning to Reykjavík.

One thought on “Hey, you stayed with us”

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