20something profile: Isabel
My name is Isabel, and I’m 23 years old. I studied at Baruch College in midtown Manhattan. It’s a business school and part of the City University of New York (CUNY). I did not want to move away for college partly to save money but mostly out of fear of leaving the house and town I grew up in.
Attending a commuter school in New York City wasn’t your typical American big university “college experience.” Every student commuted either from New Jersey, other parts of Manhattan, or the other NYC boroughs. The campus consisted of three buildings in total. Every student complained, in true New York fashion, about not having dorms near the campus, about not having working escalators, and especially about the curriculum.
I’d chime in occasionally, but truthfully, I didn’t mind my academic experience at Baruch, the commuter school. I was going to graduate on time, I had an advertising internship on my résumé, and I had three years of leadership experience with various Filipino student organizations under my belt. I thought I did everything I was supposed to be doing in college…except trying to figure out what I wanted to do in life.
I pretty much avoided the question because I kept hearing from other, wiser 20-somethings that, “It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do; you’ll figure it out,” but in retrospect, I was just using that advice as a crutch. I thought to myself, Just do what you think you’re supposed to do. Get a job, make some money, and it will come to you.
The summer after graduation, I applied to various entry-level marketing positions. I either didn’t hear back or didn’t get second interviews. In order to make money (but mostly to ease my father’s concern about me not finding employment), I applied to some retail positions at the mall in the meantime. J.Crew, Madewell, Aldo, Aritzia, Bakers, Club Monoco, and the game changer… lululemon athletica.
The moment I walked into their store, I fell in love. I fell in love with their values, with their staff, even with their hiring process. Oh, and they sold yoga clothes, too, so I felt right at home. I actually got hired at J.Crew first but put in my two weeks’ notice after a week of employment because I got an offer from lululemon.
I started out at lululemon as a seasonal hire for the 2011 Holiday season, and after the Holidays, they kept me on as a part-time employee. I absolutely loved my job. I loved the company, and I loved the people I got to work with every day. The company sponsored its employees to take fitness classes in the community, so I was also in the best shape I’d ever been in.
A big part of the company’s values is goal-setting, and this really changed the way I live my life. We regularly wrote out our one-, five-, and ten-year goals for ourselves. It was incredible to be able to express where my true passions in life were and also see my goals come to fruition.
Looking over my goals this past December, I realized how good I had it, but it just wasn’t what I wanted anymore. I didn’t want to work retail. As great as the company was, I just didn’t have goals with the company. On my goal sheet, two of my one-year goals stuck out to me: “I create a blog that serves as an inspirational tool for 20-somethings.” and “I backpack across Europe.”
A few days after Christmas but before the New Year, I put in my two weeks’ notice at lululemon. I was going to travel. My co-workers were so supportive and proud of my decision. I booked a round-trip ticket to Europe from Newark Airport. I’d fly into London and fly home from Rome three weeks later.
I had never traveled out of the country by myself, other than to the Philippines or Canada, but at those destinations, I had family waiting for me at the airport. When I arrived in London, all I had was customs waiting for me, and the immigration officer who was supposed to stamp my passport was wary about the fact that I had quit my job to travel in Europe.
He asked me questions like, Why didn’t you just take vacation time? Why don’t you have your travel arrangements to Paris or Rome finalized? Why don’t you know where you’re staying in London? He thought I was going to try to make a living in London… illegally. Dun, dun, dun. It was the first of many encounters I was about to have with people who were confused about my decisions.
Eventually, I made it past customs and continued my journey to explore five European cities on my own for three weeks. I was by myself but quickly realized that I wasn’t completely alone. I met fellow travelers at hostels, through couchsurfing, in airports and train stations — all with their own stories, journeys, and destinations.
I was tapping into the inner me, if you will. It was empowering and enlightening. My pocket-sized travel journal was my true companion and confidante during my trip. It made me realize how much I enjoyed writing and how imperative it was for me to start my blog geared toward inspiring 20-somethings.
In Paris, I also fell in love with Parisian pastries and patisseries. I had always had a love for baking and cooking but limited myself to recipes I had learned early on and recipes that didn’t require too much technique. After indulging in crepes, brioche, croissants, etc. while in Paris, I was determined to master some of my favorite French pastries when I got home.
When I got back to New Jersey in the beginning of February, I couldn’t believe how fast the days went by, compared to all the adventures I packed into three weeks in Europe. I didn’t want to lose that sense of adventure and openness just because I was back in the US, so I made it a new goal to explore and get to know the United States on a more personal level.
Since returning the States, I’ve traveled to California, New England, and been a tourist in my very own big city, New York City. My boyfriend and I are also planning our move to San Francisco next month. We’ll be driving cross country and stopping in nine major cities from east to west.
I’ve started two blogs, The Sum of 20-Something and my food blog, Live life. Love others. I’ve been testing out recipes that I was always too scared to try. I’m finally comfortable answering when people ask me what I’ve been up to since leaving my full-time job.
Although I’m not getting paid at the moment, I can honestly say, my time is not being wasted. Of course, when I move out of my parents’ house and am finally living in San Francisco with my boyfriend, I will have to find a steady form of income again, but for now, my savings are supporting me.
Sometimes I think I’ve been saving up my whole life for exactly this time in my life. My upcoming goals are to publish a book on homestyle living and cuisine and to launch my own online bakery, where I sell my pastries worldwide.
Goal-setting and keeping integrity to my word has helped create limitless possibilities in my life. It took me years to be able to say this, but I know for sure that everything I’m doing to occupy my time is because I decide to do it, not because of societal or parental pressures.
If there is anything in your life that you desire but are not doing, you cannot hold it off. Reasons may get in the way, but you make sure to find a way to make it happen. If you want to travel, travel. If you want to write, write. Be comfortable in your own skin, but step out of your deadly comfort zone. Be creative, and be alive.