One key step to making your dream come true

my dream house

There’s a house in my neighborhood that I just love.  It reminds me of a cross between the house from the Cartoon Network show Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, the house from the Pixar movie Up, and my grandparents’ old house.

Every day I pass by it, I think about whether I could actually live in it someday.  That’s my dream.

What if I could make my dream come true?  Let’s suspend the current reality for a moment and fast forward to a future where my dream comes true: I live in that house.  At that moment in time, as I look back to the present day and everything that happened in between, what were the actions I took and the choices I made to make that dream happen?  Continue reading

It’s always darkest before the dawn

“Hi Michelle.  I’m calling you about the Operations Manager position you interviewed for.”

Finally.  The call I was waiting for.  

I was very specific about the type of job I wanted after grad school.  I wanted to manage operations for a network of charter schools.  In the bay area.  Of which there were only five.

My top choice employer was on a hiring freeze.  One didn’t want someone with their MBA.  Two of the five were not growing.  And after three months of searching, I was in the final round at the last organization where I had a chance to get the job I wanted.  I thought I had done well in the interviews, but when I answered the phone, something was off in the hiring manager’s voice. Continue reading

Repost: A story about car keys

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, here’s a re-post on a lesser known (but no less inspirational) story from the civil rights movement.


I don’t know if it’s because of the inspiring speech from the Great Oakland Public Schools fundraiser tonight, or if it’s my hypersensitivity to the caffeine from the Thai Iced tea I had at lunch, but I can’t sleep right now.  So why not spend this time doing one of the things I wanted to do more of this year – write on this blog!

I want to share a story with you about car keys, that Mike Johnston told during his keynote speech at tonight’s fundraiser.  For those of you who don’t know of Mike Johnston, he’s someone who has been very active in education reform.  He helped found New Leaders for New Schools, is currently a State Senator in Colorado, and wrote a transformation ed reform bill in Colorado, that has sparked similar ed reform bills in 14 other states.  He’s also recently been featured as one of Time Magazine’s 40 under 40.  Look him up.  He’s awesome.
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The miracle of asking for what you need

It felt a little weird.  The floral wallpaper and Hello Kitty posters still adorned the walls, but all the furniture was different.  The room felt crowded with the three dressers and 42-inch plasma tv that had fit so nicely in my apartment San Francisco.  It was the first time I had moved back home since I moved out to go to college.

I should be grateful.

My New Zealand adventure was over, and I was back in the Bay Area.  Despite the risky move of  putting my job search on hold to travel halfway across the world, I received a job offer for a part-time summer internship.  Things ended up working out.  And fortunately, unlike many of my classmates who also graduated without a job, my parents lived within commutable distance of the job.  Free housing.  I really lucked out.

But this was far from a permanent solution.  The internship was for ten weeks.  I’d still have to find full-time work.  And I also wanted to make sense of the mismatch that my mentor pointed out between what I thought I wanted to do, and what really excited me.

 I can’t stay here. Continue reading

Back to the drawing board

It was a week before I was going to graduate with my MBA from UC Berkeley.

I was meeting with my mentor, Arina Issacson, a truly radiant human being for whom I had taught a few sections of Leadership Communication during business school.  She asked whether I had a full-time job lined up. 

I said no.  I could feel the pit of my stomach tighten.  There were only a handful of people from my class graduating without a job, and I was one of them.  Continue reading

Sometimes you should take the leap

Special: New Zealand from the West Coast for $450. Roundtrip.

It was the day before graduation.  I hadn’t found a job yet.  I had planned for that, and had some money saved up to last me at least through the summer.  I even had set aside $600 for travel.  Figured I’d go visit my roommate in Mexico.

Or I could go to New Zealand.  For a fare that would usually get me halfway across the country, I could go halfway around the world!

But what about finding a job?  I had just submitted some job applications, and was in the middle of doing a lot of informational interviewing.  Wouldn’t it be reckless to just up and go to New Zealand? Continue reading

Envision your dream life (and make it real)

Back when I was in the third or fourth grade, I came up with a list of things I would do the time I turned 30:

-graduate from college
-get a job
-buy a house
-get married (closer to when I turned 30)
-get ready to have kids (by doing the rest of the things on the list)

It recently occurred to me that it’s time to come up with a new vision for my future.  I’m 29 now, and I’ve done almost every item on my by-the-time-I’m-30 list.  (I’m not married yet, but I am engaged.  Love you, Sam!)

This time around, I’ve chosen to approach my future in a different way.  Ever since my sister watched The Secret, she had talked about how we should create vision boards for ourselves, visual representations of what we wanted in life.  I liked the idea, and we agreed that someday, we’d get together and do just that.  For years we put it off, but with the impending completion/expiration of my by-the-time-I’m-30 list, I figured now was a good time to get together over a weekend and get it done.  My cousin came over, too, and my living room turned into an arts and crafts and vision and encouragement fest.

Visions are different from goals.  Continue reading

Now it has become your job to pass on that lesson

Yesterday at work, my team was interviewing job applicants for an open position we have.  The standout comment someone made during the debrief was:

“Hey, you know that website that one candidate said she co-founded?  It’s actually real!”

It’s a pretty cool website, too.  It’s called and it’s a site where you can post quick thank you notes to teachers.  It reminded me of a thank you letter I sent last year:

Dear Mr. Varela,

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Defusing the I-need-a-job-freakout

Let’s be honest.  Two years ago, after I graduated without a job,  I had days when I freaked out.  Last winter, months after my friend also graduated without a job, she freaked out.  A few months ago, when my boyfriend realized that his under-employment was not sustainable, he freaked out.


We’re all bound to go through it: the “I need a job!” freakout.

It’s ok.

Freaking out can be legitimate. We all have bills to pay in order to maintain life’s necessities, like food and shelter.

Freaking out can also be therapeutic.  If you’re around a bunch of other people who don’t have jobs, it’s something you can commiserate about.  Aaaah freakout! Le freak, c’est chic.

But there’s a point where all that freaking out isn’t healthy.  And I doubt it’s making you happy.
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Breaking a bad habit

Even though I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions (you can read my new year’s post to find out what I did instead), there is at least one bad habit I’d like to break. There’s something I say all the time, without thinking, and for no good reason.

My boyfriend pointed this out to me, a couple months ago.  I had the refrigerator door open for about a minute when he asked,

“What are you doing?”

“I need to figure out what I want to eat.”

“Do you? Do you really need to?”


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