I’ve been home about a month now. It’s been wonderful to reconnect with friends and see my family, but something has been missing from it all. Since my second semester of my freshman year of college, I’ve been employed. I’ve held a job or internship virtually non-stop since I was 18, and to be 23 and without one for the first time has been weird and scary. This feeling of uselessness is awful and often overwhelming and some days have been hard to break through because of it. In Korea, it was easy to pretend that everything would be fine when I came home, that finding a job would be a piece of cake, that I wouldn’t be affected by the current economic situation. But now I’m back and I’m just like the millions of unemployed Americans, searching for a job and finding that everyone and their mothers are more qualified than I am. It’s incredibly easy to get down, and so much harder to pick myself back up. I want to be young and employed and living in a city, not trapped in cold, isolated New York, hours away from most of my friends. It’s lonely up here, and there’s no way to sugarcoat that.

Today was better than most days. Every December, the local chapter of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, sets up a gift-wrapping booth up at the Hudson Valley Mall. All of the proceeds go to cancer research and Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Back in high school and college, I’d help out for a few hours or so when I was home on winter break. With ample time to spare these days, I offered to fill in whenever they needed volunteers.

First shift: today, 10-1. With the exception of the walkers who come to the mall for exercise, the place was dead until about noon. But it did feel good to be there and to contribute my gift-wrapping skillz, to talk to strangers and make their Christmas shopping a little easier. Lunch with a friend brightened the day a bit more. Learning that Panera now serves mac and cheese made the day even better.

Today was the first day in weeks that I’ve felt useful. I want to capture that feeling and keep it with me as long as I can.