The Cause and Effect of Gentrification in Developed US Cities

Abstract

This study will review the cause of gentrification and its positive and negative impact on urban development. In many developed cities in the US, the cost of home skyrocketed due to many reasons. One reason being the growth of high paying jobs from many conglomerate corporations. My approach will focus on the increase in property value and the displacement in major US cities. I will analyze the benefits of growth and development but also review the negative impact on social and income inequity. In this report, we will review the literature regarding the perspective on displacement due to gentrification in America. This paper is a conceptual analysis with the following purpose:

  • Analyze the positive impact of revitalization and the negative impact gentrification in states with rapid urban development.
  • Introduce and interpret “gentrification.”
  • Explain the public administration’s role in dealing with the negative impact of gentrification.
  • Conclude major findings in the literature and public administration overall.

 

Keywords: gentrification, displacement, urban development, revitalization, inequity in housing, social segregation, income gap

Urban development and revitalization bring benefits and advancement for many communities if done correctly. Retail development can revitalize corridors and service an attraction for further public and private development. The benefit of these developments also raises local and state tax revenues, with minimal expenditures (Chapple & Jacobus, 2018). Successful commercial development can make a low-income neighborhood more attractive and desirable for others, which will turn into a mixed-income neighborhood that introduces diversity. Furthermore, it can trigger an increase in property values, create jobs, and promote entrepreneurship.

Proponents of retail development programs cite a wide range of sometimes conflicting reasons as sometimes revitalization leads to the displacement of lower-income households. This happens most commonly in cities rather than the suburbs as most of the homes are rented, not owned. New middle and upper-income residents are able to afford a higher rent; landlords who see the opportunity, typically driving out lower-income renters. Segregation between home-renters and home-owners increased in most metropolitan areas (Owens, 2019).

Gentrification has many negative connotations with it; as a metaphor, the word serves as a synonym that comes with a sense of danger and allusion that undermines living security (Redfern, 2003). Social class plays a major role in gentrification; gentrifiers, those who come into an already inhabited place by turning it into a place of their own. Scholars have devoted volumes to analyzing neighborhood decline, subsequent revitalization, and gentrification as a result of government, market, and individual interventions

Incumbent upgrading for commercialization and urban development catalyzes existing residents to make improvements. They may stay and reap the benefits of neighborhood revitalization, whereas, in gentrification, they can be displaced as the social and economic environment shifts (Zuk, Bierbaum, Chapple, Gorska, & Loukaitou-Sideris, 2018). Income inequality has been increasing in the United States in recent decades. In the early 2000s, the income, after adjusted for inflation, of the bottom 20% Americans increased only by 12%, while that of the top 20% Americans grew by about 67% (Watson, 2007). As socioeconomic segregation increases, it contributes to the increase in advantages of the dominant group and disadvantages of the oppressed (Quillian & Lagrange, 2016).

Chiara Valli’s qualitative research study (2015) documents the displacement induced by gentrification. She believes exploring the experience of low-income and long-time resident of a gentrifying neighborhood, we can truly understand what displacement really is and the economic and social inequalities behind it. A result of gentrification is displacement. The word displacement, in addition to the act of losing space, comes with an emphasis from those who are losing a sense of security and options; it also highlights their anxiety (Redfern, 2003).

“When I say you can SEE the gentrification, I mean you can see it in the prices, the clothing people wear, the things people talk about,” one of the interviewees from Valli’s research (2015) said.

“I’m losing my home because I don’t make enough to live here, because there are people who have more money than me,” said another interviewee. “I don’t mean anything; my likes and what I think don’t have a place at the table anymore.”

There are over 50 metropolitan areas with a population of more than 1 million in the United States (Quilliam & Lagrange, 2016). Overall, there is substantially large statistical support of income segregation in American cities. Low-income neighborhoods are disproportionately located in cities, while, on average, suburbs are more affluent. Many gentrification studies have been most commonly conducted in New York, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco (Chapple & Jacobus, 2018). Based on the Census data, the evidence of the extent of housing segregation can be seen by type and by cost at multiple geographic scales in large metropolitan areas in the United States. An article in GeoJournal has found a positive correlation between segregation and morality for the U.S. metropolitan area, and that income segregation could not be considered in isolation from income inequality; it is in fact, income inequality provides the propensity for segregation (Ross, Nobrega, & Dunn, 2001).

California’s housing market is so large that it now accounts for a third of the nation’s housing market value. However, not all existing residents can keep up with the market increase. In San Mateo County, tenants report abuse and harassment from landlords prior to being evicted and priced out by market forces. Approximately a third of the displaced households reported homelessness or marginal housing in neighborhoods with fewer job opportunities and longer commute in the next two years (Marcus & Zuk, 2017). Orange county itself accounts for over 5,000 homeless people.

In 1981, National Institute of Advanced Studies published a survey on current and former residents at a rapidly revitalized neighborhood in San Francisco; researchers find that “from 1975 to 1979, the displaced population was more likely to be African American, less educated, poor, renters, elderly or with disability, and living alone in comparison to in-movers and residents who stay.”

Ann Owen, associate professor of Sociology, finds that similar situations can be seen in New York, the Empire State, as well. New York metropolitan areas have among the highest levels of housing segregation by type, three to five times higher than in the least segregated metropolitan areas, At the border of Queens lies a neighborhood called Bushwick, where one third of the population lives below poverty level with an overwhelming percentage of minorities and only 17% whites (Valli, 2016). This is due to the increase in housing prices at the end of the 1990s, and the nearby neighborhoods went through gentrification, where people with higher income took over and low-income residents were displaced to Bushwick.

Nevertheless, gentrification is happening again in New York, according to Valli (2015). In the early 2000s and more noticeability around 2016, the gentrification started with the opening of businesses and restaurants attracted people who seek in the latest trends. To accommodate them, warehouses were converted into apartments and new condos, even luxury ones, were built (Valli, 2016). To put it in perspective, a studio in Bushwick was $1,700 in 2013 and has increased to $2,300 in 2014. Even the veteran real estate agents deemed the price increase as abnormal. Valli identifies the displacements from the trend in the housing market, which creates pressures on long-time residents.

Policymakers in economically distressed metropolitan areas should be concerned about the effects of over revitalization and segregation due to income equality, including but not limited to the decline of older cities and perpetuation of poverty. Policies that reduce income inequality can help reduce overbuilding and income segregation in distressed areas (Watson, 2007). Moreover, growing disparities between the rich and the poor skew political influences, where the rich and the dominant group can be heard while voice for the public support and advocacy for low and moderate-income people diminishes. This results in inadequate and skewed investment in human capital, and declining affordability of housing for poor and middle-income households.

Researchers have examined “how zoning laws contribute to income segregation. Income segregation is lower in areas with higher population density and high-density development patterns, suggesting that zoning laws that facilitate these patterns reduce segregation” (Owens, 2019). In addition, the office of policy and development research from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has listed a few ways in their January 2017 report. Table 1 is divided into four sections that give context to these solutions: Table 1

Insights into Housing and Community Development Policy

Key Strategies Description of Policy Tools
Preserve existing affordable housing Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD), approved by Congress in 2013, could help the private market invest in decent, safe, and affordable housing. The goal is to give public housing agencies a tool to preserve and improve public housing properties by moving units from the public housing program to a more stable funding platform, such as long-term project-based Section 8 contracts like project-based vouchers or project-based rental assistance.
Encourage greater housing development and affordable housing Issues of affordability are widespread and reach beyond the “hottest” coastal markets and gentrifying neighborhoods. Federal and local policies that incentivize greater development of housing can ease pressures on overall housing affordability.
Engage existing community residents As neighborhood change can often take place without regard for the concerns and requests of existing residents, recognizing that housing affordability and residential displacement are not the only concerns and seeking the active participation of residents could capture the buy-in of residents and ensure that other coping strategies are successful.
Take a broader look and using regional, rather than localized, strategies Effective tools will focus on regional coordination, looking above the neighborhood level and beyond housing. The federal government could be particularly helpful in encouraging regional cooperation and coordinating with multiple agencies on issues such as transportation and education.

Note. From “Insights into Housing & Community Development Policy” (pp. 1-2). by the Office of Policy Development and Research. Copyright 2017 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

To summarize, revitalizing a neighborhood can bring an increase in market value and promote businesses, but excessively, it can lead to gentrification. Although the displacement discussion in the United States began with the role of the public sector and now has returned to the same focus as most studies agree that gentrification at a minimum leads to exclusionary displacement (Zuk et. al., 2018). Table 2 contains suggested questions that will better address the needs of policymakers, community activists for researchers. It is important to improve the body of research related to public investments, gentrification, and displacement. In some cases, this will need both new data sets and scientific methods, such as Owen’s study; whereas in other cases, it will involve more qualitative methods and measures, such as Valli’s study.

Table 2.

Future Research Questions for the Role of Public Investment on Gentrification and Displacement

1.     How do different types of public investments influence not only neighborhood change but also residential and commercial displacement?

a.     Does the type or quantity of investment matter?

b.     What are the displacement impacts of different forms of public investment and action, not only fixed-rail transit but also streetscape improvements and rezoning, among others?

c.     How does timing matter from early planning phases to investment and implementation?

d.     What is the impact of market-rate versus subsidized housing production at the neighborhood and regional scale?

2.       How do public investments impact commercial change, specifically related to small businesses, employment patterns, affordability of goods and services, and change in clientele? How does this relate to residential change?
3.       What are the social, economic, and health impacts of gentrification and residential displacement?
4.       What can planners and policymakers do to mitigate residential displacement? Which types of anti-displacement strategies are most effective?

Note. From “Gentrification, Displacement, and the Role of Public Investment” (p. 44), by M. Zuk et. al. Copyright 2017 by the Journal of Planning Literature.

Until the methodological challenges and these additional research questions are addressed, these researches on gentrification and displacement will prompt no actions from policymakers and only have limited application in proper revitalization and stabilization of neighborhoods to prevent gentrification. Although perhaps not a silver bullet, research addressing those questions can shed light on reducing housing segregation and developing adequate housing policy.

References

Chapple, K., & Jacobus, R. (2008). Retail Trade as a Route to Neighborhood Revitalization. In M. Turner, H. Wial, & Wolman, H. (Eds.), Urban and Regional Policy and Its Effects. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Marcus, J. & Zuk, M. (2017). Displacement in San Mateo County, California: Consequences for Housing, Neighborhoods, Quality of Life, and Health. Institute of Government Studies: Research Briefs. Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/

National Institute for Advanced Studies. (1981). Market Generated Displacement: A Single City Case Study. Washington, DC: Arthur.

Owens, A. (2019). Building Inequality: Housing Segregation and Income Segregation. Society for Sociological Science, 6, 497-525. http://dx.doi.org/10.15195/v6.a19

Quillian, L. & Lagrange, H. (2016). Socioeconomic Segregation in Large Cities in France and the United States. Springer Nature B.V., 53(4), 1051-1084. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-016-0491-9

Redfern, P. A. (2003). What Makes Gentrification ‘Gentrification’? Urban Studies, 40(12), 2351–2366. https://doi.org/10.1080/0042098032000136101

Ross, N., Nobrega, K., & Dunn, J. (2001). Income segregation, income inequality and mortality in North American metropolitan areas. GeoJournal, 53 (2), 117-124. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/41147593

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2017). Insights into housing and community development policy. Retrieved from https://www.huduser.gov/portal/sites/default/files/pdf/Insights-Ensuring-Equitable-Growth.pdf

Valli, C. (2015). A sense of displacement: Long-time residents’ feelings of displacement in gentrifying Bushwick, New York. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 39(6), 1191-1208. doi:10.1111/1468-2427.12340

Watson, T. (2007). New housing, income inequality, and distressed metropolitan areas. The Brookings Institution. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/research/new-housing-income-inequality-and-distressed-metropolitan-areas/

Zuk, M., Bierbaum, A., Chapple, K., Gorska, K., & Loukaitou-Sideris, A. (2018). Gentrification, Displacement, and the Role of Public Investment. Journal of Planning Literature, 33(1), 31-44. doi:10.1177/0885412217716439

Plan a vacay to Augusta

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Augusta, Ga is known for its rich history, golf, and cyber intelligence. While Augusta may not have the fame as other popular travel destinations such as Hawaii, it is a gem in the rough that brings a unique experience that is unmatched by anywhere else around the world.

A lot of historical events that shaped the early United States occurred in Augusta. Augusta Canal, the 13-mile long canal fed by the Savannah River was a prominent method of transportation of the south in the mid-1800s. The canal also provided power to the cotton mills and the paper mills in the area. Later during the civil war, the canal was also an important way to supply the Confederate soldiers, who built an arsenal and academy within 10 miles from the river.

Another important event in Augusta that is known to the United States and the whole world is the Masters week, world largest golf tournament. It has brought in billions of dollars of revenue for Georgia. This was also the tournament where Tiger Woods made his record-breaking win in 1997. Afterward, Woods continued his golf career and won three PGA Tour events, as recent as 2019. For golf fans or golfers around the world, Augusta is the best place to visit as there are over 30 golf courses in this city alone.

This city is not only known for its history but also continued to make marks in history in the present days. Fort Gordon, the United States army signal corps, was established in Augusta in 1941 which later became the cyber center of excellence. In 2014, months after the relocation of the Army Cyber Command to Augusta, Unisys, an American global information technology company, established a $93 million Army Enterprise Service Desk contract. The cyber growth in Augusta did not stop there; in 2015, Augusta University School of Computer and Cyber Sciences was built, working with Unisys and Fort Gordon to train and develop young talents in the field of cyber and IT.

In sum, Augusta might not be well-known as a vacation spot; however, it is a travel destination for history, golf, and cyber enthusiasts around the globe.

Recognizing and understanding ADHD and depression from the first-person perspective

FB_IMG_1555092649662Growing up in Taiwan, I have suffered what was known as “behavioral problem” as a child. I have displayed uncontrolled and unpredicted hyperactive behavior, in addition to inability follow instructions or focus. Many times I was advised to seek a guidance counselor with my mother’s supervision. My mom and I talked to many counselor as I grew up; however, the proper term ADHD was little known back in that time. Many counselors focus on discipline, and medication as an option was completely unheard of.

Going through adolescence, I went through a very emotional period of time. In addition to my existing disability to concentrate, I constantly argued with people around me and self-inflected harm to my body. Many teachers and family members said that I exhibited more “rebellious and delinquent behaviors” than normal teenagers. It was pretty evident at the time, but again the proper medical term depression was not really made aware at that time and in the culture. It was a cultural shame for a family to bring their young to a psychiatrist. Mental disability was a taboo in the 90s. I shared the sentiment with other students who struggled to focus during lectures and were at the bottom of the class in regard to their academic performance. I, along with many students who shared the same problem, had a rough time identifying self-worth. Nevertheless, I managed to pass my courses through self-perseverance and one-on-one tutor sessions from my teachers.

I immigrated to America in high school to live with my indirect family. In addition to the standard curriculum, I had to take ESL classes for the first year in high school. I was able to make it out of that program with ease because I took English as a second language in Taiwan. However, I struggled in standard classes with my peers who are native English speakers. That was when my concentration problem resurfaced again. My disability to focus continued, along with anxiety issues due to culture shock and being bullied as a foreigner. I failed junior literature during the first year. With diligence and constant tutoring with my teachers and other classmates, I passed it the second year. I improved when I took senior literature and received a B. It was also around the senior year when I took my first SAT. Not only was my overall score below average, but it also did not meet the minimum requirement of any schools that I applied to.

Knowing that I might not be seen as a strong applicant, I asked teachers who knew about my potential to be my references. Through many phone calls, emails and on-site visits, I also made personal introductions to program managers and the staff at the admissions office of the institutions that I applied to. Knowing that academically I did not excel, I worked hard on volunteer activities through student organizations and church. With blessings from my teachers and my own perseverance, I was finally accepted to study at Augusta University.

When I started college, I, again, had to take supplemental English reading and writing courses in the ESL program. Although the courses were difficult, what I learned from them helped me to prepare for English 1101 and 1102. With a small institution size, I was able to meet with my professors and tutors to ask questions. After working with many compassionate teachers and fellow classmates in the ESL program from high school and college, I slowly became more comfortable to tell people about my struggles and obstacles. Little did I know at that time, it was only a small step towards overcoming the bigger problem.

Going through my early adulthood, I had a lot of problems with my roommates, on-and-off relationships, and the naturalization process. After several breakdowns, I woke up in a hospital and was urged by the Vice President of the University to seek professional help. The physicians released me back to my indirect family after they claimed that they would take care of me and get the help I need.

It was not the harm that my mental disability has brought to myself but to my loved ones that made me realize that I need to control it while I can. I apologized to every member of my family and promised that I will take control of my mental issue. I was able to see a psychologist for the first time, and finally able to see myself under the light of ADHD and depression.

However, it was when I was around 18 or 19, my indirect family’s insurance company discontinued my health coverage. As my on-going psychologist visits and lingering back payment from the unexpected hospital stay piled up, I discontinued treatment. Because at the same time I knew I was finally getting the treatment I need, the amount of financial burden gave me more stress than I could handle. As a result, I continued to utilize the free counseling services at school. I took psychology courses during my sophomore year, and that was when I learned about different psychological behaviors in animals and humans through case studies. After learning about them from the third person point of view, I started looking at myself and my behaviors in a third-person view as well.

While I was studying about these conditions, I learned more about myself in a way that I have never done before. Being aware of my own conditions made me more mature, in terms of dealing with my mental issue in a logical and scientific way instead of just going into a sheer panic attack and then getting reprimanded like I used to. I observed the environmental and social factors that disrupt my concentration and emotion and I learned to avoid them. I slowly adapted ways to concentrate and stabilize my impulsive energy and emotions.

In my senior year of college, I was doing better at school, part-time jobs, and internships. Although I still went through arguments with different roommates and deplorable relationships, I was never anywhere close to the breakdowns that I had in my early college days. During my senior year, I finally met the love of my life Hector, who has shown nothing but an endless amount of patience and concentrated attention for me. Through his demeanor, I learned the virtue of patience and attention to detail. Together, we also alleviate the financial stress on each other, and, as a whole, we could do more things.

I finally resumed my psychological treatment after obtaining a full-time job upon graduation from college. With health coverage, I went to see a psychiatrist for the first time when I was 22, and was finally was able to get my long, over-due diagnosis of ADHD. My psychiatrist and as well as other physician assistants all commend me for graduating college without any medical treatment of ADHD. When I first started taking Adderall, I only wish I had gotten it sooner.

As the economy remained stagnant from the recession, I moved from one job to another and my insurance coverage would change as a result. However, I was handed the ultimate none overage once I turned around 24. I learned that insurance companies, regardless of whether if you have coverage or not, do not cover the control substance in regard to attention disorder for adults after a certain age. In sum, I was only able to receive the joy of medication for ADHD for 2 years out of the 24 years that I have lived with this disease. Nevertheless, I shifted my focus on my other mental issue, depression.

During the current economy undertow, I had a rough time finding work, and even when I did find work, I faced a fear of being laid-off. I was able to get medical leave for a period of time and sought help through the employee assistance program, which ultimately referred me to a psychiatrist. Even though knowing from my past experience that coverage could change any day too. Thankfully, my insurance has been covering for my anti-depressants. Needless to say, I know I cannot rely on health insurance, after having so many sour experiences with it. Even to this day, I still practice different methods to help me to concentrate and stabilize my emotions. The most important step that I made this day was to open up about my mental problems. Open up in a way not to find excuses or sympathy, but make awareness and recognition. Once I realize the problem, the goal became clear is to treat it.

This article was published in the Medical Examiner, April 2019 issue.

Visit and learn from these places

ry=480Explain why you would like to go there and what you would expect to find and learn.

By Hector Caceres

Written 8/22/16

When faced with the conundrum of choosing a place to visit that I have never experienced before, the options seem potentially limitless. Had I the resources and the ability, I could venture out into the stars in the sky and spend millennia scouring the universe for foreign planets. But the reality is that my travel interests are a bit more grounded. I would set my sights on the Earth. Granted, this place is large and wonderful, and there are thousands of interesting locales in our world inhabited by billions of people. The choices of places to visit in this hemisphere alone are staggering. However, I turn my attention to a very specific place in the far east that until a few years I knew very little about. That place is Taiwan.

I met my wife for the first time over 4 years ago, back when she was not yet my wife. In getting to know her, one of the first things we spoke about were our respective hometowns. I am originally from Puerto Rico, and she hails from Taiwan. In my time getting to know her, she has had nothing but great things to say about her home country. Sometimes when introducing herself, many people misunderstood that she was Thailand so she always makes a point to correct them. She has an inherent pride in her country that I’ve never seen in anyone else.  She told me about Taipei 101, the tallest building in the country, and at one point the tallest in the world. It is used as a focal point during Chinese New Year’s as the building erupts into a flurry of light and sound. It quite literally becomes an oversized, living firework.  She told me about the wondrous forests in the mountains. There are even a few wildlife habitats that people can come visit during the hot and humid summer months. I’ve heard so much about the city, Taipei, a bustling metropolis that is constantly filled with people. It’s like Japan, she tells me, but with people who mostly speak Chinese and even some English!

After hearing all of these great things about Taiwan, I decided that one day I would like to go and see what she spoke so highly about. In the past, she made it a habit to travel once a year with help from her relatives. Unfortunately, it has been over 3 years since her last trip, and she is a little homesick. Since we got together, we decided to focus on life, on work, on getting married, and purchasing a home… Let’s just say it has been difficult to plan a trip. I would like to go to Taiwan for myself, but I would also like to go to see my wife happy again. She tells me so much about her country, and it’s almost as if every day I learn something new about Taiwan and its inhabitants.

As I mentioned earlier, my family is originally from Puerto Rico. Throughout my life I have had several opportunities to visit my extended family on the island. Before my wife and I got married, we got the chance to visit my family in Puerto Rico which allowed me to introduce her personally to the island of my ancestors. The relative proximity of our house in Georgia made this trip much more feasible and the timing of the trip occurred during a lull in both of our careers. While we were vacationing, she made a point to mention that she loved the food at practically every place we ate. Also, the weather in Puerto Rico reminded her of Taiwan because of the island’s relative locations to the equator in their respective hemispheres. As a result, she found the weather in Puerto Rico to be very agreeable and it pleasantly reminded her of home.

One of the neater things she got to see in Puerto Rico is a tiny animal native to the island. It’s so unique in fact that it has become the mascot for the island and a symbol of its identity. It is known as the “coqui”. The coqui is a tiny green or light brown tree frog. They’re really easy to identify by their distinct call. Every time it rains, the coqui come out of their hiding places and they sing a very peculiar song. It’s a high pitched squeal which is similar to the sound of its name: “COKE- EE!” The tree frog can only be found in Puerto Rico. It is literally unable to thrive anywhere else. If you take the frog away from Puerto Rico, it will eventually die.  Several attempts have been made in the past by scientists and zoologists to remove the frog from its natural habitat, but it cannot survive for very long outside of the confines of the island.  It almost sounds like an urban legend, but I assure you that its very true. The climate of the island is especially well suited for the frog. It’s interesting because many native Puerto Ricans have assimilated this quality of the coqui and installed this same sense of metaphorical pride wherein they pledge to never leave the island for fear of not being able to survive away from home.

I tell you the story of the coqui because when I listen to my wife describe her homeland, I envision her as a tiny Taiwanese coqui. That isn’t to say I see her like a frog, but I see her as a creature that longs desperately to be back in its natural habitat. So much so that it could die. She misses her homeland but she tries not to make it too obvious and it makes me feel for her. But when she talks about Taiwan, it’s like I can hear her singing from her heart. It isn’t for lack of trying because we have been trying hard to plan a trip for several years, but somehow things have never worked out. Timing, shifting of careers and lack of funds have all contributed to this sad state of affairs. One day we’ll get the chance to go together. I would expect that not only would I find new places to visit, I would find the opportunity to see my wife in her natural habitat. If I could, I would visit Taiwan right now. I want to go not only for myself, but also for my wife.

A Christian Testimony

I didn’t grow up in a Christian family, and not even in a Christian country. Back in the day, people in my country weren’t very in tune with the concept of Christian and any foreign religion. My mom spent a lot of time working, and I was a ‘do whatever I want kid.’ If you know what I meant.

Not just my grades were in the D’s…… I, myself, was the D’s—disrespectful, delinquent, destructive, dreadful tomboy. I would hate to have an untamed kid like me ya know. I was such a bad kid that’s why I’m so afraid of having kids, aside from the money issue.

My bad behavior really showed in public when I went out and play in the playground, and neighbors parents told their kids to stay away from me. But when things reached into middle school, having no friends and being a social outcast truly struck me hard. I realized that the isolation was real and very painful. My life really went from D to F. My grades were failing and I was frantic and forlorn, and I wake up feeling that every day. I’ve had thoughts of suicide and several incidents. Life to me was like death until someone invited me to attend a Christian church in Taiwan.

It was my mom’s co-worker’s told her that her daughter was a youth leader and she really encouraged me to come to church. I was around 12 at the time and that was the first time in my life that anyone ever invited me to anything. All of my classmates disliked me back in middle school, and one of my classmates was also at the same church too. I can tell ya she really had a disgust on her face when she saw me at the church for the first time. She was an honor student at my class and was also talented with dancing and playing instrument. I went to the church with the simple concept of making friends, and I never would have imagined it became a part of my life.

My behavior was reshaped as I learned how important it was to be thankful and show gratitude to everyone around me. Life to me was like death, but once I understood what it was like to feel thankful, I realize there are so many things to be thankful about. Going to church also made me realize how important to help others and love others.  I stop becoming so self-centered when I let God took my place in my heart. My classmate who used to dislike me started seeing the good side of me, wanting to do better. My wanting to do better intention continued to stick with me outside of the church and going to my school, my classroom and my house. Slowly, I started to be invited to social activities and when I try to get close to my peers, they don’t all avoid and ignore me.

Things started to look up in my social life, but academically I was still struggling. My grades were still failing and it was hard to catch up because of the rigorous academic competition. I did really bad on my high school entrance exam and was left with nowhere good to go.  When my sister came to America and became under the guardianship of my aunt and uncle, it really prompted the idea to come over here since it’s a country of opportunity, plus no national high school entrance exam. Students have clubs and sports organization to participate in addition to just producing good grades.

The idea of moving to America has been with my family for many years. My dad was a salesman who went on many business trips to California, and my mom was a government worker who came to Oklahoma to complete her MBA. They wrote to each other about their dream of having a permanent life in America, but the dream had to take a 15-year detour since my dad passed away and it became really hard on my mom to maintain the family. Nevertheless, my mom was able to receive a green card, and she started the application for me and my sister even before I was born. I received my green card a year before 911 happened; after I completed middle school, I decided to come to the U.S. to obtain further education with the potential of permanently staying here.

Due to the language barrier and cultural difference, I had a hard time making friends. I was hanging out with my sister most of the time, and when she left town to go to UGA, I knew that I really had to step up the game and socialize with others. I continued going to the Chinese American church in America while I was in high school. A friend of my aunt and uncle was a pastor and his daughter invited me to go to church as soon as I came to Georgia. The church I went to was Bethlehem Advent Christian Church on Central Avenue, and as I continue to learn more about God’s way, I also learned American culture and English. Even though no one else in my family is going to church with me, I continued to go to church. I was baptized in 2010.

God has always taken me down a treacherous path but he always guides me along the way. Often times I feel that wow maybe god has really abandoned me. God had given me the most challenging way to complete my education, a secure social life, find the right boyfriend, and becoming an American citizen.

Attending American college as an immigrant of a foreign country was incredibly challenging beyond words, especially managing my finances on my own. Not to mention things only went harder from there.  It took me 4 years of balancing between part-time jobs and classes to obtain my bachelor’s degree, 5 years of being in the wrong romantic relationships to find the right one, over 7 years of working experience and 25 interviews to find one job, 10 years of headache and thousands of dollars just to become an American citizen. With all these challenges that God present to me, I have become stronger. I came from being a lonely, class-failing social outcast, crying in my bed every day to a working professional with a degree and a family here today testifying for god.

worship_the_lord_by_foxsilong-d6w9j1mGod’s love is infinite, and he will always continue his amazing work in everyone’s life.

How I became a zombie…

Between late spring to late fall of 2016, I realized that all the unfortunate events had turned me into a zombie because nothing kills me at that point. I guess that the well of tears inside my bodied dried up after some time, and my mind had developed a thicker and stronger walls to withstand the waves of job rejections. With each rejection, I was able to handle a lot better with it.

On the plus side, Goodwill was able to keep me after my temp period since the lady never returned from her summer break, but my part-time status remained. With my expenses exceeding my income almost every month, I remained in the job market.

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I just kept going.

Back in the day, I never would have imagined that I could handle even a dozen college applications…but here I am on my 20th job interviews and I still looking. Almost every interview I thought I did well, but the return call or email either begins with “unfortunately” or didn’t happen at all.
Every rejection was like a bullet in my body, but I kept going even though I felt so hallow on the inside as there was no sense of pride left inside me. Many friends and family recommended that I look outside of my profession and outside of my location to find a job, but they don’t realize that I actually had already done that, and it was even less response.

With all these rejections, I started to have doubts in myself and I even thought maybe I should go back to school to study something more practical. But then I thought about how practical it would be to go into student debt for a degree that is even more job-promising than marketing.

With the rejections pouring in, I lost a sense of pride and almost was smothered by the confusion. Still, one thing was clear in my mind; I had to just keep applying because what could I do otherwise?

During the meantime, I was working part-time and applying for other positions. My mom and I finally settled that Thanksgiving was when we would visit her and the rest of the family in Taiwan. ‘We’ in that sentence meant Hector and myself; if it wasn’t clear in my previous story, Hector and I got married, but my mom has yet to meet him in person.

Maybe I can apply for jobs in Taiwan….at least stay in Taiwan a little bit longer, I thought to myself.

Of course, when I told the idea to my mom and my husband, they had a strong aversion to it. Hector thought I was joking because we just got married, so having me working across the country from him was ridiculous.  My mom warned me how Taiwan’s economy was even more difficult, the wages were a lot lower, and there were less labor protection laws in comparison to America.

I was running out of ropes, but I had to keep going, and the only I could do was living on a prayer. Bon Jovi’s song never screamed so precisely about my life before.

Through the rejections I’ve been receiving, I realized that I was losing against other applicants because I was ‘less experienced.’ I was very sure that was the main problem a lot of the millennials were having too. Thus, in almost every interview, I always emphasized that–

I might appear to be less experienced compared to people who have been in the industry for 20 years, but I learn and adapt twice as fast and I can catch up in no time.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t open their minds that Marketing is about new ideas and a lot of the trendy technology and platforms only happened in the past 5 years and new technology will just keep popping up overthrowing the old ones, mobile marketing Social Media advertising to name a few.

There has got to be someone who could think outside of the box, I thought. Please God let someone see not how many years I have behind me, but my growing potential.

 

 

 

 

 

Sun rise sun set of 2016

Good fortune was like the sun in 2016, it comes and goes. My newly married life certainly had a dismal start unlike like others. It was not because we didn’t love each other; in fact, we love each other as we come together to comfort each other and encourage each other to overcome this hardship. There was no honeymoon nor wedding as we threw our investments in the purchase of the dream house despite all odds. With my stuff packed in boxes in Hector’s rental as we were waiting to close on our house, my dog being fostered at my friend’s place, my spirit lingered around that time and I still continued to wake up in tears. Nevertheless, with the help and support of my friends and family, I was finally able to see daybreak after a some period of gloomy shadows. I slowly nurtured my confidence back and continued to send out my resumes to apply for different positions.

My realtor friend Heather sent me an email that she received from a colleague she was working with at Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and CSRA. The email turned out to be a job lead, although the job was a part-time and temp opportunity. I started out really skeptical at first. Heather encouraged me to get my foot in the door for the possibility in advancement in the future as she slowly ignited the spirit within me. After responding to her colleague, I was able to get an interview later in the week and met Ellen. The interview was very casual and it went very well with Ellen wanting me on board as soon as possible before the lady who was holding that position leaves for the summer. Goodwill’s employment offer to me was a hand reaching out to me and pulling me from slowly slipping into abyss. Little did I know, that turned out to be the biggest blessing I had during that time.

I was informed that the temp position will end around August, once the lady I would be working for in her absence returns. It was around the end of April when I accepted the position, and I thought four months would be more than enough time for me to find a full time position.

Working part time also gave me an opportunity to spend sometime on unpacking and decorating our new house, in addition to doing some minor repairs. Never had I ever spend so much time being in side a house, let along taking care of one. I was able to enjoy some quality time with my dog after she returned from my friend who was fostering her over the rental and then moving period. Having time to make the house presentable made me more proud than ever when I have guests and family over.

My light at the end of the tunnel started running out however, my job hunt to no prevail was not showing any sign of improvement over the summer. Luck was like a sunshine, as the ray slowly distanced itself from me, it became brighter on Hector on the other hand. Hector was recruited by a head hunter, who informed him about a wonderful opportunity. Through a handful of screening and interviews, we learned that the position was not only local with  better benefit, but also it emphasized on further education. With his new job, it will definitely alleviate a lot of financial stress and burden off his shoulder. Furthermore, this job will help him to finally complete his education, which everything that we could hope for. Hector would be able to obtain a master degree in architecture and get his licencing.

The ray of luck slowly came back on both of us when Hector was able to get a week off for 4th of July. His new boss gave him a week to relax since he was able to start his new job right away after giving notice. We used this time to take a trip to Helens, Ga as our belated honeymoon.

I was able to enjoy the slow rhythm of the German village and their delicious cousine but it wasn’t long before I was woke up to reality.

Who would have thought six months later in October, I would still not have landed a full time permanent position.

Loosing a Friend

rayn_and_rain_by_foxsilong-d6zou05When I came to the U.S. to continue high school in 2006 under the guardianship of my aunt and uncle, I was hoping to finish high school and possibly attending college and maybe even becoming a permanent resident here if my education goes very well.

I’ve had a tough part going through the language barrier and cultural shock. My sister was my only source of comfort, but she was accepted to attend University of Georgia and left the town after she graduated high school.

I met Allison because her parents were mutual friends with my aunt; our friendship became stronger when my sister left. Allison even though was Chinese; she was raised in America so she doesn’t really speak Chinese very well. But she could listen and understand Chinese perfectly; in addition to that, she was aware of the Chinese culture.

She was my best friend and my soul mate because she taught me everything about America, including music, games, TV shows, and most importantly English. We never converse in Chinese, which was the reason why my English was able to improve so drastically. She helped me with my school work and during socializing events she explained certain slang and social cues to me.

In this part of the U.S. you cannot go anywhere without a car, I stayed at home most of the time. However, Allison took me everywhere with her car. Through her rides to the outside world, they further helped me get more in tone with American businesses, culture, and social activities.

Around the last year of high school, she started dating an American boyfriend named Chris. We all hung out together, and both of them continued to teach me more about America and I was able to fit in the American social life even more. Eventually, I was able to start making more friends on my own at school.

Nevertheless, about 4 months before I was about to graduate, I have gone through dozens of rejections from college admissions. To make things worse, that was also around the time where I had a terminal dispute with my aunt and uncle…….so when I tried to go after a guy and got turned down, it was like the feather that broke the camel’s back. I couldn’t handle the stress and ended up in the hospital.

Even after I was out of the hospital physically healthy, my mind was changed. The way I looked at things became depressing and that negativity spilled out to my friends too. My friends started isolating me and then I eventually realize the reason why they don’t want to talk to me anymore was because of my negativity. I knew it was a problem but I was clueless as to how to change.

At the time I was still clueless how to to change my attitude, my surroundings started to change in college. Allison went to attend University of Georgia just like my sister and left town. Chris and I both attended Augusta State University. Chris had a group of friends he already hung out with, and I started hanging out with that group of friends as well. Allison would come back to town almost every weekend to socialize, but she eventually started her own group of friends at UGA and started to not come back to town as often.

Being around with a group of friends came with a lot of peer pressure; and with those peer pressure sometimes came with a lot of bad influences and irrational decisions. I rushed into my first relationship during my first year of college. That relationship ended terribly with me ending up in the hospital again.  I had to talk to the deans and was ordered to seek counseling. Back in freshman year of college, I was still constantly seeking for rides and constantly asking questions like a little kid. In addition to questions about American culture, I was constantly venting and questioning about academic related problem, and romantic relationship problem.

On top of all of that, due to my inability to listen, my friendship started to fracture.

Chris and I started to get into fights more often; Allison was out of town most of the time, and whenever there was a dispute between Chris and me, she would always side with Chris for obvious reason.

There was one time Chris and I and a group of friends were sitting in a table at school. He mentioned about renting one of his step dad’s property with a group of friends. Of course I offered if I could room with him and his friends. He kept trying to divert the conversation and beating around the bush. After my persistence and annoyance, he finally spited it out that he did not want me to room with him, not because he was dating Allison, but because of my past hospital experience. The moment I heard that I was heart broken, and I cried as I left the group of friends.

We kept burying the hatchet and let the unhappy things roll off our backs. Around that time I finally got a car from my boyfriend Mike at the time who left the country. I started driving myself and was able to be a lot less dependent on others.

Unfortunately, Mike at the time was giving me a lot of trouble after he left the country, and when I said trouble I meant agonizing financial trouble and fidelity trouble. I was not mature enough to do a clean break up with him, let along handle the negativity and all the unnecessary stress. It took a year of uncertainty and complication before we finally broke up clean.

However, during that year my negativity continued to spill out to friends. The hostility between my friendships in the U.S. continued to grow and eventually exploded to a chaotic mess after one miscommunication. Chris was offended at what I sent him in a text and he refused to answer my phone calls even though I was going to apologize to him. He misunderstood my tone of the text; I meant for it to be lighthearted but I didn’t realize the extent of the severity if it was to be taken seriously.

In addition to cutting off all forms of communications from me, he went hiding and I could not find him at all. To even make things worse, I got many phone calls from Allison screaming at me on the top of her lungs without any intention of trying to listen to my explanation. She even told a few others about this mishap and they started to not associate themselves with me. I tried to talk to another girl in the friend group who was kind enough to listen to my side of the story, and she agreed that she would speak to Chris on my behalf. Unfortunately, it turned out to be adding oil on fire and I put her friendship with Chris in jeopardy.

On my last resort, I drove to Allison’s parents’ house and told them about this mess. They were pastors and they calmly handled our drama in a simple and professional manner.  Allison and I eventually apologized to each other. Even though we were distant, we apologized over the phone and not through text message where we could both hear each other’s sincerity. I also did the same thing with Chris too to finally understand each other’s stances.

However, even though the apologies were accepted by each other, we stopped hanging out like we were used to. During my last years of college, I was focusing on 3 jobs and taking 5 – 6 classes including summer. I valued my personal time for work and study over my friends. Now come to think about it, I’m sure Allison and Chris were that way too.

After that incident, we hung out at Chris’s stepdad’s property that he rented and I was able to invite Hector to it too. Chris, Allison and the roommates who were living there prepared some finger foods and I bought a gift from Taiwan from my last visit. Little did I know at the time that would be the last time we hung out together. Due to the overwhelming time spent on personal endeavors, we drifted apart.

Because we barely saw each other during the last year of school, graduation was like a death sentence to our friendship it seemed. Not only Chris and Allison, the whole circle of friends that I saw everyday never hung out together after college.

Back in the day, I planned on having Allison to be my maid of honor during my wedding, but it looks like it’s not going to happen since she moved to Florida and we stopped talking to each other. Allison and Chris got married in Augusta and I was not invited. I only overheard their situation through the conversation my aunt had with me. I just recently got married myself, but I didn’t invite friends since I didn’t even have a wedding.

Through losing a friend, I’ve learned 10 things that I stuck with it myself as a living philosophy.

  1. Don’t treat your friends as your dump….. everything is best in moderation. Friends want to help each other, but not to the point where they are making each other unhappy because one person constantly venting to another.
  2. Before you vent, think about the consequence – Do you really want to make your friends to become prejudice or bias to your parents or whoever if you vent about them? Do you really want them to see yourself looking pitiful? Do you want them to talk and judge your private manners among themselves or with others?

  3. You spoke your problem, now listen. It will even frustrate your friends when they heard you are in distress but you wouldn’t take their advice and the same thing keeps happening. If you personally find their advice not helpful, stop venting to them and find a different friend group to vent to.
  4. If you just thought “well I just want to vent to my friends, their advice or opinion doesn’t really matter,” then stop being friends. You’re a jerk.

  5. The closer you are to your friend, the more you are open to speaking in careless tones with them and make last minute changes on them. But be careful about that and never take your friendship for granted.
  6. Apologizing to each other is a good way to start any conversation after an argument. It doesn’t matter who apologize first because— disregarding the other person’s wrong doing, if you believe you are wrong for something, say it out. Don’t wait for the person to apologize first. And never mentioned the other person’s wrong doing and use it as a reason for your wrong doing; let him mention it himself without pointing at it. Trust me, you’ll be the bigger & better person in the argument if you do that.

  7. If you think there was nothing you did wrong, think again, or privately speak with another person to evaluate. You can’t always be your own judge on an argument you’re involved in.
  8. Even though it seems like a common sense, but I still have to say it too. Never just scream at the person or actively ignore the person.
  9. Friendship is work. Time will heal but you should not just let it slip past you completely and act like nothing has happened. Time heals neither isolation nor screaming out of anger. Time is for cooling of your emotion and bringing back your rational self. You still have to work actively to engage with each other again, especially when you are older and live apart from your friend.

  10. Friendship is mutual, actively venting means actively listening too, kind of similar to point 3. If you’re activity trying to engage with socializing with a friend, make sure to let them engage you too. If you find that the friendship is too one sided, then you need to reconcile with your friend. What doesn’t kill a friendship makes it stronger.

 

 

 

To Securing one home

 

caged_core_by_foxsilong-d6w48f8Back at the beginning of the year 2016, I was filled with pride and confidence after obtaining a respectful and well-compensated job at a reputable company. Slowly but surely, my pride emerged a form of greed and arrogance that was seeping through my personality.

I felt that I was the leader in the decision to the home purchase process, and I wanted in on every part of it. Looking through our finances together finally for the first time in our relationship, I scolded Hector for being so much older than me but still making a little progress in his life. There were still a lot more steps for him to be come a licensed architect. Even though my motivation was to encourage Hector to advance himself in both finances and education, the way I deliver my speech was often condescending and judgmental.

With the path to buying a house forming in shape, I was deeply invested in researching every available option of finances towards our house. For once in my life I felt pride and I felt it growing at this moment where I will make a milestone to purchase the most expensive thing in my entire life. And then during that very moment, my ostentatious dignity instantaneously perished to ash as I lost my job and that jeopardize the mortgage application for obvious reason. This was far from the first time I lost a job, but this is the first time that I fell so high, and at this point in my life I had so much to lose. As a result to that, I could potentially looking at going back to the drawing board after all the progress we’ve made on this house hunt.

“We could still qualify for a loan on my income,” Hector said to me with a delighted face after he got off the phone with the mortgage consultant. “I know you might not feel comfortable looking at our finances, but if you want the house, we can have the house.”

After all these times I berated him about his finances and status, Hector still decided to carry all the weight on his shoulder for us and remained unfazed in his vow to make our dream come true.

We both agreed on going forward with the purchase of the house, but since that, I stepped down from being the hard-headed and overbearing decision maker. I told Hector, just give me a total cost, and I’d cut a check to pay him half of that cost.

For the first time in my lifetime coming out of an all-women household, I submitted to a man. I let Hector be in charge.

Based on his best judgment, he determined what type of mortgage to choose and how much down percent to pay,  in addition to handling the home inspection, seller, and bank appraisal. Even though it was my first time, but I had never felt so calm and guilt free about letting another person take care of me. I never doubt he would fail me.

Even though I was able to terminate my rental lease early at the end of April. Hector unfortunately was not able to do that at a reasonable cost. As a result, we tried to push the closing date as far back as possible to close on the house to around the time when the rental lease would be terminated. The best we could do was to close on the house in May and get out of the lease in July.

Five days after obtaining our marriage certificate, I moved in with Hector at his apartment at the end of April. I kept everything I had in boxes for a month and a half. I never unpacked my stuff until we moved again, which was when we closed on the house on May 19th.  The seller was defiant to fixing anything inside the house after the home inspection, but she agreed to contribute more money towards closing.

Later, the real struggle came to me. It only got more stressful from there, following after the lost of job, and became married…..two of the most stressful events of an average person’s lifetime – Moving and finding a career.

 

 

Searching through numerous houses

wind_vane_by_foxsilong-d8xq3ecAfter Hector proposed to me on Valentine’s Day, we agreed on buying a house together.

Initially, I wanted a house in Columbia County, under $150K, less than 10 years old, brick exterior, on a slab foundation, and a fenced in yard. During that period, Zillow was my holy bible and I was only focusing at houses with an increase in value in 10 years. Unfortunately, there were not many houses under 10 years old that costs under $150K. With our options running thin, Hector and I were constantly disagreeing and arguing. We sought family and friends for some advice, but the advice we received slowly started to back fire, and it became really busy and not really applicable since people were just sharing their own experiences from the past without comprehending what Hector and I want to do or our future plans.

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In addition to the complication of the house, the mortgage loan options, down payment and providers were giving me a headache. At that point, so far Hector and I agreed on nothing except the idea of buying a house. The house hunt was nothing but two magnets with the same magnetic pole.

After running low on options for houses in Columbia County, my realtor friend told me I should consider Richmond County houses. She said if I were to live where National Hills is, I could make a lot of money on Masters rental as she has done many times in the past. Even if the home was build older than 10 years ago, there was still chances of finding remodeled homes that could be as good as new.

The joint effort between her and Hector opened up my mind and I finally agreed to look into Richmond county, and within a few days we found a house we love and fell in love with it.

The “feel” walking into this home left us with a very positive, clean, modernistic impression. Walking into the house the first impression I received was open and refreshing. The  high ceiling with open windows allow maximum sunshine into the house to brighten up the living room and the kitchen. The house has all hardwood floor, which sparkled the sunlight above and gave the house a very modern feel. There were 3 bedrooms and there was a full bathroom for each bedroom. The house did not struck me as a 20 year old house at all.

Photos from Zillow

When we saw the images posted on Zillow, were were skeptical. The pictures were definitely staged, but having furniture as prop to show how the space can be utilized is not necessary a bad thing. We’ve seen houses where the photos look much prettier than the actual place so many times due to over embellishing Photoshop, but we actually visited the location and proved that it was not the case. We got a good look at the kitchen appliances and casework up close, and they were replaced 3 years ago and were still in great condition. Many of the other places didn’t even include half of the appliances this one did. They were honestly much better than anything else in any other home we’ve seen at this price.

The house itself has a smaller square footage inside, but that was the reason why it was such a great house for working class newly weds like us. Furthermore, the architect made excellent use of the area and it’s spatially interesting. A tall common room compartmentalized with the kitchen in a smart and efficient way, while the stairway provides an unfettered view of the public areas. It’s a well organized use of space, but not cavernous for sizes’ sake. In this case,  As an aside, we’ve toured some clunkers in the 1500+ SF range that had rooms in the outer corners of the home that just weren’t being utilized well.  We saw some rather oddly laid-out floor plans with multiple extra bedrooms all scrunched together and questioned their utility.

Initially I wanted to buy a house with a great resell value in 10 years, but looking at this older neighborhood I knew it would be a stretch. However, the location of the house was actually even better for my plans- I’m planning on leasing it instead of selling it. The house is in National Hills, walking distance to the Masters, in addition to being in a very convenient location to downtown, MCG, and hospitals. This area will be a great place to lease to students, golf tours, and contracted temp professionals.

The house was built on crawl space instead of slab foundation that I had hoped for, but I realized that I could use the walk in crawl space as a basement in case I need to store my personal belongings during the master week that if I were to rent out the house.

After submitted the offer letter, our offer was accepted with minor changes.

The same week I lost my job was also the same week we’ve decided to apply for a bank loan for the house that we were looking to buy. We were already pre-approved back in February, and we scheduled an appointment to officially apply for the loan followed by the appraisal, and to have a home inspection just mere few days before I lost my job.

When I left my job on the last day, I lost hope in everything, including my dream house.