#TRYING – Kara Brown

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When I graduated college, my mom gave me a book called I Just Graduated…Now What?. As someone who has always learned from books, I was eager to dive in, because I was LOST. But the book didn’t answer my questions. It’s written by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s daughter, and many of the essays in the book were the stories of incredibly privileged people who weren’t struggling like I was. I was confused and I didn’t know where I was going. I wanted to hear from people who were there and who were struggling like I was. Not people who had money to travel the world and find themselves. I didn’t have time for that.

Fast forward two years and I’m still obsessed with hearing from people. I am obsessed with Into The Gloss#TopShelfies and Top Shelves. I love seeing what people are up to and what’s in their medicine cabinet. Beauty is a pretty level playing field (excluding luxury brands that I will never afford) because most women have to take care of their skin and everyone has to bathe!

And then I got into listening to #GirlBoss Radio with Sophia Amoruso. I am obsessed with these women’s stories and hearing how they came from places very similar to where I am now. But still something is missing. Myself and everyone I know is at the starting-out point of their careers, and it’s still messy and confusing and pretty ugly. And no one is showing that, which is sad, because it’s so real, so connecting and so fascinating.

So this is my first interview with a young women who is in the middle of it all who is still inspiring me, my beautiful friend, Kara Brown.

Kara is one of the most driven and compassionate women I’ve ever met and I’m so excited to see where life and her career take her. And I think she knows a lot more than she let on. SPECIAL THANKS TO KBREEZIN FOR LETTING ME PICK HER BRAIN AND BEING MY EXPERIMENT. YOU ARE A TRUE SIS.

 

EDUCATION

What did you study in school?

I studied Speech and Hearing Sciences.

When you started school, what did you want to do?

I really don’t know.  I didn’t get into nursing school so I picked the next medical major I could find.  Which happened to be Speech.  

Why did you change? (or not!)

My work study during college was working for the Office for Students with Disabilities.  It was so humbling and really opened my eyes to what kind of work I wanted to dedicate my life to.  I was a peer advisor to the most wonderful college student who has very severe CP.  This girl is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met.  While she suffered from severe spasticity (muscles cramping/spasms, resulting in intense pain, limited mobility in joints) she always wore the biggest smile on her face and was one of the most upbeat and positive people to be around.  I remember the first time I went to her dorm room to help her with her homework.  After I was done with her for the evening I walked back to my dorm in tears.  I felt like I’ve taken everything in life for granted.  Here’s this girl who’s known nothing but life in a wheelchair.  Unable to even go to the bathroom without assistance and here she is kicking ass in college.  It was very humbling and I feel so fortune to have had to the opportunity to work with someone like her.  I knew then that I wanted to spend the rest of my life fighting for people like her.

What was the hardest part of school?  

While, the academic part of school was definitely challenging (having selected a very hard major I didn’t care about) the hardest part for me was trying to love and accept myself.  I went into school with this very false sense of who I was as a person, who I was as a woman.  I did a LOT of stupid things during those four years.  I was my own worst enemy.  I was never smart enough, I was never skinny enough, I was always making mistakes.  The hardest part about school was trying to find myself.  

WORK

What do you do now?

I am an Employment Specialist.  I help people with a wide range of disabilities locate and maintain employment.  I’m trying to break down barriers in my community for those who cannot do so alone.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part about my job is having a client get their first job.  For some of the people I work with, they’ve lived their entire lives with people beating into them the ideology that they will never be functional members of society and that they have nothing to contribute to the community.

What’s your dream job? (Attainable or not!)

I would really like to work for the government as a disabilities rights advocate.  I’d like to help reshape and enforce civil rights for people with disabilities.  

[I’d vote for you]

What was the hardest part of getting where you are?

I went straight through undergrad to grad school.  Trying to get a job seemed pretty impossible. I have a Masters degree and it took a really long time for someone to give me a chance because I have “no work experience.”  I’ve run university programs and have been paid to work in my field for almost 4 years now.  But yeah, that’s not “work experience” – NEXT.  It was depressing and I cried for what seemed like all summer.  But I finally got an interview a few weeks after I graduated and someone gave me a chance.  I absolutely love my job and I feel really lucky to be doing something I’m passionate about.

Tips or tricks for staying productive or motivated? How do you stay organized?

I work in the community so I have no office.  I have a boss but I make my own schedule.  It’s super easy to slack off and get behind.  But I really love what I do and the people that I work with so that helps to keep me on my shit.  Organization? SIS. SIIIIIS. Google Calendar is literally a gift from god.  Also, get a planner.  Kate Spade makes them too so you have no excuse.

One thing you’re struggling with?

I don’t make much money.  I mean generally in my field you don’t make much but at this rate my mom is going to be my roommate for a very, very long time.

One thing that really surprised you?
 One thing that surprised me? The negativity of people in the community and their views of people with disabilities.  It’s really heartbreaking to see an employer not give your client the time of day.  Or when an employer has zero patience with your client.  Sometimes I want to be like, would you like it if I treated your son, daughter, or wife like this?  

How do you deal with a really crappy day at work? Who do you call?
I text my friends.  I work out.  I call Mitch.  I call my other co-workers who probably had just as bad as a day as I had.  I laugh.  But I have more good days than bad.  

What time do you wake up in the morning?
I like the mornings.  So I normally wake up at 7-8AM.  

How did you find your job?
Indeed.com, I didn’t have any fabulous connections.

Anything you learned about interviewing?
Bring your resume, be super earlier, look cute (it doesn’t hurt).  Most importantly, read about the company you are interviewing with and about the position.  Check Glassdoor.com and see if there are any interview reviews or questions posted on there.  It helps!

What was your first “big girl purchase”?
Sadly, it was paying my credit card bills and car insurance.  YAY..  bills really suck but I suggest scheduling automatic payments around your payday so that you don’t forget!  It keeps your credit in good graces and prevents those late fees.

What’s something you suck at, or your greatest weakness?
My greatest weakness is my quick temper.  I get heated fast and I react fast.  If you piss me off I’ll be hitting you where it hurts with words faster than you can say sis.  I’m working on this.  I’ve been working on this for a very long time but *shrugs*

Have you ever cried at work? Tell me about it.
I’ve cried in my car after work.  On my way home.  That’s the best time to cry, right?  No one can see me and I have Beyoncé to serenade me.  

LIFESTYLE

What passions do you have outside of work?
Advocating for people with disabilities is my passion at work and outside of work.  It’s my mission to educate people every chance I get.  

What’s one thing you don’t get to do at work that you wish you could?
Spend legitimate time with my clients.  Some of them really just need a friend.  That’s why I spend some extra time with them sometimes.  To make sure that they know that someone cares about how they’re doing and how their week is going.

What causes are you extra passionate about?

Women’s rights.  Black Lives Matter.  Really any civil rights movement.

Favorite book? Movies?
Any book by Thomas Harris.  Hannibal, Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon.  Drive.  Her.  Kill Bill.  Inglorious Basterds.  Fury.  

What’s something cool you recently read, saw, did, etc?
I recently went on a road trip to Alabama with my friends from grad school.  My friend Maddie flew in from Santa Barbara, Aimee flew in from Colorado, and Jill/Joe/me drove down from Pittsburgh.  Nothing like driving to the Gulf for thanksgiving and tailgating at the Iron Bowl.

What is something frustrating that happened recently?
Uh, the 2016 Presidential election?  I’m sick of speaking about it but I’ll be damned if Trump is gonna shut me up. #StillNastyStillHere  Also, the amount of general racism I’ve been seeing lately.  I just really can’t imagine where all of the hate some people have for other human beings is stemming from.  It makes me really sad to see people bash movements like Black Lives Matter.

Best advice you ever received?
Ignore them and they’ll go away – Mom.

Treat others the way you want to be treated – The Golden Rule (learned this concept in the 2nd grade)

Lesson you learned the hard way?
Wow.  So many.  When drinking, choose who you hang out with wisely… it could land you in the back of a cop car.  Think before you speak.  Being sharp and witty is a curse when angry.  You can construct very hurtful statements.

One place you’re dying to visit?
New Zealand! Live, Love, Lord of the Rings.

Best thing you’ve eaten recently?
Don’t laugh;  Boston Butt.  It’s smoked pork butt *peach emoji*.  I had it during Thanksgiving in Alabama and it was AMAZING. Stop laughing.

Any general advice?
Advice I wish I would take: think before you speak.

Where do you get your news?
Anywhere but Facebook and/or Fox News.  I really like the News app on my iPhone.  You can select the news outlets that you like and what you’re interested in and it puts it all together.  

Have you ever felt like you’re really adulting well? Or not?
Sometimes I feel like I am but then I come home to my mom’s house and I’m like well shit guys.  I still feel like I’m 16.  I feel like I’m adulting well when my boss emails me and tells me I’m doing a great job with my clients.

Favorite drink to order at a bar?
Stella!

Music you’ve been really into?
Johnnyswim.  I saw them live recently and they are killer.  

What did you ask for for Christmas?
World peace and two hens. [That’s not a joke. She wants 2 chickens]. 

Funny or cool skills? Fun facts about you?
I pride myself on being a knockoff Snow White.  I always find animals.  I really want chickens, cows, and a horse. [SEE!!!?]

What’s your guilty pleasure?
Spending a lot of money on coffee and shoes.

Most reckless thing you’ve ever done?
I got a tattoo in a dirty basement once (sorry mom).

What’s your ideal day?
Waking up, getting the most perfect cup of coffee, going to the gym, walking my dog, and then going out for the evening or staying in and reading a good book.

What’s the next milestone you’re looking to reach?
I’d like to run a full marathon in the next year or so.

Where do you go for inspiration?
I like to take long walks in the woods with my dog.  It allows me to cool off and think.

Advice for your college self?
KB, you are cool and cute.  Stop trying so hard.  Stop drinking so much.  Keep up the long hours in the library.  You aren’t fat.  Someone will love you for who you are one day, I promise.

[I love you now and always KB <3]

Something we wouldn’t know from your resume?
I have a minor in environmental studies.  I love the environment, rocks, ungulates, and wolves. I know a lot about a lot.  

[I didn’t know this. Can’t wait to talk Earth Science ASAP]

MAKEUP/SKIN/STYLE ETC

What’s one product you couldn’t live without?
A really good face wash.  I’m loving Soap and Glory right now.

Favorite products or tips?
Use facewash, toner, and then moisturize. Twice a day!

Favorite places to shop?
Any Gap company.

RELATIONSHIPS

How did you meet?
[She doesn’t want to answer this one, but she made the first move and I love her and admire her for it. She’s amazing].

Most fun part of being in a relationship?
The most fun part is having someone to look stupid with.  It’s fun learning all the little things about a person.  It’s fun to have someone like you all the time.  Like dude, I don’t even like myself 23% of the time so… thx!

Any general advice?
I hate talking things out.  I like to apologize and move on.  I realize that not everyone operates like I do.  Think before you speak.  Words stick with people.  Don’t let something that’s bothering you go unsaid, it’ll eat you alive.

Has there been anything challenging?
Mitch is currently renovating the largest house in all of Pittsburgh.  Ok, that’s an exaggeration.  Is it?  Anyway, my roommate is my mom and Mitch’s house isn’t done.  So we don’t see each other as often as we would like.  It sucks but it’s worth it 1000x and back.  I’m also awaiting my gold medal of patience for when this enormous project is done. And two hens in the backyard. [SEEE?!]

What’s the weirdest part?

I met Mitch in August and I feel like I’ve known him for forever.  It’s weird how natural it feels to have him by my side.  I’ve never really thought of myself as someone who would ever need or depend on anyone.  Not to say that I depend on M, but I couldn’t imagine him not being in my life.  I hope he doesn’t go anywhere.  That would suck.

Anything I forgot and you want to say??

Something that really enriches my life is the strong women I surround myself with.  These women empower me and inspire me every day.  It’s weird growing up, leaving college, and beginning the next big chapter of your life.  You’ll lose friends but the friends that remain by your side will bring you more joy than you could ever imagine.  I feel so incredibly lucky to have such amazing people in my life.  

[Right back at ya sis]

 

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