As a high-school student applying to Oberlin, the blogs were really important to me. As I’ve said on this platform before, the blogs really helped me imagine what a life at Oberlin could be like and gave me a sense of who Obies are. Something I’ve appreciated about attending Oberlin has been the opportunity to meet bloggers whose work I read during high school! I even became friends with some of them.
In an attempt to connect with former Oberlin bloggers and show how the Oberlin experience continues after graduation, I will be publishing installments over the coming weeks in a new series of conversations I have had with former bloggers to catch up with them about their first year as Oberlin alumni.
So, without further ado, here is the first installment of the “Where are they now?” series! I talked with Kira Findling, who was one of my favorite bloggers when I was in high school. Kira (she/her or they/them) is from Sebastopol, CA. Kira majored in Comparative American Studies and Cinema Studies at Oberlin, with a minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies. While at Oberlin, Kira worked as a PRSM (Preventing and Responding to Sexual Misconduct) trainer, a PAL, wrote for Wilder Voice, sang in the Acapelicans, and was a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Program. Kira is now living in Berkeley, CA, and pursuing film and journalism. For more about Kira, here is her website and a link to her newsletter.
K: I’m excited that you’re doing this! It’s fun! I miss the blogs!
R: Yeah, me too! I’m excited to catch up with people. I feel like of the four people I got in touch with, I’ve really only talked to Teague recently. I mean, we’re connected on social media, but it’s not the same as having a real conversation… So, how are you? What have you been up to since graduation, which was like a year ago, right?
K: Yeah, which is really weird! When you said we hadn’t talked in a while I thought, wow it’s been a year since I was even at Oberlin, which is really bizarre! It’s been kind of a crazy year for me. It’s been a lot of changes and trying to figure out where I want to be. After graduation I went home for the summer and my plan had been to move to LA, and then over the summer I kept waiting to hear about jobs from people that I knew from down there. I was trying to find housing and it was really hard because it’s SO expensive there.
R: Yeah, I bet.
K: And how am I supposed to get housing if I don’t have a job? But at the same time, everyone in the entertainment industry was saying I had to be there to get a job, so it was a weird catch-22.
R: Yeah, it’s like that weird thing where you have to get experience to get a job, and when you’re trying to get a job to get experience, they tell you that you don’t have enough experience to get the job in the first place.
K: Yeah, and in the meantime, Joey [Kira’s partner] was living with his mom in Chicago, looking for jobs in California. I didn’t really want to move to a new place without him, so I decided to go be with him. So, I moved in with them, started working at Whole Foods, and my goal was to learn how to exist without worrying about climbing the career ladder or being successful. Especially because LA was so image- and ambition-driven, I was just trying to get away from that. But after being there for a while, I realized I had maybe swung a little too far, since I didn’t feel very connected to Chicago. So, then I said, I’m moving to LA, for real. I went down there and stayed with my grandparents who live outside of the city, and I think I got pretty turned off by some of the culture down there, even though I had lived there before. Just so much driving—it was stressful! (laughs)
R: (laughs) I’ve heard about those aspects of LA, for sure.
K: Yeah, and it was kind of funny because I had wanted to live there for over a year at that point, and the whole year people had been saying to me “There’s a lot of bad things about LA” and I would say “I don’t wanna hear it!” (laughs)…but then some of that kind of came true. There’s a lot that I love about LA, but it didn’t feel right for me at this stage of my life. While I was down there, I thought, I’m from the Bay Area, I love it there, it’s so beautiful, Joey has family there, why not just move back? And we ended up coming here! We live in Berkeley now, we moved here in January, and it’s been really great! I met some documentary filmmakers who I’m doing some editing for, and it feels like a really happy medium where I’m still getting to do film and be somewhat ambitious and have cool experiences, but it’s not this industry craziness.
R: No, that makes a lot of sense. You’re still doing what you’re interested in without freaking out about diving into the career world. Plus, I feel like the entertainment industry is such a fast-paced, stressful industry to be in. At least my impression is that you need to have connections and networking seems like such a huge thing. It seems like that could be a really hard thing to jump into.
K: Yeah. I realized that networking came more naturally to me than I thought, but I feel like it requires a willingness to do anything that comes your way. You meet a lot of people…and the best way to climb and meet more people is to take every opportunity, but it’s still so important for me to be thoughtful about what I’m putting out into the world. And I just felt like it would be hard to live down there as a young person without a lot of experience without having to compromise my values.
R: Yeah, that totally makes sense.
K: So, kind of wild. But I’m really happy with how things have ended up. It’s weird to think that it’s been a full year since I’ve been away from Oberlin. It feels far away, and it doesn’t… It’s strange. And you were abroad this past semester, right?
R: Yeah! … I was in Berlin for 6 weeks and I‘ve been home for two and a half months maybe… I’ll be here until August, but then I’m going back to Oberlin since I’ll be living in an off-campus house. But it is weird to be away for so long!
K: It is weird, it’s like a whole world over there. I feel like especially in my lower moments, I think “Was that a dream? All those awesome people in one place and so many things going on all the time?” It’s just wild.
R: Exactly. Anyways, I saw that you made a film that was in a film festival, right?
R: I watched it! I loved it!
K: Aww, thank you! Yeah, I saw your comment! It was my senior film at Oberlin that I made in an independent study class in cinema studies and I submitted it to a bunch of things. I was in this film festival in Seattle called the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, which was really cool because there were people from all over the world! Through that festival, I actually got a grant from T-Mobile to make another film, so I’m working on a film now, but it’s kind of hard with COVID… It’s a personal narrative so I’m not filming people, but it’s hard to be motivated all day when you’re just sitting at home.
R: Yeah…I really feel that.
K: But it’s really cool that I have the resources to do it. I feel like a big thing that’s happened for me this year is that I’ve really realized the whole “fake it ‘til you make it” thing. A big part of being an adult and being out in the world is just knowing how to market yourself… Hanne [Kira’s friend and another fabulous Oberlin alum] actually…showed me her resume and she made everything she did sound so fancy, and I thought, “How did you do this?!” And now whenever I meet people I just say, “Yeah, I’m a filmmaker!” …and it feels a little bit like lying, but it is the truth, and the more you do it, you’re like, wait a second, I am a filmmaker and people start to take it seriously.
R: That’s cool! It’s like you put a little spin on it and once you say it enough you start to believe it.
K: Yeah, exactly… I’ve gotten more confidence as a filmmaker and trying to do that as a career. And that was a nice surprise this year that the film got into some festivals… So, has anything changed with the blogs?
R: Yeah! It’s interesting seeing new voices come onto the blogs. At least for me, it was interesting reading your blog… when I was in high school. And then I feel like I saw you during my freshman orientation or something, but I was like, “Oh my gosh, It’s Kira, it’s a real person whose work I read!” (laughs). So now it’s interesting being one of the older students on the blogs and then seeing new bloggers appear. I think there’s more diversity of student experiences being represented, which is good… Part of the reason why I wanted to do this [project was to create] some content that shows that the Oberlin experience extends beyond Oberlin! It doesn’t stop because you’re not on campus anymore and seeing the variety of things people do after they leave [is a valuable experience].
K: Yeah… Oberlin puts out a lot of stuff about alumni but it’s usually about older people or about younger people who are having amazing things happening to them, which is great. But I remember my senior year The Grape [a student publication at Oberlin] was doing a series about different career paths that alums had that were…less traditional, and I always really appreciated that because I liked hearing about people who weren’t getting a Rhodes Scholarship, you know?
R: No, totally. And I think in some ways, that’s probably more representative of what happens to a lot of graduates… It’s like, now I have this degree and I have to find my feet and figure out what I want to do. Even now as I’m approaching my senior year, I’ve been thinking a lot more about my future (laughs)… I’ve been thinking a lot more about the different paths I might take and what I really want to be doing. But it’s been nice to be in touch with some grads and kind of see the different trajectories.
K: It’s been good for me too, actually. I think one of the most comforting things this year has been talking to other people who are going through it. I have always been that sort of straight-A student, big overachiever, and things haven’t totally worked out this year how I thought they would. I mean, we’re in a pandemic and I’m unemployed! (we both laugh)... Sometimes it’s hard seeing people who are just killing it in law school or whatever…but remembering that most people are just bumbling along is just so helpful, and my mom keeps reminding me, “You’ve been out of college for ONE year, calm down, you don’t have to have things figured out!”
R: Yeah, I totally relate to all of that… Not comparing is really hard, but it is refreshing to hear that even though you didn’t go in the direction you wanted or thought you would, you’re doing fine and you’re figuring it out.
K: I feel like what I’m happy about is that I’m just trying to make every day good and not worry about the big picture as much, because who can do that at a time like this?
R: Do you have any plans or aspirations moving forward? I know how we literally just talked about how it’s impossible to plan right now but…
K: Well, yes actually! I want to apply to journalism school at the end of this year and hopefully start in 2021. UC Berkeley is my dream… I really love documentary film and I want to keep learning and doing that more. I also feel open to the fact that that could change, but I know that I want to be telling stories and meeting people and be involved in social change. I learned so much from Oberlin, I learned how to think and a lot about making films, but I still kind of lack some of the hard, technical skills in film and journalism…yeah, I want to go back to school. Also, I feel like it’s kind of a joke, but when you’re stressed out in your first year post grad, it’s like “Let me just go to grad school, that will solve my problems!” So, it’s a little bit of that too, but I think it would just be fun to have that experience, so that’s my main goal.
R: Well thank you so much for helping me out with this project! It was great to talk to you.
K: Yeah, thanks for this too, Ruth! Stay safe out there!
R: Yes, be well! (we laugh).
And that’s it! I had a wonderful time catching up with Kira and hearing about her first year post grad and her plans for the future. Stay tuned for the next post featuring Teague Harvey!
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