• Sumari Barnes

Not So Recent College Grad


"Wait, so we're technically not recent college grads anymore?" I asked my best friend as we reflected on the fact that we graduated from college nearly 2 years ago. Being a recent college grad was my safety net for why I didn't know what the hell was going on in my life. After graduating, I’d decided not to go to law school, diverting from my plan since seventh grade. I was a nanny for 8 months post-grad. I literally got paid to take kids to the park and ensure they didn’t choke on Cheerios. Organic, gluten-free, kale, flaxseed Cheerios that is. But, whatever pays the bills, right?

I lived a fairytale lifestyle in LA. Weekends in Malibu, friends that felt like family, VIP sections at clubs and bars, casually running into celebrities, and living 5 minutes from the beach. We jokingly called my neighborhood, Playa Vista, a Sims World. It was full of well to do families, social gatherings, children with minority nannies, and every amenity and store you needed to never leave the area. I walked to my yoga class and said things like, “I know I’m going to lose all of my credibility with this, but I love the Jamaican food at Whole Foods.” And for the record, I stand by that statement. Life seemed to be perfect. Yet somehow after graduating, LA wasn’t fulfilling to me. For a while, I had this idea that I should move somewhere international to teach English or do service since I loved to travel so much. But something called me to move back to Oakland. A place quite opposite of the utopia that is Playa Vista.


On a visit home months after postgrad, I was disturbed by how much my hometown had changed. Particularly the drastic increase in homelessness and evident push out of people of color in the neighborhoods I grew up in. The “service” I planned to give internationally was needed in Oakland. So, I moved home and tried to figure out what exactly my purpose was here.

While my transition home was not easy(like actually it was terrible) it served as the perfect place for me to get grounded. I was able to work for several Black business owners until I found a permanent job, mentored a trip for young Black girls to South Africa, worked at a creative studio customizing Air Force Ones and built my professional network. I did all of this but I really wanted to work in tech. The upbeat culture filled with free food, events, beautiful offices, high salaries, and a primarily young staff attracted me. In my head, working in tech is like college with money. I applied to a countless number of jobs for months, that led to 2 interviews, but no offers.

One day I was talking to a new friend about my various goals and the specific ways I wanted to change Oakland. She introduced me to someone and boom, within a week I had a job. I was an executive assistant to a man who honestly did way too much. Nonetheless, I loved all of the “too much” that he did because it was all important work. My fieldwork ranged from real estate development, politics, prison reentry services, homeless services, growing small businesses, and real estate sales...aka everything I am passionate about. Even better, I could work remotely, so when I wanted to travel I could still get up and go. My first job couldn't have been more perfect for me if I wrote out the description myself. ​I have moved on, but I am thankful for the experience.

Looking back on it, I never had a purpose in tech. Tech is the future and all, but I was not interested in learning how to code or engineer. My why made sense but was superficial in the end; working in tech seemed fun. Now I am working in commercial real estate with a primary focus on community benefit organizations. Still, corporate America but with a purpose.

Life has truly unfolded for me in so many ways that I did not plan, but it seems like it is exactly how it was supposed to happen. Stay tuned and subscribe to follow the journey.

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