Kindergarten: 15 Years Later

May 29, 2008 at 4:46 pm (2008)

I’m starting to feel restless again.  Here I thought I had it all figured out, but as I become more impatient for responses from a) contests I’ve submitted my work to and b) the artists’ retreat, I am c) once again embarking on an application blitz. 

I need a job.  Moreso, I need a job in the publishing industry. 

I’ve realized that I won’t be satisfied with anything else.  I enjoy my current assignment, working at a local university, but it’s not a career for me.  I need to be writing or reading; I need to be around books and a relatively challenging vocabulary, around people who can string together coherent sentences and ask a clear question, for the love of God.

I know I’m not much older than the kids at the university, but working on the other side of the counter gives you a whole new perspective.

Case in point, this is an example of a phone call I received this afternoon:

Me: Good afternoon, Registrar’s office, can I help you?
Student: Yeah, I have a question.
Me: …
Me: What can I help you with?
Student: I want to know about registration.
Me: …
Me: Ok, what’s your question?
Student: How do I do it?
Me: You don’t.  NEXT!

Ok, that last part isn’t true, but it takes a lot of patience and a working mute button to get through these phone calls.  I was talking with a co-worker today who was saying that students are becoming more aggressive and are more than willing to launch complaints if they don’t get what they want, despite instructions and protocol.  I believe that my generation is at the beginning of this — we’ve always been told we could achieve our dreams with persistence; we know what we want and we do whatever it takes to attain it.  However, here is where we differ: we have tact and respect, and we know how to take responsibility for our own actions.

I believe it’s really the parents who are the problems, as it’s the parents who do most of the calling and the complaining.  But it’s trickling down to their children, as is evident in my daily interactions with them.  A student is on academic probation?  Blame the school.  We can’t change their grade for them?  Speak with the University President.  That’ll show ’em.

There are plenty of nice kids out there who I meet and for them, I’m grateful.  And most of the time I love the annoying callers because I’m usually right and they’re usually wrong, neener, neener, so there.  And I stick out my tongue and stomp my foot and all is right with the world again. 

But this complacency is just that — I’m simply satisfied.  I want to love my job, to feel like I’m doing something worthwhile and worthy of my skills.  I am willing to work hard and to begin at the very bottom if it means I will be learning and have room for growth in the industry of which I have always dreamt.  Who knows, maybe I’ll enjoy being an agent instead of an editor.  Maybe I’ll like acquisitions or public relations or even production.  I won’t ever know until I’m in the industry, and I can’t get that far until I try and keep trying. 

I know that I’m aggressive — I have a goal and, luckily, I also have the support to try to achieve that goal.  But I hope that I also have the respect, integrity, and tact necessary to succeed. 

We graduated from kindergarten a long time ago.  I like to think that we’ve learned some things along the way.

Beginning with how to ask a question.

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Time In A Bottle

May 24, 2008 at 5:09 am (2008)

There’s an article in the New York Times regarding a twenty-something blogger and the ramifications to her life about over-sharing, prompting a range of opinions on why blogging has become so mainstream and how it can be detrimental to our society.

This article has, perhaps naturally, prompted me to question myself: why did I create this blog?  I had kept an online journal of sorts up at xanga and myspace for awhile.  As I mentioned before, xanga was for the personal stuff, while myspace was for all of those silly surveys that I love.  And herein is the thing: I like to blog for the same reason that I fill out those surveys — it’s a process about finding out more about myself while also showing the world, or at least those closest to me, all of my inner, little intricacies.  Call me narcissistic (actually, please don’t), but I want people to know who I am. I don’t mean in the “let’s be famous” type of way, because I really, really don’t want that, unless it’s respect for my writing, in which case, great, but rather in the “let’s get to know the real me” kind of way.  There is so much more to people than their surface layer, and it’s fascinating to unearth that and find that connection to others. 

So, the question remains as to why I continue this.  I read blogs because I like to connect with people who have similar interests and, in many cases, garner the advice that they freely offer.  I write my blog, I think, for the same reason that I have kept a journal for most of my life — the feelings and thoughts that I have are important to me and I want to remember them.  And, if I want to be honest with myself, perhaps naively I hope that my experiences and honest emotions can help others make sense of their own.

Sometimes I wonder, and subsequently fear, that I’m just another twenty-something — self-absorbed, too ambitious, unoriginal.  Even as I write this, I fear that I’m moving into that territory.  But I think that’s also kind of the point, why we share the things we do with people — because on some level, we want to find similarities, so that we may establish, and keep, that connection.  By definition, I am just another twenty-something.  As an individual, however, I am something much more.

I used to hate history as a kid and love it now, and I know the exact reason for it: Textbooks are filled with only the facts — dates and names and places are meaningless unless there is a story there.  And there is always a story.  Maybe that’s the writer in me, but I believe that history is more than a recording — it’s a living picture, a breathing past.  A journal is the same thing; it’s the story of a life — raw, uncut, and unedited. 

When I went to Gettysburg with my best friend a few weeks ago, we toured the museum in the Visitor’s Center.  I will freely admit that I quickly bypassed the plaques with all of the figures and dates and zeroed in on the showcases that held real, tangible objects.  It’s breathtakingly bittersweet to realize that what is now on display was once in someone’s hands: Someone wrote in that diary, someone read from that prayerbook.  Behind protective glass is furniture punctured by bullet holes and mirrors with smudges and cracks; showcased is an old wooden medical kit with some of the medicine still in glass jars and a full-size diorama of what an officer’s living quarters would be in comparison to a foot soldier’s. 

The heartbreaking reality is that these were people who lived and breathed and shared smiles and tears — someone looked in that mirror, before it was cracked, when it hung on a wall; someone sat in a camp just like the one depicted in this glass case, possibly poking at their dying fire, struggling to keep warm beneath their thin tent, millions of miles away from home and missing their parents or siblings or pets.  They may have laughed as they played cards or chess with a fellow soldier, as the little pocket games that were on display would suggest; maybe they wrote how they really felt to their families, or maybe they kept up that brave front, as the letters read.  I wondered if these grown men cried, reverted to the mere boys they really were, as they lay on their cots in the dark and thought about the people they loved and left and lost; I wondered if they feared what they would face the next morning — and not just the battle, but the weather, the disease, the journey.

We’re left to always wonder.  We read their journals to get glimpses into their lives, to see how people lived and maybe even boast about how far we’ve come, but maybe what we’re really looking for is that connection, to see that despite time and location and circumstance, we all really fear, hope, and long for the same things.   So much is captured and kept in a museum, but feelings of fear and insecurity and faith can’t be preserved behind a glass wall.  Despite the records and artifacts, a million little moments are lost forever. 

We all have experiences and emotions that we want to remember.  We all have a story to tell.

Maybe this is just another way of telling it.

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Independent Woman

May 21, 2008 at 7:21 pm (2008)

I sent my application and writing sample in for the artists’ retreat in France last night.  I told my mom and she asked me what would happen if I didn’t get in.  “You’ll probably cry, won’t you?” she said to  me.  “Yep, probably,” I agreed.  “But then I’ll get over it and find another way to get there.” 

Because that’s how I am.  I get my hopes up, I get disappointed, I shed some tears, and then I find a new way to achieve my dream.  And going to France for a month is my dream — I’ve always wanted to go back.  To be able to go for a prolonged stay, to write and complete my novel and eat fantastic food, take long walks in nature, and experience the culture firsthand again, that’s something that I need.  It’s a change that I need to make, a chance that I have to take.

I’m so lucky that I have the people I do around me to support me.  My family has been remarkable; they always have been.  No matter what dream I’ve had, they have stood by me.  No matter how I’ve felt at the rejection, they’ve been there.  Through all of the insane ideas I’ve had (doggy daycare, sign language for gorillas), they just nodded their heads, gave me a hug, and told me if I really wanted it, I could do it.  It’s their unwavering faith in me that makes me believe this is possible.  It’s why I’m working so hard and taking these chances.  And I am so proud of myself for it.  Because at the end of the day, I can be truthful with myself and say that I have at least tried.

I visited Lock Haven this weekend and met up with some dear friends, including Julie, my old professor, and Virginia, her mentor.  When I told them about France, they couldn’t have been more excited and supportive. Virginia said that when she was younger, she toured Europe, and she always wanted to go back but never had the opportunity to.  Julie is just now following her dream of getting her doctorate and is planning on traveling to Italy sometime soon.  I feel like that is exactly the reason why I need to pursue my dreams now.

I’ve said this time and time again, but it has never been more true: I have absolutely nothing holding me back.  My job is temporary, I’m not attached to anyone, my parents are more than willing to watch Riley and Mike, and I know I’ll always have a home to come home to.  I’m young, I’m ambitious, I’m ready for a change.  This is the best time for me and I need to take this opportunity before it slips away, before time passes and I wonder about my what if.  This very well could be my what if, and I am not going to let it. 

If I don’t get into the artists’ retreat, of course I’ll be disappointed and upset and all that good stuff because I think that it could be a remarkable place and experience.  However, I won’t let that stop me.  Come the Fall, I’ll be spending a month in France one way or another — writing and learning and experiencing…Changing and growing as only true independence can provide.

 

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