Back To School, Back To Reflection

 

It’s now September and the start of a new school year. I am finally coming to terms with the changes that happened in the past six months. I suffered appendicitis at the beginning of February, something that I thought would never happen to me (because, in reality, who actually thinks it will happen to them?). Almost as soon as I was cleared to go back to work, I began my first round of intense interviews for a big position at my institution. One that would usher in major changes for the school and for the person chosen.

While waiting to hear if I got the job or not, I thought about what would happen if I did, in fact, get it. I repeatedly told myself that I was not going to move. That I would stay at my parents’ house to save up for a house of my own. My boyfriend and I already had the future talks, and I felt confident that staying home to save up for some aspects of that future would be the best plan.

And then I received the phone call informing me that they had chosen me for the position.

As I drove home that day, I inevitably got stuck in Boston traffic. The type that jams up at the Medford exits and continues to get worse. I encountered this type of traffic many times before, and it usually meant a solid two-hour commute home. By the time I pulled in my parents’ driveway that day, excitement was replaced with exhaustion. I had a glimpse of what my life would be like if I stuck with my original plan and vision: a crushing commute that would dampen the day-to-day, slowly stripping it of energetic excitement.

I had to make a decision: stay with my vision of living at home to stay with my vision of my relationship; or move.

I chose to move. In making that decision, I chose uncertain reality. The type of uncertainty that makes us cling to the semi-stable parts of our lives, funneling our efforts into them because we don’t know what will happen if we don’t. Uncertainty contains possibilities, but there is certain degree of comfort in what we know and are familiar with. Then again, is this comfort a trap of our own making? Do we dare cast it aside and embrace the unknown?

 

 

Advertisements

Employment, Graduate School, and That Money Thing – Project Thankful: Reason #225

When I got out of the shower yesterday and dressed, I did what I normally do: I checked my phone in case I had missed a call or a text.  Now, normally if I do miss such things they are from my sister while she is out walking the dog or she is sending a picture of the dog while out on a walk.

Yesterday, however, I noticed I had a missed call from a local (as in where I used to live local) number as well as a voicemail from that number.  Turns out, it was the assistant principal at the middle school I was a paraprofessional at for the last part of the school year.  He said how he does have it in his notes that I am going to graduate school in September, but he wasn’t sure if things had changed or if I’m taking night classes, because there is a paraprofessional position at the middle school that he would be willing to offer me.

After listening to the message, the fact that I essentially uprooted my life for graduate school really started to hit me.  I spent the past three years in Education; during those years, I left an impression in the schools I worked at, so much so that they would be happy to see me returning there again.  As that feeling of being uprooted started to rise, I reminded myself why I left my employment situation: to advance.  I need graduate school in order to advance my career; with the fields I am interested in, you need at least a Masters degree in order to do so.

More than that, I needed to move on.  It was time.  Before I made my recent move, my employment situation was starting to feel like less than a possible career path and more of a safety net.  A safety net that provided me with a paycheck to pay off my undergraduate student loans, gave some money for retirement, and left some money for other expenses.  With graduate school, I will be taking on more loans that I will have to pay back; however, with graduate school, I will also be taking on new employment, satisfying employment.

For my Intro to Grad Study course, the professor has assigned us the following blog post “Working Classes” as part of our first week’s reading: http://jsench.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/working-classes/

In the blog post, the author mentions a type of thinking that is persistent among some: the “don’t go to grad school” attitude some people have based on the financial cost and overall uncertainty going to graduate school can leave a person and their career.  Before I made the commitment to  attend grad school, I admit, I had a strain of that “don’t go to grad school, will just bury self deeper into debt that might not even be worth it” thinking.  I am still saddled with my undergraduate loans and taking on more loans to help fund graduate school just seemed too overwhelming.  Plus, the “what ifs?”  What if I can’t afford to pay back my loans without going destitute?  What if I go broke just moving for grad school?  What if I can’t find a job after grad school and the schools I worked at won’t remember me?  What if I end up back where I started after I graduated, applying for hundreds of jobs with little success?

As the author of the blog post “Working Classes,” states, “I knew exactly what I was getting into.  When you grow up in a family of working people you get to know a thing or two about how employers are not the best representatives of your interests.”  With graduate school, I echo that statement.  I know what I’m getting myself into.  I know it’s going to be overwhelming and a lot of work, not just academically, but also personally and financially.  But I also know that it’s going to be worth it.  The author is right in saying “employers are not the best representatives of your interests.”  Even when I was working in Education, a field I found highly rewarding on a personal level (not so much on a financial level), there were times when I felt my employers were not the best representatives of my interests.  And chances were, I was right.  Many employers do not look at individuals; they look at the voids, the needs within their agency, and see how to fill them.  If an individual happens to be a solid fit for that need, then that individual is considered for a position.

In going to graduate school, I am taking back my career from the hands of uncertainty, from employers who might try to pigeon-hole me because of my experiences.  I am taking control of my career, deciding what position(s) I am not only right for, but that I want.  And being in control of your career, well, that’s what makes it all worth it.

 

Networking – Project Thankful: Reason #223

The director of the graduate program recently organized a get-together for English professors, incoming graduate students, current graduate students, and former graduate students.  When she posted about the event on the department’s Facebook page, I knew I was going to attend the event.  I saw the event as a great way to meet new people as well as to network.  And I did exactly that.

I like to meet new people.  I used to not like people to truly meet me.  To know where I come from, what my professional and personal interests are, etc.  In short, I didn’t like to network with people.

Networking is a term that is often associated with the workplace and with career.  Yet, the concept of networking exists in every aspect of an individual’s life.  Networking is knowing people.  Networking is people knowing you.  Networking is key to survival.

At the event, I spoke with many of the professors who came.  I introduced myself, and when the opportunity presented itself, I spoke about my professional interests, including mentioning my achievements.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t say to them, “Hi, I’m Lauren.  Let me read you my resume.”  I did, however, talk about myself.

I wondered if I had said too much at the event.  I thought, “Did I talk about myself too much?”  I talked to my mom about it, and she said something that stuck with me.

“No one else is going to tout your horn, honey.  You have to tout your own horn.”

At the end of the day, everyone is responsible for marketing themselves.  We’re our own publicity, our own marketing team.  I think what’s important is to have a stellar image to pitch.

Still, a part of me was tempted to replay the evening over in my mind, focusing on any points where I might have been perceived as bragging or being self-centered in the conversation.  But as tempting as that part of me was, the larger part of me dismissed that idea.  I’m at a place in my life where I’m focusing on my career, and I refuse to apologize for my ambition.  So, yeah, I talk about myself, and I enjoy talking with others about their selves.  Because I like to know people, and I like people to know me.  Otherwise, it would be a very lonely life.

What techniques do you use when networking?

Project Thankful: Reason #222

And…I’m moved in!

When I was considering which graduate school to go to, moving was a consideration.  I knew it would be costly to move, but I had no realistic idea of just how costly moving is.  I also knew that expenses incurred going to a school which required me to move away from home would also be a consideration.

Yet, here I am.  Living away from home, on my own.  As I write this, I am sitting in my living room.  My living room.

I’m thankful I made the decision to move.  I needed this; not just for my career, but for my personal health as well.  It’s time to focus on me.

Refusing to be a Benchwarmer

I refuse to be a benchwarmer.

I refuse to engage in bench warming behavior as it pertains to my career, my relationships, and my personal life.

In other words, I refuse to hold myself back.

A benchwarmer is someone who holds a spot for someone while that someone is off somewhere.  A benchwarmer agrees to be said benchwarmer through a verbal agreement between the benchwarmer and other, second person whereby the other person asks/tells the benchwarmer to “Watch/Hold my seat” while they go off for an indeterminate amount of time, only to return at their convenience.

I used to be a benchwarmer.  I didn’t move forward with my career because I thought what would come by moving forward from where I was at in my career would make me lose my seat, make me lose any opportunity whatsoever to have a career or that any move from where I was at in my career wouldn’t end up being a move forward; rather, it would just be a different spot in the same row.  I was also a benchwarmer when it came to relationships.  I’d meet someone, we’d date, but then they would tell me, either directly or indirectly, that “It’s just not a good time right now (fill in the blank with any number of “reasons” aka excuses).”  So, I would enter in a benchwarmer relationship where I would allow myself to hold a spot for this person in my life, believing that they would eventually come back to take their seat next to me.  Finally, I would be a benchwarmer when it came to my personal life because I would allow things to remain as they were when it came to my family, my friends, my habits, my hobbies, etc.

Do you know what kind of a life a benchwarmer has?  A stagnant one.  Just like stagnant water, a benchwarmer can only attract one thing: mosquitoes.

Nothing good comes out of being a benchwarmer.  Because when you’re a benchwarmer, all you do is wait, and you end up missing a lot of the action.

 

Project Thankful: Reason #217

When life steers you in a direction you didn’t want, your first instinct is probably something similar to shaking your fist at the sky, demanding why life can really suck sometimes. I know that’s what happened to me with graduate school and the particular program I ended up accepting. It’s a wonderful program, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. Just at the time, I wasn’t quite so happy that I would be entering into a MA program and not a PhD program.

I was adamant the PhD was the program for me. I felt I knew without a doubt that I wanted to get my PhD, and so the PhD would be the logical program of choice. The PhD was the path I wanted to take.

In the end, I chose to enroll in a MA program. The particular school I chose offered me the best deal for my graduate education. Now, I look at the decision, and I’m glad life has steered me in the direction of a MA program because I’m not actually certain that I want a PhD. I don’t know if the PhD is right for me or if that’s the path I even want to take.

The MA is a two year program. A lot can happen in two years.

Why Pushy Needs to be Eliminated from Our Vocabulary

Recently, a friend told me how she was called outside at work by her boss. Her boss told her that someone had made the complaint that my friend was pushy while completing an assignment involving getting a quote from a CEO of a company.

My friend is a woman and works in the corporate setting. Now, the word “pushy” has created controversy as it has a negative connotation and is associated with female leadership. Men are not called pushy. They are called determined, ambitious, leaders, go-getters, and social climbers. Women, however, get called pushy and are dismissed.

I don’t like the word pushy because of that reason. Pushy means confrontational. Pushy means acting in a aggressive manner to get things done. Pushy means pressing boundaries. Pushy is being demanding. Pushy is a trait people employ when they want to move forward. In other words, pushy is part of leadership.

And yet, being pushy is considered a bad thing when you’re a woman in business.

For a woman to be called pushy speaks to society’s notions of gender, specifically that women are still held to this ideal that women should be more submissive and complacent. Society still struggles to accept the ideal of an ambitious woman, one who presses boundaries, is demanding, confronts matters, and is a leader. When a woman embodies those traits, she is not necessarily viewed in a positive light; instead, she is told that she is being “pushy,” a word that acts as a warning to her ambition.

When you’re told you’re pushy, you might as well be told to curb your ambition. Better yet, they might as well tell you to go sit in the corner and quietly think over your actions.

Pushy should not be a punishment for ambition. And pushy should not be in our vocabulary.