Beyond the Buildings: Project Thankful #230

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Going off of what I said in “Still September?” is the above picture.  See, on my campus there are alcoves, hidden sanctuaries dotted throughout the campus where individuals can sit, away from the human highways of the pavement and sidewalks.  This picture was taken looking up from one such alcove, a stone bench not even 100 feet away from my building.  The bench was in a cluster of trees, providing not only shade, but protection from the stress that occupied my psyche.

I looked up, and I was humbled.  There is a pressure that comes with being a graduate student and being a teacher of having to perform in the classroom as proof of the importance of one’s existence.  Looking up from my momentary sanctuary, it struck me that I was wasting my energy attempting to appeal to this need to perform.  My existence is not a performance; it’s rooted in the primordial, grounded in a foundation that pre-exists the buildings I inhabit.

It’s vital to remember the individual, the existence that transcends the name on the roster, the student in the desk, and the teacher in the classroom.

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Still September? – Project Thankful #229

The semester is in full swing.  My students have their first essay assignment due October 2nd, only a couple of weeks away.  Between teaching and being a student myself, I have been trying to find some type of balance to avoid being blown over by the chaotic winds of the semester.

When you’re in college, as a student or otherwise, it’s easy to start to think of time in terms of semesters.  A semester is a shortened amount of time where we attempt to cram knowledge in before the end rolls around and we’re off for winter or summer vacation.  A semester is it’s own widget, counting down the days that are left.  It’s the sand steadily running out.

Here’s the remarkable thing: it’s still September.  SEPTEMBER.  The first month of the school year.  The academic year has actually only been in session for a couple of weeks.

And yet, we feel like it’s going by so fast.  It is, but more than that, we just tend to rush through our schedules without taking time to breathe.  We’re the ones who are rushing, not time.

Time is what we make it.  Don’t rush it.

Project Thankful: Reason #208

Tomorrow is July.

I’m always thankful for the end of the month.  The end of June is something bittersweet, however.  On the one hand, June was a chaotic month, and one where I thought more things would happen.  An odd thing to say given that so much did happen in June.  The school year ended, I found an apartment, I got even more items for said apartment, I received my teaching materials for the fall, and more.  On the other hand, now that June is ending, the countdown is on for when I move and for when I need to have my syllabus ready for the fall. I’ll be balancing the roles of Instructor and Student come September which means I have to be prepared for both of those roles.  

I have a feeling I’ll be eating a lot of chocolate in July.

Project Thankful: Reason #187

A week from today I go up to New Hampshire to look at potential apartments.  It didn’t really hit me before now that I really am moving.  Soon.

When I used to think about what it would be like when I finally moved, I didn’t think it would be like this.  I thought I would be at a different point in my life.  To be honest, I thought I would move when I found that special someone and we became engaged.  I didn’t think I would ever move when I’m single or move to attend grad school.  I always thought I was bound to Boston in a way, having grown up in the Boston area all my life.  As an undergrad, I commuted from home.  Although I applied to non-Boston area schools for grad school, in the back of my mind I always thought I would attend a Boston area school for grad school and live at home, again commuting to school.

I’m the type of person who has a tendency to plan their life, and usually what happens is that my life basically goes in a direction I did not plan.  I like to think of it as the Universe’s way of reminding me that I can not control everything and that what I view as the best plan is not what’s actually best.

When I graduated from college, my plan was to get a job that was just a paycheck while I focused on my writing career, which back then I thought was going to take off almost immediately.  I also thought I was ready to be in a relationship with a person I could see myself settling down with.

What ended up happening was I quickly realized the realities of how hard the economy is, especially to college graduates, and that the publishing industry was as harsh after college as it was when I was in college.  As far as my love life went, I did meet a guy who I thought I could see myself settling down with one day; unfortunately, he turned out to be the type who says all the right things, but doesn’t follow through on them.

I’m thankful my life didn’t turn out the way I planned it because if it had I would have missed out on so many wonderful opportunities and would have ultimately ended up being unhappy.  As I move forward, I am eager to see which direction my life takes me.  For the present, that direction is New Hampshire.

Project Thankful: Reason #166

Yesterday, a boy told me he got an 86% on his My Dog Skip book quiz that I helped him study for.  I told him, “Good!” but inside, I was so proud of him.  He is a boy who is very easily distracted, and for him to focus after studying so hard and to get such a good grade…I was impressed.

I’m always thankful when students share their achievements with me because it tells me that they value having me help them, or just simply being there for them.  When I think about the pressures that exist for individuals in academia that cause many to place their individual sense of worth on grades and accolades, I am thankful to have had these “gap” years between undergrad and grad where I worked in Education, essentially helping students.  Students are less concerned with how smart a person is and more concerned with how caring a person is, a quality that speaks more to a person’s character than to their intelligence.    

What They Don’t Tell You in College

I have been out of college for three years this month.  That’s right, in January 2011 I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a minor in Art History.   Three years, and I wonder how different my perceptions of post-college life were when I was still in college.

When I was in college, I thought after I graduated I would find a full-time job, and I would be paid a somewhat decent amount in exchange.  This job would be one where I could put my English degree to use somehow in day-to-day job functions or, dare I hoped, would involve writing for a newspaper or for a magazine, what I considered my ideal job back then.

Yeah, none of that happened.

I reflect back on my college years, and I always think about what they did not tell me in college.  All the times I went to Career Services, all the advice and encouragement I received from different people…all of that, and they left out key pieces of the realities of post-college life.  Like how as wonderful and as impressive as your scholastic and creative accomplishments are, they do not necessarily translate into skills employers are looking for in job candidates.  That you will most likely (chances being in the mid to high 90% range) have to work at a job where you barely, if not ever, use that degree of yours (and if you think you are one of the few who do not fall into that category, I caution you to not be so confident).  But I’m getting ahead of myself with that last sentence.  Because what they do not tell you is about the waiting.  The waiting to hear back about job applications, the waiting to hear back about your interviews, the waiting for jobs to open up whose descriptions sound like ones you could not only do, but whose employers might actually look at your resume and contact you for an interview.

What they also do not tell you is that in your group of friends you might be the one who feels like they do not have a steady anchor in their life.  That you reach a point in your life where you look at your friends and realize your friends have reached points in their lives where they have solidity, a general sense of having lives they want to keep and maintain in their present states for the most part.  Meanwhile, you are still striving to reach that place where you can say you have the life you want, or you might still be figuring out what the life you want entails.

What they don’t tell you in college is this: post-college life is something you need to experience for yourself to truly find out about.