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?

 

 

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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.

 

Project Thankful: Reason #198: The End of My Post-College Purgatory

I’m ready to move on.

I woke up this morning, and I knew that I’m done with my post-college gap years.  My post-college purgatory has ended.  It’s over.  Three years of working in a field I never thought I would end up in, that I started out with no background or training in, and I’ve made it through.  My resume, which I once struggled to put together with relevant experiences, now boasts multiple positions listed under ‘Relevant Experiences.’

How did any of this happen?

When I first signed up to be on districts’ substitute teacher lists, subbing was going to be a job I thought would only last for one year until I started grad school.  That was Grad School Applications Round 1, when I was applying to grad school in part to continue my research but more to feel like I was doing something productive with my life.  Although I was accepted into a graduate program at a Boston-area university, I ultimately had to decline the offer due to financial circumstances.

The plan for my life fell apart, and I found myself facing another year subbing.  Subbing was not all that I did, however.  Impressed with my ability to work with students, the director of an alternative program at a high school reached out to me to tutor some students.  Looking back, I think it was my experience tutoring that began to consciously stir the idea of working with students as a career path.

Year Three…well, Year Three made me realize that while I do want to work with students, I want to teach at the college level.  Not at the high school level.

1 full day + 2 half days = the rest of the 2013-2014 school year.  When the bell rings on the last day of school, it won’t just be a break for me; it will signal the end of a part of my life and the beginning of another.

 

Project Thankful: Reason #190

Tomorrow, I have to be a chaperone for a field trip to a day camp.  Which for me means packing a lot of bug spray and sunscreen.

I’ve worked in Education for three years, and over the course of those three years I have gained a lot of insights into the field.  What surprises me at this stage is that it took me three years to realize something that has been seemingly obvious for quite some time: that when you work in Education, working with students in the classroom, you should be allowed to list “Outsourced Parent” under your job description.

“Let me check your agenda book to see what you have written down for homework tonight,” “Did you do last night’s homework?” “(Fill in the space with a student’s name), is that an appropriate decision?” “(Student’s name again) that’s not appropriate,” “Turn around!” “This (something assigned) is due (sometime in the near, or very near future).  I do not understand why you do not have anything done for it,” “Okay, take out your (fill in the space).  I want to see it/I want to check it/I want to see what you have done for it,”  “(Student’s name) that is not language that should be used in school!”

I have said all of those, and many more, to students during my time in Education.  When I would come home at the end of a day, feeling drained, I reflect back and understand why I was so tired: because much of my day was spent parenting in addition to helping students with their schoolwork.

I have learned so much from my students, and I will always be grateful for my years spent working in Education.  But now it’s time to let go of that part of my life, to stop being a “parent,” as I prepare for my roles as grad student and Instructor.

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 #182

I’m thankful that Summer will soon be here.  See for me, Summer is my season of inspired ambition, where fuel is added to my fire, and I find myself more driven than during any other season.

This year I am feeling particularly inspired because of my dad losing his job.  I’ve always had this underlying goal of building a flourishing writing career, and my dad’s unemployment has pushed me to aim towards making that more of a reality instead of simply a dream.

Just as I’ve reached the point where I can call myself a professional in the Education field, I want to reach the point where I can call myself a professional in the Writing field as well.

 

Project Thankful: Reason #176

I opened my email this afternoon to see a message from a consulting company I had applied to last year, asking if I would be available for an interview.  When I saw this email, I was shocked.  I still remember crafting that cover letter, writing in such a way as to try and persuade the reader to consider me, even though my background is one that does not immediately peg me for a consulting position, and emphasizing the strengths I would bring to the position given my unique experiences.

In a sense, I feel renewed to have received the email.  It’s kind of like a reminder that I’m not defined by my job; rather, I have the ability to create, and at times reinvent, the life I want to have.  

Some choose to let the clay harden.  I just have too many ideas to let that happen.