Tag Archives: college

Graduating Again

25 Apr

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I’m walking back to my car after a night of seeing my friend who will be graduating from the college that I attended two years ago. It’s raining and I’m running through the tiled area near the business school, and I notice that the tiles I’m running on aren’t loose and moving around under my feet like they used to. I’m surprised at the sense of security I feel even though I know that one wrong step could probably leave me tripping. I stop and walk up to the shrine of the Virgin Mary illuminated by candles, protected somehow by the intense wind and rain, and I stare at her. I wonder, if I stay and stare long enough, if she’ll turn to me and start telling me where to go.

Not where to go in the sense of how to find my car. I know where that is, of course. No – what I want, what I’m asking out of this inanimate religious statue — is to tell me what it is that my college experience meant and whether I’m doing the right thing with my life. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is a common event for melancholic recent graduates such as myself. Maybe.

An hour before my awkward staredown with Mary, my friend is walking me through the halls of the buildings pointing out the new additions that have come about since my graduation. “We have recycling centers everywhere now,” she told me, “and there’s even a new free trade, student-run smoothie café!” She took me to a photography exhibit – something that my school never had before – and she even mentioned that my former marketing professors still remember me when she brings me up. My friend is a social butterfly, and we are interrupted quite frequently on our journey from building to building. When I am introduced, each student vigorously shakes my hand and gives me a genuine smiled. I am in complete shock, not only regarding the changes to the buildings, but to the changes that I see within the students that now go to my former university. Has my mindset changed, I wondered, or has this place finally turned into a school that welcomes people other than rich snobs?

I had specifically asked my friend to walk around the campus with me because I feel that it is important to return to places that were once important in your life. It’s easy to point to an old school or place of employment from far away – you can spew out as many I remember when…’s from that distance because it is safe. It’s the same as looking at a photo of a distant relative and actually hugging them in real life: there has to be that physical aspect to truly bring all of the memories and emotions together. For me, I felt an urgency to walk through the halls of the business school and to smell the familiar smells of the cafeteria, old books and incense from outside the chapel in the student center. I wanted to go down the same flight of stairs that I went down so many times, knowing that I could never had predicted what my life would be like if I were to go down them again two years later. As I was doing all of this, I felt like I was visiting a very old friend; a friend who gave me shelter, gave me an education and taught me how to be the person that I am today.

College was, as it is for many, a time of stress, uncertainty and exhilaration. I associated my school with a lot of negative feelings simply because I never felt like I belonged that well. Going back and knowing what I know now, I feel differently. I think that the biggest lesson that I learned from all of this is that situations are never as bad as what they seem. I learned that the things that I took for granted and often was waiting to run away from were actually things that I deeply appreciate now. I realized that life is not worth living if you can’t do something like this – if you can’t measure the steps that you’ve taken in the giant circle that we all will walk in life. When we come back to those places and we realize the good that we never saw before, it is because we didn’t have the capacity to appreciate it at other points in our life before. By recognizing this, we learn to be more cognizant of our lives as we are living them.

Growing up a Catholic, one hears many stories of God or the Virgin Mary popping up out of nowhere to bring important messages to others. Although I don’t practice the religion much anymore, there’s still a small part of me that wonders if something extraordinary like that could happen to me. Staring at the statue that night, I think that a part of me wanted it to happen. When you’re in your mid-twenties, you’ll take any shred of hope that you have that someone, somewhere, will lead you and your heart down the right direction. I think that I finally got that from the statue last night. It was told directly to my heart, not out loud, and unlike the reverberant booms of a graduation speech against auditorium walls, I discovered that the most potent messages are always silent in their clarity.

Why Getting Older is the Best Worst Thing to Ever Happen to Me

14 May

It’s been a year since I’ve graduated from college, and I’ve realized that some of my memories from my four years there have started to fade. One memory that I’ll always remember, however, is something that one of my favorite philosophy professors told us: she was hunched over the gigantic philosophy book that she was reading from, and she paused, looked up at us and said, “You know what? So many people hate getting old, but I’m telling you…by the time you’re in your forties you’ll realize that you just don’t care what other people think anymore. It’s such a freeing feeling.” I think that I found those words more poignant than the various existentialist philosophers we discussed that semester.

I’ve had a lot of insecurity in my life–I’ll admit that. I think that a lot of women my age deal with similar insecurities just because we’ve been raised in a world where we are constantly taught to question our appearances and lifestyles. What I’ve noticed, however, is a small but significant shift in the way that I view myself and the world recently. This shift is something that I can only assume is related to getting older. I don’t view “getting older” through the traditional sense of how many years one has been alive, but instead through experiences. I think that we all get a little “older” when we find ourselves in situations that challenge our minds and spirits.

I have this extremely weird thing that I do: I try to always buy one item in a ridiculously large container (usually a shampoo bottle) just so that I can measure what my life was like before and after I finished the product. I don’t know when or why I started this habit, but it has become this nice little meditation on what I’m doing with my life, where I’ve come from and where I am now. Here is my almost-out shampoo bottle:

shampoo bottle, big sexy hair

Despite the label, my hair is neither big nor sexy.

When I first bought this, It was back in September. I was living with my grandparents, applying for jobs and had no idea what was going to happen to my life. Now, eight months later (I swear I wash my hair…I don’t know how I made this bottle last so long), good and bad things have happened: I have a job, I am living in a new city on my own, my grandmother has been at the Cleveland Clinic for a month after suffering a heart attack and I am still constantly searching for what my heart wants. Through all of this, I have grown and learned about myself through the experiences that I’ve had. Every time I empty out more of the contents of this bottle, I am reminded of the changes that can happen in such a small amount of time. Time is the measure by which we grow old, and it is also our greatest friend–anything can happen with time. As James Frey said in his novel A Million Little Pieces, “Be patient and wait. Your mud will settle. Your water will be clear.”

Let’s grow old together…let’s welcome the time before us instead of dreading it. Let’s embrace fear, put it in a bottle and watch how it changes over time.

Tips for Future Graduates

19 Mar

We are halfway through March already (seriously, how did that happen?) and it will be officially two months until my one year anniversary of graduating college. Two months before I graduated, I remember scouring the interwebs trying to find advice on how to lead my life in what I consider to be one of the scariest economies to be launched into after attending school for 18-some years of my life. The sad thing is that all of the advice I came across was pretty generic and unhelpful. If you are just entering college or if you are just about to graduate, here are some tips that I hope you will find helpful. Keep in mind that, just like me, your experience may definitely differ and you may find that my advice will not help you at all. That’s okay, though, because I’m sure you are eager to read my beautiful writing anyway.

If You Are Just Starting College

  • Internships – I can’t stress this enough! While at my company, I have heard my co-workers scoff at interviewees who only had school projects to discuss while applying for a position. Try to have at least two internships before you graduate, and make sure that they are ones that you can show off on a resume. A lot of internships are unpaid, but they will pay off in their own way when you’re looking for a job.
  • Party vs. Work –When I was a sophomore, Bill Rancic, the original winner of The Apprentice, gave a speech at my university. He said that he chose to gain work experience while many of his friends decided to get wasted every night. It was a personal choice, and it ended up benefiting him. You are at school to learn and to have fun, but at the end of the day having internships and part-time jobs will get you a full time job, not how many shots you can do in an hour.
  • Avoid Serious Relationships-This was the big mistake I made: staying in a terrible two-year relationship during two crucial years of my college life. School is stressful enough, and having a serious relationship on top of it just adds to more unnecessary drama. If you do decide to date, get rid of anyone who does not respect the time that you need to study, to be alone or to be with your other friends. Not worth it.
  • HTML and Photoshop Are Your Friends-Knowing HTML is what got me my job, and I never even took a formal class for it! No matter what line of work you are in, having a basic knowledge of HTML and a design program such as Adobe Photoshop will set you apart from your competitors. Try to take a class or teach yourself the basics of HTML through the W3 site.
  • Broaden Your Horizons-As cliche as it sounds, try to take at least one class outside your core that really interests you or sounds challenging. For me, it was a Charles Dickens class and three Japanese language classes. Taking interesting and unique classes sets you apart, and you can milk it for all it’s worth when you go on interviews later on. Employers love to hear about how you set yourself apart.
  • Greek Life is Bullshit-Been there, done that. Sororities and fraternities do not help you to get jobs and, unless you’re at a really big school, the responsibilities will bog you down. They aren’t as fun as they seem, and it’s kind of similar to the cheerleader/football player effect in high school: if you brag about it to a normal person, they’ll probably just laugh behind your back.

If You Are About to Graduate

  • Don’t Use Job Boards- Seriously, no one ever tells you this but job boards are the worst way to find jobs these days. Think about it: everyone and their mother (assuming she is unemployed) are out there trying to apply to these jobs, which only amps up the competition for you and creates total burnout for the employer. Instead, do the following:
  • LinkedIn For Job Searches: Create the most amazing, kick-ass LinkedIn profile that you possibly can. Add a professional picture, list all of your achievements and work experience using key phrases that are common in your industry and ask for ALL of the reccommendations that you can while on the site. LinkedIn profiles are just as, if not more, important than resumes nowadays. They should be taken pretty seriously. Once you have everything set up, use the company search to find local companies in your desired industry. Go on their sites and apply for jobs directly on there. It’s a bit exhausting, but it’s a great way to find jobs that aren’t on job boards. This method is how I found my job!
  • Be Patient– You can’t hurry love, and you can’t hurry the perfect job either. Finding a good job takes time, but that time is worth it! Be wary of companies that invite you in to interviews without a preliminary phone interview first, or companies that you cannot find much information on while searching the web. These sites are most likely scams and, yes, I think that almost every recent graduate has gone on at least one interview only to find out that it was a complete fraud. By the way, there’s nothing wrong with interrupting your interviewer if you do find yourself in a fraudulent situation–why sit around for the whole damn interview to be done with? Simply tell them that the position does not match your interests, and get the hell out of there.
  • Go On Every Interview- This is a pretty common point in any advice for recent graduates, but it still rings true: practice makes perfect. Go on any and all interviews that come your way, even if it’s not for a job you want. The better you get at doing interviews, the more ready you’ll be when the right one rolls along. Don’t forget to make a cheat sheet of all the most common interview questions (and your answers) and study that before every interview. If you’d like an example cheat sheet, message me and I’ll be happy to send one your way.
  • Get Used to Flying Solo- No one ever really warned me about what life in the “real world” was going to be like after graduation. We’ve spent our whole lives in school–a place where you are pretty much forced to make friends with the people around you simply because you see them every day. When you graduate, you’ll find that your friends may not be as close to you geographically as they used to be, and you may find that your social life seems a little boring compared to what it was in school. All of this is normal. Enjoy being on your own and learning to make new friends because, let me tell you, finding people to hang out with outside of school is a pretty daunting task for the recent graduate. We all go through it, though.
  • Watch Your Loans– Speaking from experience, I can safely say that you are very, very lucky if you end up paying your school loans off to a company who is nice enough to send you monthly reminders of your bill. Companies are pretty screwy these days so, right after you graduate, make sure to write down exactly what days your loans are due, verify that they haven’t been sold to other companies (this happened to me and I was never notified) and make regular payments in order to start building good credit for yourself.
  • Stay Positive- Last but not least, remember that college is a boot camp that has trained you for the real world. It was easy for me and a lot of my friends to become very negative about finding a job due to the economy, but try your best to remember that everyone is in the same boat. Focus on your achievements and always be alert–you never realize how many good opportunities you miss out on when you’re negative or depressed until much later (and by then it’s too late).

I hope that someone somewhere can find value in my tips! Feel free to contact me with any tips of your own or questions that you may have.

They can’t ALL be funny!

23 Nov

Light. That’s how I felt when I first met him. I was nineteen and I had just exhaled the last fragment of my cigarette, watching the ashes drop from outside of my car window and onto the school parking lot. The sparks, similar to the butterflies in my stomach, danced against the breeze of the warm spring night. I saw him in the distance, smiling and motioning over to his car: time to go.

When I was little, I came to the shocking realization that nothing was permanent. Every time I experienced something amazing or beautiful, I would feel a pang in my heart akin to the ache you feel when you have your first real, sincere cry as a child. I will never experience this moment again, I would think, and one day I may not even remember this moment anymore. The realization plagued me so deeply that I decided the best solution would be to go over a beautiful event in my mind as many times as possible—the sights, smells, noises—so that I would etch it into my brain. A memory tattoo. I felt comfort in the knowledge that, if I could remember the happy times in my life to the fullest extent, I could relive them and hopefully experience the same joy later on. I remember that I tried explaining this concern, and the solution, to my sister only to be met with confusion and disinterest. The way I looked at the world, I realized, was not something that every other six year old experienced.

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As we walked into the first bar that I had ever been in, I looked down at the hand intertwined with mine. I had never held a man’s hand in this way before, and I felt a sense of electricity run up and down my arm as I experienced the warmth of another person’s body  linked with mine. It felt so foreign and, yet, so intimate and important. The hand squeezed reassuringly. Back in the car, he had passed around a water bottle filled with cider ale, and I walked around the bar with a relaxed, happy demeanor that was foreign to my usual stern self. I remember that the bar was filled with noises but all I could really hear was the sound of his voice. The only two sensations I felt were the chill of the beer bottle in one hand and the comforting heat of his hand locked with mine in the other. Later on, he would take me outside and we would spend an hour, away from his friends, just holding hands and talking. Everything about that night, from the smell of his cologne to the feeling of excitement and nervousness as I looked at him, was so new and beautiful that I thought my heart and mind would explode.

Two years went by and the memory, once a symbol of the innocence of our first love, became a painful reminder of the feeling that I had lost long ago. When I decided that it was time to move on, I cried not for what I was walking away from then, but from the pain of the memories of nights like those when everything was exciting, vibrant and perfect.

Looking back, I couldn’t be happier that I have become such a meticulous tattoo artist of my memories. The surge of emotions from days past keep me from becoming bitter, and the ink has bled onto new memories that I have created now, reminding me that even the most faded colors can be retouched and made new again.

Modern Woman

19 May

Kate's excited to be a modern woman! Or maybe she's crying. Wait...

During one of the very few house parties that I went to while attending college, an inebriated gay man drew me aside from the “date” I was with who now reminds me of the socially awkward penguin, waved his hands around in that way that only gay men can get away with, and said, “Honey, I just did my senior thesis on the definition of the ‘modern woman’. YOU are a modern woman, and you need to own that and take that man upstairs and have your way with him.” Luckily, the house party was broken up by the police before I could come back with a witty, Liz Lemon-ish response about how I really just came to the party for the food and Natty Light. But, looking back, Drunk Gay Man was right: I am a modern woman, damnit, and I need to grab life by the reins, take it upstairs, and have my way with it. Or something like that.

First step toward embracing my inner modern woman? Find a full time job that embraces my inner nerd and love for creative thinking and marketing. While working in Retail Robot land, I often have customers ask me if I am going to school. After I tell them that I am studying marketing, I usually get mixed responses that involve wishing me luck or telling me that marketing has become so competitive that I’ll probably have to go to grad school just to become more qualified. A drunk guy who goes to a local community college told me, though, that marketing is “like so easy to find a job, man…all the creative nerds end up in marketing.” Apparently when people are drunk they feel the need to give me advice or offer their input on my personal life. But what–creative nerds in marketing? That was news to me. Therefore, I’m on a quest to find the kind of job that Community College Drunkard said is so easy for me to nab. If he ends up to be right, I’ll have to go find him and buy him a beer.

Second thing on the list of becoming a “modern woman” is to continue to fulfill the very large (and expensive) shoes of Carrie Bradshaw and her Sex & the City posse by living a wonderful and successful single life until I am thirty and then proceeding to complain about the singledom I was once so enthusiastic about. Since I only get hit on at work by elderly men (and I don’t trust their eyesight anyway), I’d say I’m doing a pretty good job of that so far. Or, maybe I should start boozing it up seven days a week and fist pump my way through life like the Jersey Shore kids whose IQ’s are as low as the tops that they wear. I mean that’s what being a modern woman is about, right? Comparing our own personal standards and ways of thinking/acting to the  things revolving around us daily like a satellite of impending self-hate (Facebook, celebrities, Kate fucking Middleton)? Please.

After completing my four years of university, I am excited to hopefully help to redefine exactly what a modern woman is. I am excited to do the things that I want to do, even if it’s just completing my goal of reading everything ever written by Kurt Vonnegut or watching every Millionaire Matchmaker episode that my DVR can possibly record (who knew that rich people were so messed up?). Either way, I’ll be doing it on my own grounds from here on out, and that is quite exhilarating.

In other words, this post was an attempt to disguise the fact that absolutely nothing interesting has been happening at work except for a woman yelling at me for mistaking “alcohol” as wine when she really wanted rubbing alcohol (“I have never, EVER, had a drop of alcohol. Why would you think that, when I asked where the alcohol was, you meant that? I meant rubbing alcohol!” Okay, lady, I think you and your therapist still have a bit of work to do…). In an effort to make this blog more interesting, I plan on developing special picture posts which allow me to provide you with the humorous/disgusting things that I get to see at my retail job once a week. After walking around last Saturday with my cell phone camera ready and finding absolutely nothing to take pictures of, I must say I am quite disappointed. Maybe next week! And, hey, if anyone sees something at their local retailers, send it this way!

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