Monthly Archives: August 2011

Recounting Yestermorrow


By Christine Bahrens

In my senior year of high school, Kyle, his then-girlfriend Laura, Z, and I all went to see Tristan and Isolde. Following the movie, Z and I started a popcorn fight in the lobby of the movie theater, one that carried out into the snow-draped parking lot. Our greasy, buttered popcorn would join the rest of the theater litter in snow mounds by the end of the night. It was dark, just about nine, with the pale snowfall catching in the amber lights of the parking lot.

We were chilly, anxious – it was a Friday night – and hungry. Across the parking lot were three restaurants, but Uno’s Chicago Grill was the closest. Z and I skipped ahead of Laura and Kyle – we always joked that they were Mom and Dad, and we were the kids. This particular night Z and I were absolutely hyper, and even ‘Mom and Dad’ were giggling.

We were seated in a booth across from the bar, and we were so caught up in our conversation that we barely noticed the white square napkin nestled precariously between our glasses of root beer. There four letters were scrawled in plain black ink, and they form one word that Z and I continue to joke about to this day.

Todd.

Or, More specifically, The Todd Cult, which was a running joke we had after that night at Uno’s when we passed the napkin around the table and each of us wrote a silly little note to Todd, like “We love Todd, he is our God.” I had only been to Uno’s once before then, so needless to say I left that night with a positive opinion of the restaurant planted firmly in my memories. For the rest of the year the four of us would snack at Uno’s. We created “The Todd Cult” under the “Order of the Napkin” because it was something that only the four of us participated in.

After I graduated from high school, I didn’t spend a lot of time at the restaurant. Mostly because I didn’t HAVE free time. But I always kept the fond memories of the restaurant and my friends in the front of my mind. I would even retell the story of The Todd Cult to anyone who would listen (and even some who I knew did not want to). I would even apply to Uno’s whenever I was job hunting – only dropping to second in my job picks to Barnes and Nobles, because I had always wanted to work in a bookstore.

It wouldn’t be until my senior year in college when Uno’s would once again play a role in my life. A friend of mine, KB, introduced me to the wonders of trivia nights at Uno’s (something that had always been a weekly ritual for her and her friends, and one that I quickly became a part of).

When I moved back home, I had to give up my weekly visits to Uno’s for a few reasons. The first being there are no trivia nights at our local Uno’s. The second being that my family is not big on eating in restaurants. Well, they’re not too big on going anywhere, any day.

But when I decided that I was going to give up my search for a full-time job, and instead get a few part-timers in order to save up enough money for moving to Seattle, Uno’s was my first choice.

And, long story short, this little ‘love affair’ between us is finally moving to the next level. As of today I am officially an Uno’s waitress!

I recounted my previous adventures at Uno’s because I know people are thinking – so what, you’re a waitress? That’s not much of an accomplishment. But to me it is. It is something that will pay the bills, and it’s a second home.

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Part Two: Autumn/Winter 2010


This article was written by guest writer, Miss. Stefie.

Our first week in Glens Falls, everything went according to plan. I was looking for a job, he was starting classes.

It was at this point that things went terribly, terribly wrong.

Less than a week into his graduate classes, he realizes we can’t afford them. The decision is made soon enough that he gets a full refund of what he’s already paid, but we still have a year-long lease. His family is disappointed; my family urges me to come back home. Everyone is confused. We had a plan, and now we are both looking for jobs.

I apply everywhere. Administrative work, retail work, manual labor, anything. I am overqualified. For everything. Even retail chains that would hire anything with a brain and a heartbeat won’t hire me. I stop bringing a resume to apply for retail jobs. I get the same answer every time: “We’re not actively looking for someone right now, but we’re always accepting applications.”

Luckily, we live close to a community college and there is another college half an hour away. I e-mail the art teachers and ask if they need any figure models this semester. I’d modeled off and on during college, but was really planning on getting a more respectable job, something I could tell conservative relatives about. Because, you see, being a figure model entails standing nude on a platform in the middle of a room full of art students. You know that dream you have where you’re up in front of the whole class and everyone is staring at you and all of a sudden you realize you aren’t wearing any clothes? That was my job. And it paid well, but the hours were sporadic.

Meanwhile, John is still unemployed. He is getting depressed. We apply for food stamps, the social services office jerks us around for two months, and finally we are accepted. It is a huge burden lifted. John does some contracting work that is just barely cost-effective. We continue this way until December. Finally, a job offer for him at a local bank. And just in time—my modeling work has dried up in the end of the fall semester. It takes him less than a week to figure out that he hates his new job. It is menial, repetitive, mind-numbing. He is depressed again, and so am I. I am home all the time, the best part of my day is walking to the library five blocks away. I love this library. It is by far the best part of the city. I could loiter there for hours.

It is after Christmas that things finally start looking up. Early in January, John gets a call from a company he had applied for months earlier. They want him to come in for an interview. The only problem is it’s three hours away. He goes anyway. There are two weeks of waiting, and then a phone call. They want to offer him the job, and they want him to start in less than a month. It pays more than double what he makes at the bank, and it comes with benefits. It seems he has no choice, he takes it.

We break our lease, earning the eternal spite of our landlord. We hire a couple of friends to help load the boxes, the furniture, everything into the U-Haul, and we are headed back from whence we came.

CHECK BACK SOON FOR PART THREE!

Part One: Summer 2010


This article was written by guest writer, Miss. Stefie.

From the day I declared my major, every conversation about it has gone something like this:

“So, what’s your field of study?”
“Communications.”
“Oh, like TV and radio?”
“No, that’s Media Communication.
I’m in Interpersonal/Organizational Communication.”
“Ohhhh.” (Accompanied by a politely confused countenance.) “What do you do with a degree in that?”
“…” (At this point, I look around nervously, as though I could spot another topic. Any other topic.) “It’s very broad.”

It was only three months after I graduated from Brockport with a B.S. in Communications, and two months into my very first retail job that I came to grips with reality: I have no idea what one can do with a degree in communications. To this day, I could not tell you what one might be able to do with a degree so ambiguous as Interpersonal/Organizational Communications.

During the fifteen months following my graduating, I have made my way through twenty-three audio books, eight part-time jobs, two apartments in two different cities, and one potentially life-changing career test. But let’s start at the beginning.

I didn’t attend my graduation. While the rest of my graduating class was waiting to hear their names called, I was already unpacking boxes at my parents’ house. I wasn’t worried about finding a job or what I should do next as a college graduate. Something would happen—some opportunity would present itself, just like always. I had loose plans for fall. John, my boyfriend of one year, was to begin his graduate work at a school in Glens Falls. I would move from Utica to be with him. It wasn’t a difficult decision for me; we had already been living together for five months in my college apartment.

I toyed with the idea of attending a graduate program. I was accepted at two schools, and would certainly have attended if a scholarship were in the cards for either. But I could not justify spending more money and accumulating debt to continue down a path that I was not sure I wanted to be on in the first place. To have no career goal in mind during undergrad is one thing; to attend grad school with no desires—or even vague notions—of a potential profession is quite another. So I scrapped the grad school plan, much to my family’s dismay. I would be moving to Glens Falls with a clean slate, a world of possibilities, a promise of new and exciting opportunities ahead.

But first I had to make it through the summer. After four weeks of bumming around the house, myparents insisted I get a job. So it was off to work at a bargain basement store. “Bargaintopia” was my very first retail job. It was fun for a couple of weeks, but the novelty quickly wore out. Soon, I was counting the hours until moving day. We packed up the U-Haul with all John’s furniture, my kitchen necessities and our combined collection of books. It was a Monday when we moved, one week before John was to start classes. The following five months were stressful, to put it gently.

CHECK BACK THIS WEDNESDAY FOR PART TWO!

Decisions, Decisions


By Nicole Hosette

Many post-grads make plans to move somewhere new after college. They move back in with their parents, take a job in a new place, or simply decide to take up residence somewhere fresh. In my case, the decision to move from Iowa to the Boston area took months to make, and I didn’t make it alone.

I mentioned in a previous post that I recently moved to Massachusetts with my boyfriend, Peter. We both graduated in May. He knew he wanted to get his PhD in physics, while I knew I didn’t want to go to grad school (at least right away). And after being together for four years, we knew we wanted to be somewhere new together. So it made sense that I would follow him wherever he went to school.

In December of last year, he started applying for grad school. It was a crazy, stressful time for him, as it meant filling out forms, writing essays, and securing letters of recommendation on top of his heavy course load. He applied to nearly ten schools, both Ivy League and state universities.

He got into his safety schools, and to his relief, most of his top picks as well.

In the end, the decision came down to two schools, University of Chicago, or Harvard. So we made a massive pro/con list and took everything we could think of into account – locations, cost of living, family factors, crime, job opportunities for me, and each school’s respective physics program.

For a month, he changed his mind at least every other day. I was pulling for Chicago from the beginning – I had spent a lot of time there, both visiting and inhabiting, so I knew the city’s offerings and limitations. I knew that my job prospects would be decent, and that I already loved living there. I knew it would be cheaper to live there and that I would be able to easily make the three hour drive back to Iowa to see my family and friends. But I also knew that Chicago would be my ideal place to “settle,” and I didn’t want to settle yet.

Eventually Peter made his decision, and he wanted to go to Harvard. The physics program would give him more opportunities. And, as he admits, he is a kind of nomad at heart, so he was getting restless in the Midwest. He already knew what Chicago had to offer and wanted a place with completely new opportunities.

In time, he convinced me that Massachusetts was right for us. We made budgets to make sure we could live off of his grad-student stipend in case my job search went badly. We took note of all of the cultural offerings of Boston (which excited the historian in me). I knew I wouldn’t be unhappy there, and I knew he would regret it if we didn’t go. So we went.

Our relocation wasn’t easy, but so far I don’t regret it. I hate that most of our friends are still together in Iowa City while I’m here basically alone. But I know that time will fix that. I miss having my car, but I like that I can walk practically anywhere I need to go. I absolutely love all of the things to do in my new place, and all of the new things I can try.

Be warned: even if you’re ready for it, making a move this huge will probably be hard. And, if you’re anywhere near as indecisive as I am, the decision will be just as difficult. But you’re a post-grad now – in theory, you have tons of opportunities ahead of you, even if the job market seems to disagree.

Maybe that’s me being the optimist, but for now, I’m going to take advantage of the fact that I haven’t had that beaten out of me yet.

Stuck on Repeat


By Katherine Shaye

I’ve been here before, this section of my life. I’ve been this girl, I’ve played this part, and I know these lines. So for something that know so well, why does it still freak me out so badly?

More than two years ago, I graduated from college with the same sense of panic. That knot of worry so deep that every casual question from friends and family became a probing stab into the very purpose of my life.

“What are you doing?”
“What’s your next step?”
“Where do you see yourself headed?”

Finding a way to pay the rent felt way too serious.

In the months when I found myself counting down to my graduation, these questions looped through my own mind, getting louder each day. While my friends prepared for internships, graduate school, and the various entry-level jobs they’d acquired, I still sat in front of my laptop wondering where to start. I had treated my undergrad years as a means to an end. College wasn’t career prep; it was a check mark on my resume. It wasn’t until I had graduation staring me in the face that it even occurred to me that I’d wasted much of my very important “figure myself out” time.

Enter AmeriCorps.

Scanning through the internet, looking for a job, a sign, or even a clue, I found one site in particular that caught my eye: AmeriCorps.gov. It took me all of twelve seconds to fall in love with the idea of AmeriCorps NCCC; a mobile, team-based national service program that would allow me to travel the country, do volunteer work, and meet amazing people. I was so in. After an application longer than most of my college apps, and three nail-biting months of waiting to hear back that is.

Then I was off. Off to build trails in national parks and houses in New Orleans. Off to figure out how to feed ten people on $45 a day.  And most importantly, off to meet a uniquely unforgettable cast of people who would slowly but continually change my life. I will detail several of my adventures in later posts.

But here I am again. After completing yet another graduation ceremony, I am back in panic mode answering the same round of firing squad questions that came at me two years ago. It seems like things haven’t changed at all.

But somehow they have.

For one thing, I’m two years older. That doesn’t seem like much at first glance, but with careful review I’ve realized that at the very least I learned a few things in those years:

  1. Every experience is worth the experience – Even the things that sucked when I was going through them were worth it for the knowledge I gained about myself.
  2. I must accept that I can’t please everyone, or die trying – I’ve been a people pleaser my whole life and it has never come to bite me in the ass more than these past two years. Living and working with the same ten people while keeping them all happy is absolutely, hands down, 100 percent not possible. I accept that now.
  3. I’ll never stop trying to find my purpose–There will always be a part of me that yearns for definition, that interprets questions like “what’s your next step?” as “what is your life’s passion?” Hopefully, as time goes on I can tone down the anxiety associated with that question and learn to see it as encouragement to explore my options.

Now as you may notice, these are not the end all be all of life lessons, but for me parsing out what the last two years has meant to me and what I have learned from it will be an important part of figuring out that crucial next step. Perhaps it will even help me figure out how to improve my resume.

Future posts from me will most likely feature flashbacks from my time in AmeriCorps, my time in college, and
maybe even a little bit of that good old high school drama, all for the purpose of figuring out who I am now and what I want (and am qualified) to do.

Introducing Mr. Lawver


By Bryan Lawver

I may have learned a lot of things in my undergraduate career, but there is only one thing that I learned after graduation: the world does not revolve around me.

I was always considered smart by my teachers, always earning what I wanted with a minimum amount of struggle, so I assumed that my good luck would continue into “the real world” after graduation.  Oh, what a fool I was.

I graduated with a B.A. in photojournalism in May of 2010, and though I knew that I was going into a notoriously difficult field, I expected an entry-level job by the end of the year, and then I would consider graduate school after a couple of years. The plan, as any post-grad can imagine, went awry quickly.

As soon as I graduated, I went to Iceland with a friend from school. We needed something to signify our accomplishment, and we could really, really use a vacation. In the weeks leading up to our trip, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano began to stir. The tremendous eruption stranded hundreds of travelers, us included. I being a writer and my friend a photographer, we considered this a turn of good luck – our first post-graduation assignment. I’ll save the details or another day, but things did not go as planned, and we were unable to sell anything that we shot or wrote on the trip. This, while being a relatively minor setback considering that the opportunity just fell into our laps, was my first sign that maybe things would not go as smoothly as I had hoped.

After returning home disappointed, I assumed that without school to worry about I could devote all of my time to finding a job. I was almost right; I devoted all of my time to trying to find a job. Over a hundred resumes later, I was still working in a coffee shop, scouring the Internet for jobs daily. I got a few offers. I did some freelance work, sometimes finishing the work and not getting paid. I was also offered a real, full-time job. I would transcribe news broadcasts for closed captioning television. The job was 40+ hours per week, the commute was an hour each way, and the pay was less than what I made at the coffee shop.

So I took a step back. I must be doing something wrong, I thought. I made lists of all the jobs I was offered. I crossed off jobs with no pay, or that required more experience than I possessed. Maybe one out of every ten jobs was left. And what were they offering? The chance to write product descriptions on eBay; to send out spam e-mails; to churn out content for scammy-looking blogs offering get-rich-quick schemes and vitamin pills for dogs.

This was not what I went to school for. I didn’t work for four years just to write about things that I neither cared about nor believed in. I didn’t spend all that time, only to get a job with a salary that I couldn’t live on, for work that I couldn’t live with.

So, then, what did I go to school for?

I wanted to expand our understanding of the world; I wanted to write something that would make a difference in someone’s life, to stand up for things I believed in and to – as the old saying goes – give a voice to the voiceless.

The standard says that you have to earn the right to do what you want to do for a living. You have to fight your way up the ladder to get to the moment where you are the one calling the shots. But that standard is badly in need of revision. Why keep trying to climb the ladder when even the undesirable bottom rung is out of reach?

If I wanted to succeed, instead of clawing my way to the top, I would have to find a side door.

I decided to skip ahead a few years on my plan to attend grad school. Cue the long and grueling application process, several sleep-killing months of waiting for admissions decisions, and finally getting into the school of my choice.

It is now about 16 months since I finished my undergraduate studies, and my first graduate classes start in 3 weeks. Check back often and I will do what I can to enlighten you in the process of going back to school, getting into the school of your choice, and surviving once you get there.

Family Trip


When I was away at school, I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted, pretty much whenever I wanted. As it happened there were quite a few times where I did nothing at all, but I even enjoyed that option, because it was mine and mine alone. Weekends would come, mostly in the winter, and if I did not want to leave my bed the entire time, I did not. Easter would roll around, and I wouldn’t return home if I did not want to. I would find somewhere else to spend the holiday (Dinner with my then-boyfriend’s family the first two years, and driving back from my first time in the Big Apple the third).

Living at home after having that freedom, I came to realize something.

I’m never going to have the same kind of freedom again. At least, not while I’m living here.

Not to say my parents control my every move, that would just be ridiculous. For the most part I have that same freedom. But there are a couple events that, as when I was still a teenager and child before that, I don’t get a say.

Family ‘reunions’ are one of them.

I’m not against seeing cousins and aunts/uncles again; especially the ones that I have not seen since before I graduated high school five years ago. But I like to feel like I have a choice on the matter. As if I am saying, “Oh, that sounds like fun. I’ll tag along.” Instead of being told, “There’s a family get-together at your cousin’s place next month. All of you will be there.”

“What If I have something else to -.”

“ALL of you will BE THERE.”

And, like it or not, this past weekend all of us jammed into my dad’s jeep and made the three and a half hour (four and a half, this time, on account of traffic following several fender-benders on the highway) trip to my grandmother’s house. (No, we didn’t go through any woods, although there were quite a few rivers). The reunion wasn’t until Sunday afternoon – late Sunday afternoon – so the boys and I were trapped in the hood listening to my grandfather go on and on about his hip surgery, while we buried our heads more and more into our books, praying he’d realize that we really were reading, not just trying to ignore him (I suppose it was a bit of both on Michael’s part, but I was justified – I had Stephen King in my hands).

Even though I was drafted to go to the picnic, I was resolved to make the absolute best of it – unlike the boys (particularly Michael), I probably would have wanted to go without being told that I had to.

For the most part, I think we all had a good time. The only trouble I had was answering the inevitable, “What are you doing now? Do you have a job?” But, this time I was actually prepared. Sort of. I decided a week and a half ago that I was NOT going to get anywhere (professionally) in farm country NY, and maybe it is finally time to consider fulfilling my dream of moving to Seattle, WA.

Not that I’m going to do it right away. But I’m working on getting a few jobs in order to save up enough money to move out there by this time next year. It was a little exciting, because I was finally able to share with plan with someone (I had been holding off on mentioning it to my parents, because I wasn’t sure how they would react to me moving so far away by myself).

And the two things I am looking forward to most besides obtaining some sort of job?

Privacy and Freedom.

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