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The first years out.

May 2, 2011

Originally posted over here

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Dear graduating seniors,

Hello and congratulations—you’re almost there. If you are like me when I was about to graduate, you are probably a little anxious about what the future holds. What luck: I know what your future holds and I’m going to share this information with you. Best alumna ever!

Wait a second, you say. This lady is a nobody! What does she know about anything? And isn’t she only like 3 years older than us? Fair enough—when I was in your shoes I would’ve thought the same thing. In fact, when other people told me the things that I’m about to tell you I thought they were crazy. What me? I thought aghast. But the future looks like raindrops on kitten noses for me!

The Stages of Post-College Life (In no particular order)*

* Note: This does not apply for people who majored in engineering, math, most science fields, or are going straight to law school or medical school. This is for the rest of us sad saps. It is especially pertinent to English and PoliSci majors. Sorry humanities majors: you dun goofed.

  1. You will move back home. If your parents turned your old bedroom into the state of the art fitness center they always dreamed of, you might consider buying an air mat because you’re going to be hanging with Ma and Pop for a little while longer. It might not be right away, it might not be for long, but trust me: you will live with your parents again. If you don’t, I promise that you will at least consider it—I mean really consider it.Let’s face it: living with mom and dad gets a bad rap. You don’t have to pay rent, utilities, or for most of your food. Chances are that at least one of your parents misses you enough to take you out to lunch occasionally, especially if you’re despondent over your stalled future. If you’re lucky like me your mom will occasionally be your designated drive (be safe, kids). However, living with your parents should always be a temporary solution to your problems. Your parents love you and you love them, but not that much. Also, the longer you spend in your parents’ house, the quicker you turn into a townie and serve as a sad morality tale for all of the current undergraduates coming home to visit.
  2. You will have a terrible job. You’ll probably have more than one, but rest assured, you will have at least one terrible job. Don’t worry though: it will seem like the greatest job in the world when you get it. You know how you’ve spent the past four years honing your critical thinking skills, developing complex theoretical understandings of the world, and collaborating with like-minded intellectuals? Forget all of it.You are going to spend the first month (at least) doing the most mind-numbing work you can imagine. You will lick some envelopes. You will make a lot of runs to get documents from places around town. You will also find out that your health insurance doesn’t kick in until after a 3 month waiting period, that pay checks are delivered two weeks after the pay period ends (and you started in the middle of a pay period, so not for a month… sorry!), and someone at your office will irrationally hate you because you are young and enthusiastic. Your boss will turn out to be a passive-aggressive monster who will change his/her mind about the project you’ve been working on for the past month the day before it is due. You will either cry or feel like crying at your desk.You’ll probably move up in the ranks—you’re smart, you’re a go-getter, you have ambition. But it will take a long time and it turns out that your new responsibilities are similarly mind-numbing, but now there are more of them. You will spend a lot of time trying to figure out what you “really want to do” and will probably utter the words, “I would rather write my senior thesis all over again than do another mail-merge.”
  3. You will get a pet. You get a pass if you’re one of those people who just doesn’t like animals, but pets are an epidemic among recent college graduates. They are cuddly, happy to see you, and still like you even if work is terrible. You’ll probably drive all of your friends crazy the first week you have a pet by talking about the pet all the time and making excuses to go home and play with it instead of socializing with humans. A pet will not fill the gaping void in your life, but they are pretty great.
  4. You will go to graduate school. I bet many of you are thinking that you would rather die than go back to school. Who could blame you? You’ve just endured four tough years to be capped off with a senior thesis project that seems to have no end in sight. But the fact of the matter is that you’re probably going to need that Masters degree in whatever to get to the pay scale you’re aiming for.Here’s the scoop on grad school: it makes people crazy. This is especially true for PhD candidates, but Masters students are also guilty. After a month, you will only speak in jargon indecipherable to anyone not in your specific field. You will think PhdComics is the funniest thing on the Internet. You will not be able to watch television without figuring out ways to tie it to your dissertation. Grad students drink lots of red wine and are concerned with fine cheeses. My advice: buy a handbook on wines and cheeses now so you’ll immediately be the coolest kid at the department mixer.
  5. You will be jealous of your peers’ lives. You will see pictures on Facebook of your friends on an extended island getaway. Their vacation days and funds will seem to be endless. You will run into people at bars who will tell you about hobnobbing with influential people with whom you would like to hobnob. You will hear from your parents about old friends who are getting published in magazines that you read regularly. You will hang out with people who have settled down and started families and, even though you’ve never really considered it before, you’re going to think, “I could do that.” You will catch yourself in your lowest moments cursing every decision you’ve ever made because if only in preschool you hadn’t stuck the Play-Doh in the water fountain you might have gone to a better high school and had a better guidance counselor and gone to a better college and decided to major in Finance instead of Classics (oh what on Earth were you thinking!) and now you’d be a freaking billionaire instead of some girl living with her parents, with a dog you bought on a whim, and a terrible job.
  6. You will have so much fun. You might not think too much about the fun while it’s happening, but it does happen and in places you might not expect. You have a license to explore your surroundings. You might find a bar around the block from your hometown train station that specializes in old timey country music karaoke five nights a week (and has a bartender named Chris who keeps a microphone behind the bar so he can wash dishes and sing). Or maybe you’ll find out that your co-workers are just as fed up with things as you are and it’s time to kick back and relax. Chicken and waffles might become your favorite meal. I suggest saying yes to everything this side of sane—even if it’s something that you probably used to hate. This is just another chance in a long string of chances to make mistakes, start over, try new things, meet new people, and be the best you.

To close, good luck my stress-addled friends. It’s almost over!

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Things About UVA

April 29, 2011

I only applied to one graduate program. I knew I wanted to come here and by the grace of God (and my outstanding undergraduate record) I made it in. I knew that going from my undergraduate institution to a large public school with rich school spirits and actual athletics in the middle of Central Virginia would be different. I am sure there are other people who are in a similar situation and would like to know what to expect when you’re expecting a degree from the University of Virginia.  And I guess the best place to start is the rich history of traditions at UVA.

My undergraduate was historically a commuter school with hardly any sense of school pride and certainly no authentic traditions. Our traditions had been so clearly manufactured by some consultant to the school who similarly to the Emperors New Clothes sold such a tall crock of shit to our school’s president that he had no choice but to accept. And thus, the Order of the Hippo was born.*

UVA has a rich history dating back to its founding by Thomas Jefferson, our redheaded, slavery hating (except when dude was getting laid, amirite HIGH FIVE), 3rd president. Most of the campus traditions date back to him. Oh excuse me, the traditions on grounds–it’s not a campus, it’s the grounds. I think technically it’s the “historic grounds of the University of Virginia” but that’s kind of a mouthful. There are a bunch like that. No freshmen, sophomores, etc.–they’re 1st & 2nd years. And your instructors who slaved away for almost a decade earning that doctorate degree? Yeah, they aren’t doctors because Thomas Jefferson wasn’t a doctor. So everyone is a professor, which, fine, okay, it really doesn’t make a difference. There are the secret societies, Foxfield (an annual bacchanal at a horse race), there’s the wearing ties and dresses to football games, there’s the lawn, yadda yadda yadda, are you asleep yet? Because I am.

Let me tell you though about one of the most amazing traditions at UVA–one that people don’t remember to tell you. It’s so ingrained in the UVA ethos that I’m pretty sure that the students don’t even know it’s something that most other college students don’t do.

At the end of the semester, they applaud the professor if they liked the class.

Not a big deal, right? You probably think you did this at your own institution of higher learning. At first I thought I did too, but I definitely did not. The thing is, it is kind of a big deal, because if you didn’t like the class then you don’t clap. Then the professor knows that you didn’t like the class. Then the professor can guess what his or her evaluations are going to look like.

Clapping is tense because someone has to start it and I’m now at the point where my classes are small. Small enough that we all can look into one another’s eyes to decide whether the applause is going to happen or not. Last year, I was the only person who clapped in my Harlem Renaissance seminar. The rest of the class folded their arms and glared. I got an A in that class–not that it had anything to do with my clapping, but it might have had something to do with the fact that I enjoyed the class while everyone else clenched their teeth.

I can only imagine proposing this idea to my peers at GW. I can see them in their tights and t-shirts, Ugg boots and Chanel flipflops giving me the sideways eye. “Who do you want me to applaud? That guy? You mean the guy whose ass I’ve been kissing this entire semester for an A and he won’t give it to me because my work isn’t up to par? I mean, what does that even mean?” Conversely, “I’m not applauding that blowhard! I’ve been arguing with him this entire semester because he clearly doesn’t know anything about postcolonial texts. I mean, I went to Haiti. I think I know more than this guy with a PhD or whatever.”

Side note: I find that GW students are either overly laudatory in their appraisals of professors or that they think they are completely incompetent. This doesn’t quite match my GW experience, but then again I always wear pants so I’m not a great indicator of how that school actually operates.

Clapping is tense because someone has to start it and I’m now at the point where my classes are small. Small enough that we all can look into one another’s eyes to decide whether the applause is going to happen or not. Last year, I was the only person who clapped in my Harlem Renaissance seminar. The rest of the class folded their arms and glared. I got an A in that class–not that it had anything to do with my clapping, but it might have had something to do with the fact that I enjoyed the class while everyone else clenched their teeth.

* Yes, this is a real thing.

Dispatches to a sister (4/25/2011)

April 26, 2011

Mom said you were asking about me last night. She seemed concerned about this and mentioned it approximately 400 times while I was trying to get her to help me understand an insurance snafu. I assume you were deeply concerned for my well-being. Do not fret, dear sister, I am alive and well. For Easter I ordered out Chinese food which arrived in a record-breaking 15 minutes.

I am in the middle of writing an essay about how college is a strange recursive process between growing up and complete and total regression and that perhaps that’s all growth is anyway. Did I mention I wrote an essay about what happens after graduation that I submitted to the [redacted] blog… they haven’t gotten back… probably because of the part where I said you’ll move home and have a shitty job. As the philosopher Beyonce once said, I don’t think they’re ready for this jelly.

Oh and I have an interview for an English teacher position at [our high school] on Thursday. Principal says with this wry chuckle, “I have a feeling you know how to get here.” I said, “Yes, I’ve been there a couple of times.” Oh ho ho, what a hoot! We’re practically bosom buddies already! Living the dream, am I right? In other news, the sinking ennui that has filled my life for 25 years has been overcome by terror at the (now almost undeniable) fact that I will die in either mom and dad’s house or at our high school (God rest my soul).
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Things not mentioned that are a big friggin deal to me right now: the giant zit on my cheek (wtf, 25 years old and still zitastic), the Friday Night Lights series finale (RIP), new pillow, owing $250 to Washington, DC in unpaid parking tickets, and my final week of school.

April 21, 2011

How am I supposed to work when there’s a puppy sitting in my lap? Huh?

Things I Should Do When I’m Living at Home

April 20, 2011
  1. Get a job and move out of my parents house.
  2. Learn how to sew on a machine. I mean, I know-ish how to sew on a machine. I have done it before. I even asked my mom for a brand spanking new machine for Christmas so I can hem my own pants. But since Christmas the sewing machine has not come out of its box even once. And I certainly don’t remember how to thread a machine, but I do remember it being more complicated than some youtube videos would indicate. What will I sew? I do not know. I’ll probably hem all of my pants and put the sewing machine back in the box and it’ll never leave the dark corner of my parent’s basement again.
  3. Active-type things. This comes with a caveat. If it’s 100+ degrees again all summer, there is no way in hell I am leaving the air conditioning. I spent all last summer without it and I REFUSE to relive that experience (although I would in a heartbeat, luv u yww), even if only for twenty minutes. But you know, if it’s temperate then I should like walk and stuff. Or ride a bike. I think I have a bike. I think I can ride a bike.
  4. Throw away stuff. Like all of my stuff. I am so sick of stuff. I have stuff everywhere. I fully intend to use my allotted 500lbs/month of free dumping at the local landfill all summer. Things that I will keep: books, about 1/2 of my wardrobe, the dog, board games, gadgetry. Everything else can go. Unfortunately books, clothes, the dog, board games, and gadgetry comprises approximately 95% of my worldly belongings. BUT THAT LAST FIVE PERCENT IS GONE!
  5. Blog regularly. Try to not just blog cute things that the dog did today, but I think I should do that occasionally.

Welcome home.

April 19, 2011

The last time I started this blog I was graduating from college and moving back in with my parents. Well lookat me now–four years later, graduating from another college and moving back in with ole Bob and Debbie and their newest addition to the family, Mario Kart.

Mario Kart might just surpass Nell as my favorite sister.

Nell is our family’s black lab.

It has been about four years and I do think some things have changed. I’m getting a bigger degree (literally, it is a much larger piece of paper) and  maybe hopefully getting a bigger paycheck (bigger is relative). I have a lot more of that “life knowledge” that no one tells you is important until it hits you in the face. I now have an acne medicine that really works (25 years and finally clear skin to boot!). Also I watched Downton Abbey so I think I’m technically a grown up. I also have a lot more furniture to move, so that’s something that’s not great about getting older and wiser and all of that garbage.

You might wonder if I feel strange about moving home again. I am inclined to, out of respect for my parents, say yes. I think they want me to say yes, if only to assure them that I won’t live there forever. But really it just seems logical at this point. Where am I going to go? Because right now I can only afford selling myself into sexual slavery and I have a feeling that will inhibit my chances of getting a teaching position. Maybe not, though. Maybe that could make my resume stand out from the pack.

“Oooh, she had to sell her body to make rent and has significant experience facilitating writing workshops.”