Yesterday I waited two hours to take a ten second walk across a stage. It was my graduation ceremony and that’s what you do for your graduation ceremony. You sit on small metal chairs, listen to speeches, and clap for your friends. Afterwards, you give everyone hugs.
The ceremony felt like the period at the end of a sentence. I had finished my bachelor’s degree and it was time to leave the nest. I still have no long term plans, but after graduating I feel better about having no long term plans. Either that or my head has inflated three sizes too large from all the congratulations I received. Something will come along to deflate it again. Another literary magazine will reject me, or I’ll forget to put the top down on the hot tub. I only hope it doesn’t happen too soon
We had a good speaker for graduation, Representative David Kilmer. He gave us some worthwhile advice and he didn’t use a monotone. Monotones at graduation are the kiss of death. He put a lot of movie references in his speech and told us to take part in civic engagement. His words of wisdom boiled down to not trusting anyone named Draco Malfoy and remembering to vote. Voting is important. If we don’t vote, we may end up with a government run entirely by crazy people, and not nice, funny crazy people, mean crazy people.
So far, I believe I’ve done well with that. I’ve been engaged. I work for Forcechange.com, writing petitions for environmental causes. One of my petitions received 558 signatures. I’m trying to build a writing career and 558 people reading something I wrote is amazing to me. Leaving University of Puget Sound has been like taking off in a plane when there’s turbulence. It’s a bit bumpy, but eventually it will smooth out and someone will offer me a beverage.
I’m grateful for the education I’ve received at University of Puget Sound, but now it’s time to take the next step. It’s time to start a new sentence.
After a semester’s hard work of scouring the internet for writing positions, I landed an internship at Forcechange.com. The first thing I did when I heard the news was fill out the online acceptance form. The second thing I did was to leap up from my chair and do a happy dance. This happy dance was a disco with a lot of bouncing. If my sister could have seen it, she would have teased me mercilessly. Because that’s what sisters do.
Forcechange.com is a site that publishes petitions for progressive causes like social justice, animal welfare, and the environment. My first petition was an appeal to the mayor of the City of Victoria, trying to get them to stop dumping their raw sewage into the ocean. As you can imagine, raw sewage does not mix well with marine ecosystems. And Victoria currently dumps over 34 million gallons of it into the ocean every day. Not good.
This internship is something I’m excited about doing for its own sake. Even if I wasn’t trying to build up a writing career, I would still want to do it because the causes it works for are important. What I’ve discovered about myself through my semester of job searching is that I don’t want to be in it just for the paycheck. Don’t get me wrong. The paycheck is important. Right now, I’m saving up for my independence. I live with my mother and I’d like to get my own place. But eight hours a day five days a week is a long time to spend on something I don’t care about.
So my advice to all you new graduates heading out into the world is to try and find something that interests you. That and don’t get too discouraged, it may take a few months but eventually you will land something. And when you do, it’s okay to cut loose and do a happy dance.
Yesterday I did three things. I lazed around outside with my friends. I got my first sunburn of the year. And I attended the farewell Honors Program banquet. The theme of the banquet was “Scientists Being Silly.” The guest speaker, Professor Kristin Johnson, opened with a picture of Einstein sticking his tongue out and ended with a YouTube Video of scientists in white lab coats dancing to the tune of “gonna rock this club like its dynamite.” Personally, I love silly things. I’m a fan of Monty Python, I like making bad puns, and I own a pair of slippers with bears on them so every time I put them on I have bear/bare feet. See what I told you about the bad puns? In honor of that speech, I’d like to list all the silly things we did that evening and say why they were awesome.
- Played with fortune telling fish. The people who set up the event were nice enough to give us each a fortune telling fish. You put the little plastic fish in the palm of your hand and depending on how it moved it would tell your fortune. E.g. a moving head equaled jealousy and a moving tail equaled indifference. I got “curls up entirely,” which meant passionate. I’m just glad I didn’t get motionless or “dead one.” Seeing as I’m only twenty-two, that would have been a really crappy fortune.
- Gave out silly gifts. The event had a variety of door-prizes including the cutest little green stuffed animal blob—I think it may have been a molecule. We also got mugs with the “University of Puget Sound Honors Program” written on them. They had electric candles at the bottom covered in glittery party plastic. I think I may have accidentally drunk some of the glitter this morning with my tea. Whoops.
- Told a silly story. Silly stories are the best. When I was really little, my dad used to tell me and my sister “Harry Potter stories,” spinoffs of the Harry Potter series only with way more bathroom humor. I enjoyed those stories and I enjoyed the one at the Honors Program banquet. The Honors Program banquet story takes the post college aspirations of the senior class and weaves them together into a single narrative—in this case the search for the spiritual meaning of the kidney. One of the best lines that night was, “To know for sure we’d need more kidneys to continue our research. I’m not at liberty to say where we’re getting them.”
So that was the silly stuff we did at the banquet. I enjoyed every moment of it. So get out there and be silly. Stick your tongue out. Drink glitter in your tea. Make a bad pun.
I’ve been unemployed since I graduated in December. A lot of employers want experience and I don’t have that yet. Some of us are lucky enough to find jobs before we graduate, others of us have to wait a bit longer. And waiting can be hard. You start lying awake at night wondering if anyone will want to hire you. When that happens, you just have to take a few deep breaths and tell yourself that everything will be fine. Lie if necessary. Because unemployment is so difficult, I’d like to share a few tips on how to deal with it.
- Apply for jobs regularly. This one is fairly obvious, but I’m just going to say it anyway. Even if the company you’re applying to doesn’t respond, you’ll feel better for having done something. Indeed.com, Monster.com, simplyhired.com, craigslist, and loggerjobs are all good sites to check when you’re looking for employment.
- Don’t turn into a mole person. By that I mean, leave the house. If nothing else, you need the fresh air. Take it from me.
- Find an activity or activities you like and do it. I started assistant teaching at a karate school down the road. One of my best moments as a teacher was when a yoga ball we were throwing went passed me and knocked over a cup of water. I started to say sh** but then paused and said talking mushrooms instead. The older sister does this in Spy Kids One to avoid swearing in front of her brother.
- Do something to keep up your skills. I majored in English with an emphasis in creative writing. To keep myself fresh, I started writing a couple of short stories. One of which is about a nerd romance or, as I like to call it, a nerdmance.
- When all else fails eat ice cream. You’re going to get rejected a lot during this process and when you do it will feel like sh**…talking mushrooms. So you should eat ice cream to reward yourself for trying.
Good luck and don’t forget the chocolate sauce.
I have two new interviewing tips for you: do your research and know what your nervous habits are. Today, I had a job interview at the Northwest Parkinson’s Foundation. Doing my research really helped me put my best foot forward. As for nervous habits…let’s just say I re-learned something about myself.
There are two good reasons for doing your research. Firstly, if you come prepared and knowledgeable about the company it shows employers that you are willing to make the effort and are serious about the job. Secondly, if you do your research, you will probably find any red flags about the company you are interviewing with. Check sites like yelp or glassdoor.com to see what current and former employees of the company have written. When I was checking out a prospective company, I found a review that said this:
“If you leave your desk for anything other than going to the bathroom, you have to send an email to everyone in the office saying how long you’ll be gone and where you’re going. Such as – ‘personal call – 3 minutes,’ ‘coffee run – 5 minutes,’ ‘stretching my legs – 2 minutes.’”
The company replied that they were addressing this policy and that it had “evolved organically.” They’re a public relations company, so I would have thought that they’d come up with a better excuse than that. Anyway, if you look at review sites you can sometimes find the little chestnuts like this before you choose to work somewhere. Exercise caution though. If a review is in all caps, it’s probably best to ignore it.
It also helps to be familiar with your nervous habits before you go into an interview. Today, for instance, I found out that when I’m nervous I start to tell a lot of jokes. This is fine as long as they’re good jokes, otherwise not so much. When my interviewer asked how my friends would describe me, I replied that a high school friend had said I was like a teddy bear with muscles. Luckily, my interviewer laughed, but it was a good thing the session ended before I got around to asking her why the chicken didn’t cross the road. Answer: Because he was chicken.
So do your research. Know thyself and thy prospective company. If you do that, you should be fine. Unless anything really terrible happens like the building catching fire or something, in which case you’re not fine—you should probably reschedule.
I left for my three o’clock interview at twelve o’clock. I did this for two reasons. First of all, the interview was in Seattle and I was in Olympia. And second of all, I have a propensity to get lost whenever I drive to a new place. I’ve left my little sister alone in a parking garage twice because I got lost and it made me late when I was supposed to be picking her up from the train station. Needless to say, she was not pleased either time.
This was my first interview since I graduated and I wanted to be prepared. I had a copy of my resume, my social security card, a brush, deodorant, and a book. It turns out that I really did need the book because after all my planning and worrying I arrived at the interview site an hour and a half early. So I ended up sitting in the lobby reading The Wizard of London and munching on a power bar.
The interview itself went reasonably well. It was a group interview for a recruiting agency, CampusPoint, that works with recent grads. There were two recruiters and seven of us seated around a conference table trying not to stammer too much. Personally, I only said um once and shook both recruiters’ hands at the end of the session. For me this counts as a win—one of life’s small victories. If nothing else, it was good practice.
I don’t have very much interview advice yet because I’ve only done one but I will say this: If you get lost and start going down First Avenue in Seattle, they will not let you make a left turn to go back up. Left turns are forbidden. And if you can help it schedule your Seattle interviews so you’re not leaving the city at rush hour. Driving home in Seattle rush hour traffic feels like an Odyssey. Only instead of dreaming of getting back to Penelope, you’re dreaming of collapsing on your couch with a bag of popcorn and some M&Ms. Let yourself have as many as you want.
Today was my last day at UPS. It kind of snuck up on me. It was a bit like going down a water slide. You’re just lying back looking at the ceiling, when suddenly it occurs to you that you’d better hold your breath because you’re about to be shot out into the pool. I don’t know what future holds for me. I may end up in graduate school (fingers crossed). I may end up with writing or editing job. Or I may end up working at Starbucks or some similar place while I figure out what to do next. I don’t know. The good thing is that I’ve scheduled at least an hour a day to panic about it.
But for now I’m happily ensconced in my favorite armchair with a cup of tea and a book. This is the life. To all of you who are still working hard on finals, just hang in there. The end will come and soon you will be in your own favorite armchairs. In meantime, I’d like to reflect on some of the crazier things I did in college. Normally I’m not a wild sort of person. I start every morning with a scone and a cup of tea. But I did get to do some crazy stuff in college and I’d like to share it with you.
1.) Driving in down town Tacoma when it was flooding. We had gone on a dessert run to Hello Cupcake even though it was storming out. The rain was coming down in sheets and I had to get us back by three o’clock otherwise we’d be charged extra for the Zipcar. I didn’t know the roads and some of them were too flooded to use anyway. A lot of swearing was involved, but in the end we made it. I earned those cupcakes.
2.) Rock climbing in vantage. In my junior year, I went on a PSO trip to vantage. It was my first time ever rock climbing and the group decided to do a night climb. I climbed partway and then I realized how high it was. I remember thinking to myself “beep you Eleanor Roosevelt” halfway up the rock face. When I was a child my parents gave me a magnet with an Eleanor Roosevelt quote on it, “everyday do one thing that scares you.” Well, this was scaring me all right.
3.) Taking four and a half units my second semester of junior year along with an internship and a thesis. Don’t ever do this. It’s exhausting and by the end of it you will want to punch something, either that or go cry in a corner.
I realize that to most of you these don’t sound that crazy. But I don’t like loud parties, drunk people, or risk of serious physical harm so these are my options. That’s okay though, I stretched myself and I’m really more of an armchair and tea person anyway. Except when I go out to hit the football post (I use it like a heavy bag)—but that’s another story.
I am graduating at the end of this semester. In ten days, two hundred and forty hours, 14400 minutes, and 864000 seconds I will no longer be a college student. Because you are probably reading this at least a couple of days after I wrote it even more time will have gone by. This past couple of weeks has felt like the beginning of a roller coaster when the car is slowly rising and you know that in any minute it will plunge down. But before I leave UPS for good I want to acknowledge some of the people that made my experience here special: my friends. Every college student needs them. If only to have someone they can borrow meal points off of. I am going to make a list here of things my friends have done for me this semester that I am grateful for.
- Providing chocolate. I have been mooching chocolate off of one of my friends since sophomore year. When she asks me if I want any, I reply: “Is the pope catholic?” And then I start salivating.
- Exchanging cat stories. I am a cat person. And by cat person, I mean a person who will let their cat wake them up at four in the morning because it wants to be petted. I get together with my friends and coo over how our cats are all such spoiled princesses. This lets all the cat adoration out of my system and keeps the strange looks I get to a minimum.
- Sharing perspectives that are different than my own. If the world was homogenous, we would all be very bored. In college I learned that, thankfully, it isn’t.
- Giving me a robe when I get shut out of my room in a towel. This Thursday I locked my keys in my room while I was in the shower. I had work at the diner in twenty minutes. As you probably know, the diner uniform is not a purple bath towel. When I told my family about this episode they thought it was very funny for some reason. Hopefully not schadenfreude.
- Watching Netflix with me on the weekends. This has given me a reason to leave my room and prevented me from turning into a cave person. A cave person can write an elegant fifteen page paper but speaks only in grunts.
- Friends are the people you can reveal vulnerability too. When I revealed some of mine, one of my friends said that she was honored that I’d chosen to confide in her. I was very touched.
I hope that whomever’s reading this, you have friends as nice as mine.
Holidays can be a great reminder of what you have. A couple of New Years ago my family and I all drank Martinelli’s and sang Auld Old Lang Syne. Then when I kept singing after midnight my sister threatened to hit me. I was genuinely moved by this. But the holidays can also be stressful. Just watch one of the gazillions of movies about estranged Dads trying to connect with their kids on Christmas. Or ask whoever does the cooking on Thanksgiving.
For the past few years my family has kept Thanksgiving simple. My freshman year we had tacos. Sophomore year it was pizza. Last year we went to a friend’s house, so someone else was cooking. And this year we went back to tacos. This was a good thing because by the time my family was ready to make dinner I was ready to eat the table. And when I’m that hungry I start to mutter under my breath a lot and the situation deteriorates from there.
But the tacos were delicious and easy to make. I think it took about half an hour. We ate on the couch in front of the movie Hot Fuzz. It was about a cop having a shootout with the village benefit society which, as it turns out, is actually kind of a cult. Nothing says Thanksgiving like hearing a bunch of people in medieval-ish robes murmur “the greater good” in perfect unison.
That Thanksgiving we watched a total of three movies. We saw the second part of Mockingjay, Hot Fuzz, and Coherence. Mockingjay was depressing, lots of explosions and dead kids. Hot Fuzz was hilarious. And Coherence blew my mind. It was about people meeting versions of themselves from different realities. I ended up really confused but I did get to learn my family’s strategies for what to do if this happened. My mom would hop in her car and not stop driving till it was over. My sister would just stay in whatever reality she ended up in. As for me, I’m not sure what I would do but it would probably involve swearing. And possibly tacos.
The professor looked down at my personal statements, each changed just a little depending on the school. She asked: “How do you keep track of it all?”
“I forget people’s names.” I replied. Then she laughed because she did it to.
This semester is my last at Puget Sound so I have been trying to figure out what comes next. The question what comes next is a scary one for any senior. The fear it brings on is almost cliché by now. It feels a little like being the guy in the Matrix when he is getting ready to take the blue pill. Only in this case the blue pill is mandatory. You can’t stay in college forever. One day you’re going to have close your dorm room door behind you, give your keys to the RA, and then ask them back because you realize you forgot your shower caddy. But after that you’re still going to have to leave. You are going to have to answer the question of what’s next.
Me, I’m applying for a lot of things, both jobs and graduate schools, and hoping I get one of them. So far, this has been like crawling up a mountain of paper work. I have documents on my computer titled “List of Schools and Deadlines,” “Schools and Codes for the GRE,” “Transcript Policies,” and “Record of Submission.” After I finish writing this post I’m going to have to go to the registrar and ask them to email me a copy of my unofficial transcript because the one I tried getting off the UPS website wouldn’t upload to the graduate school website. Good times.
My strategy for dealing with this is three fold.
One) I forget people’s names. I called my suitemate Aidan instead of Adrian multiple times even after I’d been living with him for half a semester. Anything in my brain that is non-essential gets jettisoned.
Two) Writing myself little notes on scraps of paper and leaving them on my desk to find later. Some notes I have now are “GPA—3.82 + Transcripts” and “letters.” The first is a reminder for me to make sure that I entered my GPA as 3.82 on all of my applications. The second is a reminder to make sure that each of my professors who I asked to write me a letter of recommendation has the correct link.
Three) I take deep breaths. I had a stressful day yesterday and I woke up in the middle of last night with a huge knot in my chest. So I concentrated on breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. To be honest, I could benefit from doing this more often. It gets lost in the scuffle sometimes. Over Thanksgiving break, that’s what I’m going to do next. I’m going to breathe.