Right back where I started…

 

 

 

 

 

I guess the quote that just about sums up my life right now is 

Image (Credit: CurlyGirl Designs)

What I mean by this is that I am right back where I started life… without a job under the roof two of the most amazing people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Ladies and gentlemen, my parents:  Image

 

However, getting BACK here has meant that I have eaten, done, and seen a lot of things. Here are a few of the moments caught on film.. well, you know what I mean.

 

1) Cooking with Brian! (it was delicious) Chicken and Avocado Enchiladas from Pinterest Image

2) Made a berry cobbler (and won a prize in a cooking contest!)Image

3) Organized my crafting supplies before my big move back home Image

4) Kicked off the end of grad school with a lovely gathering around the fountain with candles and Martinelli’sImage

5) Had to say “see ya later” to one of my best friends… obviously we didn’t realize the gravity of the situation yet.. 😛Image

6) Hung out at the capital with my family Image

7) Got my M.Ed. from UVMImage

8) Got HOODED! Image

9) Got celebrated!ImageImage ImageImage

10) andddd packed up to leave for Washington.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

 

And I was reminded by Oprah to…ImageImage

So I did.

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I’m in the midst of applying to jobs right now, but I am excited for where it might get me. Fingers crossed that I won’t be headed back across the country too soon… Although there is more than one person I would love to be closer to over there, I have to say that I’m not ready for another cross-country roadtrip, even though it was pretty incredible.

Until next time,
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Quitting is for… not me.

Here’s a great post entitled “5 Reminders When You Feel Like Quitting Grad School” by a graduate school colleague, classmate, and friendtor (friendmentor) in the program. 

With only a month and a half left, she reminded me of all of the things I’ve learned (or forgot to learn) to take ownership in my graduate school experience. Because it’ll make me feel better, I’m going to believe that it’s not too late to still turn this experience into what I want it to be. Everything happens for a reason. Every reason is not always beautiful. But there can be beauty in the struggle. In fact. I know there is. Look at these beautiful people:

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We have all changed so much, but I know it’s for the better, despite how much we’ve been through and how drained we might feel at the end of each day or week. Today I’m choosing gratitude. Today I’m choosing happiness. Today I’m choosing forward.

Always onward,

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The Job Search (or as I’d like to call it “speed dating”)

I’m two weeks out from the three-day job placement conference and I still feel tired. I speed dated my way through five schools with whom I tried to portray myself as naturally and enthusiastically as possible despite my innate dislike of bragging about myself.

The whirlwind of interviews began with nervousness and ended with confidence. “I like you, do you like me?”  Or rather “I love the work you’re doing, do you see me as a natural fit for your department?” It’s a dating game. 30 minutes of getting to know the person on the other side of the table. Maybe an hour the next day with a new face or two from that same department, all in the name of “Can we get along and make a difference in the lives of students together?” And then I move onto my next date, or rather interview. With another great school. And another hour and a half of getting to know each other. And I say to myself, “Yeah, I can see myself with you, too.” I walk away from the interviews feeling exhilarated and excited for my options.

And yet, the hard part begins: the waiting game.

I feel like this is what it all comes down to.

I applied to grad school. And waited to hear back.
I got accepted to grad school. And waited for it to start.
I turned in papers. And waited for a grade.
I applied to jobs. And now I wait.

What I’ve realized is that so much happens in those times of waiting. I look back and see these milestones of accomplishment (and defeat) and can see the time in between those as a blur of growth, discovery, pain, and happiness.

Applying to grad school was not hard. But focusing on the “here and now” of my last semester of college was. I poured my life back into my friends and my studies and told my parents to wipe the dust from my room at home.

And then I got the phone call.

Being accepted to grad school wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine. I was scared. I questioned my preparedness. I spent my summer doing an internship that affirmed why I was pursuing this degree and what I wanted out of it. And then it made sense again.

I hunched over my computer and my notebooks at night for countless hours and submitted myself to the scrutiny of my professors’ red pens and critical eyes. And I learned about focus. And topics that excite me. And how to work on a deadline. And what I need to de-stress. And then I would get my grades back and learn that it wasn’t about that outcome, but rather the process.

I applied to five beautiful jobs in the Northwest. I wrote individualized cover letter after cover letter, asking myself the whole time if this was really what I wanted. And then I interviewed with those schools. The ease at which I was able to talk about my excitement for working with students raised my confidence with each word I spoke.

I may not speak using an academic lexicon. I may never get an A on a paper. But I will bring passion into what I do. And if that’s not what a school is looking for, then they’re definitely not gonna go for this ball of energy that is me.

As I wait to hear back about ANYthing concerning my future, I am reminded constantly (mostly by friends) to breathe.

Just breathe.

And on that note, I’m going to get back to work. Taking the time to breathe in my experience over the last few weeks via furious tapping at my keyboard has been lovely, but I’ve got parent newsletters to send out and room changes to authorize.

Always waiting, always smiling,

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The Familial Glue

There are many reasons that could explain why I have not written since September. Many of them have to do with grad school, many have to do with family, and many, many more have to do with lack of commitment 😉

The simplest one is that I have been writing, just not here.

In December, I turned in a 10,000 manuscript that detailed the relationships and narratives that have shaped my life. “Leaving Lauren: A Scholarly Personal Narrative on Finding my True North” is about autism, love, family, and connecting with people. It is about not being afraid to feel. Not being afraid to ask questions. And most importantly, not being afraid of the answers.

While the writing is about those things, it’s also about how I was, and am still, afraid to feel, afraid to ask questions, and afraid of hearing the answers. But I’m doing those things. I’m living, and loving, and learning and not looking back (for too long, at least).

Recently, SPN writing has become a way for me to be me, even if it’s just in my writing. My upbringing, my family, and my experiences are all parts of stories that come together to form my way of seeing the world. SPN writing proves to me that I am not alone. My story belongs to me, but also to anyone else who will listen. Reading others’ SPNs makes me feel a sense of connection that I value in all arenas of my life. After all, as Brené Brown says, “Connection is why we’re here, it gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”

These are the words that sum up what that 10,000 word experience was for me. My mom and I share a lot in common, but one of the newest ones is our love for Brené Brown. Mom took an online art class (yeah, technology, man) on “The Gift of Imperfection” and shared with me a lot of the little lessons she learned there. On top of that, my whole family learned to cherish another gift first-hand.

We learned to cherish the ones we love every second of every day.

My brother and his wife’s baby, Daniela, did not live to take her first breath, cry her first tears, or smile her first smile at her parents. But I think Daniela gave them their first breath, their first tears, and their first reason to really smile. My family was able to be there for them at a time that no parent, no sibling, and no friend ever wants their loved one to go through. The timing was perfect though the situation was tragic. The emotions were hard though the love came easy. I have never seen anyone love something so hard as my brother did that week; and despite the heartache and heartbreak of loss, he and his wife will continue to have that love for the rest of their lives.

Being away from them this year has been easier in some ways, but harder in others. I think the easy part comes with the knowledge that I am beginning my job search for my first professional position and am looking primarily in the Pacific Northwest. This means that in a matter of months, I could be as close as down the street and as far as a weekend getaway. My brother and his wife have been the catalyst for me returning to the west coast and my parents deciding to look at housing in the Tacoma/Gig Harbor area. I have always considered myself the glue (or social lubricant) that keeps my family together, but that’s just the ego talking. The real glue is embedded in our upbringing and our values that mom and dad instilled in us. Family. Uncertainty. Love. It’s all there. And we’ll be in it together… even if we’re apart. Because that familial glue of support will never waiver.

Promising to write more soon,
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Bird by Bird

She said to take it “Bird by bird.” Well, she didn’t say it. Her father did. The daunting task of writing a report on birds–the one you’ve known about for three months but just now, the day before it’s due, sat down to write–can be handled simply by doing as Anne Lamott’s father told her brother: “Just take it bird by bird.”

Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird”

Despite the fact that I’ve been keeping this blog up and running by intermittent posting and vows to write more regularly since my first two-month hiatus back in 2011, I always forget how much I love writing. I love the way my thoughts quiet down and I’ll ignore the anxiety surrounding any homework assignment or final paper, no matter how many hours I have left to turn it in.

Writing is like running.

“The hardest part is getting out the door.”

Once you leave the door, granted you have on the right footwear, you are that much closer to the end of your mile or your marathon training. Opening up the word document, or grabbing your pencil and your journal, or, if you’re like me, logging into your trendy wordpress.com account is the first and most important step to a solid writing session. Your brain needs the mental exercise of thinking in long sentences, rather than in short bursts of anxiety ridden panics about your daily grind. Your fingers need flexing since your thumbs (from texting so much) have taken over the bulk of your “writing” during the past few days, weeks, or hell, even months sometimes.

My blog is my shitty first draft.

It is my narrative of all things complicated, brilliant, normal, comical, benign, or nagging.

This blog is my report on birds. Due never. And these posts are my way taking it bird by bird. For whenever.

Just CALM down

ImageI can’t *just calm down* sometimes.

Sometimes that makes it worse.

Sometimes there is a split second between me realizing I’m about to have an anxiety attack and me actually being fully emerged in one. In that split second, I have a choice to take a deep breath or to start blaming myself for things I “could have” controlled or done differently.

But that’s all it is.

It’s a split second.

And that deep breath is hard to come by.

And then the anxiety takes over. And it’s anywhere from 2 minutes to 2 hours of crippling distaste in yourself or in your choices. Sometimes it stems from things I had a say in, like choosing to sleep in and then missing an appointment, and sometimes it stems from things like moving all of your stuff to a new place and having to start over. Sometimes those both happen at once.

And the anxiety attack only lasts for a few minutes. No tears were actually shed. They just pooled there in my eyes. And then I looked at myself in the mirror and I said to myself, “just calm down. Breathe. Pull yourself together.” And I asked myself what I needed to do to fix it. So I went into work and double checked some emails. And realized that the biggest thing that I thought I messed up was actually happening tomorrow.

And then it was over.

One hour later, I got my day back. And life was good again.

If only that split second was a few seconds longer each time.

But it’s not.

So I learn to laugh at it.

And breathe.

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One year down.. What?!

I sat down to write this post-first-year-of-grad-school reflection on multiple instances, but each time I was distracted by a whirlwind of graduation parties, Netflix shows calling my name, sunny day outings, and figuring out what to do with all of this “free time” I suddenly had come upon.

So here I am, with fifteen minutes left in my lovely 4-hour summer work day, I found this a highly appropriate time to pause and take a moment to figure out what this past year has meant for me:

While talking on the phone with a friend in the program the other day, I reaffirmed for myself three things: 1) I am surrounded by incredible people, 2) I have more people to call friends than I give them credit for, and 3) I have truly started to figure myself out.

IMG_5000I’ll start with that third one… When I moved here to start my grad program, I had only just begun to start conceptualizing what my identity as a professional even looks like on me. I have discovered that it looks basically like what I have been doing, just more on top of due dates and showing up on time to meetings. I have chosen to try and figure out a plan for a professional identity that doesn’t sacrifice my spirit for learning from mistakes, for wanting to bring enthusiasm to a job, and for desiring to be around only those who love their job (or at least can love it most of the time). Most importantly I do not ever want to show up to an interview and appear to be something that I cannot maintain over a long period of time. I’d probably get fired really fast if I acted like I was some on-top-of-it-all 24-7, organized student affairs professional with a lot of practical experience. As of right now, I am only those things some of the time. I’m working on that last one, but as of right now, I can totally sell each of my semester long internships (shout-out to IUPUI Housing & ResLife, UVM Residential Education Team, and Champlain College’s LEAD Program).

As for the feeling of interpersonal connectedness that I felt I was so wholly missing last semester, it has since begun to manifest. Slowly but surely I have a small, but sturdy, network of people that I have grown to trust here at UVM. I keep coming into new places believing what people have told me my whole life: that I am a social person, a stereotypic extrovert through and through, a people-person. While all this is true, I tend to forget to take care of myself while trying to be that “always-on” person.

ImageWhat I have learned from this experience so far is that I need to go for a few hard workouts every week. I need to drink a lot of water. I need to embrace my disdain for large group functions. And I need to take more bubble baths.

The month that I took at least 2 bubble baths a week was a game-changer. It is the only time of day where I can guarantee that I won’t be worrying about school, money, or my job expectations. And that’s HUGE. Especially for a grad student.

Two things have happened that will make some of those worries a little bit easier to handle this coming year.

1. I got a job with one of the sororities on campus to be a House Director. In short, I live-in (fo’ free) and handle their food budget (grocery shopping) and any facility issues (don’t drink in my house or break anything!).

2. I have “done this” already. I survived year one of graduate school and am this much closer to being allowed to work on college campuses (and get paid well for it) forever. Or for however long I can handle 18-24 year-olds.

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So all in all, despite the hours I spent on literature reviews, reading theories, and plowing through textbooks, and despite the gallons of tears I cried, and the days spent moping, I learned so much about how to keep happy and take care of myself, rather than always putting others first.

I will always have a place for acknowledgments in my life, but I can’t let someone else write my own story.

As always,
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