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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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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The Puzzle Pieces of My Life: More on Narrative Therapy

My family has always told stories. In my mom’s struggle to get a voice for her fellow nurses, she orated her story of being a nurse for 35 years; she told of the babies she has delivered, the parents she has congratulated, and the couples she has consoled. In my dad’s role as a father, reiterating tales of his youth are few and far between because of the maltreatment he received as a child and young adult. However, he has re-narrated his childhood; he has re-membered it. He turned it from one of abuse and neglect to one of choices to be different from what he knew; choices that he himself will not make and roads that he will not go down.

I stole my theory of life from my sister Lauren. She has Asperger’s, an autism spectrum disorder, and happens to be especially adept at doing puzzles. Lauren can flip the puzzle to its reverse side and complete it only looking at the blank cardboard shapes without the picture to guide her. She is able to see at a glance how each little piece fits into the larger puzzle. Sometimes she does edges first. Sometimes she starts from a random point and works her way out. Sometimes, still, she starts many different areas and in the blink of an eye has found the links that fit them together perfectly. Lauren’s gift with puzzles led me to my life’s theory.

I was about thirteen when I realized that my life was made up of a sequence of events; my life was an unfinished puzzle. All of my stories that I have told are pieces of it that don’t always seem to fit together in the right ways, but, I have reasoned that this is because I still have more pieces to be found, shaped, and created. In this puzzle of life, there are many different ways to look at an event. I could take the single event as an isolated occurrence, or I can, as I so often do, fit the piece into a larger narrative.

This has made sense for many things that have happened in my life. The small routines of playing songs on Grandpa’s jukebox and then towards the end of his life, Grandpa picking his own song on it to which he and my mother danced. Falling in a lake and having a dramatic (not) near-death experience, taking swimming lessons to prevent this from happening again, and then joining the local swim team where I started my stint as the athlete that I would soon become and forever be. Wanting to quit basketball so many times, sticking with it, then quitting in college and feeling lost. Being able to find and join the Crew team where I found my place. Sustaining a career ending back injury, losing crew, having to become just a student again, and then finding the time to be there for the people who needed me most, including myself.

My stories at first are isolated events; individual pieces in my puzzle. Then, later, I contextualize them in the narrative of life. My life. I have the power, like my father, to re-narrate those stories as many times as I would like. I choose to put on a different set of lenses than the first time around when re-looking at a certain piece in my puzzle. I reimagine that piece as the beginning of a different story ending at present day or I fit that piece into the middle of a series of seemingly unrelated, but on second glance perfectly connected, pieces to my puzzle.

We can always re-member what we need to in order to give our lives meaning. A bad day can turn into a learning experience or a laughing matter within just a few days. A car accident can be a wake-up call or a chance to get your dream car. Any way you look at an event, it can tell a different story. As for the events in our stories, we are the authors. We are in control of placing our pieces of our puzzles in the right places. The places that make the most sense for right now.

This is why I love hearing people’s stories: I can hear them placing, arranging, and making sense of all of the different pieces in their life. This is why I will always ask to hear how someone got to where they are, or how they met their partner, or spent their week, month, life. People deserve to be given the chance to place their pieces over and over until it gives them the most meaning—and I intend to give people that chance.

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Narrators of Our Own Stories

This is something I figured out at age thirteen: I get to write my own story. I don’t know if it is because I knew my father re-narrated his childhood; he turned his upbringing of maltreatment and bad parenting into his guidelines for what he never wanted to become. Maybe it was from watching my brother: watching Kevin pave his way as an educator in a Tae Kwon Do studio, then at a day-care at his alma mater, and now as an applied behavioral counselor for children with Autism. Who knows what is next for him. I don’t even think he really knows. But he knows he has a past that will support him.Or maybe it was my watching my mom transform from a hard-working nurse who showed up to work every day to an advocate for nurses even at a time when that is not a popular thing to be in her working environment.

And of course my sister Lauren. She’s the one who gave me my analogy when I was thirteen. She loves puzzles. Her feat is that she can do the puzzles without looking at the graphic side. Yep, she just sees how the pieces fit together. Lauren is lucky. Her world, at times, is in black in white. Mine is not. My pieces to my puzzle get strewn about. They shift every time I move. I lose pieces. Lose connections. Lose my spot. And then I have to change the way I’m looking at the puzzle. I step back and take a different approach. I alter my narration. I retell my story. I re-member something differently. I put my pieces back together in a different way than before and I create meaning.

Why did I have to hurt my back while rowing? It wasn’t clear then. And maybe my feelings will change, but now I see it as having allowed me to do my grad school search my senior year without having to stress about missing practice or regattas or letting down my team. Obviously, I didn’t hurt my back thinking that I needed an out… but it sure does make you believe in something bigger… or in yourself. In your own power to narrate your own life story. In your own power to make meaning out of things that at first just don’t make sense.

This is a type of psychology called Narrative Therapy which I explored at the end of reading “Helping College Students Find Purpose.” I have been doing this my whole life. It just makes me realize that it is a tool that I can use in my paraprofessional and soon to be professional work to help others find their own narratives. Stories have the power to move people. When we tell our stories and someone reads or listens to it, we are validated. Everyone deserves to be validated as a person.

Master of Education Candidate

It’s been [almost] exactly a month since my last post.

And I am going to try to update this puppy more often.

So, I definitely cried on the first day of class in my very first HESA [highereducationstudentaffairs] class. I had started off the beginning of class saying, “Hi all, my name is Lindsay, I’m a first year HESA-er, I prefer she/her pronouns, and I love hearing people’s stories.” It was no more than an hour into the 3 hour class that a classmate and friend of mine opened up to the class about what it actually means for her to be here at this program. Her honesty and bravery, and the way she spoke from the heart, reached me. If you know me, it’s not hard to make me cry, but this was different. It made me realize how amazing each and every person is and how much each and every person needs to share their story. Everyone has something to say and it’s about time they feel validated and share with somebody.

Here are some books I have read and will be reading this semester:
Helping College Students Find Purpose
Pedagogy of the Oppressed
The Craft of Research
Ishmael
and various others ranging from the history of student services to issues in higher education.

Needless to say, I’m nerding out and I’m really enthusiastic for what lies ahead.

However, I want to be completely transparent and let you know that I am shaking in my boots. I recently read Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I tried to read it with a critical lens, but I am now realizing that I need to read it with an open mind. Round two will be content based. Reading round three will be searching for “nuggets” to take away. And I’m sure I’ll re-read it many more times and be able to get the big picture, the small picture, and how everyone can benefit from reading something like this.

So what have I learned so far? That I need to read things at least twice to get at even half of what the author is getting at.

On a less daunting note =P I was recently elected to serve as one of two chairs for social and professional development for our cohorts. My co-chair and I are meeting once a week right now and drafting up what will hopefully only be successful and rewarding events for our people.

What else, what else… I AM ALL MOVED INTO MY APARTMENT!!!! Finally.

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It’s a gem.

I love it.

And I heart Burlington.Image

This Sunday I’m going BACK to this cafe called Maglianero’s to seek refuge and get studying done with some classmates/program colleagues. (It’s very Seattleite). :]!

OH AND I FINALLY GOT PAID. There was a payroll mishap that delayed my paycheck, but I finally have funds. Well in seven days when my checks clear, I will have funds. 🙂 TD Bank has a handful of ATMs on campus, so I opted for them.

Oh, and the new car is lovely. Expensive. But lovely. In 6 or so years she’ll be paid off. Won’t that be exciting? =]

Additionally.. Mint.com is my lifesaver… it is Quicken for my on-the-go-I-don’t-have-time-to-keep-track-of-my-spendings generation. CHECK IT OUT.

Anyways, I think that’s all for now. I am spending my Friday night in. After realizing last year that, while I am an extrovert by definition, I need to recharge by myself at the end of the day, or at least do something low key. So, one of my professors calls that “ambiversion,” where we are both extro-and-introverted. Nice to know it’s a common phenomenon. Or maybe it’s my mom-like station wagon that is turning me into a mom-like figure that is slightly more calm than my age group. :] (Yeah, definitely the car…) Stay tuned while I navigate Grad School: Year 1.

As a Master of Education Candidate. =D

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So I’m Starting Grad School…

Since we’ve last spoken, a lot has occurred. And I mean… A LOT.

I had a few stressful moments in my internship, so I ended up doing a few scrapbook pages (no text yet, just pics) and sending a few cards to people who deserved them. The boyfrand was SO much fun this summer. We’re still dating and and things are going well.. if you have any advice for a couple trying to keep the magic alive long distance, HOLLER. We’re excited and ready for whatever life throws at us. Anyways, during the last few weeks in Indy, I had thai food, saw my logo I worked on all summer on a publication, and hung out in a neck of Indy that I hadn’t discovered before.

I should probably talk about my internship a little bit more… I got to it a little bit early, which ended up being a good call. I got to hang out with my dad more than I had since leaving for college. So it was much needed.
I started helping out in the office once my dad left (and started seeing the boyfrand) and started getting to know my roommates and co-interns. In terms of the professional experience I received, I am so pleased. It was really cool and rewarding to be able to meet with so many professionals in all areas of student life, admissions, residence life, and other functional areas of student affairs. I realized that I do well with two different types of supervisors: the more hands-on and the more hands-off. I am a self-starter and will ask questions when I need to, so the hands-off approach is totally fine with me. The projects and things we got to work on and participate in were as follows: created a training manual for RAs, designed polos for the department, designed a new logo and participated in the rebranding and marketing for the department of Residence Life, sat through strategic planning meetings, helped out with brainstorming of traditions and school spirit initiatives, totally reformatted and helped troubleshoot a new room condition report and process, and helped out where ever I could. After I started wrapping up all of these projects, I realized my internship was coming to a close.

Then I realized that I had to start getting ready for Vermont. I repeat: I had to start getting ready for Vermont. I was preparing to leave for my first year of grad school. I am not gonna lie… I had a major freak out.

I started browsing through the website and looking at why other folks in the program chose this school and what they felt about it. A lot of them had felt this strong connection at the interview days… one that I had definitely felt was missing. I had walked away from interviews feeling self-conscious, underprepared, and defeated for many reasons.

I woke up the next morning from this panic realizing that my brain had been working overtime. I knew why I accepted admission into this program and why I deserved to be there. I think a lot of it came from me realizing that my internship and the folks at this institution were working hard to make sure that I came out of this summer experience prepared for grad school and ready to take on anything Vermont could throw at me. And I knew Vermont would throw a lot of things my way. I knew (and know) that it would challenge me to reexamine my past, my experiences, and my way of thinking. What I realized when I woke up that day, was not that my internship would prepare me, but that my excitement and enthusiasm for learning would also propel me far in the program.

I remembered looking at the courses that I would and could take while enrolled here and I remembered thinking that those classes were ideal. They were perfect. I remembered this. Finally. And I allowed myself to again get excited. I mean.. look at this cow. Wouldn’t you want to go to a school that had this cow posted in its student center? Yeah. Me too. So I am. I’m giving it a chance.

 

And now I’m here. Sitting in the living room of one of my cohort members and new friend. He graciously offered me his guest room when he heard that I couldn’t move into my apartment for another few weeks because it was being remodeled. Oh, and the room in the residence hall they provided for me in the meantime was really hot in the daytime and noisy in the mornings because they were doing construction and restorations on the facade and chimney of the hall (which happens to be a mansion! Super cool actually).

I peeked into my future apartment today and was delighted to see a pile of new furniture, a tangle of what will be my queen size bed, and cabinets and a sink in the kitchen. Woot woot! I’ll stop by there again tomorrow to see how things are looking. Right now, I’m occupied with learning how to be an office manager (going through training on how to do room changes, dole out keys, and prepare a hall for opening) and learning what exactly my marketing, publications, and assessment part of my assistantship entails. My supervisor has been really helpful, as well as all of the other folks I’ve met. I’m even getting a new chair for my office. Bright green, of course.

No, the bike didn’t come with it 😦

Oh, speaking of bright colors, my Jetta (the 10-year old baby my mom and pop gave to me for graduation to get me across country)… well.. she is no longer around. She needed almost $3,000 worth of repairs (for a lot of small things and one bigger thing) and needless to say, that probably would not have been the end. So, with my mom still in town from helping me drive from Indianapolis to Vermont, she went to the VW dealer with me… where I ended up picking out a beautiful red Jetta Sportswagen to lease for the next three years. It’s a stationwagon, so my dream is coming true. I’ve always wanted a mom-wagon. =] And now I have one. YAY. AND SHE’S RED. Jettish the wagon. Or, the wagon for short.

 

Additionally… the drive in the old Jetta from Indy to VT was B-E-A-Utiful… and I got to drive it with my amazing mother. We got to enjoy a lovely stay in a hotel near campus, shop for decorative items for my new apartment, try LOBSTER for the first time (for me), and eat maple creemeeeees. So so so so goooood. Everyone MUST try them at some point in their life. I though I would never have anything as good as frozen custard, but maple creemees are pretty up there. Man.. a maple frozen custard would probably kill me… I’m down.

AHH I almost forgot! We stopped at Niagara Falls on the way over here! It was SO COOL. I still need to google what the hell happened that formed the falls, but they are SO incredible. You feel so small standing next to the rushing water. But it was beautiful. Just plain beautiful.

We also got to go to downtown Middleburry, VT and attend a beer and wine festival called Midd-Fest. It was a gorgeous day.. a little hot, but overall, very awesome. And I got to spend it with my best friend. =]Anyways, I should get back to watching Felicity.. I am catching up on 90s tv shows while I can. And this is it: I am starting grad school.

Love, the ever-talkative,